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Rauner, AFSCME reach new tolling agreement

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* Maybe the governor has been sincere about negotiating in good faith. Extending the tolling agreement indefinitely and [re-committing] to submitting any disagreements over whether an impasse has been reached to the ILRB, even though Rauner now controls the ILRB, seems reasonable to me.

Click the pic for a larger image

- Posted by Rich Miller   94 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** IDPH: No new med-mar conditions

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* Press release…

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. today announced that new medical conditions and diseases will not be added to the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act at this time. The pilot program will continue with the 39 conditions and diseases listed in the Act.

The pilot program runs through April 2018.

They blew past their deadline to rule on whether 11 conditions would be added, then announced… nothing?

Sheesh.

*** UPDATE *** And right on schedule…

Veto Message for SB 33
To the Honorable Members of
The Illinois Senate,
99th General Assembly:

Today I veto Senate Bill 33 from the 99th General Assembly, which would prematurely expand the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program by adding post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of “debilitating medical conditions” for which a patient may be treated with medical cannabis.

The pilot program is moving forward, but remains in its early stage. Cultivation centers are just beginning to grow their crops, and the first dispensary was licensed at the end of August. No patients have yet been served, and, consequently, the State has not had the opportunity to evaluate the benefits and costs of the pilot program or determine areas for improvement or even whether to extend the program beyond its pilot period.

It is therefore premature to expand the pilot program – before any patient has been served and before we have had the chance to evaluate it.

Therefore, pursuant to Section 9(b) of Article IV of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, I hereby return Senate Bill 33, entitled “AN ACT concerning health”, with the foregoing objections, vetoed in its entirety.

Sincerely,

Bruce Rauner
GOVERNOR

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Learn something new every day

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* From a subscriber…

Rich,

Are you aware that when you type www.capitolfax.org it leads to the Illinois Policy Institute page? I know your correct address is www.capitolfax.com

Did they buy that domain name?

- Posted by Rich Miller   73 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* Pictured, Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago)…


* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


Um, it’s called “mathematics”

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* He says this like he’s some sort of innocent bystander…


…Adding… Raw audio…

…Adding More… Listening to the audio, the governor was actually talking about how he was stunned to learn that Illinois is one of the few states that allow late payment of bills.

- Posted by Rich Miller   73 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Another Republican retires

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* From state Sen. Dan Duffy’s Facebook page

In case you’re keeping count, that’s three House Republicans and two Senate Republicans who’ve announced they won’t be running next year.

By the way, there are two House Republicans in Duffy’s district. Rep. Ed Sullivan isn’t running again and Rep. Dave McSweeney just told me he is staying put in the House.

*** UPDATE *** Well, this solves a problem in that Sullivan district. Press release…

Hawthorn Woods resident and nonprofit executive Dan McConchie announced Thursday that he is seeking the Republican nomination in Illinois Senate District 26. The incumbent, conservative Republican Senator Dan Duffy, announced today that he is not running for re-election.

“Our conservative district deserves strong conservative leadership,” said Dan McConchie. “Like Senator Duffy, I will be a principled advocate for lower taxes, smarter government and will uphold the conservative values we hold dear.”

Before Duffy’s unexpected announcement, Dan McConchie was running for state representative in the 51st House District.

“My goal of running for office has always been to help bring my experience and success in legislative work around the country to the pressing needs we have in Springfield. There is an even greater need of strong conservative advocates in our Senate. Senator Duffy has been a role model in the principled stands he has taken. I look forward to representing the 26th Senate District as well as he has.”

Back on August 27, Duffy had endorsed Dan McConchie for state representative in House District 51.

Dan is a lifelong conservative with a proven track record of accomplishment in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Having been responsible both to manage an organizational budget and to meet a payroll, he understands exactly what Illinois families and small business owners face in every day under our dysfunctional state government. As a national expert on state legislation, he has committed to bringing his experience in legislative strategy, marketing, coalition building and grassroots advocacy to furthering Governor Rauner’s pro-growth agenda in Springfield.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


Merged

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* From an invitation to the Illinois Policy Institute’s September 24th program “Between the lines”

The Illinois General Assembly is engaged in a historic budget showdown with no end in sight. With more than $111 billion of mounting debt and a crumbling economy, it has never been so clear that Illinois needs reform.

The Chicago Tribune editorial board’s Kristen McQueary is the state’s leading voice in journalism for commonsense, free-market reforms. She’s not afraid to push back against the status quo and call out politicians on their failing policies.

Join Kristen and Illinois Policy Institute CEO John Tillman on Thursday, Sept. 24 for an evening of insight into Illinois’ budget showdown. They’ll discuss barriers to reform and the role the media are playing in challenging these anti-reform forces.

- Posted by Rich Miller   78 Comments      


Encouraging News For Illinois Nuclear Plants, But Policy Reforms Still Needed

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Earlier today, Exelon announced that all of its nuclear plants in the PJM market cleared the most recent capacity auction and that it will defer any decisions about the future operations of its Quad Cities and Byron nuclear plants for one year. As a result, the Quad Cities nuclear power plant will run through at least May 2018, while the Byron plant will run through at least May 2019.

This is encouraging news for Illinois. According to a report by the State of Illinois, the Quad Cities and Byron plants support 5,075 jobs and contribute $1.39 billion to the state’s economy. Overall, Illinois’ nuclear energy facilities produce 90 percent of the state’s carbon-free energy, support 28,000 jobs, and inject nearly $9 billion into the Illinois economy every year.

While the recent results of the PJM capacity auction which reflect new market reforms that better recognize the unique value of always-on nuclear energy is encouraging, Quad Cities and Byron, as well as Clinton, remain economically challenged. These plants are long-lived assets with decades of useful life left and today’s announcement is only a short-term reprieve. Policy reforms are still needed to level the playing field for all forms of clean energy and best position the State of Illinois to meet EPA’s new carbon reduction rules.

Learn more about the benefits of nuclear energy at www.NuclearPowersIllinois.com

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


We’re just lousy Lincoln stewards

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* Read this and this.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      


Anybody have any precinct reports?

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* I almost forgot

Polls are open today for the special election in the 18th Congressional District.

The race, between Republican Darin LaHood and Democrat Rob Mellon, will fill the remainder of former Rep. Aaron Schock’s term.

The unusual Thursday election date in a holiday week was set by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Illinois Credit Unions – A Model of Kindness

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

As part of their commitment to community service, the credit union movement as a whole supports countless local charitable activities as evidenced by their fundamental philosophy of “People Helping People.” For credit unions in Illinois, this mantra is not just part of their culture - it’s a lifestyle.

As an example, the $12 million Danville Bell Credit Union for the past two years has lived out a local campaign of paying it forward. This initiative has included performing numerous random acts of kindness, such as paying for groceries, shoes for school kids whose families could not otherwise afford, meals, and renewing a gym membership for an area firefighter.

This generosity has spread tremendous goodwill throughout the community, helped people through temporary financial difficulties, and also inspired other credit unions and members to return the favor for others. In one touching interaction, the credit union filled the gas tank for a college student who, as it turned out, happened to be down to her last $20.

Illinois credit unions are not just employees - they’re your neighbors, they raise their families here, they’re your trusted financial partner. To them, kindness is not only a guiding principle, its woven into their DNA.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


In real danger of collapse

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* One aspect we didn’t talk about in today’s post on homelessness is how prevention and treatment programs have been cut over the years. For instance

In FY08 funding for the Homeless Prevention Program was $11 million. In FY15, it was just $4 million.

Those cuts weren’t confined to homeless programs, either. Pretty much all non-Medicaid social service funding has been slammed since FY08.

