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*** UPDATED x1 - ILGOP slams Quinn *** On this point, I agree with Pat Quinn

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* From a press release…

In the aftermath of Thursday’s Illinois Supreme Court ruling against the Independent Map redistricting plan, former Governor Pat Quinn will offer a plan Tuesday which would be “fair and constitutional”.

“Voters deserve the chance to be heard on remap reform. Half a million voters signed petitions urging the question be put on the ballot but the language was fatally flawed,” Quinn said. “It’s back to the drawing board.”

Twice since 2014, courts have rejected proposals to reform Illinois’ partisan and archaic reapportionment process due to poorly-worded amendments.

“Unlike Independent Map’s plan, our language is simple, clean, and pristine,” Quinn said. As the only person in Illinois history to successfully amend the Constitution by referendum, Quinn will propose a redistricting referendum amendment which he is confident will pass constitutional muster.

In 1980, Quinn’s Cutback Amendment to cut the size of the Illinois Legislature by a third was approved by the Supreme Court, the only time such a reform has been accomplished using the power of referendum in Illinois history.

“Having won before the Supreme Court on the interpretation of Article IV, Section 3, I know the Justices’ legal concerns,” Quinn said.

Quinn plans to reach out to the Independent Map organizers to offer a new and improved version. The voters would be able to vote in a 2018 referendum on a redistricting reform amendment. If adopted by the voters, the plan would be in effect for the 2021 redistricting.

    WHEN: Tuesday, August 30, 2016, 10:30 a.m.

    WHERE: James R. Thompson Center
    15th Floor - Blue Room

* Part of the reason for the two-time failure of the Independent Maps plan was its overly complicated, Rube Goldberg processes for achieving its end result. It was just too easy to nitpick those plans to death.

If Quinn is truly pushing language that is “simple, clean, and pristine,” it might have a better shot. By simply dictating the desired outcome, rather than laying out the actual process in excruciating detail, it would avoid numerous Supreme Court pitfalls.

I get why the remap reformers tried it the other way. They simply don’t trust the General Assembly to come up with their desired outcome. But their way has failed twice in a row. It’s time for a different approach.

* On the other hand, Quinn signed the last remap into law, so he’s not exactly trustworthy on this particular stage. Still, it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with.

*** UPDATE ***  From the Illinois Republican Party…

“Pat Quinn is the very reason Illinois doesn’t already have fair maps. In 2011, Quinn signed into law the gerrymandered district lines we have today. Instead of standing up for reform when he was in charge of the state, Quinn worked with Mike Madigan to rig the political system in their favor. We don’t need Pat Quinn to fix Pat Quinn’s map.” – Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Steven Yaffe

In 2011, Governor Pat Quinn signed into law today’s gerrymandered district maps.

Instead of standing up to Mike Madigan and demanding redistricting reform when he had the chance, Quinn offered no resistance and worked with Madigan to rig the system.

In fact, members of Quinn’s own party blamed him in 2010 for killing a redistricting reform proposal that was likely to pass in the legislature.

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Today’s number: 26.8 percent

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* From Lauren Dickinson at The Pew Charitable Trusts…

Hi, Rich-

Today, The Pew Charitable Trusts released new research on trends in federal grants to states. Among the key findings, the analyses (here and here) show:

    · The share of states’ revenue from federal dollars rose only slightly from 2013-14, even with a jump in federal health grants from the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
    · Federal grants as a percentage of state revenue remain above historical averages, providing nearly $1 out of every $3 in state revenue in 2014.
    · States’ reliance on federal grants varies widely: At nearly 41 percent, Mississippi had the largest share of revenue from federal grants, while North Dakota had the smallest at 17 percent.

Pew experts are available to discuss this research. Also, state-specific data are available on the percentage of state revenue from federal funds in state fiscal year 2014.

Please contact me if you would like state-specific data, to schedule an interview, or if you have any questions.

Warmly,

Lauren

* So I asked for details on Illinois…

Hi, Rich—
For Illinois, 26.8% of state revenue came from federal funds in state fiscal year 2014.

