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Reader comments closed for the holidays

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

* That’s gonna be it for me. I haven’t had a break since my little medical issue, so I’m outta here for a couple of weeks.

I hope everyone has a great holiday. Get some rest, have some fun and try to disconnect from politics for a while. It’ll still be there when you get back.

* We do have some business to take care of before we shut down. Previous winner Oswego Willy summed it up best, I think, in the nominations for The 2015 Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter…

What has been really great about Capitol Fax having a long history is that even the commenters have a history too. I know I’ve seen commenters evolve, grow, and find a stride from their first appearances on the scene and now where we all find ourselves. Sometimes circumstances and talent meet and things align for a commenter to shine, and show their versatility, as well as knowledge and passion, and still can make us laugh with a witty insightfulness that just stands out.

I nominate for Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter VanillaMan.

His song parodies are in tune with what’s happening and his choices of tunes add variety and nostalgia while being wrapped in a snark and playfulness that you can’t help but enjoy.

Song parodies are one thing, adding to the discussion with substance and thoughtfulness is another. This year, VanillaMan has often added unmatchable framing to a Post, and his comments have made the Posts stronger because his comment hit home what we should take from the posting.

In the years of VanillaMan’s commenting, this, by far, has been his strongest… in parody and fact… making VanillaMan’s complete package the best found around this blog in 2015.

I have always read what VanillaMan has had to say, I’ve sung along with all the parodies, smiled at his snark, pondered his thoughts to think about my own takes too. This year, VanillaMan has found a stride, with all the pistons firing, VanillaMan this year is more than worthy, and definitely deserving of the 2015 Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter.

I couldn’t agree more. The man has been on fire.

* Second place is a tie. “Walker,” a former legislator who has insights based on personal experiences that others don’t have….

It’s hard to pick among the prominent commenters. I like them all,but I think walker deserves the award. I appreciate his brevity, insight and good will to all, even those he disagrees with.

And the always helpful RNUG…

In the year of pension and budget discussions, most of us waited patiently for RNUG to read and attempt to translate the obtuse language used by our beloved government.

Yep.

* Honorable mention goes to MrJM…

He’s succinct, on point, and often amusingly caustic. Nobody says more while saying less.

* And Honeybear gets our Rookie of the Year Award, which I just made up…

I like Honeybear, too, for the aforementioned passion and for bringing a viewpoint that is uniquely both “inside” and “outside” of politics.

Of course, without the namesake for this award, the comment section wouldn’t be nearly as smart. So, many, many thanks to Wordslinger.

* As is our tradition, we close out the year with three songs from long ago. Hardrock, Coco and Joe

* Frosty the Snowman

* And my mom’s favorite, Suzy Snowflake

Peace.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


The future isn’t looking so bright

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

* I usually run my weekly syndicated newspaper column on Monday, but I won’t be around Monday and Crain’s already has it posted, so

One of the realities of Illinois legislative politics is that our state’s system tends to discourage competition.

Byzantine ballot access laws, a highly partisan legislative district map-drawing process, heavily concentrated populations of partisan voters in Chicago (Democrats) and in the collar counties and Downstate (Republicans) along with often tireless work by incumbents and political parties at the state and local levels to “discourage” opposition all combine to help tamp down the number of competitive races.

The net result is that Illinois has some of the fewest numbers of challenged state legislative races in the country - just 39 percent in 2014, which put us in the bottom fifth of the nation. By contrast, nearby Michigan saw a 100 percent challenge rate in the 2014 general election, and the rates in both California and Minnesota were above 90 percent.

That’s simply unheard of here.

The state’s 2014 rate may be higher next year. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s vast personal cash reserves and his access to his many wealthy friends means the Republican Party can widen the playing field. The Democrats are also looking at doing the same thing, fielding candidates in districts that they have previously avoided (GOP Rep. Bill Mitchell, for instance, has a pretty decent general election opponent for the first time in a long while).

While that’s good for politics, is it good for government?

It almost assuredly is a good thing in the long run. Far too many people think they own their districts. Competition is good.

But in the here and now, these campaigns are just one more headache to deal with in the ongoing governmental impasse. Legislators who aren’t accustomed to challenges may not be all that willing to take the tough votes necessary if the leaders ever come to a deal.

Indeed, we could see a tail wagging the dog scenario. For instance, as a member of House Democratic leadership, Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) has taken a ton of votes that his conservative southern Illinois constituents probably wouldn’t love, including a vote for the 2011 income tax hike.

But Bradley is now a Tier One target. And unless we see a massive political truce with pledges to not use tough votes against incumbents (as we did in the old days under Republican governors Jim Thompson, Jim Edgar and George Ryan) it’s probably safe to assume that Bradley and many, many others aren’t going to want to be a part of any tax hike solution.

