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Report: Kennedy’s hands shook during speech, dropped mic

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* I dunno. Maybe he was shaking because of the uncomfortable message he delivered to the party bosses? Whatever it was, he’s gotta get this sort of basic stuff under control

His hands shook as he spoke, and he accidentally dropped the microphone when he finished, but Chris Kennedy tried to play it cool Monday as he made his pitch to Cook County Democratic leaders, downplaying — and even joking about — the value of their endorsement in the governor’s race.

“Slating? I don’t know. Is this like the Town and Country Restaurant? I mean, what are we talking about here in the back room of a restaurant?” Kennedy said. “If you think the people of the United States would put up with that, it’s not going to happen. It ain’t going to happen. I love you all. I mean no disrespect.” […]

“I just don’t know that it’s as meaningful as it was 50 or 60 years ago where people in the back room could control the outcome of an election,” Kennedy said. “I don’t believe that exists in the United States anymore. … I would say that having a huge social media presence. I’d say having the endorsements of people on Facebook, and LinkedIn, or Twitter or Snapchat is probably more important than what goes on in the back of a restaurant.” […]

Kennedy’s remarks also left Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios — the Cook County Democratic Party’s head — trying to defend the party: “This is not the party of 30 years ago and anybody who think it is is totally wrong.” […]

Kennedy, the son of Robert F. Kennedy, spoke for just over seven minutes — his hands visibly shaking during some of the speech. He dropped the microphone, which made an audible thump when it hit the floor.

Ticking off Joe Berrios isn’t the worst thing Kennedy has ever done. That man is just not beloved outside the room he shared with Kennedy and the other candidates today.

But, dude, get it together.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

Rauner honors tireless volunteer

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* NBC 5

Howard Goldstein spent Thursday doing what he always does—volunteering with the Red Cross, serving food to his fellow veterans.

Little did he know, that Bruce Rauner, the governor of Illinois was waiting in the wings.

Striding toward the assembled volunteers in the food pantry at Hines V.A. Hospital, Rauner greeted each one. Then he called Goldstein forward, brought out a large proclamation, and revealed that he had declared Thursday, Howard Goldstein day in Illinois.

“Week in and week out for years and years, he’s helped volunteer with the Red Cross,” said Rauner. “He’s helped volunteer to help veterans, he’s helped so many organizations, here in Illinois and all walks of life. Howard’s an inspiration for all of us.”

Goldstein seemed genuinely shocked by the honor, pausing to thank the governor before escorting more veterans through the food line.

“I believe in giving back to the community so you just volunteer and do what you can,” he said. “I try to keep myself busy and stay out of trouble.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Question of the day

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* Chris Kennedy is to JB Pritzker as ____ is to ____?

*** UPDATE ***  From the Tribune story on today’s Democratic Party meeting

There were also divisions among the wealthier contenders. Businessman Chris Kennedy, an heir to the wealthy and iconic political family who last week put $250,100 into his own campaign and as a result lifted contributions limits in the race, implored Democrats not to back billionaire investor and entrepreneur J.B. Pritzker. Kennedy did not mention Pritzker’s name but likened him to Rauner, a former private equity investor he called a “billionaire bully.”

“It’s criminal what (Rauner) has done to the Republican Party. He has silenced it. There is no dissent. Don’t let that happen to our party. Don’t put somebody in charge of our state who does not need all of you, who is not dependent upon all of you for re-election. Because if you do that, you will turn the Democratic Party in this state into what the Republican Party has become,” said Kennedy, who afterward told reporters he was referring to Pritzker.

“Don’t kid yourself that we can outsource that task (of taking on Rauner), that we can simply go to somebody and say, go to another billionaire and say, if you will be our protector, if you will fight our fight for us, we will make you our king,” he said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      

What could Chicago lose?

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* Sun-Times

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday a crackdown on “sanctuary” cities and states – of which Chicago is one – with a pledge to “claw back” or cut all Justice Department federal funds from localities sheltering illegal immigrants.

Sessions made the announcement at the start of the daily White House briefing, which is a surprise only in its timing. President Trump had earlier made the threat to yank federal funds.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has staunchly defended Chicago as a sanctuary city that welcomes immigrants.

