* The Illinois Nurses Association informed CMS this morning that their tentative union contract agreement had been “overwhelmingly rejected” by its membership.
“613 nurses voted to reject the tentative agreement,” INA Executive Director Alice Johnson told me. Another 275 voted to accept. “It wasn’t a squeaker, let’s put it that way,” she said.
But the governor’s office thinks the union illegally put its thumb on the scale. From a Rauner spokesperson…
What happened here is a direct result of an unprecedented move by the Illinois Nurses Association bargaining committee not to support and recommend for passage the tentative agreement that the Union signed with our administration. That is a clear violation of labor law in Illinois. Had the Union complied with its obligations of good faith bargaining during ratification, we are confident the agreement would have been ratified, just like 17 other agreements that we had reached with numerous other unions. We have asked our attorneys to prepare an unfair labor practice charge to resolve this issue in a proper forum.
* Johnson claimed that the INA is a “democratic union,” and pointed out that the vote was “not even remotely close” and came after a period when “all members had a chance to see the tentative agreement.”
“We met our legal obligation,” Johnson insisted. I also asked her about a claim by one administration official that the union had attempted to go around the contract by getting the General Assembly to pass a bill. “I don’t even know what that means.”
“We worked very, very hard in the negotiation process,” Johnson said. “There was a vote and this was the result.”
“I really wish they would’ve contacted us instead of talking to the media,” she added.
* This is significant since the INA tentative agreement is similar to the offer that Rauner has made to AFSCME.
Recently, a group of leading climate scientists and conservationists from Illinois and around the world, including Dr. James Hansen, Rachel Pritzker, and Michael Shellenberger, urged Illinois’ leaders in an open letter to save Illinois’ nuclear plants so they can provide clean energy for decades to come. They wrote:
Illinois generates more zero-emissions electricity than any other state. Most of it comes from the state’s six nuclear power plants, which produce about half of Illinois’ total generation and 90 percent of its low-carbon generation. These plants are in their prime and could stay in service many more years and even decades.
Unfortunately, Illinois is at risk of losing one or more of its nuclear plants and with them the progress the state has made in clean energy.
If Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants were replaced by natural gas, carbon emissions would immediately increase the equivalent of adding two million cars to the road. If they were replaced by coal, the carbon emissions would more than double.
… Illinois is at an urgent juncture. Failure to keep all of Illinois’ nuclear power plants running for the full lifetimes will result in more air pollution, and further cause Illinois to underperform on climate. Action now would establish all of you as leaders in safeguarding clean air today and the climate for future generations.
Illinois State Comptroller Leslie Munger issued the following statement Friday following General Assembly passage of legislation to partially fund state universities and community colleges and avoid further cuts and potential closings. The legislation also includes funding for Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for college students. Governor Rauner is expected to sign the legislation:
“It is heartening that the Governor and legislative leaders have come together to authorize funding for our universities, community colleges and student MAP grants. I have directed my staff to begin processing payments immediately, giving top priority to students and the institutions that are suffering the most.
“The $600 million in funding for this legislation comes from the state’s Education Assistance Fund, which today has $354 million on hand. Those dollars will allow us to immediately pay student MAP grants and work closely with our universities and community colleges to ensure they have the resources they need to avoid further cuts and closings. We will continue disbursing funds as they become available, with final payments being made in July. Our students and schools have paid a heavy price for this budget impasse, and we will do everything possible to provide long-overdue relief.
“It is my deep hope that the spirit of cooperation we saw today will continue and lead to the comprehensive balanced budget that our state so badly needs.”
State Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) filed early on Friday morning an updated 2016 1st quarter campaign disclosure report, revealing $983,154 in additional campaign expenses than were not reported on the April 15 deadline. […]
On April 15, 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) and reported spending only $294,462 and ending with $1,236,180 in the bank, according to state election board records.
Dunkin’s new report, which was filed at 12:31 a.m. on Friday, April 22, now shows that, after $1,220,197 in expenses, he still has a tidy $310,130 in the bank. Nice.
Much of the previously undisclosed money was spent on TV ads, but there are also a ton more workers listed now. Click here for the amended report, which has 932 pages of expenditures. And click here for the original report, which had 432 pages of expenditures.
“Governor Rauner has said that crisis creates opportunity and leverage, and that government may have to be shut down for a while. Now, he has forced a situation where some universities are on the verge of closing. The plan the House passed delivers emergency relief for the state’s colleges, universities and students as we continue pushing for a more comprehensive budget and full fiscal year funding.
