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So, where do we stand now?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* As I write this at 8:25 pm, the House has adjourned until later in June, or the call of the Speaker, whichever comes first. The Senate just reconvened has some concurrence motions it has to deal with

* SB 1 - School funding reform. This bill passed the House with the bare minimum of 60 votes and just one Republican, Rep. Michael McAuliffe. Background is here. UPDATE: The Senate concurred, 35-22.

* SB 3 - Local government consolidation. Gov. Rauner pulled HGOP votes off this bill, but then put them back on after an amendment was filed. It passed the House with 75 votes. UPDATE: The Senate concurred, 49-3.

* SB 81 - $15 per hour minimum wage. The motion to reconsider the vote has been withdrawn in the House, freeing up the Senate to vote on it tonight if it has the votes. Background is here. UPDATE: The motion to concur passes 30-23-2.

* SB 886 - Sale of the Thompson Center. The House passed the legislation 64-49 today. Background is here UPDATE: The Senate concurred with 35 votes.

* SB 1839 - AT&T bill, 911 tax hike. Despite the governor’s opposition, the bill passed with 81 votes, including 34 House Republicans. Background is here. UPDATE: The motion passed 53-3. Wow.

Other bills awaiting Senate concurrence are here. And you can click here to see all the bills which cleared both chambers today.

* Meanwhile, the Senate Democrats amended the House’s Chicago school board election bill (HB 1774), but apparently put off any floor action until the House left town. Its fate, as they say, is uncertain.

And the Senate approved an online fantasy sports bill, but the House didn’t take any action.

* I’ll update this post as we go along tonight.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Biz groups: Worst. Session. Ever.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Press release…

The state’s premier business groups have labeled the spring legislative session as “one of the worst for employers” citing lawmakers’ apparent “race to the bottom” and litany of anti-employer, anti-job growth measures considered this year.

At a press conference on the final day of session, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and NFIB joined together lamenting the continuous effort to tax, over-regulate, mandate and constrict employers at every turn by lawmakers in both chambers which has created one of the most crushing business climates in the nation. While this is not a new phenomenon in Springfield, the massive uptick in these anti-employer measures coupled with the accompanying rhetoric has exasperated an already hostile business climate.

Ironically, many of these measures – in theory – are aimed at increasing pay, hiring more employees or giving workers more certainty, yet they achieve quite the opposite. While the intention of our business community is to provide jobs with competitive pay and generate revenue to fix the state’s problems, the anti-employer narrative is having a chilling effect.

“My Democrat friends like to say we are in a race to the bottom. Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you we are winning but that means Illinois businesses and families are losing. The high cost of workers’ compensation is one of the biggest issues facing manufacturers but lawmakers fail to act because they continually side with wealthy trial lawyers. Their failure to act and create an attractive economic climate means that Illinois will continue to bleed jobs and remain a laughingstock of the nation,” said Greg Baise, president and CEO, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

“Every day seems to bring another report of another round of retail store closings. Instead of talking restraint and recovery for the retail community, the narrative out of Springfield, like the actual actions in Chicago and Cook County, is higher taxes, labor and regulatory burdens, and, in the case of Cook County, incentivizing theft. This ‘campaign against Main Street retailers’ will only hasten the continued job loss and store closings that have become all too familiar. Retailers have limited responses; reduce employee hours, lay people off, increase automation, or close. Passing legislation to mandate artificially higher wages when the jobs don’t exist doesn’t help anyone,” said Rob Karr, president and CEO, Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

“The ping pong of anti-employer policies coming from both Chicago and Springfield is unsustainable. At every corner, Chicagoland businesses are being asked to pay higher property taxes, soda taxes, and sales taxes while also being forced to implement countless mandates that do not grow the economy. Chicago has so much to offer but this economic death by 1,000 paper cuts does not create the jobs, quality of life and revenue Springfield should be seeking,” said Michael Reever, vice president of government affairs, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

“Time and again lawmakers have suggested policies that shift greater financial burdens to employers statewide. Whether it is during the budget impasse or after it is resolved, standing up against job-crushing legislation is crucial for our economy. Increasing minimum wage, passing “fake” workers’ compensation reform and proposing a significant arbitrary tax increase is far from the progress Illinois deserves. We need pro-growth economic policies to prevent the steady decline of Illinois’ economic competitiveness. And we need them now, that is, if we want to continue to attract the best and the brightest individuals to Illinois,” said Todd Maisch, president and CEO, Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

“Our members aren’t surprised by the legislature’s anti-business antics this session, but they are disappointed and fed up. Illinois is broke and we haven’t had a budget in two years. We need leaders who are less focused on scoring easy political points and more on enacting good policies that benefit all Illinoisans. We need legislators who will act like adults, set aside their political differences, and make the difficult decisions that would make things better for working families and allow businesses to grow and create jobs,” said Mark Grant, Illinois State Director, NFIB.

