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Adding insult to injury in higher ed

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* Tony Arnold

About 260 Northeastern Illinois University students may be forced out of their campus jobs because of a new rule put in place as a result of the Illinois’ ongoing budget impasse. […]

(A) new rule put in place in December by the State Universities Civil Service System, the organization that administers university employee rules, is creating new headaches for Northeastern officials as they try to save money. The rule states that if a university is going to force its employees to take unpaid days off, then it has to prove it’s doing what it can to save money by first kicking students out of their part-time campus jobs.

Northeastern is believed to be the first Illinois school to be pursuing furloughs that will trigger this new rule.

“I can’t figure out right now a way around it. And I just find that exasperating,” said Richard Helldobler, the interim president of Northeastern.

A university spokesman said if the school goes through with the furloughs, it’s unclear how long the students will be out of their campus jobs.

Helldobler said the state currently owes Northeastern $17 million and over the last few years, the university has taken several measures to save money, from reducing personnel by more than 100 positions to furloughing many of its employees for six days last year.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* SJ-R

State lawmakers are being asked to leave schools’ physical education requirements out of the “grand bargain” budget resolution that’s being negotiated in the Illinois Senate.

Senate Bill 13, one of the bills that are packaged in the “grand bargain,” primarily focuses on a property tax freeze. But it also allows school districts to reduce physical education requirements to three days a week, and would expand exceptions available to high school students who participate in extracurricular physical activities.

At an event in Springfield Wednesday, former U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart of Belleville, a retired Army major general, said he applauds bipartisanship in solving the state’s budget crisis, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to roll back the country’s national readiness.

“Do we really want to do that, when we have a statewide and a nationwide epidemic of obesity?” Enyart asked. “Let’s not have a setback in our national readiness, and in our national health. PE is essential to our public education system, and is part of the state’s duty to our nation.”

* The Question: Should the state allow schools to cut back PE to three days per week? Click here to take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   84 Comments      

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Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

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Congresscritters who draw state pensions

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* The Roskam example is particularly interesting, considering the context

Six term Wheaton Republican Peter Roskam is a powerful figure in the U.S. House, where he chairs a key panel on tax policy and wants to delay Medicare and Social Security benefits for millions of Americans by raising the eligibility age.

But Roskam - who has criticized his home state as a “fiscal basket case” and marshalled opposition to a federal rescue for Illinois’s troubled pension funds—began collecting his $37,452 annual pension from the state for his years as an Illinois lawmaker at the first legal opportunity last year when he turned 55.

Roskam is one of three members of Congress from Illinois who had previously served in the Illinois General Assembly and are now getting pensions from the state for their years in Springfield. Like Roskam, all began cashing in on their 55th birthdays under generous rules established by the state legislature long ago for its own members.

One of them, Republican Mike Bost of Downstate Murphysboro, in 2012 threw a tirade over a pension reform bill on the floor of the Illinois House. It was so spectacular that a video of it went viral on You Tube. The other, Evanston Democrat Jan Schakowsky, once used her congressional office to urge against a reduction in annual benefit increases for public pension recipients in Illinois—of which she was one.

Bost, 56, gets $73,018-a-year in retirement pay from Illinois while Schakowsky, 72, gets $27,888. And that comes on top of the regular $174,000 salaries paid to all members of Congress. Schakowsky and Roskam also have qualified to receive federal pensions after they retire from the U.S. House, while Bost has three years to go in office before reaching that landmark. […]

Expressing concern for long-term solvency of federal programs for retirees and the elderly, Roskam also backs proposals to raise the age of eligibility for drawing Social Security benefits as well as qualifying for Medicare.

When it came to drawing his own Illinois pension, however, Roskam wasted no time taking advantage once he became eligible after turning 55 in September 2016. For his 13 years of service in both the Illinois House and Senate, Roskam recently began collecting an Illinois pension that starts at $3,128-a-month but will grow over time with automatic cost of living add-ons that kick in once he turns 60.

In Congress, Roskam frequently holds up Illinois’ fiscal crisis as a cautionary tale illustrating the need to bring pension entitlements under control.

In 2011, Roskam organized a letter signed by Republican leaders in the U.S. House as well as all GOP U.S. House members from lllinois warning then-Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois legislature that financial help to resolve the state’s pension crisis would not be forthcoming from Washington.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - ISP responds *** The Mendoza car saga continues, including a Rauner twist

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* Sneed

Sneed hears the 2005 Chrysler that State Comptroller Susana Mendoza dumped in favor of a $32,000 Ford Explorer may have had 104,000 miles on it, but a top source claims it was in impeccable condition and not in need of expensive repairs, despite Mendoza’s claims.

“It was spotless inside, detailed all the time — and in mint condition,” the source added.

A friend of mine who once worked for the comptroller said he’d ridden in that car and agreed with the above characterization, “except for a slight Marlboro musk.”

* Meanwhile…

Days after the Bruce Rauner-funded Republican Party attacked State Comptroller Susana Mendoza for buying an Illinois-made used car for appropriate state government use, the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association slammed Rauner for his hypocrisy after failing to pass a state budget, spending 54K dollars on a luxury SUV from funds earmarked for State Troopers, and ignoring the outrageous fiscal mismanagement of Donald Trump.

“Rauner should end his petty political games and get to work passing a state budget to help Illinois families,” said President Doug House of the Illinois Democratic County Chairmen’s Association. “It’s especially rich that he breathlessly attacked Comptroller Mendoza for purchasing a used vehicle for pool use when he bought a brand new $54,000 SUV for his own use out of funds earmarked for State Troopers,” said House.

Pictures of the SUV parked outside the Thompson Center are included in this release. Also included are purchasing and voucher records detailing the vehicle’s intent and use.

Funds for the luxury SUV for Gov. Rauner’s use came from a fund that is supposed to pay for the Illinois State Police. The starting salary for a State trooper is $57,000 – about the cost of the Governor’s sweet new ride.

House continued to blast the Rauner-funded Republican Party for its hypocrisy on fiscal matters.

“Where was the Republican outrage when Governor Rauner hired Donna Arduin, a $30,000 a month budget consultant that couldn’t pass a budget? What about giving his “wingman” Leslie Munger a new job as Deputy Governor that pays $135,000? And hiring her whole patronage army of nearly 30 people at a cost to taxpayers of $1.8 million? How about Donald Trump’s weekly golf trips to Florida – an amount spent on his family in just one month that President Obama spent over an entire year?

“The Republican Party lead by Bruce Rauner is bankrupt of credibility when it comes to fiscal matters,” said House.

Finally, House defended Comptroller Mendoza’s service to Illinois to fix the mess she inherited.

“In her short time in office, Comptroller Mendoza has been working tirelessly to prioritize payments to the needy and to minimize the impact of Governor Rauner’s inability to do his job and submit a balanced budget. His failure to propose a balanced budget has led to a $12.4 billion backlog for state taxpayers,” said House.

I’m told the pic they provided isn’t even the right car, but the purchasing order is here. As you can see, the purchase was made on behalf of the Illinois State Police’s Executive Protection Unit for “increased mobility for secure transport of public officials.” So, yeah, it’s a fund “earmarked for State Troopers,” but protecting executives is part of their job.

I’ve asked the State Police if the governor’s office was involved in the purchasing decision, but haven’t heard back yet.

*** UPDATE ***  From the ISP…

The ISP continuously reviews the status of its Fleet, and makes purchases based upon vehicle conditions, mileage and usage. The ISP’s Statewide Fleet Section Supervisor or one of his staff works with the fleet coordinators for each work unit to ensure we have the correct specifications for a vehicle purchase when we order a vehicle for ISP work units. The ISP Fleet Section did not discuss this vehicle purchase with the Governor’s Office.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

It’s just a bill

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* Newspaper publishes blockbuster investigative story, legislators hold a hearing, newspaper publishes another story

State lawmakers pressed Wednesday for stronger regulation of pharmacists’ hours and workload as a way to protect consumers from harmful errors, but pharmacy lobbyists largely did not budge.

In the first public showdown since a Tribune investigation in December found 52 percent of 255 tested pharmacies failed to warn patients about dangerous drug interactions, top pharmacy representatives said safety improvements already in the works will give Illinois some of the nation’s toughest restrictions.

At the center of a sometimes contentious hearing was legislation sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, that calls for limiting the number of hours pharmacists work each day, restricting how many prescriptions they fill per hour and adding meal break requirements for pharmacists she said are so overloaded that consumers are in jeopardy.

Pharmacists must juggle calls, track down doctors on questionable prescriptions, deal with multiple insurance issues, supervise technicians and even empty the trash on days when they may work a dozen hours and dispense 300 orders, Flowers said. […]

What became clear to Flowers and pharmacy lobbyists is that more hearings and negotiations are likely to take place before she puts her legislation up for a vote.

And then they’ll get another story.

* Legislator introduces a bill to bring back legislative scholarship, attracts precisely zero co-sponsors, editorial board blasts the entire General Assembly

They say it’s hard to separate a boy from his dog. It’s even harder to separate a politician from his perks.

Is the Illinois General Assembly really a legislative body? Or just a parody of one?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell, and HB 279 represents Exhibit A for that proposition.

* Columnist who pushed to change Illinois’ state song to a Cheap Trick tune upset by silly bills

State lawmakers need something to do.

Maybe hand them orange vests and garbage bags, and let them collect litter along the roadside. Give them some sort of busy work. Otherwise, they’ll keep proposing silly bills.

Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, wants to boost the speed limit from 70 to 75 mph on most interstates outside of Chicago. For you lead-foots, maybe that sounds good. But there’s a downside: faster speed limits would help residents flee Illinois faster. As it is, pretty soon, we’ll be able to drive as fast as we want, as there’ll be almost no one or no cars left.

* Related…

* Obama could be a highway star — but should it be I-55 or I-294?

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

*** UPDATED x3 - Rauner response - 81 percent vote to authorize strike *** AFSCME strike vote authorization result announcement

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* The event starts at 10:30. Click here to watch our live coverage post. You can click here for what’s being billed as a live video feed that I wasn’t able to embed here. WTAX is also promising live coverage, so click here for that.

*** UPDATE 1 ***  AFSCME says 81 percent voted to authorize a strike. Its press release is here.

*** UPDATE 2 *** AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch won’t tell reporters how many state workers actually cast ballots. However, a spokesman told me that right around 80 percent of eligible voters turned out.

*** UPDATE 3 *** From the governor’s office…

The Rauner Administration released the following statement in response to AFSCME’s strike authorization vote. The following is attributable to General Counsel Dennis Murashko:

“The vote to authorize a strike is an attack on our state’s hardworking taxpayers and all those who rely on critical services provided everyday. It is a direct result of AFSCME leadership’s ongoing misinformation campaign about our proposal.

AFSCME leaders would rather strike than work 40 hours a week before earning overtime. They want to earn overtime after working just 37.5 hours per week.

AFSCME leaders would rather strike than allow volunteers like Boy Scout troops to lend a helping hand inside government. They want to ban the use of volunteers.

AFSCME leaders would rather strike than allow state employees to be paid based on merit. They want to stick to paying people based on seniority, regardless of whether they’re doing a good job.

And while hard working families across the state face skyrocketing health insurance premiums, AFSCME leaders want to strike to force higher taxes to subsidize their health care plans that are far more generous than taxpayers have.