Citing criminal acts by several illegal immigrants, Sessions said sanctuary city policies violate “federal law. The president has rightly said this disregard for law must end.” […]

Sessions said he is “urging” the localities to “rethink these policies” because “these polices make our cities and states less safe.”

OK, so what do these Justice Department grants pay for?

* Here’s one out of state example

Most recently, its Office for Victims of Crime announced a grant of almost $8.5 million in support for victims of last year’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

* We’re talking about maybe $4.1 billion in grants

Laurie Robinson, a former assistant attorney general under Presidents Clinton and Obama who headed the Office of Justice Programs, which oversees grants, said the statute implementing SCAAP gives an attorney general broad power to decide who gets money.

“They could cut off drug programs, domestic violence grants, violence against women grants,” she said.

Other grants won’t be as easy to end. Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services program distributed $208 million in 2015 to local agencies. But that money is distributed using a formula established by Congress, meaning an attorney general can’t revoke grants without lawmakers’ approval.

Click here to see a list of currently available grants.

* The CTBA took a look not long ago and found that if the feds stopped “funding related to immigration and law enforcement,” it would cost Chicago $78 million. The group didn’t break that out further, however, to just law enforcement dollars.

But the BGA did identify one grant which will surely apply

The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, which injects funds to local law enforcement agencies, including at least $9.6 million to the Chicago Police Department, has also been in the chopping block.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      

It’s just a bill

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* But it’s an interesting development. Public Radio

The Grand Bargain is a package of interlocking legislation designed to break the state budget impasse in Illinois. How important is school funding to that deal? Important enough that leaders titled it Senate Bill One.

Under the plan filed by Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), the state would freeze funding at current levels. Any additional dollars would be distributed based on each district’s demographics and unique needs, channeling the bulk of the money toward low-income districts.

Technically titled Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 1, it’s a plan designed to address the notorious inequity that has plagued the state’s school funding system for decades.

“You know, the impact of this bill will be measured mostly by how much new money is put behind it,” Manar says. “Because if there’s no new money, nobody changes.”

The plan uses ideas from the so-called “evidence-based model” first touted by Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington). He issued a statement today saying he’s “cautiously optimistic” about Manar’s amendment. “Senator Manar and I have recently worked through a number of complicated issues to address the inequities in our current formula,” Barickman’s statement says.

* SJ-R

Illinois lawmakers are again considering proposals that would allow some participants in state government’s pension systems to take a lump-sum payout in lieu of regular annuity payments.

Buyout plans are part of pension discussions in both the House and Senate, all of which are in preliminary stages. But Rep. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, chairman of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee, thinks the ideas have merit.

“I’m a fan of the buyout,” Martwick said of various House proposals. “I think those are truly what would be constitutional because they amount to a true free consideration.”

In other words, he said, participation in them is voluntary and there is a “tangible benefit” for those who partake. […]

Under Batinick’s proposal, a participant’s payout is based on the net present value of a person’s pension. That means the amount of money the pension system needs now to cover a person’s estimated retirement benefit, assuming that amount will grow over the years. Anyone thinking of participating in the buyout would have to get a calculation of the net present value from the appropriate pension system. The amount would be reduced by a certain percentage as a condition of getting the buyout.

* Illinois Review

In response to the recent court ruling authorizing the prioritization of state legislators’ pay over other outstanding obligations, State Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) filed legislation last week, House Bill 4026, to give the Comptroller greater discretion when issuing salary payments for members of the General Assembly.

Batinick said this would allow the Comptroller to prioritize Illinois’ other fiscal obligations over legislators’ and Executive Branch officers’ pay. House Bill 4026 is co-sponsored by Rep. Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee). The bill follows the introduction of similar legislation filed in the State Senate by Senator Dan McConchie, SB 989.

“There is no reason why we as legislators should be prioritized over the hundreds of vendors, social service providers and agencies who have been waiting months for payment from the state,” said Rep. Batinick. “This bill seeks to right that wrong by allowing the Comptroller to place the interests of vulnerable children, seniors and families ahead of legislators.”

* Related…

* Suburban lawmaker, distillery push law to bypass liquor distributors

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Harmon doesn’t see budget passed until 2019, Biss agrees

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* Sen. Harmon is the Senate President Pro Tempore and is a close ally of Senate President John Cullerton, in case you’re unaware…

Yeah, well, the stack of unpaid state bills will be something like $24 billion by then, so good luck with tackling that “quickly,” Dan.