Springfield’s Dirty Dozen

    SB 81: Legislation that raises the minimum wage to $15
    HB 2771: A costly government mandate forcing employers regardless of size to provide paid leave to every employee regardless of hours worked.
    HB 160: A $5,000 fee on every employer for the “privilege” of doing business in Illinois
    HB 156: Massive property tax shift onto commercial and industrial taxpayers
    SB 1502: Trial lawyer supported legislation that burdens every e-commerce business, and every company with a credit card, loyalty program app or website, without providing any consumer protections
    HB 3449: Trial lawyer supported legislation that unfairly targets companies that share or store location data and requires ecommerce businesses to ask for permission before collecting location data from your device
    HB 3538: Penalizes business that move even one job out of state while discouraging future investment
    HB 2802: Government mandate forcing businesses to pay the transportation costs of their workers
    HB 2525: This bill codifies “a cause” workers’ compensation standard that mandates insurance rate review without providing any meaningful reform
    HB 2622: Legislation that would disrupt the private workers’ compensation insurance market without having a strong reason to exist
    HB 3337: A bill that allows someone to steal $2,000 of merchandise from a retailer
    SB 9: Imposes $5.4 billion in new taxes on Illinois businesses and families - *revenue without

reforms

Ignored Reforms of the 2017 Legislative Session

    · Pension reform
    · Workers’ compensation reform
    · Tax reform
    · Restraint of local government
    · Property tax relief
    · Education and workforce development

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


Rauner, Radogno, Durkin to hold press conference to blast the Democrats

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Press release…

Media Advisory: Governor, Senate & House Republicans to Address Media

What: Governor Bruce Rauner, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin Discuss the Majority Party’s Refusal to Pass a Balanced Budget

Where: Governor’s Office – Illinois State Capitol

Date: Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Time: 4:45 PM

Note: The press conference will also be streamed on Governor Rauner’s Facebook.

Click here to watch and then comment below. If you can’t watch the video, you can always check out the live coverage post.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


Question of the day

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Your one-word summation of this spring legislative session? One word only, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   136 Comments      


SIU to lay off 51 civil service workers

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* WSIL

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale is laying off at least 51 civil service employees.

The layoffs are a direct result of the Illinois budget impasse, which is nearing two years.

The layoff notice was announced Wednesday morning in a memo by Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell.

In March, Colwell said the university would need to permanently cut $19 million from its FY18 budget, which starts on July 1st.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 *** Madigan lists “accomplishments,” lashes out at Rauner

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* As I told subscribers a while ago, Speaker Madigan has been carefully creating a paper trail so that he can justify ending the spring session with a splat. And here it is all in one spot…

Speaker Madigan: House Democrats to Continue Working to Find Common Ground with Rauner and toward State Budget

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – House Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued the following statement:

“There is no more urgent matter facing the state than the passage of a comprehensive, balanced budget, and House Democrats will continue our efforts to address this challenge, end this destructive impasse and close the Rauner budget deficit. The House Democratic Budget Working Group led by Representative Greg Harris will hold public hearings and continue working in June to prepare a budget for the coming fiscal year. The first hearing will be held on June 8 in Chicago.

“The governor’s reckless strategy of holding the budget hostage to create leverage for his corporate agenda that pads the profits of large corporations and insurance companies has for the third year left Illinois without a budget at the end of the May legislative session. He has put our schools at risk of being unable to open, denied care to victims of domestic violence, kept tens of thousands of seniors from receiving Meals on Wheels, and tripled Illinois’ backlog of unpaid bills. This cannot continue.

“Where we can compromise with the governor without hurting middle-class families, House Democrats have consistently advanced measures that address the governor’s requests so we can get down to the work of passing a balanced budget. House Democrats have:

    · Voted to provide property tax relief to homeowners;
    · Put forward reforms to the workers’ compensation system that will ensure employers see the savings from reform;
    · Introduced an agenda of economic reforms that make Illinois a better place to do business while also lifting up middle-class families, not tearing them down;
    · Voted at the governor’s request to streamline the state procurement process;
    · Voted to sell the Thompson Center.

“I have directed members of the House Democratic leadership team to meet with the governor and seek common ground on his other proposals. To date, the governor has refused to meet.

“We remain ready to work with the governor and find common ground whenever he is ready to return to the table and work in good faith.”

*** UPDATE 1 *** Another one…

Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued the following statement Wednesday after the House voted to pass House Bill 2525, a package of workers’ compensation reforms addressing a key element of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s agenda:

“House Democrats have consistently stated that we will work with the governor to reach compromise, but we will not hurt middle-class families. Throughout his tenure, Governor Rauner has made it clear that changes to the workers’ compensation system are a pre-condition to his cooperation on a state budget. While the governor’s plan does not have the support of majorities in the Legislature, we can still find common ground on this issue.

“The bill passed today will help ensure Illinois businesses see the benefits of reform by requiring insurance companies to pass savings on to local employers. It takes steps to crack down on fraud and abuse, and includes additional measures to reduce costs without jeopardizing the health or economic security of workers. We believe this compromise meets the governor’s stated goal of reducing workers’ compensation costs for businesses, and Democrats’ goal of protecting working people and their families.

“As House Democrats work to address the governor’s pre-conditions to a budget, we remain steadfast in our belief that the budget is the most important issue facing families, seniors, children, and businesses. We ask the governor to stop holding the state budget hostage and join us in working in good faith to end this destructive impasse.”

*** UPDATE 2***  And another one…

– Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued the following statement Wednesday after the House voted to pass Senate Bill 3, allowing taxpayers to consolidate duplicative and unnecessary units of local government and addressing another element of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s agenda:

“With today’s passage of a local government consolidation package negotiated by Governor Rauner, House Democrats have again advanced legislation directly addressing the governor’s pre-conditions to negotiating a budget.

