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Skimming over the “why”

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* So, the New York Times does a 1,200-word piece entitled “One State’s Struggle to Make Ends Meet: Why Illinois Is Without a Budget,” and here is the sum total of the “why”

Q. What is holding up finding a solution?

A. Lawmakers were deadlocked in negotiations leading up to the budget deadline of July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year. Since then, little progress has been made in meetings between Mr. Rauner and Democratic leaders.

Democrats say that the governor’s proposals are nonstarters and damaging to the middle class. Among them are measures to limit prevailing wages and cut down on eligibility for workers’ compensation, changes that the governor says are reasonable and will stimulate economic growth.

Any normal person would look at that and say “Those people are freaking nuts to fight over nothing!”

I mean, that’s not to say our leaders aren’t freaking nuts, I’m just saying that maybe less ink used to talk about lottery payouts and more to provide some context.

The Times isn’t solely at fault here. Pretty much nobody explains what the beef is about beyond personalities.

Sorry, but it drives me nuts.

- Posted by Rich Miller   94 Comments      

Some lottery sales appear to be moving to other states

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* The state’s inability to pay larger lottery prizes is apparently shifting at least some business to other states, according to the AP

Lotteries in Missouri, Indiana, Iowa and Kentucky say sales have increased since Illinois first set a cap on prize payouts. But they all caution that other factors might be in play.

In Kentucky’s McCracken County, along Illinois’ southern border, there was a 13 percent jump in sales of scratch-off tickets from July 1 through Oct. 9, compared with a 9 percent jump statewide. […]

Ticket sales in the St. Louis area were up 3.8 percent from June to Oct. 17, while Missouri as a whole saw a 3 percent jump. Iowa Lottery officials said five counties bordering Illinois are seeing recent sales that far outpace the overall 3.66 percent increase statewide this fiscal year compared with last. Hoosier Lottery officials said northwestern Indiana counties near Illinois also posted an increase. Wisconsin couldn’t provide figures.

The Illinois Lottery declined to release its ticket sales data, and spokesman Steve Rossi refused to answer questions about the impact of delaying payouts.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

More lip service

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* From WAND TV

Governor Bruce Rauner has issued a proclamation declaring that Illinois will observe National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) joins Governor Rauner, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to build awareness about the hazards of lead poisoning during the week of October 25 – 31, 2015.

Lead poisoning occurs most often from exposure to lead-contaminated dust created by deteriorating lead-based paint. Lead-containing products can also lead to exposure and result in life-long negative effects.

“Given the many health and development problems that can occur in children exposed to lead, it is imperative that we build awareness and take the appropriate precautions,” says IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.

* From Emily Miller at Voices for Illinois Children…

Just like other state services, lead poisoning prevention is funded from many different revenue sources, including fees, general revenue fund dollars, and federal Medicaid match dollars. But $1.4 million of the $1.9 million of last year’s lead poisoning prevention funding came from GRF spending and corresponding federal match dollars—equaling over two-thirds of total funding for these efforts. This year there is no GRF spending and, therefore, no federal match for these dollars. The result is that the majority of funding for lead poisoning prevention and screening is compromised.

Just as was the case during both Infant Mortality Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Governor has expressed support for the cause of preventing lead poisoning, but has not acted to fund the efforts.

It’s worth noting that without revenue to back it up, any spending plan is not even worth the paper it’s printed on. The Governor is not wholly to blame for the lack of GRF funding- it’s not like lawmakers have stepped up with a plan to fully fund state services for a full fiscal year. But it is a little like rubbing salt in the wound when the Governor continues to issue proclamations supporting the human services he refuses to even consider funding unless he gets sign off on his policy agenda.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      

The real reason behind the Edgar bashing

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* The Illinois Policy Institute’s Scott Reeder on Jim Edgar

(D)uring his time in office, Edgar was far too willing to compromise.

And Madigan played him for a fool.

The crowning achievement of Edgar’s time in office was the so-called Edgar Ramp, which was touted as a cure-all for the state’s pension woes.