Put simply, AFSCME leaders will do or say anything to avoid implementing a contract that is fair to both taxpayers and state employees alike.

If AFSCME chooses to strike, we will use every resource to ensure services continue to be available to the people of Illinois. We continue to encourage AFSCME to work with us in implementing a contract that is similar to those ratified by 20 other unions.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   235 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Purvis responds *** Madigan forms another education funding task force

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* Press release…

Speaker Michael J. Madigan is forming a bipartisan House task force to continue working on an equitable education funding formula and address questions a state commission recently left unanswered.

“The question of how Illinois funds our public schools is one that affects every community in our state,” Madigan said. “As such, the entire process for making formula changes – from crafting an overall outline for reform, to working through the specific details – needs to be carefully considered by legislators from across the state. This task force will continue House Democrats’ commitment to vetting these decisions and making sure all voices are heard.”

Madigan has appointed Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, as well as Reps. Linda Chapa LaVia, Fred Crespo, William Davis, Marcus Evans, Laura Fine, Jay Hoffman, Rita Mayfield, Emily McAsey, Michelle Mussman, Elgie Sims and Justin Slaughter to form an education funding reform task force along with House Republicans. The task force will continue the work of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission, address unanswered questions in the commission’s final report, and continue to craft equitable school funding reform legislation.

House Democrats serving on the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission recently noted that aspects of the Commission’s final report failed to clearly reflect the group’s discussions. Amongst other concerns, the report did not properly recognize that Illinois’ current school funding system is broken, in large part, because of overreliance on property taxes and underfunding from the state. Illinois’ property tax dollars account for 67 percent of all education spending, while the nationwide average is 45 percent. Without reform that acknowledges this overreliance on property taxes, the current education funding system will continue to be regressive compared to states with less property tax reliance.

“House Democrats played a leading role on the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission, and successfully pushed the Commission to meet more frequently,” Currie said. “While the Commission did not accomplish everything it set out to do, it did show that a bipartisan group of lawmakers can work toward consensus on major issues. There are questions that remain unanswered and points that still need clarification. We look forward to continuing to work cooperatively on this important and complex issue.

The best way to start making this idea into reality is by crafting an actual piece of legislation. That isn’t directly addressed by Madigan’s press release, however.

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

We hope this new education reform task force is not an attempt to delay the positive work and progress of the Illinois School Funding Commission. As was discussed throughout the commission process, the goal was for the framework report to lead to a bill that could pass both chambers and be signed by Governor Rauner. Through bicameral and bipartisan discussions, we stand ready to work together in fixing our state’s broken school funding formula.

Except they can’t even agree who’s gonna write the bill.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Can Rauner’s 25 percent prisoner reduction goal be met?

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* From the Kearney Courier

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s goal to reduce the state’s prison population by 25 percent can be achieved, but only if extensive changes are made to the criminal justice system, according to two members of a state commission that issued recommendations on prison reform.

Retired 11th Judicial Circuit Judge Elizabeth Robb and Andrew Leipold, law professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, were panelists Wednesday for a forum sponsored by the McLean County League of Women Voters and the Central Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Both served as members of Rauner’s commission to develop proposals to cut the state’s prison numbers by 25 percent by 2025. […]

Robb cited current drug laws with enhanced penalties as one of the areas recommended for change by the commission. The add-ons for selling drugs near schools and parks disproportionately affect African Americans in urban areas and “are not effective and not a deterrent,” said Robb.

Commission members also reviewed the reasons people are sent to prison and explored alternatives to incarceration, including a law that has added 700 people to the inmate population for stealing vehicles.

“We can make a cut in the prison population by changing that law,” said Robb.


- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

Fisking Rauner

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* Pantagraph

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said Wednesday he understands the frustration of Illinois residents tired of living without a state budget.

“It’s frustrating we don’t have a budget. … When I started this job, I was 6-8 and had a full head of hair. It’s hard,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not patient, but I am extremely persistent. … I’m going to stay persistent.” […]

He said his requirements to approve a budget remain the same: “I’m not going to sign an unbalanced budget,” and “I won’t sign off on any new taxes unless we get major structural changes” in government regulations as called for in his agenda.

Just to be clear, he won’t sign an unbalanced budget, but he’ll propose three of them in a row.

* More

“I ran for governor because all of my fellow business builders were leaving Illinois,” he said. “The number one state people are going is Indiana. C’mon. It ain’t for the weather. … Our problems are all self-inflicted. Our government is a bureaucratic nightmare, and we’re going to change it.”

Notice that he said “my fellow business builders” and not his current favorite phrase “job creators.” Why? Well, maybe because when he was asked during a campaign debate to detail some jobs he created he couldn’t.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Backpedal begins *** Pritzker urges unusual “protest”

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* Ummm…

Kind of unclear on the actual concept, don’t you think?

*** UPDATE ***  Pritzker was called out by a progressive legislator and is back-pedaling…

I’m told that Pritzker was trying to parody the right with his original tweet. Meh. That stuff should be left to the professionals.

- Posted by Rich Miller   103 Comments      

Rauner dodges reporters

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* Brian Mackey

In the week since his budget address, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has done little to promote his plan or defend it from attacks by Democrats.

That’s a significant departure from last year. Back then, Rauner toured the state, highlighting his call for greater funding of public schools. This year, he took a ski vacation in Utah.

On Wednesday, Rauner made a brief speech at an education conference in Springfield. Afterward, he refused to answer questions from reporters.

The ski trip was reportedly to celebrate his birthday, but Rauner would not say which — until an aide told him, “You can answer how old you are.”

He’s 61. Wikipedia lists his age as 60, so there was some confusion.

* Mackey was not as kind on Twitter yesterday…

A bit harsh.

* Monique Garcia

Rauner spoke at three separate events across the state, starting his morning in Chicago, where he addressed the Illinois State Board of Education. The governor’s official schedule listed him as not doing a media availability at that stop, but indicated he would field questions from the media at later events in Bloomington and Springfield.

That didn’t happen. Press aides cited a change in plans due to the governor’s busy schedule. Reporters asked some questions anyway as Rauner entered and exited a gathering of school administrators at a Springfield convention center.

“How are you and CK getting along?” Rauner asked a Chicago Tribune reporter, referring to his spokeswoman Catherine Kelly. […]

Rauner also riled up lawmakers by posting a campaign video shortly after his speech touting “a grand bargain” to end the budget. That’s the same term the Senate has adopted for its plan, and some felt the governor was trying to take credit for work done by lawmakers.

On Wednesday, Rauner did not answer when asked if he felt his speech ultimately would help or hurt the Senate’s efforts to strike a budget deal, nor did he respond when asked what feedback he has received from lawmakers. The governor also remained silent when asked about criticism of the campaign video.

He has an event scheduled at his office today at 11:30, an hour after AFSCME announces its strike authorization vote results, so he is expected to talk to the media today.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

*** LIVE *** House session coverage

Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

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Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

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AFSCME to announce strike authorization vote results tomorrow morning

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Press release…

The largest union representing public service workers in Illinois state government, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, will hold a news conference tomorrow (Thursday) morning in Springfield to announce the results of voting by state workers on whether to authorize their union bargaining committee to call a strike if necessary.

Governor Bruce Rauner broke off negotiations with the union more than a year ago, walking away and refusing to even meet with the AFSCME bargaining committee ever since. Instead of working toward compromise, Governor Rauner has been seeking the power to unilaterally impose his own harsh demands, including a 100% hike in employee costs for health care that would take $10,000 out of the pocket of the average state worker, a four-year wage freeze and an end to safeguards against irresponsible privatization.

WHAT: News conference to announce result of state worker strike authorization vote
WHO: AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch and rank-and-file state employees
WHEN: Tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 23) at 10:30 a.m.

AFSCME Council 31 represents some 38,000 Illinois state employees who protect kids, care for veterans and the disabled, respond to emergencies, help struggling families and much more.

Over and under on the strike vote percentage?

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      

HGOPs fight back against Dem messaging on Rauner budget

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Yep. This is correct. Neither side has clean hands and we need a real budget with revenues that match expenditures…

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

The appearance of access

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Columbia Journalism Review

After ducking his constituents and protesters this month—by leaving a closed meeting through the back door, in one instance—Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam, a Republican who represents the west Chicago suburbs, hosted 18,000 people for a teleconference call last week through his campaign website.

The day after Roskam’s telephone town hall, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner fielded questions about his budget through Facebook Live, a platform the Republican has embraced in order to interact with constituents about statewide issues. The video attracted 16,000 views.

The technology enabled both officials to claim rightfully that they were talking with constituents, and large numbers of them at that. But, in the more controlled virtual space, they also were able to avoid potential confrontation with voters and questions from the press. (Roskam’s staff cancelled a scheduled meeting with constituents earlier this month when a reporter came with them.)

“The urge to control access is getting worse,” says Thomas Suddes, assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He says social media provides a false sense of access to elected officials. “It used to be that if a person were ducking reporters it was easy to say they were,” he says. Now, social media makes “the appearance of access for the public as significant as genuine access.”

Yep, and it’s a real problem.

* Roskam also caught heat for the way he set up his teleconference

Congressman Peter Roskam is making changes for future telephone town halls after repeated questions from NBC 5 of how his Tele-Town Halls have been conducted.

In the past, those interested in participating had to register on Roskam’s campaign website and agree to receive campaign emails, texts and other literature.

NBC 5 questioned if Roskam was using the information to later solicit donations and campaign mailers. A week after those initial questions were raised, David Pasch, Roskam’s spokesman says “the following language was added to the Tele-Town Hall sign up page:

“The information provided will only be used for Roskam for Congress telephone town halls. It will not be shared with other organizations or used for fundraising purposes.”

* Roskam was also blasted by the Courier-News Editorial Board

The Wheaton Republican told radio hosts Monday that “the country’s safer this morning than it was 72 hours ago.” Yes, safer for those who fear all those treacherous non-Christians who would come here from those menacing Middle East countries that don’t do business with the president. What is more appalling than the naivete in Roskam’s support is the spineless way in which it was delivered. Roskam declined to respond to the Naperville Sun’s multiple requests for an interview on the issue. He did not explain himself in a public forum before his constituents. No, he made his statement under the friendly cover of conservative talk radio — in an appearance on WIND-AM 560. On Thursday, days after his colleagues had weighed in, he issued a news release that simply reiterated what he said on the radio.

This evasiveness is not all that surprising. Roskam’s staff members also fled from a meeting with a group of constituents last week after finding out a newspaper reporter was with the group. We will cut Roskam’s people some slack for feeling blindsided by this after agreeing to a private meeting with constituents to discuss repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But even after the group told the staffers the reporter did not have to be in the meeting, they refused to call off their retreat.

* Meanwhile, several dozen protesters gathered outside Rep. Mike Bost’s Belleville office yesterday

There were members of the crowd that did get to spend some time with the congressman in a small group setting, Russell said.

“There are a lot of people who have health care stories where they are scared for their lives, where they are afraid that they’re going to lose their coverage, not going to be able to take care of their chronic illnesses,” Russell said. “So our message is, ‘Listen to those people. You need to listen to them.’”

Russell said he tried last month to organize a meeting with about 15 people with Bost. The meeting was canceled, Russell said.