“As a new fiscal year quickly approaches with no budget yet in place, the governor’s approach of refusing to negotiate a budget is setting our state on a course for a third straight year of impasse and destruction. It’s not too late for the governor to change course and come back to the table. If and when he does, he will find House Democrats waiting to negotiate and compromise.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Sheldon out at DCFS, general counsel appointed interim director

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Sun-Times

As his agency faces another crisis, George Sheldon on Wednesday resigned as head of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

The exit comes as DCFS remains under fire over the Semaj Crosby tragedy. Sheldon has accepted a job at a nonprofit in his home state of Florida. Sheldon tendered his resignation on Wednesday morning, according to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration. Rauner will appoint DCFS general counsel Lise Spacapan as interim director and begin a national search for a full-time replacement.

Earlier this month, Sheldon had revealed that he was considering the offer he eventually accepted – to be CEO of Our Kids of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Inc., in Florida.

No one answered the phone early Wednesday afternoon at OurKids. A message left for Sheldon seeking comment was not immediately returned.

* Tribune

Rauner plans to appoint DCFS General Counsel Lise Spacapan as interim director while a national search takes place for a full-time replacement.

The Trib also has the resignation letter. Click here.

* From the interim director’s official bio

Lise T. Spacapan is the general counsel for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. She oversees a law department with nearly 100 members throughout the state. Over the past 30 years, she has been a litigation partner in the Chicago offices of three major law firms: Husch Blackwell, Jenner & Block and Kirkland & Ellis. She handled cases throughout the country focused on Complex Commercial Litigation and Products Liability. Ms. Spacapan received her L.L.M. in Health Law in 2014 and serves on the DePaul College of Law Health law Institute. She served as a national director on the Board of DRI, chair of the DRI Publications Board and chair of DRI’s Toxic Tort and Environmental Law Committee. She has authored numerous articles and book chapters on litigation issues. Ms. Spacapan is AV Peer Review Rated, Martindale-Hubbell’s highest peer recognition for ethical standards and legal ability.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Rauner admin claims Dem school bill will require $650 million to work

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

*** UPDATE ***  SB1 as amended passed the House with 60 votes, including one Republican, McAuliffe.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* I’m told this info is being shared by the governor’s office with legislators on the new House Democratic amendment to SB 1, the education funding reform bill. The Democrats are saying 250 school districts come out better than Chicago, based on per pupil money. The Rauner administration disagrees…

The “runs” being shared by House Democrats do not accurately reflect the real cost of this bill over and above FY17. Overall, this bill would require AT LEAST $650 million more than FY17 funding levels in order for schools to see increases. Here is what is missing from the “runs”:

An additional $313 million must be added to the base funding minimum. The runs being shared are based on the FY2016 budget. It does not include the stop loss grant.

· An additional $216 million to $250 million to fully fund the mandated categoricals. Although CPS will get its appropriate share of “claims,” it will also get its block grant in its base funding minimum. That means those funds are not available for other legitimate claims. To rectify that, the GA will either have to continue to prorate mandated categoricals or increase the education budget by an additional $250 million

· The runs do not include $50 million increase for early childhood education

With so many unknowns and without allowing time for real runs to be evaluated, members are forced to vote on this proposal without knowing the answer to at least four vital questions:

    1. Which school districts would suffer the most if the General Assembly fails to appropriate the extra $650 million required to hide this CPS bailout?

    2. Under this proposal, exactly how much money is being diverted from every school district to Chicago instead of being equitably distributed across all school districts?

    3. If this level of additional funding was provided to other proposals in the General Assembly, what would the runs look like? How would school districts statewide fare if $650 million in new money was put through the model in Sen. Barickman’s latest proposal?

    4. Similarly, how would school districts fare if $650 million were added to the current funding formula?

The Rauner folks are also issuing behind the scenes warnings that the Illinois State Board of Education’s eventual analysis will not show the same sort of winners that the Democratic analysis does because of the assumptions the Democrats are using. So, a lot of Democratic targets, they warn, could be voting for something that might not help their own schools.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Another Pritzker response *** More to Pritzker’s Blagojevich wiretap conversations than first believed

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Back when then state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias was in the running for a job in President-elect Barack Obama’s administration, none other than JB Pritzker told Gov. Rod Blagojevich that he was interested in being appointed to fill out the remainder of Giannoulias’ term.

“That’s the one I would want,” Pritzker said, according to federal surveillance recordings obtained by the Tribune.

Uh-oh.

* There’s lots of tantalizing sizzle in the first few paragraphs of this story entitled “J.B. Pritzker sought political office from Blagojevich, 2008 FBI wiretaps show,” but scroll way down

Pritzker already had raised the idea of being named state treasurer if an opening occurred, and he followed up during a Nov. 14, 2008, call with the governor.

“I’ve got a lot of reasons why it makes sense. The problem for you would be the same problem with the Senate really,” Pritzker said. “I’ve given you contributions.”

“Total nonissue,” Blagojevich replied. “First of all, you give money to everybody, like (Attorney General) Lisa Madigan, OK?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, no question,” Pritzker said.

“Which, incidentally, if you can do for me what you did for her, before the end of the year. Can you think about that?” Blagojevich asked, aware that Pritzker had donated $50,000 to Madigan during the previous year.

“I can’t, I mean, not while everything’s up in the air, but I hear ya,” Pritzker said. “I hear ya and, and and … But anyway …”

“If we go in that direction, though, if that does happen, I mean there’s some other people who can help us that you know,” Blagojevich said.

“Sure,” Pritzker said.

“If you feel skittish about that, which I believe you shouldn’t, but go ahead,” Blagojevich said.

“Yeah,” Pritzker replied, “I don’t think we should even talk about it but I understand what you’re saying.”

Blagojevich was a true sleazeball.

