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Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* From the Southern

– Illinois Department of Corrections Acting Director John Baldwin said on Thursday that an overhaul of the corrections’ system is in order.

He noted the spike over the past four decades in the state’s prison population is largely because of an increase in the number of people locked up for substance abuse-related problems, and said new laws and policies should be enacted to reverse the trend. […]

Baldwin said the system is currently upside down, with more money being spent on returning inmates who are considered at a low-risk of re-offending, when research shows that these individuals do best when they are allowed to resume their lives with minimal required interaction with the system.

The opposite is true for medium- and high-risk offenders, he said, though securing service providers for these individuals can be more difficult because, by nature of their assessed risk level, their cases are generally more complex.

Baldwin said the commission continues to meet, and its next major focus will be tackling sentencing reform. A wide array of experts across the political spectrum contend that draconian drug laws have led to the explosion of the prison population by locking up addicts who would be better served by community sanctions, such as home arrest and probation, with a treatment component.

Looks like good government to me.

Now, if we could just convince his boss to stop dragging his feet on medical marijuana and back a real legalization bill, I’d be pretty happy.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


Madigan asks Rauner to use “his extensive influence” with Republicans to pass constitutional amendment

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Press release…

Speaker of the Illinois House Michael J. Madigan on Monday issued the following statement regarding a constitutional amendment to strengthen education throughout Illinois:

“Every student in Illinois deserves an excellent education. By helping our schools deliver a world-class education to our children, we are helping teachers mold the minds of the leaders of tomorrow who can take our state, our country and our world to new heights of achievement. But when it comes to improving our education system, conversations are not enough. We have to put our words into actions.

“Too many school districts from every region of the state struggle to provide the excellent education they want to give our students. Increasing the per-pupil foundation level was and continues to be a needed step in the right direction, but it is not enough. We need to do more for our students.

“In February, Governor Rauner stated his support for increasing funding for elementary schools and high schools through the foundation level. I, too, support increasing the level of funding for our schools, as Democrats in the General Assembly did last year and have done for many years. But we need to do more.

“We must resolve to strengthen our education system and increase needed funding for our schools in the long term. So I urge members of the General Assembly and Governor Rauner to join me in support of making an excellent education a right for our children. I also urge Governor Rauner to resist the temptation to follow the lead of former Governor Jim Edgar, who opposed a similar plan to strengthen education during his tenure as governor. I encourage Governor Rauner to reaffirm his commitment to education by using his extensive influence within the House and Senate Republican caucuses to help pass this measure in the House Elementary and Secondary Appropriations Committee today and through both chambers of the General Assembly. With the governor’s help, we can better provide local schools with the additional resources they need to give our children a world-class education.

“Under House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 57, the state constitution would declare that an excellent education is no longer simply a goal of the people of Illinois, but a fundamental right, and that the state has the preponderant responsibility to fund local schools. In November 1992, I urged passage of a similar effort via referendum. Though the measure received the support of 57 percent of voters, opponents of the proposal succeeded in preventing it from attaining the 60 percent of support needed to amend the state constitution.

“This amendment deserves another chance to succeed, and our children deserve greater support to help them make their dreams a reality.”

I dunno.

Madigan’s proposal is somewhat similar to the Illinois Constitution’s pension language in that it could end up costing the state an absolute fortune if the courts side with the schools and against the state.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Your own caption?…


- Posted by Rich Miller   111 Comments      


The fight begins over graduated tax

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Greg Hinz

“There are only a handful of states—Illinois is one of them—that still have the flat tax,” [Rep. Lou Lang] said. “We haven’t seen people leave Silicon Valley” (California has a top tax rate of 13.3 percent) for Nevada, which has no state income tax, he added.

But business flight from a state that already suffers from economic woes is exactly what some business groups are predicting.

“The vast majority of small-business owners pay taxes not at the corporate rate but as individuals,” Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Todd Maisch said in a statement, “Any effort to ‘gouge the rich’ is actually putting a target squarely on the backs of small businesses, the very entities we count on to provide the majority of new jobs.”

Not so, retorted Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who is sponsoring the graduated-tax package in the Senate. Any business owner who reports income of under roughly $750,000 a year would pay less than they pay now, he said. “If you earn more than $750,000 at the end of the year, put it in your pocket, perhaps you’re not so small anymore.”

* In other news, proponents have released the results of a poll taken in January…

If the election were held today, would you vote yes in favor of the following Constitutional amendment or no to oppose it?

    “Upon approval of the voters, the proposed Constitutional amendment would allow the state to establish higher tax rates for higher income levels and lower tax rates for lower income levels.”

Total Yes 71%
Total No 27%
Don’t Know/No Answer 2%
Support – Oppose +44

* More…

A recent Tulchin Research survey of 700 likely November 2016 voters in Illinois finds encouraging news for supporters of the proposed “Fair Tax” amendment to the state constitution, which would allow Illinois to adopt a progressive income tax. If the election were held today, the “Fair Tax” amendment would receive the support of seven in ten (71 percent) Illinois voters.

Overwhelming, Broad-Based Support for Fair Tax State Constitutional Amendment
After being read a straightforward description of the proposed amendment to the state Constitution, Illinois voters back the measure by a margin of 44 points, with 71 percent of voters saying they would vote “Yes” on the measure to just 27 percent who would vote “No.” Nearly half of voters (48%) indicate they would definitely vote “Yes” on such a measure, far outpacing the intense opposition (18%) and only two percent of voters are undecided, leaving little room for the opposition to maneuver.