* And it’s not just social service funding

Illinois’ lack of budget is threatening rape crisis services, program that helps women get screened for cervical cancer and the public health network. Senators meeting at the capitol Wednesday heard details of these and other woes. […]

[McLean County’s health department administrator Walter Howe] says agencies like his are key in helping prevent the spread of such diseases, but the state’s budget impasse is “eroding” public health’s abilities — especially in rural areas. He says the uncertainty’s exceptionally difficult to deal with because it comes on top of years of cuts and turmoil.

“The prime example is the Vermillion County health department, which had 34 nurses when it responded to the H1N1 pandemic in 2009,” Howe testified at a Senate hearing. “Today, employees only five nurses – of which two of those are part time.”

Howe says as of this week, nearly a quarter of Illinois’ health centers have laid off staff or cut back hours.

Annual budget cuts have weakened large numbers of programs. Toss in this months-long budgetary stalemate and there is a real danger of an infrastructure collapse.

* Related…

* Brown: Munger takes steps to avoid being fall guy

* Kadner: Budget crisis forces Orland to cancel training class

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


Today’s number: 0

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* Tribune

Months after revealing the Chicago Police Department set up sobriety checkpoints almost exclusively in African-American and Latino communities, the Tribune has found that the pattern continues.

Between March and August, Chicago police scheduled 14 roadside checks, pulling over drivers randomly to check for drunken driving and other violations. Nine of the checks were in majority black police districts. Four checkpoints occurred in a predominantly Latino districts. There was one in a majority white area. That’s despite the fact that the Tribune has in the past shown some predominantly white districts in Chicago had more alcohol-related crashes than many minority districts. […]

On March 20, police scheduled a checkpoint in the majority black Grand Crossing District even though the area has had the fewest alcohol-related crashes in the city.

Meanwhile, no checkpoints were scheduled in the majority white Jefferson Park District despite ranking third citywide for the number of alcohol-related crashes and fatalities. Police officials have maintained the lack of checkpoints there has nothing to do with the fact that roughly one-fifth of the city’s police officers and their families live there.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


Today’s moment of irony

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* I’m not at all saying that the folks pushing for tort reform don’t have a case. They do. But something they often fail to mention are the large numbers of business owners who sue other business owners. This ain’t just about greedy trial lawyers clogging up the courts.

And the governor, being a business person himself, is involved in a fairly large number of lawsuits this year, some of them quite aggressive. So, this presser is kinda ironic…

The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) will release a survey ranking the 50 state lawsuit climates done by Harris Poll, a global polling firm. This is the 10th such survey that ILR has released since 2002. The event will feature remarks by Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois about the condition of Illinois’ legal environment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Is the budget impasse increasing the homeless population?

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* From ABC 7’s I-Team

Illinois has no state budget, but it does have more homeless people - and the two are connected according to a scathing report set for release on Thursday.

As Springfield fiddles with a state budget two months after the last one expired, the number of homeless across the state has spiked, according to data the I-Team obtained Wednesday night. The report, authored by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, chides Gov. Bruce Rauner and state leaders for using children and families as bargaining chips in a political fight.

This summer, the I-Team reported on a visible homeless surge in Chicago. An estimated population of 140,000 homeless live in shelters and tents, in parks and under expressways. More than 22,000 of the homeless are Chicago Public Schools students.

Against this backdrop, state leaders in Springfield have been unable to agree on a budget, and because of that, a report from more than 100 social service agencies across Illinois will cite a surge in the number of homeless on the streets this summer, and they blame state officials. […]

The I-Team asked Gov. Rauner and House Speaker Michael Madigan whether their standoff is causing homelessness. Only Gov. Rauner responded, saying in a statement: “Illinois is facing a $4 billion deficit because the state’s finances were mishandled for years. Governor Rauner is trying to reverse the status quo to stop the death spiral. His Turnaround Agenda will create jobs to grow the economy and free up resources to help the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, the majority party continues to block the governor’s reforms to protect the political class at the expense of the most vulnerable.”

The earlier story is here.

* From a press release…

The state budget impasse has resulted in homeless service providers not receiving any state funding since July 1, 2015 for several key programs, including Emergency and Transitional Housing, Homelessness Prevention, Homeless Youth and Supportive Housing Services.

“One of our adolescent substance abuse treatment programs has closed, impacting 90 youth. If the budget impasse is not resolved in September, we will have to eliminate our host home and shelter services for runaway and homeless youth who are seeking a safe and better future away from violence in their homes and on the streets,” said Rick Velasquez, Executive Director of Youth Outreach Services in Chicago.

The majority of providers (59%) are also experiencing an increased demand for services because of the unavailability of other services once provided by other agencies. In addition, the vast majority of providers (85%) are concerned about how the absence of state funds could impact their ability to provide matching funding for federal dollars.

“We provide services to over 800 people a year, including a 24-hour domestic violence shelter, emergency shelter and transitional housing. On average, we have 60 women and children in shelter at any time. Payroll alone is over $40,000 every two weeks. We had cash reserves but they are gone. We have the cash on hand to make one more payroll in September. And then we don’t know what we’ll do. If we lay off staff, then we put our federal funding at risk,” said Isak Griffiths, Executive Director for Courage Connection, which serves Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding area.

The survey was conducted between August 14, 2015 and September 2, 2015. The advocacy organizations that developed the survey were the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, CSH, Housing Action Illinois and Supportive Housing Providers Association. One hundred and one homeless service providers responded—agencies large and small, from urban, suburban and rural communities.

* The report can be read by clicking here

The state budget impasse caused by the inability of Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to agree on a budget with adequate revenue to support critical human service programs, is already having this impact on homeless service providers:

    • Putting people in a crisis that contributes to their homelessness: 41% of agencies have limited the intake of new clients and 39% have eliminated services for current clients.

    • Reducing the capacity of homeless service providers to assist people prevent, or end their homelessness: 33% of agencies have eliminated programs and 32% have closed sites.

* Some charts

- Posted by Rich Miller   90 Comments      


More lawsuits to force state payments?

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

* From August 31st

St. Clair County is looking to sue the state of Illinois in order to obtain funding owed to the county.

On Monday, the County Board authorized legal action against the state, including getting funding meant for the county’s Emergency Telephone Systems Board, as well at the county itself.

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said a lawsuit potentially will be filed within the month.

Chairman Mark Kern said the state owes the county $5.8 million.

* And this week, Williamson County Commissioner Brent Gentry asked his state’s attorney to also look into suing the state

“We need to do what is right and we need to sue the state of Illinois,” he said.

Gentry said he feels Illinois has backed the county into a corner, without a budget.

“I am so tired of the games that they’re playing up in Springfield. When I say “they,” I’m meaning Governor Rauner, Mike Madigan and John Cullerton,” he said.

A month ago, Commission Chairman Jim Marlo sent a letter to Governor Bruce Rauner pointing out the effects the budget impasse has on revenue. Some payments have stopped, including the motor fuel tax, gaming tax and salary reimbursements for three departments.

“It may come down to where certain people may have to be laid off, roads may not be able to be fixed,” said Marlo.

Chairman Marlo said the state currently owes the county over $700,000.

- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Thursday, Sep 10, 2015

This post is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Document dump!

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* From Assistant Attorney General Caitlin Knutte…

OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL S’T'ATE OF ILLINOIS
September 8, 2015

VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
Mr. John Kraft
7060 Illinois Highway 1
Paris, Illinois 61944
john@illinoisleaks.com
RE: Freedom of Information Act Request 2015 FOIA 036774

Dear Mr.Kraft:

Thank you for writing to the Office of the Illinois Attorney General with your request for information pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (5 ILCS 140/1 et seq. (West 2014)).

