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Rauner overridden on pension bill

Monday, May 30, 2016

[I somehow accidentally disabled comments on this post. Oops. Reopened. Sorry.]

* Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights) switched from “Present” to “Yes” today and the House overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of Mayor Emanuel’s police and fire pension bill with 72 votes. Background on that bill and the nasty fight between the governor and the mayor is here.

Rep. Harris said during debate that it was difficult to vote against his governor (who was adamantly opposed to the legislation) but he felt it was the right thing to do. He said stretching out pension payments, as this bill does, isn’t good policy, but it’s not an uncommon practice and is a “reasonable” action.

* This is the first time the House has overridden the governor since the heroin legislation. But the governor backed off his opposition to that bill under pressure from Republicans. This time, the governor did not back off.

…Adding… Rep. Harris wasn’t the only Republican to vote for the bill today. Rep. McSweeney switched to “Yes” and Rep. McAuliffe was a “Yes” last year and this year. Roll call is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Statehouse flooded with education funding bills

Monday, May 30, 2016

* Tribune

Senate Democrats pushed through two new bills to fund local school districts. Both are aimed at propping up funding for poorer districts. One would center around so-called “evidence based models” that would distribute money based on studies that show bilingual education students benefit from higher spending, and all students perform better in classrooms that are smaller in size.

The other would freeze the current school funding formula for three years, instead sending low-income districts an extra $700 million. It was billed as a bailout for Chicago Public School, as the bill also contained a provision to pick up $205 million in Chicago teacher pension costs, and would allow for the city to raise property taxes to the tune of $175 million. Neither plan is expected to advance in the House.

There are actually four education bills out there and Jessica Handy with Stand for Children posted a brief bit on all of them. Click here to read it.

…Adding… Yet another bill has been introduced. Click here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 - Rep. Bradley responds *** Murphy: Madigan has “personal vendetta against the Governor that holds all of Illinois hostage”

Monday, May 30, 2016

* Earlier this afternoon, I updated last night’s post about how some Republicans attempted to get into the House Democrats’ briefing on the various working groups.

Press release…

Statement from Sen. Matt Murphy (R-Palatine) regarding denial of entry into House briefing:

“As long time participants of the working group process, Rep. Brady and I were disappointed we were not allowed to ensure the presentation is factual. We are concerned this may not be an informational briefing, but rather a meeting designed to blow up the working group process. The truth is Democrat rank-and-file members have been willing to compromise on worker’s compensation, collective bargaining and pension reform.

I still believe there is time for a grand compromise to get a balanced budget and reforms before adjourning tomorrow night. I hope rank-and-file legislators will stand with us and not fall victim to the Speaker’s ongoing personal vendetta against the Governor that holds all of Illinois hostage.”

Yeah, everything’s just fine and dandy these days.

*** UPDATE 1 ***  From the ILGOP

“It is becoming clear that Mike Madigan’s personal dislike of the Governor is the only reason we can’t achieve compromise in Springfield. If Madigan was interested in finding a solution to this crisis before tomorrow night’s deadline, he would set aside his feelings towards the Governor and allow Republicans to attend these meetings, so that both sides can work together to reach a compromise before it is too late. If not, it’s finally time for rank-and file-Democrats to reject a leader who is intent on dragging down the state because of his bizarre obsession. Republicans remain committed to working across the aisle to reform the state and balance the budget. Democrats should join them instead of mindlessly carrying through Mike Madigan’s vendetta.” – Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Steven Yaffe

*** UPDATE 2 *** Press release…

Good afternoon. Below is a statement from state Rep. John Bradley in response to earlier comments made by state Sen. Matt Murphy relative to informational meetings held among House Democrats on the ongoing working groups at the Capitol.

Rep. Bradley Responds to Rhetoric on Working Group Meetings

“We continue hearing from the governor and his allies suggesting a desire to work together with Democrats, but Senator Murphy’s negative rhetoric makes that much more difficult.

“The purpose of the informational meetings on the working groups, which I helped conduct, was to brief House Democrats on the status of the working groups and that we continue to meet and work toward points of compromise. Any claims to the contrary only serve to further undermine the bipartisan process that Democrats fully endorse, and suggest that Republican legislators and the governor have no real interest in compromise. And for legislators of one party to try to interject themselves into the meetings among legislators of the other party as a media stunt is unprecedented.

