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*** UPDATED x1 *** Another #MeToo moment?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* Here we go again?…

The activist might want to think about moving that presser up to tomorrow in case they leave town Wednesday night or early Thursday.

Also, absolutely no speculation will be permitted in comments. Don’t get yourself banned for life.

*** UPDATE *** Sun-Times

Denise Rotheimer says she’s scheduled a 1 p.m. news conference on Thursday to help support a “female activist” who endured “abuse” by a “leading lawmaker.”

Rotheimer said a similar incident happened last week to a female legislator, who has not come forward.

“I can’t discuss the name of the person who was being abused in Springfield but I am aware of it and the abuser is the same person [who abused] this woman,” Rotheimer said. “So I let her know about what happened last week and wanted to see if she’d be able to come out because this is happening to another woman, who happens to be a legislator.”

“This is abuse of power,” she said, adding the abuse was not a form of sexual harassment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

Madigan says Rauner is “willfully misleading taxpayers”

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* Press release…

House Speaker Michael J. Madigan issued the following statement Tuesday after the House approved House Resolution 1025, endorsing a fair tax plan that cuts middle-class taxes while making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share:

“Today’s vote was a promise to taxpayers that as we continue working toward a fair tax in Illinois our focus will be on cutting taxes on the middle class, putting more money in the pockets of working families, stimulating our economy and helping small businesses grow. The House Democrats backing this resolution stand ready to work with all of our colleagues to enact a fair tax plan like those currently in place in 33 states—including Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana—and cutting taxes for most Illinoisans.

“But while our current tax structure unfairly forces hardworking families to pay a much larger share of their income in state taxes than corporate CEOs and hedge fund billionaires, Governor Rauner is willfully misleading taxpayers. He doesn’t want anyone to see that he’s blocking tax relief for the middle class, all in an effort to protect a special deal for millionaires and billionaires like himself.

“While much work remains to be done, it’s now time for anyone who is serious about cutting taxes for the middle class and growing our economy to come to the table and work with us to enact a fair tax.”

Well, that kind of language will help the budget talks I’m sure. Say what you want about him, but the governor has stayed pretty darned mum lately, and that hasn’t hurt things. Just the opposite.

* The roll call is here. Just 61 members voted for it. The Democrats voting against it were pretty much what you’d expect: Costello, Kifowit and Scherer. Kifowit is the only non-target. DeLuca, Drury and Yingling (another target) didn’t vote.

But Rep. Natalie Phelps Finnie and Katie Stuart, both Tier One targets, voted “Yes.” That’ll make for some interesting ads.

…Adding… Rauner campaign…

Today, Illinois House Democrats voted in favor of a resolution to support a graduated tax hike just like JB Pritzker has been campaigning on. Rauner campaign spokesman Colin Maynard issued the following statement in response:

“Pritzker has bragged that the ‘theme’ of his campaign will be a graduated tax hike. Today’s vote in the House makes it clear the Madigan Machine in Springfield is ready to work with Pritzker to raise taxes on Illinois families and small businesses. Hardworking taxpayers simply can’t afford the Pritzker-Madigan team.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Question of the day

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* Keep in mind what I’ve already told you about the number of graduations on the 31st…

It’s not totally out of the question.

* The Question: What would be your reaction if the budget was completed a day early?

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Budget update

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

It’s just a bill

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* The News-Gazette surveyed some lawmakers about legalizing sports betting

Twenty-one of the 55 lawmakers said they support, or are leaning toward supporting legalization in some form. Eleven, including retiring Catlin Rep. Chad Hays, are Republicans. Among the 10 Democrats: Champaign Sen. Scott Bennett, who believes the potential revenue boost makes it worth legalizing “behavior that many sports fans already enjoy.”

Four Republicans and two Democrats are for it — so long as certain conditions are met. For Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, those include “appropriate safeguards to protect the citizenry from being ‘taken,’” a “fair split” of proceeds and revenue dedicated to the state’s backlog of bills, pension debt and/or underfunded programs.

In other words, he says, not using these new funds to create new programs — “what I fear any time legislators start talking about ‘new revenue.’”

Ten Republicans and one Chicago Democrat are against, or leaning heavily toward not supporting Illinois joining the flurry of states expected to jump at the chance to pass bills that could boost tax revenue and tourism. Most expressed reservations about what they view as overinflated economic advantages or the crippling social impact.

* Other bills…

* Bill boosting teacher pay worries rural schools: Local school districts already pay teachers an amount close to what the bill would set up, including Hall’s, which pays a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience almost $39,000 a year. Champaign’s Unit 4 pays above that at $43,423. And Urbana and Rantoul City Schools are less than $2,000 away, at $38,178 and $38,696 respectively. If the bill becomes law, the three districts wouldn’t need to make any salary changes until the 2022-23 school year. But the Prairieview-Ogden district, which pays new teachers about $5,000 below the bill’s minimum, would have to give teachers a raise in the 2021-22 school year.

* Illinois groups push to restrict short-term insurance, as Trump administration seeks to expand it: Dozens of Illinois advocacy groups, under the umbrella of the Protect Our Care Coalition, are supporting a bill that would impose a six-month limit on the use of short-term insurance plans — coverage originally meant to serve as a stopgap for consumers between health insurance plans, such as people changing jobs who can’t afford continued coverage under a previous employer’s plan or students taking a semester off school.

* Could medical marijuana help fight opioid abuse? It’s complicated: The Illinois General Assembly is considering a bill that could vastly expand the number of people qualifying for the state’s medical marijuana pilot program. Senate Bill 336 would allow people who have been or could be prescribed opioids to apply for acceptance into the program. The science surrounding the therapeutic benefits of marijuana is far from conclusive. But those shades of gray are missing from descriptions of both the benefits of cannabis from supporters of SB 336, and the drawbacks cited by opponents.