It wasn’t. It isn’t. And it never will be.

It simply delayed the state’s Day of Reckoning.

In fact, it made things worse.

Back in the 1990s the state’s finances were a mess. Pensions were underfunded in part because annual payments had been skipped and the money spent on other things.

For months, Edgar, legislative leaders and union bosses hashed out how to “solve” this predicament.

And they gave birth to a rat.

In a nutshell, the grand compromise Edgar championed called for having low annual pension payments while he was in office and higher ones when future governors were in office.

He kicked the can down the road. He made his problem that of future governors.

The ramp also failed to fundamentally reform the pension system.

So future lawmakers — and governors — were able to skip payments when they were faced with those extra-high amounts Edgar dumped on them.

* This isn’t the first time that Scott has written about his distaste for the Edgar ramp. But, this was the first time he chose to only briefly touch on why he really opposes it. It’s not so much the ramp as it is the pension system itself. From November of 2013

To be blunt, the best solution is to walk away from the system.

Eighty percent of private sector employers have embraced 401(k)-type plans. In these plans, employees actually own their retirement savings and they can make decisions on how it is invested.

It’s time for Illinois to consider switching public school teachers, state workers and state university employees over to such plans.

The state would still be responsible for the pensions of those who have already retired. But it’s time to move current and future employees into a more sustainable plan.

And who better to take responsibility for worker retirements than the workers themselves?

* From March of 2013

When will we learn there is no ramp off this road to fiscal perdition?

Instead of looking for ramps, we need to look for solutions – like having government workers take ownership of their own retirements with a 401(k)-type retirement plan.

- Posted by Rich Miller   119 Comments      

Heckuva job, Brownie

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* By far, the stupidest thing Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown told her county’s ward and township committeemen last week

“I would say the endorsement of me is like a contract, because when I paid that $25,000 and the party actually cashed that check, that created a contract,” Brown said while speaking to committeemen. “Robert’s Rules says you cannot rescind a contract. That’s one motion you cannot rescind.”

Yep, the court clerk actually believes that nonsense.

Brown is a machine politician, and the machine way too often prefers its office holders to be less than bright.

Not saying, just sayin…

* But Clerk Brown did say something quite smart as well

“I don’t know where these accusations are coming from, but it could be any of you,” she said. “This kind of precedent is a precedent you do not want to set. I would suggest that before a vote to rescind anything, that you first of all wait until the actual facts come out.”

You can bet the next time somebody is scrootened by the feds, somebody is gonna bring this Brown thing up.

* Brown, by the way, had just $36,985.57 in her campaign account at the end of the third quarter. The party will be refunding her $25K check, but I really doubt she’ll be able to raise much more money from here on out.

Plus, she’ll have to start from scratch and circulate her own petitions without any help from the party structure, so the odds could be against her even getting on the ballot. We’ll see.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      

Offered without comment

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* From the governor’s Twitter feed…

- Posted by Rich Miller   83 Comments      

Our crisis in a nutshell

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* McKinney

To see the fickle fiscal state of affairs in cash-strapped Illinois, you need look no further than how the musical acts Styx, Sammy Hagar and Hank Williams Jr got paid for performing at the state fair in August, but the woman who sculpted the event’s life-sized butter cow did not. […]

A provision in state law, for example, allows grandstand acts to be paid up-front, enabling Rauner’s administration to authorize more than $2 million in expedited payments to 20 performers, state records show.

But Sharon BuMann, the New York butter sculptor who for 14 years has carved a cow from a large block of butter at the state’s fair is considered a vendor, and that status sent her invoice into an unpaid pile that has reached $7 billion. […]

Numerous social service agencies that depend on state funding say they are facing shutdowns if the budget impasse is not resolved. The Sexual Assault Counseling and Information Service, a rape counseling agency in the campus town of Charleston, expects to close in three weeks without a budget deal freeing up about $240,000 in expected state funding, the agency told Reuters. Erin Walters, the group’s executive director, wondered aloud about priorities that determined musicians would be paid while her organization is left to contemplate closing for the first time since its 1977 founding. […]

Charlie Brusco, manager for the 1970s rock band Styx, said the group collected its $75,000 payment before the bus carrying lead singers James “JY” Young and Tommy Shaw and their band left the state fairgrounds.