The national average is 31 percent. More details are here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Bills gets 10 years for red light scheme

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* Tribune

John Bills, the central figure in a massive corruption scheme at City Hall, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for taking up to $2 million in bribes and gifts in return for steering tens of millions of dollars in red light camera contracts to an Arizona company.

The sentence came moments after Bills choked up in a packed federal courtroom and apologized for his actions and the shame it brought to his family.

Bills, 55, who rose through City Hall as part of the political patronage army of longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan, faced up to 30 years in prison for personally profiting in exchange for helping grow the city’s $600 million red-light camera program into the largest in the nation.

* Austin Berg with the Illinois Policy Institute

Prosecutors do not allege improper behavior by Madigan. But his involvement in Bills’ scheming is a case study in how entrenched political gatekeepers run the show in Illinois.

Yep on both counts. More from his piece

Bills was a top-performing precinct captain for Madigan’s ward operation for decades. And he began his career in Chicago’s Bureau of Electricity, “dubbed ‘Madigan Electric’ due to the number of 13th Ward loyalists employed there,” according to the Tribune.

Not only did Bills help Redflex buy its way into the city’s red-light-camera business, but he also worked to expand Redflex’s presence in Chicago to include speed cameras and stop-sign enforcement.

Federal prosecutors’ evidence showed Bills met with Madigan to discuss speed cameras.

In April 2010, O’Malley sent an email highlighting Bills’ efforts: “JB has talked to Speaker of the house Matigan [sic] about Speed. Time for you to have private meeting & presentation!!!”

Less than a year later, Madigan sponsored state legislation allowing speed cameras in Chicago. Former Gov. Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 965 into law Feb. 6, 2012.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Mistakes happen

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* From Dan Proft’s DuPage Policy Journal

Republican candidate for Illinois State Senate District 23 Seth Lewis’ Democratic opponent Sen. Tom Fullerton (D-Marion) was recently called out for his tax policies and inability to say no to House Speaker Mike Madigan.

OK, first of all it’s “Cullerton,” not “Fullerton.” My message app sometimes auto-corrects Cullerton to Fullerton, so maybe that’s what happened here because it’s spelled correctly elsewhere in the story.

But “D-Marion”? Um, Sen. Cullerton lives in Villa Park, which is 327 miles and worlds apart from Marion. Anyone who knows even a little about Illinois politics would’ve caught that error.

This is what can happen when your Illinois political reporter files a ton of slapped together stories from upstate New York.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      


Derren and Darwin Sorrells’ arrest record

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* Insanity

One of the men charged with killing the cousin of NBA star Dwyane Wade was “on his daily break from an electronic monitoring bracelet” at the time of the murder, Chicago police said Sunday.

An exasperated Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said at a news conference that Derren Sorrells’ ankle monitor wasn’t active when 32-year-old Nykea Aldridge was shot and killed in front of a school on Friday. Sorrells and his brother, Darwin Sorrells Jr., were charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder on Sunday.

“When Nykea Aldridge registered her child at school on Friday afternoon she wasn’t aware that shed be the subject of national headlines just hours later,” Johnson said.

Both brothers were known gang members and repeat offenders, Johnson said. Darwin had been out on parole since February and was a “career gun offender,” Johnson said. Derren had six prior felony arrests. Derren’s ankle monitor was inactive from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., ostensibly so he could look for work, Chicago police Cmdr. Brendan Deenihan said on Sunday.

“This individual chose to use his time by killing someone,” Deenihan said.

Police believe the Sorrells brothers intended to shoot the driver of a vehicle that ferried Aldridge to the school where she was attempting to register her child. The driver, who immediately cooperated with police, was allegedly targeted because he “exchanges looks” with the suspects and was from out of town, Deenihan said. The Sorrells tried chasing the driver down and fired at him, police said, but instead hit Aldridge, who was pushing a baby carriage. […]

Deenihan said investigators were able to identify the Sorrells after viewing surveillance video from the school and speaking with a school security officer.

* Heavy.com has the details of their records

Derren Sorrells, 22, was paroled on August 12, 2016, just two weeks before Aldridge was murdered, after being imprisoned since 2013, according to Department of Corrections records. He has tattoos of a cross and the word “God.”

