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Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a reader earlier this week…


It was great to see Oscar’s pic today, thanks. I’d like to suggest, for a Friday music video embed, the Bottle Rockets’ “Dog” video. It includes fellow Springfield resident Keith Voegele and his dog Oscar De La Voegele, although Oscar passed earlier this week. I just thought I’d make the suggestion.

* I don’t usually do requests, but this one goes out to my friend Keith

Sometimes life is really just this simple

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Governor files statement of economic interests

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Governor Bruce Rauner today submitted his statutorily-required Statement of Economic Interests as well as a Supplemental Statement of Economic Interests required by the governor’s Executive Order 15-09.

When filling out his Statements of Economic Interests, the governor used a broad definition of “doing business in Illinois” to determine what to include. For example, the governor lists “Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc.” even though he owns a minority stake in the organization and the Steelers did not play a game in Illinois during the calendar year.

Click here for the entire list and tell us what you think in comments.


Question of the day

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…


WHAT: The Illinois Tollway is celebrating Arbor Day by giving away 7,500 tree seedlings and 7,500 pollinator seed packets to customers at its headquarters and oases throughout the Tollway system. Deputy Governor Leslie Munger and Tollway Executive Director Greg Bedalov will be helping distribute tree seedlings and seed packets at the Lake Forest Oasis.

WHEN: Friday, April 28, 9 a.m.

WHERE: Lake Forest Oasis – Tri-State Tollway (I-294)

WHO: Deputy Governor Leslie Munger
Illinois Tollway Executive Director Greg Bedalov

WHY: Talk with Deputy Governor Munger and Tollway Executive Director Bedalov about Illinois’ emphasis on limiting the environmental impacts of roadway construction and other capital projects to protect and enhance natural landscapes. The Tollway is committed to expanding the tree canopy coverage along its 292-mile system and has created a pollinator program to restore and sustain habitat for monarch butterflies and other important pollinators.

Um, that looks like something incumbents do when they’re running for reelection.

* From the governor’s February 3rd press release announcing Munger’s hiring

As Deputy Governor, Munger will add her voice to the state’s budget discussions and work with nonprofit leaders to address their challenges and increase their financial security.

* A photo from the event…

* The Question: Caption?


Today’s number: $14.5 million

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

A seven-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot red-brick, Romanesque Revival mansion on Astor Street in the Gold Coast neighborhood sold Thursday for $4 million. […]

Astor Street’s record is the $14.5 million that Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker paid in 2006 for a mansion.


According to Cook County records, the company which owns the house paid $204,558.32 in property taxes in 2015.

* By comparison, Cook County estimates Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Winnetka mansion is worth $3.33 million. The governor paid $81,967.28 in property taxes in 2015.

No wonder he wants a property tax freeze. /s

* Sen. Daniel Biss’ residence, by the way, is estimated to be worth $247,880 by Cook County. Biss paid $5,943.09 in property taxes in 2015.


Everybody needs to do their jobs

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My old buddy Greg Tejeda

But I have to admit that this situation Illinois is in (and could well remain in beyond the November 2018 election cycle if there is no change in the current political structure) is one of stubbornness all around.

I couldn’t help but be repulsed by the statement put out by Madigan on Thursday – the one about the meeting the two had to talk about the state budget predicament. It came across as being little more than Madigan trying to absolve himself of any blame for the current situation. It’s Rauner’s fault – just as pathetic as all the Madigan-bashing that GOPers engage in as they desperately want to think their political gamesmanship makes them appear heroic, instead of negligent toward the state’s responsibilities. […]

And while Madigan says, “I ask the governor to turn his focus to the budget,” I’m sure there are those who could legitimately think that the state’s long-running “Mr. Speaker” ought to do the same.


* The Tribune editorial board “fact checks” Madigan’s press release from yesterday

Sentence 2: “Throughout the governor’s time in office, we have agreed to seven compromise budget bills when negotiations are allowed to focus on the budget.”

Many of those compromises were temporary budget deals, emergency money and carve-outs that stood in place of full-year balanced budgets. In this sentence, Madigan suggests Rauner should focus on the budget, not his other agenda items.

Yet for decades, the budget process in Illinois has included all kinds of side deals to get spending plans passed, including issues that fall outside the narrow line items of the budget. There is no purity to the process. That’s why it’s called sausage-making.

Very, very true. Madigan has cut all sorts of side deals on past budgets.