Notably, support for the amendment extends across all corners of the state, across the political spectrum, and across gender, ethnic, and generational lines.

    • The amendment is supported by 79 percent of voters in Cook County, 70 percent of voters in the collar counties (DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties), and by 64 percent of voters in Downstate Illinois.
    • The amendment attracts support from 93 percent of liberals, 74 percent of moderates, and even 54 percent of conservatives.
    • Strong majorities of women (74 percent) and men (68 percent) back the amendment.
    • The amendment is supported by 68 percent of white voters, 86 percent of black voters, and 86 percent of Latino voters.
    • The amendment attracts comparable support among voters age 18-54 (74 percent) and those ages 55 and over (69 percent).

In the current, highly polarized political environment, it is quite rare to see a policy initiative with support as wide and as deep as this proposed amendment, putting it in a very strong position to win if it is placed on the ballot this November.

In summary, our research finds that Illinois voters strongly support the concept of a progressive income tax. The Fair Tax amendment is very popular with voters across the board and well- positioned to win voter approval should it appear on the November 2016 general election ballot.

Survey Methodology: From January 14-19, 2016, Tulchin Research conducted a telephone survey in Illinois among 700 likely November 2016 voters. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 3.7 percentage points.

As Greg notes above, the Democrats will likely need a Republican vote or three in the House to pass the actual amendment, which will require a three-fifths supermajority. Ken Dunkin voted against the millionaire’s tax, as did Jack Franks and Scott Drury. This is a different animal, however, in that it would cut taxes for people outside the 1 percent.

Convincing Republicans to vote for it won’t be an easy task, to say the least, considering the governor is completely and unalterably opposed.

And, man, the 1 percent is gonna fight back hard if this does make it to the ballot. Maisch’s remarks probably foreshadow the fight, in that we’ll likely see overt threats to move businesses to other states.

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


It’s just a bill…

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* From the Illinois State Rifle Association

HB 3160 would allow an individual’s family members, law enforcement or roommates to petition the court for an ex parte restraining order if they consider the individual to be a danger to themselves or others simply because the individual owns, possesses or purchases a firearm. According to the summary of the bill, an ex parte order would be issued by a judge based solely on a brief, unsubstantiated affidavit made by a petitioner and absent any input made by the individual on which the order is targeted. If enacted, this legislation would require the surrender of FOID cards, concealed carry licenses as well as the seizure of all firearms by law enforcement. This legislation is ripe for abuse by individuals that disagree with the Second Amendment, and the mere insinuation that gun ownership makes you a danger to yourself or others is offensive and insulting.

* Oh, c’mon.

This isn’t about targeting people “simply because the individual owns, possesses or purchases a firearm.” This bill appears to about troubled, even bad people who happen to own guns. It’s mainly aimed at domestic violence perpetrators, but could also give the cops a way to stop somebody from committing a mass shooting if family members have cause and, more importantly, evidence

At the hearing, the petitioner shall have the burden of proving, by preponderance of the evidence, that the respondent poses a significant danger of personal injury to himself, herself, or another by having in his or her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm.

* And this is what they have to demonstrate

In determining whether to issue a lethal violence order of protection under this Section, the court shall consider evidence of:

    (1) A recent threat of violence or act of violence by the respondent directed toward himself, herself, or another.

    (2) A violation of an emergency order of protection issued under Section 217 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 or Section 112A-17 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 or of an order of protection issued under Section 214 of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act of 1986 or Section 112A-14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963.

    (3) A pattern of violent acts or violent threats, including, but not limited to, threats of violence or acts of violence by the respondent directed toward himself, herself, or another.

* Also, if somebody does try to “abuse” this law (if it becomes law), there’d be a steep price to pay

Every person who files a petition for an emergency lethal violence order, knowing the information provided to the court at any hearing or in the affidavit or verified pleading to be false, is guilty of perjury under Section 32-2 of the Criminal Code of 2012.

Perjury is a Class 3 felony. That’s a prison sentence of 2-5 years.

* Look, I don’t know if this bill is exactly the right way to go. Maybe it could be narrowed here or there. But ridiculing a bill designed to take guns from people who violate orders of protection sure ain’t helping matters.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


Exelon still pushing hard for state help

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Joe Cahill at Crain’s takes a look at why Exelon’s stock has surged 25 percent this year to date

Thanks to intervention by the bureaucrats who oversee the nation’s power grid, prices are firming up in key markets where Exelon’s nuclear plants sell juice to electric utilities. Crane has restored part of a dividend cut he was forced to impose in 2013. And after a 23-month struggle, he closed an acquisition last month that made Exelon the country’s largest electricity delivery company.

And then looks at the future

Possibly more telling will be his decisions about the future of Exelon’s worst-performing nuclear plants. He has warned of possible plant closings in Illinois if state lawmakers don’t help out. Criticizing policies that favor other forms of energy over nuclear, [Exelon spokesman Paul Adams] says Exelon “may be forced to make the appropriate decision to retire at-risk plants” unless those policies change.

