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*** UPDATED x1 *** Get ready for more heated rhetoric

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools has asked a Cook County judge on Monday to fast-track the district’s civil rights lawsuit against the state of Illinois, warning of dire consequences for students if a funding issue isn’t resolved quickly.

More than $100 million in the red and on the hook for a $721 million teacher pension payment in June, CPS said it could cut the school year as short as June 1 if money doesn’t come through soon from the state. Students typically end school a few weeks later.

The district recently filed a civil rights lawsuit against Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois State Board of Education, alleging that the state’s ways of funding schools and pensions created “separate but unequal” schools systems in which CPS, whose students are predominantly poor and minority, get less money than their wealthier, white counterparts elsewhere in the state.

District officials are asking Judge Franklin Valderrama to issue a ruling before the end of April.

Forrest Claypool has scheduled a 4 o’clock press conference today, so I’m assuming he’ll blame a potentially shortened school year on Gov. Rauner. The school year had been scheduled to end June 20th.

* There’s lots of Rauner-blaming in the CPS motion. For instance

As a first step toward ending the State’s discriminatory funding of teacher pension obligations, on June 30, 2016, the Illinois House amended Senate Bill 2822 to include an additional State contribution of $215 million to assist CPS to meet its required Fiscal Year 2017 teacher pension payment of $721 million. Even that $215 million pension funding for CPS would stand in stark contrast to the State’s projected Fiscal Year 2017 payment to TRS of $4.0 billion. Amended Senate Bill 2822 passed both houses of the General Assembly.

But on December 1, 2016, Governor Rauner vetoed the bill. Governor Rauner stated that he had agreed to support the bill only if the General Assembly agreed to his other demands on legislation having nothing to do with CPS. As a result, CPS’s children - 90% children of color - are at risk of forever losing their one chance in life to receive a quality education. Prior to the veto, CPS already had taken drastic measures to meet its budget obligations and educate its students. At the end of Fiscal Year 2013, CPS had a positive general operating fund balance of $949 million. By the end of Fiscal Year 2016, CPS had depleted all of that reserve and ended with a negative general operating fund balance of $127 million. In other words, CPS’s general operating fund balance has declined by $1.1 billion in just three years. Over that same time period, CPS made required pension payments totaling $1.9 billion. In that same three years, the State’s discriminatory funding has shortchanged CPS by $1.1 billion. […]

The February 22 budget cuts do not fill the $215 million hole created by Governor Rauner’s veto. If CPS must re-balance its budget by making additional cuts, those cuts will be even more painful. If CPS ends the school year on June 1 - instead of June 20 - students will receive fewer days of instruction. If students are not in class, they forever lose those days of learning. There is no way to compensate for missed time in the classroom. If CPS eliminates summer school for grade-school and middle-school students, those children will not receive the additional instruction they require to get on track. Those children are at risk of falling even farther behind.

*** UPDATE ***  From Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis…

As children statewide continue to be impacted by the state’s broken school funding formula, now is the time for CEO Claypool to engage in a constructive process to pass a balanced budget with changes that would help schools across the state, including those in Chicago.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Rauner wants fewer managed care companies to serve lots more Medicaid clients

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* AP

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is seeking to offer more Medicaid services through managed-care programs.

Rauner and two cabinet members announced the plan in Chicago Monday. It involves choosing a vendor that’ll provide managed-care services to 80 percent of Medicaid clients.

That’s up from 65 percent now. It’ll also be expanded to all Illinois counties and children in the care of the Department of Children and Family Services.

* But there will be fewer managed care providers

Rauner inherited managed care from Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who backed a law aggressively placing 50 percent of Medicaid enrollees into a health plan that would keep close tabs on their medical care. Now about 65 percent of the state’s 3.1 million Medicaid recipients are in managed care.

While Rauner wants to expand managed care services statewide and add another 15 percent of all Medicaid enrollees to the program, he explained why he plans to cap the number of insurers that can participate to between four and seven.

There are simply too many insurers now participating, he said. While the number has shrunk from roughly 30 to 12 insurers now, the vast system is an administrative headache for doctors, hospitals and patients, he argued. In Central Illinois, for example, enrollees have little access to managed care.

Illinois has been gleaning lessons from other states, including Arizona, which requires all Medicaid recipients to be in managed care. The idea of managed care is to surround patients with teams of nurses, social workers and doctors to coordinate treatment and therefore lower medical costs. […]

Rauner said he couldn’t speculate about how much money the new contracts could save Medicaid, but he said “there’s clearly significant savings to be had” by increasing quality and focusing on prevention.