* More Tribune

Schools have not been served by budgets that provided them only partial funding, which has been the state’s practice since 2012. Human service providers have not been served by budgets that threw them scraps after union workers and their pensions got priority. And rating agencies have asked for budgets that don’t rely on fairy dust.

All of those entities are asking for stable, balanced budgets, not the kind Democrats have advanced.

Also true. We need a real budget and we haven’t had one since even before Rauner took office.

I agree with the folks who call on Gov. Rauner to do his job. But so should the House Speaker.


“Results are all that matters”

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Eric Zorn

Rauner is good at running for office. He’s good at staying on message. But he’s not good at his job.

By waving his bankroll around and threatening Democratic lawmakers with expensive re-election challenges, Rauner’s made them more beholden to Madigan and Cullerton, their protectors. By defaming Madigan nonstop in speeches, on TV and on the web, he’s driven Madigan’s job approval numbers down to just 26 percent in the most recent Simon Institute poll (10 points worse than Rauner’s), which is down from 40 percent in a 2009 poll, but also driven a wedge in a relationship that’s key to finding accord.

By ducking the truly tough decisions — for example, refusing to outline the specific program cuts and tax increases he would sign off on to balance the budget without billions of fantasy dollars — Rauner revealed his fundamental political cowardice.

Even if you think Speaker Madigan is evil personified, you have to admit Rauner’s been clueless about how to work with or around him. And even if you like Rauner’s ideas for improving the state’s business climate, you have to admit he’s proved remarkably inept when it comes to advancing them.

When he was running against incumbent Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014, Rauner blasted Quinn as “a massive failure” for not solving the very problems that have gotten measurably worse since January 2015. Rauner deserves a solid whack with his own yardstick.

* From IDES…

Unemployment rates were down over-the-year in all but one of Illinois’s metro areas. Six of the metro areas had increases in nonfarm jobs and eight reported declines, according to preliminary data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES).

“This month’s report almost mirrors last month’s,” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “The only difference is the overall increase in jobs is down when compared to last month. Even though the unemployment rate is lower, we still don’t have enough people working.” [Emphasis added.]

* Today’s bill backlog


* Greg Hinz

Meanwhile, over in neighboring Indiana, they actually got something done.

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law a new budget and a 10-cent-a-gallon hike in the gasoline tax, declaring that the latter represents “the largest investment in the state’s infrastructure in history,” one that will connect Indiana to the world like never before.

Hmm. Let’s get this straight.

Conservative Indiana, the place Rauner often points to as an a guide to the pro-business place Illinois could be, raises the hated gas tax, having concluded that privatizing its tollway as it did a few years ago was not enough to make needed improvements.

But in progressive Illinois, they can’t even get to a capital budget and how to pay for it because of the continuing war over the state budget and whether to include Rauner’s turnaround agenda of term limits, workers compensation changes, spending cuts and property tax freezes as part of the mix.

Who’s laughing at who here, folks?

* Gov. Bruce Rauner

“I’m a business guy. I’m not a politician. I don’t like to pay lip service. I don’t frankly like to talk about stuff. I like to do things that get results. Results are all that matters.”


Rate the latest Rauner duct tape ad

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The latest TV ad pushing Gov. Rauner’s agenda was recorded for me by a subscriber using his mobile phone, so it’s not great quality. I’ve asked the RGA for a high quality version, but haven’t yet heard back

For comparison’s sake, the previous ads are here.


Gun dealer licensing bill moves to House

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

(T)he Senate approved legislation that would allow Illinois to license gun dealers, an effort supporters say would crack down on irresponsible sellers behind the city’s gun violence. Opponents argue gun shops already are regulated by the federal government.

* But there was some horse trading involved to keep some powerful interest groups on the sidelines

The measure would allow Illinois to license gun dealers, currently gun dealers are only licensed through federal regulations. The legislation creates exemptions for big box stores, whose gun sales are 20 percent or less of their overall sales, and small dealers who sell under ten guns a year. The exemption of big box stores caused controversy from those on the right, who say that exemption will cause small businesses throughout the state to shut their doors.

Bill Sponsor Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, acknowledged that provision was only included to help ease some of the opposition to the bill, but that was of no solace to members who fear what it would do to shops in their communities.

“I appreciate your honest and completely transparent answer as to why we have exempted out the big boys, but gosh darnit. I don’t represent the big boys. I represent mom and pop shops trying to put food on their tables, and by the way, they don’t just put food on their table. They sponsor those youth raffles, those habitat restorations. That money stays locally.” said Senator Chapin Rose, R-Champaign.