Shutting power plants would shift Exelon’s balance even further toward the regulated businesses Wall Street currently favors. But it also would limit Exelon’s upside if power prices recover over the long term.

* And speaking of possible nuke plant closures

State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, has Exelon’s back.

“If you remove nuclear power, you are going to see you electric bills go sky high,” Mitchell said. “In the next six weeks, the Illinois General Assembly must get down to business and pass a bill to make sure Clinton power plant stays in business and thrives.” […]

The Clinton nuclear plant has about 600 employees. Mitchell said losing them would have the same economic impact as Chicago losing 105,000 jobs.

“If Madigan had to face the loss of over 100,000 jobs, can you imagine that (would) not be on the frontburner of Speaker Madigan’s plate?,” Mitchell said.

If they can’t do a budget, which is hurting far more than just 600 employees, how are they going to do an Exelon “bailout”? Particularly this year, which has been notable for its intense voter anger.

* Exelon itself says the Clinton plant will stay open until at least May of next year

Exelon Corporation said Friday that its Clinton nuclear plant, 23 miles southeast of Bloomington, Ill., had cleared the 2016-2017 Mid-continent Independent System Operator (MISO) capacity auction, which meant that it would continue to operate through May 31, 2017, although its future after that would rely in an “urgent” policy fix. […]

Exelon said it would not wait indefinitely to make a decision on the future of the plant past the fifth month of 2017. It would make that decision sometime this year, the company said.

* The Quad City Times wants Exelon included in the “green” mix of subsidies

Last year, Exelon threatened the closure of three cash-bleeding plants, major economic engines in Quad-Cities and Clinton, Ill., unless lawmakers OK’d a plan, which included a state-imposed surcharge on users. But the company’s continued profit margins and September’s $1.6 billion windfall in PJM market auction all but killed the already controversial legislation that critics called a “bailout” intended to help “only Exelon.” Holding a trio of major employers hostage didn’t sit well with the public. The U.S. Supreme Court’s temporary stay of federal emissions standards for coal-fired plants didn’t help, either.

But Exelon brass aren’t wrong when pointing to a government-backed deck stacked against them. Wind, solar and other “renewable” sources benefit from perks within Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard. Exelon, meanwhile, is left to makeup the shortfall when those less-consistent sources of electricity peter out.

Clouds and gentle breezes leave Exelon carrying the water. And yet, Exelon doesn’t benefit from the state subsidies that encourage wind and solar producers to flood the grid when conditions are favorable.

And that’s the problem.

* From the Union of Concerned Scientists

The nuclear industry is only able to portray itself as a low-cost power supplier today because of past government subsidies and write- offs. First, the industry received massive subsidies at its inception, reducing both the capital costs it needed to recover from ratepayers (the “legacy” subsidies that underwrote reactor construction through the 1980s) and its operating costs (through ongoing subsidies to inputs, waste management, and accident risks). Second, the industry wrote down tens of billions of dollars in capital costs after its first generation of reactors experienced large cost overruns, cancellations, and plant abandonments, further reducing the industry’s capital-recovery requirements. Finally, when industry restructuring revealed that nuclear power costs were still too high to be competitive, so-called stranded costs were shifted to utility ratepayers, allowing the reactors to continue operating.

These legacy subsidies are estimated to exceed seven cents per kilowatt-hour (¢/kWh)—an amount equal to about 140 percent of the average wholesale price of power from 1960 to 2008, making the subsidies more valuable than the power produced by nuclear plants over that period. Without these subsidies, the industry would have faced a very different market reality—one in which many reactors would never have been built, and utilities that did build reactors would have been forced to charge consumers even higher rates.

* With all that being said

An analysis conducted by the state of Illinois found that closing Clinton would cause wholesale energy prices to rise by $236 million to $341 million annually for families and businesses in the region. These cost increases do not include hundreds of millions of dollars that would need to be spent on new transmission lines. The report also found that allowing Clinton to shut down would result in the loss of almost 1,900 direct and indirect jobs and raise carbon emissions in Illinois by almost 8 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of putting more than 1.7 million cars on the road. The analysis concludes that the societal cost of the increased emissions would be almost $4 billion between 2020 and 2029.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


GOP Rep. proposes “stopgap” plan for higher ed

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* While Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) and I were chatting the other evening he mentioned that he and Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) had been talking about a stopgap funding plan for colleges and universities. I asked him to write it up and here it is…

Higher education in Illinois is in crisis. The state has not appropriated basic operations money to the state universities this year. As a result one institution is preparing to close on May 1 and others cannot guarantee that they will be open when students return in the fall. May 1 is also the day when students traditionally must decide where they will attend in the fall. If students are uncertain about the future of our state universities, they may not plan to attend. Waiting longer to fund our universities may come too late to get those students back. There are three things we can do now to help this crisis.

First I propose that we utilize the Educational Assistance Fund (EAF) as a stopgap to fund the universities through August. The EAF will have about $600 million left in it at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. August is an important time since that is when students return and revenue from tuition, room and board comes to the universities. In SB 2046 (J. Cullerton/Currie), the total appropriation for ordinary and contingent expenses for the state universities and the Illinois Math and Science Academy is $1,079,180,600. This represents a full year appropriation, but there was no identified revenue to pay for it. An equivalent expenditure for four months from May 1 to August 31 would be one third of that, $359,726,867.