Rauner wants to take that number of managed care organizations down to as few as four and no more than seven, according to the state’s RFP. Needless to say, some managed care companies are starting to freak out.

And all of this is happening while DC tries to figure out what it’s going to do with Medicaid and the ACA.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* Your own caption?…


- Posted by Rich Miller   79 Comments      


What’s with the secrecy?

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* Tribune

Gov. Bruce Rauner let it slip that he’s planning to meet with Grammy winner Chance the Rapper this week, though his office declined to say when or where.

Rauner mentioned the planned meeting in passing at a Black History Month event at the Thompson Center on Friday. He was praising Dorothy Jean Tillman, a theater and performance artist who was given a young achievement award for her work as a children’s book author and ensemble member at the Harold Washington Cultural Center.

“I tell you, Dorothy Jean Tillman, this young lady, 10 years old, extraordinary talent. What an inspiration she is. I look forward to seeing her next week,” Rauner said. “She’s going to come when I’m getting together with Chance the Rapper, I think the middle of next week.” […]

Asked when and where the meeting will take place, the administration emailed back a short statement: “On background, the Governor will be meeting privately with Chance next week to discuss important issues affecting our state.”

* From this morning…


- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Pawar on Madigan

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* Gubernatorial candidate Ald. Ameya Pawar was at DePaul last week

But, with four of Illinois’ eight most recent governors having spent time in prison, good governance has not always been the rule. And for the past 30 years of state politics, the elephant in the room has been House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Madigan has been criticized for his stewardship of the state, which has the lowest credit rating of any state in the country as well as a structural budget deficit and mountains of unpaid bills and pension obligations. While Pawar said he doesn’t know Madigan or “have a relationship with him,” he gave a mixed assessment.

“I’d argue that (Madigan’s) the one person standing in the way of the utter destruction of public sector unions,” Pawar said. “But I also recognize that both Democrats and Republicans got us here over the past 40 years. So, we all hold some responsibility. But the path forward is to stop turning (Republican leaders Christine) Radongo, (Jim) Durkin or (Democratic leaders) Madigan and (John) Cullerton into cartoon characters as they get into the room and stop demonizing each other and cut a deal.”

Thoughts on how he handled that?

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      


It’s just a bill

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has been vocal, especially in recent weeks, about his frustration with state lawmakers not passing legislation to stiffen penalties for “repeat gun offenders.”

Johnson hinted at a cause of some of that frustration during a news conference Friday to announce dozens of arrests in overnight raids.

“They promised me that we would have something done in January. We’re at the end of February,” Johnson said.

He went on to mention that state Rep. Elgie Sims Jr. and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, both Chicago Democrats, “are crafting the language for a bill, and I know that they are supportive of CPD.” […]

Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Johnson “was told in his conversations to expect a draft to be introduced in January,” though he didn’t say who offered assurances to Johnson about the time frame.

Sims told the Chicago Sun-Times “there were some discussions about hopefully some developments” on a piece of legislation by January, but “I don’t know about ‘promised.’”

Considering that this proposal is so contentious, I’m thinking the Superintendent is confused about the passage deadline.

* Meanwhile

A pending bill in the Illinois House that would create sanctuary zones for undocumented immigrants drew demonstrators from both sides of the issue Saturday to downtown Springfield.

Rosanna Pulido of Springfield, founder of The Illinois Minuteman Project, organized a noon rally at the Abraham Lincoln statue at Second Street and Capitol Avenue. The rally was in opposition to HB 426, which would allow schools, medical treatment and health care facilities and places of worship deny access to state and local law enforcement officers who are enforcing immigration laws, unless the officers have a court-issued warrant.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Pulido said. “I think the biggest question we have for Governor Rauner and any legislator who would want to pass this bill is: Does making it easier for illegal aliens to stay in Illinois improve the lives of Illinois residents?”

About five minutes into Pulido’s rally, which drew about 50 people, a group of about 30 people marched down Capitol Avenue chanting “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here.” The counter-protesters set up shop on the northeast corner of Second and Capitol near the Martin Luther King Jr. statue.

It’s not really a “sanctuary” bill. Amendment 2 is the heart of the legislation at the moment. As mentioned above, it requires a warrant before people can be taken into custody.

* Press release…

State Representative David McSweeney has been joined by 66 fellow members of the Illinois House of Representatives in sponsoring House Resolution 148, which opposes any new taxes on beverages and supports the thousands of Illinois small businesses that are linked to the beverage industry in the state.

