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Rate the new ILGO web ad

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* From IllinoisGO…

Illinoisans for Growth and Opportunity (IllinoisGO) today announced the launch of its third web ad, which educates Democratic voters about the financial challenges of cities across Illinois and the importance of lawmakers statewide coming together to find real, long-term solutions to fix these problems. IllinoisGO’s video, part of a larger digital organizing campaign, is airing on digital platforms in suburban Cook County and the Collar Counties.

Cities across the state are struggling with budget deficits, growth of unfunded pension debt, and state cuts to education. State legislators have made local problems worse by cutting funding for education, creating an unequal funding system for teachers’ retirement, and authorizing pension holidays.

Chicago’s situation is particularly acute, with a massive budget deficit and the threat of devastating cuts to its schools without action by Springfield. But the impact of Chicago’s problems does not end at the city’s borders. 600,000 workers commute into the city from the suburbs. In fact, three out of four downtown workers don’t live in Chicago. So the economic health of the state’s largest city affects all of Illinois.

Chicago can come back, if given a fair shake by Springfield. That means a fair school funding formula, an end to double taxation on Chicago residents, and investments in programs that grow our economy and create jobs – like infrastructure and transit.

“Chicago is an anchor for our state. Its economy, culture, and even sports teams are important to Illinoisans everywhere,” said IllinoisGO Chairman Anthony Anderson. “Chicago is facing a massive financial crisis, made worse by bad policies from Springfield. The City can come back, just like it always has, but it needs state lawmakers to step up and do their part.”

* Rate it

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      

Question of the day

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* The setup

A Peoria political reporter will remain in a hairy situation as long as Illinois legislators are deadlocked on a budget.

Journal Star reporter Chris Kaergard says he won’t shave his beard until lawmakers reach a deal.

He says it started as a bit of a gag in May when lawmakers adjourned in the spring without a spending plan in place. But now Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-controlled Legislature are still at an impasse nearly two months into the new fiscal year.

I did that a few years back. Never again.

* The “before” photo

* The “after” photo

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   100 Comments      

A $650 Million Day for Exelon

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

 The 2018-2019 PJM Capacity Auction Cleared far higher than analysts expected resulting in as much as $650 million total capacity revenue for Exelon.  Here are the highlights:

  • $400 Million in ADDITIONAL REVENUE for Exelon – Exelon received a HUGE windfall.  According to the Chicago Tribune, Exelon will receive “roughly $400 million in additional revenue” over the previous year. Exelon VP Joe Dominquez characterized this massive cash bonanza as “a marginal improvement…”
  • Byron Cleared the Auction – Will Run Through At Least May 2019 – Byron is now obligated to run until May 31, 2019.  According to Crain’s, Byron, which Exelon characterized as troubled just weeks ago, now “…stands to reap profits of around $26 million even if future energy prices remain this low.”
  • Had Quad Cities Cleared, It Could Have Made More Than $100 Million – Had Exelon bid at the level they did in the 2016-2017 auction, Quad Cities would have likely received upwards of $100 million in revenue for that year.


  • Additional Auction Revenues Coming – On August 31 and September 9th, PJM will announce the results of two additional auctions which are expected to generate hundreds of millions in additional revenue beginning June 2016. 

 As social service providers are being decimated and legislators are forced to make increasingly painful choices, it’s time for Exelon to stop asking policy makers for $1.6 billion from struggling ratepayers.  Enough is enough. 

Just Say “NO” to the Exelon Bailout

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- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

Condition update

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* My doctor told me yesterday it was OK to attend session from here on out. I’m running a bit late to the Statehouse today, however, because I’ve had two visits from nurses today, both of whom I let go with my doc’s blessing.

I’m not allowed to drive for about four more weeks, and I did get pretty tired after my mom and I were out doing errands for about 6 hours yesterday. I still have my limits, but I’m starting cardio rehab in a few days.

* Also, the doc nixed my idea to attend the Lockin’ festival next month. All the surviving “core four” Grateful Dead members are playing separately, so I’m figuring we could see another reunion. He sympathized, but said I just couldn’t go.


- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      

Rep. Ed Sullivan won’t run again

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* I told subscribers about this development early yesterday morning, so they already have my take. From a press release…

To the people of the 51st District:

As each election season approaches, every elected official must take time to reflect and self-examine before seeking another term. After many moments of reflection and discussions with my family, I have decided that, after seven terms as your representative from the 51st District, I will not seek reelection in 2016. The time has come for me to return to private life at the end of my current term and move on to different adventures.