* Illinois House divided on allowing police drone surveillance at events: After fierce debate, a bill allowing for police to use drone surveillance at public events remains in limbo on the House floor after a preliminary vote. During the initial vote, Senate Bill 2562 appeared to have failed 54-48. But the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. John C. D’Amico, D-Chicago, asked to postpone the decision before the vote was officially recorded, meaning a second vote may be called. If passed, the bill would allow law enforcement to more easily use drones to fly over large-scale events, not only to watch for crowd size and assess how many officers are needed but also identify potential criminal activity. While proponents say it’s for something like concerts or protests, the bill defines large-scale as 100 or people. The drones would not be allowed to have weapons attached, including non-lethal ones like tasers or tear gas.

* Bipartisan opposition nearly kills bill to allow police drone surveillance in Illinois: Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said state law allows police to use drones for surveillance after getting a warrant from a judge. “It concerns me that we want to expand this here,” Skillicorn said. “It’s not that hard to get a warrant. It’s not that hard to get probable cause. I say that we stick to that burden.”

* State law that keeps juvenile records private also shields police from scrutiny, advocates say: Under the law, all police records — including incident reports, 911 recordings, and dash and body cam footage — are exempt from public inspection if the case involves a suspect who is under 18. As a result, the public has no way of knowing or even attempting to evaluate whether an officer acted appropriately during interactions with juvenile suspects.

* State Senator John G. Mulroe Press Release: Mulroe fought for funding for Chicago firefighters that every other Illinois municipality benefits from. He helped to advance House Bill 5197, which creates a Foreign Fire Insurance Board in Chicago to control foreign fire insurance funds. These funds are received through a 2 percent tax on entities that choose to purchase out-of-state fire insurance. The board would use the funding to support maintenance or enhancement of fire stations, training facilities, emergency response vehicles, tools and equipment or to benefit firefighters. … Currently, all Illinois municipalities with fewer than 500,000 residents have a foreign fire insurance board. In Chicago, the money is distributed to the city’s general revenue fund. In other municipalities, the Illinois Municipal League collects and remits the money to the various boards.

* Police: Higher ed proposal needs revamp: Exceptions for violent crimes like murder and rape need to be included in proposed legislation that could come before Illinois lawmakers this week, two police associations said Saturday. House Bill 3142 cleared the House in April 2017 and is scheduled for a final vote before the Senate. The proposal would bar Illinois public universities and colleges from asking prospective students about their criminal history and using that information during the admissions process.

* GOP officials fight against getting rid of prisoner co-pay: Teaching incarcerated individuals responsibility and being fair to Illinois taxpayers are key, according to Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). Questioning the outcome of HB 5104, which seeks to delete the $5 co-pay provision that the state Department of Corrections pays to prisoners who receive medical or dental services on a non-emergency basis, Syverson argued during the May 24 state Senate floor debate that if there is no co-pay, there is no lesson to be learned. “It’s to help them realize that at some point, when they transition out of corrections, that they will have co-pays like all other working individuals and taxpayers have,” Syverson said of the current mandate for prisoners to pay $5 each time they recieve medical or dental services.

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      

*** UPDATED x2 *** Breen makes budget demands on abortion funding

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* Some background is here. From Illinois Review

The Illinois General Assembly is once again focused on putting together a state budget - one that should be considered before the end of May. If voted on after the last hour of May 2018, the vote requirements will change for passage. For the first time, Illinois will consider whether the state’s taxpayers should be forced to fund abortions for girls and women on Medicaid or on the state’s payroll.

State Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) appealed to his House colleagues Tuesday morning to “take off the table” the taxpayer funding of abortion by eliminating the line item from consideration with the rest of the state’s budget.

Um, no. Medicaid and state employee group health insurance aren’t appropriated like that. No disrespect intended because I’m just using this example for illustrative purposes, but you won’t find a line item for costs due to treating broken bones, either. There are some specific Medicaid approps for grants, but this wouldn’t fall under that topic.

I suppose you could insert a line and give it a $0 value, but state law now requires abortions to be funded, so, if we learned anything during the impasse, we know the judiciary will undoubtedly step in and force the state to follow the law it just passed. The law says fund abortions for Medicaid recipients and state employees, so the state has no choice but to fund them unless and until that statute is repealed.

* From Rep. Breen’s comments

If there is a majority of members who wish to fund these abortions, then go ahead and take a vote on it.

We who are pro-life are not going to be complicit in your plan to terminate 30,000 innocent little lives next year. You go to the people of this state, and you explain how you raised taxes, to make sure there was money to pay for your 30,000 elective abortions every year. But, if there is no such majority here for taxpayer funded abortion, then let’s get the abortion funding off the table and out of the budget right now.

The General Assembly did take a vote on this topic last year when it passed HB40, which mandated this funding. So, a majority already exists. And it’s now the law of the land. Like it or hate it, the state has to fund it.

* Unless they separate those two approps out of the main budget bill and put them on a stand-alone bill, the only option Rep. Breen really has is to vote against the budget and all budgets moving forward unless something happens to HB40. He could also work to gin up opposition to the budget, but he’s a member of House GOP leadership - and the last floor leader who worked hard against Leader Durkin on a budget is retiring in January.

And, by the way, there’s sharp disagreement over HB40’s actual cost. It’s been on the books since January 1st, so I suppose we could probably get an estimate soon.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Media advisory…

Bipartisan Lawmakers to Voice Objections to State Funding of Elective Abortions in the FY 2019 Budget

Springfield, IL – On Tuesday, May 29 at 2:30 PM, a bipartisan coalition of House members will formally voice their objections to any FY 2019 budget that includes state funding of elective abortions. The media is invited and encouraged to attend.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Text from Rep. Breen…

Hey Rich, respectfully contend that we can split out parts of Medicaid in an appropriations bill. The practice of combining many billions into one large line item allocated generally for a wide variety of services under the Public Aid Act, CHIP Act, Covering All Kids, etc., is certainly not required by our state constitution. Instead, there is broad authority to fund or not fund programs, within appropriations bills. (e.g., Wirtz v. Quinn & Warrior v. Thompson). If anything, it would make more sense to split out programs like elective abortions, which are entirely unreimbursed by the federal government, instead of combining them with core reimbursable services. As for the courts, there’s no constitutional or statutory basis for a court to require us to fund elective abortions—especially when federal statute bars that funding.