“While the governor has said he would approve this small portion of funding for higher education, it’s unfortunate he was unwilling to approve any further funding for human services. If he continues his unwillingness to assist our human service providers, he will be successful in destroying the safety net for those most in need and for critical state services, including services for women who need breast cancer screenings, victims of child abuse and victims of sexual assault.
“I am hopeful the governor sees the funding in this higher education package not as a solution, but as emergency assistance to those most in need. Time will tell if Governor Rauner has further intentions of destroying our state institutions and human service providers, or if he will begin working with us to craft a full-year budget that is not contingent on passage of his demands that will destroy the middle class.”
Um, wow, he doesn’t sound too happy. As one person just said to me, “That sounds like a guy who lost.”
* By contrast, here’s Treasurer Michael Frerichs on today’s passage of the higher education approp bill…
“We took two very important steps today. We took a step closer to fulfilling our promise of helping families pay for college. Equally important, we also saw men and women from both parties work together to find common ground.”
This war needs to end. Today was a small step. Legislators desperately needed to rediscover the fact that they could work together and trust each other and get something done.
When this thing unexpectedly went off the rails last night, people actually cried. One legislator looked like he was going to be physically ill. Another looked like he couldn’t catch his breath. Others were angrier than I’d ever seen them.
* Rank and file members forced this issue forward (too many names to mention here, but there were a lot of them, including Rep. Rita Mayfield, who pushed hard for Chicago State University and kept her focus throughout the day). The governor temporarily dumped his Turnaround Agenda not just to prevent a caucus revolt, but to keep the doors open at universities and colleges throughout the state. The House Speaker was accused of playing games yesterday, but he came around enough to let the bill move forward (although he’s clearly not yet sharing in the joy). The Senate President was patiently firm and didn’t panic when the bill didn’t move last night. He had said all along that he was prepared to keep the Senate in town until they could get a resolution, and he did that by canceling today’s scheduled adjournment. The Senate Republican Leader also kept her cool and worked cooperatively with Cullerton. Top Democrats figured there was no way House Republican Leader Jim Durkin could keep all of his folks in line, but he defied their expectations. Maybe that’s part of the reason why MJM is so upset.
And kudos to Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago) and Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) for coming up with the outline of a plan to fund some higher education needs that was adopted by both chambers today.
* Shortly after approving the House-passed higher ed appropriation, the Senate passed yet another appropriations bill today that includes money for some social service programs. Click here to read it. The bill passed unanimously.
Here’s a quick response from Emily Miller of Voices for Illinois Children…
SB2047 was a surprise, so advocates haven’t had time to fully review it.
Upon first glance it appears that the maintenance of effort and federal match funds were not included in the appropriation. That’s concerning moving forward because it puts a lot of federal money in jeopardy when it comes to human services in Illinois in the long term. But without new revenue, there isn’t a lot that you can do to fully fund human services. The short-term cash infusion will be helpful for many providers and will slow some bleeding, but a long-term fix is going to require new revenue.
I hope that lawmakers don’t think their job is done after passing this.
Because of constitutional requirements, the House cannot vote on the Senate proposal today.
…Adding… Rep. Guzzardi is more succinct, but no less correct…
We need. A damn. Budget. Dipping into special funds for quick fixes is only postponing the day of reckoning.
The Senate overwhelmingly approved a measure on Thursday that would exempt feminine hygiene products from the state sales tax. The plan heading to the House is a part of a national movement to eliminate the so-called “pink tax.”
The average statewide sales tax is 6.25 percent but can be as high as 10.25 percent in Chicago.
The roll call is here. Sen. McCarter initially voted against the tax cut, then rose to say his wife told him he voted the wrong way and asked to be switched to “Yes.”
In the House, lawmakers approved a measure that would expand contraceptive options for women by eliminating a complicated waiver process they must go through to get birth control medications not offered by their insurance companies.
Sponsoring Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, said women should be able to choose birth control that’s best for their bodies without having to pay more. She argued the bill actually would save the state money by preventing more unintended pregnancies. […]
“I seriously question how much promiscuity should an insurance company pay (for),” said Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon. “It’s simply wrong, and I think we’re trying to address issues that quite frankly don’t have any business coming up in this General Assembly.”
Supporters contended the debate wasn’t about cost or morality, with several female lawmakers arguing birth control could be used for means other than pregnancy prevention, such as treating migraine headaches or regulating menstrual cycles.