“We always leave the venue with our money,” Brusco said.


And, by the way, in what bizarro world is Styx even worth $75,000?

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      

Question of the day

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* Illinois Public Radio

It seems like it shouldn’t be news, let alone a banner headline: The governor and the leaders of the legislature having a meeting.

Most people probably assume that’s standard practice; and, though there have been exceptions (say, during Rod Blagojevich’s term), it has been in Illinois. Until this year. Illinois’ new governor and the General Assembly’s top Democrats and Republicans haven’t all gotten together since the end of May. […]

The heads of six self-described “reform groups” had this state of pain in mind when they came together to publicly call for a meeting among the Republican governor, the Democratic Senate President and House Speaker, and the minority leaders of each chamber.

“We are ready to facilitate the logistics of a meeting in either Chicago or Springfield,” the letter they published in the Chicago Tribune read. “The consequences are too great. And we cannot let the situation continue. While leadership may not align on some core principles, we believe it is necessary for them to meet together, work through these issues, and agree on a budget.”

From all the ideas meant to spur action, this is the one that took.

* Their letter was in the Tribune the afternoon before it was published here, but the paper didn’t even have a story about the groups’ offer until today

How dysfunctional has the Springfield stalemate become? The Republican governor and the Democratic legislative leaders are now trying to one-up each other on setting up a meeting.

Last week, a half-dozen advocacy groups, fed up with inaction that’s left the state without a budget since July 1, called on Gov. Bruce Rauner and legislative leaders to get together and discuss the matter. The groups wrote a letter offering to set up such a meeting, saying it should happen before Nov. 15 “due to the urgent need for resolution on this issue.”

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan accepted the invitation and suggested making the meeting public. Democratic Senate President John Cullerton also agreed. The Union League Club offered its downtown location as a venue, and a date was set for Nov. 18.

Not so fast, said Republican Rauner, who weighed in on Friday with a letter of his own. […]

Rauner’s offer: A meeting in the governor’s office, in Springfield or Chicago, on the same date and time – Nov. 18, 9:30 a.m. Rauner said his staff would circulate an agenda in advance of the meeting and would coordinate with leaders “on the most appropriate media access.”

* AP

Why the sudden detente?

After the letter arrived, Susan Garrett, a former state senator and chairwoman of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said Madigan responded and urged that it be public. The Union League Club of Chicago stepped up and offered space for Nov. 18.

Rauner usurped them Friday with an invitation of his own.

“While we appreciate the advocacy groups desire to be involved, we will pick up the organization of the meeting from here,” Rauner wrote.

No offense taken, Garrett said. “The objective is to get them all to talk.”

We were completely airbrushed out of the story again, but whatevs.

* The Question: Do you think this meeting will actually happen next month, or do you think it won’t happen, perhaps because too many preconditions will be demanded by one or both sides? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

online polls

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      

A case for better laws

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* Finke

Reports maintained by Secretary of State Jesse White’s office show lobbying entities in Illinois have spent more than $1.2 million so far this year on meals and entertainment, large gatherings, and other expenses that are required to be reported under the state’s lobbyist disclosure law.

But twenty percent of that came from just two groups, and none of those expenses were actual lobbying. From Ounce of Prevention

“The expenditure reports filed with the secretary of state’s office include our April annual luncheon at an expense of $130,000 (which includes all costs of the event). For 14 years, the luncheon has been our premier public education and fundraising event bringing together the business, philanthropic and civic communities in support of early childhood education. Of the more than 850 attendees, only two were affiliated with state government — the luncheon is not a lobbying event. However, per Illinois law and secretary of state requirements, we always err on the side of caution in reporting the full costs when a reportable official attends.”