The Department of Corrections provided this sentencing history for him:

    OFFENSE: AID/ABET/POSS/SELL STOLEN VEH
    CUSTODY DATE: 08/28/2012
    SENTENCE: 6 Years 0 Months 0 Days
    COUNTY: COOK
    SENTENCE DISCHARGED?: NO

    OFFENSE: ESCAPE/VIOLATE ELEC MONITORING
    CUSTODY DATE: 08/28/2012
    SENTENCE: 2 Years 0 Months 0 Days
    COUNTY: COOK
    SENTENCE DISCHARGED?: NO

In addition to the sentencing history, Derren Sorrells had six felony arrests, said Fox News. […]

According to police, Derren Sorrells was on an ankle bracelet when Aldridge was killed, but it was “inactive,” said Fox News.

So, he was convicted for violating his electronic monitoring program but then given yet another ankle bracelet? Not all that bright, if you ask me, and nobody did, but still…

* On to Darwin Sorrells

According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, Darwin Sorrells is on parole. He was paroled on Feb. 10, 2016, says the DOC. He was listed as being 26-years-old, and 5 foot 8 inches tall and 175 pounds with numerous tattoos, including one of the Chicago skyline and another of a cross that says “RIP Tywon.”

The Corrections Department says Darwin Sorrells has this criminal sentencing history:

    OFFENSE: RECEIVE/POSS/SELL STOLEN VEH
    CUSTODY DATE: 01/10/2013
    SENTENCE: 6 Years 0 Months 0 Days
    COUNTY: COOK
    SENTENCE DISCHARGED?: NO

    OFFENSE: FELON POSS/USE FIREARM PRIOR
    CUSTODY DATE: 01/10/2013
    SENTENCE: 6 Years 0 Months 0 Days
    COUNTY: COOK
    SENTENCE DISCHARGED?: NO

    OFFENSE: AGG UNLWFL USE WEAPON/VEH/2ND
    CUSTODY DATE: 04/01/2011
    SENTENCE: 5 Years 0 Months 0 Days
    COUNTY: COOK
    SENTENCE DISCHARGED?: YES

    OFFENSE: AGG BATTERY/PUBLIC PLACE
    CUSTODY DATE: 09/09/2007
    SENTENCE: 0 Years 90 Months 0 Days
    COUNTY: COOK
    SENTENCE DISCHARGED?: YES

    OFFENSE: AGG BATTERY/GREAT BODILY HARM
    CUSTODY DATE: 09/09/2007
    SENTENCE: 0 Years 90 Months 0 Days
    COUNTY: COOK
    SENTENCE DISCHARGED?: YES

A felony bust for possession/use of a firearm with a prior gun conviction (among other things) and he does just two years?

This is exactly the type of thing I was talking about in my latest newspaper column. If they’re in prison, they’re not killing people on the street.

- Posted by Rich Miller   52 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Isikoff hacking scoop criticized

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* The Michael Isikoff elections board hacking story is getting a lot of traction out there. But cyber security specialist John Bambenek has read the FBI “Flash” memorandum that Isikoff wrote about (and which admonishes against release to the media and general public) and says Isikoff got it wrong…

The Isikoff article takes great liberties with both the details of the FBI Flash Bulletin and the facts of the matter to claim dangerous “foreign adversaries” are attacking boards of elections.

I have seen some of those IPs attack one of my own servers and it’s unlikely sophisiticated foreign adversaries are really that interested in data from my unsuccessful 2012 State Senate run.

The use of a foreign IP has no relationship to the nationality of the attacker. I personally have infrastructure in many countries, that doesn’t make me Chinese, Russian, Brazilian, American, German and French all at the same time.

A cursory exam of the data shows the IP addresses involved are commodity web scanners that constantly scan the entire internet for basic web vulnerabilities.

While it is important to highlight the risks of these threats and practice basic web application security, we ought not to stretch the truth and engage in fear mongering where none is warranted. We have the defenses required for these types of attacks, they need only be implemented.

Bambenek also told me, “Nation states don’t SQL inject through Tor.” I’ve added explanatory hyperlinks to help you parse what he’s saying.

