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Editorial Boards Across the State Oppose the Exelon Bailout - Will Lawmakers Continue to Rush Through the Largest Rate Hike in U.S. History?

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Chicago Tribune, 11/29/16 - Rescue 2 Illinois nukes? Why Springfield shouldn’t pick winners and losers

 “…Repeatedly putting the thumb of government on the scale to determine which energy industries win and lose is no way to run an economy… Rushing to pass this very complex legislation, with its additional government distortion of the robust energy supply market, is the wrong way for Springfield to expend energy.

State Journal Register, 11/30/16 - Our View: Too many unknowns remain regarding energy legislation

“A massive energy policy overhaul that affects every resident and business should not be rushed through the handful of days dedicated to the fall Veto Session..”

Crain’s, 11/26/16 - Energy bill improved, but again—why the bailout for money-losing nukes?

“…one troubling fact remains: Exelon is getting a bailout… In any other business, owners themselves would have to deal with a money-losing operation. Exelon thinks it’s exceptional, however. Why should Illinoisans absorb the cost of keeping these unneeded plants open?

Chicago Sun-Times, 11/16/16 - Springfield electric bill fails to put customer first

“This is no way to encourage manufacturers and residents to choose Illinois… this bill fails to put the customer first.”


Stop the $13 billion Exelon bailout.  Vote NO on SB 2814


BEST Coalition is a 501C4 nonprofit group of dozens of business, consumer and government groups, as well as large and small businesses.  Visit

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AFSCME cites documents as proof of “bullying,” Rauner admin says it’s just “good legal advice”

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* From AFSCME Council 31

Documents recently provided to AFSCME by an anonymous whistleblower inside state government reveal that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has established a new division dedicated to restricting employees’ rights inside his Department of Central Management Services.

Dubbed the Labor and Employment Advisory Division (LEAD), the group is intended to “gain and maintain control over the workforce”, documents show.

Among the group’s stated goals are to “mitigate external interference with employer-employee relationship” (a bit of management jargon that’s usually code for union-busting) and “implement systems that reward and recognize high performers” (a euphemism for so-called “merit pay” schemes that open the door to favoritism and political influence).

Its listed “tactical objectives” include to “invigorate management’s ability to discipline … employees” and “reduce unionization among managers and supervisors”. The administration has already begun a systematic effort to strip union representation from employees who years ago were found not to be managerial and thus have the legal right to join a union.

On a list of supposed “tools for building a better workforce”, first is “Reinvigorated employee discipline”. Also noted are so-called “merit pay” and “managed competition” (aka privatization) schemes.

Five subsequent pages dated Nov. 2, 2016 list “LEAD lawyers” assigned to each agency of state government.

“These documents reveal Bruce Rauner’s adversarial attitude toward the tens of thousands of state employees who provide vital services to Illinois residents,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “He won’t work toward a budget for priorities like schools and human services, but he’s diverting public resources to intimidate workers and undermine their union rights.

“State workers do difficult jobs, often without adequate resources. They protect kids, respond to emergencies, care for the vulnerable and keep us safe,” Lynch said. “Added to his attempts to freeze their pay and double their health care, the governor’s campaign to silence their voices threatens to create a hostile work environment and drive morale to an all-time low.

“Maybe as a billionaire CEO, Bruce Rauner used bullying tactics to get his way,” Lynch added, “but public service workers are not property to be ‘controlled’, workplace democracy is not ‘external interference’, and threats of ‘invigorated discipline’ are the worst possible way to motivate a workforce.”

The document is here.

* Rauner administration’s response…

This is a misleading distraction from AFSCME’s refusal to work with the administration on implementing our last best and final offer. LEAD is part of the State’s employee relations efforts.

Like most employers in the country, the state recognizes that good legal advice on the front end helps reduce litigation risks and goes a long way to restoring an ethical working environment free of unlawful discrimination or employee misconduct.

Rather than misleading and protesting overtime after 40 hours, merit pay, bereavement leave and testing employees if they’re suspected of being drunk or using drugs on the job, it’s time to work together on implementing the state’s fair and reasonable contract that is similar to the same contracts ratified by 18 other unions.

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* Caption?…

- Posted by Rich Miller   70 Comments      

Rauner to Madigan: No stopgap budget without term limits and property tax freeze

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* According to the governor’s office, during today’s leaders meeting, after Speaker Madigan made clear he would not negotiate on reforms and would only negotiate a stopgap spending bill, Gov. Rauner declared he would only consider a stopgap spending bill if the General Assembly first passes term limits and a “permanent property tax freeze.”

I’m told he also made clear his preference remains a balanced budget with reforms where no one reform had to be included.

Is a final showdown coming early next year when the state’s checkbook runs dry? If people stick to their guns, it sure looks like it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   101 Comments      

*** UPDATED x2 - No Rauner brick on resolutions - Republican leaders dance around tax hike talk *** Madigan says House will vote today on if it wants a “Rauner lame duck tax increase”

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* House Speaker Michael Madigan emerged from the leaders’ meeting after about 90 minutes to say, “The House will vote today on the question of whether there should be a Rauner lame duck tax increase.”

That means they’ll vote on at least one of the resolutions moved out of committee today that would put members on record as being opposed to a tax increase during January’s lame duck session.