Over the past thirteen years, it has been an honor to represent you through the many significant moments in our State’s history. Many decisions have not been easy, particularly with mounting fiscal problems and entrenched corruption. I am stepping away with pride, having fought to represent your interests throughout all of it.

I believe it is important to put new voices in Springfield. I agree with Governor Rauner that term limits are a necessary reform towards making Illinois great again in order to ensure that our government remains what Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it should be: of the people, by the people, and for the people. With that, rather than win reelection and then allow my successor to be appointed, I believe that it is better for the will of the people to be heard in an open election.

I plan to spend my time after leaving office with the people who have sustained me throughout my time as state representative: my family. My family is the center of my life, and has been the inspiration for my career in public service. My great-grandfather served as a state representative from McHenry, my father has been an active member of the Mundelein community on both the Mundelein High School Board and the Village Board, and my mother has served for years as a librarian at the Fremont Public Library. My wife, children, parents, and grandparents, as well as my sisters and their families, have been my top supporters through it all.

When I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes two years ago, I realized that I needed to make changes in my life so that I can be there for my wife and young children, Trish, Kaileigh, and Finn, as they have been here for me. I look forward to serving many more terms as a husband and father.

It has been the honor of my life to serve as your representative in Springfield. I look forward to spending the remainder of my term working with Governor Rauner to make Illinois a better place, and continuing to be your friend and neighbor in the years to come.

Ed Sullivan

* Sullivan already had a primary opponent, and after Sullivan’s announcement yesterday ultra-conservative Dan McConchie issued a rather unclassy statement

“The incumbent has had both fists in the taxpayer’s pocket for too long,” McConchie said. “What has Ed Sullivan put his mark on other than enriching himself at taxpayer’s expense? He takes two government salaries simultaneously, and is in two different pension funds. Residents call him the most unresponsive public official they know. It’s time for a consistent conservative to truly represent the 51st district, a representative who lives out the conservative principles they claim to hold.

“I will be a strong advocate in helping Governor Rauner bring back Illinois by reigning in spending, growing the State’s economy and putting the politicians on notice that the old way of doing business is over,” continued McConchie.

McConchie noted that Springfield power brokers fear he will upset the apple cart and challenge the status quo.

“I was visited by a member of House leadership who told me, ‘Wait your turn.’ I don’t think it’s up to the Springfield elite to make the decision for the voters of the 51st district. Bruce Rauner ran to be Governor not because he was a career politician, but because he cared about the people of Illinois. Like Rauner, I will be a representative who puts their interests first.”

You probably won’t be surprised to learn that McConchie is backed by former US Rep. Joe Walsh.

* Gov. Rauner, however, is backing someone else

Lake Barrington resident Nick Sauer, who describes himself as a conservative Republican, said Monday that he will run to succeed Sullivan. He’s a member of the Lake County Board and a Lake County Forest Preserve commissioner. And Gov. Bruce Rauner recently appointed Sauer as a director of the Illinois Tollway Board.

“So the governor is in my corner, and I’m excited about his ideas for reform [that] he has advocated,” Sauer said.

Sullivan, you will recall, was one of just a handful of Republicans to vote for the gay marriage bill.

He’s gonna be missed around here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Rauner rewrites SIU newspaper bill

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* From a gubernatorial veto message

Today I return House Bill 4113 with specific recommendations for change.

First, House Bill 4113 exempts printing contracts for the student newspaper at Southern Illinois University’s Carbondale campus from the Illinois Procurement Code for one year, during which time the bill requires those contracts be publicly awarded through an alternative process. Student newspapers are a vital part of vibrant and engaged student populations at all universities.

The changes made by this bill – which provide more flexibility to the student newspapers while ensuring a public procurement process – should apply to all public universities and colleges during the one-year trial period.

The governor has made a big to-do of late about “special deals” for Chicago, and is now apparently applying that same logic to SIU.

I can see what he’s saying, but SIU is the only school to ask for this exemption. So, passing it for everyone at this point doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. Plus, a pilot project can lead to more and perhaps broader action down the road if it’s a success.

* Local react

Southern governmental affairs liaison John Charles said the university had hoped the legislation would help save money.

“It is a cost-savings measure for the newspaper. It also would allow for us to print the paper in Carbondale, or at least in Illinois,” Charles said.

