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Social service groups lose court case, considering an appeal

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* Press release…

Pay Now Illinois, a coalition of 97 Illinois-based human and social service agencies and companies, said today that it will consider an appeal of Cook County Circuit Court Judge Rodolfo Garcia’s denial of their request for immediate preliminary injunction and full payment of unpaid contracts dating back to July 1, 2015. While the judge dismissed the coalition’s suit against the State of Illinois, he also urged that their breach of contract suit be expeditiously appealed to a higher court for resolution.

In his ruling, Judge Garcia contended that a trial court was not the right setting for the case.

“We are disappointed with the ruling, but heartened by the Court’s recognition of the irreparable harm that has been caused in Illinois and by the Judge’s comment that our case deserves to be heard at a higher level,” Pay Now Illinois Chair Andrea Durbin said.

“From the beginning this lawsuit has been about good business practices – paying signed contracts in full and on time. The State’s failure to pay – and their belief that there is no way to make them pay – sets an extraordinarily bad precedent that should be of concern to anybody doing business with the state. It calls into question whether any contracts in the state are valid.”

Pay Now Illinois had sought a preliminary injunction for emergency relief that would require the state of Illinois to begin immediate payment on contracts that were more than 60 days in arrears. The motion for injunction was deemed necessary because of the devastating and irreparable harm being caused to plaintiffs who are facing a cascade of damages – laying off staffs, curtailment of essential programs, or entirely shuttering their programs, all of which seriously impedes their ability to serve their clients.

The original lawsuit filed on May 4, 2016 against Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger and the directors of six statewide agencies – one agency has since been added – claimed that the state’s failure to pay invoices on services performed under signed contacts was an unlawful impairment, or interference, with the agencies’ constitutional right to a legal remedy for the non-payment of these contracts. The suit further charged that the Governor and other state officials have acted illegally by failing to make payments on contracts while continuing to enforce them.

“It’s important to remember we are seeking full – not partial – payment on our contracts,” said Durbin who is also CEO of Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY). “For the State of Illinois to be considered a desirable business partner, it has to show that it honors its contracts in full. Right now, that is not the case.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* Agree or disagree? Explain…


- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


From 200,000 down to 700, or maybe 86,000

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* August 29th

The Illinois Board of Elections says “no more than about 200,000” voters have been affected by a cyber-hacking of the registration rolls this summer.

* From an Illinois State Board of Elections press release today

The State Board of Elections can confirm that approximately 700 voter records were viewed and those 700 individuals will soon be notified by mail as required by law. In addition, approximately 86,000 records are strongly suspected to have been viewed and the Board staff continues to identify those individuals. Anyone within that group will receive written notification within the next thirty days. There appear to be 3,533 records viewed which will not be able to be identified.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Rauner: We’re just hearing things that some people are saying

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* Jason Barclay, Gov. Rauner’s General Counsel on July 6th

Last week we learned that AFSCME is conducting strike assessments throughout the state. This document confirms that AFSCME is now asking individual members to commit to a strike. And we have also heard that they have already selected a strike date of September 1 – which, depending on the status of the Impasse Case at the Labor Board, could be a violation of the Tolling Agreement AFSCME signed with the State wherein it committed not to strike until the Labor Board determines if an impasse has been reached. An AFSCME strike could result in serious disruptions to its members lives – disruption to pension calculations because of a lengthy strike, loss of wages and health insurance during a lengthy strike, and the possibility of being replaced by replacement workers, potentially permanently.

* State Journal-Register article on July 6th

Members of the largest state employee union have been getting briefed on what would happen in the event of a strike and some are being polled over their willingness to go on strike over the stalled contract negotiations between the union and the state.

Members of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration said the actions show that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees “is now asking individual members to commit to a strike,” possibly by Sept. 1.

* An op-ed published in the State Journal Register by John Terranova, Deputy Director, Office of Labor Relations on July 16th

This paper recently reported on the possibility that AFSCME Council 31 employees could go out on strike, perhaps as early as Sept. 1.

Um, yeah. The reporting relied on the Rauner administration’s memo.

That op-ed was sent out to state employees by Terranova on July 19th.

* From a Rauner spokesperson on July 28th

These comments demonstrate the lack of judgment and reasonableness of the leaders who are marching our state workers toward a September 1 strike.

By then, it was no longer portrayed as a possibility, the date was a firm fact.

* A John Terranova memo dated August 2nd

As we near AFSCME’s September 1 strike date, I wanted to update you about a troublesome development.

A September 1st strike looked like a lock by then, according to the administration.

* Gov. Rauner was asked about the September 1st date today…

“That’s, that, we’re just hearing that from, we have many, uh, state employees who are working closely with our administration who like our proposal, who like our contract recommendation and are, and are advising us and there’s been a lot of chatter about strikes and strike dates and strike preparations and raising a strike fund. I don’t know. Nobody, I mean, we, we believe we’re at impasse. Um, and, uh, we’re just going through the process that we all agreed. We agreed with the union how the process would go. We had a toll agreement. We have a legal agreement. And we’re going through that process right now and it’s going to play out in the coming weeks and months.”

* Raw audio…

[The audio link doesn’t seem to be working at the moment. None of the links on the CMS site are working, actually. So, give it some time.]