“We just want an opportunity to talk to our congressman,” Russell said.

* And an area TV station tried and failed to get some straight answers from Bost

Upon questioning in an email conversation with KFVS-TV, Rep. Bost did not definitively comment on whether or not he would vote yes or no on a repeal/overhaul of the ACA.

The congressman also would not comment on the fate of any Illinois residents who may lose insurance as a result of a repeal.

Although Rep. Bost did not specifically agree to host a town hall meeting as requested by protesters, he did express support for their expression

“I understand that there are heartfelt disagreements on both sides of this issue and welcome and encourage this conversation. Whether you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent, everyone’s input is valid and helps shape our agenda in Congress.”

* Related…

* Republicans who won after rowdy town halls now avoiding them

* Protesters gather outside Bost’s office in support of ACA

- Posted by Rich Miller   54 Comments      

Today’s number: $12,401,195,168.60

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* And it’s only gonna get worse if we don’t get a real budget…

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

It’s just a bill

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Or, in this case, a rules change…

With thousands of Illinois’ seniors at risk of reduced, or even cut in-home care and community-based services, AARP Illinois, aging advocacy organization, and legislators today urged the Department on Aging to stop proposed changes to senior care rules under Governor Rauner’s proposed Community Reinvestment Program (CRP) and the Community Care Program (CCP).

The Governor’s budget proposes $120 million in cuts to home-and-community-based services that thousands of Illinois seniors depend upon. If the rules proposed by the Department on Aging go through, nearly 36,000 non-Medicaid seniors will face a host of eligilbity restrictions and denied background checks of service providers that will ultimately jeopardize seniors’ care and ability to reside in their home and community.

* From the Illinois Policy Institute’s news service

A push to automatically register voters at the DMV is back after failing to get past the veto pen last year.

Democrats in Springfield have filed bills that would make getting a new license or ID card a voter registration. The last bill to do this passed with both Democrat and Republican votes, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it, saying it didn’t have sufficient safeguards against voter fraud.

Illinois Public Interest Research Group Director Abe Scarr said the new legislation takes concerns of the governor’s last veto into account. […]

Some lawmakers opposed the measure last year for the same reasons the governor used in his veto message, that “Agencies with access to citizenship information should use that information to verify a person’s eligibility before processing the voter registration.” Scarr said that the new bill makes opting out an option before the registering process begins.

* Press release

In light of recent attacks on law enforcement personnel and other first responders, State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) is sponsoring “Blue Lives Matter” legislation to help protect law enforcement, correctional officers, and other first responders from being victimized by hate crimes.

“As a former military prosecutor, I understand that we have a duty to help protect our nation’s first responders. Police, correctional officers, and other first responders – all face very hazardous duties and we must make every effort to ensure their safety,” Schimpf said. “I want my district’s correctional officers, police, firefighters and EMS crews to all know I have their backs.”

The recent tragic shooting incidents in Louisiana and Texas have magnified the incredible burdens that have been placed on emergency personnel in recent years. Acts of violence against police, correctional officers and other first responders are starting to increase to higher levels not seen in modern years.

Senate Bill 1380 adds peace officers, correctional institution employees, probation parole officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel to the listing of protected classes under the Illinois Hate Crimes statutes. The legislation applies to local, state, and federal public safety professionals.

* Illinois Review

State Rep. Steve Reick (R-Woodstock) filed three bills affecting taxes this week in Springfield. The first, HB 3013, would provide tax relief for those over 65 living on federal adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less.

“The property tax burden falls hard upon seniors on fixed incomes, and while the credit will in most cases be modest, it will help them stretch their limited incomes,” Reick said. “It may help a senior citizen with an electric bill, some groceries or a prescription. Anyway, we’ll keep taking small steps until we figure out how to provide substantive relief to everyone in the state.” […]

Reick has also filed HB 2576, a bill that would add a county designation to all individual income tax forms.

“This simple change could provide a great deal of benefit for those who study the movement of Illinoisans from county to county within the state,” Reick said. “Today we can tell who moves into or out of Illinois, but we are unable to easily collect data about trends related to migration within our state.”

* Press release

Three key legislators, State Senate Labor Committee Chairman Daniel Biss and State Representatives Lisa Hernandez and Carol Ammons, have joined forces with worker advocates, including HourVoice and United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 881, to introduce groundbreaking legislation (SB1720) to crack down on wage theft in Illinois. Wage theft is estimated to cost American workers over $50 billion per year and news reports have shown Illinois is a very difficult state for workers to recoup stolen wages.

“Our Illinois Fighting Wage Theft Act increases the penalties on companies that commit serious wage theft and prohibits those companies from receiving state government contracts for at least five years,” said State Senator and Labor Committee Chairman Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), who is sponsoring the bill. “Fair to both workers and businesses, SB1720 will level the playing field. Workers deserve to get paid every dollar they’ve earned and employers who treat workers properly and play by the rules shouldn’t be undercut by competitors who cheat their workers.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

Question of the day

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017


As part of its initiative to improve the pace of game play, Major League Baseball has approved a change to the intentional walk rule, going from the traditional four-pitch walk to a dugout signal, it was announced Wednesday.

MLB has studied various ways to quicken games.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported earlier this month that MLB had made formal proposals to the players’ union to usher in raising the strike zone and scrapping the practice of lobbing four balls toward home plate to issue an intentional walk.

However, the Wall Street Journal reported the other day that the new rule would save an average of only 14 seconds per game.

* And, of course, there’s stuff like this…

* The Question: What other time-saving rule changes would you support?

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      

STI death rates on the rise here, but we’re way down the list

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* The Southern Illinoisan

Despite the popular stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases and infections, more than half of all people will experience one or the other at some point in their lives, according to the American Sexual Health Association. […]

From 2013 to 2014, 41 out of the 50 states experienced an overall increase in average STI morbidity rate (the death rate caused by STDs and STIs). Using the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HealthGrove, a health data site by Graphiq, found the states that had the largest increases in STI morbidity rates. After analyzing the relative increases for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis per 100K people, states were ranked by average percent increase in the morbidity rate of all three infections between 2013 and 2014 (the most recent reporting year).

* A few states on the list

#1 - Utah
Average percent increase in STI morbidity: 29.69%
Chlamydia rate per 100K people (2014): 283.47
Gonorrhea rate per 100K people (2014): 49.67
Syphillis rate per 100k people (2014): 356.99 […]

#11 - California
Average percent increase in STI morbidity: 9.36%
Chlamydia rate per 100K people (2014): 459.94
Gonorrhea rate per 100K people (2014): 118.46
Syphillis rate per 100k people (2014): 29.85 […]

#24 - New York
Average percent increase in STI morbidity: 4.09%
Chlamydia rate per 100K people (2014): 502.84
Gonorrhea rate per 100K people (2014): 105.63
Syphillis rate per 100k people (2014): 36.28 […]

#36 - Indiana
Average percent increase in STI morbidity: 0.98%
Chlamydia rate per 100K people (2014): 434.02
Gonorrhea rate per 100K people (2014): 110.93
Syphillis rate per 100k people (2014): 7.23 […]

#39 - Illinois
Average percent increase in STI morbidity: 0.5%
Chlamydia rate per 100K people (2014): 516.5
Gonorrhea rate per 100K people (2014): 123.97
Syphillis rate per 100k people (2014): 21.7

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      

Local reaction to new immigration order

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* New York Times

President Trump has directed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more aggressively, unleashing the full force of the federal government to find, arrest and deport those in the country illegally, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes.

Documents released on Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security revealed the broad scope of the president’s ambitions: to publicize crimes by undocumented immigrants; strip such immigrants of privacy protections; enlist local police officers as enforcers; erect new detention facilities; discourage asylum seekers; and, ultimately, speed up deportations.

* Gov. Rauner has already said that he has no interest in having the state police help Homeland Security round up immigrants. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said the same thing this week

As the Trump administration publicly detailed its plans to more aggressively enforce immigration laws, a top Cook County sheriff’s official said Tuesday the department has “no interest” in joining an effort that would use local police to round up immigrants living in the country without legal permission.

“We have not been approached nor would we be interested in participating in this program,” said Cara Smith, policy chief for Sheriff Tom Dart. “Our focus is and will remain on addressing violence in the city.”

* CPS is also responding

As the Trump administration expands its deportation policy, Chicago Public Schools told its principals Tuesday that they should not let any agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement into schools without a criminal warrant.

“To be very clear, CPS does not provide assistance to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of federal civil immigration law,” chief education officer Janice Jackson wrote. “Therefore, ICE should not be permitted access to CPS facilities or personnel except in the rare instance in which we are provided with a criminal warrant. If presented with any paperwork from ICE, please call the Law Department before taking any action.”

She said that “ICE agents should wait outside while the school is reviewing the matter with the Law Department.”

The district also distributed palm cards in English and Spanish from the National Immigrant Justice Center containing such legal advice as not opening doors to immigration officials who do not have a warrant. And it advised schools to have parents update their emergency contact form with back-up contacts, saying, “If a child is left stranded at your school and you suspect it is because his or her parent is detained, please exhaust the child’s emergency contact list,” and to “have a staff member remain with the student.”

* CBS News interviewed Dr. Jerry Kruse, dean of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield

One-in-four doctors in the U.S. are foreign born, including an estimated 15,000 from the seven countries already included in Mr. Trump’s travel ban.

“How significant is the shortage at a place like this?” Dokoupil asked.

“In this county, the shortage of primary care physicians is about half of what’s needed,” Kruse said.

Kruse had hoped to help rural and short-handed places like Morgan County, about 30 miles outside Springfield, Illinois, by recruiting more international graduates. […]

Hospitals have until 9 p.m. Wednesday to decide which recent medical school graduates they’d like to bring on as residents. In a normal year, the best candidates would rise to the top. But this year, hospitals also have to weigh whether to take a risk on a candidate whose visa might be denied.

* And World Business Chicago took a look at the Chicago area’s ties to Mexico


There are an estimated 130+ Chicago-area companies in Mexico including: Baxter, Groupon, Hyatt, Illinois Tool Works, Ingredion, McDonald’s, Motorola Solutions, Underwriters Laboratories and United Continental
There are at least 10 Mexican companies with a presence in greater Chicago including: Amtex Chemical, Cemex, Bimbo Bakeries and Famsa
US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce – Mid America Chapter
Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Chicago
Chicago-Mexico City Sister City relationship
There are 70+ weekly nonstop departures from Chicago airports to destinations in Mexico
An estimated 1.55 million Mexican-Americans reside in the Chicago area […]


Total Imports to Illinois, 2015: US $13.1 billion
Top Import Categories, 2015: Electrical machinery, beer, vehicles and parts, heavy machinery and parts, plastics, furniture, medical instruments, iron & steel crude oil, iron & steel, paper & paperboard
Total Exports from Illinois, 2015: US $9.1 billion
Top Export Categories, 2015: Cell phones and electric apparatus, heavy machinery and parts, engines, plastics, corn, iron & steel, medical instrutments, pharmaceuticals

* Tribune

President Donald Trump’s sweeping crackdown on immigrants in the country illegally will strain an already tight U.S. job market, with one study suggesting that removing all of them would cost the economy as much as $5 trillion over 10 years.