“House Democrats will continue to attend the working groups, and we will continue to work toward compromise on the governor’s issues where possible. The only opposition House Democrats may have is opposition to damaging attacks on the financial security, wages and standard of living of middle-class families.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      


AFSCME: “It is time for these seven House Republicans to move beyond rhetoric and take action”

Monday, May 30, 2016

* From AFSCME Council 31…

At the end of last week, seven House Republicans sent a letter to our union and to Governor Rauner, urging the governor to come back to the bargaining table and resume negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement for the 38,000 state workers represented by AFSCME. The governor has refused to even meet with our union since he broke off talks on Jan. 8, and “this stalemate will continue to hurt all interested parties,” the representatives wrote.

In the public interest and in the interest of fairness, AFSCME immediately reiterated our union’s willingness to participate in renewed negotiations. We also urged the lawmakers to support their statement with action by committing to enact a fair arbitration process if the governor again refused to negotiate. Giving all state employees the same option of an impartial arbitrator to help settle differences between the parties—a process in place for tens of thousands of public safety personnel statewide for more than 30 years—would encourage a negotiated resolution and ensure against a harmful strike if no such resolution could be reached.

But the very next day, Governor Rauner’s office rejected the legislators’ letter and again falsely attacked our union, an occurrence that has become all too commonplace. This morning, the Republican Party’s political apparatus sent a press release echoing many of the same false attacks.

It is extremely regrettable that the governor is unwilling to bargain. It is outrageous that his party is distorting the facts to try to score political points at the expense of public service workers.

Now more than ever, Illinois and its people need serious governance, not political stunts. Governor Rauner’s refusal to negotiate is yet another failure of leadership. His party’s readiness to bolster his confrontational posture toward his own workforce in the midst of one of the biggest crises our state has ever confronted shows how disordered its priorities have become.

Lawmakers of both parties say they want a negotiated settlement that is fair to all. That is what AFSCME members have always sought, but we cannot do it alone. Since the governor refuses to negotiate, it is time for these seven House Republicans to move beyond rhetoric and take action by committing to vote to reject partisan politics, embrace responsible governance and enact the fair arbitration bill.

* From the IL GOP earlier today

Days after passing a $7 billion budget deficit, the largest in Illinois history, House Democrats may reconsider a motion to override the Governor’s veto of HB580, a bill the Herald & Review says would have a $3.6 billion cost to taxpayers. With only hours left in session, Democrats in the General Assembly would rather pass bills that force massive tax hikes instead of a balanced budget with structural, job-creating reforms for state government.

HB580, a reincarnation of SB1229, would remove Governor Rauner from the negotiating table with public employee unions for the duration of his first term in office and put in place an unelected, unaccountable arbitrator who would have the power to force a massive $3.6 billion tax hike on Illinois families. Even though the motion failed to muster enough votes to pass twice, the House may consider it for a third time. […]

“House Democrats, why can’t you take no for an answer?” said Aaron DeGroot, Illinois Republican Party spokesman. “Instead of voting to force massive tax hikes on working families for the umpteenth time, come to the negotiating table and fulfill your constitutionally-mandated duty. Choose Illinois over Mike Madigan and pass a balanced budget with job-creating reforms to state government. Illinois is counting on you.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      


Lesser-known impasse problems

Monday, May 30, 2016

* Kerry Lester

I was tipped that 177 Cook County workers who enforce child support agreements are expected to be laid off next month as yet another result of the state budget standoff.

County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s office reports the county has been shifting money from its general funds to keep the program afloat. But the state owes $12.4 million and the county is unable to keep the program going without those funds past June 30.

* Mark Brown

Illinois’ budget standoff hit home for Rachel Grainer in a way she never would have anticipated.

The 79-year-old Oak Park woman, just home from a hospital stay, was shocked to receive a letter from her mortgage company in March demanding that Grainer immediately pay her overdue real estate taxes and threatening to force her to open an escrow account for future taxes.

Grainer thought there must be some mistake. That’s because she is among hundreds of Chicago area homeowners who participate in the state’s Senior Citizens Real Estate Tax Deferral Program. […]

But Grainer was among 290 Cook County residents whose taxes totaling $943,663 went unpaid last year because the state did not remit the money to the county as promised.