…Adding… The link is working now.

…Adding More… A senior administration source with knowledge of the administration’s thinking claims signs are popping up in agencies during the past few weeks in AFSCME colors that say “Get ready.”

“We think that’s preparation for a strike,” the source said.

Anders Lindall with AFSCME said the signs mean the union is “Ready for whatever may come. Right now, we’re ready to set straight the frequent falsehoods of the administration’s misinformation campaign. Looking ahead, we’re ready to act if the administration tries to unilaterally impose its unfair terms.” He also said the signs have been up for close to two months.

The administration source also pointed to how they’d asked the Labor Board to expedite the hearing on the impasse declaration by bypassing the administrative law judge. AFSCME opposed that motion, you’ll recall. The Labor Board sided with AFSCME. As of now, there’s been no decision from the administrative law judge. “The union can’t credibly go on strike if judge hasn’t ruled,” the Rauner source said.

The source also said the union was “Likely continuing to raise money for a strike fund,” but, he admitted “that’s never been confirmed.”

…Adding Still More… From Anders Lindall…

Donald Trump is known for using the phrase “people are saying” to spread misinformation and innuendo without any proof. Now Bruce Rauner, who said he would support Trump for President, is employing the same tactic to mislead state employees and all the people of Illinois about the status of contract negotiations between his administration and our union. There never was any “Sept. 1 strike date,” and AFSCME has corrected the record time and again.

Public service workers in state government want to do their jobs and serve their communities, not be forced out on strike by Governor Rauner—but that’s exactly what he’s trying to do. Rauner’s administration walked away from negotiations, has refused to bargain since January, and is seeking to unilaterally impose terms on state employees instead of compromising with them.

State workers deserve a governor who is honest, who understands the important public services they provide, and who treats them with respect. Just because Bruce Rauner supports Donald Trump politically is no excuse for the governor to copy Trump’s ludicrous behavior.

- Posted by Rich Miller   92 Comments      


Get your priorities straight

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* Jordan Abudayyeh on Monday

The Governor says redistricting should be the number one priority of lawmakers when they return to Springfield after the election in November. […]

Rauner says he wants redistricting reform passed before he can agree to a comprehensive budget deal that will include a tax hike.

Rauner did say the second priority should be pension reform, after the Teachers Retirement System voted to lower their expected investment returns, meaning the state will be on the hook for hundreds of millions more when it comes time to make the pension payment.

* From the governor’s Tuesday appearance on Channel 7

We’ve got to have financial discipline and we need reforms to grow our economy. That’s the number one priority.

…Adding…  Today, Gov. Rauner said a budget deal, along with property tax reforms, would be worked out after the election and that redistricting reform and term limits should be included in the deal.

Raw audio…

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Today’s number: $14 billion

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* Tina Sfondeles reports

Moody’s Investors Service on Wednesday issued an ominous report about Illinois’ finances, warning that the lack of a full year budget will more than double the state’s deficit and could lead to further credit downgrades. […]

According to the report, the partial budget will likely widen the state’s operating fund deficit with a backlog of bills likely to reach $14 billion or more — a new high — this year “absent actions by the government to align revenue and spending.”

The report says current spending authorizations, appropriations, court orders and consent decrees in the fiscal year which began on July 1 will drive expenditures up by an estimated 12 percent compared with the revenue coming in.

The report warns that the state might “resort to actions that cast doubt on an otherwise strong legal framework prioritizing debt payment, such as borrowing from funds set aside for debt service.”

Moody’s also warns that a reliance on payment deferrals to offset the budget imbalance will be hard to end, calling the payment backlog “the by-product of a weak governance structure that includes permissive laws and legal interpretations.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Careful what you wish for

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* Press release…

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today was joined by award-winning producer Dick Wolf, NBCUniversal executives, members of the film industry and unions in announcing that the City of Chicago has seen record TV filming production in 2016—a two-fold increase in TV shows filming here over last year. This year’s filming boost is due in large part to TV series selecting the city as the main stage for filming—with an unprecedented eight full-time major TV series filming across the city’s neighborhoods this year, and another two major series’ filming locally part time.

Additionally, while the city has recorded more than $1.3 billion in economic activity from film and commercial production since 2011, this year’s filming is expected to outpace economic benefits seen in previous years, contributing to local jobs and the livelihood of Chicago’s neighborhoods.

That is good news.

* However

When the hit TV show “Empire” filmed scenes in Chicago last year, it lured big-name stars like Chris Rock to the Cook County juvenile detention center.

But relatives of two juveniles were far from star-struck. And now they’ve sued Twentieth Century Fox Television Inc., Cook County and others over the lockdown they say occurred when “enormous” film crews descended on the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center at Roosevelt and Ogden in the summer of 2015.

“The purpose of these lockdowns was to provide Fox with a realistic prison facility to use as the primary set of two highly profitable ‘Empire’ episodes,” their lawyers wrote in a 37-page federal complaint filed Wednesday. “The children at JTDC, meanwhile, were placed under restrictions more severe than those governing many adult jails.” […]

Meanwhile, the juveniles housed at the facility were relegated to their cell and “pod” areas and were required to sit in one place, according to the complaint. For one teen, “even to stand up without first obtaining permission was treated as a major rule violation.”