*** UPDATE ***  More context…

- Posted by Rich Miller   81 Comments      

Sen. Bill Brady, others hit with fake news robocall

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* A group called Republicans for Fair Taxation, which isn’t registered with the State Board of Elections, is running a robocall in at least one state Senate district today…

Boy, oh boy. Lawmakers really messed up. Get this: Sen. Brady is pushing to divert local property tax dollars to Springfield for the budget crisis. That’s money for local schools, for our kids. Thought he was a Republican.

Brady’s also pushing to bailout Chicago schools, giving them $215 million. Who’s he representing? Them? Or us?

He wants to raise taxes? Come on. We can’t trust establishment Republicans like Brady. They say one thing, do another when no one’s looking. Brady let us down. Again. Paid for by Republicans for Fair Taxation

Um, huh? Diverting local property tax dollars to state coffers? No such plan.

…Adding… Comments and text messages indicate that numerous Republican Senate districts were hit with that same robocall today.

* Listen

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

*** UPDATED with live coverage *** Today’s quotable

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* As mentioned below, the Cook County Democratic Party is hosting gubernatorial candidates today…

*** UPDATE ***  Let’s do a ScribbleLive thingy…

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Two sides battle over CPS funding lawsuit

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* Tribune

Attorneys for the state of Illinois asked a judge Friday to dismiss an education funding lawsuit brought by Chicago Public Schools as part of the district’s efforts to plug a gaping budget hole.

The state argued that CPS’ complaints about pension funding and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill to send CPS $215 million are issues to be settled by the legislature, not the courts.

The filing also addressed the district’s argument that the state should be found in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act for maintaining a “separate and unequal” system for funding school districts and pension obligations.

The Illinois Civil Rights Act “cannot override the State’s pension laws, the legislature’s funding decisions, or the governor’s lawful veto,” the state said in its request for a dismissal. “Plaintiffs’ claims fail for multiple reasons and should be dismissed.” […]

Attorneys for the state argued CPS “will not suffer irreparable injury” if the state doesn’t provide $215 million and has no grounds under state civil rights law to force through a new piece of legislation, or create a new stream of money that’s not already required by law to fix its complaints about education funding.

* CPS response…

“The State’s thin argument hinges on its claim that pensions shouldn’t be considered teachers’ compensation. This is simply preposterous.

“In reality, the State admits that the numbers CPS provided the court are correct, and then begs the court to exclude the fact that Illinois makes teacher pension payments on behalf of primarily white students and then denies those same resources to Chicago’s students of color – and that’s the heart of the State’s racial discrimination.”

* Some background from earlier this month

Thomas Ioppolo, of the Illinois attorney general’s office told a Cook County chancery division judge that there are “a lot of issues of sovereign immunity, and separation of powers and whether a local entity like the Chicago Board of Education can even be a proper plaintiff under the Illinois Civil Rights Act.” […]

In the lawsuit, filed last month, the school board demanded the state be found in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act for maintaining what the lawsuit called a “separate and unequal” system for funding school districts and pension obligations.

Chicago Public Schools upped the stakes of the lawsuit Monday when it warned that the school year could end June 1 — nearly three weeks early – and summer school programs could be cut without a preliminary ruling in the school board’s favor from Judge Franklin Ulyses Valderrama.

CPS said it wants the judge to rule on its preliminary motion by May 1.

Part of this lawsuit basically boils down to whether the state should count teacher pension funding as education funding. If you do, then lots of minority kids in Chicago appear to be getting the short end of the stick.

The governor called the lawsuit “frivolous” when asked by reporters on Friday.

*** UPDATE ***  Yikes…

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** DC publication looks at Biss’ Madigan ties

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* The Hill, which is based in Washington, DC, takes a look at an Illinois gubernatorial candidate’s ties to the Illinois House Speaker. If that sounds like an odd angle for that particular publication, it kinda is.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the story about Sen. Daniel Biss’ 2016 LIFT PAC

The super PAC’s contributors list doubles as a who’s who of donors in Madigan’s circle, including the speaker himself. Madigan has been the state House speaker since 1983 and also serves as the state party chair, so he has his fingers on the pulse of all things Democratic in the Land of Lincoln.

Madigan’s campaign committee gave the group $500,000, the largest donation from his campaign to a political organization aside from the state Democratic Party, according to data compiled by The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform.