The Illinois Association of Park Districts has a couple of big events every year, and came in second

“Maybe we have 40 members of the General Assembly in attendance,” he said. “It’s not a lobbying event, if you will. It’s not an accurate depiction of what you are doing organizationally. The legislators are an adjunct to the main event.”

* The top five

1. Ounce of Prevention Fund: $132,521

2. Illinois Association of Park Districts: $109,129

3. Loyola University Chicago: $52,600

4. Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois: $47,526

5. Commonwealth Edison: $34,148

One through four all have big annual events.

* And then there’s this

Not every lobbying entity reported spending money. The secretary of state’s website lists 2,063 entities registered as lobbyists. Of those, 1,677 have listed no expenses for large gatherings, meals and other entertainment, travel, or other reportable expenses.

That can cut both ways. Some groups register as lobbying entities to comply with state law, but don’t actually do much, if any actual lobbying. Other groups likely under-report.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

Left unsaid…

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* Crain’s Chicago Business editorial

Enough already, Bruce. It’s well past time for the governor to drop his “turnaround” agenda and put together a budget that puts Illinois on a path toward financial stability. Who says? Increasingly, none other than Bruce Rauner’s Republican allies and business pals. […]

Rauner insists he won’t compromise with Democrats who control the General Assembly unless they enact his legislative agenda, which ranges from workers’ compensation changes and term limits to a local property tax freeze. His proposals are worth fighting for; the state needs fundamental changes to rev up a lackluster economy and dislodge entrenched politicians.

But Rauner was elected to lead, not ape the antics of House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, who have shown little interest in negotiating, making them to blame for Illinois’ deepening financial crisis, too. A savvy executive knows how to pick the battles that can be won.

A balanced budget won’t come easily. Madigan often made a fool of former Gov. Pat Quinn, and they were members of the same party. The House speaker knows how to cut a deal, however. Surely, he and Rauner could come up with a combination of necessary spending cuts and higher taxes to make ends meet. But don’t take it just from us, Bruce. Take it from former Gov. Jim Edgar, who used an interview with the State Journal-Register in Springfield to deliver much-needed advice:

“We need a budget,” the former Republican chief executive said. “These other issues, they’re important . . . but you don’t hold the budget hostage to get those. . . .It has been very destabilizing for state government. I think a lot of people have suffered.”

The governor claims that his business pals are all with him, so it would’ve been nice if Crain’s had named a couple of them, or at least given us a hint about whom they might be.

* Southern Illinoisan editorial

“My goal is to look back in a couple of years and say, ‘That was hard, but I’m glad we did it,’” he told The Southern editorial board last week.

Both Rauner and lawmakers expect a budget deal by January. Rauner is finally meeting with Democratic Speaker Mike Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, he said. “Progress” is being made, he assured us. That alone is noteworthy considering the total lack of communication from a few months ago. Rauner declined to go into detail about what he’s willing to give up to get a deal done, saying he won’t “negotiate in the media.” But he highlighted worker’s comprehensive insurance reform and a property tax freeze as priority issues. In return, Rauner is likely to support a tax hike. We urge him to back a constitutional amendment to allow for a progressive income tax, which Cullerton said he’s again planning on pushing.

A lot of pain will have swept across the state by January. Jobs will be lost. Important initiatives will be temporarily shelved.

But Illinois can’t continue running up massive debts and spending billions more than it brings in. Taxpayers need relief. Union power must be brought under control. Widespread inefficiency throughout state government must be streamlined.

Urging Rauner to support a progressive income tax shows just how little that paper actually comprehends about the governor.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

The biggest hostage of all?

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* Pearson et al totaled up the amount of not yet appropriated or approved state money that Chicago’s city government, school system and transit authority are building into their own budgets and discovered it’s more than $800 million.