In an e-mail received on August 10, 2015, you requested “[c]opies of all communication between anyone employed with Illinois Attorney General’s office and “Capitol Fax” - for the past 24 months.”

Pursuant to section 3(e)( iii) of FOIA (5 ILCS 140/3(e)( iii) (West 2014)), we extended the time to respond by five business days on August 17, 2015, because the request was couched in categorical terms and required an extensive search for the records responsive to it.

We further extended the deadline for this office to respond to September 8, 2015, per a telephone conversation you and I had on August 24, 2015.

Per our telephone conversation on August 28, 2015, you agreed to exclude attachments to any responsive e-mails from the scope of your request.

Your request is granted in part and denied in part. Some responsive records are being withheld from copying and distribution pursuant to section 7( 1)( a) of FOIA. 5 ILCS 140/7( 1)( a) ( West 2014). Section 7( 1)( a) of FOIA exempts from disclosure “[i]nformation specifically prohibited from disclosure by federal or State law or rules and regulations implementing federal or State law.” The federal Copyright Act (17 USC § 101 et seq. (West 2014)) provides that “the owner of [a] copyright * * * has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:”

    1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies[;] [and]

    3) to distribute copies * * * of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership[.]”(Emphasis added.) 17 USC§§106(1),( 3)(West2014).

The Office of the Attorney General maintains a subscription to the publication, Capitol Fax. As a result, a representative of this office receives an e-mail from Capitol Fax containing a copy of the Capitol Fax publication each time a new issue is disseminated. The Capitol Fax is a copyrighted work. Accordingly, this office is withholding approximately 625 pages of the Capitol Fax that constitute copyrighted works, exempt from copying and distribution pursuant to section 7(1)(a) of FOIA and the Copyright Act. Please note that the withheld records themselves do not contain any notes, writings, or other annotations and were not the subject of any e-mail exchanges.

While this office is prohibited from copying and distributing the responsive copyrighted works, we may make the records available for public inspection. See Ill. Att’y Gen. PAC Req. Rev. Ltr. 11145, issued January 12, 2011. If you would like to review copies of the Capitol Fax received by this office, you may do so at the Attorney General’ s Springfield office during normal business hours. Please contact me at (312) 814-xxxx if you wish to schedule a time to review the indicated records.

With regard to the records we are providing today, we have redacted unique identifiers as” private information” as that term is defined in section 2(c-5) of FOIA (5 ILCS 140/2(c-5)(West 2014)). ” Private information” is exempt from disclosure under section 7(1)(b) of FOIA. 5 ILCS 140/7(1)(b) (West 2014). Specifically, we have redacted personal telephone numbers and a personal e-mail address.

And then it goes on to explain how to appeal the partial denial.

* Download it all yourself…

* AG FOIA letter

* E-mails, Part 1

* E-mails, Part 2

They really screwed up. They shoulda FOIA’d me going back 25 months instead of just 24. Wow, I sure lucked out there, as did all of my fellow cabal members.

/snark

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


This just in… AG Madigan won’t appeal pension ruling

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* From the attorney general’s office…

We always thoroughly consider all of our legal options in every case. In the pension case, we asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a routine extension of time to allow us to consider whether to seek review of the case by that Court.

After completing our analysis, we have decided not to ask the Court to review the case.

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


Dold hit for signing NRCC contract, appearing with anti-immigrant blogger

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* WaPo

Two dozen House Republicans have agreed to privately detail their “legislative strategy” to party operatives, promising to offer “political justifications” for their goals in Congress.

The Daily 202 obtained a copy of the three-page contract that the National Republican Congressional Committee requires members to sign if they want to participate in its Patriot Program. The initiative, designed to protect potentially vulnerable incumbents, brings with it special attention and access to mounds of campaign cash. But strings are attached.

One of the 13 requirements is to submit an off-year “campaign plan” that includes: “Detailed, written legislative strategy that provides short-, intermediate-, and long-term legislative goals, including political justifications for those goals.” […]

The closely-held document offers a window into how much autonomy lawmakers often must forfeit to unelected Washington insiders. For instance, in exchange for reelection support, lawmakers must promise to exclusively use vendors sanctioned by establishment-aligned party chieftains, attend training sessions and raise six figures for the NRCC. They must also commit to holding a certain amount of cash-on-hand at the end of each fundraising quarter and limit their spending.

* The Schneider campaign followed up today…

Brad Schneider is calling for Republican Bob Dold to explain to voters why he signed a secret contract with the National Republican Congressional Committee that required he submit his legislative agenda in exchange for financial donations to his campaign.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that Republican House members in the NRCC’s Patriot Program, including Bob Dold, signed a lengthy contract with this Republican political committee. The contract, which is not disclosed to the public, requires members to detail out their legislative agenda, including “political justifications for those goals.”

In exchange for signing the contract, members will receive what the Washington Post described as “special attention and access to mounds of campaign cash.”

“This is an example of everything that’s wrong with Washington,” said Democrat Brad Schneider. “These backroom deals Bob Dold has signed raises issues of transparency, hypocrisy, and of ethics, and Bob Dold needs to explain these secretive agreements to voters.”

“How can Bob Dold claim to be an independent voice for the people of Illinois when he is signing secret contracts about legislative agendas with Republican leadership?” Schneider continued. “Getting reelected should never be more important than doing what’s right.”

The full NRCC Memo can be found here.

* Meanwhile, from Church World Service…

Representatives Bob Dold (IL-10) and Peter Roskam (IL-6) joined a group of more than a dozen Members of Congress today at a conference featuring the founder of Refugee Resettlement Watch, a blog the Southern Poverty Law Center has determined is funded in part by groups with white-supremacy and hate group ties.

“The business of hate has no place in our legislative process, let alone even gaining an audience with Members of Congress,” Church World Service President and CEO, the Rev. John L. McCullough said. “I would have thought better of these men and women elected to leadership.”

As the world continues to wrestle with a panoply of humanitarian needs unfolding as Syrians flee violence, Church World Service has called on the U.S. government to break its silence and dormancy by opening the door to 200,000 refugees in the coming federal fiscal year, including at least 100,000 Syrians.

“The U.S. has been staggeringly silent in this crisis, and we must do much more,” CWS Immigration and Refugee Program Director, Erol Kekic said. “Our lawmakers on Capitol Hill should be giving time to crafting a U.S. plan, joining the rest of the world in a response. Instead, these members are giving valuable time to groups who would turn their backs on people in need because of fear and hate.”

Representatives Dold and Roskam were part of an invitation-only event with Ann Corcoran, the founder of the blog site that promotes anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Since 1946, Church World Service has supported refugees and others displaced from their homes, in addition to providing sustainable relief and development solutions to communities that wrestle with hunger and poverty.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** What the… ?

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* I think perhaps the Department might wanna answer the question posed in the third graf..

Ten people in western Illinois now have died from Legionnaires’ disease after a state veterans home in Quincy reported two new fatalities among its residents.

An outbreak first identified in late August has sickened 53 residents at the home, nine of whom died. State and local public health officials have not disclosed how the 10th victim contracted the disease, a severe form of pneumonia.

The Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs said Wednesday that it planned to treat the home’s water systems with a chemical disinfectant. An agency spokesman could not immediately answer why that step had not been taken sooner.

Oy.

*** UPDATE *** OK, so I just got off the phone with Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah and Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Jeffries.

I think the AP took a needless cheap shot in its above story.

Back on July 31st, a veterans home resident went to the hospital with pneumonia-like symptons. He was treated and then returned to the home. On August 7th, it was discovered that the resident had Legionnaire’s Disease. The “vast majority” of cases every year in the US are isolated and do not spread, said Director Shah, but they went on alert.