There’s lots more, so click here and read the whole thing.

* The Pritzker campaign sent me this response…

There was nothing untoward about JB Pritzker’s conversations and throughout his career he has considered different ways he could serve the people of Illinois. The record is clear that Rod Blagojevich was having dozens of conversations with both elected officials and private citizens, including members of President Obama’s transition team, which is why he is currently in prison. JB has been a proud supporter of hundreds of progressive and Democratic leaders and organizations in Illinois and across the country, especially those who have been supporters of early childhood education.

Also, as the campaign is pointing out, the last contribution Pritzker gave to Blagojevich was during the 2006 race, two years before those contributions.

*** UPDATE ***  A new Pritzker campaign statement…

“If one listens to the actual calls released in the story there was nothing untoward about JB’s conversations with the Governor,” said Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen. “Throughout JB’s life he’s had an interest in serving the people of Illinois and that’s exactly what he expressed when discussing a potential opening in the Treasurer’s office. In fact, when the Governor brings up whether JB would be interested in being appointed to the Senate, on multiple occasions JB expresses he is not and moves away from the type of conversation that landed Rod Blagojevich in prison.

“This is just a continuation of attacks made by Bruce Rauner and Republicans and it’s no coincidence that it was published by the Chicago Tribune on the last day of another session where Governor Rauner has failed to pass a budget.”

The jab at the Trib is unusual, to say the least.

- Posted by Rich Miller   118 Comments      


“Continuous session”

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Man, did I ever get tired of hearing Speaker Madigan say “The House is meeting in continuous session” these past two years. Here we go again

Illinois House Democrats resolved to keep meeting in a “continuous session” this summer, signaling they’re unlikely to agree on a budget plan to send to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on what was previously their last scheduled day to be in Springfield on Wednesday.

Earlier, Democrats in the Senate had approved a comprehensive budget plan that relies on a series of tax increases, but House Speaker Michael Madigan’s members have been reluctant to embrace it amid a veto threat from Rauner. While negotiations among House Democrats were continuing, doubts remained if they would be able to unite behind a measure that could reach Rauner’s desk before they are scheduled to head home Wednesday.

“I think there would be very little support for just throwing it up on the board to see what happens. I think people want to make sure that it has the requisite number of votes to pass,” said state Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat.

I was told yesterday that the plan was to come to town every Wednesday through June. We’ll see if that holds up.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


Odd video clips

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Let’s take a little break from all the end of session weirdness for a few minutes. There was some sort of snafu at the beginning of yesterday’s Facebook Live event with Gov. Rauner and Lt. Gov. Sanguinetti

* And the audio de-linked from the video during the introduction of Chris Kennedy yesterday, producing this weird little online moment

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


NIU president “routinely circumvented state laws and regulations to reward friends and associates”

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Rock River Times

An Office of Executive Inspector General investigation into Northern Illinois University’s hiring and spending practices has found that President Doug Baker routinely circumvented state laws and regulations to reward friends and associates.

The report, commissioned after watchdog groups and whistleblowers questioned Baker’s use of the so-called “affiliate employee” classification for hires in key university positions, shows what investigators call a pattern of dodging procurement code requirements.

“As a result of (Baker’s) actions, since 2013 NIU has paid over $1 million in public funds to consultants who were not selected through a competitive procurement process,” the report released Wednesday said. […]

In addition, the school, facing millions of dollars in cuts due to a $35 million funding gap, has paid nearly $200,000 in legal fees to outside counsel for Baker during the course of the OEIG investigation. […]

The report also found numerous support staff to Baker had assisted in the practices, and some had further used their positions to gain extra payments over and above their salaries. […]

Another Baker hire, Ron Walters, received $463,125 in compensation as an affiliate employee from June 2013 to Dec. 2014. According to the report, Baker described Walters as a friend and explained to then NIU Dir. of Human Resources Steve Cunningham that Walters was a “turnaround consultant.”

The OEIG report says that when Cunningham informed Baker that the school could not pay Walters more than $20,000 for his services, “Baker showed a ‘high degree’ of dissatisfaction with the Procurement Code,” and that Baker instructed Cunningham to “find a way” to onboard Walters.

Go read the rest of the story. The full report is here.

* Daily Chronicle

The report identified five employees: Ron Walters, who was paid $463,125; Nancy Suttenfield, who was paid $425,041; Ken Wilson, who was paid $135,963; Magaly Rodriguez, who was paid $85,031; and William Pfeiffer, who was paid $23,516. […]

Although Baker agreed with the report’s findings that there were no violations of the state’s Ethics Act, he disagreed with any implications that there was intent to circumvent NIU’s guidelines or state regulations.

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      


Pritzker’s mascot arrives at Statehouse

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Twitters…


* And if you’re wondering what Tick is carrying…


One of my former interns told me the cops wouldn’t let the mascot into the building. Cosplay is apparently verboten inside the Statehouse. The rules may have been changed since a giant walking budget was photographed outside the governor’s office last year.

* But Pritzker’s mascot did do its job because it attracted some media attention…

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** 911 call center deadline ensnared by Statehouse war

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

*** UPDATE ***  The bill passed with 81 votes, so a whole lot of House Republicans broke with Gov. Rauner.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* Fox St. Louis from May 26th

Over 200,000 911 calls come into St. Clair County dispatch centers every year, according to Herb Simmons, the executive director of the Emergency Telephone System Board of St. Clair County.

Simmons said the legislation that currently funds the 911 systems is set to expire on June 30, meaning on July 1 people in Illinois could be without a 911 system.