“Representative McSweeney and a bipartisan group of representatives have stood up for the industry and Illinois families. They understand that adding yet another tax on common grocery and restaurant products will have disastrous, unintended consequences, creating higher prices at neighborhood grocers and restaurants, and causing massive job losses across several industries,” stated Claudia Rodriguez, Acting Executive Director, Illinois Beverage Association.

Beyond the regressive nature of beverage tax proposals, these taxes could severely hurt local economic growth and job creation. If imposed, a penny-per-ounce tax is estimated to destroy more than 19,000 Illinois jobs, eliminate more than $875 million in wages and would result in $1.695 billion in lost economic activity. More than 90,000 jobs in restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, movie theaters and more rely on the industry – all of which could be hurt by a proposed tax.

“We are thankful for Representative McSweeney’s initiative and support for retailers and the beverage industry. A statewide beverage tax would be devastating to the state’s economy and we’re glad to see a majority of House members being supportive of an industry that employs thousands of Illinois residents,” stated Rob Karr, President and CEO, Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

A similar tax proposal imposed in Philadelphia has already produced devastating effects on the local economy, hurting small businesses and jobs. Early reports have found beverage sales in Philadelphia to have dropped between 30 and 50 percent as consumers leave the city to do their shopping. Many businesses have been forced to cut employees, with more than 300 layoffs already announced and thousands of employee work hours cut. Additional cuts are expected. With a pending penny-per-ounce beverage tax set to be implemented on July 1, 2017 in Cook County, a new state tax would multiply these negative impacts and dramatically weaken the state’s economy.

A broad coalition of more than 1,000 concerned Illinois families, small businesses, labor unions, chambers of commerce and community organizations are opposed to regressive beverage taxes, which could dramatically increase costs for many common grocery items, including juices, teas, sports-drinks and sodas. HR 148 is a bipartisan effort with more than 66 co-sponsors opposed to approving yet another tax on the beverage industry.

* Related…

* Rauner backs water testing near quarries used as cheap dump sites

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


“I don’t know what else they can do but go on strike”

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

*From a News-Gazette editorial

Last week, AFSCME Executive Director Roberta Lynch announced that union members voted by an overwhelming margin to authorize their negotiators to call a strike if management does not return to the bargaining table.

“We’re going to continue to think that at some point this governor will realize that conflict, confrontation is not the way to move the state forward. We’re going to keep working every way we can to convince him to return to the bargaining table and make a good-faith effort to resolve the situation,” Lynch said.

But judging from Gov. Bruce Rauner’s response to Lynch’s invitation to resume negotiations, that’s not going to happen.

“The labor board unanimously said we’re at impasse. We’ve been at impasse. Negotiations are done. Those days are gone,” he said.

The editorial goes on to question how many workers would actually walk out and how many would stay out.

* Christopher Mooney, the director of the Institute of Government and Policy at the University of Illinois, talked about that topic yesterday, saying that the governor could win the messaging battle with the voters and then added this

This is not the United Mine Workers of America, this is not the United Auto Workers of America. I’ve seen mine workers strike. Mine workers strike, they are striking to the death. I mean they beat scabs bloody. And they’ll be out on strike for two years to get what they want because they are tightly bound, they work in teams, they’re underground in a dangerous environment and they don’t have a lot of options. So when it comes time to fight the coal bosses their backs are against the wall.

It’s not really the same situation for most AFSCME workers. They work in offices, they work out in the field in various places, too, but there’s not that tight cohesion that there is in industrial unions. And I wonder how long such a strike would last, especially as has been reported there’s not a significant strike fund to support these people. […]

On the other hand, I don’t know what else they can do but go on strike. The governor basically said this is the way it is and we’re going to just impose our contract. If they don’t strike, because that’s really their only other option, they basically just roll over and say we just don’t exist any more, we’re so marginalized that we don’t matter. […]

When the coal miners go on strike, they don’t necessarily have to worry about public image. There’s some of that that goes on, but they’re really fighting the bosses and it’s a power play that way. This is going to be fought in the public arena for both sides because it’s taxpayers that are the bosses and they have to be convinced on one side or the other… When you’ve got a single messenger and you can tick off some talking points, whether completely accurate or not, that people can relate to, the governor’s office might have the advantage.

Those talking points, of course, are the demands for a 40-hour work week, higher health insurance costs, etc.

Also, there’s lately been a tiny bit of deep background push-back on earlier reporting that AFSCME has no strike fund.

- Posted by Rich Miller   66 Comments      


Trib defends Rauner’s tenure

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* The Tribune editorial board believes Gov. Rauner has done pretty much everything he could for the past two years

He took office in January 2015 with 44 items on his Turnaround Agenda. He dropped most due to opposition and as gestures in compromise. He’s open to a politically risky tax hike. Anything else?