“There they were told to sit, for days on end,” lawyers wrote. “Their schooling continued in name only, visits from their families were interrupted, cut back, or effectively eliminated, sick-call requests were ignored, and programs that are intended to help them overcome the problems that landed them at the JTDC in the first place were cancelled or interrupted.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Caption contest!

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* From a reader…

Rich,

This has been showing up in parades in the LaSalle County Area. Not sure the guy towing it understands political messaging. Might be fun for a caption contest.

Enjoy.

* The pic…

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Kasper explains the non-disclosure

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* From an August 10th Chicago Tribune editorial

If you run for a position on your local school board, Illinois’ campaign finance laws require that you disclose contributions and expenditures. You buy pizza with campaign funds for volunteers? You have to disclose it. You accept free signs from a friend who owns a printing shop? You have to disclose it. You spend $23.56 on gasoline to drive around collecting signatures? You have to disclose it.

That hasn’t been the case with one of the state’s most influential yet obscure groups. The People’s Map, a political organization formed to fight against independently drawn legislative maps, has not disclosed any contributions or expenditures on the forms it filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections. Little is known about the group — like who finances it, who pays the attorney and court fees, or how the group spends its resources. […]

The People’s Map has filed four quarterly reports, all listing zero contributions and zero expenditures.

Meanwhile, six union groups reported on their own filings that they contributed $2,000 each to The People’s Map effort. The groups are Illinois AFL-CIO COPE, Laborers’ Political Action and Education League, Illinois Pipe Trades PEF, Illinois State Conference of IBEW (the group later canceled its payment), SEIU Local 73 and the Illinois Education Association, the union representing most teachers in the state.

Backers of the remap amendment, Support Independent Maps, asked the State Board of Elections to review The People’s Map’s disclosure paperwork. The board agreed and gave The People’s Map until Aug. 19 to file amended reports. At this writing, nothing has been filed.

The editorial was based on an earlier AP story and a press release from the remap reformers demanding an investigation.

* The group’s attorney Mike Kasper sent a response dated August 15th that was recently posted on the Board of Elections’ website

And, as I’ve told you before, Kasper doesn’t usually bill a client for fees and/or expenses until after the case is completed. If there’s no invoice, there’s nothing to pay, which means there’s no reason to cash any checks or no debts to report. The guy probably wrote that statute, so he knows how to use it to his clients’ advantage.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


*** UPDATED x5 *** Why is the media ignoring this lawsuit?

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* Most of the mainstream media continues to ignore this story

Five groups, led by the ACLU, are asking a federal judge today to preserve Election Day registration in local polling places in advance of the November presidential election. U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan is presiding over the case.

The argument, from the ACLU: “The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Better Government Association, the League of Women Voters of Illinois and the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform in Harlan v. Scholtz, an effort by a political candidate to block implementation of the current EDR system approved by the legislature, piloted during the 2014 general election, and used in the March 2016 primary election. “This election has generated interest and fervor across the nation,” said Colleen K. Connell, Executive Director of the ACLU of Illinois. ‘Eliminating Election Day registration in local precincts so close to an election could leave thousands of people unable to vote.’”

Unmentioned above is that the lawsuit was filed by an arm of the Bruce Rauner-allied Illinois Policy Institute. The group wants the federal court to halt all precinct-level election day voter registration this year because smaller counties are only required to provide a central location for election day registration, while larger counties are required to provide in-precinct election day registration. To them, that’s not fair.

* From the brief

If the Court determines that preliminary injunctive relief is required, it should extend Election Day registration at polling places in low-population counties, rather than deprive voters in high-population counties of that opportunity. Such a remedy would support, rather than undermine, the public interest in allowing qualified voters to vote, would appropriately respect legislative intent, and would more directly remedy the plaintiffs’ alleged injuries. […]

(T)he requested injunction will overturn voters’ reasonable expectations. In preparation for November’s election, voter education and get-out-the-vote organizations have undertaken massive voter education campaigns, getting the message out to thousands of voters that they can vote on Election Day even if they have not registered or their registration is out of date. Those voters have every right to rely on a state statute guaranteeing their right to vote at their local polling place on Election Day. Turning those voters away at the polls would betray those expectations. Voters in high-population counties – including both Republican and Democratic leaning counties – would be confused at precinct polling places and face long lines at EDR sites, assuming that they make it to an EDR site at all. Meanwhile, short- staffed election personnel would have to spend significant additional resources in assisting voters at both types of locations, all thanks to plaintiffs’ decision to file suit more than a year after the statute’s effective date and less than three months before the election.

Moreover, the burden of an injunction limiting EDR is likely to fall disproportionately on identifiable sub-groups. For example, the research surveyed by plaintiffs’ expert suggests that those most likely to be disenfranchised by such an injunction include “the young, the residentially mobile, and those with moderate level of income and education.” Additionally, although plaintiffs do not mention it, the Fourth Circuit recently found that the elimination of same-day registration unlawfully discriminated against African Americans. The Court noted that “African American voters disproportionately used same-day registration when it was available,” and that African Americans “are more likely to move between counties and thus are more likely to need to re-register.” The possibility of a disproportionate racial impact is another reason the public interest weighs heavily against the proposed injunction.