That represents the contribution of the millions of unauthorized workers to the world’s largest economy, about 3 percent of private-sector gross domestic product, according to a recent paper issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research. At an average of $500 billion in output a year, removing all such immigrants would be like lopping off the equivalent of Massachusetts from the U.S. economy, said study co-author Francesc Ortega. […]

“The challenge is particularly high now because the labor market has tightened up not just overall but in areas in which you would think undocumented immigrants would be important, so that means that it’s going to be hard to fill these jobs if you deport these employees,” Harris said. “You have to think about indirect effects when you disrupt production in industries in which they’re a critical part of getting things done. So there’s a transition cost, as well as the cost of a reduced labor force.”

* Related…

* Sen. Aquino: Maybe Trump taking anti-immigrant cues from Rauner

* New immigration enforcement rules worry Southland Latinos: The study concluded that by 2010, the number of unauthorized immigrants in Illinois had fallen to 490,000. The caucus surveyed more than 200 communities in the Chicago area.

* Trump to spare ‘dreamers’ from US crackdown: The administration of US President Donald Trump plans to consider almost all illegal immigrants subject to deportation, but will leave protections in place for immigrants known as “dreamers,” who entered the US illegally as children, according to official guidelines released on Tuesday.

* Trump hardens immigration rules, several Indian-Americans to be affected: Indian-Americans, who as per an unofficial count, account for nearly 3,00,000 illegal aliens are likely to be greatly impacted by this.

* Police chief: Evanston undocumented immigrants should get a legal driver’s license

* Illinois Senators vocally oppose Trump on immigration orders

* How Illinois’ Attorney General Plans To Challenge Trump:

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

*** LIVE *** House session coverage

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* The Senate isn’t in this week. As always, follow everything in real time right here with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      

Is a sales tax on food really regressive?

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Taxing food and medicine sales are back in the news, so the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois takes another look at an article it published a few years back and a new study which challenge the belief that a sales tax on food is regressive for the poor

The theory highlighted in our article was borne out more recently in a much more rigorous academic study. The basic premise: a general sales tax exemption on groceries does not really benefit the poor because most of their food is purchased under the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (“SNAP”, formerly known as food stamps) and is therefore tax exempt as a matter of federal law. In other words, the general exemption does not target the in- tended recipients and is costly in terms of tax dollars, and in administration and compliance aggravations (such as the ever-changing lists of exempt and non-exempt products).

Using SNAP data from Alabama (a full taxing jurisdiction) and New Orleans (a reduced rate jurisdiction) in conjunction with data from the 2012 Consumer Expenditure Quarterly Interview Survey (a survey on consumer’s expenditures and incomes), the authors calculate the impact of taxing food on the poor with and without accounting for the federally-mandated SNAP exemption. They find that, while the poor spend 17 percent of their total expenditures on groceries, only about 0.5 percent of those expenditures can be taxed. They show that calculating the sales tax burden without taking SNAP into account makes the sales tax look very regressive. However, once the non-taxability of SNAP purchases is taken into consideration the average tax burden based on total consumption becomes slightly progressive. Using a more traditional tax burden estimate based on income (rather than consumption), there is still a substantial decline in the tax burden on the poor once the non-taxability of SNAP purchases is accounted for, although under this analysis the burden remains regressive.

In sum, the federally-mandated sales tax exemption of SNAP purchases reduces the regressivity of a sales tax on groceries, and a sales tax on groceries may even be slightly progressive when tax burden is measured as a percent of consumption, according to this study. As the authors put it:

    While there will always be some of the poor who would pay more if the food at home exemption is repealed, our work suggests that taxing food but compensating with a revenue-neutral reduction in the overall sales tax rate would provide considerable benefits to the poor and, at the same time, lead to a more rational sales tax system.

There’s a lot of stuff in this month’s “Tax Facts” publication, so go read the whole thing. The lack of a tax on retirement income is covered ($1.8 billion could’ve been collected in 2014, it projects, while 1.4 million out of 5.6 million tax returns claimed some retirement income subtraction), the state’s “archaic” franchise tax is also covered as well as a new service tax.

* TFI also used a Minnesota study to claim that “for fiscal year 2016, Illinois’ $2,394,586,460 in corporate income tax receipts would have been borne as follows”

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** 14 of 16 CPS Latino Advisory Committee members resign in protest

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Whoa

Nearly the entire Chicago Public Schools Latino Advisory Committee has resigned in protest of budget cuts.

Fourteen of the 16 members of the committee resigned Wednesday as Chicago Board of Education is set to meet in hopes of signing off on a revised budget to close a $111 million shortfall.

The committee members said they resigned because the cuts disproportionately affect Hispanic schools.

* Backstory from the Sun-Times

When Chicago Public Schools just put a freeze on half of every school’s remaining discretionary money to save $46 million, CEO Forrest Claypool blamed Gov. Bruce Rauner for the cuts, saying he has no regard for the city’s impoverished black and brown children.

Claypool even filed a lawsuit last week, accusing Rauner of violating the civil rights of the minority children who make up nine of 10 CPS students by giving them less funding than their mostly white counterparts elsewhere in the state.

But it turns out that the way Claypool decided to cut school budgets this time — by freezing the rest of every principal’s discretionary money — has hurt majority Hispanic schools at twice the rate of schools serving mostly white children, and cut poor schools at twice the rate of wealthier ones.

Schools with at least 51 percent Hispanic students saw 1.8 percent of their total budgets frozen, on average — that’s about twice the average rate of 0.9 percent frozen at schools with at least 51 percent of white students, according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of the freezes.

The schools that lost the highest percentage of their remaining spending power — 1.8 percent on average — also serve the very poorest children, where nine out of 10 students qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch that is shorthand for school poverty. And schools where three out of four kids are poor lost 1.7 percent of their money; that’s roughly double the percentage 0.8 percent — that was lost by schools where just one of four kids is poor.

Schools that are both poor and Hispanic bore the worst of the cuts.

…Adding… In Chicago, it’s now blame it all on Rauner all the time…

OK, but the CPS cuts still seem to target Latino schools. So, CPS announced an appeals process today.

*** UPDATE ***  Ruiz is right about this

In an extraordinary action with statewide political implications, former Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz, who took over as interim schools chief after the 2015 indictment of Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and who currently chairs the Chicago Park District, showed up at today’s board meeting and accused CPS of bias in deciding how to implement $46 million in mid-year cuts.

In acting the way it has, CPS “lost the moral high ground” in its recent suit against Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state for allegedly underfunding CPS, Ruiz said. CPS can’t accuse the state of bias “when its own ‘method of administration,’ its budget cuts, have a disparate impact on predominantly Hispanic schools.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

Not surprisingly, local governments hate permanent property tax freeze idea

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Finke

Members of the Illinois Municipal League said Tuesday they are opposed to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s idea to impose a permanent property tax freeze in Illinois. […]

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert, a vice president of the IML, said the “vast majority” of the property taxes collected in his city go to municipal pensions.

“For us, it’s primarily police and fire pensions,” Eckert said. “We do meet our threshold each year of the actuaries. If they would freeze the property tax, I’m not sure how we would meet those criteria to properly fund those pensions.”

ILM executive director Brad Cole said that, on average, about 10 percent of a total property tax bill goes to municipalities. The bulk goes to local school districts. However, he said that for smaller communities that may not have a strong retail or manufacturing base, property taxes represent the bulk of the city’s income.

* The Illinois Policy Institute, however, thinks local governments and school districts should take even bigger hits, along with a property tax freeze

Reforms can end the state’s $1.4 billion pension subsidy to school districts and universities – subsidies that let those institutions dole out higher pay, end-of-career salary hikes and pensionable perks that dramatically drive up the cost of pensions.

Reforms can also reduce the state subsidies to local governments – excluding cities with populations below 5,000 – which prop up the nation’s most numerous units of local government and the bureaucracies that run them, saving $1.3 billion.

* Meanwhile, Greg Hinz

[IML Executive Director Brad Cole] says his group will not object if all of the proceeds from an income tax hike go to the state, with local governments not receiving their usual cut.

“As long as we’re not losing anything, that’s acceptable,” Cole says.

They didn’t get their usual piece of the 2011 tax, either, and the Senate’s plan as currently drafted does not give them a chunk of its proposed income tax hike.

- Posted by Rich Miller   51 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** SIU’s Dunn: “We need to acknowledge that FY16 is now lost”

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* SIU President Randy Dunn on the governor’s proposed budget plan…

Since we haven’t had a real budget going on for 20 months now, remember that it’s become customary to analyze proposals against our last “normal” year of state appropriations … FY15.

If you look at the higher education sector overall for FY18, general funds for institutional grants and other initiatives are down 9.9% from 2015, but that figure doesn’t include the state’s share of pension funding contributed for university and community college employees. (If you count pension funding as part of our state support, the drop looks a little less daunting at 6.7%.)

Each of the public universities would be funded next year at an 85% level from where we were for FY15. For the SIU System, that would mean a loss of roughly $30 million; the $199 million received three years previous would drop to $169.554 million for general operations in 2018. However, each institution would also have the opportunity to earn back a 5% funding performance set-aside, theoretically bringing the appropriation level up to 90% of 2015. The performance funding model would be the same one utilized by the Illinois Board of Higher Education already — which is only at a .5% level currently. While I’m a firm believer in the concept that governors and legislatures should have the prerogative to drive some portion of state support based on performance, I do worry about two things with such plans: 1) “Access” schools — and this institutional value is part of SIU’s DNA — will start curtailing, if not denying admissions to a swath of students who appear even somewhat at-risk of not being able to meet whatever performance metrics are chosen; and 2) Performance funding turns into a redistribution mechanism where those institutions which already may be advantaged in terms of resources available, student profile, geographic service region, and the like receive even more support … while struggling schools attempting to serve higher-need students are penalized. In my view, neither of those unintended consequences is good public policy.

But I digress. Back to the budget details: Two designated appropriations important to SIUE — one for the School of Pharmacy, and the other for debt payment to the City of Edwardsville for the newly constructed fire station on the campus — would be completely zeroed out. By contrast, a separate directed appropriation which was first added for SIUC in 2015 — for the Daily Egyptian student newspaper — is maintained for FY18, to supplement a student fee increase by the campus for that same purpose that year. And while there is some funding re-appropriated for previously approved projects, no new capital funding for HIED is proposed for yet another year.

As I listened to the governor deliver his budget address in the House Gallery last Wednesday, I did find elements that I was heartened to hear. Illinois’ need-based student aid program, the Monetary Award Program, is recommended for a 10% increase in funding which would serve another 12,000 students statewide who are MAP-eligible but have not had access to funds. That’s important to SIU. As well, Governor Rauner acknowledged the need to get serious about making progress on deferred maintenance of state facilities across all public sectors; for the SIU System alone, that total is a staggering $700 million if you count every possible capital renovation, repair, and replacement project currently on our books.

* And here he talks about the Senate’s attempt at a compromise…

Right now those important questions are getting immediate attention in the Illinois Senate to see if an evolving “grand bargain” budget — for FY17 — can yet be achieved. Given we’ve had no predictable revenue or viable long-term funding plan from the state since June 30, 2015, the “urgency here is critical” — to quote Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno. Senate leaders are saying that a vote needs to be taken by the end of this month … or close to it … if that chamber’s bipartisan plan is going to provide a way forward. You see, the Senate’s omnibus budget deal would make a state income tax increase retroactive to January 1 to meet its revenue goal; but, waiting much longer to pass a 2017 budget would force too high of “backloading” of state tax withholding in the final months of the fiscal year to make it palatable to most voters (i.e., six months of state tax taken out over four months of pay). So time is of the essence.