*** UPDATE ***  The FBI alert is here.

* From the Tribune

[Ken Menzel, general counsel for the elections board] said there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the cyberattack was foreign.

“We know foreign servers were used, but it’s not conclusive that foreign actors were involved,” Menzel said. He said the FBI has “their reasons for suspecting foreign involvement, other than just some foreign servers were used.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Rauner says he won’t be involved in Murphy replacement

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* And if you believe this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that just happens to be for sale

Gov. Bruce Rauner said Friday he doesn’t plan to get involved in replacing state Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican and top ally who announced his resignation earlier this month.

“I’m not going to be particularly involved,” Rauner said. “There’s a process that will unfold. And local leaders very much control that process, and I assume they’ll come up with a very good person.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Duckworth ridiculed for ineffectiveness as she runs new ad

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* From the Illinois Republican Party

The “Chicago Tonight” panel had a good laugh over the weekend. The punchline?

Tammy Duckworth’s legislative accomplishments – or lack thereof.

Watch what happened when WTTW anchor Joel Weisman asked his panel to name a single Duckworth accomplishment from her time in Washington:

    JOEL WEISMAN: Do you know of some of her accomplishments?

    KATE GROSSMAN: I don’t know – I don’t know off the top of my – I know she’s been involved with veterans’ affairs in multiple ways but I don’t know – I can’t list her accomplishments.

    MARY WISNIEWSKI: I think for some Democrats, it might be enough that she’s a Democrat and they can, you know – and you have another Democrat in the Senate and she’ll be junior to one of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate and will take directions from him.

With an effectiveness score of zero, Duckworth’s tenure in Washington has literally turned into a joke.

And, as the Chicago Tribune’s Mary Wisniewski explained, Democrats are willing to look past Duckworth’s award-winning ineffectiveness because she would simply “take directions” from Dick Durbin.

* Video

* Meanwhile…

Tammy Duckworth’s campaign for U.S. Senate is out today with a new ad, entitled “Granite City.” The 30-second spot features laid-off steelworkers discussing the uncertainty they’re facing as a result of unfair trade practices. Granite City is a Metro East community where the local steel mill began laying off more than 2,000 workers two days after Christmas. Duckworth has visited Granite City several times as a candidate for U.S. Senate, most recently this past Saturday. Earlier this year, she sat down with laid off workers and their families at the United Steel Workers union hall. While the initial announcement indicated the layoffs would be temporary, the plant remains shuttered today.

Last week, in a speech to the City Club of Chicago, Duckworth released her new economic plan to support a strong workforce and create new opportunities for Illinois families, with a special focus on strengthening Illinois’ manufacturing sector. You can find her new plan HERE.

“Tammy is running for Senate to help families like her own — families that have been knocked down but haven’t given up. She supports trade policies that put Illinois workers first, not multinational corporations. Republican Mark Kirk, on the other hand, refers to himself as an ‘ardent free trader’ and has routinely supported bad trade deals and policies that put American workers at a disadvantage, like protecting tax breaks companies use when they ship jobs overseas. Illinois deserves a Senator who will fight for their jobs and that’s Tammy Duckworth,” said Duckworth deputy campaign manager Matt McGrath.

“Granite City” has begun running statewide, in rotation with the Duckworth biographical spot, “Adversity.”

* The ad

* Script…

Justin: You didn’t know when you was gonna get laid off, and then, bam, two days after Christmas.

Duckworth: My dad, he was in his late 50’s. He lost his job because the company he was working for was sold, and no one would hire a 50-something-year-old man.

Anthony: The imports are really bad…China, Korea. It’s junk steel.

Duckworth: Mark Kirk describes himself as an ardent free-trader, and that is a fundamental difference between us. I am a fair-trader.

Anthony: He’s not supposed to work for China, he’s supposed to fight for our jobs.

Duckworth: I’m Tammy Duckworth, and I approved this message.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* Your own suggestions?…


- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Illinois prison population drops 8.7 percent in two years

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s radio network

New numbers released by the Illinois Department of Corrections show that Illinois’ prison population dropped by 2,485 in the past year and by more than 4,200 since fiscal 2014.

The total prison population was 44,680 as of July 1, down from 47,165 in June 2015 and 48,921 in June 2014.