Simmons said if the bill expires, call centers would be left without money for basic operations like electricity and the phone bill.

Although the 911 bill doesn’t expire until the end of June, the legislative session ends May 31, so lawmakers have to come up with something before they leave Springfield on Wednesday.

“I just hope somebody can come to their senses and say the state of Illinois has to have a 911 system up and operating at its full capacity because when people need it they deserve it,” Simmons said.

* Instead of just simply extending the sunset date, the House Democrats combined it with increased mobile phone taxes and AT&T’s bill to get out of the state mandate to provide old-style copper wire service. The tax in Chicago would rise from $3.90 to $5 per phone. Everyone else’s bills would rise increase to $1.50 from 87 cents.

The governor was not amused

Emergency dispatchers, phone companies, and lawmakers from both parties were in agreement. The fee on cell phone bills needed to increase — to keep 911 services going and to add new technology mandated by Illinois.

Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin, says he was not part of the talks, but he was ready to lend his support when talks broke down.

“My understanding of where it bogged down was this notion that there were perhaps disagreement between the City of Chicago and others,” Hays said.

Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, says the “others” was the governor’s office — and industry members in the negotiations say that was indeed the reason the agreement disappeared.

The nixed deal involved letting Chicago increase its fee per phone from $3.90 to $5. All other cell phone bills in the state would see an increase of $1.50 from 87 cents.

“Evidently the way I’m understanding is that the governor pretty much pulled the Republicans and said ‘We don’t want to give Mayor Emanuel any more money,’” Phelps said.

Phelps is right. That’s what happened.

But by yesterday afternoon the Democrats decided to go ahead anyway and moved an amendment out of the Executive Committee with the AT&T language, the 911 sunset date extension and the tax hikes. Two Republicans voted with the Democrats, Hays and Rep. Reis.

Stay tuned.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


It’s ba-ack!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Tribune

All three bills under consideration would legalize fantasy sports, tax it and set up oversight by the Illinois Gaming Board, which also oversees casinos and video machines at bars and restaurants. Two of the bills also would legalize internet gaming, like playing poker online, but only for websites operated by companies that own Illinois casinos.

Including internet games was a move designed to bring on board casino operators, who view fantasy sports as competition but have long wanted to break into the online gambling space.

“There was controversy last year as to why are we regulating daily fantasy sports activity, which is ongoing in the state, and not regulating internet gaming, which is also occurring,” said Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat who is sponsoring one of the bills. “So what this bill attempts to do is also regulate and bring licensure and supervision of internet gaming under the jurisdiction of the Gaming Board. And it would limit the operation of internet gaming to existing casinos.”

The internet gaming provision has been pushed hard by Rush Street Interactive, an online gaming business affiliated with the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, whose owner is Neil Bluhm, a Chicago real estate and gambling executive. Bluhm has given more than $500,000 in campaign contributions to lawmakers from both parties over the past 20 years, records show.

But as the final hours of the spring legislative session ticked away, the rushed nature of the effort was on display in the Senate on Tuesday morning when more than a dozen representatives of the horse racing industry packed into a hearing room to object to the legislation.

Before they had a chance, Raoul announced plans to amend the bill to give racetrack owners the right to obtain an internet gambling license as well. Those from the horse racing industry said they’d be satisfied with the accommodation, which hadn’t been put down on paper before the hearing. Looking to advance the legislation to the Senate floor in time for votes before Wednesday’s adjournment, senators pushed the measure through the committee.

The House Executive Committee hearing room was so crowded with lobbyists and industry representatives last night that it was difficult to move.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


More on Kennedy’s speech

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Mark Brown

Kennedy declined to characterize his [property tax] proposal as a tax swap, saying he would leave it to individual communities to decide whether or how much to lower property taxes.

So he’s not going the full Netsch/Edgar/Meeks route. Hmm.

* WBEZ

If elected governor, Kennedy said he would implement “radical” reforms, like banning the Cook County assessor from leading political parties and stopping elected officials from being property tax lawyers.

These reforms were clearly veiled swipes at Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, who is the chairman of the Cook County Democratic party, and House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose law firm files appeals to property tax assessments.

But when questioned by reporters, Kennedy insisted his campaign wasn’t about them.

* His quote

Asked afterward by reporters if he was contending that Madigan, Berrios and Burke were part of a corrupt system, Kennedy repeatedly declined to directly answer.

“This isn’t about individuals by any stretch of the imagination. This is about an entire system and it really begins with kids,” said Kennedy, who noted the bulk of public school financing is through local property taxes. “This is about them, not about any elected official.”

* CBS 2

Kennedy was later asked if Berrios, Madigan and Burke are corrupt.

He replied: “The people who are in the system feel like they’re playing by the rules and, as such, they feel like they’re not breaking the rules. I think we need to change the rules so if this conduct continues, it’s against the law.”

* Back to Brown

No current elected officials attended Kennedy’s speech, the first major policy rollout of his campaign.

But former White House Chief of Staff William Daley, former county Assessor James Houlihan, former Board of Review Commissioner Robert Shaw and former Senate President Emil Jones were on hand to lend support.

That’s a weird combination.

* Tribune

Former Democratic state Senate President Emil Jones Jr., a Kennedy backer who attended the speech, was asked if he believed the property tax system was corrupt.

“Yes, it is,” said Jones, served with Madigan. “The system has always been there as far as the (property) taxes are concerned. So those who have access, be it through contributions or wealthy lawyers, the city assessor or his organization — so that, in a sense, is not immediately wrong, but it’s not right, see?”