* Madigan also shot back at those who criticized him for not attending yesterday’s meeting. “I am available,” he said. “I was available when Gov. Rauner was in Rome. I was available when Sen. Radogno was not available before Thanksgiving.” He refused to answer questions about this week’s Republican Party attacks.

Rep. Greg Harris said the governor’s budget director gave a “very good review” of the work that was done during the working groups earlier this year. House Democrats, Harris said, sent a letter to the other three caucuses to suggest that the working groups be reconstituted and their recommendations updated.

*** UPDATE 1 ***  Leader Durkin emerged from the leaders meeting and said “Unfortunately, the Speaker isn’t interested” in negotiating with the Republicans on the governor’s reforms. He did say, however, that Senate President Cullerton was engaged on the topic.

Durkin said it was Madigan who had been demanding a tax hike, not the Republicans, pointing to Madigan’s 2015 City Club address. But, he said the Republicans want a “true balanced budget.”

But asked whether a budget could truly be balanced without a tax hike, Leader Radogno said, “I think the governor’s said repeatedly that… it’s an option” along with reforms. “The reforms are integral to the budget,” Radogno said.

Asked whether term limits were integral to the budget, Leader Radogno said it had to do with the “perception of the state” by business owners in their decision to expand or locate here.

“Grow up,” Leader Radogno said to a question about whether Madigan ought to be upset considering this week’s Republican Party attacks.

Radogno said the leaders will meet again tomorrow and Friday.

*** UPDATE 2 *** The governor’s office has told Republican legislators that if they want to vote for the anti-lame duck tax hike resolutions they should feel free to do so.

Meanwhile, some Democrats contend this memo from the governor’s chief of staff means that Rauner has been plotting a lame duck tax hike in January, even though it basically just says the same thing that Rauner has been saying for two years…

By the way, a top Rauner administration called the contention that this is evidence of some plot, “truly pathetic.” The Democrats are, he said “devoid of new ideas. They can’t get over the fact that they got their clocks cleaned in November.”

Yeah, we’re making tons o’ progress here, campers.

- Posted by Rich Miller   67 Comments      

Illinois on track to lose yet another US House seat

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* Illinois peaked at 27 US House seats after the 1910 census and has been losing seats after every census since the 1940s. So, this is no surprise, but is still quite depressing…

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - AFSCME vows court challenge ***Rauner imposes “reasonable” drug and alcohol testing on workers

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* Press release…

Rauner Administration to Implement Reasonable Suspicion of Alcohol and Drug Testing

Governor Bruce Rauner’s Administration today announced that the state will begin testing employees who exhibit behaviors that create a reasonable suspicion that they are under the influence of a banned substance or alcohol.

“Employees who are under the influence of a banned substance or alcohol while on the job present a risk to their co-workers and to the taxpayers they serve,” said Dennis Murashko, the Governor’s General Counsel. “Being impaired also prevents employees from being able to perform their job duties effectively. By implementing this commonsense proposal, we are taking the necessary steps to further protect the health and safety of our employees and those they serve.”

The proposal, which was part of the state’s last, best and final offer during contract negotiations, does not allow for random drug and alcohol testing. Rather, it only allows the state to test employees if “specific objective facts and circumstances warrant rational inferences that a person may be under the influence of alcohol or a banned substance.”

Those “facts and circumstances” include:

    · Observable phenomena such as direct observation of use or the physical symptoms of using or being under the influence of controlled substances such as, but not limited to: slurred speech, direct involvement in a serious accident, or disorientation;
    · A pattern of abnormal conduct or erratic behavior; and,
    · Information provided either by reliable and credible sources or which is independently corroborated.

Guidance will be provided to supervisors on what types of behavior create a reasonable suspicion that an employee is under the influence of alcohol or a banned substance. Generally, employees that test positively for intoxication will be suspended for 30 days and will be enrolled in a confidential Employee Assistance Program for substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation. All records concerning tests would remain confidential.

* Meanwhile…

*** UPDATE ***  AFSCME’s response to the governor’s move

“They’re trying to distract from their refusal to negotiate. They’re trying to distract from their attempt to force working people to pay 100 percent more for health care. They’re trying to distract from their attempt to cut the pay of public service workers,” AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall said.

Lindall said AFSCME – which represents 38,000 state workers – would challenge in court any attempt to carry out the drug and alcohol testing policy.

“The Rauner administration broke off negotiations and walked away from the bargaining table back in January, and has wasted more than 10 months in refusing to even meet with our union bargaining committee. If they want to address this issue or any other issue, they should renew negotiations,” he said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   71 Comments      

Hey! Cub fans!

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* The news, with a bit of context…

* A little react…

* Caption?…

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

Rauner administration agrees in principle to Exelon deal

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* I’m told by a source very close to the negotiations that Gov. Rauner’s administration has agreed “in principle” to support a new deal on the bill to prevent the closure of two of Exelon’s nuclear power plants and expand alternative energy sources.

I’m also told there are “hard” caps on rate increases for residential ratepayers and commercial users, and the proposed microgrids and some other items have been dropped from the measure to save money.

There have been plenty of doubts around the rail that the Rauner administration could actually get something done here. But they negotiated well into the night last night (when things just about fell apart) and then restarted bright and early this morning (6 o’clock) and got it done.