Finally, the plaintiffs incorrectly assert that “a preliminary injunction would simply preserve the status quo ante.” The current EDR system went into effect in June 2015 and was in place for the March 2016 primary election. Plaintiffs’ proposed remedy would disrupt the status quo. […]

Shutting down EDR at precinct polling places in high-population counties will deny many qualified voters the right to vote, in derogation of the public interest. The plaintiffs have the burden of proving that (1) allowing those citizens to vote will cause the plaintiffs irreparable harm; and (2) the alleged harm to plaintiffs outweighs the harm to those citizens. They have made no such showing. […]

In this case, an injunction requiring low-population counties to provide EDR at all polling places would be far more respectful of state legislative policy judgments than an injunction prohibiting high-population counties from doing so. The plaintiffs would have this Court order a direct violation of state statute: Counties that are required by Illinois law to provide EDR at polling places may not do so. By contrast, an injunction extending EDR to all counties would be wholly within the bounds of existing state law, which already allows the low-population counties to offer EDR at polling places. The choice is between ordering some counties to do something that state law prohibits, or ordering other counties to do something that state law allows.

We’ve seen lots of stories this week about a mythical Russian government hack on the state board of elections, and almost nothing this month about a very real lawsuit that could have a serious impact on election day.

Odd.

*** UPDATE 1 ***  The attorney general also filed a brief yesterday. Click here to read it.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Another amicus brief was separately filed by a coalition that includes Asian-Americans Advancing Justice, Common Cause, Change Illinois, Illinois PIRG and ICIRR. Click here to read it.

*** UPDATE 3 *** The federal judge also allowed Cook County to intervene. Click here to read its brief.

*** UPDATE 4 *** The Illinois Policy Institute’s latest filing is here.

*** UPDATE 5 *** The League of Women Voters’ press release about its amicus brief is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


Is tomorrow the big day?

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* The governor’s office has claimed time and time and time and time again that AFSCME is secretly plotting a September 1st strike date.

That’s tomorrow.

I haven’t heard anything. Have you?

- Posted by Rich Miller   96 Comments      


Remap group demands rehearing

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* Press release…

The Independent Maps coalition on Wednesday filed a petition asking the Illinois Supreme Court to reconsider its recent ruling denying voters the ability to vote this November on the proposed constitutional amendment to require a transparent, impartial and fair process of drawing legislative maps.

By a 4 to 3 party line division, the Supreme Court ruled that the Independent Map Amendment is not in line with the Illinois Constitution’s requirement for amendments proposed by voters. Under the Supreme Court’s rules, Independent Maps has the right to point out argument the majority of the Court overlooked or misapprehended and to ask it to reconsider its ruling and its reasoning. Four votes are required to grant rehearing.

“We believe the four justices in the majority were wrong and inconsistent in their reasoning and would reach a different conclusion if they consider, as they have in all other similar cases, the legislative debates from the 1969-70 constitutional convention,” said Dennis FitzSimons, Chair of Independent Maps. “More than 563,000 Illinois voters signed Independent Map Amendment petitions, and we owe it to them and thousands of volunteers across the state to make every possible effort to convince the Court that the amendment deserves to be placed before voters in November.”

The petition includes the following arguments in favor of a rehearing:

    Ø The four justices in the majority said that their decision was compelled by the “plain language” of the Illinois Constitution, which states that voters can propose a constitutional amendment only if the amendment is “limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in” the article dealing with the legislature. However, the majority completely ignored Independent Maps’ “plain language” argument explaining why the amendment meets that requirement. Because each provision in the proposed amendment is limited to redistricting and because redistricting is a “structural and procedural subject,” there should be no doubt that the amendment is properly limited to a “structural and procedural subject.”

    Ø Even if the majority’s strained construction of “structural and procedural” is one reasonable way to look at that section, the interpretation by Independent Maps is reasonable, too. That means that the constitutional provision is at least ambiguous and the court must look to the legislative history to decide which interpretation the framers intended. The four justices in the majority ignored the legislative history, which clearly indicates that redistricting is one of the “critical” areas the framers had in mind when they created the provision allowing voters to propose amendments to the constitution. “They ignored the debates during the constitutional convention, which show that the ‘limited to’ language was designed to prevent initiatives from being used as a subterfuge to address controversial subjects like taxes, abortion and the death penalty,” FitzSimons said. “Our amendment does exactly what the framers intended to allow citizens to do – propose meaningful redistricting reform. The majority’s refusal even to consider the legislative history is unprecedented in cases like this.”

    Ø At a minimum, the Supreme Court should reconsider its ruling that a citizen-initiated amendment cannot include the Auditor General as a participant in the redistricting process, and it should reconsider its decision to postpone for another day any discussion of the other issues plaintiffs prevailed on in the trial court. Because the majority opinion is limited to a single issue, it fails to provide the citizens of Illinois with any guidance about whether a redistricting initiative is even permissible, let alone guidance about what the permissible contours of such an initiative would be.

“The majority opinion is inconsistent,” FitzSimons said. “At one point, it says that the Auditor General can’t be involved because that office is not now part of the legislative article of the constitution, but at another point, it suggests a redistricting initiative could use a non-legislative actor to help select a redistricting commission. Which is it? Without clear guidance, no one will be willing to invest the time, effort and money necessary to put a genuine redistricting reform initiative on the ballot.”