The campaign committee for Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan, speaker’s daughter, gave another $150,000.

A host of other well-connected Democrats are also on the group’s donor list too.

There’s the $10,000 donation from Roger Kiley, Madigan’s former law partner, according to the Chicago Tribune, and the former chief of staff to iconic Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Then there’s a $1.5 million check from Democratic mega-donor Fred Eychaner, as well as two $10,000 checks from Cook County assessor Joe Berrios and his campaign account. Both Eychaner and Barrios are considered reliable Madigan allies.

Now, to be sure, Madigan did play a role in the PAC’s fundraising - a major role, according to people I talked to last week in anticipation of doing a story of my own this week. He couldn’t play an issues-oriented role because of the legal “firewall,” and he couldn’t directly fundraise, but he could certainly “encourage” people to listen to Biss’ pitch. Biss worked with some folks last year who are now with other gubernatorial candidates, so that might be where The Hill’s story originated.

Anyway, keep all this in mind as Biss rails at Madigan and bemoans the fact that Chris Kennedy busted the caps in the race. The dude’s own PAC raised $10 million last year from a host of politically connected and wealthy people, including Kennedy and JB Pritzker. There’s nothing at all inherently wrong with that. But he did what he did.

*** UPDATE ***  From Sen. Biss…

Daniel Biss, Democratic candidate for governor, released the following statement today in response to Chris Kennedy lifting contribution caps late Friday with a contribution of over $250,000 to his campaign:

“If Democrats want to out-Rauner Rauner, we’re going to lose. Sending the message that only the rich or only the machine have access to this government just exacerbates the broken culture in Springfield that voters are yearning for us to fix.

“People in Illinois are hurting because of the failed policies of the last two years and the failed politics of the last 30, which have allowed billionaires and insiders to control our government for their own benefit.

“We can’t keep doing things the same way and expect different results. If we want to start solving problems for the rest of us, we need to build a movement to take our state back from money and the machine.”

* Meanwhile…

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 - Speaker Madigan responds *** Rauner wants tollway vote this week

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* From the governor’s daily public schedule…

What: Governor Rauner Joins Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn to Urge Lawmakers to Act on the I-55 Managed Lanes Project
Who: State Rep. Jim Durkin, Road Builders Association, Metropolitan Planning Council, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, American Concrete Pavement Association and American Council of Engineering Companies
Where: 8630 Joliet Rd., McCook
Date: Monday, March 27, 2017
When: 11:00 a.m.
Note: For background, please read Secretary Blankenhorn’s op-ed on the I-55 Managed Lanes Project here​.

* From that op-ed

Under rules established in 2011 by the General Assembly, the one thing standing in the way for Illinois to proceed is a joint resolution by the House and Senate so IDOT can start listening to proposals from investors.

That is, just to get the OK to begin the procurement process and entertain proposals. If there are no solid proposals, IDOT cannot move forward.

Despite the interest from the investment community and the mounting travel times felt by commuters, the Illinois General Assembly has refused to vote on a joint resolution for almost a year.

Meanwhile, the clock ticks. Without a vote by April 1, the project no longer is feasible for the private sector. Investors will walk away. The cost to pursue this project in the future will only increase.

April 1st is Saturday.

*** UPDATE ***  From Speaker Madigan…

“Where possible, we have been willing to work with the Governor on various parts of his agenda this spring including selling of the Thompson Center in Chicago and the reorganization he wants to do within state government. Our concern with private investors being involved in a toll lane is that, once again, it seems as though Governor Rauner is more interested in helping his wealthy friends. Despite multiple requests for information over several months, IDOT hasn’t prepared a plan that would lay out the costs, results, and anticipated tolls. IDOT hasn’t provided any evidence demonstrating that this project will save taxpayer dollars or result in better maintained roads. We continue to await this information.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

Kankakee transit agency still struggling with impasse

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* The Senate Democrats are doing a pretty good job lately of getting stories out there that aren’t being covered by “real” reporters. For instance

In November, River Valley Metro made the difficult decision of eliminating two bus routes and ending Sunday and holiday service due to the state’s budget impasse. The Kankakee-area transit agency was owed thousands of dollars from the state with no prospect of receiving funding any time soon.