The paper currently is printed in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

Beyond the headlines

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* The media always gets a little breathless when it comes to anything about Michael Madigan. For instance, here’s a recent CBS 2 headline

Madigan in Tense Stand Off With Press After Foiled Attempt to Avoid Questions

* But the raw video shows little sign of a “tense standoff”

* On to a recent Sun-Times front page headline

THE WATCHDOGS: Top Madigan aide has lucrative side deals with clients that rely on state funding

* From the article

For 30 years, Steve Brown has been the voice of Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan — a press secretary whose pronouncements often provide the only insight into the thinking of one of the state’s most powerful politicians.

But Madigan’s top aide has never been a state employee, unlike the people handling similar duties elsewhere in Illinois government.

Instead, Brown works for Madigan under a lucrative contract that lets Brown also do consulting work for other clients that rely on Madigan and the Illinois General Assembly for funding, records examined by the Chicago Sun-Times show.

Brown’s clients include a state agency and a state university. They also include a private nurse-assistant training program called New Start Inc. whose state funding more than doubled over two years, records show.

Brown’s contract with Madigan is not a new story. He makes no secrets about it and I found a piece from twenty years ago on the same topic after 30 seconds on the google.

According to the article, Brown’s clients don’t pay him all that much. The most “lucrative” contract reported is $19,200 a year from the Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, a client referenced in that above-linked 1995 story.

* What’s supposed to be different about this CS-T story, though, is the allegation that Brown is helping his clients with Madigan

New Start Inc., the Springfield not-for-profit, which has a $10,000-a-year consulting contract with Brown. New Start was started by the late James Torricelli, a longtime Brown friend, and now is run by Torricelli’s son Steve Torricelli.

In the 2011 budget year, the group got $366,043 in state funding approved by the Legislature to train nursing assistants. Its state funding was increased to $550,698 in 2012 and to $750,000 a year during each of the next two years. […]

Torricelli, New Start’s executive director, says he’s never asked Brown to lobby Madigan or any other lawmakers to fund New Start.

“We speak for ourselves,” Torricelli says. “The biggest role he provides for me is to connect me with people who could help the agency. We started a campus in Chicago. We needed to find a nursing home that would be a partner with us. He had a contact.”

* Brown appeared on WGN Radio yesterday. It’s online headline

Mike Madigan’s Right Hand Man Responds to Corruption Allegations

Brown said during the interview that the Sun-Times contacted his clients and others and asked all of them whether he did any lobbying with the Speaker and the paper came up empty.

* The Sun-Times editorial today admitted as much

We certainly can’t prove otherwise.

* But they kept kicking anyway

This sort of thing is sometimes called “honest graft,” a phrased coined in 19th century New York for a practice honed to an art in Chicago. If you’re a prominent politician or in good with one, you set up a law firm or insurance office or consulting business and the customers roll in, just playing the odds. You don’t have to cross a single ethical line, though the whole point is that some clients hope you might.

Anyway, it’s your turn to discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   69 Comments      

*** LIVE *** Overtime session coverage

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* AP

The House on Tuesday will conduct a hearing on a plan to restore cuts to child assistance for working parents. And it will convene as an entire body to continue discussions of the budget stalemate.

Watch it all via ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      

Comptroller can’t pay bills, cites lack of tax hike

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* A federal judge ordered the state to make payments to help more than 10,000 Illinoisans with developmental disabilities by last Friday. The state didn’t make the payments, citing a severe cash crunch

Advocacy groups went to court arguing the state’s failure to make payments to agencies providing services to those with disabilities put providers at risk of closure. Closure could displace thousands of people with profound developmental disabilities.

Citing a recent legislative analysis, [Comptroller Leslie Munger’s spokesman Rich Carter] said the state is on pace to run a deficit of $5 billion. He said the office is prioritizing payments for nonprofits.

“Right now the severe cash shortages created by the budget impasse are preventing us from making those payments. We are extremely concerned about our non-profits,” he said. “Bottom line: Because of the combination of the continuing appropriations we have to pay, along with the court orders, along with the loss of the income tax revenue, we’re facing significant cash shortages right now. That will continue until we have a budget agreement.”

The state had not made a payment to the providers since the new fiscal year started July 1.

* The state’s checkbook balance as of yesterday

* Related…

* Jim Nowlan: Courts assume Legislature’s role [Fixed link]

* State parks short $720M for repairs

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      

Rauner signs lone campaign finance bill, with zero fanfare

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* From the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform…

SB 248, a bill that ICPR spearheaded, was signed into law this weekend by the Governor. The bill increases the transparency of political spending in Illinois by adding a year-round 5 day reporting requirement for Independent Expenditures.