Two weeks later, on August 21st, another patient exhibited the same symptoms. That day, the state shut down the water system and began cleaning the ice machines, water tanks, cooling tower, etc.

Residents were given bottled water and sponge baths until some new shower filters could be delivered from Europe. The filter openings are so small that Legionnaire’s Disease can’t get through. Two filters have been installed in each residential building, which has greatly boosted resident morale, according to Director Jeffries.

With all of that done, they turned to finishing the cleanup. This has been no small, or easy task. The home encompasses 48 buildings on 200 acres with just one plumbing system.

It’s actually more complicated than this, but I don’t have all day to write about it and it appears that the residents weren’t being exposed to tainted water after the home shut down its water system in August, so there you have it.

Move along.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


*** UPDATED x4 - Rauner, Cullerton respond *** State sued over lack of lottery payouts

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* With a hat tip to an alert commenter, you had to figure this would happen sooner or later

A pair of lottery winners have filed a federal lawsuit against the Illinois Lottery, which still is selling tickets despite its inability to pay prizes greater than $25,000 until state lawmakers pass a budget.

“How the heck can they do this, and they’re still selling tickets?” said Homer Glen resident Rhonda Rasche, 48, who is still waiting for the $50,000 she won in July from a $3 scratch-off ticket. “If I was the one selling raffle tickets and I didn’t pay, I would be sued or in jail or both. I feel like it’s fraud.” […]

The suit claims the lottery has continued to pay wages — including the $142,000 salary of acting lottery director B.R. Lane — and money owed to the agency’s troubled private management company, Northstar Lottery Group. […]

“The plaintiffs … are seeking to compel the state to pay the prize money to Lottery winners,” Chicago-based attorney Thomas Zimmerman Jr., who is representing the plaintiffs, said in a written statement Wednesday. “The lawsuit also seeks a court order to halt the sale of lottery tickets with potential winnings in excess of $25,000, and to stop the payment of operational and administrative expenses of the lottery, until all lottery winners are paid.”

*** UPDATE 1 *** Monique…


*** UPDATE 2 *** Nope…

From: Richard Goldberg, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs To: Members of the Illinois Senate
Date: September 9, 2015
Re: Opposition to Floor Amendment 1 to SB 2046

After consulting with Director Tim Nuding of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, I am writing to express the administration’s opposition to Floor Amendment 1 to SB 2046.

Several months ago, Senators Biss, Bush, Morrison, Landek and Noland voted against HB 4165, a bill making appropriations at unbalanced funding levels for the Department of Human Services, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In addition to their votes in opposition (joining all Republican members), Senator Tom Cullerton opted not to vote on the bill either.

Floor Amendment 1 to SB 2046 makes billions of dollars in appropriations at unbalanced funding levels – no different than the legislation these Senators previously opposed. Nearly four months after they first opposed this unbalanced budget, nothing has changed. Floor Amendment 1 to SB 2046 merely represents the latest multi-billion dollar piecemeal attempt to pass the very same unbalanced budget Senators Biss, Bush, Morrison, Landek and Noland opposed four months ago – the same cynical attempt to stick the taxpayers of Illinois with a massive tax hike without reform.

Let me be clear: a vote in favor of Floor Amendment 1 to SB 2046 is a vote for an unbalanced budget, a vote for a massive tax hike without reform and a blatant disregard of the legislature’s constitutional duty to pass a full, balanced budget. Should SB 2046 as amended reach the Governor’s desk, he would veto it.

Rather than pursuing this failed Groundhog Day strategy of putting unbalanced budgets up for a vote every few weeks, we urge Senate Democrats to come back to the negotiating table to pursue compromise, reform and a balanced budget.

*** UPDATE 3 *** From Rikeesha Phelon…

Rather than jumping at every opportunity to send snarky letters from the second floor to the third, the administration should consider holding legitimate budget meetings with the leaders to resolve fiscal issues. Cullerton will show up. Until then, pardon us while we try to advance solutions that meet basic human services responsibilities for the people of this state.

Bye.

She then added…

And what is this “negotiating table” that they speak of?

*** UPDATE 4 *** And it passes…


- Posted by Rich Miller   81 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* Pictured on the right, state Rep. Scott Drury…


* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   69 Comments      


*** LIVE *** Overtime session coverage

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* Afternoon Senate committees followed by a 3 o’clock session. The House is not in town. Watch it all via ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      


Well, at least they’re doing something today

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* An interesting press release on a subject about which I was completely unaware…

WHO: Rob Karr, Illinois Retail Merchants Association president and CEO

Jeff Pape, president of WrestlingGear.Com, Ltd. based in Elmhurst

Bob Jones, president of American Sale based in Tinley Park

WHAT: IRMA members will testify before the Illinois Senate Revenue Committee about issues retailers unfairly face with qui tam lawsuits in this state, specifically related to application of sales taxes on shipping and handling charges.

For example, one retailer who will testify was sued by a Chicago attorney (who has filed hundreds of these lawsuits as a plaintiff to collect unpaid Illinois Use Tax) over an online purchase that brought about $0.80 sales tax into question. The Illinois-based retailer was abiding by Illinois law and interpretation of the Illinois Department of Revenue, but ending up spending about $25,000 fighting this lawsuit, plus an undetermined amount lost in sales and profits while spending time fighting this lawsuit. Interpretation of state tax law and regulations issued by IDOR should be the exclusive purview of the Illinois Department of Revenue.

*Qui tam lawsuits are civil suits filed against a person or company who is believed to have committed fraud against the government. Qui tam lawsuits are filed by whistleblowers under the False Claims Act, which gives whistleblowers a reward or a percentage of what’s recovered if the qui tam lawsuit he/she files recovers money for the government.

WHEN: 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, September 9, 2015

WHERE: Illinois Senate Revenue Committee Hearing
Room 212
Illinois Capitol, 301 S. 2nd Street

…Adding… Background here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Myth or excuse?

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service about a Senate hearing yesterday

Tim Nuding, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget director, said the governor’s office is doing all it can, but the burden remains on the Legislature to pass a balanced budget.

“We’re doing what we can do with tools we’ve been given to manage toward a balanced budget,” Nuding said.

The panel’s Democrats didn’t warm to the idea the budget mess was entirely on the Legislature or particularly on majority Democrats.

“I just find it kind of unhelpful and it sort of makes my teeth hurt to hear this consistent effort to throw the hot potato of blame around when, in fact, there is no possible resolution to these these problems that exists exclusively in the executive or legislative branches,” Biss said.

Although he nodded in recognition of Biss’ point regarding a three-branched government, Nuding said it was disingenuous for Democrats to say the governor could have simply crafted a workable budget by applying his veto pen to an underfunded Democratic spending plan.

Rauner’s simply using his power as governor to rewrite certain lines or to reduce certain amounts wasn’t going to get the job done, Nuding said.

“That’s a myth,” Nuding said, explaining that neither math nor the law nor the General Assembly as it is now constituted would allow for such an easy answer.

“To sit there and make a characterization that we could have solved this problem simply with the veto pen — that is just not accurate,” he said.

* You can watch the hearing by clicking here. More of what Nuding said

“The Legislature, again, respectfully, has done little to nothing to change laws to reduce spending, either in the area of pensions, Medicaid rates, transfers out to local governments - any of those items that you control. Absent any changes there to reduce spending we are on target to spend somewhere in the range of $36 to $37 billion.

“Now, the administration has taken some steps which we’ve announced to try and manage in areas where we can. But the universe of spending areas where we have control is really quite limited because the Legislature, again, controls large pieces of the budget by the law, either through statute or continuing appropriations. And with the courts stepping in and enforcing consent decree payments without a budget in place, the amount of flexibility the administration has to manage this situation is even less.