The link accompanying the press release for the full petition for reconsideration is here, but it’s not working as I write this.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


The holes in Quinn’s plan

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* The Tribune on Pat Quinn’s remap reform proposal

In the high court’s ruling last week, it rejected the Independent Maps plan because it extended new duties to the state’s auditor general, going beyond the scope of the one legislative article that can be amended by the citizen initiative process. But the justices did not address other issues that Cook County Judge Diane Larsen also had found unconstitutional, including an expanded role for the high court and changes to the attorney general duties.

Currently, the state Supreme Court plays a role in the tie-breaking process, when they select the names of one Republican and one Democrat who will be chosen at random to end stalemates on the current eight-member redistricting commission, made up equally of House and Senate Republican and Democratic representatives.

Quinn’s argument is that because the state Supreme Court already has a role in redistricting under the legislative article, expanding the court’s role to select a new remap commission would fall under the court’s ruling and be constitutional. But it’s also questionable whether the justices would find the additional duties imposed on them to be constitutional.

Quinn’s proposal also could suffer from its simplicity. The proposal is silent on what would happen if the commission couldn’t reach a seven-member agreement on a new map.

All good points.

* Scott Szala, “an adjunct professor who teaches a course on the state constitution at the University of Illinois law school,” talked to Dan Petrella about the proposal

He said one potential pitfall of Quinn’s idea is that having the Supreme Court appoint the commission’s members and rule on any legal challenges to the map they draw could create conflicts of interest.

There’s also the question of whether assigning a new task to the court would pass constitutional muster, Szala said.

There are other problems, which I mentioned to subscribers this morning.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Third party candidates removed from ballot

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* The Daily Herald now owns a dozen newspapers in southern Illinois, so Mike Riopell has to work even harder than he already did

Democratic state Rep. John Bradley of Marion and Republican Dave Severin of Benton will fight their campaign for Illinois House alone.

Libertarian candidate Scott Schluter of Marion was removed from the race, as was Tea Party candidate Robert Harner of Pittsburg, according to state campaign records. […]

The Illinois State Board of Elections decided in both cases that the candidates didn’t have enough petition signatures to get on the November ballot. […]

And independent Dan Silver of Alto Pass was removed in his bid to run for Illinois House against Republican Rep. Terri Bryant of Murphysboro and Democratic challenger Marsha Griffin of Jonesboro.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      


Moody’s likes the TRS move, but says it’s still $1.5 billion short

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* Tribune

A key ratings agency said the decision by the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System to lower its expected rate of return was “a positive,” even though it means the cash-strapped state will have to find hundreds of millions of dollars more to pay into the pension program for teachers who live outside of Chicago.

The decision by the system’s board to alter the rate of return on investments from 7.5 percent to 7 percent was made despite opposition from Gov. Bruce Rauner, who characterized it as a rushed decision that puts taxpayers on the hook. It was an odd position for the Republican governor, who has long criticized state and city government for kicking the can down the road on financial issues.

But Moody’s Investors Service said the change was “a positive” despite increasing financial pressure on the state in the near term, saying the move would “lower exposure to volatile investment performance.” Moody’s estimated that if the new, lower rate had been in effect for the budget year that began July 1, the state’s required employer contribution would have been $4.3 billion, roughly $421 million more than if the assumed rate of return stayed at 7.5 percent.

* But it’s not all good news. From Moody’s Investors Service’s David Jacobson…

However, even under the lower 7% discount rate, Moody’s estimates Illinois’ contributions would remain roughly $1.5 billion below our “tread water” indicator. Our “tread water” indicator equals the sum of employer service cost (called the “normal cost” for actuarial funding) plus interest on the unfunded liability, using reported assumptions. In the most recent TRS valuation report, actuaries projected that reported unfunded liabilities will continue growing until 2030 under the statutory funding formula.

Oy.

…Adding… Related…

* Amend the state constitution to cut public pensions?: Higher taxes may be needed along with other changes, Baise said. But what’s really needed is to change a clause in the state constitution that the Illinois Supreme Court repeatedly has said fully protects pension benefits some say the state no longer can afford. “In what world do we live in where a $100 billion-plus pension obligation can be explained away by saying ‘It’s in the constitution’?” Baise asked. “A constitutional provision that was drafted in 1970 cannot and must not bankrupt this great state.” In a later interview, Baise conceded that the courts might balk at such an amendment. And getting it by voters would be no snap. But change nonetheless is needed, he said. “Democrats and Republicans have both got to say, ‘We need to get this problem under control,’ ” he said. “Nothing is so sacrosanct it can’t change.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   96 Comments      


Unclear on the concept

Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

* From a Peoria Journal Star editorial on remap reform

Perhaps Quinn has a magic incantation to use on the Supreme Court, starting with using “simple, clean, and pristine” language impossible to poke constitutional holes through even by the most motivated. We just have three questions regarding the referendum Quinn hopes to get on the ballot in 2018, in time for the 2021 map:

Will Madigan still be speaker of the Illinois House? Will Madigan still be chairman of Illinois’ Democratic Party? Will the Supreme Court still have a Democratic majority?

If the answer is “yes” to all three, well, good luck to Quinn, but he’ll forgive us for not holding our breath on any map “reform” worthy of the word.