Second I propose that we provide one semester of MAP grant funding to help keep Illinois students of limited means at college in Illinois. SB 2046 also appropriates $397,073,100 to provide the MAP grants. Half of that to fund one semester would be $198,536,550. Combining the four-month university appropriation along with one semester of MAP grant funds comes to $558,263,417. This can be funded entirely from the EAF this fiscal year.

Finally I propose we give the universities relief from some of the procurement code. This has been a request from the universities long before the current administration and would be expected to save many millions. Modifying HB 4644 (Brady) to affect just the universities would provide this kind of relief and help the universities better manage their budgets while the state seeks a full long-term solution.

Of course the best outcome would be a full budget for all agencies. But anyone following the budget impasse in Illinois reads about the lack of trust among the leaders. A full budget is difficult at best in this environment. The General Assembly successfully took a more limited approach in December, appropriating money for cities to take care of snow removal and pay the lottery winners along with a long list of other activities. The General Assembly can take that approach again and move past this crisis in higher education.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


CTU president: Strike chance is “100 hundred percent”

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Oy…



* Sun-Times

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said Monday that a report by an independent fact-finder on contract negotiations was “dead on arrival” since it was essentially the same offer that the Board of Education had made and that the union had rejected.

As to what she would tell parents about the possibility of strike, Lewis said: “Be prepared.”

The proposal that Lewis had once said was a “serious offer” from the Board of Education proposed net raises over four years, the phasing out of over two years of a 7 percent pension contribution CPS has been making for members, and a return to raises for continuing education and experience for teachers as soon as next school year.

But now, Lewis said that CPS negotiators has even told them that the broke school district can no longer even afford that offer. Lewis said CTU has bargained in good faith but argued CPS has not.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


*** LIVE *** Session Coverage

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Both chambers convene at 3 today. Follow along with ScribbleLive


- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      


It’s Rauner vs. Madigan everywhere you look

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Politico

Democrats will paint Munger as being under Rauner’s control. Republicans will do the same with Mendoza and Madigan.

Democrats believe Munger’s Rauner problem is more politically dangerous than Mendoza’s ties to either Madigan or Emanuel.

“This will be the Democrats versus Rauner. Rauner has become the Republican party in that sense. He pretty much owns the Republican party,” said Kent Redfield, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “In order for her to hold the seat … Rauner’s going to have to put a ton of money in this and I think Mendoza won’t have any trouble raising money to match that. This is going to be another visible contest. The Democrats are going to try to portray this as manipulating things to benefit the governor.”

Redfield said that could be a damaging line of attack.

“Insofar as she’s portrayed, and people find it credible, that she is Rauner’s person, that she has her thumbs on the scales a little bit. That’s going to create vulnerabilities for her I think,” he said.

I seriously doubt that Mendoza will raise as much money as Munger if Rauner becomes fully involved.

But this is indeed a proxy war. Madigan helped clear the way for Mendoza and Rauner appointed Munger. It can’t get much clearer than that.

Rauner’s poll numbers are lousy, but nothing like Madigan’s, so we’ll see.

* Meanwhile

(L)ocal candidates appear to be distancing themselves from any suggestion that they are tied to the leaders. That isn’t to say they don’t accuse their opponents of being so, the race for the 118th House seat being an example.

“My opponent is going to be 100 percent funded by the governor,” said incumbent state Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg. He is running against challenger Jason Kasiar, a Republican businessman from Eldorado, in the Nov. 8 General Election.

“Look where it is coming from,” Kasiar said of campaign contributions to Phelps. “It’s coming from Washington, D.C., it’s coming from Chicago, it’s coming from the Mike Madigan fingers that are out there.”

* Related…

* Rauner-Madigan rivalry hamstrings Illinois budget talks

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Baricevic says he outraised Bost

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Press release…

Demonstrating growing strength for his campaign, Democratic congressional candidate CJ Baricevic (Il-12) raised an impressive $279,669 between January 1 and March 31, according to pre-primary and first quarter reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Due to Illinois’ primary election, the first quarter is divided into these two reports.

Despite his advantage as an incumbent Republican Congressman, Mike Bost only raised $273,374.04.

“To out raise Mike Bost clearly shows our campaign is gaining momentum and that Southern Illinois hard working families are looking for a Congressman who represents them—not Wall Street, billionaires, or Washington special interests. This clearly shows voters are looking for a change from Mike Bost who has failed to fight for middle-class and working families,” said Baricevic.

Interesting, particularly since the DCCC wanted nothing to do with Baricevic last year. Maybe it’ll change its mind now. Then again, Bost doesn’t seem especially worried if he only hauled in that sort of cash. He also had about $870K in cash on hand.

* Other stuff…

* DCCC Internal Poll Shows Schneider Beating Dold in Tossup House Race

* Duckworth on Kirk: ‘A lot of attention for doing nothing’

* Playing politics with Israel and Iran in Illinois

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


Jesse White says he could be drafted to run again

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* I was asked about this last December after my City Club speech and pretty much predicted a “draft Jesse” push by top Democrats, including Speaker Madigan

But White, who’s been in public office since 1975, says he’s been satisfied with being Secretary of State. And though he’s been on record saying he won’t seek re-election in 2018, White tells Jim and me that the Democratic Party may still draft him for one more run.