“And we could solve all of this tomorrow if the Legislature would pass a balanced budget.”

* Director Nuding was then asked whether Rauner could’ve just used his line item veto powers

“That’s a myth. That is a myth, Senator. The way this was structured, and it was by design, the governor did not have that option because of the spending that you lock in by law.

“So, let’s take as an example the Medicaid rates. The governor could’ve done a reduction veto on Medicaid spending. Wouldn’t have mattered at all, because spending is controlled by rates that are put in law by you. And we have to, by federal law, provide those services that are in statute by you. So to say that the governor could’ve line item vetoed or reduction vetoed is just simply inaccurate. The numbers don’t work.”

On Medicaid, at least, he’s right. Same goes for transfers out.

* But there’s a bunch of money beyond those two things. Rauner would not have been able to fully balance the budget, but he could’ve got it closer to balancing than it is now by using his veto powers.

Also, Gov. Rauner not only used his own lawyers to make sure employees got paid (which is a major fiscal burden), but he has yet to ask any of the stakeholders or courts to renegotiate the consent decrees.

Their hands are not completely tied here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


More pension reform ideas

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* Eric Zorn dusts off a pension reform idea that was first proposed by Senate President John Cullerton in 2013 and which, if constitutional, could save the state a billion dollars a year

Case law in New York state, where the pension guarantees are as ironclad as they are in Illinois, says that, outside of contract agreements, state employees are not necessarily entitled to regular raises.

Therefore “a public employer has the right to condition its offering of a salary increase on that increase not counting for pension purposes,” said attorney Eric Madiar, Democratic Senate President John Cullerton’s well-regarded expert on pension law. “In other words, the employer can say, ‘I will give a $5,000 raise, but if you accept it, then that increase will only count as more money in your pocket, not also toward your salary basis for pension purposes when you retire.’” […]

“Salary is a key component of the formula used to determine the pension benefit, and clearly, altering the formula in order to diminish the benefit is unconstitutional,” said Anders Lindall, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, the largest state employee union. Giving workers “a choice between diminished options is coercive,” Lindall said.

Madiar disagreed. “Folks may not like this choice and feel it is unfair, but that does not make it coercive under Illinois law,” he said. “Life, after all, is not fair. Illinois courts have made it clear that coercion does not exist when the party making the offer has the legal right to impose the condition the other party does not like. Hard bargaining is not coercion.”

You got a better idea?

* GOP Reps. David Harris and Mark Batinick do have another idea. From a press release…

State Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) will be joined by the House Revenue & Finance Committee Minority Spokesperson, State Representative David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) and suburban colleagues at a press conference on Thursday to announce the details of a pension reform proposal Representative Batinick filed this week in the Illinois General Assembly. They will discuss the budget impact of Illinois’ current pension shortfall of over $100 Billion and how the state can achieve long-term savings

* From their resolution

WHEREAS, The General Assembly has not thoroughly broached the possibility of a pension or partial pension exchange option for participants in State-funded retirement systems, which would consist of giving participants a lump sum payment for their annuity or a portion of their annuity, as a viable olution to addressing short and long-term savings; and

WHEREAS, Many of those nearing retirement may be attracted to having more control over their retirement assets, but unfortunately the State does not provide a versatile and competitive alternative to the current pension arrangement; and

WHEREAS, Providing a lump sum payment in exchange for all or a portion of an annuity would provide a voluntary, constitutional approach to addressing the State’s pension obligations, while simultaneously providing participants the options and flexibility needed when planning for retirement; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NINETY-NINTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that we urge the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chairperson of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee to hold a series of hearings on how the State could potentially approach a lump sum exchange option; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the Committee invite interested parties and stakeholders to these hearings in hopes of better understanding the positive and negative outcomes of an exchange proposal as well as any potential barriers that would prevent an exchange option from becoming a common practice within our State-funded retirement systems.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   86 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Today’s number: $8.5 billion

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* Keep in mind that January 1st is merely the half-way point of Fiscal Year 2016…


*** UPDATE *** Press release with emphasis added…

Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger announced Wednesday that if the state continues its current rate of spending without a balanced budget, Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills to schools, hospitals, businesses, social services and other vendors will exceed $8.5 billion by the end of the calendar year.

Munger said court orders, consent decrees, and statutory continuing appropriations (including debt service, pension payments, tax refunds and lawmaker salaries) are funding 90 percent of the state’s bills even though the General Assembly and Governor have been deadlocked on a budget since July 1. The problem is, the spending is based on FY 15 levels while revenue is based on FY 16 levels, which is running considerably lower due to the sunset of the temporary tax increase in January.

The unpaid bill estimate does not include payments for higher education, employee-retiree health insurance, student MAP grants, some Lottery winners, commercial spending, and other bills that will not be processed until a budget in place. Those expenses could account for an additional $4.3 billion in spending annually.

“Just over two months ago, I stood before you to warn that if the General Assembly and Governor were unable to pass a balanced budget, there would be severe consequences for the state,” Munger said. “Today I’m here to say that those consequences have come to pass and the situation will become more dire the longer we try to fund state services without a budget.”

At the end of August, the state’s unpaid bills to schools, hospitals, businesses, social service agencies and others totaled about $5.5 billion. That number has grown to $6 billion today. If there is no budget in place and the state’s spending trajectory continues, it will enter the New Year on January 1, 2016 owing an estimated $8.5 billion in unpaid bills. As the backlog grows, the state’s cash flow gets tighter and payments to nonprofits and other state vendors for provided services face further delays, Munger said.

Munger will continue to prioritize payments to nonprofits that serve children, the elderly, people with developmental or intellectual disabilities, and other vulnerable residents. They depend heavily on state funding and provide critical services at a lower cost than it would cost the state, she said.

“We will continue to do everything in our power to keep the state and our human service organizations afloat, but to be clear – our office performs triage every day simply to ensure the State of Illinois lives up to its core commitments,” Munger said. “For the sake of our families, businesses and organizations, it is time for members of the General Assembly to sit down with the Governor to find common ground and pass a balanced budget so we can fund our critical priorities.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      


Chris Crane: New Plan Will Help Ensure Reliable Power

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

The following is excerpted from a Daily Herald op-ed by Exelon Corporation President and CEO Chris Crane:

“Keeping the lights on, safely and reliably, is Exelon’s primary responsibility to customers. Part of that is planning ahead to make sure we have enough power to meet our region’s needs for years to come.

Over the past decade, the power generation system has dramatically changed. The grid was once powered almost entirely by highly reliable power plants like nuclear and coal, which have fuel on site and can run 24/7 in all weather conditions. Today it has moved toward natural gas, which is subject to supply disruption if home heating becomes critical or the gas delivery system freezes, and renewables, which only run when the sun shines or when the wind blows. …

While this shift has helped provide cleaner power, it has led to a major unintended consequence — the system is no longer sufficiently reliable, especially during extreme weather.

The challenges became clear during the 2014 polar vortex, when PJM, which operates an electric grid from northern Illinois to the mid-Atlantic, lost 22 percent of its power generation and came dangerously close to a large-scale blackout. A recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency charged with ensuring the reliability of the grid, will help avoid such a crisis. …

The plan, known as capacity performance, only pays power plants that deliver power when promised — especially in the hottest or coldest weather — and imposes financial penalties on those that don’t. …

[A]uctions under the new plan [will] ensure enough supply for customers’ needs in years to come. …

Importantly, any auction proceeds will be reinvested in improving the reliability of our power plants…

Exelon is constantly investing in its nuclear power plants, spending nearly $1 billion annually to add the latest technologies and keep them operating safely and reliably. …

Now is an opportune time to implement these reforms for a more reliable grid that will keep homes lit and warm, businesses running, and our economy growing.”