Finally, even if there’s no appetite for a separate vote on an elective abortion appropriation (which tells you something about the level of support for such funding in the GA), then why not allow a separate vote on the Medicaid approp? In FY 2015, there were something like 20 appropriations bills, so splitting out appropriations is certainly well within recent precedent. Best regards, Peter

The idea of splitting out the approp into a stand-alone looks like where this demand is heading.

- Posted by Rich Miller   62 Comments      

Manar complains that nobody outside Cook and DuPage are on ICC

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* I didn’t realize this until yesterday…

Access to water and electricity, fair utility rates, decent cell phone and cable service, and safe railroad grades are all issues that are vitally important to rural Illinois consumers.

Yet no rural or downstate residents today sit on the Illinois Commerce Commission, the powerful five-member state panel that regulates utilities, approves utility rates, licenses trucking and towing companies and oversees railroad safety and crossing improvements.

Since taking office in 2015, Gov. Bruce Rauner has appointed five members to the commission; none live outside of Cook and DuPage counties. It marks the first time in a century that the commission has lacked a downstate member.

“There is a lot of Illinois outside of Chicago and the suburbs, and the people in these communities deserve to have someone on the commerce commission who will represent their interests and their point of view,” said State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

(Go here, then click the hyperlinked text “Commissioner List” to view a list of past ICC commissioners, their hometowns and the governors who appointed them.)

On Monday, the Senate Executive Appointments Committee voted to recommend two of Rauner’s pending appointments to the commission: D. Ethan Kimbrel and Anastasia Palivos, both of Chicago. Manar, who is vice chairman of the committee, voted no on both recommendations.

Kimbrel’s recommendation was forwarded to the full Senate for approval Monday afternoon. It passed 45-1. Manar, who represents a largely rural swath of central Illinois, cast the lone no vote.

It was unclear when Palivos’ recommendation may receive a vote before the full Senate.

* From the governor’s office…

Our administration has worked diligently to appoint qualified experts to the Illinois Commerce Commission who meet the stringent statutory requirements. These individuals are tasked with taking a broad look at the state as a whole to make decisions that are in the best interest of all of the citizens of Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

See you later, calculator

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

By Hannah Meisel

* Republicans in the House had a small gift on their desks this morning, courtesy of Rep. Rob Martwick (D-Chicago). Martwick bought his GOP colleagues calculators (from his own pocket) to send the message that a progressive income tax is a simple math problem.

From the letter…

“Enclosed is a small gift that I hope you will find useful as we approach our budget deadline. Recently, many members have taken to the floor to criticize fiscal policy initiatives. However, as scintillating as these speeches have been, they have all conspicuously lacked one essential element: math.”

* The gift…

* As Rich reported in Crain’s Chicago Business earlier this month, Rep. Martwick asked COGFA to do a study for him asking the question: how high would Illinois’ taxes need to go in order to keep up with the growth of pension debt? COGFA answered that Illinois will run a cumulative $224 billion deficit under our current flat tax structure, and that the state would need to enact a 6.45 percent flat tax on January 1 in order to combat this projected deficit.

Almost all the GOP House members received the calculators and the letter, minus the members who voted with Democrats to override Gov. Rauner’s veto on the budget package last summer, which included a tax hike from 3.75 percent to the current 4.95 percent.

“They acknowledged the fact that 3.75 percent was bankrupting the state,” Martwick told me.

“If the necessary tax to balance the budget over the course of the next 27 years is 6.45 percent, then that’s actually what the tax is,” Martwick said. “We might only be collecting 4.95 percent, but we are assessing a tax of 6.45. The difference is the last point and a half is being put on a credit card that they get to pay later with a lot of interest and I think that is so fiscally irresponsible for us to put that on the backs of the taxpayer under the guise that we’re giving them low taxes. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re giving them the worst kind of taxes: We’re hiding a high tax in a low tax and making them pay a much higher amount later.”

* Martwick said he’s received a little bit of feedback, including from Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield), who noted the plus button on the calculator was bigger than the minus button.

Why calculators and not abacuses?

“We’ll start with the basics,” he told me. “Didn’t want to make it too complicated.”

- Posted by Hannah Meisel   23 Comments      

Moody’s says state withholding Harvey money is “credit negative” for all Illinois municipalities

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* Press release…

On p. 32 of its new Credit Outlook this week, Moody’s notes last week’s decision by the Illinois comptroller partially denying the City of Harvey’s request for relief from revenue withholding under a state law requiring minimum pension contributions is the latest in a series of events involving Harvey that reinforce strong protections for pensions to the detriment of bondholders, and is thus credit negative for Illinois’ local governments. The comptroller’s response has important implications for other municipalities in the State of Illinois (rated Baa3/negative outlook) struggling to provide services and pay pensions because it clearly prioritizes underfunded pensions over municipal services.

Harvey is structurally insolvent, with an available fund balance of negative $56 million, or negative 199% of revenue, as of the fiscal year that ended April 30, 2017. The city has already racked up numerous general obligation bond defaults, missing two debt service payments in fiscal 2016, six in fiscal 2017 and as of February had missed four in fiscal 2018. Harvey historically has underfunded actuarially determined contributions (ADCs) for its public safety pension plans, contributing very little to its firefighter pension fund from 2009-2013, and even its far higher 2017 contribution fell far below the ADC.

Local pension plans in Illinois can request that the state withhold revenue from a sponsoring municipality if that municipality does not make minimum contributions. Harvey’s public safety pension funds have made such requests, and the state has withheld more than $2 million to date. In protest, Harvey warned that it cannot afford to provide essential public services. The city asserts that it will soon be unable to meet payroll, and last month announced layoffs. The state comptroller’s office has responded that it has no discretion under state law to consider Harvey’s hardship.