What that editorial board wants is not remap reform, but a Republican state. Talk about a “magic incantation.” Sheesh.

I mean, if the maps are drawn fairly and without political considerations, who’s to say that Madigan would definitely lose control of the House? This is, after all, a Democratic-leaning state, despite Gov. Rauner’s 2014 win. How are you gonna “fairly” draw lots of Republican districts in Chicago and the south suburbs? And, remember, Madigan kept the gavel eight out of ten years of a Republican-drawn map in the 1990s. So, if he can win under a relatively unfair, partisan map, how is he supposed to be guaranteed to lose under a fair, non-partisan map?

And how are fair legislative district maps gonna end Madigan’s chairmanship of the Democratic Party of Illinois or change the balance on the Illinois Supreme Court?

If this is the bar they’re setting, they should also thunder against the current fair map proposal.

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      


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Wednesday, Aug 31, 2016

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Uncle Mike

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* From my syndicated newspaper column in October of 1998…

Drivers license corruption didn’t start under George Ryan, of course. My Uncle Mike tells a great story about when he first moved to Illinois from Indiana almost 30 years ago after marrying my Aunt Jean.

Mike grew up in rural Hoosier Land hearing lots of stories about how terribly corrupt Illinois was.

His worst fears were confirmed when he went to take his driving test at the local license bureau. “Leave a five dollar bill on the seat,” someone whispered to him.

Uncle Mike was finally facing the evil he had heard so much about. And being a reasonably honest individual unaccustomed to the ways of a barbarous land, and not having a lot of extra cash on him, he decided he would refuse to play the game.

Well, Uncle Mike flunked the test, of course. But the next time he took the exam he left some cash on the seat before he got out of the car. Lo and behold, he passed with flying colors.

Mike currently lives a blissful existence back across the state line.

My Uncle Mike died last night, his daughter and his wife were both at his side.

He was such a great guy. Very funny, very gentle, very sweet.

* He was one of those people who had a joke for every occasion. I asked him once if he had volunteered for the Army. “Volunteered? I still have splinters under my fingernails from when they dragged me off!”

Heh.

When he was a kid, his mom gave him a diary. He read it to me once, speaking in the voice of a child. It went something like, “Today, I played cowboy.” Turn the page. “Today, I played cowboy.” Turn the page. “Today, I played cowboy.” Turn the page, “Today, I played fireman.”

You had to be there.

* Mike learned to fly an airplane when I was young and I flew with him several times and even went through the study guides with him while he worked to get a commercial license. He taught me about clouds, aerodynamics, you name it. It was so easy to learn things from him because he was such a patient, kind man. We were sitting at his kitchen bar table studying together one night and he started telling jokes and I literally fell off my chair laughing. I don’t remember a single one of those jokes, but I’ll never forget that long fall off that high bar stool. No blood, no foul. I got up laughing.

He bought a motorcycle back in the day and would take me for rides. We were pulled over by the cops near my grandma’s house in Ashkum once because I wasn’t wearing sunglasses. He bought me a pair and later that day a bug or something hit my glasses and they cracked. Thank goodness for the cop. I don’t think I ever did tell my mom that story.

* Mike wasn’t somebody who worried too much about his career. He tried numerous occupations, never settling on one. He never really had much money and he never seemed to care all that much. He had a house, a great wife and lived in the town where he was born and raised, always surrounded by good friends and a strong family. He did, indeed, live in bliss.

Remington, Indiana was kind of a paradise to me when I was a kid. I lived on a farm in Iroquois County at the time, so our closest neighbor kids were over a mile away. Mike’s nieces and nephews lived near his house and they and their pals were all around my age, so we became fast friends. I don’t remember any of them ever once causing any trouble. They were such good kids, but so much fun to hang out with, always laughing and smiling. And then I’d go back to Mike and Jean’s house and listen to show tunes. My Aunt Jean, my mom’s sister, was a big fan of show tunes. I think I memorized the entire “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” album at one point. It was a home away from home. An oasis of calm and constant mirth.

* I was nine when my cousin Tracy was born. She was the first girl on my mom’s side of the family, so she was always special. Tracy got her sense of humor and much of her sweetness from her dad and she shared a story yesterday about her childhood…

Remembering riding my pony Brownie for the first time. I was 4. I had lifesavers in my jean pocket. I had dad as my coach. Around the maple tree I went one way. Then around the other way. I was clearly a prodigy at horseback riding. It was going great. I don’t know what got into Brownie but he took off with me fast. I was in the alley by Dotty Bahler’s house when dad told me to jump. I just did that. I trusted my dad to know the right course of action. I lost my lifesavers, and that was crushing, but I landed in soft grass with no injuries. My pony was found by the laundromat. I have never trusted another man more than this man. Generally he has given me good ideas for a long time.

* My mom called from Mike’s hospital room a couple of days ago and put me on speaker so I could talk to him. She warned me that he probably wouldn’t respond. But he perked up when he heard my voice and we managed a conversation. I told him I loved him. It was the last thing I said to him before he passed.

Today, Mom sent me a photo of a framed copy of my 1998 column that was hanging on Uncle Mike’s bedroom wall. That’s when I started writing this post. And that’s when I also decided that I’m going to take the rest of the day off.