Learn more about reliable nuclear energy at www.NuclearPowersIllinois.com

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Boykin out

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* Not a huge surprise…


Boykin repeatedly hammered fellow African-American Andrea Zopp for voting to close 50 Chicago schools, so that’s some good news for Zopp and her Daley family backers

[Bill] Daley, the son and brother of former Chicago mayors. who’s emerged as Zopp’s most prominent supporter. Dozens of other Chicago lawyers and businesspeople, many of whom have known Zopp for years, have also donated the maximum amount to her primary campaign. […]

Two city aldermen led the charge [against a Cook County Democratic Party Duckworth slating] Ed Burke, the dean of the Chicago City Council, and John Daley, Bill’s brother. […]

Daley, who now works for a Swiss hedge fund, has played a major role in raising cash for Zopp. He is a member of the campaign’s finance committee and told Campaign Pro he talks to Zopp’s team at least once a week. He and his wife held a fundraiser for her at their home in June.

The question now becomes what Sen. Napoleon Harris does. Will he stay in the race and maybe split the African-American vote with Zopp?

* Duckworth, by the way, came out in favor of the Iran deal this week. Zopp was already in favor, but Duckworth’s position is sure to draw direct fire from Sen. Mark Kirk, who has staked out a very strong position against the deal.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Turn on the Wayback Machine

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* From a Chicago Tribune editorial dated November 17, 2010

Chicago teachers haven’t gone on strike since 1987. Credit Mayor Richard Daley, who has been willing to give teachers substantial raises to keep them in classrooms and off picket lines. And credit some leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union who saw the value in not even threatening strikes.

But the flush economic times are over. The schools face a huge budget shortfall — estimated at more than $700 million — in 2011. There are serious rumblings about a strike if the Chicago Board of Education can’t scrape up the money for raises guaranteed to teachers in the last year of a contract that expires in 2012.

Lawmakers need to block that threat. Just as state law prohibits firefighters and police officers from striking, so too should it stop teachers from walking out. Not just in Chicago, but across Illinois.

Cops and firefighters can’t strike because doing so would imperil public safety. They’re vital. Teachers can strike because … well, why? We think teachers, like police, are public employees crucial to the well-being of the community.

This year, the editorial board has been leading the charge against binding arbitration for AFSCME.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Welcome to the fray

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* When Politico announced it was moving in to Illinois, a bunch of people privately asked me what I thought.

I’m all for more bureaus, more coverage, more reporters, more competition. Period. Always have been.

Plus, I glanced at Politico’s other state operations, including Florida. To me, it looked like they have a more national focus and are competing for eyeballs with the big state media outlets, not people like me.

* I recently told a friend of mine at the Tribune that the people who really ought to worry should be the folks who run and work at the Chicago Sun-Times. They have a horrible website (slightly improved recently, but still awful), don’t fully utilize some highly regarded reporters and columnists (until fairly recently, Mark Brown’s top notch stuff has been mostly buried) and still haven’t installed a new Statehouse reporter.

Because the Sun-Times has so hobbled itself over the past year and a half, it’s made itself a target. So, in my opinion, even a semi-strong Politico staff and a reasonably accessible website could do big damage to the CS-T’s position.

* And if it wasn’t obvious before, it ought to be crystal clear now

Natasha Korecki, one of Chicago’s premier political reporters, is leaving the Sun-Times after 12 years to join Politico, the authoritative source for coverage of politics and government.

Korecki will serve as a Chicago-based senior political reporter and will be responsible for compiling the daily Politico Playbook on Illinois politics, starting in late September.

Again, if Florida’s Playbook is any guide, it’s filled with Sunshine State angles on national stuff, with some state news tossed in.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Just about everything you’ll ever want to know about Dick Uihlein

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* Lynn Sweet has the deets and there’s way too much to excerpt. So, click here and read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


AFL-CIO chief backs Madigan against Dunkin, Drury

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

* Speaker Madigan isn’t the only one calling out Reps. Dunkin and Drury on the AFSCME bill

It’s not typical for Madigan to rebuke House Democrats in such a public fashion. To buttress his contention that the votes to override Rauner would have been there if Dunkin had shown up, Madigan said unions had received the same assurances he had from rank-and-file House Democrats.

Earlier, Michael Carrigan, head of the state AFL-CIO, said in a statement he received assurances from Dunkin and Drury that they would vote for the override.

“In the days before the override vote, both Rep. Dunkin and Rep. Drury told representatives of AFL-CIO-affiliated unions that they supported the fair arbitration bill, and Rep. Dunkin indicated he would be returning from his New York City vacation and taking the train to Springfield to attend the legislative session. We are very disappointed that neither did so,” Carrigan said in the statement.

* And Dunkin responds

“I’m trying not to be confrontational with any of my members. The speaker, in the last six-seven years, we’ve had issues, talked as men in private, as professionals. I don’t really want to be fighting him or any other colleague. That seems where this has headed,” Dunkin said.

Madigan is clearly more upset than usual, but Dunkin’s colleagues are far more angry at him for blowing off session last week than has been generally portrayed in the media. Many are demanding punishment. And I think that may be why MJM has taken this thing so far.

Plus, everybody probably needs a vacation, man. I know I do.

…Adding… Oops. I forgot to post an important link. Rep. Dunkin on WVON yesterday. Click here.

…Adding More… Reps. Dunkin and Drury were also on Chicago Tonight yesterday. Click here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   102 Comments      


Madigan doubles down on Dunkin, Drury

Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015

[Bumped up to Wednesday morning from Tuesday night for visibility.]

* Press release…

Good evening. Please find below a statement from House Speaker Michael Madigan regarding the outcome of the House’s override vote of the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1229. For more information, please contact Steve Brown…

Madigan: House Overrides Governor’s Veto of Arbitration Bill if All 71 Democrats are Present

CHICAGO - House Speaker Michael J. Madigan on Tuesday released the following statement regarding the House override vote of the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1229:

“It was my expectation that all 71 House Democrats would be in attendance for legislative session last Wednesday. Instead, 70 were present. Had all 71 Democrats been present, as was expected, the House would have voted to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1229.

“Over the last several weeks, I worked with various interested stakeholders to gather support in the House to override the governor’s veto. During that time, every Democratic member of the House gave a commitment either to me or to these various groups that they would vote in favor of the override. Leading up to the vote, Representatives Dunkin and Drury, who had both previously voted for the bill, told members and representatives of labor that they would support the override motion. Even with Representative Dunkin’s absence, we called the bill for a vote at the request of the bill’s sponsor and AFSCME Council 31.

“I believe the failure to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1229 will be used by the governor as part of his ongoing effort to bring down wages and the standard of living for middle-class families.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   115 Comments      


Unclear on the concept

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

* Ugh

The Illinois Department of Human Services this week shuttered a public aid office in Illinois’s poorest county.

With the office closing Wednesday, Alexander County residents needing face-to-face assistance signing up for or with questions regarding medical, food and cash benefits will have to travel to nearby Mounds in Pulaski County.

Case managers at the resource centers are charged with reviewing applications and helping people apply for aid that includes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which is for pregnant mothers and their young children; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and state Medicaid benefits.

DHS spokeswoman Veronica Vera said the decision was not driven by the state’s budget fiasco, but rather because state officials noted slow traffic at the public aid office in Cairo. About 15 people per day visit the office, she said, and even fewer visit the office daily in Mounds. […]

She noted that the Mounds office was just a few miles away from the one in Cairo, and also said there was an office in the region in Decatur. “I don’t know how far that one is,” said Vera, whose DHS administrative office is located in Chicago, of the Decatur office.