The Illinois Republican Party compounded the problem the other day by blasting Bradley and Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) for standing with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (whom the Republicans now refer to as “#TaxHikeMike”) against taxpayers.

The Republican Party accuses Madigan, and by extension Bradley and Phelps and others, of publicly favoring a return to the 5 percent state income tax. They conveniently “forget” that Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he will raise taxes once he gets his “Turnaround Agenda” passed.

And it’s not just the general election that’s complicating matters. Look at what happened not long ago when conservative activist Dan Proft examined GOP Rep. David Harris’ nominating petitions to see if he could kick the Arlington Heights legislator off the ballot. Proft pointed out that Harris had “previously voiced support for tax increases.”

Harris, in turn, noted Gov. Rauner’s support for hiking taxes to balance the budget, but the message was clear: Proft controls a big pot of campaign money and Republicans need to beware of crossing him.

The ILGOP’s “#TaxHikeMike” assault could even play out in Speaker Madigan’s own legislative district.

Madigan’s Democratic primary opponent Jason Gonzales has a campaign message that appears specifically designed to attract money from wealthy people who are fed up with the Speaker’s longtime dominance. Some Democrats (and Republicans) are speculating that forces allied with Gov. Rauner could spend millions of dollars on that one race alone.

Blanketed network TV ads with a solid message can move voters, especially with that kind of money behind them.

Madigan is a notoriously cautious politician. So, whether or not his enemies pull the trigger on a massive campaign assault, he’ll deploy enough foot soldiers to cover his district many times over.

Chicago and Cook County voters (and Madigan represents both kinds) are already up in arms about property and sales tax increases, so we can also probably expect Madigan to be at least reluctant to raise taxes before the March 15th primary.

What I’m saying here is that if you think a solution to this impasse has looked next to impossible for the past several months, the situation may have gotten substantially worse since the candidate filing period ended.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


A-caroling we will go…

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

* VanillaMan in comments yesterday…

I’m Dreaming of a Functional Government - Irving Berlin, humbly enhanced by VanillaMan

Our government is frozen, it’s the worst we’ve seen
The Governor believes Turnaround is not extreme
Thanks to judges, civil servants get pay
Thanks to judges, we survive another day
He says he’s a petulant rascal and soon
We will happily sing his pro-business tune

But it’s December the 24th
And our state is irreversibly off course …

I’m dreaming of a functioning government,
just like the ones we used to know
When a governor listened, infrastructures christened
and we weren’t hostages in this show

I’m dreaming of a functioning government,
Without the bullying and threats
May we all stop this dysfunctioning regrets
Before we all face injunctioning requests

I’m dreaming of a competent governor,
just like those Old Jims long ago
When they worked with the Assembly
and compromised so reasonably
And everyone went along with the flow

I’m dreaming of a compromising Speaker,
just like back home in Chicago
When he kept our state together
while governors perp walked whether
They were a Ryan or Blago

I’m dreaming of a bright future,
for our glorious and prosperous state
May it once again be merry and bright,
and survive all this political hate.

I’m dreaming of state reimbursements,
that makes Moody’s and Fitch glow
May our leaders remove their heads out from below,
Hug one another and eat crow.

VMan has been so on it this year.

* And this one is from a reader via e-mail…

What State is This? (sung to “What Child is This”)

What state is this?
In such mean distress
With Bruce the omnipotent leading?

With bills unpaid
And with nerves all frayed
He won’t stop
Until Madigan’s pleading.

CHORUS

This, this is Bruce our king,
Whom AFSCME loathes and Goldberg sings.
This, this is Illinois,
The state, the kingdom of Rauner.

No budget ’til my agenda’s passed
The short term pain I’m not feeling.
Poor people suffer
And businesses shutter
But it’s Madigan’s fault that you’re
reeling.

(repeat chorus)

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


The money war

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

* Looks like the House and Senate Republicans are sitting on their hands, waiting for the big Bruce checks


With a mere flick of a couple certain special wrists, the Democrats can be $20 million behind yet again.

Either way, this money stockpiling is all quite something to watch, so thanks to our good friend Scott Kennedy for putting these numbers together.

* Also, of course he’s not involving himself directly in Democratic primaries. One contribution from Rauner would destroy his favored candidate in any Dem primary. He’s got Illinois GO for that task…


- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Yes, they’re all so pro-veteran

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

* Ugh

A veterans facility on Oak Park Avenue that will house veterans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is scheduled to open in January 2017, at least six months later than originally planned after being caught in the budget crossfire between Rauner and the Democrats who control the General Assembly.