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the veteran House speaker’s outside legal work does not include examples of “anything improper or special treatment.”

“I don’t know what he’s referring to, and I believe others have used that idea as a campaign plank (in the past) and it hasn’t proven successful,” Brown said of Kennedy.

Jones also backed a tax swap of sorts back in the day. He’s also a noted Madigan hater. Houlihan had his own falling out with Madigan.

* Related…

* Chicago Dem Chris Kennedy Touts ‘Radical Change’ Agenda

* Kennedy Talks Business with McDonough County Democrats: He told the crowd of more than 200 people at the V.F.W in Macomb that while president of merchandise mart, he worked to bring businesses to Illinois and help them grow and not one business ever asked about the issues deemed priorities by Governor Rauner’s turnaround agenda.

* Steve Cochran Show 05.31.2017: Chris Kennedy

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


March to Springfield protesters arrested after sit-in

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Politico

THE BUZZ — This is what day 700 without a state budget looks like in Springfield: dozens of protesters are arrested; demonstrators block the entrance to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office, protesters are physically dragged out of the Illinois House in front of TV cameras.

34 ARRESTED — Kristi Sanford, with the People’s Lobby, said 34 leaders with Fair Economy Illinois’ March to Springfield “were arrested outside of Gov. Rauner’s office. Activists were released within the hour on the west side of the capitol building. They will be charged with criminal trespass and are awaiting a court date.” Secretary of State Capitol Police warned protesters they would be arrested if they didn’t leave. Brian Mackey’s photo here

‘WE GOT YOUR BACK’ — Lawmakers, including state Sen. Daniel Biss and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, both Dems, chant for the last protester as he’s arrested: Video

PROTESTERS DRAGGED OUT OF HOUSE — Not the best images for anyone in state government right now. Earlier on Tuesday, Capitol Police could be seen dragging protesters by the arms through the Illinois House gallery, as members were in session. According to a report by NBC5’s Mary Ann Ahern, among those who demonstrated on Tuesday were representatives from social service agencies who had not been paid by the state. Watch

GOVERNOR’S OFFICE DOORS BLOCKED — Photo gallery

I never realized there were so many Capitol police on staff until yesterday.

And while it may have not been the “best image,” if you loudly interrupt the House’s proceedings and you refuse to walk out on your own, you’re gonna get dragged. Pretty sure the protesters knew that. It’s part of the game and everyone has their role.

* The thing that bothered me the most was when the cops wouldn’t let the protesters outside the governor’s office eat sandwiches sent by supporters…


But, they eventually worked it out.

* ABC 7

Earlier in the day, dozens of protesters from a coalition of Chicago area social services agencies demanded to get inside the Illinois capitol.

“So they are acting like this is actually a complicated thing, but in reality if they had the courage to close corporate tax loopholes and make the every wealthy pay their fair share of taxes we could raise the revenue we need for our state,” said Kristi Sanford, Fair Economy Illinois.

* What did they want?

But they don’t want just any budget – they’re calling for one that spends $23 billion more. That’s 61 percent of the Senate’s $37.3 billion proposed spending plan.

* More

Dr. Alfred Klinger, another member of the inaugural group and a retired physician, celebrated his 91st birthday during the march. A WWII veteran, he said government support via the G.I. Bill made medical school possible. Klinger and his fellow marchers say their budget plan would offer young people opportunity and give the elderly a sense of security.

Marchers contend their proposal would raise $23 billion to finance universal health care and free college tuition and fully fund public schools, social services and infrastructure needs by closing so-called corporate tax loopholes and taxing the wealthy at higher rates.

“This would give us all a step up,” Klinger said.

The throng shouted chants about the governor and House Speaker Michael Madigan such as, “Rauner, Madigan, can’t you see, human needs beat corporate greed!” and carried a banner outlining their vision for Illinois as it wended its way toward the Capitol.

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


“Right to Know” Isn’t What it Seems. Vote No on SB 1502

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


*** UPDATED x2 - Motion withdrawn *** House Dems put hold on minimum wage bill after passing it

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* AP

The Illinois House has approved a proposal that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour over five years.

House lawmakers voted 61 to 53 Tuesday.

* But

Lawmakers approved the bill with a 61-53 vote largely along party lines, but Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, filed a motion to keep it from moving to the Senate. Democratic Rep. Will Guzzardi said supporters were working to make sure the measure had enough support in the other chamber.

* SJ-R

After the legislation passed, Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, put the bill on hold in the House. Guzzardi said the move was to ensure “all their ducks were in a row” before sending the bill to the Senate.

“It’s just some procedural work that we’re trying to do on our side to make sure everything is in order,” he said. “I’m still optimistic that we’re going to get this thing passed to the Senate and onto the governor by the end of the day tomorrow night.”

The Senate has passed several minimum wage bills in the past only to see them die in the House.

So, the bill’s passage took just about everyone by surprise yesterday, both in the House and in the Senate, which hadn’t yet met in caucus to talk about the bill. They even had to change the Senate’s chief sponsor yesterday to the person who normally handles this issue.

There’s a lot of suspicion and finger-pointing, with some senators believing that Speaker Madigan is playing his usual games with the issue and may not send it to the Senate until it’s too late, and some House members worried that the Senate can’t pass the bill. We’ll see.