I am supportive of the Senate plan as it presently exists, even though there are parts of it I don’t like — and figuring out the pension reform piece will be tough. While it pains me greatly to say it, we need to acknowledge that FY16 is now lost — essentially a year when Illinois higher education absorbed a 73% state cut. But we all survived it, even if badly wounded … and reality says that time and politics have moved on. However, the spending plan for SIU now contained in Senate Bill 6, at $93.4 million — taken in conjunction with the stopgap money appropriated last June 30 — would bring us back to a normal year of funding (a/k/a FY15) once again. Besides that, the budget deal would have the symbolic impact (maybe psychological, even) of getting the stalemate broken while offering a working template for moving into FY18. Plus we would be assured of reimbursement for the millions of dollars we’ve already advanced to the State of Illinois this year to cover MAP grants and a multitude of other contracts and services.

The political instincts of more than a few experienced Springfield hands suggest that if we leave this opportunity empty-handed, the last glimmer of hope for a reliable, predictable, viable state budget anytime in the next couple of years leaves with it. Such an outcome would do nothing to help our steadily shrinking state of higher education in Illinois. So it is time for a deal to get done, and if it does, we’ll be the first to champion the cause.

*** UPDATE ***  Oy

The head of the Heartland Community College board of trustees thinks the district needs to consider creating a budget without any money from the state.

Noting there is still no state budget seven months into the fiscal year and “no indication that it’s coming,” Chairman Gregg Chadwick said at Tuesday night’s meeting, “I’m not sure it makes sense to continue to assume we’ll have state money.”

Heartland’s budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, calls for about $1.2 million in revenue from the state.

His comments came as the board voted to increase tuition and fees by 2.8 percent, raising the total per-credit-hour cost from $144 to $148.

* Related…

* WIU Student Enrollment Dips Below 10K: There are 9,469 students enrolled at Western Illinois University this spring semester. It’s the first time this century Western’s student body has dropped below 10,000. Dr. Ron Williams, Western’s Interim Vice President of Student Services and the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, said spring 2017 enrollment is down about 6.5% compared to last spring. He said that is less than the 10% drop the university projected.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

Mystery solved on Rauner’s whereabouts

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Mary Ann Ahern yesterday

Gov. Bruce Rauner has not had a public schedule since delivering his budget address last Wednesday.

Traditionally, after the budget address, the governor travels to promote his budget agenda. But not this year.

Repeated questions to Rauner’s press spokesman about his whereabouts have gone unanswered. She will not say where the governor is, whether he is in Illinois or out of town.

* He’s back today and Ahern caught up with him…

His Twitter account was active while he was gone, including a video post about a recent visit to a school.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

Would term limits make much of a difference?

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* The BGA has an interesting look at term limits

In Maine, a 2004 study from the NCSL and the University of Maine found that legislators elected under term limits “are more partisan and ideological than in the past.” That echoes an observation from Maine Gov. Paul LePage, himself a hard-edged Republican partisan, who nonetheless has lamented the polarizing effect of term-limits

Two decades of term limits delivered “young people with firm agendas” who are “hurting us in the long haul,” LePage complained in a 2014 speech in which he also lauded Martin’s long experience in the Maine legislature as an asset. Martin, LePage argued, was someone who “knew what worked and didn’t work.”

Michigan voters also easily adopted term limits in 1992, enacting caps of six years for House members and eight for state senators.

John Cherry, a Democrat from the Flint area, was among those impacted by the caps, leaving the legislature in 2002 after serving 20 years. But that same year he was elected Michigan’s lieutenant governor, a position he held until 2011. Cherry’s wife is now a state representative.

Cherry said the practical effect of term limits is twofold. First, he said, members elected to the House get to like the $71,685 annual salary and start to angle for a Senate run six years later when term limits kick in. Second, he said, restricting the time members can stay in the legislature hinders the ability or the inclination to address complex issues.

Exhibit A, he said, lay in a recent warning from a state commission appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder that Michigan faced a $59.6 billion infrastructure funding gap over the next 20 years. Cherry said the political aversion to raising taxes or fees to maintain roads and other services has convinced many lawmakers to “kick the can down the road” rather than jeopardize the loss of a good salary.

“Infrastructure has suffered more than anything else in Michigan because you have to raise fees to maintain it,” said Cherry, whose old senate district in Flint is now grappling with the cost of a crumbling water system that poisoned the city’s water supply. “The influence has shifted to lobbyists, and anything complex is made more difficult to deal with.”

I’m mostly an agnostic on term limits. They most certainly shift power to governors, which could be a real problem here considering some of the governor’s the voters have elected. On the other hand, there’s Speaker Madigan’s tenure. And short-timers may try to tailor their votes to help them land when they’re out of office, but legislators often do the same thing here. Just look at the former rosters of the utility-related committees, for example.

And everything else in the above excerpt could also be said of Illinois, which has no lawmaker term limits. The GA is far more partisan than it used to be and they’ve been forever kicking the can on important issues. I mean, we can’t even get a budget after two years of not really trying. And, of course, part of the reason for that is the lobbyists, which as I write this are attempting to kill off the Senate’s grand bargain attempt.

* Related…

* WTTW: A Portrait of Michael Madigan

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

Study looks at how race of prez delegates may influence GOP primary voters here

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* From the abstract to a new study involving Republican presidential primary voting in Illinois

We exploit a natural experiment to study voter taste-based discrimination against nonwhite political candidates. In Illinois Republican presidential primary elections, voters do not vote for presidential candidates directly. Instead, they vote delegate- by-delegate for delegate candidates listed as bound to vote for particular presidential candidates at the Republican nominating convention. To maximize their support for their preferred presidential candidate, voters must vote for all that candidate’s delegates. However, some delegates’ names imply they are not white. Incentives for statistical discrimination against nonwhite delegates are negligible, as delegates have effectively no discretion, and taste-based discrimination against them is costly, as it undermines voters’ preferred presidential candidates.

Examining within-presidential- candidate variation in delegate vote totals in primaries from 2000–2016, we estimate that about 10 percent of voters do not vote for their preferred presidential candidate’s delegates who have names that indicate the delegates are nonwhite, indicating that a considerable share of voters act upon racially-discriminatory tastes. This finding is robust to multiple methods for measuring delegate race, to controls for voters’ possible prior information about delegates, to ballot order, and to other possible confounds we consider. Heterogeneity across candidates and geographies is also broadly consistent with taste-based theories.

* You may recall this story from last March

If Donald Trump somehow falls three delegates short of reaching the magic 1,237 delegates needed for the Republican nomination, he may be haunted by an obscure outcome from the primary voting in Illinois on Tuesday. There’s clear evidence that Trump supporters in Illinois gave fewer votes to Trump-pledged delegate candidates who have minority or foreign-sounding names like “Sadiq,” “Fakroddin” and “Uribe,” potentially costing him three of the state’s 69 delegates.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

Kennedy fundraises off of proposed budget cuts

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

* Tribune

Democratic governor candidate Chris Kennedy used a fundraising email Tuesday to criticize proposed cuts in Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget affecting people with disabilities.

“Working to better the lives of people with developmental disabilities wasn’t so much a suggestion as it was a call to action in my family, and we are all better people because of it,” Kennedy said, a reference to his aunt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, and her husband, Sargent Shriver, who formally launched the Special Olympics in Chicago in 1968.

Kennedy called the Special Olympics movement “perhaps our single greatest export to the world” from Illinois.

He said he was “angered” that Rauner’s budget plan “zeroed out funding for a number of nonprofit organizations aimed at improving the lives of our special needs brothers and sisters.”

“This is not who we are in Illinois. We are kinder, more compassionate and more forward thinking than this. The path to economic prosperity and fiscal responsibility for our state does not lie in jeopardizing the wellness of Illinoisans with disabilities,” Kennedy said.

That story is a whole lot more crisp than the e-mail was. Click here to read it in full.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

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Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

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An image is worth a thousand, um, empty seats

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* From the IFT President…

Maybe it really was a “great turnout” if not many were actually invited, but that picture surely doesn’t show it.

Also, it’s not technically Rauner’s grand bargain, even though he’s taking credit for it. The package is still stuck in the Senate. And Sen. Biss voted for some of those bills.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Then and now

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* From August 4, 2015

Illinois’ budget impasse is forcing a Little Village YMCA, named after Governor Bruce Rauner, to shut down one of its longest-running youth programs. […]

Now that those funds have run out due to the budget battle in Springfield, administrators have made the tough decisions to discontinue one of the center’s longest running programs called Teen Reach. […]

Governor Rauner issued this statement about the ongoing budget battle:

    The failure of Speaker Madigan and the legislators he controls to pass a balanced budget is impacting programs across the state like Teen Reach and underscores the need for reforms to transform state government that will free up resources to help the most vulnerable.

The Rauner Family Y has been trying to place Teen Reach kids in other programs. Many have been given summer jobs and internships.

But the administration is hoping for a last minute save before next Friday.

OK, so back then it was Madigan’s fault that Teen Reach was out of money and the governor was diligently working to resolve the problem.

* From just the other day


State Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) noted that three weeks prior, the governor referred to the quote “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” Yet, Aquino pointed out, programs such as Teen Reach, crisis prevention, and jobs for youth are absent [from the governor’s proposed budget]. [Scott Harry, the director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget] says the savings will be $60 million.

“How many lives will that cost the city of Chicago or the state of Illinois?” Aquino asked.

“I don’t know,” responded Harry.

Emphasis added for obvious reasons.

Hat tip: IWT.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

Budget cuts and some ways forward

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* For all the talk about how badly unbalanced the governor’s budget plan is, there has been very little reporting on what’s actually in and isn’t in the appropriations lines. Here’s WTAX

“The governor’s budget does not include funding,” said State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) during a hearing the day after the speech, “for The Autism Program, homeless prevention, addiction prevention, ARC of Illinois, emergency food program – are those all zeroed out?”

“Those are not included in the governor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018,”
responded Scott Harry, the director of the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget.

State Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago) noted that three weeks prior, the governor referred to the quote “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” Yet, Aquino pointed out, programs such as Teen Reach, crisis prevention, and jobs for youth are absent. Harry says the savings will be $60 million.

“How many lives will that cost the city of Chicago or the state of Illinois?”
Aquino asked.

“I don’t know,” responded Harry.

* The Illinois House Democrats claim they’re “outraged” by the governor’s proposed cuts, but they haven’t yet proposed a fully funded budget…

* Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Steven Andersson has some modest proposals

The budget process does not have to be an “either/or” proposition. It does not have to be either A) we pass a budget with no reforms or B) we pass a budget with reforms. While, I certainly support initiatives such as property tax relief and term limits and other reforms, this budget impasse is doing serious damage to our state.

It is beyond time to find some common ground. A compromise approach might be to address the budget stalemate by only enacting reforms that directly impact the State Budget — only reforms that have an immediate monetary effect. For instance, procurement reform could save the taxpayers $500 million annually. Ideas such as exempting Universities from some education-related purchases and establishing a pool of approved vendors for certain purchases are just some of the ways the State can save money on purchases. This is a common-sense, money-saving reform that Democrats and Republicans can support.