SB 248 was the only campaign finance bill to pass this session, and was made possible by the support of Senators Julie Morrison and Matt Murphy, and House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie. We also received support from other reform groups, such as the BGA, Illinois PIRG, the Citizen Advocacy Center, and the League of Women Voters of Illinois.

That’s a good bill, considering that these IE groups are now spending year-round.

* But you’d never know the bill passed by watching the governor’s daily calendar of events. As we’ve discussed here before, the governor has eschewed signing ceremonies this year

It’s a time-honored tradition for Illinois governors to invite lawmakers, journalists and members of the public to ceremonial bill signings, an easy way for the chief executive to take credit for accomplishments and create a sense that he’s getting things done. Rauner has signed more than 400 bills into law since he took office in January. He has held zero public signing ceremonies.

Asked why that’s the case, Rauner spokesman Lance Trover did not directly answer the question but did say the “work of the General Assembly is not done.” […]

“Bill signings are ceremonial, and they’re meant to be almost like victory laps,” said House Republican leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs. “I don’t see any reason why anybody would be celebrating what has happened in Springfield until we get a budget done.”

The closest he’s gotten was a signing ceremony for an executive order several months ago.

* More

“This could be part of a trend to try to control what the message of the day is,” said Mike Lawrence, who was press secretary to former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar. “In other words, if you’ve got a bill signing and you do it with the media there, then the media ask you questions about other issues. That can overtake what you’re doing on the bill.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Rauner nixes Medicaid funding for heroin treatment

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* There was no gubernatorial brick on HB 1 when it zoomed through both legislative chambers with just four total “No” votes and bipartisan sponsorship. The legislation was designed to combat the heroin epidemic without resorting simply to the old ways of toughening up criminal penalties. The governor himself even pointed out yesterday that the bill was “a result of the recommendations of the bi-partisan Heroin Task Force.”

Unfortunately, Rauner said that in his veto message. The governor zeroed out a major funding component…

House Bill 1 mandates that fee-for-service and medical assistance Medicaid programs cover all forms of medication assisted treatment of alcohol or opioid dependence, and it removes utilization controls and prior authorization requirements. These changes would limit our ability to contain rising costs at a time when the State is facing unprecedented fiscal difficulties.

* Daily Herald

Gov. Bruce Rauner Monday rewrote a sweeping proposal aimed at curbing the heroin abuse that has plagued some suburbs in recent years, saying that while he supports much of it, the plan should be changed to limit costs for the state.

The plan sent to Rauner tried to focus drug courts on treatment instead of jail, and the state would cover treatment for Medicaid users. It also would have required all police and fire departments in the state to stock a heroin antidote that has been shown to save people from overdose deaths, plus train personnel on how to administer it.

Last year, 33 people died in DuPage County from heroin overdoses, helping prompt a response from state lawmakers.

“I support all of the above measures and applaud the multifaceted approach to combating this epidemic in Illinois,” Rauner said in his veto message. “Unfortunately, the bill also includes provisions that will impose a very costly mandate on the state’s Medicaid providers.”

* AP

House sponsor Skokie Democratic Rep. Lou Lang says the savings from curing addicts would far outweigh the costs and that restricting Medicaid coverage would cut out a sector from treatment.

* NBC 5 has more on the cost angle

Lang added that Rauner never suggested alternatives that would lessen the plan’s financial impact. Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly pointed to the governor’s message that he supports the idea and hopes Lang “will accept the governor’s changes and move forward.” […]

Roosevelt University released a study this month showing that Illinois’ addiction-treatment capacity fell from 28th in the nation five years ago to third worst. One-quarter of state-funded treatment admissions in Illinois, 35 percent in Chicago and its surrounding counties, are for heroin addiction, compared with 16 percent nationally.

Lead author Kathleen Kane-Willis, director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, said Illinois is one of the few states in the nation that doesn’t allow Medicaid coverage of addiction treatment with methadone, a proven, effective drug that’s cheaper than counterparts.

“We’re going to pay for not paying,” she said.

* Tribune

“This is a critical component of this legislation; if the only people you affect are people that have insurance, then you haven’t done that much. There is a whole swath of people out there who need health care from the state who have drug addictions,” said sponsoring Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie. “The governor is taking the position that we can’t afford to save these lives.”

We’re looking at about $15 million a year here.

I truly hope the brick wasn’t belatedly applied because of who the House’s chief sponsor is.

- Posted by Rich Miller   53 Comments      

A way out?

Tuesday, Aug 25, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

I think on Aug. 19 a new and brief window of opportunity opened that could finally help wrap up this long and drawn-out state legislative overtime session.