Steve Brown, a spokesman for the Illinois Democratic Party, says he’s not aware of a formal movement by the state party to draft White to run for Secretary of State again. But Brown says White’s name is “certainly in the conversation as people think about who should be candidates” in 2018.

“We’d be well-served if he considered to run again,” Brown says.

Good idea or not?

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Another green shoot

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Finke

(A)t a House committee hearing… Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, Madigan’s top lieutenant, said that budget staff from all four legislative caucuses and Rauner’s office were meeting that morning on budget issues. It was the kind of meeting that used to go on regularly back in normal times when everyone was trying to come to some agreement on the budget.

It’s too early to say if anything positive will come out of that budget session. The point is the participants wouldn’t have gotten together if their respective leaders hadn’t signed off on it. And the meeting took place two days after Rauner and Madigan sounded like they were digging in even deeper than before.

What they say publicly does matter. A lot. But what they do privately at the Statehouse often matters even more.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Common Cause, ICPR support bill *** Madigan backs remap reform proposal

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Dan Petrella

Illinois House Democrats are proposing their own plan for changing the way the state’s legislative districts are drawn.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has made redistricting reform a key component of his “turnaround agenda,” but Democrats say a Republican proposal and one being pushed by a group called Independent Maps wouldn’t adequately take into account minority populations when drawing boundaries, a claim supporters dispute.

Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said he filed the new proposal because he doesn’t believe the other plan would pass constitutional muster due to its lack of protection for minority voters. […]

Jim Bray, a spokesman for Independent Maps, said Franks’ concerns about what his group’s proposed amendment would mean for minority voters are unfounded.

“The Independent Maps Amendment has strong minority voting rights protections and probably the strongest in the nation of any of these statutes or constitutional amendments,” Bray said.

Speaker Madigan “is prepared to support” Franks’ proposal, which you can see in full by clicking here.

* The Independent Maps folks spent a fortune on a failed effort to get their idea on the ballot in 2014, and are now spending even more to get a revised proposal on the ballot this November.

They ought to continue moving forward with their effort, but also be prepared to negotiate with Franks. If Madigan is serious about putting this on the ballot, that would be an historic “turnaround,” and could take us a step closer to ending the impasse and finally getting a much-needed reform in Illinois. We don’t need competing ballot measures on the same topic.

Get. This. Done.

*** UPDATE ***  Brian Gladstein of Common Cause Illinois and Sarah Brune of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform have both signed on as proponents of the Franks measure. I’m told ICPR will ask for some changes, including an issue with the proposal’s meeting notice requirements - the same issue it had with the Independent Maps proposal.

But these witness slips in favor of the Franks proposal will definitely put pressure on everybody to keep partisan politics out of it. Make the needed changes and pass the darned thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Cullerton backs off taxing drivers by the mile

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Translation: “Just about everyone thinks my Orwellian idea to charge drivers by the miles they drive sucks, so I won’t put my members on the spot by moving it forward”…


- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      


Dunkin came out pretty well after all

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Illinois Observer

Most losing – and many winning – political campaigns exhaust their campaign cash and end a race broke. Not Ken Dunkin.

Dunkin, a Democratic state representative from Chicago who lost his reelection bid in the March Democratic primary to Juliana Stratton, made a profit.

Dunkin, an ally of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, began the fourth quarter of 2015 with $221,143 in the bank; raised $1,309,500 ($1,300,000 from a Rauner ally); spent $294,462; and ended with $1,236,180 in the bank, according to state election board records. That’s a profit of $1 million. Not bad.

The Illinois Opportunity Project, which is operated by Rauner political lieutenant Dan Proft, donated $1.3 million to Dunkin’s campaign.

As a “dark money” group that need not disclose its source of funding, insiders have been left speculating who has that kind of money to spend and who had an overwhelming interest to reelect Dunkin. Who?

Whoever it is their money is now safely parked in Dunkin’s campaign account.

One over/under line on Dunkin I participated in was $400K. I picked the over. But even I figured Dunkin spent lots more than he actually did.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Justice Laura Liu

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* She was an amazing person and will be terribly missed by her family and her many, many friends

Laura C. Liu was the first Chinese-American judge in Illinois’ history and the first Asian-American to serve on the Illinois Appellate Court but she was less concerned with her own groundbreaking achievements than with the people affected by her rulings, her family and colleagues said.

“Judge Liu loved the law, she loved her family, and she loved serving others through ensuring justice for every resident of Illinois,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “As the first Asian-American justice to serve on the Illinois Appellate Court, Judge Liu broke barriers and blazed new trails of opportunity.”

Liu, 49, died of complications from breast cancer April 15, her family said. A longtime Chicago resident, she had battled cancer for five years.

Born Laura Cha-Yu Liu in Carbondale to parents who were foreign exchange students, Liu grew up in Austintown, Ohio, and started school speaking very little English. She was valedictorian of her high school, her family said.

Justice Liu was famed attorney Mike Kasper’s wife.

* Obituary sent by Kasper…

Laura Liu, in the company of her family, passed away on April 15, 2016, after a courageous five-year battle with breast cancer. A dedicated mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend, she blazed brightly across the firmament and left an indelible impression on all who knew and loved her. On behalf of myself, our darling Sophie and all of Laura’s family, thank you for all that you did to make hers a life full of beauty and grace.