Other reforms such as workers’ compensation reform, relief from state mandates and other reforms could also save millions of dollars. Refusing to act on these common-sense reforms and continuing the budget impasse, only means our budget deficit is only getting bigger and bigger each day. […]

No matter what, a basic reform would be to have a real budget process in which state agencies come to legislative Appropriations Committee meetings with specific information on how they could operate with 2 percent, 5 percent or 10 percent budget cuts. Instead, agency representatives come to these meetings and talk about all of the good work they do but provide no information on how they could operate with budget cuts.

Without a real dialogue about possible cuts it is impossible to prioritize our spending. This is why we need a more meaningful budget process. Of course, our agencies and programs provide great services, but we need to find out areas where we can afford to make budget cuts. Instead of “a one size fits all” cutting across the board, we need to establish budget priorities and make targeted spending cuts and focus on maintaining highly effective/low cost programs, and reducing ineffective/high cost programs. These discussions will be hard, but this is the only way we can have an informed understanding of how cuts are going to impact various state agencies.

* Related…

* Teen REACH among proposed Rauner budget cuts

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Ryan talks about the impasse

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* Former Gov. George Ryan has a proper diagnosis of the impasse

“It seems to me what you’ve got today are two guys very set in their ways and have programs that they just won’t give up on. Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to destroy the unions, and it’s Madigan’s lifeblood. Madigan has to save the unions; otherwise, he doesn’t survive. And it’s just as simple as that.

“So I don’t know how they ever come to an agreement until you sit down and figure it out, be flexible and understand what the needs of everybody are that you are working with.”

Yep, and they won’t sit down together until they’re both ready.

* This suggestion was more than a little weird, though

“First off, the biggest problem we got with the budget right now is the interest they are paying on the debt. If I were the governor, I think I would call in the pension board and I’d say we are never going to be able to pay the full debt back, so let’s eliminate half the debt right now and write it off.

“If that’s not constitutional, it might be worth changing the constitution. That would dramatically reduce the amount of interest that they’re paying. The bond ratings would go up and the interest would go down.”

* I asked RNUG for his take…

I think George has been indulging in some medical herbs.

Seriously, not enough details.

Is he talking about actually negating the State’s obligation to pay the pensions when due? That would be unconstitutional. And if they changed the Constitution, that would only apply to new hires. And there’s still Federal and State Contract Law. Until law is changed specifically to say that pensions are not a contract, the State would still be on the hook. (Boy, wouldn’t the 1.4% love that nationally!)

Is he, in effect, suggesting the State keep the pension funds somewhere around the current 40% or so instead of trying to acheive full funding of 80% - 100%? That is the State’s choice now but the Federal reporting requirements would still apply, so they would be reported as under funded.

Or is he, in effect, suggesting the payments be calculated bat a lower interest rate and a lesser amount than than the full debt? And if the fund come up short, the State would have to switch to paying pensions on an “as you go” basis from GRF?

From legal (not financial) standpoint, as long as the State agrees they must pay the pensions when due, the State can finance or not finance the pension funds any way they want to. The only real constraints are from the bond rating agencies and the Feds … and other than the reporting requirements, I don’t see the Feds interfering, so it’s just the bankers keeping the State in check.

* Back to Ryan

“Second: The other thing involves the vendors, who are owed billions. I would call those service vendors in — not those who have products — and tell them we are going to pay you 60 cents on the dollar, there is no way we can get out of this mess and you gotta help us. They’d have to take their lumps, but still be back to do business with the state.”

I think that is the biggest fear by vendors today. Only it might not be as much as 60 percent.

- Posted by Rich Miller   71 Comments      

Question of the day

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* Now that Gov. Rauner has coopted the phrase “grand bargain” for his own campaign needs what catchy new name would you give the attempt at forging a compromise in the Illinois Senate?

- Posted by Rich Miller   133 Comments      

How to survive a crazy boss

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* Former Illinois Deputy Governor Bradley Tusk writes about how he dealt with Rod Blagojevich

When I took the job as Deputy Governor, I didn’t realize what type of person I was about to work for. By now, everyone knows the tragic tale of Rod Blagojevich, but at the time, he seemed like a dynamic, forceful change agent.

But Rod’s allergy to doing real work, understanding policy, negotiating budgets, reviewing legislation, focusing on operations and everything else that goes into responsible governing soon became clear, so I also know what it’s like to work for an irresponsible, even unbalanced leader. […]

Rod and I fought all of the time. He always had a conspiracy theory or a grudge or some plan that was invariably a bad idea. It’s no fun to have your boss scream at you 24/7. But, it’s also how you stop stupid things from happening and how you stay out of jail. If you’re not willing to fight - and to be fired for it - don’t take the job. […]

Rod, both logically and illogically, saw his job as running for office, not holding office (he would constantly say, “I did my job,” meaning he won the election). In some ways, his refusal to focus on actual governing was maddening, but in some ways, it was incredibly liberating. We were free to come up with all kinds of new ideas and policies. Some worked (like tearing down the tollbooths throughout the Illinois Tollway system and creating open road tolling), some didn’t (like importing cheaper prescription drugs from Europe and Canada), but we used the freedom to try all kinds of new things and that made the job interesting and worthwhile.

In retrospect, hiring Tusk was one of the better things that Blagojevich did. Things went totally off the rails when he left after the 2006 election.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Grandstand rollout begins

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* Mostly underwhelming

Hot off its 2016 record breaking Grandstand lineup, the Illinois State Fair is excited to announce five of the eleven headlining acts for the 2017 fair.

Chase Rice will be the headlining act on the Grandstand stage on Friday, August 11th. Chase Rice is a singer/songwriter who has toured the world with the likes of Kenny Chesney and Dierks Bentley. While he may be best known for his hit songs “Ready Set Roll,” and “Everybody We Know Does,” Chase Rice is also a talented songwriter. Rice co-wrote the song “Cruise” which was recorded by Florida Georgia Line and was dubbed the best-selling country digital song of all time in the United States in January 2014.

On Wednesday, August 16th the legendary group Alabama will perform on the Grandstand stage. The band broke a record that may never be duplicated by any musical genre by releasing 21 straight number one singles. The trio has 43 number one singles to their credit, nearly 200 industry awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The band, while still cranking out hits, has inspired many of today’s brightest stars, including Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, Ed Sheeran and Jon Bon Jovi. Fairgoers of all ages will enjoy singing along with Alabama classics such as “Song of the South,” “I’m In a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why),” and “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band).”

Opening for Alabama on Wednesday, August 16 will be Neal McCoy. The veteran county music performer has 15 studio albums, 34 singles, and multiple humanitarian awards to his credit. McCoy has been on 15 USO Tours around the world and to this day states this act as one of his crowning achivements. He is best known for songs like, “No Doubt About It,” “Wink,” and “Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On.”

Also scheduled to perform at the 2017 Illinois State Fair is singer/songwriter/dancer Jason Derulo. The 27-year-old has already sold over 50 million singles worldwide and has worked alongside a variety of artists ranging from Demi Lovato to Snoop Dogg. Jason Derulo is best known for his songs “Talk Dirty,” “Whatcha Say,” and “Want to Want Me.” In addition, Derulo was honored in 2011 as BMI’s Songwriter of the Year. He has penned hits for artists such as Lil Wayne, Pitbull, Sean Kingston and others. Derulo will perform in Springfield on Thursday, August 17th.

Building on the successes from last year, the Illinois State Fair is bringing another heavy metal band to the Grandstand. On Saturday, August 19th fairgoers will have the opportunity to see Five Finger Death Punch perform on the Illinois State Fair’s biggest stage. The band recently wrapped up an Arena Tour where fans raved about the band’s over-the-top production value and crowd pleasing sets featuring songs like, “I Apologize,” and “Wrong Side of Heaven.” The band is also a supporter of the Badge of Honor Memorial Foundation often raising funds to help survivors and departments of officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

Closing out the 2017 Illinois State Fair on Sunday, August 20th will be Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, John Mellencamp. The iconic classic rocker has been cranking out hits and performing in front of live audiences for the last 40-years. While most known for songs like “Paper in Fire,” “Small Town,” and “Pink Houses,” Mellencamp was among the founding members of Farm Aid. The annual event, co-launched by Willie Nelson and Neil Young, helps make people aware of the issues facing farmers and how those issues impact the entire nation.

I saw Mellencamp twenty years ago. He was already on the senior circuit by then. Jason Derulo is a bit too poppy for my taste, but, he’ll probably sell mad amounts of tickets (his “Talk Dirty” video has almost 373 million YouTube views), as will some of the others.

But it looks like I’ll be experiencing most of my live State Fair music at the beer tents. Again.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Both sides of the governor’s involvement

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* Agreed

Speaking of earnest attempts at real solutions, the idea of a “grand bargain” bipartisan state budget deal in the Illinois Senate is still alive.

You may think it odd that the Senate is on break until Feb. 28, given that it’s only been in session for 13 days so far this year and the state’s crisis almost couldn’t be more urgent. And especially given that the fantasy budget Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner introduced Wednesday literally has a $4.6 billion revenue line in it labeled simply “Working together on ‘grand bargain.’”

But it’s probably a good idea for the rank-and-file senators to be at home in their districts hearing from their constituents while the leadership tries to agree on the sticky details of roughly a dozen bills, all of which must pass for the package to be sent to the House. The alternative would be for them to hang out in Springfield, where nearly every lobbyist and interest group representative is opposing one element or another of the deal.

Keep in mind, all the real progress on the Senate’s grand bargain has been made while the General Assembly was not in session.

Also, rank and file Senate Democrats were pretty darned furious at the governor for creating an ad last week that takes credit for the grand bargain when the attempts to reach said grand bargain were made necessary by the governor’s inability to do a deal himself. Keeping them out of town gives them a cooling off period.

* More on that ad and the Dems’ reaction in the Tribune

Perhaps most importantly, if the Senate talks fall apart in the coming months, Rauner can nimbly pivot yet again and blame Democrats who control the legislature for not reaching a compromise with him.

In the spirit of the well-funded, Washington-style, nonstop campaigning that has quickly become the norm in Illinois, Rauner’s campaign posted a video after the speech touting that “Bruce Rauner’s plan to balance the budget reforms Illinois, builds a new economy, freezes property taxes, caps spending, pays down the debt and term limits politicians’ power.”

Democrats, however, called out Rauner as a political poser. Democratic Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park, who’s on the chamber’s leadership team, said the governor’s decision to weigh in on the Senate discussions on a compromise was “just an attempt to disrupt it.” […]

“I saw him trying to appear to be publicly intervening in what is already a successful negotiation in order to take some credit for it. I don’t think that’s going to hold water in the end,” he said. “He’s clearly not been involved thus far, and the more he tries to get involved, the worse it is for the eventual compromise.”

* But the Crain’s Chicago Business editorial board had a far different take

Last year, in an editorial that came about as close as Crain’s could come to retracting its endorsement of the governor, we urged him to redefine victory by crafting a balanced budget and raising enough sustainable revenue to pay for it. He hasn’t quite done that, but it’s finally clear that he’s at least trying. Rauner isn’t blameless for this mess, nor are we naive enough to think that he won’t find reasons to derail whatever deal might eventually emerge. But for now, as Democrats continue to stonewall, the governor looks like the statesman we have urged him to be all along.