It’s likely, though, that those big box stores have some pretty strict corporate guidelines to follow, unlike smaller shops.

* Mayor Emanuel

The Gun Dealer Licensing Bill passing the Senate is an important step to combat gun violence and hold those who enable it accountable. I want to thank Senator Don Harmon, Representative Kathleen Willis, and all our partners in the fight for sensible gun regulations, including the Joyce Foundation, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Brady Campaign and UCAN, for supporting this bill. I look forward to the House of Representatives passing this bill, as well, and codifying these commonsense laws so that we can keep guns away from children at schools, and hold those accountable who continue to sell guns that are used in crimes. Stopping straw buyers from giving guns to criminals is essential to improving public safety, not just here in Chicago, but in every corner of the state and across the Midwest.

Trouble is, just 30 Senators voted for the bill, which is the bare minimum. The House is generally more conservative on stuff like this, so it remains to be seen if they can get this to Gov. Rauner’s desk.

* Back to WAND TV

“Not just in the City of Chicago, but in Oak Park. I’m lucky, I have colleagues in this chamber who see kids shot in front of their house. And dammit we do nothing. Over and over again, we do nothing. I’m not asking for much, I’m asking to give local law enforcement the ability to go into the bad apples and say why do you sell 50 guns to one guy last month. Is that too much to ask?” said Senator Harmon.

* Meanwhile

The Illinois House passed a bill Thursday that would mean police could no longer arrest parolees just for having contact with a gang member.

By a 67-to-48 bipartisan vote, the House moved to change the law so parolees would need to be involved in gang-related activity to face arrest. The measure now goes to the Senate. […]

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday that in recent years Chicago police have arrested thousands of parolees for having contact with alleged gang members. In communities with large populations of ex-offenders, many parolees have been locked up after walking down the street, visiting with neighbors or getting rides, though they were accused of no other criminal activity.

The story also reported that the cops were increasing those types of arrests because they could no longer bust people for simple pot possession.


US House general counsel has serious questions about Schock probe

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I’ve kinda ignored the back and forth pleadings in this case because defense lawyers say a lot of stuff. But this can’t be ignored

The lawyer for the U.S. House of Representatives asserted Wednesday that investigators looking into the financial dealings of former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., possibly committed a crime themselves when they directed a staffer-turned-informant to take materials from Schock’s district office.

In a letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office that supervised the case, U.S. House of Representative General Counsel Thomas Hungar wrote that he had “serious concern” about investigators’ tactics, which he asserted the U.S. Attorney’s Office had “erroneously characterized as lawful.”

Requesting a staffer take records from a congressional office without authorization from the congressman or House clerk, Hungar wrote, “amounts to a solicitation of that employee to steal official records.”

“Such conduct likely constitutes a federal crime, both on the part of the employee who steals the records and, quite possibly, on the part of the federal agents who induce the commission of that underlying crime,” Hungar wrote.

The full letter is here. Whew.


Hungar’s letter asserts that while the surreptitious recording may be a “legitimate law-enforcement technique in some circumstances,” recording a member of Congress triggers “special constitutional concerns.”

“(T)he separation of powers precludes non-consensual review of legislative communications by Executive Branch officials in the absence of appropriate constitutional safeguards … however, it appears that the procedures followed by your office in this regard did not ensure compliance with those constitutional safeguards,” Hungar writes. […]

“The letter is helpful because the government needs to be held accountable for its conduct. Conduct we believe was driven to find a crime where one does not exist. As has been acknowledged repeatedly, these were clerical errors and omissions by former Congressman Schock for which he has taken full responsibility,” said Mark Hubbard, a spokesman for the defense team, in a written statement to CNN. […]

The Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment and no official response to Hungar’s letter has been filed on the public docket.

* Politico

A spokeswoman for Hansen’s office confirmed receipt of the letter, but declined to comment.

However, in a court filing last week, prosecutors defended the tactics used in the case and disputed any claim of impropriety or illegality. However, they said they do not plan to use the records obtained by the informant at trial.