* Meanwhile

At Casa Central in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, Amanda McMillen, deputy director of children and youth services, said she hasn’t stopped smiling since learning that the social service agency was one of 23 area charities picked to receive proceeds from [basketball legend Michael Jordan’s] settlement with the Jewel-Osco and Dominick’s grocery chains. […]

Understandably, that’s all an afterthought to the busy staff at Casa Central, where some programs have been shuttered since Gov. Bruce Rauner imposed budget cuts last spring. Its early learning academy had to stop accepting new children under 5 because of cuts. A computer lab for low-income children and adults in the community has been closed except for use by students in the after-school program.

Jordan’s donation won’t resurrect those programs. That’s still on the state of Illinois, as it should be. But his money will go a long way to boosting kids’ programs at Casa Central, where administrators are still determining how to allocate the funds. There were two conditions to the donation, La Luz said in response to questions about it. The amount must remain confidential and the money must be earmarked for kids.

There is no shortage of kids’ programs among Casa Central’s seven buildings, including three that take up nearly a city block on North California Avenue. La Luz said the center is one of the largest Hispanic social-service agencies in the Midwest and serves 19,000 to 20,000 children and adult residents a year.

It provides transitional apartment-style housing and social services for homeless families, offers vocational training for entry-level jobs and houses a senior-care center visited daily by 80 to 90 older adults. But staff members pride themselves in providing a second a home to neighborhood kids, administrators said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


Credit Unions Spreading Holiday Cheer

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Illinois credit unions and their employees place a special focus on giving back to the communities they serve. GCS Credit Union, with its main branch in Granite City and seven additional branches in the metro east, encourages employee participation in its community outreach activities throughout the year. In an ongoing effort to support the local community, GCS employees may wear jeans on Fridays and Saturdays in exchange for a donation of $15 or more. Each branch location then selects a charity with special meaning to their employees to benefit from the donations. This holiday season, GCS employees donated to seven local charities with the proceeds from Jeans Day:

    Granite City: Good Samaritan House
    O’Fallon: O’Fallon Food Pantry
    Lee Avenue: Catholic Children’s Home
    Collinsville: Collinsville Meals on Wheels
    Edwardsville: Chosen to Shine
    Pontoon: Granite City School District
    Madison: Community Care Center

As you can imagine, these donations are particularly appreciated during the holiday season.

Founded in 1941, GCS Credit Union now serves over 42,000 members at eight conveniently located branches across Southwestern Illinois. The credit union difference means giving back to member shareholders…and the communities they serve.

Happy Holidays from GCS Credit Union and the Illinois Credit Union League!

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Question of the day - Golden Horseshoe Awards

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

* The 2015 Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Illinois Congresscritter goes to Rodney Davis

(H)e has been able to win 2 straight times with the DCCC targeting him and in 14 it was not even close. He is a moderate Republican who votes his district and works his district. Without JBT around, he also was the first (and I believe only so far) Republican to criticize the Governor’s attack on public sector unions.

* And the 2015 Mike McClain Golden Horseshoe Award for Best Statehouse Insider goes to John Lowder

John is most knowledgeable of the process and inner dealing of statehouse policy and Budget development and strategy. He is always willing to share his insights. Has made the transformation from staff to contract lobbying with ease with great respect for the actors on both sides of the aisle as well as the press. He’ll be around for a long time.

Congrats to both!

* Today’s category is our last…

* The 2015 Wordslinger Golden Horseshoe Award for Best CapitolFax.com Commenter

Make sure to explain your vote, please. Thanks!

- Posted by Rich Miller   78 Comments      


Unclear on the concept

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

* Kristen McQueary on Lincolnshire’s recent “right to work” ordinance vote

For too long, unions have dictated public policy in this state. They’ve told politicians what to approve or reject. No questions asked.

Lincolnshire asked questions. It is offering employees an option. A choice. Unions are free to make their case to workers that they should join the union. Why is that so scary?

“Our goal is not to bust unions,” Lincolnshire Mayor Elizabeth Brandt says. “Want to join? No problem. Want to pay dues? No problem. But this (right-to-work zone) says, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. That empowers the worker.”

It’s fascinating how unions talk about empowering workers, but don’t want them to have the power to join or not.

The unions? They like mandates.

Lincolnshire likes freedom.

I wonder how the Tribune owners would react if the government ordered the company to provide free advertising to anyone who wanted it.

* What these folks either fail to understand or don’t want to admit is that unions are required by federal law to represent every employee in their bargaining units, whether the employees pay union dues or not.

So, people can withhold dues and then legally demand all sorts of union services, like grievance procedures. The freeloaders are entitled to be provided the same wages, benefits and working condition protections earned for them by the very unions that they refuse to help pay for.