Waiting on react and more details. Stay tuned.

…Adding… Exelon folks have confirmed this as well.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Meeting begins *** A bit much over a meeting

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* Um, OK…

* The cartoonist’s explanation

Illinois Speaker Mike Madigan, acting as the petulant Czar of the state, has once again not shown up to a meeting of Illinois leaders. A post-election get-together to discuss budget issues that plague this state. (Madigan lost his super majority in the Illinois House of Representatives due largely to money spent by Governor Bruce Rauner). If this dysfunctional mess of a state government is ever going to be righted, the Speaker has to man-up and put the concerns of the people of Illinois ahead of his own fragile ego. A feat Madigan has yet to do in his decades long domination of state government.

Madigan’s spokesman told me yesterday his boss will show up for the leaders meeting at 10 o’clock today. As of 10:05, though, nobody was there yet. You can follow the progress on our live coverage post.

*** UPDATE ***  The meeting has begun…

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

More completely unacceptable state government behavior

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* Apparently, Illinois government isn’t competent enough to take care of anybody. Severely disabled adults are horrifically mistreated, female prisoners are abused, and kids in the state’s custody are urged by guards to fight each other

The American Civil Liberties Union is applauding indictments announced this week against four guards at the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles, where law enforcement officials say detainees were encouraged to attack others as a form of discipline.

The civil rights group also is pointing to the allegations as evidence that an ongoing consent decree involving the two organizations is still necessary.

“We are pleased to see the state is moving forward to investigate these incidents of abuse and to hold the staff accountable,” ACLU spokesman Edwin Yohnka said. “Because nobody in (Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice facilities) should ever be subjected to the kind of horrific mistreatment that is described in these indictments.” […]

Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon alleges the guards, led by Klimek, encouraged juvenile residents to physically attack other residents, according to court records. The four are accused of facilitating attacks and standing by while they happened, he said.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in 2012 challenging conditions and services at six state-run juvenile justice facilities around Illinois. The suit led to a consent decree jointly filed in federal court by the ACLU and the Department of Juvenile Justice in 2014. The pact outlined improvements to schooling, mental health treatment plans, protections for LGBT youths, an end to solitary confinement as a form of discipline and stricter limitations on when and how employees of the department may restrain youths’ freedom of movement, according to the ACLU.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Brown: “The lame duck tax increase has been the Rauner strategy all along”

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* Speaker Madigan’s spokesman Steve Brown responds to yesterday’s Republican Party slam on three House Democrats for being Madigan tools

“They’re kind of in disarray because they’ve schemed to have the lame duck tax increase, and it’s blowing up,” Brown said, referencing the introduction of a House resolution and constitutional amendment to prevent lame duck tax increases. “The lame duck tax increase has been the Rauner strategy all along. He could have a bump in the road. All of his allies would be unable to vote, unless they want to violate their pledge.”

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, introduced a series of bills to try to fight off a last-minute tax hike vote. It’s an effort to try to make sure the 16 “lame ducks” don’t pass controversial bills, including a tax hike.

“The actions of unaccountable legislators have been allowed to go unchecked for too long,” Franks said.

McSweeney called “grand bargain” and “grand compromise” the scariest words in Springfield.

“That’s just a simple code phrase for a massive income tax increase,” McSweeney said. “We need to stand up for our constituents, for the working people of the state, the families of the state and oppose raising the income tax.”

Those proposals are here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   87 Comments      

Bed-and-breakfast owner defiant in face of gay discrimination ruling

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* Illinois ACLU

The Illinois Human Rights Commission has declined review and adopted the report and recommendation of an administrative law judge, ruling against a Paxton Bed & Breakfast after its owners denied a downstate couple – Mark and Todd Wathen – access to the facility to celebrate their civil union in 2011. Today’s action comes after an administrative law judge found that the denial of the use of the facility was because the Wathens are gay – a violation of Illinois law. The judge also previously ordered the Bed & Breakfast to pay $30,000 to the Wathens for their emotional distress, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs. Most importantly, the owners of the Bed & Breakfast were ordered to cease discriminating against same-sex couples by denying them use of the facilities for marriage and civil union ceremonies.

The Illinois Human Rights Commission refused the Bed & Breakfast’s request to review the administrative law judge’s recommended orders, which makes them the final orders of the Commission.

The following can be attributed to John Knight of the ACLU of Illinois, who along with Betty Tsamis of the Tsamis Law Office and Clay Tillack and Robert A. H. Middleton of Schiff Hardin served as counsel to the Wathens:

The Commission’s decision once again sends a clear message that denying couples the use of a public wedding venue in Illinois because they are gay or lesbian is simply not permitted. Business owners cannot pick-and-choose to follow laws simply because they personally disagree with same-sex couples’ decision to marry.

Fortunately, we have not seen many examples of this type of blatant discrimination since the same-sex couples have had the freedom to marry in Illinois.

The judge’s ruling is here. More background is here.

* Law Bulletin

Section 5-102(A) of the Human Rights Act states that it is a civil rights violation to deny “the full and equal enjoyment of the facilities, goods, and services” on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation and other categories at a “public place of accommodation” — defined as restaurants, theaters, parks and a broad collection of other types of businesses aimed at convenience and enjoyment.