Gov. Bruce Rauner resolved to reduce the prison population by 25 percent over the next decade. He devised the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform to come up with recommendations to reach the goal. While the downward trend started before the commission released its recommendations and passed subsequent legislation, recommendations from the commission have been taken up by judges and law enforcement. […]

[The head of the John Howard Association, Jennifer Vollen-Katz] said that, even with the new lower number, Illinois’ prison system is still over capacity by nearly 12,000. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, taxpayers pay approximately $40,000 every year to incarcerate someone in Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Another attempt to explain the Trump phenomenon

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* Sociologist Arlie Hochschild spent five years in Louisiana’s bayou country trying to figure out the folks who eventually turned into Donald Trump supporters. Her new book Strangers in Their Own Land is the result

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that many on the political right have been duped into voting against their interests. In the right-wing world she explores, Hochschild discovers powerful forces—fear of cultural eclipse, economic decline, perceived government betrayal—which override self-interest, as progressives see it, and help explain the emotional appeal of a candidate like Donald Trump. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in “red” America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from “liberal” government intervention abhor the very idea?

* Hochschild distilled her book down to this essay

What the people I interviewed were drawn to was not necessarily the particulars of these [far right conspiracy] theories. It was the deep story underlying them—an account of life as it feels to them. Some such account underlies all beliefs, right or left, I think. The deep story of the right goes like this:

    You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He’s on their side. In fact, isn’t he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It’s not your government anymore; it’s theirs.

I checked this distillation with those I interviewed to see if this version of the deep story rang true. Some altered it a bit (”the line-waiters form a new line”) or emphasized a particular point (those in back are paying for the line-cutters). But all of them agreed it was their story. One man said, “I live your analogy.” Another said, “You read my mind.”

Lots more stuff in there, so go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      


Rauner schooled on school funding

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* Gov. Rauner visited this place last week

Rebound is an alternative education program under the umbrella of Carbondale Community High School and open to any student throughout the region. Rebound serves about 225 students annually who have dropped out of traditional high schools for a variety of reasons, and about 85 at-risk students who are provided additional supportive services.

* And then this happened

“It’s very inspirational to be here and see this,” Rauner said following his tour on Friday morning. The governor said he would be talking with his staff about ways the state can provide more support to alternative high school programs.

Rauner noted that K-12 schools were the only state-funded service to receive a full budget this year, and that lawmakers approved and he signed a deal to increase the amount of money going to schools.

But Rebound and other schools like it were not included in that deal.

“I did not know — this is something I learned today — that this particular segment of our education system did not get a full year (funding) in the stopgap because I wanted to make sure all of K-12 got a full year.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Dem calls Rep. Kay “misogynist,” Kay fires back

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* Press release…

On the 45th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day, State Rep. Dwight Kay continued his long-standing attacks on women. After publicly suggesting women who use birth control are immoral, Dwight Kay’s latest attack on women suggests his opponent, educator Katie Stuart, isn’t even capable of driving a car. Kay’s piece portrays Stuart as a smiling passenger helping “navigate” while a man drives the vehicle.

“Dwight Kay continues to treat women like second-class citizens,” Stuart said. “Dwight Kay has repeatedly failed to stand up for women’s rights, putting corporate profits over equality in the workplace by voting against equal pay protections, voting against requiring insurance companies to cover birth control, and failing to support programs that protect women and their health, such as life-saving breast cancer screenings, domestic violence shelters and services for victims of sexual assault. So his latest stunt is just a continuation of his pattern of disrespect and outright scorn for women.”

Kay’s attacks on women date all the way back to his first year in office, when he voted against holding corporations accountable for failing to pay women equal pay for equal work, and reached a highpoint earlier this year when Kay made radically out of touch comments when debating a bill requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of birth control. “I seriously question how much promiscuity should an insurance company pay (for),” Kay said during debate on the bill in April.

Soon after, Kay voted multiple times against critical funding for life-saving breast cancer screenings, domestic violence shelters and victims of sexual assault. Continuing to show his lack of respect for women, Kay voted three times against a bill allowing women who are victims of domestic violence to take additional time off work to seek medical care, legal assistance and put their lives back together.