He tried meeting with legislative leaders behind closed doors. He tried putting a camera in the room. He tried meeting with leaders individually. He tried lobbying individual lawmakers.

He tried staying out of negotiations. He tried inserting himself. He tried tough talk. He tried gentle prodding.

He tried introducing his agenda in bill form: Scroll through all the bills in House rules, Speaker Michael Madigan’s dead letter office, to find the pillars of that agenda. They’ve been ignored, along with Rauner’s last two budgets.

What compromise or agenda have the Democrats offered? Not much in the House. Dems gave their speaker a 17th two-year term and received engraved clocks that read: “The Honorable Michael J. Madigan, Longest-serving House Speaker of a state House of Representatives in United States History.”

Note what Rauner didn’t do: Cave to that longest-serving speaker. Rauner won’t write a blank check, via a tax hike, for Democrats without also getting pro-growth reforms to help build Illinois’ tax base. That’s what he ran on, what he continues to stand for.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   74 Comments      


Biss to decide on bid soon

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* Democratic state Sen. Daniel Biss told Rick Pearson yesterday that he will decide whether to run for governor “in the next few weeks”

“The state of Illinois is in an incredibly terrible situation now, and we need someone who’s prepared to lead us out of it,” Biss said Sunday on WGN AM-720.

“We need someone to lead us out of it by laying out a progressive economic vision for Illinois — a vision that is about protecting the middle class, lifting up the middle class and fixing the budget by going to the billionaires who have gotten off scot-free and finally, for the first time in generations, having them pay their fair share,” he said.

Biss said that vision needs to be laid out “in a clear, direct, progressive and bold way” that will “build a movement that’s going to be used not just to win a governor’s race but to transform governance in the state of Illinois.” […]

“If we want to do this properly, it’s going to require building something over the course of many months. It’s not going to be quick. It’s not going to be turnkey. It’s not going to be automatic. It’s not going to be all television. It’s going to be a slow, gradual movement of people across the state, and that’s what’s needed, again, not just to win but to really transform Illinois,” he said.

OK, I get the rhetoric here, but just keep in mind that you usually can’t “transform” anything unless you win.

The full interview is here.

* At about the 14:45 mark, Pearson asks him if he thinks Gov. Rauner really wants a budget

I have no idea. He’s not acting like he wants a budget… I don’t know what’s in his head, all I know is his behavior. And Gov. Rauner is behaving like someone who doesn’t care whether the state has a budget at all. He’s talking about other things 24/7 and that’s just not what he should be doing. His job, his first job and his most important job is to fix the disastrous budget problem that Illinois has.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      


Rauner skips White House dinner attended by 46 governors

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* Hmm…


* But, hey, he apparently spends a lot of time in his own executive mansion

The Illinois Executive Mansion has been available to governors and their families for 162 years, but the prospect of living in a historic building hasn’t been enough to get them all to reside there.

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration believes he’s an exception and said he spends approximately 55 percent of his nights in Illinois at the Executive Mansion. The administration didn’t expand on how many days that actually is.

Conversely, Rauner’s two most recent predecessors, former Govs. Pat Quinn and Rod Blagojevich, didn’t stay at the mansion much at all. Quinn was reported to have stayed at the mansion about 60 or 70 nights annually, according to The Associated Press, and Blagojevich primarily lived at his home in Chicago. The now-imprisoned governor would avoid even one-night stays at the mansion.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar and his wife, Brenda, who actually lived at the Executive Mansion, said the building was wonderful, though it never truly felt like home.

…Adding… Lynn Sweet

Rauner keeps his distance from Trump. He’s up for re-election next year in a heavily Democratic state.

But there comes a point to deal with governmental reality. Trump is the president. He delivers his first joint address to Congress on Tuesday. Trump’s budget goes to Congress next month. Big decisions are being made that will impact Illinois. Doesn’t Rauner want to have a voice in trying to influence Trump?

To consider…Unlike almost every governor in the nation, Rauner missed two potential chances to tell Trump what Illinois needs from the federal government.

Trump, in almost every speech – and in several Twitter posts – hits Chicago problem with shootings. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been to the Trump White House and done extensive outreach.

Rauner might want to reconsider: By refusing to attend events with Trump – Rauner is abdicating dealing with Chicago violence with a president who threatened to “Send in the Feds” to the city.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      


Emulate Trump at your peril

Monday, Feb 27, 2017

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

If you’re running for office anytime soon, or if you currently hold office or are a “public figure,” please try to keep one thing in mind: So far, the only person to prove he can thrive by talking like President Donald Trump is . . . President Donald Trump.