Robinson found that, because the inn really only declined services to others if, for instance, they couldn’t afford them, that the inn qualified as a public place of accommodation under the law.

He also said the inn owners did not factually back up their defense under the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act — which says that “the government may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless it proves a narrowly tailored, compelling interest for doing so.

That defense should be resolved by an appellate court, Robinson wrote. But he added that Timber Creek did not explain how allowing a same-sex ceremony on its premises, especially when its employees were not required to be present at such an event, was “somehow a sub silencio endorsement of anything goes on during that event.”

That logic was spelled out in Robinson’s initial decision in the case on Sept. 15, 2015. His rationale on damages was spelled out in his March order, in which he also briefly contemplated the notion that the Wathens might be “testers” — activists less interested in justice for themselves than in creating legal precedents.

* Associated Press

Jason Craddock, an attorney for the bed and breakfast owners, said he plans to fight the decision. The owners have been ordered to pay about $80,000 in damages and legal fees and allow same-sex couples access to their facilities. Timber Creek’s website still notes that they do “not host civil union or gay marriage ceremonies and/or receptions.”

Craddock said he wasn’t surprised by the panel’s move and was prepared to ask the whole commission to consider the case and, if necessary, take it beyond the agency to an Illinois appellate court.

* News-Gazette

[The B&B’s co-owner, Jim Walder] called the panel’s decision “disappointing,” but he added that “it will not change our policy.” Walder was referring to a policy that remains explicitly stated on the TimberCreek B&B’s website, saying the business “cannot host civil unions or gay marriages” because “we cannot be part of what God condemns.”

“For thousands of years homosexuality has been considered sodomy and gay marriage an abomination — civilly and Biblically,” Walder said Tuesday. “We choose to remain consistent in obeying long-held civil understanding and biblical teaching on both.”


- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

ILGOP: “Democrats can no longer run from their support of Madigan as their undisputed leader”

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* ILGOP press release

Extra! Extra! Democrats To Get Morning News Delivery
Madigan’s Property Tax Scheme Tops the Headlines; Democrats can’t hide behind ignorance and misdirection

This morning, Democrat legislators will receive copies of two noteworthy articles they should consider before supporting Speaker Mike Madigan to be their leader.

The first is an op-ed drafted by Rep. Margo McDermed, outlining how their Speaker, Mike Madigan, makes millions under a conflict of interest property tax scheme.

Read the op-ed here.

The second is a recent editorial by The News-Gazette exposing Democrats’ long-standing tradition of deploying “deceitful games” and “disingenuous tactics” to mislead their constituents about their support of Madigan’s leadership.

Read the editorial here.

Today’s delivery is part of the Illinois Republican Party’s ongoing effort to educate stakeholders and the public about why Madigan desperately wants to protect the status quo, and how Democrats empower him to do so.

Now, Democrats have no excuse for being in the dark about Madigan’s rigged property tax appeals practice, and Democrats can no longer run from their support of Madigan as their undisputed leader.

Knowing that Madigan makes millions from controlling the status quo, will House Democrats continue to support the most corrupt and longest reigning Speaker in American politics?

McDermed’s op-ed is from August, so it’s hardly new info.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

*** LIVE *** Veto Session Coverage

Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

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Wednesday, Nov 30, 2016

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Our sorry state

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* Yet another mess created by Pat Quinn that has yet to be cleaned up by the current administration

The situation for women housed at the Logan Correctional Center in downstate Lincoln has become “untenable,” according to a new study funded by the Department of Justice that found overcrowded conditions, problems with handling mentally ill inmates and the overuse of harsh punishments.

The problems, according to the study, are rooted in part in a 2013 decision by the Illinois Department of Corrections to consolidate the populations of its two largest women’s prisons at Logan, an aging facility that had been used to house about 1,500 men. IDOC now houses about 2,000 women there, according to the review, including hundreds of inmates with mental health problems.

The state’s prison system made the transition “with limited planning, staff training and efforts to take into account the unique nature and needs of such a large, complex women’s prison population of all security levels,” the report states, outlining how women are often treated too harshly and their stays behind bars are extended unnecessarily. […]

“Our staff is our greatest asset. They work hard every day to maintain order in our facilities and protect public safety across this state,” IDOC Director John Baldwin said in an email. “But it is clear they did not receive critical and necessary training on how to work with female offenders in 2013, when Logan transitioned from a male to female facility.”

Um, director, no offense, but 2013 was three years ago and you’ve been on the job since August of 2015.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Question of the day

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* Your own caption?…

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Automatic voter registration veto override fails

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* As expected…

To answer Rep. Ammons’ question, the rest either didn’t show up to town today or are Republicans who switched sides and voted with the governor.

…Adding… The roll call is here. The previous roll call is here.

*** UPDATE ***  Harsh

Trevor Gervais with the government watchdog group Common Cause Illinois noted that the Republican version has no timeline for the policy’s implementation.

“What we anticipate happening is that it would be delayed until after the governor’s reelection in 2018,” he said. “It’s very clear what his motives are for that.”

As the president-elect considers an Attorney General with a checkered record on voting rights, and Republicans take control of more state legislatures and governor’s mansions across the country, Gervais lamented the Illinois did not opt Tuesday to make voting more accessible.