Now facing solvency challenges, Harvey’s pension funds have won legal judgments that mandate city funding. Following a host of judicial rulings and appeals over the state’s revenue withholding, including at the Illinois Supreme Court, the state comptroller’s office announced its intention to send $2.3 million of withheld revenue to Harvey’s police pension fund to begin satisfying that judgment.

We estimate that at least 25%, or roughly $5.4 million, of the city’s $21.9 million of budgeted general fund revenue in fiscal 2017 was eligible for withholding under the comptroller’s announced framework. Since the city’s two pension judgments amount to nearly $20 million, it will likely take several years of revenue withholding to retire the obligations unless a court intervenes, a settlement is reached or state law is changed.

Moody’s declaration of “credit positive” or “credit negative” does not connote a rating or outlook change. It is indicative of the impact of a distinct event or development as one of many credit factors affecting the issuer.

* Related…

* Harvey keeps pushing for settlement in face of Illinois pension intercept

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

Rauner starts cutting ribbons

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* It’s an election year, after all…

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced a plan today to invest $11.05 billion in the state’s roads and bridges over the next six years, including $2.2 billion of state and federal funding in the upcoming fiscal year. The Illinois Department of Transportation Multi-Year Proposed Highway Improvement Program will focus on projects that provide the greatest economic benefit to communities and take advantage of long-term strategies that save money over time.

“Investing in transportation creates jobs and economic opportunity, improves safety and makes Illinois a better place to raise a family,” Rauner said. “This plan will make Illinois more competitive while protecting the interests of the taxpayers.”

The governor announced the plan’s release at Peoria’s McClugage Bridge at eastbound U.S. 150, which will be replaced in 2019 at a cost of $205 million with the completion of the final design this year. Based on current funding levels, the FY2019-2024 Proposed Highway Improvement Program aims to improve a total of 1,945 miles of miles of road and 525 bridges maintained by the state. The multi-year program also includes funding for upgrades to more than 750 miles of local roads and 922,933 square feet of local bridges.

Other plan highlights include:

    $26 million toward the reconstruction of U.S. 20/Rockford Bypass in Rockford
    $36 million to replace and repair the Third Street exit and ramps to Martin Luther King Drive in East St. Louis
    $12.7 million for additional lanes on 4.5 miles of Interstate 57 from Johnson City to West Frankfort
    $148.4 million for bridge work and other improvements on Interstate 80 through Will County

This multiyear plan is the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) first to embrace asset management strategies that commit to smaller repairs avoiding the higher costs of deferred maintenance. Using this approach, IDOT will realize savings over multiple years to eventually invest in other projects throughout the state. The plan also builds upon the latest in data-driven tools to help identify projects that provide the most value to the public while improving quality of life and regional mobility.

“At the governor’s direction, IDOT continues to innovate in how it chooses which projects to build,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “This is a plan that gets the state on the right track toward truly meeting the needs of our communities and building a 21st century system of transportation.”

That McClugage Bridge replacement, among lots of other stuff, was in the governor’s capital plan he unveiled in February.

* From the Civic Federation’s analysis of that capital plan

Illinois has not had a major capital program since 2009. The FY2019 capital budget includes a total of approximately $16.8 billion in new and reauthorized projects but does not include any new revenue sources or increases in existing sources or propose a comprehensive capital improvement plan with a clear prioritization of projects. […]

Revenues Projects funded using bond proceeds make up $6.9 billion of the total proposed spending in FY2019, while $9.9 billion are pay-as-you-go projects financed with currently available State and fede ral resources. 245 The largest single source of pay-as-you-go funding comes from the federal government. Federal funds support $1.6 billion of new projects and $2.8 billion of the reappropriations, for a total of $4.4 billion in capital funds. The State collects the remaining pay-as-you-go funding through user taxes and fees including motor fuel taxes, vehicle fees, licensing and other related charges. The FY2019 capital budget includes $2.6 billion in new projects and $2.9 billion in reappropriations funded by State sources. […]

Total appropriations in the State’s capital budget have declined to approximately $14.1 billion in the enacted FY2018 capital budget from $29.1 billion in FY2010. Total appropriations would grow under the Governor’s FY2019 recommended budget to $16.8 billion. Due to the addition of new projects and the lack of a comprehensive capital improvement plan to explain the annual prioritization and completion of projects, it is unclear which of the original projects have been completed and how much of the current budget represents additional authorizations passed in the intervening years

…Adding… DGA…

In a fitting bit of symbolism, Governor Bruce Rauner today announced the state’s new six-year infrastructure plan in front of a bridge that’s been slated for replacement since 2013. But the announcement also comes after years of Bruce Rauner entirely failing to manage the infrastructure of the state, leaving us with a system rated “C-Minus” and costing drivers $16 billion a year.

Rauner’s three-year budget crisis and consistent mismanagement left the state’s infrastructure to deteriorate, and increased fares and reduced service on Illinois’ mass transit systems. In a memorable day just last year, all work stopped on Illinois’ roadways as Rauner’s budget impasse temporarily put 20,000 construction workers out of work. Rauner vetoed a bipartisan budget that would have put people back to work the next day.

“Bruce Rauner’s failed leadership shifted the state’s infrastructure system into reverse,” said DGA Illinois Communications Director Sam Salustro. “Rauner will spend the next six months desperately trying to distract from his failed record, but press stunts and empty promises won’t change the fact that his budget crisis stalled progress in the state.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      

American Conservative Union releases legislator ratings

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* Illinois Review

There’s good news and bad news about Illinois lawmakers’ conservative-ness in the American Conservative Union (ACU) 2017 Ratings.

“It is our hope that these ratings will serve as a guide showing who can be relied on to fight for conservative principles and restore the role of government to what our nation’s founding fathers envisioned,” ACU’s executive director Matt Schlapp wrote on the recently-issued guide.