* Here’s a photo taken by my brother Devin of Uncle Mike and Aunt Jean…

- Posted by Rich Miller   49 Comments      


Today’s number: 4,600

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* Greg Baise of the Illinois Manufacturers Association spoke to the City Club today. Here’s an excerpt of his prepared remarks

Now, people talk about how the middle class is in trouble. And, it is. They aren’t lying. But those who talk loudest about protecting the middle class are actually doing the most to push it out of existence. For decades, MANUFACTURERS have been the best producers of middle–‐class jobs in the nation. People from all walks of life looked to manufacturing for jobs that paid middle–‐class wages, offered health insurance and built a pension. People who worked for manufacturers were the heart of the middle class. They saved for down payments to buy homes. They were able to raise a family. You didn’t need an advanced degree to make a good living. You needed a good work ethic and a sense of pride in what you produced.

Entrepreneurs who were willing to risk it all created that opportunity for growth, and the responsibility was on its citizens to create their own destiny. Government’s role was to provide a safety net, a helping hand, and monitor and correct the bad actors–‐–‐but not get in the way of those who were doing it right.

For too many, those days are long gone.

What I’m describing now is how many of my members feel and man do they feel it. And please keep in mind, that about 85 percent of my members are SMALL businesses, many second and third generation.
They feel that slowly, but insidiously, government is being led by politicians who think they’re the experts on how to run business. They see the government dictating wages and opportunity, mandating nearly every aspect of running a business, and too often views employers as an eternal piggy bank to solve every woe in society or to fund every novel idea hatched by a think–‐tank.

* His close

Just remember as you leave, in the last seven years….

    Wisconsin created 44,100 manufacturing jobs
    Ohio created 75,900 manufacturing jobs
    Indiana created 83,700 manufacturing jobs and
    Michigan created 171,300 manufacturing jobs.

Illinois created 4,600 jobs. Even Idaho created 9,100 manufacturing jobs. A state better known for its potato farms.

It’s abysmal. It’s pathetic.

It’s time for a change in philosophy and direction by our policy makers.

It’s time to get mad as hell and not take it anymore.

Whether you agree with him on everything or not, he’s an old Statehouse hand and knows whereof he speaks, so go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


Baked into the cake

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* Whatever you think of the rest of the column, Jim Dey’s conclusion is spot on

“Thumbs down to the Illinois Supreme Court, which … disenfranchised the state’s voters to the benefit of a powerful few,” the Quad-City Times stated [about the redistricting lawsuit].

But, really, who cares? Certainly not the judges who did Madigan’s dirty work. They’re not accountable?

Certainly not Madigan and the legislators he spared from being put to a real electoral test. They’re not accountable either. That’s the whole point behind gerrymandering.

They may not appreciate the accusations coming their ways. But adverse public reaction was baked into the political cake, and it’ll blow over. When it does, they’ll still be in charge, for now and for as far as the eye can see.

Same with the $400,000 copper doors. Same with, well, pretty much everything.

You do what you want and then win the campaigns in the trenches.

But, again, it would be a bit more honest if columnists and editorial writers even occasionally pointed out that Rauner actually managed to win a whole lot of districts that are represented by Democratic legislators. He beat Pat Quinn in Rep. Dan Beiser’s district 55-38, for instance. That’s probably why the Democrats are playing the Ken Dunkin card in August.

* Related…

* Kim Jong Un has North Korean officials killed by anti-aircraft gun, paper says

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Dunkin becomes issue in Metro East race

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* It appears this Democratic mailer on behalf of Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton) is referencing the support given by Dan Proft’s Illinois Opportunity Project to Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) in the spring primary…

Man, oh man. And it’s not even Labor Day.

Whew.

Also, sorry for the picture quality issue, but I figured you’d like to see this anyway.

* Meanwhile, the anti-Dunkin t-shirts from the spring primary are being repurposed in at least one southern Illinois House race…

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


More Rauner TV

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* Gov. Bruce Rauner made the rounds of Chicago TV stations early this morning. A WGN anchor asked him: “But the world of business is a dictatorship. You’re in government now. Looking back on your year and a half, is there a political tactic you would have changed to accomplish more of your agenda?”

Rauner’s response

Short answer: No.

* Over on Channel 7, the governor was pressed hard by Judy Hsu: “Your job is to govern and we need a budget. What realistically can be done going forward to find a compromise?” The governor said that the legislative leaders have agreed to work on a compromise and pass a balanced budget with reforms after the general election.

Hsu also talked about the new “heat map” which shows where the social services cuts have happened. “Do you have a real grasp of what’s facing the families?” she asked. His response

Absolutely. And the tragedy is, we have out of balance, um, budgets that are broken and not funding our services properly for decades. This is a problem, this hasn’t happened in the past year, this has been created for many, many years. We always try to spend much more than we really bring in. That makes us the state that people leave the most from. People leave Illinois more than any other state. And our jobs, our employers leave our state. We’ve got to have financial discipline and we need reforms to grow our economy. That’s the number one priority.

* Watch it all

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


“Child’s play” to hack state database

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* There’s a lot of hyperbole in this piece, but the essential takeaway is indicated in these excerpts

The FBI says that computer hackers accessed, and in one case stole, voter registration files in two states, potentially compromising personal information and putting crucial election data at risk just three months before voters head to the polls.