But that window will only be open for 15 calendar days – the time the Illinois Constitution gives each legislative chamber to vote on a veto override.

Allow me to explain.

I spoke with some Rauner folks last week and, man, are they ever on the warpath about the Senate’s Aug. 19 override of the governor’s veto of the AFSCME bill – which would prevent a strike by or lockout of state workers and would instead require binding arbitration after an impasse is reached. The House has 15 days from that date to take its own action.

Even though AFSCME has never invoked its binding arbitration power with state corrections’ officers (who cannot strike by law), the governor and his people clearly see this bill as an outrageous intrusion on executive branch powers.

The governor has called the legislation the “worst bill in Illinois history.” He says it would remove the only popularly elected official from labor negotiations (himself) and replace him with an unelected, pro-union arbitrator (although the unions have numbers that show employers have won a slightly higher percentage of arbitration cases in this state than employees).

He has ginned up editorials all over the state, privately warned all Republicans that a vote to override guarantees a primary opponent next year, and made it clear to Democrats that the best way to ensure a 2016 GOP opponent would be to vote “yes” on this motion.

One Senate Democratic operative only half jokingly said last week that the governor was “flipping out” about the bill.

The governor was also quite blunt the day of the Senate vote when he said that this override was a “test” of Senate President John Cullerton. “Is he controlled by Speaker Madigan, or does he make his own decisions for the benefit of the people of his district in the Senate?” Rauner asked rhetorically.

The clear implication was that if Cullerton went ahead with the override, the days of referring to him positively in public were over. Rauner has often said that he could work with Cullerton and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel if it wasn’t for that bad ol’ House Speaker Michael J. Madigan. Rauner’s people have also made a point of mentioning that they left Cullerton out of Rauner’s TV and direct mail attack ads, referring only to Madigan. But those days are over, too.

After the Senate’s override, the Rauner folks were vowing revenge. Cullerton “walked his members out on a plank,” said one. If Madigan doesn’t call the bill for a vote, Cullerton will have put his members, particularly his suburbanites, in fatally harm’s way, said another. Madigan should not expect a single House Republican vote to replace any of his own conservative “no” votes, said another, even though one Senate Republican, Sam McCann, voted with the Democrats to override last week.

It was clear to me that they were declaring all-out war.

So, why is any of this positive news? Well, it’s pretty elementary.

The governor has obviously established his top immediate priority, which is preventing the first and clearly most important veto override of his brief career.

There are, of course, two ways out of a corner. You can either negotiate or bull through it and fight.

Right now, the Rauner folks are itching for a fight. They want to stop this override dead in its tracks in the House and then start their revenge war in the precincts. It’s understandable. They’re angry as all get-out.

But Rauner has a way to stop the override if he can see beyond his anger and realize he’s in a trap of his own making: Cut a deal on his “Turnaround Agenda,” fix the budget, declare victory, and bring the overtime session to a conclusion.

Tellingly, the House Democrats made some discreet behind-the-scenes inquiries last week about possibly setting up negotiations on the governor’s agenda, which he says must be completed before he’ll talk about the budget.

The point is that on Aug. 19, we arrived at what could be the single most important moment in this overtime session.

After the 15-day clock runs out, we could very well look back on this as either the beginning of a negotiated truce or the start of the harshest, meanest political war we’ve ever seen.

Whatever happens, everybody has a choice here.

* And this is no surprise at all

A crucial swing vote that will determine whether the General Assembly will override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill essentially stripping him of his ability to negotiate with a powerful state employee union is still undecided.

Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo said he still is weighing his options regarding Senate Bill 1229, which would allow negotiations between Rauner and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to go to binding arbitration as both sides struggle to come to terms on a new contract. The veto override is now headed to the House after Senate lawmakers voted on it last Wednesday.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has a 71-seat supermajority on paper – the exact number needed to override a gubernatorial veto – but fiscally conservative Democrats regularly assert their independence and can make that threshold difficult for the powerful speaker to attain. Without Franks’ support, Madigan would need at least one Republican vote.

Franks said Friday he still is looking at both sides and examining all the information he can before he makes a decision. While he said that binding arbitration is hardly a new concept, and is used for other classes of state employees, there are aspects of the proposed legislation that he does not like.

“Most of the pressure I’m under is self-imposed. I just want to do the right thing,” Franks said.

Speaker Madigan said last week he didn’t think he would hold the floor vote this week. It’ll have to be next week.

- Posted by Rich Miller   127 Comments      

* A big nail unanimously driven into the drug war's coffin
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