Reviewing over 20 roll calls in both chambers, the ACU found no Republican senators that scored 90 to 100%, and only six House members - Bourne, Breen, Cavaletto, Frese, Halbrook and Ives - that rated highest.

In the ACU’s 80 to 89% category, two senators - Tim Bivins and Kyle McCarter - rated. Neither are running for re-election in 2018. Twenty-four IL GOP House members rated 80 to 89%.

The full ratings are here. Sen. Sam McCann, who is running for governor in the new “Conservative Party,” scored just 45 percent last year and 27 percent in 2016. His lifetime rating is 62 percent. That’s the lowest lifetime rating for a Senate Republican except for Sen. Dale Fowler, who is at 61 percent for one year. The 2017 average for all Republicans was 70 percent, while Democrats averaged 18 percent. Sen. Tom Cullerton had the highest Democratic rating in his chamber last year at 36 percent.

The lowest rated House Republican was Rep. David Harris, at 55 percent. The highest rated House Democrat was Rep. Jerry Costello, at 50 percent.

Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago) and Reps. Marcus Evans (D-Chicago) and Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford) all scored less than 10 percent, making them the “coalition of the radical left,” according to the ACA.

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

State’s attorneys say Rauner’s proposed death penalty change is “unprecedented and untested”

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* Bernie

The organization that represents top state prosecutors in Illinois’ 102 counties is expressing caution about any quick moves to reinstate the death penalty in Illinois.

While the death penalty hasn’t been carried out in Illinois since 1999 and was abolished by the General Assembly in 2011, Gov. Bruce Rauner injected a reinstatement of the penalty in specific cases — multiple murder or murder of a police officer — via an amendatory veto on May 14, less than three weeks before Thursday’s scheduled end of the legislative session. And, Rauner said, because of problems with sentencing innocent people to death in Illinois in the past, he would call for the penalty only in cases where convictions were “beyond all doubt.” […]

The three-page letter from Sangamon County State’s Attorney John Milhiser, who wrote the letter on behalf of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association] noted that the statement grew from a meeting of the statewide group of state’s attorneys in response to Rauner’s amendatory veto of House Bill 4618 — which originally extended a 72-hour waiting period to purchase of “assault” weapons.

“Reinstating the death penalty for a narrow category of violent criminals is a matter of significant public interest,” states the letter, which was presented to the House’s judiciary committee that handles criminal law. “The proposed standard of beyond all doubt, however, is unprecedented and untested in American jurisprudence. For more than 240 years the burden of proof in criminal cases has been beyond a reasonable doubt. It must be ensured that no innocent person is executed. However, changing the burden of proof to a ‘beyond all doubt’ standard is complex and involves constitutional and legal concerns that cannot be evaluated in the brief time thus far allotted.”

The full letter is here.

* Related…

* Conservative group slams effort to reinstate death penalty in Illinois: Heather Beaudoin is the coordinator of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a network of political and social conservatives who question the alignment of capital punishment with conservative principles and values. She said arguments in favor of the death penalty often don’t withstand scrutiny. “The idea of the death penalty being a deterrent … we’ve just not seen it to be true,” Beaudoin said. “These situations are crimes of passion, often, where the person perpetrating the crime is not thinking about consequences. And I get sort of heated when I hear folks say, ‘We have to have the death penalty for victim’s family members,’ because I’ve personally spoken with so many of them who say it was the opposite of helpful.”

* They got death for killing a cop, but not for killing a guard: Where’s justice?: The death in February of Chicago Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer was heinous. He was shot dead in the Loop while bravely doing his job. But was Cmdr. Bauer’s life worth more than that of Shaquita Bennett, who was gunned down in April, allegedly by an ex-boyfriend who had stalked her for years? Were the lives of Bauer and Bennett worth more than that of 8-year-old Gizzell Ford who was used as a punching bag, whipped with a belt and deprived of food, water and sleep for days by her grandmother before she was strangled?

* League of Women Voters: Reject proposed return of death penalty in Illinois

* Extended Interview: Reps. C.D. Davidsmeyer and Christian Mitchell debate death penalty, gun control

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      

They’re getting closer to a budget

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* I told subscribers about this less than $100 million gap yesterday

After canceling session Saturday and Sunday, legislative leaders continued to craft the budget. Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans, who’s been involved in crafting the budget, said Monday that the four caucus leaders are close. She said she couldn’t predict whether Gov. Bruce Rauner would sign it.

“I’m hoping that this is a budget that he will in fact be able to support,” Steans said. “I would never want to suggest or really think that I know what’s going on in his mind, and what not, but I certainly know that with our Republican colleagues, we’ve been doing this jointly with them, and I think that we have something that they can support.” […]

Sources said last week the two sides were off by several hundred million dollars. By Monday, that figure was less than $100 million.

One budget scenario last week had them $300-400 million apart or so. They’ve since closed most of that gap.

But it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

Oppose police drones at protests

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

* As a side note, the Senate is planning to convene this Thursday the 31st at ten o’clock in the morning. Is that a sign they believe the budget will be wrapped up early? Could be. Until then, follow the action with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

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House sends amended carjacking bill back to Senate

Monday, May 28, 2018

* The House approved an amended version of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s anti-carjacking bill today…

The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.

* Mayor Emanuel’s response…

“We commend Representative Jaime Andrade and the Illinois House of Representatives for hearing the voices of victims and taking steps to create a culture of accountability for those involved in carjacking. Chicago needs our legislative and judicial partners to step up to the plate and hold offenders accountable, and we strongly urge the Illinois Senate to pass this bill without delay.”

…Adding… Tribune

Also Monday, the House approved a revised proposal backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to crack down on people who commit carjackings.

The legislation is aimed at closing what the mayor’s office considers a loophole in existing law. Now, a person in possession of a vehicle has to know it has “been stolen or converted” in order to be charged with a felony. That’s often difficult to prove because people often claim they don’t know vehicles are stolen. As a result, many face a misdemeanor charge of trespassing.