The reason: no state budget, therefore no legal authority for the Illinois Department of Revenue to make the payments, the same Catch 22 facing dozens of state programs during the impasse.

* John O’Connell

The current state budget crisis is having an extreme negative effect on wildlife and fisheries management in Illinois. Federal excise taxes, such as the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund (Dingell-Johnson Act) and the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act) were created to provide federal monies for the management and restoration of fish and wildlife. When sportsmen purchase ammunition, firearms, and fishing equipment, they are contributing to these funds, with the knowledge that the money collected will be redistributed to the states for the enhancement and management of wildlife, angling, and associated recreational activities.

It should be simple; the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is billed for expenditures on projects approved for federal grant-in-aid funding and, in turn, bills the federal agencies that have allocated the funds. These funds are then reimbursed and are thus often referred to as “flow-through” funding. Unfortunately, the flow has been blocked; the IDNR is not currently authorized to reimburse projects due to the budget impasse. An immediate solution would be to issue a spending authority to the IDNR explicitly for these specific accounts, regardless of budget status. This can happen without the passing of the state budget; similar spending bills have already been issued by the state general assembly for other purposes during the impasse. If Illinois does not authorize the spending of these funds soon, they will be forfeited, a serious injustice to the fish and wildlife of the state as well as the sportsmen who paid into the funds.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


New York vs. Chicago on guns

Monday, May 30, 2016

* New York Times

The homicide rate in Chicago is just a little higher than in New York when guns aren’t involved. But when it comes to shootings, both fatal and not, Chicago stands out, suggesting a level of armed interaction that isn’t happening in New York.

…And Chicago is more lenient about illegal handguns than New York, prescribing a one-year minimum for possession versus three and a half years in New York. An attempt to match the New York law in 2013 was rejected by the Illinois legislature out of concern for skyrocketing incarceration rates for young black men.

The whole thing is worth a read.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, May 30, 2016

* Your caption?…


- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Lobbyist at center of controversy blames opponents

Monday, May 30, 2016

* DeJuan Kea is the fantasy sports game lobbyist who was accused by House Black Caucus Chairperson Rep. Rita Mayfield of sending an “unethical, and in my opinion illegal” e-mail to his superiors allegedly suggesting that “in exchange for considerations, donations” to House Black Caucus charitable activities “he could guarantee votes.”

I’ve been attempting to talk to Kea for a while now. Two of his friends reached out yesterday, but we couldn’t come to an agreement about when or where to meet. He sent me this e-mail today…

Dear Mr. Miller,

I am writing in hopes of correcting some of the information that has been reported on by you and other journalists about an email sent by me to my client.

At the request of my client, I did research about how they could create connections with the Black community as a part of overall company long term local CSR (corporate social responsibility) goals to have an ongoing relationships in Illinois. I sent my client an email describing the ILBC Foundation programs and activities.

My email with my client about community involvement was meant only for my client. There is nothing wrong or improper with the email contents or intent in the context of our work in Illinois. There is no crime or impropriety in the contents of the email. What is troubling is that others were in possession of my work product, or a portion of it, and are making allegations and assumptions about its content.

I have worked in this industry for ten years and I am very proud of my record, my conduct and my accomplishments. I am troubled that my email has been used by someone to try to create a scandal where none exists. Evidently someone wanted to delay the online fantasy sports regulation bill and they have succeeded.

Please contact me if you have any other questions.

I asked him to share his e-mail with me. So far, he hasn’t responded.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Nobody’s giving in

Monday, May 30, 2016

* Pat Gauen

It’s not that Madigan and fellow Democrats are necessarily right. Or that they do not bear major responsibility for the decades of under-funding pensions and services that helped create the mess. It’s that for now they are too strong for Rauner to go through or around.

My dad, the card player, knew when to fold and wait for a better hand.

The trouble is that both sides are blocked. Neither can go forward without the other and so neither is willing to fold.

* So, you get editorials like this one from the Belleville News-Democrat

The system will not change unless forced.

* And this one from the Dispatch/Argus

The speaker won’t give in unless lawmakers convince him that his terrible strategy for winning in November is really a loser. They need the support of voters to do so.