The governor doesn’t sound all that willing to open up the spigots

“One of the reasons that we have some opportunity to force change is that the city of Chicago is so financially mismanaged and so broke that they need help from Springfield,” Rauner said last week in Springfield.

“The city of Chicago is a political machine, government union machine that’s dying of its own weight,” he said. “They’ve been bleeding jobs, they can’t fund their schools properly, they can’t pay their pensions properly, even with a massive property tax hike they are looking at forcing on the people of Chicago.” […]

“What I have said to the mayor is, ‘I will help you if you help us. If you help us restructure this state, I will help you. If you will not help us restructure the state … I will not help you in the city of Chicago,’” Rauner said. “That dynamic is going to be a big part of the impetus to get some compromise on both sides.”

* The mayor, for his part, believes Rauner will eventually have to face reality

“I don’t think I’m usually seen as an optimist or ‘keep hope alive’ as my operating theory,” Emanuel responded, saying at some point the state will have to pass a budget. “I do believe Springfield will get their job done, and that’s not just a belief. It actually will be forced on them, whether they want to or not, by all the economics and the financial markets.”

Not so, sayeth the governor

“Credit rating is pretty irrelevant to me. I don’t work for credit-rating agencies. I work for the people of Illinois,” Rauner told reporters in Marion. “When we get a truly balanced budget, which we haven’t had in years, and when we’re growing our economy, we’re going to have very high credit ratings. We do the right thing, credit ratings follow.”

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      

Pot, meet kettle

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* Erickson

The lack of a state budget hasn’t stopped Illinois lawmakers from ordering up thousands of taxpayer-paid copies of coloring books, brochures and other print-based promotional perks in recent months. […]

The list of the 141 lawmakers participating in the program crosses party lines and includes many of the same Republicans who have been calling for cuts to state programs to help balance the budget.

State Rep. Jeanne Ives, for example, ordered 500 activity books and 13,000 cards to distribute in her suburban Chicago district.

The material ordered by the Wheaton Republican came after she proposed ending special stipends given to lawmakers for their service on committees and on leadership teams.

“It is time for legislators to share the burden. The state needs to make budget cuts, and $1 million is a great start,” she said of the stipends at the time.


- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

Domestic violence victims are victimized again

Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* More casualties of the governor’s decision to slash most state funding from the child care assistance program

Because of stricter guidelines for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, fewer people qualify to receive subsidies. The effect, local domestic violence and homeless advocates say, is that the women they serve could have a harder time getting out of temporary shelter or away from abusive situations and on to independent living.

“These subsidies allow people to get out into the community,” said [Sue] Morrissey, the vice president of program services for Home of the Sparrow. “If these supports aren’t there … how this benefits anyone, we don’t get it.”[…]

Child care and financial stability are paramount to many women trying to leave an abusive relationship, she said, as they seek to escape domestic violence.

“Say she comes in and she needs to work so she can become independent and support her children, and finds she is ineligible for the subsidy,” Zamudio said. “She may even choose to return to her abuser because she can’t do it.”

The changes are projected to save the state $47 million annually on background checks and copays, and $5.3 million a month by freezing intakes. […]

At Home of the Sparrow, where about 30 percent of the clients do not have a domestic violence history, Morrissey said women are required to get a job within 10 weeks of coming into the shelter. While there, officials can provide them with assistance for day care, although the funds the organization has to support day care are disappearing quickly.

…Adding… From comments…

“I think we can drive a wedge issue in the Democratic Party on that topic and bring the folks who say, ‘You know what? For our tax dollars, I’d rather help the disadvantaged, the handicapped, the elderly, the children in poverty. I’d rather have my tax dollars going to that than the SEIU or Af-scammy (AFSCME)” — Bruce Rauner, September 18, 2012.

Don’t you see? These domestic violence victims — these women and children? They’re just wedges.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Monday, Oct 26, 2015

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Governor Bruce Rauner took it on the chin for several days in a row this month.