“At some point, we will run out of options and be forced to shut down,” River Valley Metro CEO Rob Hoffmann said at the time.

While River Valley Metro did finally receive a state payment late last year, the funding was not enough to restore cut services. In addition, the agency remains uncertain when they will receive their next payment, making it nearly impossible to hire and retain employees or make strategic plans for the future.

“We are having a heck of a time just hiring employees,” Hoffmann said. “The uncertainty surrounding our state funding is leading to a perception that we will eventually shut down completely.”

Today, the state owes more than $12.8 billion in unpaid bills to small business, non-profits and agencies like River Valley Metro.

“We need a budget, period,” State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D – Chicago Heights) said. “At some point, certain agencies and programs will be so damaged that they will be beyond repair. Do we want to wait to get to that point when we have nothing left?”

The state budget situation is also endangering funding River Valley Metro receives from federal grants and programs. Due to service cutbacks, River Valley Metro lost out on one federal program worth more than $150,000.

A quick Google news search shows no other recent stories about this problem.

Any more ideas for the SDems - or any of the other caucuses, for that matter?

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

React rolls in to legislator pay case

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* Rep. Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago) has been driving for Uber to make ends meet while his and other legislators’ paychecks were held up by two successive state comptrollers. This was his reaction to the legislator pay ruling last week

Andrade insists the move did little to drive his colleagues to cooperate with Rauner.

“It was actually the opposite,” Andrade said. “It was just a political ploy . . . the public loved it, that the (legislators) didn’t get paid. If you would poll the regular residents I’m sure they’d say, ‘They’re all rich; they’re all lawyers. Don’t pay ’em.’

“They’re people. We’re getting paid. It’s still a sad day because nothing gets solved. Now people are more upset that the legislators got paid.”

He’s right on every point. Holding up those checks didn’t work for Gov. Quinn and it didn’t work for Gov. Rauner. It’s just a cheap populist stunt. And like most cheap populist stunts, the populace eats it up.

* The governor expectedly took full advantage of the public’s outrage

“Lawmakers just made a big pot of money while they weren’t doing their jobs — while they weren’t passing a balanced budget,” Rauner said Friday. “This just shows how rigged our system is. Our taxpayers in Illinois are being abused, and our most vulnerable residents are being hurt.”

They only made a “big pot of money” because they’ve received just one check since June. But, whatevs.

* Editorial reaction was also expected. Here’s the Belleville News-Democrat’s take

Diiiiiiiinnnnggg. We are conducting a hearing test. It is a test to see if Illinois House and Senate members are as tone deaf as we suspect.

We’re assuming some aural disability because that is all that would explain them spending the people’s time declaring October as Zombie Preparedness Month. Their resolution states that “while a Zombie Apocalypse may never happen, the preparation for such an event is the same as for any natural disaster.”

Our assumption is reinforced by the fact that they have time to consider whether pot should be legalized for recreational use in Illinois.

And, again, by them being so deaf to their constituents’ concerns and needs that they would unleash House Speaker Mike Madigan’s attorney and his minion, Illinois Comptroller Susana Medoza, on the pressing question of state lawmakers getting their pay on time. They not only undid the old Republican comptroller action to make state lawmakers and elected officials wait in line with everyone else owed $12.6 billion by our deadbeat state, they got a Chicago judge to order they be bumped to the head of the line.

Me first. Did zombies eat their brains? Are they high? Are they just deaf?

* The Daily Herald called Comptroller Mendoza’s promise to withhold the checks “Fake Spin”

If, by now, you’re scratching your head over who is on what side in this debate, or how effective the paycheck threat can be, we don’t blame you. After all, if Springfield made sense, maybe the bills would be paid and a budget would be passed.

One thing that does seem clear, however, is that Mendoza’s commitment to pay-them-last is bullhorn loud but razor thin.

When a Cook County judge ruled last week that “there may be discretion by a comptroller as to certain expenditures but as to expenditures that are compelled by Illinois law, that discretion doesn’t exist,” Mendoza instantly caved.

Rather than seeking, as would be expected, a stay of the ruling while appealing the decision, Mendoza immediately released the legislators’ back pay.

In fact, it sounds like the paychecks are already going out.

* Tribune

It’s maddening but not surprising. In Illinois, clout wins. Politicians win. Rank-and-file citizens are at the back of the line. Yet voters keep sending the same pols back to Springfield.