“We’re stepping into four years of direct attacks on voting rights,” he said. “Here in Illinois we actually had an opportunity to expand voting rights before the attacks began, but instead we’re going to do nothing because of our billionaire governor.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

Magic 8-Ball: Outlook not so good

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* Bob Reed on Donald Trump’s $1 trillion capital plan and the Illinois Safe Roads Amendment and what that all means

There is even some cautious, if overly hopeful, talk that sometime next year Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan could put aside their differences and craft a multiyear capital spending bill.

Don’t laugh.

Yes, that’s a pretty tall order since both men have failed to reach a budget deal for over two years. Still, others say a rapprochement is possible.

Jim Reilly, an experienced political hand who’s now a senior fellow at the Metropolitan Planning Council, envisions a capital bill emerging if and when a state budget accord is reached.

That’s particularly true if the budget deal calls for higher taxes and lawmakers are scrambling to explain a rate hike to their tax-averse constituents, he adds.

“Historically, the legislature has also done a capital bill so legislators can say they voted for an increase but, ‘look, I also got you a new highway or a bus route or whatever,’” said Reilly.

Unless there’s a truce, and a real honest to goodness truce at that, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Capital bills give governors enormous leverage. They can dangle projects over members’ heads to get them to vote the way they want. Anyone think that Speaker Madigan is ready to hand those powers over to Gov. Rauner? Yeah, maybe - maybe - he could somehow draft legislation to lock in spending, but Rauner would still have to sign it.

Also, too, the governor himself just said that Madigan is backing away from a tax hike for now.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

Rauner says Madigan has “backed off of pushing for a tax hike”

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* Speaker Madigan yesterday

“The governor has spoken at length about a lame duck tax increase. I think it’s very interesting. I think that we ought to listen to the governor and work with the governor and that’s what I plan to do.”

* Gov. Rauner was asked about Madigan’s comment early this morning

“That’s a little goofy. I mean, the speaker came out a year ago in December and said ‘Hey, let’s start with putting the income tax back up to 5 [percent] and go up from there.’ I mean that was a quote. I mean, I’ve never been an advocate for higher taxes. I’ve always fought against them. I’m trying to get more efficient government. So, for the speaker to [laughs] it’s a little, a little humorous.

“But, anyway, and at this point he seems to have backed off of pushing for a tax hike right now and has kinda said ‘Let’s just do stopgap budgets, like we’ve done seven stopgaps in the last two years. Let’s do more of those going forward.’ That’s not solving our problems. That’s going to push more employers out. That’s going to raise more taxes in our future, ’cause it’s more deficits today, more borrowing today. We need balanced budgets and reforms to grow our economy.”

So, the logical follow-up question would be: Doesn’t that make you in favor of a lame duck tax increase just like Madigan said you are? And if Madigan has, as you say, “backed off pushing for a tax hike right now,” doesn’t that erode your position?

But, hey. Morning shows.

* Meanwhile

Concerned over a possible post-election tax increase, state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, filed a proposed constitutional amendment that would require three-fifths House and Senate supermajorities to raise taxes until the new General Assembly is seated after the election. Lawmakers in past sessions have used the post-election lame-duck session, and its lower threshold to pass bills, as a way to enact significant legislation while avoiding voter wrath.

Franks, who will be sworn in next month as McHenry County Board chairman, said getting it onto the House floor for a vote, at the very least, will put House members on the spot regarding their willingness to raise taxes if a much-discussed “grand compromise” state budget package comes to fruition.

“My goal is to get a majority of the House of Representatives to support my measure, and once I do that, we’re on record as not wanting to increase taxes during the lame-duck [session],” Franks said.

Under the Illinois Constitution, the threshold required to pass legislation that takes effect immediately increases from a simple majority to a three-fifths supermajority – or 71 House members and 36 senators – with the end of the spring session May 31. But it decreases back to a simple majority – or 60 House members and 30 senators – on Jan. 1. That gives lawmakers after each November election a window to pass controversial legislation until the new General Assembly is sworn in on the second Wednesday in January, which this time around falls on Jan. 11.

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

We really need some straight answers here

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* This is obviously a huge difference in estimates: Less than 25 cents a month vs. $4.20

A week after ComEd and Exelon dropped some of the most contentious provisions of a controversial energy bill making its way through the Illinois legislature, the power companies say they are paring the bill even further.

The most recent changes would trim below 25 cents the average monthly increase customers would see on their bills if the legislation passes, Tom O’Neill, senior vice president of regulatory and energy policy and general counsel at ComEd, said Monday during a meeting with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board.

A third amendment to the bill was filed Monday. ComEd previously estimated the entire proposal, presented earlier this month, would cost consumers an extra 25 cents a month.

“It’s going to be substantially less” with this newest amendment, O’Neill said, although ComEd does not know exactly how much less.

Opponents, however, still disagree with ComEd’s math.

Better Energy Solutions for Tomorrow, or the BEST Coalition, a nonprofit organization made up of business and consumer groups who oppose the legislation, estimated the original legislation would cost ComEd ratepayers $6.23 more per month on average. That number drops only to $4.20 per month with the changes. “This enterprise began as a nuclear bailout and it will end as a nuclear bailout,” said coalition director Dave Lundy.