* Meanwhile

Rep. Scott Drury, a Highwood Democrat who has often split with Madigan, took the opportunity to bash the leaders of his party for failing to call the wage hike for a vote when they had veto-proof control of the General Assembly or when there was a Democratic governor. Drury suggested that the Democratic leaders had called it for a vote in order to put the Republican governor on the spot.

“I am truly, truly concerned that what is going on here is that Maria, that one of our colleagues spoke about, is being used as a pawn to embarrass our Republican governor,” Drury said, referring to a minimum wage worker whose struggles to make a living were pointed to by Democratic lawmakers during debate on the floor. “It’s all about the left embarrassing the right and the right embarrassing the left.”

Drury is right.

*** UPDATE 1 ***  As of 4:42 this afternoon, the motion to reconsider has still not been removed.

*** UPDATE 2 *** The motion to reconsider has been withdrawn.

- Posted by Rich Miller   73 Comments      


ILGOP follows up robocalls with online ads

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Yesterday it was robocalls, today’s it’s digital ads. From the ILGOP…

ILGOP Releases Digital Ads Ahead of House Tax Hike Vote
Will House Democrats end session by voting for a tax hike while rejecting true property tax relief?

Days ago, NBC Chicago reported that 46 members of Mike Madigan’s House Democrats planned to vote for a 32% income tax hike with no reforms, protecting Madigan’s broken status quo.

Illinois homeowners cannot afford another tax hike without true and lasting property tax relief.

Today, the Illinois Republican Party launched digital ads heavily targeting 19 House Democrats. Will they side with taxpayers and pass a balanced budget with real property tax relief or will they side with Madigan and pass a massive tax hike with no reforms to fix Illinois’ broken system?

Or will they end session in complete failure and refuse to pass any budget and reform plan whatsoever?

* The ad…

* Targeted districts…

HD 15 – John D’Amico
HD 17 – Laura Fine
HD 18 – Robyn Gabel
HD 43 – Anna Moeller
HD 44 – Fred Crespo
HD46 – Deb Conroy
HD 55 – Marty Moylan
HD 56 – Michelle Mussman
HD 57 – Elaine Nekritz
HD 59 – Carol Sente
HD 62 – Sam Yingling
HD 72 – Mike Halpin
HD 84 – Stephanie Kifowit
HD 98 – Natalie Manley
HD 96 – Sue Scherer
HD 111 – Dan Beiser
HD 112 – Katie Stuart
HD 116 – Jerry Costello
HD 118 – Brandon Phelps

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      


Splat!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* AP

The Illinois General Assembly that launched the careers of such political giants as Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas and Barack Obama and the governor’s office once occupied by Adlai Stevenson II have set a record in futility in failing to agree on an annual spending plan for more than two years, the longest fiscal drought of any state since at least the Great Depression.

The Democratic-led Legislature and first-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner have stared each other down since 2015. They have until 12:01 a.m. Thursday before striking out again and facing the possibility of entering a third consecutive year with no spending blueprint.

* Sun-Times

House Democrats said they’re in communication with Senate Democrats on a revenue bill that includes an income tax hike. They are reviewing “minor changes,” including potential changes to the service taxes that were included in the initial bill. House Democrats must still be briefed on those changes to gauge support.

* Tribune

Even if a last-minute agreement among Democrats could be reached, the Republican governor is unlikely to sign off on a tax hike. Those conflicts set the stage for Illinois’ historic budget stalemate to continue into the summer, leaving schools, universities and social service providers that depend on state money without many answers, just like last year.

“I do believe that we will be back at some point in the month of June,” said House Republican leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs. “If we can reach a fair, balanced budget, I will do everything I can to provide votes from my caucus … one that’s negotiated on both sides, not just negotiated between the Democrats in the Senate and Democrats in the House.”

After May 31, the threshold to pass most budget legislation jumps. It would take 71 votes to approve a spending plan in the House, but there are just 67 Democrats, meaning any agreement would need some Republicans. That could have the dual effect of insulating Democrats from taking the blame alone for any potential tax hikes, while spreading the responsibility for continued dysfunction across both parties. The next pressure point for an agreement would be July 1, the start of the new budget year. And school districts likely will amplify their concerns as a new school year approaches.

But Durkin said he doesn’t believe Democrats will be as willing to find common ground this time around, saying he believes the goal is about muddying Rauner as he seeks re-election.

* Public Radio

Rep. Will Davis, from Homewood, is sponsoring the House version of a tax plan approved last week in the Senate. He says he doesn’t think his fellow Democrats should vote on taxes that don’t have enough support to pass.

“I think that walks us backwards, and possibly gives the governor a lot of rhetoric to say about Democrats not being able to pass their own revenue package,” he says.

Some Democrats say it’ll be better to wait until June, when the constitution requires more votes to pass a spending plan. That, they say, could force both parties to come to terms.

State Representative Lou Lang, from Skokie, says even if Democrats do not pass a spending plan in May, it doesn’t mean they’re abdicating their responsibility.

“We have worked tirelessly for the last two-and-a-half years under Gov. Bruce Rauner to get a budget,” Lang says. “And we can’t do it on our own.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      


What’s up with the Thompson Center sale?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Tina Sfondeles

In another sign of the political war between Rauner and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a bill to let the governor move closer to selling the Thompson Center was met by resistance by state House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, who called it “another attempted money grab by the City of Chicago and a bad deal for the taxpayers of Illinois.”

Rauner has been pushing for the sale since 2015 but Republicans weren’t happy with the Democratic-sponsored measure, arguing the governor should control future zoning changes and development costs. Republicans argued the bill would limit the state’s ability to get the most profit over the sale. The governor has said the state could get $300 million from the sale.