“On the 45th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day, Representative Kay continued his unrelenting attack on women,” Stuart said. “The people of the 112th district deserve better than having a misogynist representing them in Springfield.”

* The mailer…

* React

Kay said there was no sexist intent in the ad — only a goal of showing that Madigan’s tenure has hurt downstate and the rest of Illinois, and that Stuart would be beholden to Madigan. Kay said he wonders if Stuart would be happy if the ad depicted Stuart serving as Madigan’s driver.

“If it would make her feel better to switch drivers, we could certainly do that,” Kay said. “Would she prefer to have the places switched? And have her chauffeuring around Speaker Madigan, who certainly is supporting her? Maybe that’s something we should do; maybe that’s a good thought.” […]

Kay said Sunday he will be issuing a challenge to Stuart, asking her to sign a pledge that she won’t vote for Madigan to serve as the House speaker if she’s elected.

Kay said Stuart’s criticism of the mailer is an attempt to “gin up interest in a campaign that’s failing.”

“I care about and respect all women, men and children I serve as state representative. For my opponent to say otherwise is wrong,” Kay said.

That’s a pretty good pivot by Kay (who is advertising on the fairly expensive St. Louis radio station KMOX at last check). Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


Falling into his own trap

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* Remember this Chicago police and fire pension bill that the General Assembly passed in the spring?

Over the short term, the bill would have reduced how much taxpayers contribute to the retirement funds by hundreds of millions of dollars a year. But that delay would come at a cost of billions of dollars over the long haul. By paying less upfront, the city would see its pension debt continue to grow.

* The governor vetoed that bill and was then overridden. Gov. Rauner was not amused

“Clearly, those who supported this measure haven’t recognized what happens when governments fail to promptly fund pension obligations,” [Gov. Bruce Rauner] said. “Instead of kicking the can down the road, local and state governments should instead focus on reforms that will grow our economy, create jobs and enable us live up to the promises we’ve made to police and firefighters.”

In vetoing the bill Friday afternoon, Rauner called the measure “irresponsible” and warned “the cost to Chicago taxpayers” in the long run is “truly staggering.”

The bill allowed the city to avoid a $300 million tax hike.

* Finke

And then we have last week. Gov. BRUCE RAUNER’s administration let it be known it didn’t want the Teachers’ Retirement System board to vote to lower the estimated rate of return it would get on its investments. Although that recommendation comes from actuaries not under anyone’s political control, the administration said the process needed more scrutiny and input before the decision was made.

It also made note that lowering investment returns would cost the state money that could not then go to education and other programs.

Fair enough, but the other point to remember is this. Overestimating investment returns would save the state money in the short term, but that doesn’t mean the bill goes away. It just shoves it off into the future. It’s sort of a variation on the old practice of simply shorting the money outright.

For Rauner, it would make budget life a little easier next year, not to mention possibly helping to hold down the size of the tax hike everyone seems to acknowledge is coming. As for making the pension systems any healthier, probably not so much.

Subscribers know more about the motivations here, but the governor clearly fell into his own rhetorical trap on this one.

…Adding…
I’m not sure who thought of it first, but it really doesn’t matter. Greg Hinz made the same comparison to the Chicago pension veto.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


They knew the odds were stacked against them going in

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* Chuck Sweeny

If anyone doubted House Speaker Michael Madigan’s total control of the state of Illinois, Thursday’s state Supreme Court decision throwing the Independent Map amendment off the Nov. 8 ballot should erase that doubt.

In a party-line vote, the Democratic-controlled court ruled 4-3 against the amendment, which would have removed control of the legislative district mapping process from politicians and given it to an 11-member independent commission that would draw a fair map that wouldn’t favor the Republicans or the Democrats.

This is exactly why the Independent Maps folks should’ve more closely followed the road map they were handed two years ago by Judge Mikva. The legal and political odds were already heavily against them. Why draw outside those very narrow lines when the Supremes will undoubtedly force you to stay within them?

I still don’t get it, but the Republicans now have a great issue for November and it’s the fault of Democrats for not putting their own redistricting idea on the ballot. Have fun, boys and girls.