*** UPDATED x4 - Lightford responds - Manar responds - Purvis responds - Lawsuit rejected *** The CPS lawsuit probably won’t solve anything right away

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

*** UPDATE 1 ***  Back to the drawing board…

*** UPDATE 2 *** From Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis…

“With this distraction behind us, we can move forward on working with the General Assembly to fix our state’s school funding formula. Governor Rauner’s bipartisan commission has recommended changes that will create an equitable school funding formula to better meet the needs of each student within every school district in our state. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming decades of fiscal mismanagement on a governor who has been in office for two years, CPS should be urging lawmakers to pass a balanced budget that includes changes to our education system that will better meet the needs of every student.”

*** UPDATE 3 *** Sen. Andy Manar…

“Illinois school districts are in a state of emergency, and I’ve seen little evidence that the governor understands the magnitude of their crisis,” Manar said.

“Somehow, lawsuits, social media campaigns and thunderous rallies outside the doors of his office aren’t getting the message across to him. News reports about districts nearly missing payroll, cutting programs and laying off teachers apparently aren’t setting off alarms, either, because he’s done very little to move the ball forward on school funding reform.

“Superintendents and parents are sending a clear message to Springfield: their schools can’t survive much longer under the status quo. It’s up to Gov. Rauner to bring lawmakers together to get a balanced budget and to revamp the state’s school funding formula. Only then can we begin to ensure all students benefit from fair and adequate school funding in Illinois.”

*** UPDATE 4 *** Sen. Kimberly Lightford…

“The General Assembly has a responsibility to make sure the academic progress of Chicago’s children is not disrupted due to our governor’s unwillingness to help them. His rhetoric has done nothing but alienate these children, and their education is not a political pawn.”

[ *** End Of Updates *** ]

* The Tribune looks at the CPS lawsuit against the state. A hearing will be held today at 2:30 and the judge is expected to announce his ruling at that time

CPS is asking [Cook County Judge Franklin Ulyses Valderrama] to bar state government from making new payments to any Illinois school district until it can show it will pay for education and teacher pension costs in a nondiscriminatory manner. It isn’t yet clear how such a move, if approved, would lead to a rapid solution for the district’s immediate financial pressures.

State government attorneys argue such a decision would have an outsized and harmful effect on the 80 percent of Illinois schoolchildren who do not attend CPS, a retort derided by the district as confirmation of the “precise evil” enabled by discrimination.

The state’s lawyers argue CPS has no legal basis to sue under Illinois’ civil rights law and have asked the judge to dismiss the case outright. […]

The district’s lawsuit argues that the state discriminates against its largely impoverished and minority students, and violates Illinois civil rights law, by contributing more money to teacher pensions in the suburbs and Downstate than Chicago.

* Sun-Times

CPS didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment on Thursday. But even if CPS scores a legal knockout Friday, a financial rescue can’t possibly come in time to stave off the early closing date of June 1 that Chicago Public Schools has threatened.

For one thing, Rauner could appeal an adverse ruling. His office declined to say for sure on Thursday, or to answer other questions. A spokeswoman sent a repeat of a prepared response telling CPS to “urge legislators to pass a balanced budget that includes school funding reforms that will better meet the needs of every student.” ​

And even if he doesn’t appeal, a rewrite of the school funding formula that has eluded the state lawmakers for decades won’t be easy or quick, particularly not as the state budget stalemate drags on.

That means if Emanuel hopes to preserve the longer school year that he endured a teachers strike to achieve, he will have no choice but to roll the dice and rescue CPS.

Yep. A favorable ruling will strengthen Emanuel’s hand in future negotiations, but it probably won’t in and of itself solve the immediate problem facing CPS.


The new Richard Goldberg

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This was one of the more pointed exchanges during a Senate appropriations committee hearing yesterday featuring Gov. Rauner’s chief of staff Richard Goldberg

“There were times that we believed, many times, in the Democratic caucus that we were going out on the floor to vote on the grand bargain and we were then informed that because the governor’s office was not supportive — didn’t think there was a deal good enough for him, goodness knows — that they weren’t going to be able to vote on it,” state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said.

“The Republican votes were coming off. That happened to us several times. The goalpost had continued to have been moved. So you can’t sit there and say that Democrats were not willing to vote on it. In the Senate, the Democrats and Republicans had been working very closely together, very collegially, and I’ve been very appreciative of that fact. And when things broke down it was because there was an intervention by the governor’s office. That’s not where we’re going with this. And that’s not where I want to go with this. ”

Goldberg said the governor is trying to be flexible.