The measure would allow officials to consider “surrounding facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the vehicle or essential part is stolen or converted” when pursing charges. The idea is to have more accountability for those responsible for carjackings.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

*** UPDATED x1 *** Gaming bill can’t get out of House Executive Committee

Monday, May 28, 2018

* AP

A dormant gambling-expansion plan came to life just long enough to stall in a House committee.

The Executive Committee’s 5-4 vote Monday on Rep. Robert Rita’s plan was one vote shy of the six needed to move it to a floor vote.

The Blue Island Democrat’s long-discussed plan won Senate OK 15 months ago as part of a “grand bargain” to break what was then a 20-month stalemate over the budget. It would authorize six new casinos, including Chicago, and allow slot machines at horse racing tracks.

Rita added several provisions to the measure. They include also allowing table games at race tracks and creating sweepstakes games.

* SJ-R

What was heard at the committee was a lot of testimony from opponents who said the expansion contained in the latest proposal will further cannibalize gaming in Illinois which will ultimately hurt revenue. Jay Keller, a representative of Penn National Gaming, which operates casinos in Illinois, said the bill will authorize 22,000 new gaming positions which, added to what Illinois already has, would give the state the equivalent of 52 casinos.

“This bill is a massive expansion and would put Illinois at a level that people would consider (acceptable),” he said.

Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, said the state’s 10 existing casinos lost 28 percent of their customer base after the state legalized video gaming terminals.

“These gamers didn’t disappear. They went to the 6,500 neighborhood locations with slots,” Swoik said.

The video poker types opposed the new expansions. The Fairmount Park folks opposed the bill because they couldn’t install slot machines at their track without first coming to an agreement with the nearby Casino Queen in East St. Louis, which essentially gives the Casino Queen folks the upper hand. Lots of folks also grumbled loudly about a surprise provision to legalize “sweepstakes” games.

The only people who seemed happy were track owners outside of the Fairmount folks.

*** UPDATE *** Getting the bill out of committee does not yet equal having the votes to pass it on the floor. Just sayin

Efforts to drastically expand gaming in Illinois — and create a Chicago casino — will get another chance on Tuesday after falling short of advancing in an Illinois House committee on Memorial Day.

With adjournment of the Illinois General Assembly just days away, the House Executive Committee voted 5-4, one vote shy of advancing the revived measure that has been in the works since last year.

But State Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, will call the gaming measure for a vote in committee once again on Tuesday morning. The quick turnaround may mean he garnered enough support to pass it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      

Blagojevich again attempts to rewrite history

Monday, May 28, 2018

* Rod Blagojevich writing in the Wall St. Journal

The rule of law is under assault in America. It is being perverted and abused by the people sworn to enforce and uphold it. Some in the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are abusing their power to criminalize the routine practices of politics and government.

I learned the hard way what happens when an investigation comes up empty after the government has invested time, resources and manpower. When they can’t prove a crime, they create one. Did you know that an elected official asking for a campaign contribution is the same as a dirty cop asking a motorist for a cash bribe to tear up a speeding ticket? I never did. Yet that’s what a federal prosecutor told the jury during my second trial on bribery and extortion charges in 2011.

Fundraising is a routine and necessary part of America’s political system. You can’t compete in politics, and you can’t govern from a position of strength, if you are perceived as weak. Building and maintaining a healthy war chest helps lead to success. For most people in the political arena, the fundraising part of the job is no fun. I liken it to exercise. It hurts but it makes you healthy and strong.

The problem, of course, was that Blagojevich’s fundraising practices were too often “unhealthy.”

* From Blagojevich’s 2010 trial

At several points, [John Wyma] said, Blagojevich appeared to link spending on certain state projects to campaign cash from donors likely to benefit from the state help.

“If they don’t perform, (expletive) ‘em,” Blagojevich allegedly told Wyma at one point.

At a meeting Oct. 8, Wyma said Children’s Memorial Hospital came up. The governor, Wyma said, mentioned how he had recently been called by former Cubs manager and ex-hospital board member Dusty Baker about raising Medicaid reimbursement rates to pediatric specialists at the hospital by at least $8 million.

The hospital had been seeking the boost for years. Wyma said Blagojevich told him he was going to give the go-ahead — but with a caveat. The governor wanted Children’s CEO Patrick Magoon to kick in a $50,000 donation to his campaign, Wyma said.

* Also from the 2010 trial

In a phone conversation in mid-October with Children’s CEO Patrick Magoon, the Governor said he would approve a $10 million increase in the Medicaid payments and that Magoon should keep this quiet until the end of the year when it would take effect.

Five days after that call, prosecutors say Magoon received a call from the governor’s brother Robert asking Magoon “to raise $25,000 for the governor.”

An uncomfortable Magoon didn’t respond and wouldn’t take later calls from the governor’s brother.

On November 12, in a meeting at Blagojevich campaign headquarters, the governor’s long time friend Lon Monk says the governor “got upset” that no fund raiser had been set up, and he said words to the effect, “screw them.”

Then Rod Blagojevich made a call to his deputy Governor Rob Greenlee - call 572 - secretly recorded by the FBI in which the governor asks if they could pull back the Medicaid increase for Children’s Memorial if we needed to - budgetary concerns, right? Greenlee put the brakes on the plan, and Children’s never got the money.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Memorial Day open thread

Monday, May 28, 2018

* I doubt I’ll be posting much more until later in the afternoon, when the House and Senate convene. Using my ScribbleLive account, I’m estimating traffic at about a third of normal, so I’m doubting we’ll see many comments, either.

So, the few of you who are here right now can talk amongst yourselves if you want. As always, keep it Illinois-centric and be nice to each other.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      

Congratulations, Jacob!

Monday, May 28, 2018

* Jacob Schulz started commenting on this blog as “JakeCP” way back in 2006 when he was just 14 years old. Despite his age, he mostly managed to hold his own in what can often be a rough and tumble environment. The African-American kid was somewhat unusual because he was a strong supporter of Republican Judy Baar Topinka in her campaign against Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Well, Jacob is all grown up now and recently reached an important life milestone

I DID IT!! I graduated with a Master's of Public Administration!