* More

But the elite said no. And their kangaroo court said no. So where do we go from here?

Nowhere, that’s where. We’re stuck. We’ve been fixed by Doctor Mike.

The only thing we can do is elect different people, and the way the legislative map has been fixed by Madigan, that’s virtually impossible. The districts have been drawn to give Democrats a comfortable majority, and the Republicans who are left don’t complain much because the Democrats made sure the Republicans got nice, safe districts in which to languish for the rest of their natural lives. As long as they remain out of the way and don’t make noise, it’s just fine with Mike and his Minions.

The districts aren’t all completely safe for Democrats. As we’ve discussed before, the Republican Rauner won 15 of the 39 Senate districts currently represented by Democrats. And four years earlier, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady won almost as many.

* That’s why the governor’s current campaign spending is so important

Of the $5.59 million the House Republican Organization has received (and begun sending to candidates) since June 30, all but $38,500 has come from the Illinois Republican Party. And of the $15.2 million the party has received since March 31, $15 million came from Rauner’s campaign committee, of which one Bruce Rauner overwhelmingly is the largest donor. In other words, the governor is the House Republicans’ bank.

And keep in mind that some of those GOP campaigns started their bigtime spending a whole lot earlier than June 30th.

* More

The House Republican Organization, the campaign arm of the minority House GOP caucus, has dropped more than $420,000 in cable TV ads for a dozen candidates either running against Democratic targets or trying to keep office, reports show.

Top on the list is $157,590 for ads on behalf of Republican Rod Drobinski of Wauconda, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Sam Yingling of Grayslake.

Another $64,140 was spent on Republican Rep. Sheri Jesiel of Winthrop Harbor, who is being challenged by Democrat Nick Ciko of Lindenhurst.

The Republican State Senate Campaign Committee also is spending $172,875 on cable ads, including $71,430 on behalf of Republican Seth Lewis of Bartlett, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park.

* I came up with an idea to perhaps solve this remap problem over the weekend, but I think I’ll save that for a column.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Illinois wasn’t the only hacked state elections board

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* We talked about the Illinois hack last month, but Michael Isikoff has more

The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers penetrated two state election databases in recent weeks, prompting the bureau to warn election officials across the country to take new steps to enhance the security of their computer systems, according to federal and state law enforcement officials.

The FBI warning, contained in a “flash” alert from the FBI’s Cyber Division, a copy of which was obtained by Yahoo News, comes amid heightened concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about the possibility of cyberintrusions, potentially by Russian state-sponsored hackers, aimed at disrupting the November elections.

Those concerns prompted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to convene a conference call with state election officials on Aug. 15, in which he offered his department’s help to make state voting systems more secure, including providing federal cyber security experts to scan for vulnerabilities, according to a “readout” of the call released by the department.

Johnson emphasized in the call that Homeland Security was not aware of “specific or credible cybersecurity threats” to the election, officials said. But three days after that call, the FBI Cyber Division issued a potentially more disturbing warning, entitled “Targeting Activity Against State Board of Election Systems.” The alert, labeled as restricted for “NEED TO KNOW recipients,” disclosed that the bureau was investigating cyberintrusions against two state election websites this summer, including one that resulted in the “exfiltration,” or theft, of voter registration data. “It was an eye opener,” one senior law enforcement official said of the bureau’s discovery of the intrusions. “We believe it’s kind of serious, and we’re investigating.”

One of those two states was Illinois.

* On Friday, the State Board of Elections posted a timeline of the hack and this brief update

As a result of informing the Illinois Attorney General’s office of the breach, the SBE was contacted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We have fully cooperated with the FBI in their ongoing investigation to determine who was responsible for the attack and to prosecute the offender(s).

The Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) has been very helpful by providing web traffic logs and assisting with web server log analysis.

The FBI advised that we work with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) to ensure there is no ongoing malicious activity on any of SBE’s systems. We have provided DHS with the log files that we obtained from DoIT.

* Back to Isikoff’s piece

Hackers could conceivably use intrusions into voter registration databases to delete names from voter registration lists, although in most states, voters can request provisional ballots at the polls, allowing time for discrepancies to be resolved, an official of the National Association of Secretaries of State told Yahoo News. Still, according to Barger, the cybersecurity expert, such attacks can be used to create havoc and sow doubt over the election results.