And if that weren’t unsettling enough, the techniques that the hackers used were neither sophisticated nor particularly hard to employ, proving that it’s not just high-end hackers from foreign governments, like the ones believed to be targeting U.S. political organizations, that elections officials need to worry about in the runup to November. […]

The FBI’s analysis of the hacks, contained in a security alert first reported by Yahoo News, shows that Arizona’s elections website was penetrated in June using a common vulnerability that’s well known to security experts. Then, in July, Illinois’ voter files were accessed apparently using stolen login credentials, which could have been obtained by spear phishing a state employee. […]

On the scale of hacker sophistication, these attacks rank on the low-end, relative child’s play for the kinds of skilled operators that U.S. officials suspect may have stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee and Democrat and Republican lawmakers in an attempt to sow chaos in the presidential elections.

The problem is the security was far, far too lax. It’s been beefed up now in Illinois, but, man, this was no way to run a railroad.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Elected Chicago school board discussed

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* Considering the mayor’s total opposition, I’ll believe this when I see this

The Illinois Senate sponsor of the Chicago elected school board bill says the legislation will likely undergo some changes in the coming weeks.

“We have identified some areas of improvement for the bill,” state Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) said in remarks after Monday’s City Club of Chicago talk about creating an elected school board in the city. […]

At issue is legislation that would create a 20-member elected school board in Chicago, starting in 2018. Under the bill, the state legislature would divide the city into 20 districts for the purpose of electing school board members. The school board’s chair would run citywide.

Raoul said the number of proposed school board members may be reduced in the Senate version of the bill.

“The proposal with a 20-member board may be too large,” Raoul said, adding that the legislation may also be tweaked to allow for runoff elections.

Whatever the case, Raoul is right about some of his changes, particularly the runoff aspect. Candidates should receive over half the votes, particularly with all the big money floating around out there these days and the very real potential for tons of candidates in the first couple of elections.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


*** LIVE COVERAGE *** Pat Quinn remap press conference

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* Our good pals at BlueRoomStream.com will stream the former governor’s press conference live at 10:30. Click here to watch it. And click here for background.

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Man who threatened Rauner gets misdemeanor charge, receives probation

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* I sure hope the prosecutors know what they’re doing on this one

A 31-year-old Elgin man accused of making a death threat to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner in May has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and was sentenced to two years of probation and six months wearing an alcohol-monitoring device.

Jesse Kuzma, of the 1100 block of West Highland Avenue, pleaded guilty Friday to attempt to threaten a public official, a misdemeanor, according to Kane County court records.

In addition to the probation and 180 days wearing the alcohol device, Kuzma was ordered to pay $1,840 in fines and fees.

Kane County Judge James Hallock accepted the plea, in which prosecutors reduced the original charge of felony threatening a public official, which had a punishment range of probation to up to five years in prison, records show.

* Background

Kane County prosecutors allege Kuzma called the Governor’s Office of Constituent Affairs around 11 p.m. May 7 and left a message stating, “If I ever see you, consider this your death threat.” Illinois State Police investigated the call and arrested Kuzma a few days later.

The political environment in this state is so toxic and so heavily ginned up by all sides, I’m just thankful that we haven’t seen more of this stuff.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Governor asked how he sleeps at night

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* Gov. Rauner was asked early this morning on NBC 5 about his vetoes of legislation to raise the pay of workers who care for people with developmental disabilities and a bill to expand child care assistance eligibility.

“I understand your position,” said Zoraida Sambolin about the governor’s oft stated desire to keep spending in line, “But at the end of the day when you go to bed at night, is it difficult for you to sleep knowing that you have to make these tough decisions?”

Check out his response

Short answer: No.

The guy was given a meatball right over the plate to show some humanity.

* Some background on the pay hike bill

At issue is legislation pushed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees that would raise the minimum wage for so-called direct support personnel to $15 an hour. Those workers help the developmentally disabled with daily tasks ranging from cooking and cleaning to taking medication.

Providers say their average hourly wage is about $9.35, which they said has led to a severe staffing shortage that’s forced some group homes to close and leave many families without the help they need. Two days earlier, Rauner himself acknowledged the “documented critical and growing shortage of direct support professionals throughout the United States” in a proclamation declaring that a week in September would honor support workers.

Art Dykstra, CEO of Trinity Services, a nonprofit that provides care for people with disabilities, said the state’s “service system is crumbling.

“We are getting to the point where we will have to ask families to consider taking their loved ones home on weekends because we can’t adequately staff the houses,” he said in a statement. [Emphasis added.]

The proclamation the governor signed last week is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


Munger hit on two online fronts

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

* Part of this may wind up in a TV ad, but the online spot is way too long for television right now

It was only a matter of time. Democrat Susana Mendoza’s campaign is out with its first confrontational spot against Comptroller Leslie Munger following Munger’s on-camera math mess at the Illinois State Fair.

It’s digital-only now but is likely to be slotted as a TV spot closer to the November election.

* Rate it

* Meanwhile…


* Um, not quite

This battle is rapidly approaching our US Senate race for meaninglessness.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      


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Tuesday, Aug 30, 2016

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