* As did Greg Hinz

But instead of looking for the good news, Democrats underlined and boldfaced the negative, calling Rauner a heartless, billionaire-protecting hostage-taker.

Maybe none of this will make a difference. Democrats, at least in the Senate, still seem inclined to move forward with their ambitious grand budget deal of tax hikes, spending cuts, expanded gambling, school funding reform and more. Democrats are unwilling to act without a few Republican votes, and there are signs that Rauner’s speech may have been enough to give GOP backbenchers the political cover they need.

But no one has voted in the Senate yet. And there’s still Madigan’s House, a much tougher nut to crack in the best of circumstances, much less ones in which everyone is burrowed​ in their partisan bunkers. That’s what’s worrying me. In many of the recent comments, I hear a full recapitulation of the widely held view that, like an attack by Star Trek’s Borg, resistance is futile, so give up any hopes of compromise and prep for the 2018 elections.

I hope not. Illinois and, more important, its people are taking huge hits every day we go without a budget. If Democrats follow Rauner down the rat hole when he’s trying to get out, things never will improve.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Cubs trophy coming to Springfield

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* From the weekly House Bulletin…

March 8. The Cubs Organization will bring the 2016 World Series Trophy to the House for a Joint House-Senate Session to begin at 11 a.m.


- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      

Another wave of bomb threats includes Chicago’s Jewish Community Center

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* Depraved minds at work

A Jewish community center in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood was evacuated Monday after a bomb threat. The FBI is investigating.

The Hyde Park JCC at 5200-block of South Hyde Park Boulevard received a phone call Monday morning indicating a bomb threat. Following protocol, the center was evacuated and Chicago police arrived to investigate. Police gave the all-clear shortly before noon.

According to The JCC Association of North America, 11 Jewish community centers received called-in bomb threats Monday, all of which were eventually determined to be hoaxes. […]

A total of 54 Jewish Community Centers in the U.S. have received threats, sometimes multiple threats, since the beginning of January. The JCC in northwest suburban Lake Zurich was targeted last month.

* From the Atlantic

The calls may be a novel form of intimidation, but the context around them is not. American Jews are victims of more reported hate crimes than any other group in the United States, and have been subject to the majority of religiously motivated offenses every year since 1995, when the FBI first started reporting these statistics. The phone calls may not result in violence, but they contribute to an atmosphere of anti-Semitism already well-established in the United States. […]

The calls seem to be connected: They are coordinated in timing and message, and often contain generic promises of violence. In one recording, posted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the caller threatens, “In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to … blown off from the shrapnel.”

A recording of that January call is here.

* And across the Mississippi River in a St. Louis suburb

As many as 200 headstones at a Jewish cemetery were toppled over the weekend here in a case that is making national headlines.

Anita Feigenbaum, executive director of the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, said officials will be cataloging the damage Tuesday and notifying relatives whose families are affected. A monument company will decide which headstones need to be replaced and which need to be reset, she said.

* Mark Oppenheimer steps back a bit

As bad as 2017 has been for anti-Semitic incidents, 2016 wasn’t great, either. Nor was 2015, when the Anti-Defamation League reported 90 anti-Semitic incidents on campuses, twice as many as the year before — a slow drip that has continued into this school year. […]

Recently, the Pew Research Center released a survey designed to gauge Americans’ “feeling thermometer” toward various religions. Pew asked more than 4,000 adults to say which religious groups they felt “warm” toward. The poll showed that Jews elicit the “warmest” feelings of any religious group. The finding was fairly consistent across all groups — Catholics like Jews; mainline Protestants like Jews; atheists like Jews; and members of all age groups within those religions like Jews (although among those touchy-feely millennials, Buddhists garnered warmer feelings than Jews did).

Poll results that ask about warm feelings are, in their way, as inadequate a gauge of a people’s safety as a few dozen empty bomb threats in a country of more than 300 million people. And Jews’ sense of well-being ultimately doesn’t come down to cold numbers, anyway. In Europe, what’s chilling about the position of Jews is not so much the recent murders of Jews and attacks on synagogues and Jewish businesses but the widespread public indifference. Here in the United States, anti-Semitism is very much with us, and always has been: According to FBI statistics for 2014, of religiously motivated hate crimes, Jews were targeted 57 percent of the time. Muslims were the victims 16 percent of the time, followed by Catholics, Protestants and atheists/agnostics.

That Pew survey is here. We shouldn’t let these lunatics divide us.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

It’s just a bill

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* Tribune

Illinois Municipal League Executive Director Brad Cole and other mayors are scheduled to unveil their legislative agenda on Tuesday in Springfield.

The “Moving Cities Forward” package includes the state automatically paying out motor fuel tax, 911, use tax and gaming revenues —an outgrowth of the state’s historic budget impasse.

In addition, the group also is seeking changes in workers’ compensation and prevailing wage laws, an expansion of home rule eligibility for smaller municipalities and a consolidation of municipal public safety pension funds.

The IML’s full agenda is here.

* Some interesting developments here, particularly the industrial hemp bill…

A group of bi-partisan state legislators have come together to announce a slate of bills that seeks to remove barriers to local food production in Illinois. The bill package, unveiled at a press conference hosted by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance this past week, also shows support of small businesses and Illinois farmers.

State Representative Peter Breen (R-Lombard) participated in the press conference and discussed his HB 2466, which would broaden Illinoisans’ access to raw milk. “Consumers are demanding more food choices today,” said Breen. “They are looking for organic and locally-grown options, and a growing number of people are looking for unpasteurized milk. My House Bill 2466 will remove costly and unnecessary restrictions, to allow for the expansion of the safe production and distribution of raw milk beyond dairy farms and to local farmers’ markets across the state.” State Senator Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) has filed an identical bill in the Senate.

SB1469/HB2820, sponsored by Koehler and State Representative Steven Andersson (R-Geneva), would add additional allowable foods for production by Cottage Food Operations (homemade foods) and streamline certain farmers market food sanitation rules across counties. An additional bill, sponsored by State Representative Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), would expand the cottage food market even more. Guzzardi’s HB3063 would allow food producers to sell any harvested or homemade food to an informed end consumer for personal home use, without inspection or certification (excluding non-poultry meats). State Representative Carol Ammons (D–Champaign) is also advancing HB 2592, which would create a statewide permitting system for farmers’ markets.

State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) has introduced the Industrial Hemp bill (SB1294) which would create an opportunity for Illinois farmers to apply for permits from the Illinois Department of Agriculture in order to grow industrial hemp, reviving a once thriving market for Illinois farmers and processors. Neighboring Kentucky has a similar law in place and has already enrolled over 135 farmers, 4,500+ acres, and 40 processors in hemp projects.

Raw milk is treated like a biohazard right now. Growing up in Iroquois County, I had a school friend who lived on a dairy farm. It’s the only time I ever drank raw milk. I remember it tasting better than any milk I’d ever had, but I was a kid.

…Adding… From Brittan Bolin…

Hi Rich:

I represent the Illinois Public Health Association and wanted to comment on your raw milk post. The IPHA (as well as the CDC) opposes relaxing restrictions on the sale of raw milk because the safety of raw milk and its products cannot be ensured. Pasteurization eliminates pathogens that can be contained in milk, including salmonella, listeria and E coli, to name a few. While you may hear many people say they have consumed raw milk without any problems, the fact is that drinking unpasteurized milk can make you very ill. This is particularly true for the elderly, children, or people with compromised immunity. This is why pasteurization became the norm, because it can prevent serious illnesses, miscarriage and even death. Your “biohazard” comment could be inferred as the public health organizations are overreacting. This is not the case, IPHA is simply continuing to take a scientifically-based position that consumption of raw milk is not safe, and therefore not recommended.

Here is a link to a story about a child became ill and suffered hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after being given raw milk by his mother for two weeks.
He was hospitalized for two months.

Thanks -


* Tribune

Safe sex could get about 5-cents-a-pop cheaper, if state Sen. Toi Hutchinson gets her way.

The south suburban Democrat wants to slash the tax on condoms to 1 percent from 6.25 percent as a way to “nudge” frisky Illinoisans toward safer choices.

“Healthy sexuality is not a luxury,” Hutchinson told Chicago Inc. She said she hopes a bill she is sponsoring in the Senate will spur conversations about safe sex, reduce “unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases,” and “save people who make smart choices money.”

Under existing law, condoms are taxed by the state at the same rate as luxury goods. Hutchinson’s bill would have them taxed at the same rate as necessities like prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

Except, isn’t the Senate also debating whether to tax food and medicine? So, classifying these items as medicine wouldn’t do much good if they pass that tax base expansion proposal.

* Other bills…

* Lawmaker wants increase in interstate speed limits again: Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, is chief sponsor of Senate Bill 2036 that seeks to increase the speed limit from 70 to 75 mph on most interstates outside of Chicago. Oberweis said that making the interstates 5 mph faster would help with the flow of traffic and improve public safety. He argues that 75 mph is the safest speed because 85 percent of traffic travels at that pace anyway.

* Editorial: Bring back legislative scholarships? You’re kidding

* Does Illinois’ official seal get the state’s birthday wrong?

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

Mendoza takes heat over used car purchase

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* Friday evening

The state budget impasse didn’t stop newly elected Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza from purchasing a $32,000 used SUV as part of her department’s fleet — paid in full by public dollars to a central Illinois dealership.

Mendoza campaigned on a pledge to prioritize state payments, but her office said the money for the SUV came from an office fund with no connection to the state’s massive bill backlog.

Mendoza’s office on Friday said the vehicle was purchased in January to replace an inoperable car — one of her offices’ nine cars — that was rejected as a trade-in and will be junked. And they noted various offices of state government have purchased more than $11 million in vehicles — excluding leases — over the last two years.

The purchase comes as she is under Republican scrutiny after defeating Leslie Munger, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s appointed pick for comptroller. Munger was recently appointed deputy governor.

With Mendoza’s name in the mix as a future Democratic candidate for higher office, every purchase, every trip, every speech is being watched with great interest.

* The ILGOP responded early Saturday morning

This weekend, the Chicago-Sun Times broke the news that new Comptroller Susana Mendoza bought herself a $32,000 SUV just weeks into the job. Comptroller Mendoza not only prioritized her personal comfort by purchasing the SUV, she managed to find a way to fully pay off the vehicle while social service providers continue to wait months to get paid.

Even worse, the Comptroller’s office already had nine state vehicles. Apparently the vehicle fleet that was good enough for Comptroller Munger is not good enough for Comptroller Mendoza.

All this comes after Mendoza pledged “shared sacrifice” with social service providers, who Mendoza promised to put at the front of the line to receive state checks.

Instead, Mendoza put herself first, spending $32,000 in taxpayer money on an SUV.

Watch the ILGOP’s new video comparing the Mendoza scandal to the Giannoulias scandal here.

Munger left behind one completely junked car and another that bordered on junk. Looks almost like a setup to me. Even so, Mendoza walked right into it. But she did get rid of two cars and only replaced them with one.

* And the Giannoulias comparison is more than a little stretch

Not their best effort.