Posted by Jacob Schulz on Monday, May 14, 2018

Jacob has also been heavily involved in Chicago’s blues scene both as a performer and a promoter.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      

Federal judge orders IDOC to fix “extremely dangerous situation”

Monday, May 28, 2018

* From last December

The Illinois Department of Corrections has taken considerable steps to enhance the delivery of care for offenders who are on the mental health caseload. The Department remains focused on fully complying with the terms of the Rasho v Baldwin settlement agreement… The Department remains committed to ensuring that mentally ill men and women receive the treatment that is essential to their wellbeing, rehabilitation and reentry into society.

* Today

U.S. District Court Judge Michael M. Mihm issued an opinion Friday in the class action case Rasho v. Baldwin ordering the Illinois Department of Corrections to provide mental health treatment to prisoners who are on “crisis watches” and in segregation, as well as to provide medication management, mental health evaluations and necessary mental health staff throughout the system.

The judge ruled that IDOC’s failure to provide mental health care constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, as well as violates the settlement agreement that the department entered.

In a 42-page decision, Mihm found that IDOC’s deliberate indifference to mentally ill prisoners is causing “irreparable harm” that requires the court to issue injunctive relief. The court decision states that the constraints faced by IDOC “are dwarfed by the immense harm to the inmates.”

    “These are mentally ill individuals, who themselves are left, in a very real way, at the mercy of the IDOC to provide them with the constitutionally minimal level of health care. And this is simply not being done, and based on the record presented, will not be done unless there is a preliminary injunction issued by this Court.”

This order comes almost two years to the day after a settlement agreement was reached by IDOC and lawyers representing the more-than 12,000 prisoners with mental illness in Illinois. The original class action challenge to the treatment of prisoners with mental illness was filed in 2007.

* The order is here

The testimony during the hearing shows deficiencies in medical treatment in segregation have created an extremely dangerous situation. The length of time, sometimes staggering, that inmates are put in segregation, without properly addressing their mental health medical needs, furthers the mental decomposition of the inmate.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      

Moody’s analyst issues warning about state budget

Monday, May 28, 2018

* Sound budgetary advice from Moody’s

“The question is what progress will the state make, if any, in breaking out of those long-running challenges?” Moody’s Investors Service analyst Ted Hampton said in a phone interview. He added that the outcome of the budget process will be more significant than when the process ends.

In other words, don’t pop the champagne if the GA wraps up by May 31st. Moody’s and other raters will likely care more about what’s actually in the budget. And Illinois is just two clicks above junk bond status, so it won’t take much.

* And speaking of which

Gov. Bruce Rauner froze automatic compounding pay hikes for around 14,000 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 in 2015, saying lawmakers never appropriated the money. Now, a court order is due later this year that could make all that due at once.

Records obtained by the Illinois News Network via a Freedom of Information Act request show Rauner’s office estimates it will cost $412 million for just the four years of higher pay if the state is forced to pay all of the past years’ frozen step increases in the fiscal 2019 budget.

In 2015, the cost of the raises was $38.7 million, but that balloons to more than $170 million by the coming fiscal year. […]

The state’s fiscal 2018 budget is on the hook for the cost of about 1,400 applications from Medicaid for seniors in nursing homes that never got processed. That’s $311 million for nursing homes, [Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago] said. This bill, Harris said, combined with a supplemental spending request for the Department of Corrections totals up to $1.8 billion lawmakers still need to fund.

* And then there’s this

Using recently revised criteria, Fitch on Friday downgraded by five notches the rating on $2.5 billion of Build Illinois sales tax revenue bonds to A-minus. The firm cited too big a spread between the debt’s previous AA-plus rating and the state’s GO rating of BBB with a negative outlook.

That downgrade was clearly a warning shot.

* More sound advice from Doug Finke

The recurrent theme of this year’s budget negotiations is optimism, as in optimistic that there will be a successful outcome.

It’s worth remembering, though, that a hiccup before a budget is passed used to be a regular occurrence before the chaos of the past couple of years. It was something of a routine at the Capitol that a budget would be negotiated and then presented in private briefings to the individual caucuses. Almost inevitably, the deal would blow up somewhere that appeared to jeopardize the budget. Some further tinkering would be done, the revised agreement would be sold to lawmakers and a budget approved.

So even if something crops up this week, it’s not necessary reason to panic.

* So, does this WGN Radio headline indicate a problem ahead or just a minor speed bump?

Deputy Majority Leader of the IL House Lou Lang: “I don’t expect the Governor to sign the budget”

Probably the latter.

* What about this from a Tribune story entitled “A focal point in governor’s race, Quincy veterans home now part of budget talks”?…

“In his budget address that he came out with … (he) said, ‘I’m going to fix everything for $50 million,’ ” said state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, the chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “We’re going to get it fixed and done. Now, all of a sudden, ‘I’m going to need $245 million?’ ”

Tom Cullerton said the state would actually need to come up with $85 million because federal funding through the Department of Veterans Affairs would pay another $160 million. But lawmakers must still authorize the entire amount.

Democrats want assurances of the federal funding and that provides another way for them to go after Rauner, who avoids speaking about the White House and President Donald Trump.

“We need a letter from the president that says, ‘After speaking with your governor I am going to expedite that $160 million that you need because it’s important that our veterans stop dying and that it’s important that our veterans and their families stop getting sick,’ ” Tom Cullerton said. “If the governor can’t make that phone call, then I don’t know what else to say.”

Likely more show biz.

* Related…

* As budget deadline looms, business community worries federal tax benefits could be targeted by state lawmakers: One budget leader, state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said budget details are coming together. “We’ve been meeting very regularly and we continue to really narrow the gap,” Steans said Friday. “It’s very close now. I think there’s a real path to having an agreed budget and it’s feeling that way.”