Decatur is east of Springfield, about 3 hours and 40 minutes north of Cairo. There are other offices much closer than Decatur, including one in Anna and Marion, according to DHS’s office, though she did not mention those.

- Posted by Rich Miller   91 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

* Your caption?…


- Posted by Rich Miller   121 Comments      


Putting the mayor’s proposal into perspective

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

* Crain’s takes a look at Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed $500 million property tax hike

If the huge increase were in place now, Chicago’s average composite property tax rate—which includes all government agencies, such as the county, schools and libraries—would be lower than all but five suburbs in Cook County. The tax rate is just one factor in determining a property owner’s tax bill, which also is affected by changes in real estate values.

Three of the five municipalities with lowest tax rates are in the northwest suburbs: Barrington, which has the lowest rate, South Barrington and Inverness.

Downtown Chicago, which has a higher tax rate than the rest of the city, would have the 15th-lowest tax rate in the county. Communities that would have lower tax rates than the city center include Prospect Heights, Willow Springs and Winnetka. […]

(E)ven with such a large increase, the city’s tax rate still would be slightly less than it was in 1996, according to clerk’s office records.

* But… and this is a major “but”

Chicago already has the highest commercial real estate taxes of any major city in the nation except New York, said developer Steven Fifield. Builders and commercial property owners put much more emphasis on actual tax bills, which will climb, than tax rates, he said.

The tax hike, combined with other factors such as rising construction costs and climbing land prices, likely will cause a slowdown in new construction projects, particularly apartment buildings, said Fifield, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Fifield Cos.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Chief of staff, three House Republicans move on

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

* Erickson

A Republican state lawmaker from Champaign said Friday he will not seek re-election in 2016.

State Rep. Adam Brown said he is taking on more of a leadership role in his family’s 1,000-acre farming operation and needs to step down from the 102nd district post he’s held since 2010.

“My plate has been beyond full for some time,” said Brown, 30, who recently announced the birth of his second child.

His pending departure, first reported by Capitolfax.com, is the latest in a line of Republican lawmakers who have announced they are not running again. Others include state Sen. Dave Luechtefeld of Okawville and state Reps. Mike Tryon of Crystal Lake and Ed Sullivan of Mundelein.

* Bernie

House GOP Leader JIM DURKIN of Western Springs had great things to say about his outgoing chief of staff and the person who will replace him.

Chief of staff SCOTT REIMERS of Springfield, who turns 44 this weekend and makes $140,000 annually, will go into lobbying. ANDREW FREIHEIT, 44, of Wheaton, who now makes $130,000 annually as chief legal counsel and ethics officer for the caucus, will become chief of staff. Durkin said in a prepared statement that he expects a smooth transition and that Reimers will stay on staff through the end of September.

Durkin called Reimers “one of the hardest-working people I know” and “a devoted public servant and an important member of my team.”

Reimers said Durkin will “forever be a good friend,” but he also said that after 21 years with the General Assembly “and missing too many of my children’s games and activities, I felt it was time for me to start a new challenge.” He and his wife, LORI, have two children.

So, we’ve got three retiring House Republicans plus the chief of staff.

A pattern?

I dunno.

* I’ve talked to all of the retiring legislators at some length and the only pattern I’ve found is that they want to get on with their lives. A couple of them also had some health issues. Plus, Reimers was the chief under Durkin’s predecessor, so many figured he’d eventually be moving along.

And “Coach” never moved into his new district, so that retirement has been expected for quite some time.

* Don’t get me wrong, this session isn’t going as planned for the Republicans, who initially rejoiced at finally having a governor to backstop them, then ended up being being even more tightly controlled than their ’shroomy colleagues across the aisle.

So, I don’t doubt that the governor has something to do with all this. But I wouldn’t ever say that it is the reason.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** If there’s no will, there ain’t no way

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

* A recent piece in Illinois Issues is getting some attention

Charlie Wheeler III, a longtime observer of Illinois politics and head of the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield, has a plan that could at least get the two sides talking. In a column in the Illinois Times, Wheeler rolled out how Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton could actually accomplish some things together. Wheeler recommends the two sides use an “agreed bill” process, in which all parties compromise and write the legislation together. This process has been used in the past, often with success and acceptable results for both sides of a dispute.

Wheeler’s explanation is lengthy, but here are the highlights of his compromise ideas.

Workers compensation: In a true compromise, tighten the definition of workplace injuries, which Rauner wants, and place more scrutiny on insurance companies, which would please Democrats.

Tort reform: Give Democrats a choice between stricter rules on where to file personal injury lawsuits, restricting “pain and suffering” awards, or sponsoring a constitutional amendment to determine if voters wanted to limit certain damages.

Property tax freeze: Enact a freeze, but only if Rauner drops demands that would severely restrict collective bargaining and eliminate a prevailing wage requirement. Wheeler didn’t mention this one, but we’d add, pave the way for voters to decide a way to reduce the number of local governments.

Redistricting and term limits: On both issues, turn to citizen groups to get the amendments on the ballot through the petition process. Rauner, who supports both issues, could use his bully pulpit to support the issues, but would remove them from his legislative agenda.

Andy Shaw also pointed to Wheeler’s piece as a possible model. Charlie’s piece can be read in full by clicking here.

I’ve supported most of these ideas in the past, particularly an agreed bill process on workers’ comp and dropping the anti-union stuff from the property tax freeze. And as we found out yet again last year, Illinoisans can’t legally put a term limits constitutional amendment on the ballot.

The problem isn’t with the ideas, the problem is the complete lack of will to talk about the ideas.

Once Speaker Madigan decides he’s willing to talk about workers’ comp reforms that don’t include “causation,” then the talks can bear some fruit, but not until he’s willing. Same goes for everything else, on both sides. There just is no will right now to move anything forward.

* The only thing that ever dependably moves these guys to act is a crisis, and despite the long impasse we just haven’t seen one yet that’s urgent enough to generate some will. And instead of talking about the budget for the last few weeks, all the leaders and members did was griped about the AFSCME bill. Speaker Madigan has long chastised the governor for focusing too much on non-budget issues, but what did he do for weeks? I mean, you’d never know there was a budget problem to listen to Madigan et al.

So, Rep. Dunkin wasn’t wrong when he said

Meantime, on Wednesday eight people were killed in Chicago. The schools are $480 million short. And this is the most salient thing we can talk about in Springfield?

*** UPDATE *** Like I said. No will…


- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      


Ignore ‘em

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

* Nate Silver

In a sense, the primaries are a lot like the NCAA basketball tournament: You know there are going to be some surprises. The odds of every favorite winning every game in the NCAA tournament are longer than a billion-to-one against. And yet, in the end, one of the front-runners usually wins. (Since the men’s tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, all but three champions have been No. 4 seeds or better.)

So be wary of grand pronouncements about What It All Means based on a handful of “surprising” developments. Is Scott Walker’s campaign off to an “unexpectedly” bad start, for instance? Maybe. (I wouldn’t be thrilled if I were one of Walker’s strategists. I’d also remind myself that we have five months to go before the Iowa caucuses.) Even if you grant that Walker is having some problems, however, it would be stunning if all the Democratic and Republican campaigns were doing exactly as well as pundits anticipated. At any given moment, some campaigns are bound to be struggling to meet expectations, or exceeding them.

Similarly, while one might not have predicted that Bernie Sanders would be the one to do it, it was reasonably likely that some rival would emerge to Hillary Clinton. It’s happened for every non-incumbent front-runner in the past: Buchanan for Dole; Bill Bradley for Al Gore.