* The official Mendoza response to the ILGOP press release…

We’re not surprised The Governor would try to change the subject from his failure for the third year in a row, to fulfill his constitutional duty to propose a balanced budget.

Through the state party he funds, he pushes the hypocritical fantasy that The Comptroller’s small fleet of cars she has downsized from 9 to 8 in the past two months is a story, but not his much larger fleet of cars for him and his security detail – that costs taxpayers much more. The story is presented in a vacuum as though only one state office has state cars.

Every state vehicle is paid for with taxpayer funds, including the bigger fleet in which the Governor’s security detail drives him – and all the state agencies controlled by the Governor. The various offices of state government have purchased more than $11 million in vehicles, not counting leases, for use from The Governor on down during the last two years. Previous administrations in the Comptroller’s office replaced a used car with a new car roughly every two years. The Comptroller’s Administrative Fund paid for the car, not the General Revenue Fund which goes to education, social services, etc.

The Governor’s party’s phony outrage at one purchase of a used car instead of the state’s $11 billion dollar backlog of bills he refuses to address is a transparent attempt to silence the state office-holder who has been most vocal in holding the Governor accountable for his failure to do his job. Comptroller Mendoza has travelled from Chicago to Springfield to Carbondale to Peoria – across the state – to hear state resident’s complaints about not getting health services, not being able to pay their bills, etc., because of the state’s failure to pass a budget.

The Comptroller has not exercised her right to take a security detail and she has no access to a private plane to get around Illinois.

Upon taking office, Comptroller Mendoza inventoried the office’s nine cars, most of which are used to collect & distribute checks, W2s and other employee forms this office handles for all state offices. One was inoperable.

The vehicle assigned the Comptroller was a 2005 rear-wheel-drive Chrysler 300 luxury sedan with 104,000 miles in need of many expensive repairs before it would be safe to drive.

While driving her own car to Springfield at no expense to taxpayers for her first several weeks in office, the Comptroller instructed staff to find a used American-made car big enough to hold staff on the weekly trips to Springfield and around the state to replace the two unsafe cars. A used Ford Explorer with 16,436 miles was located in El Paso, Illinois, and purchased for $32,279 – about $15,000 less than equivalent new models are selling for. This pool car – not owned by the Comptroller but by the state, available for various comptroller staff – will serve the office for years to come. It was built at the Ford Assembly plant here in Illinois.

The Chrysler 300 was traded in for $1,500. The inoperable 2005 Chrysler Town & Country van was refused as a trade-in and will be junked.

Among the remaining 8 cars is a 1998 Ford Cargo van that only goes back and forth between the Capitol and the Comptroller’s office at 325 Adams St. in Springfield and carries a bold warning on the dashboard NOT to take it on the expressway.

Where is the state GOP’s outrage about The Governor failing for the third year in a row to fulfill his constitutional duty to propose a balanced budget? His responsibility for the state’s backlog of bills doubling to $12 billion on his watch? His responsibility for the six downgrades from the bond rating agencies for his failure to propose a balanced budget? His responsibility for the $700 million in late payment interest penalties the state owes?

They can try to silence Comptroller Mendoza with false controversies. But she will nevertheless persist.

Kind of a novella there.

* The ILGOP put out a new video this morning

* Related…

* Editorial: Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza’s SUV decision poorly timed

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      

Getting to a “win” is important for some Dems

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* My Crain’s Chicago Business column

“Together,” Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said to the Illinois General Assembly during his Feb. 15 budget address, “let’s look at each regulation we have, at every law we pass, and ask ourselves a simple question: How does this impact job creators?”

Rep. Will Guzzardi, a liberal Chicago Democrat, angrily responded via Twitter: “People w/disabilities? Children being murdered in streets? Immigrants living in fear? No no, with every vote, consider the CEO.”

It was, Guzzardi tells me, “the moment when Rauner lays bare what he really believes.” It was the governor’s much-vaunted Turnaround Agenda “stripped down to its core essence.”

The economic philosophies of Rauner and Guzzardi are a million miles apart, but that doesn’t mean that Guzzardi doesn’t see a path toward ending this two-year gridlock. “I really do think that there’s a way to get out of this that people from different sides of the spectrum could actually agree to,” he says. “But that requires compromise from both parties. And it also requires an understanding that everybody needs a win.”


Rauner has operated since day one with the firm belief that if he gets the pro-business reforms and other stuff he wants, then the Democrats will win when he signs some tax hikes into law and their pet programs are funded.

The harsh reality is, however, that the tax hikes and spending cuts required to put the budget into balance will be “painful, ugly and messy,” Guzzardi says. And it only gets worse if, on top of all that, Rauner also demands “all these other things we are going to hate,” like reducing benefits for working people.

Ever since the election, when House Democrats lost four downstate seats and picked up none in the suburbs where Hillary Clinton swamped Donald Trump, Guzzardi and some of his colleagues have been calling on their party leaders to work with them to develop priorities that could help unite the public behind Democrats.

House Speaker Michael Madigan responded with a list of pretty tired, old demands, like renewing a major corporate tax incentive that’s been on the books for years. And he’s again backing a millionaire’s tax that can’t be implemented until after voters have their say on it in 2018. The state simply can’t wait two more years for new revenues without dramatic and horribly painful cuts.

But now that the governor has encouraged the talks in the Senate aimed at forging a bipartisan “grand bargain,” Guzzardi thinks Democrats should start being “clear about what our priorities are and make some demands.”

Click here to read the rest before commenting, please. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

Bustos won’t run for governor

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* Press release from yesterday afternoon…

Tonight, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos announced that she will continue serving in the House of Representatives and run for reelection in 2018. Bustos, who publicly explored the possibility of running for Governor, was recently elected to Democratic House Leadership as the co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. In this new role, as the only Midwesterner in Democratic House Leadership, Bustos has been tasked with strengthening the connection between Democrats and working families across our heartland.

Because of this new responsibility, and in light of how high the stakes really are for our country after a month of Donald Trump in the Oval Office, Bustos determined that she needs to devote her entire focus to her work in Congress.

Congresswoman Bustos issued the following statement:

“I have always said that I want to be in the best position to help as many Illinoisans as I can. Over the last few months, I’ve given a lot of thought to whether I can make the biggest difference in Washington or in Springfield. Right now, too many hardworking families are suffering because of failure and dysfunction in both of those places.

“As I was considering the best way for me to serve, I was given a new opportunity to join Democratic House Leadership as the only Midwesterner sitting around the table. And with that comes the responsibility to serve as a voice for hardworking families from the heartland who feel like they’ve been left behind.

“Now that we’ve seen just how reckless, dangerous and divisive President Trump really is, the stakes couldn’t be higher for our nation. With my new leadership responsibilities, I have determined the best way for me to continue getting real results for working families across the heartland is by serving in Congress.

“I know the stakes are just as high for Illinois, so I will continue doing my part to hold Governor Rauner accountable for his failed downturn agenda that’s hurt our seniors, children and even victims of domestic violence. While the field of Democratic candidates is still forming, I look forward to actively campaigning for, and electing, a strong Democratic Governor who will stand up for all Illinoisans - from Chicago, to Rockford, Moline and Peoria. We have a lot of work ahead of us in the fight for more good paying jobs, better wages and an economy that works for all Americans. I believe I can do the most good for our state and our country by standing up for the values that unite us as Midwesterners.”

* NBC 5

It could be a very expensive Democratic primary. Bustos did not answer directly how funding played a role in her decision but she noted “money and politics is something that we really need to address as a nation.”

“I’m a proponent of campaign finance reform in Illinois and federally,” she said.

Bustos said the average contribution in her recent congressional race was $27. She did not rule out eventually endorsing a candidate for the March 2018 primary.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

Charlie Brown’s football

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Before Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget address last week, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno made a rare visit to the Senate Democratic caucus meeting.

Radogno assured the Democrats that she and her GOP caucus were working in good faith to achieve a bipartisan “grand bargain” in the chamber. Senate Democrats have been grumbling for weeks that the Republicans were playing Lucy with Charlie Brown’s football. Every time they think they’re getting close, they’re told the Republicans aren’t ready to vote. It was a much-needed speech.

And then Gov. Rauner gave his budget address.

The governor’s office had once again not followed protocol by providing its budget details to legislative staff the evening before, so legislators had no way of knowing during his speech that his budget included a projected $32.7 billion in revenues and $37.3 billion in spending. They also had no way of knowing that some of those projected revenues and perhaps hundreds of millions or even billions in projected savings weren’t actually real, adding to the plan’s self-admitted $4.6 billion hole.

But, whatever. It’s not like nobody expected this to happen. Rauner did the same thing last year when he proposed closing a $3.5 billion hole with magical words about “cooperation,” and two years ago when he promised illusory savings from pension reforms and cutting unspecified waste. It’s frustrating and it may not even be constitutional, but it is what it is.

Last week’s speech wasn’t really about the upcoming budget, however. Everybody was there to hear what he had to say about the Senate. As you already know, the two Senate leaders began talking after Gov. Rauner announced in December that he would no longer host leaders meetings because he said the Democrats were refusing to negotiate in good faith.

Rauner has been saying for a while now that he didn’t want to weigh in on the Senate’s plan for fear of messing up their progress. But then Senate President John Cullerton said it might be helpful if Rauner publicly supported the plan.

Fittingly, as soon as Rauner began discussing his preferred parameters, his teleprompter broke. Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whom the governor has been attacking for attempting to help her father create a crisis with a government shutdown, gamely offered the governor her paper copy. The print was too small, however, and he couldn’t read it. Rauner then quoted Speaker Madigan’s joke that the Russians must’ve caused the malfunction. For a couple of minutes, the obvious tension and hostility in the House chamber eased. Democrats had been derisively laughing at the governor, but were now laughing with him. That didn’t last.

Once the teleprompter issue was finally fixed, the governor laid out his demands. If the Senate was planning to pass a permanent tax hike, then, to win his support, it must also pass a permanent property tax freeze. The House had already passed such a freeze, mainly because it’s hugely popular and members figured the Senate wouldn’t ever touch it because of the damage it would do to schools and local governments. Rauner risked knocking the Senate’s progress off its tracks with that one. Some Democrats later alleged it was a deliberate poison pill. More evidence, they said, of Lucy yanking that football away from Charlie Brown.

Rauner did leave the door open just a tiny bit by saying that when the tax increase starts producing revenue surpluses, he wanted the tax hikes “stepped down” to dedicate the money to taxpayers.

So, could he be open to a temporary tax hike in exchange for a temporary property tax freeze? Republicans are saying that a couple of Senate Democrats have talked about possibly doing a “5 and 5″ plan, which would both raise taxes and cap property taxes for five years.

Rauner also demanded that the Senate abandon its plan to tax sales of food and medicine. He privately wants that replaced with a tax on sugary drinks, but the Senate leaders say they cannot round up enough votes to pass it.

The Democrats went back to derisively laughing at Rauner when he claimed “Term limits get job creators excited.” And while his demand that the Senate’s workers’ compensation reform match the Massachusetts model got little attention, Massachusetts is a “causation” state, which the Democrats have always said they will never agree to. That could be a big problem.

It’s too early to tell whether Rauner did irrevocable harm last week. The fact that the Republican leaders in the House and Senate didn’t rush to openly embrace his specific demands is a sign that people still want progress, however. Stay tuned.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

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