“The goal posts haven’t moved. They’ve widened perhaps to make it easier to get an agreement. If they’re moving, they’re moving closer to you over the last two years,” Goldberg said. “I don’t know what else the governor can really do to make himself more clear to you that he is trying to achieve a truly balanced budget with changes to the system.”

“He can suggest that they vote on the grand bargain bills or else actually file an amendment,” Steans interjected, adding it’s not productive to lay blame on the General Assembly.

* Goldberg mostly held his tongue

During the hearing, Goldberg pressed back on Senate Democrats’ repeated accusations that the Rauner administration has refused to outline specific budget cuts following a series of previous hearings where agency directors couldn’t, or didn’t, name any. Goldberg said it’s as if senators were operating “in a vacuum” or “alternative universe,” given that Rauner had in prior years proposed cuts to everything from higher education to programs that support autistic kids to child care support for low-income working parents.

“The governor is clear,” that he wants a balanced budget paired with structural changes such as term limits, a property tax freeze and overhaul of the workers’ compensation system that he believes will lead to a “booming economy,” Goldberg said.

“Now we’re here several weeks away from the end of session for FY18’s budget and I want to come back to what I want to say: We need to work together and get this done,” Goldberg said.


Rauner’s city pension brick holds

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The mayor’s office and at least one credit ratings agency believed just a few weeks ago that this bill would pass with Republican votes as it had in the past. But the governor put a brick on it and it only received 63 votes - far short of the 71 needed to override a veto

The Illinois House on Thursday once again passed a bill designed to shore up the pension funds for Chicago laborers and other city workers — a measure with identical language to a bill Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed in March. […]

The latest bill had no support from House Republicans. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs, said he wouldn’t support the measure without statewide pension reform.

“House Republicans are sensitive to the fiscal issues confronting Chicago and its pension system. However, we are confronted with the same problems with our 5 state pension systems which for all practical purposes are in worse shape,” Durkin said in a statement. “Unless paired with statewide pension reform, SB 14 today is a non-starter. The deadline to pass the Chicago Pension Bill should be extended so as to include with negotiations on broader pension reform.” […]

Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago, said the measure had bipartisan support last year, and blamed Rauner for the lack of Republican support.

“The only reason why anyone would be voting against this bill is the governor is throwing a temper tantrum as per usual about his useless Turnaround Agenda and wants to leverage the city of Chicago, the taxpayers of the city of Chicago in order to gain political advantage,” Mitchell said.

After two and a half years, the House Democrats have still not yet come to terms with the fact that this governor isn’t one of them.


“Rauner-funded Republican Party”

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Hmm

This week [Gov. Bruce Rauner has] been up against an onslaught of public protests organized in part by (taxpayer subsidized) public unions and groups demanding that taxpayers pay for abortions.

And all of it covered by journalists who refer to the Republican Party as the “Rauner-funded Republican Party.”

For those of you not versed in such things, quotation marks are considered almost holy to journalists. Put those quotes on what somebody said or wrote and it has to be accurate. Period.

* So, I did a Google search for that exact phrase. Click here to do your own search. It produced only nine results - a handful of Democratic press releases, that column above and a mention of that column elsewhere.

But Google came up with a total of zero news stories written by journalists.

Now, perhaps a TV reporter used the phrase and it didn’t appear online in a transcript. But you’d think if it was such a common and prevalent occurrence that a prominent Chicago columnist would use it to throw mud on his colleagues that something, somewhere would pop up.


* Also, if you search Illinois GOP contributions going back to January 1st of 2015, you’ll see that Rauner and his committees have given the state party $21.1 million, plus at least another $5 million that he washed through accounts controlled by Leader Durkin and former Comptroller Munger. During that same period, the party raised $31 million. So, the governor’s money accounts for at least 61 percent of that total, and likely significantly more.

Looks Rauner-funded to me.

* Also, the unions are only “taxpayer subsidized” if you believe that once a public employee is paid that their earnings somehow still rightfully belong to the government.


*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Friday, Apr 28, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Watch the show in real time with ScribbleLive

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* Question of the day
* Afternoon roundup
* Keep Uber Affordable. Stop Lawsuit Abuse. Oppose HB 2231
* It’s just a bill
* That toddlin' town roundup: Poll has Vallas' Black support plummeting
* Democratic Party of Illinois launches $300K direct mail, online ad program for school and library board races
* *** UPDATED x1 *** Giannoulias awarding grants to combat carjackings and vehicle thefts
* Defense cross-examines former top ComEd lawyer
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