Expect yet another amendment tomorrow.

* From an op-ed in favor of the bill

Illinois businesses, as well as consumers, will without a doubt see their electric bills rise as a result of the closure of the Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants. These plants contribute $1.2 billion to Illinois’ GDP and provide for 4,200 jobs, but of equal concern, their loss would drive up electric rates by a minimum of $364 million per year and have an environmental impact of $1.1 billion annually. This is a major concern for businesses that depend on the competitive electric rates that are one of the few clear competitive advantages Illinois enjoys over neighboring states.

* But

Average wholesale electricity prices have dropped 15% this year to $29.70 a megawatt-hour, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of power market data from the Energy Department. That is 43% below the 2014 average. […]

“It’s an adverse environment because of the low gas prices, and it’s aggravated by the growth of renewables,” said Hugh Wynne, an analyst at investment research firm SSR LLC in Stamford, Conn.

Natural gas is becoming a dominant fuel for U.S. power plants, and with its price at historic lows, operators of commercial nuclear and coal plants are taking a hit. Also, power demand across much of the U.S. is flat, which weighs on electricity prices and power-plant margins.

U.S. electricity sales this year through August totaled 2.5 billion megawatt-hours, down nearly 1% compared to the same period a year ago, according to data from the Department of Energy.

* And

Competitive Power Ventures announced Thursday its intention to open a state-of-the-art electric generating facility in the Three Rivers area of unincorporated Grundy County.

The CPV Three Rivers Energy Center is a nearly $1 billion privately funded project designed to meet the future electricity demands of Illinois. The 1,100-megawatt natural gas-powered 2-by-1 combined cycle facility will provide enough electricity to power about 1.1 million homes.

* Related…

* Biz opposition grows as Exelon trims bailout bill again

* Editorial: Rescue 2 Illinois nukes? Why Springfield shouldn’t pick winners and losers

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

GOP focusing on three Democratic votes for House Speaker

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* The Illinois Republican Party has a new website called The party is making no bones about its three top targets for next cycle and is warning them about their vote for House Speaker in January

* From the site

Brandon Phelps has taken over $200,000 from Mike Madigan’s political machine and has voted to make Madigan the Speaker seven times. Phelps voted for Madigan’s plan to hold funding for his school district hostage to try to bail out Chicago Public Schools. Phelps also voted for Madigan’s $8 billion unbalanced budget that would force at least $1,000 tax hike on middle-class families. Phelps even voted for the Madigan-Blagojevich pension scheme that increased pension debt by up to $22 billion.

Despite these actions, Phelps can show he’s ready to begin repairing Illinois by opposing Mike Madigan for Speaker in 2017.

Mike Madigan’s funneled over $1.6 million to Sam Yingling’s campaigns, and in return, Yingling has twice voted to make Mike Madigan the Speaker of the House. Yingling sided with Madigan to hold school funding hostage in an effort to bail out Chicago schools. He also voted for the broken Madigan budget that would have increased state debt by $8 billion and forced a massive tax hike without reforms on hard-working families.

In the weeks ahead, Yingling can show he’s ready to put Illinois families ahead of his political patron by opposing Madigan for Speaker in 2017.

Mike Madigan’s given Jerry Costello nearly $200,000, so it’s no surprise that Costello has twice supported Mike Madigan as Illinois Speaker. Like the rest of Madigan’s members, Costello followed orders and held his own school districts hostage to bail out Chicago. And Costello tried to force a $1,000 tax hike on families in his district by voting for Madigan’s phony budget that was nearly $8 billion in the hole.

In January, Jerry Costello can show he’s willing to start fixing Illinois by voting against Mike Madigan as Speaker.


…Adding… I’m told these are just the “first three” targets. “Long time until the vote for speaker to add more.”

…Adding More… From the twitters…

- Posted by Rich Miller   59 Comments      

Tipping their hand?

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* One of the problems that many Democrats have with workers’ compensation reform is that it too often seems like a never-ending race to the bottom.

Yes, there’s no doubt that more reforms are needed here. But check out this quote from yesterday’s House hearing

Legislators overhauled workers compensation in 2011. Jay Shattuck with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce says that made a dent, but Illinois’ system is still too expensive.

“From the business community standpoint, 2011 was a good start. We have, um, had, some savings. Which we are glad to have,” Shattuck said. “But we’re not in a static environment. Other states have been aggressively looking at workers’ compensation reforms and have passed legislation and enacted laws that have helped their businesses in their communities also to have lower workers’ comp costs.”

So, apparently, as long as other states continue to “aggressively” cut workers’ compensation benefits, Illinois will have to go along.

* Related…

* Workers’ compensation for state, county and municipal workers costs Illinois taxpayers $400 million per year

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Cullerton hopes to reschedule *** Madigan a no-show for leaders meeting

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* Yesterday

As he has stated for weeks, Madigan said a deal would be reached only if Rauner followed the “framework” for other temporary spending agreements. That’s code meaning Rauner should set aside his economic agenda, as he has done in the past facing other funding emergencies.

Asked why he participates in these meetings if he’s opposed to Rauner’s ideas, Madigan said he attends “at the request of the governor.”