It’s not getting better. The Democrat-controlled General Assembly is halfway through the spring session and doing little at this point to deal with the crisis. Of the roughly 50 calendar workdays since lawmakers were sworn into office in January, they’ve been in Springfield less than half of the time. That’s the schedule set by Democratic leaders. That’s how seriously they’re taking the state’s mayday. In other words, not. Both the House and Senate are taking a two-week spring break in April.

Legislators, grab some beach. You must be so exhausted.

We wish we could offer some measure of genuine astonishment at their behavior. But history has shown they’re right on track: No balanced budget, no progress, no conscience. (A recent Reuters report noted that the fiscal year that ended last June was the 15th straight year Illinois wound up in the red.)

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

Poll: 66 percent of Illinoisans support legalization of “recreational marijuana”

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* Simon Institute

Large majorities of Illinois voters support marijuana decriminalization and legalization for recreational use, according to the results of the latest poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The Simon Poll was conducted Saturday, March 4th to Saturday, March 11th. The sample included 1,000 randomly selected registered voters and a margin for error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Sixty percent of the interviews were with respondents on cell phones.

Three-quarters, 74 percent, of voters support or strongly support decriminalization of marijuana where people in possession of small amounts for personal consumption would not be prosecuted but may be fined. One in five voters, 21 percent, oppose or strongly oppose decriminalization and 5 percent answered otherwise. In 2016, Governor Rauner signed a law decriminalizing up to 10 grams of marijuana. Under the new law people caught with up to 10 grams can face fines of $100 to $200 and potential municipal penalties instead of facing a class B misdemeanor and potentially six months in jail and $1,500 in fines.

Support is also strong for legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Two-thirds of voters, 66 percent, support or strongly support legalization of recreational marijuana if it is taxed and regulated like alcohol. A notable 45 percent of voters support legalization strongly. Only 31 percent of voters oppose or strongly oppose and 3 percent answered otherwise.

“Illinois voters are growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of decriminalizing marijuana,” said Jak Tichenor, interim director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, “and we now have evidence that most see it as a potential revenue source for the state.” A March, 2016 Simon Poll showed 51 percent opposed recreational use of marijuana while 45 percent approved. When coupled with the idea of regulating and taxing it like alcohol, this year’s poll showed a 21 percent increase in the number of people who approve recreational use.

Decriminalization by Region. In Chicago, 80 percent of voters support or strongly support decriminalization statistically the same as their neighbors in suburban Cook and the collar counties who support or strongly support at 79 percent. In the rural regions outside Cook and the collar counties, 63 percent of voters supported or strongly supported decriminalization.

Opposition or strong opposition by voters in Chicago is 16 percent, in suburban Cook and collar counties is 17 percent, and 31 percent outside Cook and the collar counties.

Decriminalization by Political Party. Among Democrats, Republicans and independents, Democrats support is strongest with 81 percent stating they support or strongly support decriminalization. Only 15 percent of Democrats oppose or strongly oppose decriminalization and 4 percent answered otherwise. Independent voters followed Democrats with 76 percent of independents supporting or strongly supporting decriminalization and 17 percent opposing or strongly opposing. Two-thirds, 66 percent, of Republicans support or strongly support decriminalization and 30 percent oppose or strongly oppose.

Decriminalization by Age Group. Illinois voters younger than 35-years-old show the most approval with 83 percent supporting or strong supporting decriminalization. Fifteen percent are opposed. Voters thirty-five to fifty-years-old support or strongly support at 81 percent, and oppose or strongly oppose at 15 percent. Three-quarters, 77 percent, of fifty-one to sixty-five- year-old voters support or strongly support decriminalization. One in five, 19 percent, oppose or strongly oppose. Two-thirds, 67 percent, of baby boomers and the greatest generation sixty-six and older support or strongly support decriminalization while 28 oppose or strongly oppose.

“These data show that virtually all Illinoisans have opinions on cannabis decriminalization and legalization. Few people seem indifferent on these issues,” said Delio Calzolari, associate director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute and one of the designers of the poll. “A vast majority appear to philosophically agree with decriminalization like the steps taken last year, although the definition of decriminalization and amounts in question are debatable. There is also overwhelming support for new cannabis public policy for recreational use shown.”