As a result, the FBI alert urges state officials to take additional steps to secure their systems, including conducting “vulnerability scans” of their databases. In addition, the bulletin urges officials to sharply restrict access to their databases. “Implement the principle of least privilege for database accounts,” the FBI alert reads. It adds that “any given user should have access to only the bare minimum set of resources required to perform business tasks.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Putting these pieces together will require more than just “monologuing”

Monday, Aug 29, 2016

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Gov. Bruce Rauner said last week that he has never spoken with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel or any legislators about a much-anticipated proposal to toughen penalties for gun crimes.

“I’ve not discussed that issue with the mayor myself,” he said, adding, “Frankly, I’m talking with legislators all the time. They have not brought that issue up with me.”

Rauner was referring to legislation currently being drafted by state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, to increase penalties for people who are busted with guns who aren’t legally authorized to possess them because of, for instance, prior felony convictions.

Emanuel and his various police chiefs have demanded such a law for years because far too many violent criminals are getting out of prison too quickly and are then committing more crimes. But a push to pass a bill stalled out a couple of years ago after members of the Legislative Black Caucus demanded that the General Assembly first roll back some other legal punishments.

Every year, legislators jack up penalties for crimes, often because their local news outlets make a big deal about a local criminal act. And every year more people who could be living productive lives are instead trapped even longer in the criminal justice system. The pendulum had simply moved too far in one direction and African-American legislators wanted to push it back the other way. Not to mention that the original enhanced penalty bill would have cost the state millions of dollars it didn’t have.

Rauner came into office promising to reduce the state’s prison population by 25 percent, so his goal dovetailed nicely with Black Caucus demands for reduced punishments on nonviolent offenses.

But with gun violence spiking way up in Chicago, why isn’t Rauner working with legislators and the mayor to find a solution?

Raoul and Zalewski both confirmed that they hadn’t spoken with Rauner about their proposal.

“Technically he is right,” Raoul said about the governor’s statement. But, he said, “I insisted that the Chicago Police Department keep (the governor’s) public safety director apprised, and they/we have. We have not drafted the legislation yet, so there have not been multiple meetings, but his director of public safety did receive a briefing on the concept a couple of months ago.”

Other legislators said privately that there was no need to bring Rauner directly into the talks yet because no legislative language has emerged. They’re still working out the finer points with stakeholders, including the National Rifle Association, which is supportive in general but reportedly has some issues with some minor details, like, for instance, making sure medical marijuana patients are exempted from any enhanced gun penalties.

Zalewski said that, while he hadn’t yet spoken directly to Rauner, he believes passing such a law “makes sense” in the context of the governor’s advocacy for criminal justice reforms.

Rauner, Zalewski said, will need to give legislators political cover for passing the bills necessary to meet his goal of lowering the prison population by a quarter. There is a real fear for some legislators of being tagged as “soft on crime,” so upping penalties on bad guys could balance out votes for reducing penalties for others.

And still others said the governor’s claims that he talks with legislators “all the time” don’t quite provide the complete picture. “He ‘calls’ occasionally,” said one legislator. “But then he just talks. There’s no back and forth. He just talks. And then he says, ‘Look forward to talking again’ and hangs up. That’s not talking. That’s monologuing.”

Anyway, last week Rauner held a Chicago press conference with some of the most liberal Democratic members of the House and Senate to sign a large pile of criminal justice reform bills into law.

The signing ceremony was unusual because Rauner has typically approved those types of bills on a late Friday afternoon without even so much as a press release. In the past, it seemed as if he didn’t want to needlessly alienate his conservative Republican base by too publicly attaching himself to that sort of legislation. But with a general election coming up, Rauner appears to be attaching himself to issues that independents and Democrats prefer.

Hopefully soon the governor can help craft a final agreement to address the other side of this criminal justice coin. Yes, it will cost more money and it won’t help him keep his promise to reduce the prison population, but the hard reality is some people just need to be locked behind bars for longer than they are now.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      


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