Laura refused to be defined or constrained by her illness. After being diagnosed and while undergoing various treatments, Laura became the first Asian American justice to serve on the Illinois Appellate Court. Also after being diagnosed, Laura become the first Chinese-American elected to public office in Chicago and Cook County, and the first Chinese American woman judge in Illinois history. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, she chaired the Illinois Supreme Court’s Language Access Committee to ensure the court system was navigable to those whose first language was not English.

To honor her life and memory, the Justice Laura Liu Scholarship Fund has been established at St. Therese Chinese Catholic School for needy children active in community service. Donations may be made at www.StThereseChicago.org or mailed to 247 W. 23rd Street, Chicago, IL 60616.

Services will be held at Fourth Presbyterian Church, on Michigan Avenue at Delaware Place, in Chicago, on Monday, April 25, 2016 at 11:00 a.m

A more complete story of her life is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


It may be an immoral threat, but it’s having a big impact

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

“The governor has linked things together,” Senate President John Cullerton said during a speech to the City Club of Chicago back in January. “We don’t have a budget because he’s got his ‘turnaround agenda.’ So I can link things together, too.”

Cullerton was referring to his threat to not pass any funding for K-12 schools until school funding reform is addressed. Despite being repeatedly blasted by the governor and the Senate Republican leader for planning to take schools “hostage” in order to “bail out” Chicago’s school system with his funding reform plan, Cullerton has not publicly backed down from his statement.

And I happen to believe that his direct and deliberate threat, perhaps more than anything else, has pushed Statehouse types to try and reach a conclusion to this long, crazy impasse.

Gov. Bruce Rauner surprised many Democrats last year when he vetoed the entire budget except the K-12 appropriations bill. He made sure that schools would open on time last fall, taking the potential for an extreme crisis off the table. Rauner doesn’t seem all that outwardly concerned about the carnage caused by the months-long government impasse, but he made absolutely sure to keep a K-12 shutdown from happening.

Illinoisans are quite upset about this stalemate. Many are even downright furious. But imagine the outcry if schools hadn’t opened last year. The first-year governor would’ve been roasted over a spit, and he knew it.

Rauner told reporters not long before Cullerton made his threat that last year’s school funding bill was the greatest achievement of his first year in office—even though he told Republican legislators to vote against the K-12 appropriations bill (probably to throw the Democrats off the scent). He has said over and over since Cullerton’s City Club address that passing his school funding bill was his top priority, and he even demanded during his budget address that it be done right away.

Usually in battles like these, you try to prevent your opponent from achieving his main goal. And since the governor has let everyone know what his main goal is, it naturally became a target.

Cullerton faithfully reads newspaper editorials and other commentary and oftentimes lets the criticism get under his skin. So there’s naturally a whole bunch of suspicion out there that he won’t follow through or will eventually relent under extreme duress.

But the chance that Cullerton might not cave is most certainly helping to push this thing toward a conclusion. Rauner has essentially admitted multiple times with deeds and words that not passing the K-12 appropriations bill would lead to an utter catastrophe. And keep in mind that he has moved off the dime just about every time he’s been faced with a calamity that Republican legislators wanted to avoid.

So, while it may be downright wrong to threaten school kids, teachers and parents this way (and it is wrong, to the point of immorality), somebody had to do something to advance the ball.

The General Assembly almost always waits until things hit a crisis point before it resolves a controversial issue. Pension reforms, numerous tax hikes, medical malpractice reform, etc., etc., etc., all had to wait until the need for them was so great that legislators had no choice but to act.

Obviously, there would be no greater crisis than the absence of K-12 funding, and there has never been any greater controversy in this state than this standoff.

Frankly speaking, if threatening to close down the state’s entire public education system doesn’t work, then nothing will. They’ll be arguing over a burned-out hollow shell of a state.

Cullerton has taken a carrot-and-stick approach. The stick is his K-12 threat. The carrot is the encouragement and assistance he’s offered rank-and-file legislators who have been attempting to privately find an end to this insanity. While other caucuses and the governor’s office now have staff helping out and are even talking with each other, Cullerton has been generous with his staff for quite a while now, deploying them to help work out issues.

Speaker Madigan, meanwhile, was not at all encouraging of the rank-and-file talks. But allowing his staff to work with those members and to also talk with the other staffs is a hopeful sign to many.

Another encouraging sign is that Rauner’s chief of staff has participated in some of the rank-and-file meetings, as has Rauner’s chief legislative liaison and his budget director. That’s important because, obviously, nothing is going to get done without the governor’s agreement.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


History will not be kind

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* My Crain’s Chicago Business column

When Dennis Hastert eventually passes away, he won’t be remembered for being the longest-serving Republican U.S. speaker of the House as much as for his guilty plea to a financial crime in connection with allegations he sexually abused high school students.

When Rod Blagojevich finally assumes room temperature, his corruption conviction will far outweigh his laudable push to make sure all kids had health insurance coverage.

If you do something really bad, that’s what you’re going to be remembered for. History can be rough on people. For well over a hundred years, the rampant corruption in President Ulysses S. Grant’s White House has badly tainted his Civil War triumphs as our nation’s top general.