Say what you want. It’s a free country. But a guy running for reelection in a swing district (during presidential years, which this is) should probably keep in mind that a whole lot of happily married, monogamous women use birth control and lots more women who use contraception probably won’t be flattered by his characterization of their private lives when that quote hits their mailboxes come October.
* CTU President Karen Lewis has come under intense criticism for saying Gov. Bruce Rauner is an ISIS recruit…
“You know, I`ve been reading in the news lately about all of these ISIS recruits popping up all over the place — has Homeland Security checked this man out yet?” Lewis said. “Because the things he`s doing look like acts of terror on poor and working class people.” […]
When asked about her comments after the event, Lewis said the governor is “holding people hostage” by delaying the budget.
“Who does that?” Lewis said. “You hold defenseless mothers who are brand new, you hold people who are disabled hostage because you can’t get something you else want that has nothing to do with a budget? It’s ideological. That’s terrorism.”
* She was pretty defensive with a Twitter user…
@KarenLewisCTU@SharkeyCTU1 calling Gov. Rauner the new ISIS recruit it's time you step down and let someone with intelligence do the job!
A day after Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis made inflammatory remarks about Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Illinois GOP looked to raise some money from her comments and added its own spin. […]
In the fundraising email appeal, Illinois Republican Chairman Tim Schneider, whom Rauner hand-picked for the top party post, called Lewis’ comments “beyond despicable.”
“Our governor was compared to a group that murders innocent children in cold blood and sells women in to slavery,” Schneider said in the email.
“Stand with Gov. Rauner and tell Karen Lewis that her obscene rhetoric won’t be tolerated. She must be held accountable for such grossly inappropriate statements,” Schneider said. He said Lewis should “set a better example for our school children.”
* Remember Moon Khan? He’s the guy who ran as a write-in for DuPage County recorder, but was initially denied a victory after a bunch of votes weren’t counted. The DuPage Election Commission found 170 votes yesterday after a court-ordered recount, so he’ll be on the November ballot.
The DuPage Election Commission needs to investigate its processes and training of judges further and make significant changes before it runs another Election Night debacle as it did on March 15. It’s already been criticized for its slowness in counting ballots, and now it’s clear that judges erred in several write-in contests. […]
An earlier vote recount resulted in two Republican precinct committeeman write-in candidates also being declared winners. […]
Couple these errors with the need to investigate new technology to help speed up counting, and it’s clear that the election commission needs to get to work to improve it’s one main job.
* Jack Franks has never voted for a tax hike in his life. And even though “Fair Tax” supporters say taxes will increase only on one percent of taxpayers, that’s still a tax hike. So, no surprise here…
State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, said Thursday he intends to vote against his party’s progressive income tax amendment along with a proposed set of income tax rates in a separate plan.
Asked in a Reboot Illinois interview if he would vote against the amendment designed to ask voters if they approved of graduated tax rates, Franks replied, “That’s my intention.” […]
With all Republicans expected to oppose the progressive tax amendment and, therefore, all 71 Democratic votes required to approve it by a May 6 deadline for the fall ballot, Franks’ declaration could effectively block the plan that just was unveiled April 15. Sponsors said their progressive tax rate plan would generate $1.9 billion in new tax revenue. […]
Franks said he was concerned that rates could and would rise rapidly and that he believes structural changes should be made before tax rates change. That belief is in line with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s call for his turnaround agenda items before he will agree to a tax increase.
They’re gonna need Republican votes to pass this thing, but the governor and the House GOP Leader have done a remarkable job so far of keeping that caucus in line this year. Hey, strange things happen. Just look at yesterday. But GOP votes on this bill would be a truly strange occurrence. Stay tuned.
The [constitutional] amendment by Democratic Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park to eliminate the office of lieutenant governor failed 21-28. Cullerton says it would save the state $1.6 million annually.
Critics say the lieutenant governor has little to do except stand by to succeed the governor if the top post goes vacant. Two lieutenant governors in the past 35 years have resigned for different jobs, and former Gov. Pat Quinn, when he took over for the impeached and ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009, did not fill the post until 2011.
But Republicans criticized Cullerton’s idea, saying succession would fall to the attorney general — and that post could be occupied, as it is now, by a member of the opposite party.
Some Senate Democrats voted down the amendment, too, but the hypocrisy among Republicans — the party of so-called fiscal conservatives who advocate for smaller, more efficient government — was starker. Instead of putting the measure on the ballot for voters to decide, they swooped in and blocked it.