* From House Republican Leader Jim Durkin…

“The Democratic bill to sell the James R. Thompson Center is another attempted money grab by the City of Chicago and a bad deal for the taxpayers of Illinois. The James R. Thompson Center was built with state taxpayer money and is owned by the State of Illinois – not the City of Chicago. Our first obligation should be to negotiate a deal that maximizes proceeds to benefit the State of Illinois. The bill that passed the House tonight takes care of Chicago at the expense of all other Illinois taxpayers.

* I asked Durkin’s office what that “money grab” was about and they sent me this passage from the Democrats’ proposal…

Any contract to dispose of the property is subject to the following conditions:

(1) A commitment from the purchaser to make any applicable payments to the City of Chicago with respect to additional zoning density;

* The Democrats forwarded me this language which was favored by the governor…

Any contract to dispose of the property is subject to the following conditions:

(1) commitment from the purchaser to make any applicable payments to the City of Chicago with respect to additional zoning density, as agreed to between the administrator and the City of Chicago in a memorandum of understanding or other agreement;

The “administrator” in this instance is the Rauner administration.

Chicago has a zoning density program that allocates money from major downtown property developments to neighborhoods.

The governor wants to be a part of that negotiating process. Mayor Emanuel, who’s been battling the governor tooth and nail, doesn’t want him involved.

There’s no money grab here. This is about who controls the process.

* Tribune

Rauner’s office insisted their proposal would not give his office zoning supervision over the city, but would just protect the state’s interests and help ensure it can sell the property at the highest value. But the governor could reach a deal with the city on zoning before selling the land without it being required in the legislation. Rauner aides couldn’t explain how their proposal would offer taxpayers extra protection.

Whatever zoning Emanuel’s administration applies to the Thompson Center moving forward is key, because it could have a significant impact on whether Rauner gets anywhere close to the $300 million he’s claimed the property is worth.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Al Riley, D-Olympia Fields, said the legislation served as “framework” for a sale and said it wouldn’t be appropriate to include specifics of negotiations between the city and the state on zoning in the legislation.

“We know there are going to be very tough negotiations between the (Rauner) administration and the city of Chicago with regard to the fees and the zoning of that land,” Riley said. “… We’re not in that. It’s going to be up to them to decide what they’re going to do.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Steinberg lets loose

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* One of my goals in life is to never get on the wrong side of Neil Steinberg. The dude can write

It is disingenuous for the Sun-Times, my beloved mother ship, to post a daily front page count of how long it has been since Illinois has had a budget. The idea is that doing so will somehow shame our leaders into coming to an agreement and getting on with the business of trying to right the capsized and foundering vessel that is Illinois.

But really, if embarrassment were a possibility with the speaker of the house and the governor, this would have resolved itself long ago. I’ve met crackheads living in a nest of blankets on Lower Wacker Drive who had a more highly developed sense of shame than these two jokers.

I do not want to fall into the easy “a plague on both their houses” trap. Yes, they are equally unpleasant men.

Bruce Rauner is a callous, sneering billionaire who comes across in person like the human model of C. Montgomery Burns on “The Simpsons.” Rauner expressed no interest whatsoever in public life beyond enriching himself until, perhaps bored, he took some of his bottomless lake of money and began fire hosing it at Illinois — a kind of political waterboarding. Eventually the state, sputtering and gasping, cried uncle, and elected him governor over Pat Quinn. Good old Pat, standing at the mound in his zigzag T-shirt, lowered his head as if weighed down by the brim of his enormous baseball cap, uttered a sigh and padded home.

And Mike Madigan is a grim slip of a man: think of a last year’s jack-o’-lantern mounted on a broomstick, the whole thing marinated in vinegar then hung out to dry. […]

If rich old white men like Madigan and Rauner were being hurt by this impasse, it would have been resolved yesterday. But it damages the poor, the struggling young — who rely on public universities and colleges that are dropping staff, injecting furlough days into their academic calendars, and, in general, suffering on starvation rations. Plus those with disabilities, victims of crime, and all the unfortunates who must fall back onto a safety net that both men are pawning to the rope merchant.

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   57 Comments      


Moody’s analyst: Backlog threatens “financial foundations of the state”

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* The state’s bill backlog as of yesterday was $14.5 billion.

Bloomberg

That backlog is “headed in the direction of being a factor that just by itself really threatens the sort of financial foundations of the state,” Ted Hampton, Moody’s lead analyst on Illinois, said in an interview, citing litigation from those demanding payment. “There is kind of an uncertain but very real legal and political limit to the state’s ability to keep deferring payments.”

* More

“We are probably approaching that point of impaired ability to function at basic level,” said John Humphrey, the Chicago-based head of credit research for Gurtin Municipal Bond Management, which oversees about $10.1 billion of state and local debt and has steered clear of Illinois. “We’ve already probably passed that point. We haven’t seen this in a modern state before.” […]

Bond-rating companies have warned of further ratings cuts, signaling that Illinois could be the first state since at least 1970 to lose investment-grade status. […]

Despite the gridlock, Illinois hasn’t missed any bond payments and state law requires it to continue making monthly deposits to its debt-service funds. Still, the fighting has impeded any progress on bolstering a state retirement system that has more than $129 billion of unfunded liabilities — a source of stress that has helped drive its rating down.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

* Today is the last scheduled day of the spring session. It feels like it began years ago. Watch all the action and inaction in real time with ScribbleLive


- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

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