Recreational Legalization by Region. In Chicago, 74 percent of voters support or strongly support legalization of marijuana for recreational use if taxed and regulated like alcohol. In suburban Cook and the collar counties support or strong support is 70 percent. In the rural Illinois outside Cook and the collar counties, 54 percent of voters supported or strongly supported legalization. Opposition or strong opposition by voters in Chicago is 22 percent, suburban Cook and collar counties is 27 percent, and 43 percent outside Cook and the collar counties.

Recreational Legalization by Political Party. Among Democrats, Republicans and independents, Democrats support is strongest among the three groups with 76 percent stating they support or strongly support recreational legalization if taxed and regulated like alcohol. Only 21 percent of Democrats oppose or strongly oppose recreational legalization and 3 percent answered otherwise. Independent voters followed Democrats with 68 percent of independents supporting or strongly supporting recreational use and 27 percent opposing or strongly opposing. A slight majority of Republicans, 52 percent, support or strongly support legalization while 46 percent oppose.

Recreational Legalization by Age Group. Illinois voters younger than 35-years-old show the most favorability to legalization of recreational marijuana if taxed and regulated like alcohol. Four in five, 83 percent, support or strongly support the proposition. This percentage is identical to the same support for decriminalization. Seventeen percent are opposed. Voters thirty-five to fifty-years-old support or strongly support at 77 percent, and oppose or strongly oppose at 22 percent. Among fifty-one to sixty-five-year-old voters 69 percent support or strongly support legalization and 28 percent oppose or strongly oppose. Baby boomers and the greatest generation sixty-six-years-old and older are split on the issue with 51 percent stating they support or strongly support legalization of recreational marijuana if taxed and regulated like alcohol and 45 percent stating they oppose or strongly oppose.

* The legalization question

Do you support or oppose the legalization of recreational marijuana if taxed and regulated like alcohol?

    Total Support 66.1%
    Strongly support 45.3%
    Support 20.8%

    Total Oppose 30.8%
    Oppose 18.6%
    Strongly oppose 12.2%

    Don’t know/Refused 3.1%

More info here.

…Adding… Crosstabs are here.

* Related…

* Illinois considers legalizing marijuana for a fiscal boost

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

Where are the women candidates?

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* My Crain’s Chicago Business column

Shortly after Donald Trump was elected, political types said women were coming out of the woodwork wanting to run for office.

A pro bono consulting group popped up in Illinois in November called Rodham Consulting, a nod to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s family name. Political professionals wanted to lend their advice and assistance to those newly energized women. Within just a few days, 122 potential candidates, advisers and others had signed up to participate.

Millions of women marched in Washington and other cities after Trump was inaugurated. The Chicago march was so large that police shut it down. There was clearly something new in the air.

But here we are in late March, and no Illinois women have yet come forward to say they definitely want to run for governor against Republican Bruce Rauner.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, a moderate downstater, for a while talked about running but ultimately decided to stay in Congress.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of south suburban Matteson floated her name months ago, but most observers figure she’ll stick with her super safe congressional seat.

Colleagues of state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) have long believed she might run for governor. She has the policy chops for the job and she’s also a strong fundraiser. But Steans is supporting J.B. Pritzker’s Democratic gubernatorial bid.

So, as Women’s History Month winds down and Trump’s unpopularity ratchets up, the list of announced or almost announced Democratic candidates for governor includes five people, all men: Pritzker; Chris Kennedy, the son of slain presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy; Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar; state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston and Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber.

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- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

“This is basically fraud”

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

I’ve been going to Illinois Statehouse committee hearings longer than I care to remember - something like 27 years. Last week, however, was the first time I can ever recall having to fight back tears during a hearing.

The House Appropriations - General Services Committee heard testimony last week from Kenea Williams, a state employee who works at the Murray Developmental Center in Centralia. She has fifteen-month-old twins named Kobe and Kade. They were born premature and Kobe has something called broncho pulmonary displasia. His little lungs are scarred and he requires supplemental oxygen just to live.

Long story short, the company that supplied the oxygen tanks for Kobe dropped out of the state’s group health insurance system because the state isn’t paying its bills during our long governmental impasse and they wanted their equipment back. Ms. Williams testified last week that Reps. John Cavaletto (R-Salem) and Charles Meier (R-Okawville) helped convince the company to continue supplying oxygen equipment to Kobe until this July.