There are just four days left to foment a little rebellion before the speaker wins his waiting game. If he does, everyone else will lose — including schoolchildren, college students and Illinois’ most vulnerable citizens.

Please contact your lawmakers and tell them to order their leaders to stay at the table until they create a responsible budget that also includes some of the reforms necessary to restore Illinois’ future. Remind them, too, of the consequences if they don’t.

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Unclear on the concept

Monday, May 30, 2016

* While I do agree with some of the recent Tribune editorial blasting the House’s massively out of balance appropriations bill, this is just plain wrong

Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, voted a cowardly “present.”

The bill included money for state employee back pay. You’ll recall that a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision about this very issue declared that state workers can’t be paid without an appropriation, so the House appropriated the money. Smiddy, a former Department of Corrections employee, told me he’s owed about $5,000. He voted “Present” because he had a conflict of interest. That’s how you’re supposed to vote when you have a direct conflict.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


A look ahead

Monday, May 30, 2016

* Tribune

In the end, Senate Democrats may try to advance the short-term budget Cullerton backs, a salve to his members who feel too much of the budget is being dictated by Madigan. But the speaker already has deemed it to be a nonstarter in the House.

That leaves Madigan’s ultimate dare — the bet that despite their distaste, Senate Democrats will realize they are left with no other choice but to pass the House Democratic budget plan as the last viable option, even with the Rauner administration’s veto threat.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz of Evanston was one of a few House Democrats who voted against Madigan’s budget plan, saying she thought there was still time to develop a comprehensive balanced budget. But, she said, “If that bill came up May 31st, I might feel differently about it.”

That was written a couple of days ago, but I think it’s probably the best look forward out there.

* Meanwhile, the Illinois Policy Institute agrees with the governor’s vow to veto the entire Madigan budget if it reaches his desk

Not only does the bill present Rauner with a record deficit, Madigan’s budget only appropriates – or directly allocates – $14 billion of the total $40 billion it’s estimated to spend.

The remaining $26 billion, which includes items such as pension payments and debt service, will instead be on autopilot, determined by court orders, consent decrees and continuing appropriations. That’s how Illinois was able to function in fiscal year 2016 without a budget.

Rauner is unable to veto a large majority of that spending. In other words, much of the budget is untouchable.

Yep.

Plus, a line item veto would give too much opportunity for House and Senate Republicans to break ranks and vote to override line items that directly benefit their districts.

* And I’m sure we’ll be seeing more Rauner statements like this one pretty soon

[Gov. Rauner] also asked Democrats to break from longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan.

“The speaker is perfectly fine having deficit spending and borrowing. He’s perfectly fine crushing the economy, crushing our taxpayers. He’s been fine with it, and we need his members to say: ‘No, Mr. Speaker, no more,’” Rauner said.

…Adding… This is something I told subscribers about yesterday morning

There is another important deadline on Tuesday. That’s when lawmakers will find out whether local party organizations will field candidates to oppose them in the fall if no challenger filed for nomination in the March 15 primary election. Lawmakers may feel freed up to take controversial votes if they know they don’t have an opponent.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 *** War of words escalates between Rauner, Emanuel

Monday, May 30, 2016

* Gov. Rauner was asked yesterday about the sharp criticism from Mayor Emanuel over the governor’s veto of a bill to change the pension payment ramp to put off higher payments into the future, which Rauner claims would cost the city billions of dollars more in the long run. Rauner had been open to the bill, but only if it was coupled with some of his economic and fiscal reforms. Those obviously haven’t come to fruition

That didn’t stop Rauner from flatly describing the bill as “terrible policy” Sunday when he met with reporters. He also said it is “false,” “wrong” and “misleading” to suggest the bill would have saved Chicago $843 million over five years. Rather, he said Emanuel would have been allowed to “skip” payments and borrow from the pension funds.

“What Chicago has been doing for decades, and it’s the reason they’re so financially — they’re on the verge of bankruptcy as a city and as a school district — is because they’ve been borrowing to fund operations. And that’s what the mayor is doing by delaying these pension payments. He hasn’t done any real reforms.”

Rauner then added: “If the mayor wants to get upset that he can’t borrow more to fund operations, what he ought to be doing is being down here in Springfield, advocating for reforms for his city.”

Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins called it “kind of a bizarre comment.”

“Mayor Emanuel has passed more significant legislation in Springfield over the past year and a half than the governor has,” Collins said in an email. “Whatever spin the governor wants to put on it, the fact is he has been hypocritical on police and fire pensions. He was literally for the plan before he was against it.”

*** UPDATE 1 ***  The bill fell far short of a super majority in the House, so Charles is right…


*** UPDATE 2 *** Press releases…

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President Dean Angelo and Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 President Tom Ryan issued the following statement after the Illinois state Senate voted to override Governor Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 777.

“On behalf of thousands of active and retired Fire Fighters and Police Officers, and on behalf of the millions of Chicago taxpayers, we wish to thank the members of the state Senate for overriding Governor Rauner’s veto. Senate Bill 777 reflects months of negotiation between our Fire and Police unions and the city of Chicago, through which we came together on an agreement to solve a decades-old pension problem, an excellent example of local control at it’s best.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


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Monday, May 30, 2016

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


“Working together will never happen”

Monday, May 30, 2016

* WUIS

A measure that would legalize fantasy sports in Illinois is dead for the remainder of the spring legislative session.

The plan passed the Senate, but stalled in the House after a legislator accused a fantasy sports lobbyist of offering charitable donations in exchange for votes.

State Representative Michael Zalewski, a Democrat from Riverside, is the measure’s sponsor.

Zalewski says because of the controversy, he’s not going to call the plan for a vote this month.

* AP

“This became a distraction to an unhealthy degree,” Zalewski said, without referencing the allegations that another lawmaker made last week.

Democratic Rep. Rita Mayfield had said she became privy to an email in which a lobbyist working for FanDuel and DraftKings suggested he could get support from members of the House Legislative Black Caucus in exchange for contributions to their foundations. Mayfield made the allegation during a hearing on the bill and said she didn’t feel comfortable voting on the proposal.

“The email basically alleged that in exchange for considerations, donations, that he could guarantee votes. That’s illegal,” she said.

During the hearing, Mayfield didn’t elaborate on the contents of the email, didn’t say who it was sent to, or who showed it to her. She has declined to speak to The Associated Press about it.

A spokesman for FanDuel and DraftKings denied that they participated in the vote-buying overture Mayfield alleged.

* The sponsor doesn’t appear to be all that hopeful about the future, either…



- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      


Illinois’ connection to Memorial Day

Monday, May 30, 2016

* From the Decatur Herald & Review

The mystic chords of memory that swelled into the chorus of remembrance we call Memorial Day had its first notes sounded in Decatur.

It all began with the Grand Army of the Republic, which called for the creation of Decoration Day in 1868, a commemoration that would eventually morph into the Memorial Day we honor today. So the GAR gave us Memorial Day, and a march back through history shows Decatur gave us the GAR.

The veterans organization for Union soldiers who served in the Civil War was actually the brainchild of Maj. Benjamin F. Stephenson, who lived in Springfield. His idea was to create something that could pool resources and help the “hungry and poor” widows and orphans left behind by his fellow soldiers killed in the war. He also thought it would be jolly to have something to promote “worthy comradeship” between the survivors who had lived to go home again. […]

With growth came publicity, and with publicity came political firepower and influence, which was being felt as early as 1868. That’s when the GAR’s second commander in chief, Maj. General John A. Logan, issued something called “General Order No. 11,” establishing May 30 as Decoration Day to honor Union veterans’ graves, and it wasn’t long before a grateful nation also snapped to attention and took notice of what the GAR was doing.

…Adding… A view of General Logan’s grave this morning…

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


*** LIVE *** Session Coverage

Monday, May 30, 2016

* Today’s live coverage post is sponsored by URENCO USA. The Senate convenes at 9, the House convenes at 1. Watch the fireworks in real time with ScribbleLive


- Posted by Rich Miller   2 Comments      


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Monday, May 30, 2016

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* Reader comments closed for the weekend
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* The rise of the billionaire governors
* Camelot promises to grow lottery sales by 40 percent
* Munger tries to defend Rauner veto of Debt Transparency Act
* Rauner: "I can’t comment on any business disputes"
* Question of the day
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* Moody's says "political backlash" against pop tax could make other tax hikes more difficult
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