The other big difference between the general election and primaries is that polls are not very reliable in the primaries. They improve as you get closer to the election, although only up to a point. But they have little meaning now, five months before the first states vote.

It’s not only that the polls have a poor predictive track record — at this point in the past four competitive races, the leaders in national polls were Joe Lieberman, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton and Rick Perry, none of whom won the nomination — but also that they don’t have a lot of intrinsic meaning. At this point, the polls you see reported on are surveying broad groups of Republican- or Democratic-leaning adults who are relatively unlikely to actually vote in the primaries and caucuses and who haven’t been paying all that much attention to the campaigns. The ones who eventually do vote will have been subjected to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of advertising, had their door knocked on several times, and seen a half-dozen more debates. The ballots they see may not resemble the one the pollsters are testing since it’s likely that (at least on the GOP side) several of the candidates will have dropped out by the time their state votes.

All very good points.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Simon gets back in the game

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

* I told subscribers about this almost a month ago. AP

Former Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon is running for state senate in southern Illinois’ 58th District.

The Carbondale Democrat made the announcement Monday at the Du Quoin State Fair.

Simon says in a written statement that she’ll “stand up for Southern Illinois’ families and their jobs.” The former teacher says she’ll also campaign on the issue of funding for education.

* From the Southern

“When a governor messes with our rights to organize, I get angry. And because anger isn’t going to do much for me, I’m moving my anger into action,” Simon said. […]

“There’s so much at stake right now, we need strong unions,” Simon said. “The reason the governor is holding the budget up is because he wants to weaken the union rights in Illinois and I am entirely opposed to that.” […]

“I’m running to support our rights to organize, to preserve the hard-fought gains we have made before. I’m running because that governor is not hurting just us,” Simon said. “His refusal to budge on the budget is making it hard for working parents to just get by and stay at work.” […]

“That governor grew up in a life of wealth and privilege, he might not understand us, he might not care, but I am running to be a strong voice for Southern Illinois and one that [Rauner] can’t ignore,” Simon said.

Simon is being backed by the Senate Democrats.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Two very important lessons need to be learned

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column…

There was a reason why state Rep. Esther Golar, D-Chicago, showed up late for session Sept. 2.

She’s been quite ill.

Unbeknownst to many of her colleagues, Golar was brought into the Statehouse that afternoon via wheelchair. With a weak and halting voice, Golar asked for assistance putting on a light jacket while chatting with a smattering of well-wishers before bravely walking to her seat on the House floor.

She told friends that she hadn’t eaten solid food in three weeks, although she didn’t say what had made her so ill. In desperate need of intravenous fluid, Golar eventually had to be taken to a Springfield hospital.

Through it all, the six-term South Side legislator said she absolutely had to attend session because she knew it was important, not just to help override the governor’s veto of AFSCME’s now-infamous “no strike” bill but to have her say on all the other overrides and important measures.

A whole lot of bills went down in flames that day because Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, decided not to cut short his trip to New York and skipped the session. Numerous override motions failed by a single vote, as well as a bill designed to reverse the governor’s 90 percent cut to child care services.

Quite a few Democratic legislators were furious at their colleague. Some sent him text messages to express their displeasure after their bills went down to defeat. He had no empathy in reply, despite the fact that tens of thousands of Illinoisans, from struggling working mothers to unionized employees, will be impacted.

While it’s true that the AFSCME bill, which would have prevented a strike or a gubernatorial lockout, received only 68 of the 71 required for passage, House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters that if Dunkin had been in town all Democrats would have voted for it. However, Rep. Scott Drury, the sole “No” vote in the Democratic caucus, denied that he ever would have voted to override when asked by the Sun-Times. Rep. Jack Franks voted “Present.”

When I asked whether Dunkin’s committee chairmanship was now in danger, Madigan said he had no plans yet to punish him. Madigan’s members were not so quick to forgive, however, and several said they hoped for some sort of retaliation.

That could get tricky, though. The fact is that the House only has 71 Democrats, so Dunkin’s vote will be needed in the future. And if organized labor goes on the attack in the spring primary, they’d better not lose.

Besides, if Madigan follows his usual path, he’ll ride to Dunkin’s rescue if the incumbent draws a primary challenger. There is no better way to ensure a member’s undying gratitude than pulling his sorry behind out of a raging political fire.

The governor’s top people flatly denied that they offered Dunkin anything in exchange for his no-show. Rauner worked harder than he ever had to defeat the override motion. Greg Hinz at Crain’s Chicago Business reported that sources told him Rauner attended a Dunkin fundraiser this summer. But AFSCME Council 31 contributed $2,000 to Dunkin’s campaign fund in June.

Aside from Dunkin’s unexcused (and perhaps inexcusable) absence, the real problem here is twofold.

First, a large number of House Republicans voted somebody else’s conscience (Rauner’s) rather than their own, or that of their districts. Or they wimped out and cast yet another “Present” vote or didn’t vote at all.

More important, though, AFSCME crafted a purely partisan power play. Instead of bringing friendly Republicans into the fold, the union relied on Democratic leaders to handle everything. And in the process, a whole lot of Democratic suburbanites were hung out to dry by their leaders.

This was, in other words, a typical Illinois Democratic move. In that world, “bipartisanship” too often means Republicans are forced to vote for Democratic bills as is.

Just look at Sept. 1’s floor action. Instead of accepting some of the governor’s relatively minor amendatory vetoes, the Democrats instead chose to override him and failed miserably. All those underlying bills–encompassing hundreds of hours of work—are now dead.

So maybe Dunkin unintentionally did his Democratic colleagues a favor. He showed them that their power isn’t as great as they thought. The absence of a single legislator completely undermined their quest to send messages of total defiance to the Republican governor. Whether they like it or not, that day’s abject failures showed yet again that Illinois no longer is a one-party state.

Hopefully, some Democrats paid attention.

- Posted by Rich Miller   106 Comments      


Long-term prevention programs cut, but not all of them

Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

* Phil Luciano writes about the demise of a local program because of a $50,000 state budget cut

For years, TCAP has been the only social-service provider in isolated, ramshackle Richland Farms, otherwise and ingloriously known as The Bottoms. In addition to assisting children with academic and other needs, TCAP has hosted adult workshops on home security, cyberbullying and other topics.

In a forgotten chunk of East Peoria where residents struggle to make ends meet, the project has run a food bank. And amid shacks that lack computers, TCAP has served as a clearing house of information, such as where and when parents can get free school supplies. […]

As of Sept. 16, funding officially will end. The problem goes beyond the Springfield budget impasse. As with other prevention programs aiming to reduce education and crime woes, TCAP’s funding has been erased in the governor’s effort to cut spending.

“Unfortunately, when the state looks at things, prevention programs are the first things to go,” the CYFS’s Glancy says. “But there will be problems later.”

* Bre Linstromberg Copper writes about cuts that will eliminate a detox program

The Wells Center in Jacksonville will be shutting down its detoxification program on Oct. 1.

Executive Director Bruce Carter said the program is being discontinued because of the continuing state budget impasse and funding reductions by the state.

“It became clear in July that if the state didn’t pass a budget, we would have to start looking at ways to reduce our expenses,” Carter said.

* But

A five-year pilot project on Interstate 72 east of Springfield will help determine whether there is a better way to extend the life of Illinois’ most heavily traveled highways.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is testing use of a concrete and buffer overlay on a section of I-72 just outside of Springfield as an alternative to the traditional hot-mix asphalt overlay. The just-completed work was part of a multiyear rehabilitation of pavement and bridges on the interstate between Springfield and Decatur.

Nearly 21,000 vehicles travel the popular commuter section of I-72 on the east side of Springfield, according to IDOT figures, including approximately 3,000 heavy trucks daily.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


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