* Final countdown: Area lawmakers hopeful for budget in last days of session: State Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill and one of the budget negotiators in the Senate, is cautious to go into much detail about the state of negotiations, but did say the talks have been more bipartisan than in recent years. “I want to say, I have found that this year that my Republican colleagues in the legislature and the Democrats have come together in a good faith effort to do what we can to forge compromise,” Manar said. “There are many, many … outstanding issues that we have to deal with, but I’m confident the process we have put in place is going to continue. And my hope is we can present a budget that is representative of compromise.”

* Local Legislators Remain Optimistic State Budget Will Pass Before Deadline Next Week: Republican Sen. Sue Rezin of Morris, whose district also covers parts of the WSPY listening area, is also hopeful about a full budget being passed.

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      

Pritzker “thinks big” with Blue Wave effort

Monday, May 28, 2018

* If you checked in with my Twitter feed over the weekend, you know that $1 million transfer to the Rock Island County Democratic Party and the $50K contribution to Sen. Kwame Raoul’s campaign happened Friday evening. Here’s my weekly syndicated newspaper column, which was distributed Friday afternoon

For weeks now, some Democrats have been wondering if their party intends to run a “coordinated campaign” this year and have asked what it might look like. A coordinated campaign means all the party’s candidates are working together under one umbrella group.

The party’s standard-bearer J.B. Pritzker has kicked off “Blue Wave Illinois” and will soon make a $5 million contribution. Democratic sources say much more cash is expected to follow.

The new group won’t be a separate, stand-alone entity, but will instead be an internal branch of Pritzker’s campaign apparatus.

The House and Senate Democrats will each receive a million dollars. Sen. Kwame Raoul’s attorney general campaign will get about $50,000 (around the maximum he can legally receive) and the other statewide nominees will eventually receive money as well.

To stay within campaign finance contribution limit laws, a million bucks will be transferred to the Rock Island County Democratic Party, which is run by Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association Chairman Doug House. Chairman House appears to be playing a key role in this new “Blue Wave” organization. House personally endorsed Pritzker ahead of his statewide group’s endorsement session.

Pritzker refused to take any campaign contributions during the primary except from himself, but that will also change. Pritzker’s campaign committee will raise the money to fund its “Blue Wave” operation from small individual donors and large contributions from others, including his wealthy friends and family. I’m hearing $30 million may be the target number.

Pritzker will retain responsibility for funding his own race, I’m told. His initial $5 million contribution can be seen as seed money to get the group going (and the million each to House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton could help soothe any possible paranoia on their part). And since contributions to Pritzker’s big-spending campaign will have no legal caps on them, Pritzker will be able to vacuum up every possible dime that contributors can afford to give. He has told others that he doesn’t want to compete with other Illinois candidates’ fund-raising, so he will travel to other states to raise cash.

Any Statehouse-connected dollars will bring the sort of criticism that the self-funder was able to avoid until now, so we’ll see how this works out. And, of course, giving money to Madigan’s operation has already prompted Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign to claim that the two men are in cahoots.

But this move also means Democrats will have a centralized funding source with no direct ties to Speaker Madigan. The benefit can work both ways. Some liberal big-money folks just don’t like Madigan, and even more candidates are skittish (to say the least) about taking money from the House Speaker. It also seems clear that Pritzker wants his own, independent organization outside of Madigan’s Democratic Party of Illinois – which has been accused in the past of redirecting coordinated campaign money toward Madigan’s favored House candidates.

The Pritzker cash will be used to fund campaigns “up and down the ticket,” from statewide campaigns, to legislative races to county races. The money will also be used for training in messaging and the use of digital technology. The Pritzker campaign wants to concentrate on the most winnable races, but they also say they don’t want to leave any stone unturned.

Local political organizations, including township and ward organizations in Chicago and county party organizations throughout the state, will also likely receive contributions in the future. Chairman House will apparently play the lead role in working with those organizations in an effort to build up a party that is sorely lacking at the local level outside Cook County.

Pritzker won kudos during the primary for opening 18 campaign offices and hiring about 100 field staffers, although there was some internal party criticism for the way at least some of those offices were run. It reminded some influential folks of the DCCC – helicoptered-in staffers who didn’t know the lay of the land.

Whatever the case, the Pritzker campaign plans to continue building out those local field offices and will use them to help Pritzker and other regional and statewide candidates.

A true coordinated campaign also involves congressional candidates. At this point, I’m told, Pritzker’s “Blue Wave” group figures its field work will benefit all candidates at all levels.

One of Pritzker’s slogans has been “think big,” and this definitely has the potential to be the biggest effort of its kind that this state has ever seen.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition

Monday, May 28, 2018

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

Monday, May 28, 2018

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*** LIVE *** Session coverage

Monday, May 28, 2018

* The House Executive Committee’s Gaming Subcommittee meets at 12:01 to discuss the new gaming proposal. Other House committees start at 2 and the chamber convenes at 3. Senate Executive Appointments meets at 3 and the chamber convenes at 4. Follow the action with ScribbleLive

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* Reporters actually take Skillicorn seriously
* 1,178 new cases, 39 additional deaths - But Dr. Ezike warns that weekend numbers are typically "a little bit lower"
* With strong union backing, penalty enhancement bill soars through General Assembly
* Question of the day
* COVID-19 roundup
* Before you get a haircut next week, consider this
* Budget roundup
* *** UPDATED x1 *** New Senate rule allows remote committees, limited remote floor voting
* ISP: "We’re between a rock and hard place"
* Stay Safe Today, Be Vigilant For Tomorrow
* Our Democracy Is Too Important, The Fight Continues
* Always zoom out on crowds
* *** UPDATED x1 *** I've changed my mind about remote legislating
* Open thread
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Budget and BIMP stuff (Updated with this week's password)
* Pritzker unveils business guidance; takes questions on budget, legislature, EO
* Senate President Don Harmon talks to reporters
* Madigan's closing statement
* Yesterday's stories

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