And if you’re OK with the government ordering that sort of thing, you’re not a small government person. That’s some Big Brother stuff right there, man.

* Somewhat related…

* Labor board upholds ruling to dismiss AFSCME’s unfair labor charge against Rauner administration: “I find insufficient evidence that CMS made a threat of reprisal,” she wrote. “The available evidence is that the ‘answer’ set forth in the FAQ’s regarding health insurance for employees on strike was accurately reflective of a long standing policy. An employer stating the potential negative impact to pay and benefits (including health insurance) that accompany a strike is not, in and of itself, evidence of coercive conduct.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   75 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Madigan again makes himself the story

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

* The only “news” to come out of yesterday’s leaders’ meeting was that House Speaker Michael Madigan was a no-show

Republican leaders Sen. Christine Radogno and Rep. Jim Durkin described Thursday’s meeting as productive but took turns noting Madigan’s absence.

“I thought it was a good conversation. But the fact is we’re not going to move this along unless we all are fully participating and actively involved in these negotiations,” Durkin said. He said he didn’t get an explanation of what Madigan’s scheduling conflict was.

“We covered quite a bit in there, despite having the speaker not be at the meeting,” Radogno said. […]

Brown defended Madigan’s absence, saying the speaker has been “fully involved” in budget discussions. He said the governor was notified in advance that Madigan would not be able to attend the meeting, but Brown couldn’t say when the notification occurred.

* The Illinois Policy Institute’s news service also focused on the absence

Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, said he doesn’t believe Madigan’s absence on Thursday was intended as disrespect for the governor or the other leaders.

“I’ve been told by others that this time of year is typically when the speaker goes out of town, and it’s familial and not unusual for him to be away at this time,” said Sandack, who leads the Republicans in debate on the House floor. “Obviously, I wish he was there, and I’d prefer a full meeting of the leaders.”

It’s also quite possible that MJM missed the meeting because his daughter Tiffy had a baby the day before. Those Madigan guys are a pretty sealed-lip bunch when it comes to the boss’ private life, so either he was in Palm Springs or with his daughter and new grandson Theodore Maxwell Madigan Matyas.

It’s not like they were going to solve the world’s problems yesterday, but no matter why he missed the meeting the Speaker yet again managed to make himself the story - and not in a good way.

* So, what did they talk about yesterday?

Radogno and Durkin said the day’s topics included the governor’s requests for legislative action on term limits and redistricting, changes to the workers compensation system, funding the state’s pension systems and, to some degree, the school aid formula.

Cullerton’s spokeswoman late Thursday afternoon released a statement saying, “The senate president was encouraged by the addition of school funding reform to the meeting agenda.”

And

Durkin called the discussion on Thursday “robust” and he said the discussion of the five reforms was “healthy.”

Radogno too said the leaders are getting more clarity about the issues in their meetings.

“Staffs are getting together, which I always think is a good thing to try to actually put pen to paper and refine the issues. I would say there’s progress on some of those issues,” Radogno said.

The governor may take questions after his 9 o’clock event this morning at the DeVry University Advantage Academy High School in Chicago.

*** UPDATE *** The governor comments…


- Posted by Rich Miller   72 Comments      


In a nutshell

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

* Dietrich

In his speech last week before the City Club of Chicago, House Speaker Michael Madigan offered what I consider the strongest hint to date of the depth of philosophical differences driving the budget impasse. Invoking Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Madigan explained that he sees government’s role as to “work always to create jobs, to raise wages, to raise the standard of living.” He has stated often that he believes Rauner’s efforts to reform workers’ compensation and remove prevailing wage requirements will do the opposite for middle-class families.

Madigan offers no acknowledgement that policies put in place over the 12 years preceding Rauner’s arrival might have had anything to do with creating today’s fiscal mess — or that today’s fiscal mess might hurt the middle class by driving jobs away.

Rauner, meanwhile, takes the opposite view on government’s role in the economy. It’s government’s interference that hobbles entrepreneurs, drives up taxes and drives factories to states that don’t value unions over job creators. In Rauner’s view, if government keeps its hands off the private sector, jobs will proliferate, taxes will go down and the middle class will be better off.

Rauner, however, offers no acknowledgment that he governs a state that elected both him and super-majorities of Democrats in its House and Senate. He has not mentioned the fact that far more voters statewide supported a tax on millionaires and an immediate increase in the minimum wage than voted for him.

…Adding… Tribune

Three of Speaker Michael Madigan’s campaign funds on Thursday reported collecting $445,400 in campaign contributions.

Nearly all of the money came from labor unions or trial lawyers that historically have backed Madigan and Democrats against Republicans and business interests.

All told, four Madigan campaign funds have reported taking in more than $5.87 million since Jan. 1.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


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