Republicans, meanwhile, said they were unclear with whom they were negotiating, suggesting either a game of “good cop, bad cop” between Cullerton and Madigan or a divide between the Democratic leaders.

“It’s hard to know what’s going on here,” said Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont. “So we’ll see who shows up tomorrow.”

* Today…

I told subscribers about this earlier today.

*** UPDATE ***  Senate President John Cullerton just told reporters that “hopefully” the leaders can reschedule for this afternoon. “If we can get back today we will. If not we have a time scheduled for tomorrow.” Cullerton met with the other leaders for more than half an hour before he talked to reporters.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

IDOT embraces vaporware

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* CBS 2

The head of the Illinois Department of Transportation said driverless cars are here, and Illinois needs to welcome them. […]

State Transportation Secretary Randall Blankenhorn told the City Club of Chicago, his agency is already talking to companies that want to use autonomous vehicles to deliver goods. But he admits there are some hurdles to overcome.

Blankenhorn said that autonomous vehicles are here, and the Rauner Administration and lawmakers must work on safety regulations and standards for them. He opposes any ban on self-driving cars, despite a resolution passed by the Chicago City Council.

Um, driverless cars are here? Where?

* Forbes

There has been much-fevered talk about the imminence of self-driving cars, leaving the impression with the public that it won’t be very long before the automobiles we buy don’t even have steering wheels or pedals.

This has been fuelled by the car manufacturers themselves as they swap overblown rhetoric about the progress being made thanks to their engineer’s ingenuity and the massive sums committed to these projects.

Britain’s BMI Research hosted a seminar recently where it tried to get the hype and bluster and provide some insight into the prospects of computerized/robot/autonomous vehicles. Perhaps job one should be to decide which of these terms makes the most sense.

But the most important “fact” to emerge from the meeting was that fully-autonomous cars won’t be available for up to 15 to 20 years , according to BMI Research analyst Anna-Marie Baisden.

If it’s 15 years minimum, any regs the state devises today will be hopelessly out of date by then.

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

It’s just a bill

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* Actually, it’s a House resolution with several Democratic co-sponsors

Urges the United States Congress to immediately adopt an “American Recovery” program by restoring the provisions of the Glass Steagall Act; returning to a national banking and a federal credit system, modeled on the principles of Alexander Hamilton’s First Bank of the United States; using the federal credit system to build a modern network of high speed rail, power generating systems, and water projects; and creating programs to rebuild our space program to put a permanent manned colony on the Moon, explore the solar system, and create nuclear fusion.

Why stop there?

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      

The dysfunction continues

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* Dan Petrella

Members of an Illinois House committee on Monday spent a portion of their hearing on a proposed workers compensation overhaul debating whether the hearing should have been held at all.

Following a meeting earlier this month among Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the four top leaders of the General Assembly, the House Labor and Commerce Committee scheduled a hearing on a long-dormant bill from House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs. […]

But Republicans on the committee, including Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, said the bill doesn’t reflect progress made last spring in negotiations among a bipartisan group of rank-and-file lawmakers.

“I don’t know what we’re going to accomplish today,” Brady said, noting that Republicans did not ask for the hearing and that Durkin was in a meeting with Rauner and the other legislative leaders at the same time.

* Amanda Vinicky

Democrats persisted anyway, and used the chance to criticize Rauner’s plan as unfair to workers.

But Chicago Rep. Luis Arroyo evidently didn’t get the memo. He seemed to take a page from Republicans’ playbook instead.

“We shouldn’t have this dog and pony show to stand here and talk to everybody all day on something that ain’t going to matter anyway,” he said. “Let’s not play no games. I drove three and a half hours today in the rain, for three and a half hours, thinking that something was going to happen on this bill. And now you guys are telling me that nothing’s happening …. I didn’t come here to waste my time today.”

* Monique Garcia

Republicans balked at the outrage, noting they don’t control the House and can’t schedule hearings. That duty falls to Democrats under long-serving Speaker Michael Madigan.

“We did not schedule this meeting,” said Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington.

And so the dysfunction continued as lawmakers return to Springfield for the final scheduled week of the fall session, with the pressure on to cut a budget deal as a temporary stopgap plan expires at the end of the year.

Democrats also complained that Gov. Rauner was tweeting workers’ comp reform stuff during the hearing even though nobody from his office bothered to show up.

* Matt Dietrich is the only one who got into what was actually discussed once the hearing got underway

Democrats say a 2011 reform bill made workers’ compensation much less expensive for insurers, but those insurers have not passed savings along through lower premiums. But the insurance industry says 332 companies write workers’ comp policies in Illinois, making it the most competitive state in the country. Profits for those companies are 2.68 percent, said Steve Schneider, the American Insurance Association’s vice president for state affairs, Midwest region. “It has not been tremendously profitable,” Schneider told the committee.

Health care providers spoke out against the bill’s proposed 30 percent reduction in several parts of the workers’ compensation medical fee schedule, noting that the 2011 reforms imposed a 30 percent across-the-board cut. “An additional 30 percent would force many medical providers to stop seeing injured workers,” said David Spaccarellie of Deerfield-based Surgical Care Affiliates.