Trump, and only Trump, can insult a war hero because the man was captured by the enemy, joke about grabbing women by the unmentionables, accuse an opponent’s father of participating in a plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy and still be elected to the highest office in the land.

Heck, Trump may have even been right when he joked during the campaign: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

But don’t even think of trying this at home. The president’s election was not a permission slip allowing everybody to now say the most outrageous things that come to mind. Trump changed the rules last year for himself, not anybody else—or, at least, not yet.

Say something stupid and the media—both news and social—will whack you but good, and it won’t turn out nearly as well as it did for candidate Trump. Indeed, if anything, the climate right now seems more antithetical than ever to saying silly things in public.

Earlier this month, an unopposed candidate for an Arlington Heights village board spot named Joe Favia had to drop out of his race after posting something truly stupid about women on Facebook. After the national women’s marches in January, he posted a meme which read “In one day, Trump got more fat women out walking than Michelle Obama did in 8 years.”

Again, he was an unopposed candidate. You don’t usually get a more sure thing in politics than an unopposed campaign. Not for that dude. He gone.

Danville Township Assessor Rick Rohrer, a Democrat, posted the very same meme to his Facebook page, and the chairwoman and treasurer of the Vermillion County Democratic Party were so furious that they both resigned in disgust.

Just last week, the sports anchor for the most-watched television station in Chicagoland, Mark Giangreco, was slapped with a weeks-long suspension for tweeting something stupid about the president and his supporters: “America exposed as a country full of simpletons who allowed this cartoon lunatic to be ‘elected.’ “

Also, have you seen Gov. Bruce Rauner lately? The formerly elbow-throwing, defiant Republican frat jock is now talking like the dearly departed host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

I seriously doubt that Rauner just naturally morphed from a tough guy, who has called just about everybody from the judges to the two state legislative leaders to most of the General Assembly “corrupt,” into a soft-spoken yogi who gently speaks of compromise, peace and harmony.

Rauner’s campaign team has the cash to poll-test and focus-group just about everything, and the governor is infamous for relentlessly staying on script. He and his people obviously know things have changed.

So, when probable Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker woke up early one morning last week and, according to an aide, decided to mock the far right’s incendiary rhetoric by tweeting, “As a protest against Trump’s rescinding protections for trans kids, everyone should use the other gender’s bathroom today! #protecttranskids,” he should’ve first taken a deep breath, had another cup of coffee, maybe called a friend or two and then realized he was about to make himself look like just another billionaire who can’t control himself on Twitter. Please leave the jokes to the professionals (who, by the way, are regularly put through the public meat grinder for their misfired attempts at humor).

I’m not arguing here for an utterly bland, completely “politically correct” public discourse. I’m just arguing for a little common sense and a bit of self-awareness. Just because calling some women fat worked for Trump doesn’t mean it’s gonna work for low-level candidates and elected officials. Insulting millions of Americans and questioning the nation’s electoral system also worked for Trump, but it is a no-go for a TV talking head.

And appearing to urge men to enter women’s restrooms as some sort of protest shows exactly zero common sense, no matter what the climate may be right now and no matter how well-intentioned the act may have been.

If you can’t do that, then delete your account.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


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* A Black friend and a Jew lawyer.


* Illinois Awarded Funds to Offer Advanced Training on Detecting Impaired Driving
* Illinois EPA Announces Upcoming Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events
* IEMA Highlights Emergency Preparedness for People with Access and Functional Needs in May - Ready Illinois website offers preparedness tips for people, caregivers
* First Lady Launches Illinois Family Connects
* Governor and Lt. Governor Unveil 2016 Journal of Local Government Shared Service Best Practices

  
* Purported Sony H8216 specs could foreshadow Xperia XZ1 sequel with Snapdragon 845
* HQ Smashed Its All-Time Player Record Tonight as iPhone Trivia Show Continues to Surge in Popularity
* BlackBerry nixes security support for the PRIV after two years
* Apple finally has a Thunderbolt 3.0 cable to its name
* California’s worried about cellphone radiation and it has guidelines for use
* Buy an Apple Watch Series 3 or Gear S3 from Verizon, get $200 off a phone
* Like most things, net neutrality repeal will be gradual on ISPs’ part

* Lull in Manny Machado rumors, but plates shift underneath
* Sporcle Saturday: The richest free agent deals in White Sox history
* Former White Sox players return to rep team
* White Sox news that doesn’t involve Manny Machado
* Former White Sox players return to rep team
* The cracks in the White Sox-Manny Machado rumors
* Hahn mum on any White Sox-Machado talks


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