But for whatever reason, company execs changed their minds and they sent some employees to retrieve the equipment in January. When a frightened Williams refused to answer her door, the employees apparently called the local county sheriff. Two sheriff’s deputies arrived, listened to the desperate mom tearfully plead her case and thankfully decided not to intervene. Ms. Williams has since found a new supplier for a home oxygen system.

So, think about this for a second. The state is deducting health insurance premiums out of Ms. Williams’ paychecks twice a month without fail. But there is no state appropriation for group health insurance in this fiscal year’s horribly inadequate stopgap budget, so lots of state vendors aren’t getting paid. The bill payment cycle for some of these insurance plans is currently about two years, so providers, like the company which supplied the oxygen tanks for Kobe, are understandably dropping out.

I’m told that the Illinois Department of Central Management Services played a very big role in finding another oxygen tank supplier for that little baby, who was also at the hearing last week with an oxygen tank and a tube taped under his little nose. Many kudos to everyone who helped keep that child alive, including those sheriff’s deputies.

But, people, c’mon. This story, while it currently has a happy ending, is just so beyond the pale.

If a private sector company withheld insurance payments from workers and didn’t pay the money it owed to the insurance provider, the state would clamp down super hard on that employer. But Illinois doesn’t even bother paying its end, and, in fact, the state hasn’t fully funded that insurance program in years.

This is basically fraud.

Others testified at the committee last week that some dentists are demanding payment up front from state employees. So, the patients are paying for insurance, but they can’t get treatment unless they pay in advance and then, presumably sometime down the road, the insurance company will reimburse them once the companies get paid by the state. A lobbyist for the Illinois State Dental Society recently told legislators that the state owes 9,000 dentists a total of $174 million.

Let’s just hope heart and cancer surgeons don’t start making patients pay in advance.

Legislators are basically doing the same thing to the worker health insurance fund that they used to do to the pension funds. They promise good benefits at a very reasonable cost to the employee, but then don’t provide nearly enough state funding needed to make the payouts.

Only, with the healthcare fund, it’s worse. The pension funds have always had enough cushion in them to forestall an immediate meltdown. They could pay retirees without any money from the state for a while.

But the health insurance fund has a $3.5 billion negative balance. And that deficit will only continue to grow because the only money currently going into the fund is from state employee payroll deductions.

“I pay my premiums,” Ms. Williams told the House committee last week. “I do my part. Now I feel like the state needs to do their part. They need to pay their bills.”

So, how about the governor and the General Assembly get a real budget deal done before we, as a state, collectively kill a supposedly fully insured baby? Is that really all that much to ask?

- Posted by Rich Miller   66 Comments      

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Monday, Mar 27, 2017

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Chris Kennedy busts the contribution cap in governor’s race

Monday, Mar 27, 2017

[Bumped up to Monday from Friday for visibility purposes.]

[Reader comments now opened on this post.]

* It was bound to happen sooner or later…

Kennedy reported a $250,100 contribution to himself. So, all gubernatorial candidates can now take whatever they want from contributors from here on out. The official clock started ticking on March 20th, a year before the 2018 primary. Large contributions before that date (including Gov. Rauner’s $50 million contribution to his campaign last December) did not blow the caps.

Kennedy also reported some smaller contributions today totaling $73K.

Ameya Pawar reported about $70K in contris to his account yesterday. And JB Pritzker finally reported his $200K contribution to his exploratory campaign fund this week.

*** UPDATE ***  Sen. Daniel Biss is fundraising off of Kennedy’s contribution…

When I announced on Monday, I said we’d need to be ready to take on money and the machine. I just didn’t expect to be proven right so soon.

The only thing standing in the way of big money influencing our politics are contribution limits. This is why it’s so noteworthy that late on Friday, and exactly one week before the quarterly filing deadline, Chris Kennedy gave more than $250,000 of his personal wealth to his campaign.

With that one contribution, Kennedy has blown the fundraising caps in this race — which means there are no longer any limits to what donors can contribute.

This is great news for money and the machine — which means it’s terrible news for Illinois.
This is more of what we DON’T need — the rich and powerful exploiting loopholes in the law to maintain their hold on our state government. I got in this race to change that — and it’s why I need you to step up and stand with me now. Together, if each of us steps up, we can overcome money and the machine.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

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