So, to all the politicians who have so far refused to find a way to compromise and end the longest-ever Illinois government stalemate

Click here to read the rest before commenting, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Because… Madigan!

Monday, Apr 18, 2016

* Jim Dey perfectly sums up what Speaker Madigan and most of those who support him simply do not understand about Gov. Rauner’s approach

The long-serving Madigan, speaker for all but two years since 1983 and a 45-year veteran of the legislative process, casts himself as the great compromiser — a latter-day version of 18th-century Kentucky politician Henry Clay.

Madigan’s performance was both instructive and touching. To hear him laud his gentlemanly approach to civic life, one might almost forget that his nickname is, among other things, the Velvet Hammer.

But Madigan, who turns 74 Tuesday, has a point — he is willing to compromise.

Over the years, he has compromised on many issues with Republican and Democratic governors. That’s one of the reasons that blame for the sorry state of the state belongs to both Republicans and Democrats. […]

So Madigan clearly is willing to compromise. At the same time, it’s equally clear that Madigan’s past compromises have severely compromised the state of Illinois.

You may or may not disagree with Dey’s logic, but it is pretty much exactly what Rauner and his people have been saying for a very long time.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


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Monday, Apr 18, 2016

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


*** UPDATED x1 - Mendoza responds *** Munger to delay legislative pay

Sunday, Apr 17, 2016

[Comments are now open on this post.]

* Gov. Rauner obviously doesn’t need a paycheck and isn’t taking one. Lots of legislators do and are. So, this’ll go over well, I’m sure…

Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger on Sunday announced that compensation for Illinois’ General Assembly members and Constitutional Officers - herself included - will be treated the same as all other government payments and delayed due to the state’s $7.8 billion bill backlog.

Illinois is in its 10th month of operation without a budget in place, leaving the state to pay bills under a patchwork of Court Orders, Consent Decrees and statutory authorizations. As a result, the state is expected to dig $6.2 billion deeper in the hole this year, worsening its fiscal condition, exacerbating cash flow challenges and lengthening payment delays.

With families, social service organizations, schools and businesses waiting months on end for promised payments from the state, Munger said it is appropriate for elected leaders to face delays as well.

“Our social service network is being dismantled, mass layoffs are occurring and small businesses across Illinois are awaiting payments for services they’ve already provided,” Munger said. “As our cash crunch grows in the coming months, it is only appropriate that the unfair prioritization of payments to elected leaders ends. We are all in this together, we all will wait in line.”

Salaries for the state’s six Constitutional Officers and 177 General Assembly members total approximately $1.3 million a month, or $15.6 million annually. The elected leaders are customarily paid on the last day of the month. Munger noted that her office will still process the vouchers monthly, but the warrants will then wait in a queue with other payments before being released when cash is available.

State payments are currently delayed a minimum of two months, unless they are expedited due to severe hardship. That wait time is expected to grow in lower revenue months in the Summer and Fall.

“It is the right thing to do,” Munger said. “And if this action helps bring all sides together to pass a balanced budget and end this unnecessary and devastating hardship to our state, that is an added benefit.

“Illinois needs a balanced budget. It is well past time that we get it done.”

*** UPDATE ***  From her Democratic rival…

“Like everything else that’s broken in Springfield, Comptroller Munger’s suggestion is 10 months late and many dollars short. Yes, we should not pay elected officials where possible before paying more urgent bills, but when is Comptroller Munger going to stand up to Governor Rauner and demand an end to his extreme agenda and pass a budget?” -Susana Mendoza

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Konkol out at Chicago Reader after "tumultuous ten days"
* Madigan asks Bustos, Mendoza and Ammons to "develop a plan for elevating the status of women in the party"
* Saturday quick hits: Mendoza wants Quincy veterans moved; Biss and Raoul report big bucks; Reader cover fallout intensifies
* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend and some late news updates
* Question of the day
* Kennedy wows Daily Herald
* The perils of sticking too closely to talking points
* Fitch warns another Illinois stalemate could trigger rating downgrade
* More ads than you can shake a stick at: Rauner, Ruiz, Rotering, Quigley, Proft and Clark
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Latest Quincy Legionnaires’ case was Rauner's State of the State guest
* Ives release new ad, endorsed by Susan B. Anthony List, slams Trib endorsement of Rauner
* *** UPDATED x1 - Drury responds *** Appellate court rules unanimously that Drury should appear on AG ballot
* Rep. Feigenholtz files bills "to give strength to more victims"
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Kennedy again dismisses workers' comp as an issue
* Pritzker goes after Biss' "middle-class governor" claim, also airs ad featuring Stratton
* Will Gov. Rauner's cost-shift help wealthier schools and hurt poor districts?
* Biss airs new "middle-class governor" ad
* "Men and women who once were quasi-normal human beings become alien life forms"
* Lipinski wants IRS probe of Illinois Policy Institute leaders
* Surprise! Tribune endorses Bruce Rauner
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* *** UPDATED x2 - Brown: "We are not involved" *** Alaina Hampton sends cease and desist letter; Kevin Quinn arrested for violating protection order
* Yesterday's stories