While an enhanced “causation” standard that would require the workplace to be the major cause of an injury is the top goal of Rauner’s workers’ compensation reform plan, Illinois’ current standard is not an outlier. “The causation standard in Indiana is exactly the same as it is in Illinois,” said David Menchetti of the Chicago law firm Cullen Haskins Nicholson Menchetti. Indiana’s insurance rates, rated second lowest in the country in a recent study, are low because employers control medical choices for injured workers and because it pays “poverty level” workers’ compensation benefits, Menchetti said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

From the editorial board suggestion box

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* SJ-R editorial

We fear not having a budget has become the norm, and because the vast majority of people haven’t been personally touched by the lack of one, they feel no need to urge action.

That is unacceptable.

We need outrage. We need phone calls made and letters written and protests organized. And we need it from all corners of the state, and from people not directly affected by the budget woes. We see it from the social service agencies, small businesses and higher education institutions that rely on state funding. They are pleading for a resolution, because they don’t want to go back to the year of no budget (July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016) and all the horrors that included, such as layoffs, serving fewer clients, or in some extreme cases, shutting down. We need it from everyone now.

It’s not too late for either Rauner or Madigan to do the right thing. Absent that, the rank-and-file legislators need to raise hell and get more involved. They need to be willing to sacrifice the monetary security Madigan and Rauner provide during campaigns to those they consider allies in favor of the greater good. They need to demand to be part of the budget process. It should no longer be solely hammered out by the leaders in private conversations with the governor. Not when we’re again on the edge of not having a fiscal blueprint for a significant amount of time. This is the public’s business, and it’s time it is done in the light.

* Sauk Valley Media editorial

When the election for House speaker takes place, minority Republicans should not do the same thing they’ve done for years – fruitlessly vote for their party caucus leader for speaker.

Instead, after some behind-the-scenes negotiations, they should announce the following:

“We are prepared to vote en masse for a compromise Democratic candidate for House speaker.”

That’s right, 51 Republicans voting for a DEMOCRATIC candidate who is not named Madigan.

Republicans could continue:

“We, in fact, will nominate such a person. We will then supply 51 votes, out of the minimum 60 that are required for election. That’s 85 percent of the total.”

Democrats disaffected by Madigan’s leadership would thus have an opportunity and a choice to bravely chart a new course.

It would take a coalition of only 9 Democrats to join 51 Republican colleagues to unseat Madigan as House speaker.

Nine Democrats who want Illinois to have fresh leadership.

Is this outside the box? Definitely.

Unorthodox? Of course.

But it could happen.

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      

Chicago alderman floats his name for yet another office

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* Just a few months ago, Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar was floating his name for a mayoral bid. Now he’s publicly mulling a race for governor

Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar, who five years ago pulled off a historic upset with his against-the-grain aldermanic campaign to defeat a machine candidate, is now looking to do the same on a bigger platform. […]

With $58,000 in his campaign account, Pawar, who would run as a Democrat, said he doesn’t fear taking on incumbent Republican millionaire Gov. Bruce Rauner, who reported $188 million in income last year.

“In 2011, I ran for office and people laughed at me. I took on the machine and I beat it,” Pawar said. […]

“We’ve had a set of politics pitting one group of people against another. I don’t think that’s productive,” he said. “I think it’s time we have a progressive campaign for governor.” […]

“When I won in 2011, four weeks before the election I had $2,000 left from the $7,000 to 8,000 we started with,” Pawar said. “We ran the most shoestring campaign you’ve ever seen. Since then, I’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. I feel I can raise money to be competitive. … There’s a tendency to throw a bunch of money at the problem, throw money at the airwaves and crucify one another. There isn’t a lot of going out and talking to one another.”

Pawar did beat a machine candidate, but he did that with lots of door-knocking. A statewide bid is an entirely different level of campaigning, however. You can’t just go out and talk to people one-on-one and expect that to work. You have to raise big bucks, like it or not. Statewide is about wholesale, not retail.

Mayor Emanuel lives in Pawar’s district, so it’s almost assured Pawar will be tagged with the “Rahm’s alderman” moniker. It goes without saying that Emanuel is one of the least popular politicians in this state.

* From earlier this year

He readily admits that he’s fundraising and that he’s interested in replacing Rahm Emanuel—should the mayor decide not to seek a third term. If Rahm does run again, Pawar, born in Evanston to immigrants from India, says he won’t challenge him. He credits Rahm, his constituent, for helping him on many of his legislative accomplishments.

Again: “Rahm’s alderman.” As if being an alderman in a city that has huge financial and crime problems isn’t bad enough.

* Pawar has limited himself to two terms, so that’s why he’s looking around for something else to do. But he already seems to be breaking a promise he made in August...

“What I’m not going to do is spend the next three years scheming for a higher office, any higher office. I think the problem with that is that you’re rooting for someone else’s failure so you can take their job. I’ve never run a negative campaign. I find it odd that the principle campaigns are run on is to destroy the other person; to make yourself look better by making the other person look bad.”

* He does have a progressive record to run on, though

In his five years in City Council, Pawar counts among his successes the towing bill of rights, directing $40 million in TIF funds to schools and libraries in his ward, the licensing debt collectors ordinance, anti wage theft ordinance, and more.

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

*** LIVE *** Veto Session Coverage

Tuesday, Nov 29, 2016

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

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* Pritzker defends "citizen legislature" concept
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