Even richer, 14 Senate Republicans who helped kill the proposal were co-sponsors of the same legislation in 2013.
Their issue this time around? Who would step in if the governor died or became unable to serve. That’s the primary role of the lieutenant governor. The proposal for a constitutional amendment, sponsored by Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, would tap the attorney general for that role. Same as the 2013 bill that many Republicans co-sponsored. […]
We’re told the directive to vote “no” came from Gov. Bruce Rauner, who ran for office on a platform of government consolidation, not political gamesmanship. His own hand-picked lieutenant governor, Evelyn Sanguinetti, advocated recently for the elimination of her own office. Not long ago, she finished a lengthy report, at Rauner’s direction, on how local governments could get rid of unnecessary layers of government. How voters could be empowered to cut bureaucracy.
They’re right, but this little thing is the issue they finally throw down on?
*** UPDATE 2 *** The House has overwhelmingly approved the measure 106-2. Democratic Reps. Jack Franks and Scott Drury voted “No.”
*** UPDATE 3 *** The Senate unanimously approved the bill.
[ *** End Of Updates *** ]
* The governor’s office and the House GOP Leader did a remarkable job of keeping things together yesterday, and then it all seemed to fall apart…
A bill to send $600 million to universities and community colleges to keep them operating until September was suddenly derailed in the House Thursday night, leaving the fate of the funding bill in doubt.
Illinois House members appeared poised to approve the bill that had bi-partisan support and, according to Republicans, would have been signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
However, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, suddenly announced that she would not be calling the bill for a final vote Thursday.
In the confusion that followed, Democrats said that House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, had requested that the bill not be called for a vote last night.
“There was something going on with the Senate. I don’t know what,” Currie said after the House adjourned for the night. She walked away without further comment.
Rep. Mark Batinick, a Republican from Plainfield, reminded lawmakers after the bill was postponed that prospective college students are deliberating where to go to school, with a May 1 deadline looming for their decisions.
“Congratulations, everybody,” he said, slapping away his microphone.
The money for the bill is possible because of a surplus in the state’s Education Assistance Fund, which takes a portion of income taxes for public schools and colleges. The funding proposal also has nearly $170 million in tuition grants for low-income students.
“The purpose of this bill is simply to provide emergency funding to our universities through the summer with the hope that we can continue to work on a budget so that we can fully fund them,” said Rep. Rita Mayfield, the Democrat sponsoring the measure.
Some lawmakers said they shouldn’t support a deal on higher education funding that amounted to a massive cut. Others saw an opportunity to add spending on social services to the mix. After all, allies of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said he would support the budget bill without linking it to provisions to his political wish list known as the Turnaround Agenda. Perhaps they could get the governor to open up the state’s checkbook a little more.
“I think logic finally came in,” said Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, who argued against the bill. “I think we have an opportunity now. Because of this, it shows that the other side is now willing to go forward with budget items that don’t have the Turnaround Agenda tied to it, which I think is a major breakthrough.”
A revamped proposal could emerge Friday to provide temporary relief for schools that have been forced to shed jobs and cut programs amid a record-setting state budget impasse. It’s the last chance before lawmakers take a one-week break. Many are eager to act amid intense pressure from universities and social service providers back home, and rank-and-file legislators have been meeting privately all week in an effort to reach a deal.
In a sign of how delicate negotiations remain, even the sometimes pointed Rauner struck a measured tone in a statement released by his office late Thursday.
* The statement was indeed measured…
“The Governor applauds the members in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle who are coming together to deliver emergency assistance to our universities, community colleges and low-income students. We hope the majority will respect the bipartisan agreement reached today and move the agreement to the Governor’s desk without delay.”
Considering the blowups of the recent past, you gotta give them credit for keeping an even keel. It wasn’t easy, by any means.
Some people just want the war to continue. But, someday it has to end. That process should start today. Pass this stuff and move the heck on.
“Well, I’m not sure what just happened because even the old hands here in the Capitol were surprised by this. But clearly, we’re at the point of existential crisis for some of our institutions. And there has to be a patch. There has to be a stop gap” [said Southern Illinois University President Randy Dunn].
Jack Thomas, president of Western Illinois University, was visibly angry and requested a few minutes to calm down before answering questions.
“We were all excited tonight, thinking that they were going to come to an agreement, and then BOOM! No budget right now, everything has been put on hold.”
A representative of Chicago State University - slated to close at the end of this month - had previously agreed to an interview but cancelled after the deal collapsed, telling me “We have nothing to say.”
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