The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute’s recent poll of southern Illinoisans showed Rauner’s approval rating absolutely tanking in a region he swept last year. Just 37 percent of voters in 18 southern counties approved of his job performance, while 51 percent disapproved. The media usually reacts negatively when there’s real blood in the water, and that poll most definitely showed blood.

In both a Chicago speech and during a follow-up interview, former Republican Governor Jim Edgar called on Rauner to stop holding the budget “hostage” to his anti-union Turnaround Agenda demands, claiming the lack of a state budget is hurting Illinois. Edgar remains a popular figure with political reporters, and his statements were a cold bucket of water on the governor’s “things are going great, and if they’re not, it’s all because of House Speaker Michael Madigan” mantra.

Rauner appointed Comptroller Leslie Munger in January after popular incumbent Judy Baar Topinka passed away last year. But Munger took her benefactor to task, telling a Quad Cities audience that the governor needs to stop attacking unions. “I don’t think it’s productive,” Munger said. “I think we’ve got to work together, personally.” Munger partially walked her comments back a few days later, but she continued urging him to stop the attacks.

Chicago hotel owner Laurence Geller’s public demand to Crain’s Chicago Business that the governor and the legislative leaders come to terms was less noticed by the media but could be the most important harbinger of things to come. If enough of Chicago’s top business leaders demand an end to this fight, it’ll end.

After all that, Rauner apparently thought it was a good idea to give his House Republicans a little pep talk last week.

“We’re winning handily,” Rauner confidently told Republicans during a closed-door meeting, sources say.

And if you think that was a bit over the top, consider what he said next: “I’m stunned by how good a position we’re in.”

Rauner claimed he and the Republicans have Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan on the run and that “the entire Democrat caucus is in trouble.”

These are obviously not the words of a man who says he pays no attention to polls, as he claimed to reporters after the Simon Institute released its highly unflattering survey.

Instead, they’re the words of a guy who totally trusts his own pollster’s rosy numbers and who has put the state government’s future in the hands of consultants who have been itching for total war with the Democrats.

And the governor’s private comments are most definitely at odds with his recent public statements about the impasse. Just days ago, for instance, Rauner pronounced himself “very unhappy” with the impasse. “We’re going through some financial difficulties right now,” Rauner told some folks at the University of Illinois. “I apologize for that.”

Rauner’s private comments to his fellow Republicans last week line up far more closely with what he told a friendly Chicago Tribune editorial board earlier this year.

“Crisis creates opportunity,” he told the Tribune in April. “Crisis creates leverage to change – and we’ve got to use that leverage of the crisis to force structural change.”

The editorial board has been all-in on this theory ever since, most recently when it helpfully excoriated Edgar on the current governor’s behalf for suggesting that Rauner try to look for a “doable” resolution to the months-long impasse. The paper actually accused Edgar of advocating “surrender.”

And the Democrats, for their part, strongly believe that their long-term, privately stated goal of dragging the governor down to their own horrible polling levels to blunt his attacks is succeeding better than they could’ve ever hoped.

Their polling shows Rauner’s numbers are “dropping like a rock off a cliff,” as one top Democratic insider put it last week. An unpopular governor poses no political threat to legislators on the other side of the war.

Meanwhile, two New York credit-rating agencies have downgraded Illinois’ bonds. Working parents are losing state help with their child care and are being forced onto welfare. Meals on Wheels is cutting back service to senior citizens. Colleges and universities are being squeezed like never before. Etc., etc., etc.

But our political leaders are all convinced they’re winning, so we have that going for us.

- Posted by Rich Miller   80 Comments      

* Appellate court vacates ILRB ruling that AFSCME contract negotiations were at impasse
* Two Rauner interviews, two Rauner answers on migrant caravan
* Question of the day
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* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Campaign updates: Morrison; DeWitte; Curran
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* Harold says she's not accountable to governor, president in new TV ad
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* Some new ads in congressional districts
* Private citizen tried to remain private
* *** UPDATED x4 *** Rauner's new TV ad is a real doozy
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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