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* Madigan says he's taking steps to end harassmen.....
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* NHL condemns fans chanting racial taunt against black player
* Midwest scientists help endangered Mexican wolf population
* Man arrested after breaching security at Illinois airport
* 1 person injured in fire on 52nd floor of Chicago tower
* SIU gets 115-pound black carp specimen for further study
* Prosecutors say Chicago gets 1st cryptocurrency case
* Northern Indiana commuter line gets funding recommendations
* EXCHANGE: Retired teachers give students extra help
* EXCHANGE: Son's death spurs Canton mom to join opioid fight

* Opponents: Rauner insurance changes would hurt state workers, retired teachers
* Can middle-class candidate Daniel Biss defeat millionaires in Illinois?
* Speaker Madigan: 'I take responsibility' for not doing enough on sexual harassment issue
* Former Lanphier player among the latest Legionnaires' cases in Quincy
* Former Lanphier player among the latest Legionnaire's cases in Quincy
* 2016 report put Quincy veterans' home plumbing fix at $8M
* Appellate court rules Drury can stay on March primary ballot
* Former Lanphier star among the latest Legionnaire's cases in Quincy
* Ousted Madigan ally accused of violating protective order in different case
* Another new case of Legionnaires' disease reported in Quincy

* Like our roundup? Share it around.
* Half-hour to Cleveland by hyperloop?
* How did MetLife lose track of thousands of pension clients?
* This Chicago law firm has the rights stuff
* U of C to host Clinton Foundation event


* 1,000 years ago, Illinois had the largest city in what would become the U.S.
* Police: String of garage burglaries reported on Northwest Side
* NHL condemns ‘unacceptable, reprehensible behavior’ of ejected Blackhawks fans
* Volunteer expo acts as ‘matchmaking venture’ for Chicagoans, nonprofits
* Man shot in Little Village after being asked about gang affiliation
* Police: 3 garage burglaries reported this month on Near West Side.
* ‘Black Panther’ blows away box office with $192M weekend
* The enemy is at our gates. What is the president doing about it?
* Police: 2 burglaries reported this month at Near West Side cellphone store
* No one injured in fire at Red Robin restaurant in Orland Park


* In Englewood, cherished Abe Lincoln statue is broken, vanishes then resurfaces
* NHL commissioner Gary Bettman condemns fans for directing racial taunts at Capitals player
* A Schaumburg cop was accused of helping run a drug ring. Why the case fell apart the day of his trial remains a mystery
* Lyric revival of Mozart's romantic comedy 'Cosi FanTutte' touches the heart
* LINDA C. BLACK HOROSCOPES for 2/18/18
* Brandon Morrow's injury-plagued odyssey led him to role of Cubs closer
* Pour-your-own bars could face additional restrictions in Naperville
* Russia: 5 dead in church shooting; police kill suspect
* Fire damages Red Robin restaurant in Orland Park
* Florida suspect's red flags weren't enough to stop gun buy


» Mourners: Slain Chicago Officer Was 'One Of The Good Guys'
» Madigan Says He's Taking Steps To End Harassment, Abuse
» 2016 Report Put Quincy Plumbing Fix At $8M
» State Week: Governor Rauner Presents His Budget
» Rauner Budget Doesn’t Use 'Pixie Dust,' But It’s Fanciful Nonetheless
» Dem Candidates Dissatisfied With Madigan's Response To Sexual Harrassment Claims
» 10 Years After NIU, Shooting Survivor Reflects On Florida Tragedy
» Prosecutor: Slain Police Commander Was Shot 6 Times
» Cubs First Baseman Rizzo Travels To Florida To Offer Support
» Women Rising: The Push For Gender Parity In State Government


* Bernard Schoenburg: 3 years later, Rauner tells similar incomplete story
* Statehouse Insider: Don't spend that tax cut all at once
* Andy Shaw: Basic responsibilities in a democracy
* Lincoln Land Community College: Come see us at Campus Visit Day tomorrow
* Opponents: Rauner insurance changes would hurt state workers, retired teachers
* Can middle-class candidate Daniel Biss defeat millionaires in Illinois?
* Speaker Madigan: 'I take responsibility' for not doing enough on sexual harassment issue
* Former Lanphier player among the latest Legionnaires' cases in Quincy
* Heidi Stevens: I knew slain Chicago cop, and he was as wonderful as people are saying
* Ed Rogers: The so-called GOP-FBI split is a Democratic fantasy


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* Treasurer assumes payroll duties in Saline County in spite of protests from county clerk
* Illinois 200: Illinois has embraced its role as the Land of Lincoln
* SIU president: Plenty to worry about in governor's budget proposal
* Women for Change Carbondale is challenging registered voters in an effort to up turnout
* PFOP: Professor June Rose Colby lived ‘life of the mind’
* On The Town: CU's Got Talent


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* Statement from Sun-Times Media CEO on change in Chicago Reader leadership
* ABL reviews #BlackPanther
* What A Difference A Year Makes
* Rauner adopts Madigan plan for pension cost shift to local school boards.
* Sketchbook.


* Illinois Awarded Funds to Offer Advanced Training on Detecting Impaired Driving
* Illinois EPA Announces Upcoming Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events
* IEMA Highlights Emergency Preparedness for People with Access and Functional Needs in May - Ready Illinois website offers preparedness tips for people, caregivers
* First Lady Launches Illinois Family Connects
* Governor and Lt. Governor Unveil 2016 Journal of Local Government Shared Service Best Practices

  
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