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Today’s quotable

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* No question today. Sorry. I was working on my Crain’s column and several other things and forgot. Instead, chew on this…


Tobacco 21 dies while car-sharing companies force a compromise

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* No surprise

The House voted 62-45 to overturn the “Tobacco 21” veto, but it needed a three-fifths majority of 71 votes to become law. The legislation would have set a minimum age of 21 to buy cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and nicotine-based products such as e-cigarettes and vaping materials.

The bill didn’t have enough House votes to overcome a veto when it was first passed.

* Big surprise

A veto override vote on a measure that proposed regulations for online car rental programs is on hold.

House Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Turner of Chicago skipped the vote on Rauner’s veto of legislation on so-called peer-to-peer car rental apps. It would subject the rental cars to safety rules and tax collection required for rental car companies .

Turner, who sponsored the measure, hopes he can negotiate a deal and present new legislation in January. Critics said the programs allow people to make extra cash by renting their cars and shouldn’t be required to follow the same rules as companies with large fleets.

That bill received 78 votes in the House when it passed. The car-sharing companies really did a number on it.

* More

The issue had sparked a massive lobbying campaign on both sides, with substantial campaign cash beginning to flow. Sponsors claimed they had the votes, but I’m told they agreed to talk peace after House Speaker Mike Madigan sent word that he’d prefer not to proceed with an override now. Beyond that, a couple of key lawmakers who favored an override were not able to attend this week’s session, I’m told.


Illinois Supreme Court kills off another attempt at pension reform

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Remember this Tribune story from 2011?

All it took to give nearly two dozen labor leaders from Chicago a windfall worth millions was a few tweaks to a handful of sentences in the state’s lengthy pension code.

The changes became law with no public debate among state legislators and, more importantly, no cost analysis.

Twenty years later, 23 retired union officials from Chicago stand to collect about $56 million from two ailing city pension funds thanks to the changes, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation found.

Because the law bases the city pensions on the labor leaders’ union salaries, they are reaping retirement benefits that far outstrip the modest salaries they made as city employees. On average, their pensions are nearly three times higher than what the typical retired city worker receives. […]

Pension experts from around the country say they’ve never heard of such a perk for union leaders. They warn that it not only creates opportunities to scam the system but also robs the city of its ability to control pension costs. The city doesn’t set union salaries, the most important ingredient in determining the size of the leaders’ pensions.

What’s more, none of the labor officials retired in the traditional sense. Even as they collected their inflated city pensions, they held on to their high-paying union jobs. A decade ago, those public pension funds were flush, but they’re now in such deep financial trouble that they threaten to burden taxpayers and dues-paying union workers alike.

* The General Assembly quickly passed a law to rein in those pensions, but the Illinois Supreme Court struck it down today

The State concedes that a statutory right to union service credit was created but argues that the right is not one entitled to constitutional protection because the framers of the constitution did not intend it to be entitled to such protection. In so arguing, the State merely relies upon the general justification for a public pension system, which is to reward past public service, to provide a form of compensation for past public service, and to encourage continued public service.

We find nothing in the case law, in the text of the pension clause, or in the constitutional debates on the clause that would support the State’s argument that the particular benefit conferred here is not entitled to protection. Kanerva held that the text of the pension clause places no limits on the kind of “benefit” that is protected by the clause so long as the benefit is part of the contractual relationship “derived from membership” in the retirement system. The participants at issue here are members of their retirement systems entirely due to their government employment. Each plaintiff was either working in his public job when the option to earn union service credit was added as a benefit or started public employment and joined the retirement system after the benefit was already in place. The benefit was clearly a “benefit” within the meaning of the pension clause, and the State’s argument must therefore be rejected. […]

(W)e hold that the ambiguous statutory framework prior to the amendment of Public Act 97-651 must be construed as allowing the right to use a union salary from a leave of absence under section 8-226(c) or 11-215(c)(3) to calculate the highest average annual salary. The amendments effected by Public Act 97-651 necessarily changed the law and thereby diminished plaintiffs’ retirement system benefits in violation of the pension-protection clause of the Illinois Constitution. […]

Plaintiffs next raise an issue of statutory construction unrelated to the two constitutional issues resolved above. They argue that the circuit court erred in denying their motion for summary judgment with respect to counts X and XI of their complaint, which sought a declaration that the “any pension plan” language of section 8-226(c)(3) of the Pension Code does not apply to defined contribution plans. In that regard, section 8-226(c)(3) provides that an MEABF member may receive service credit for time spent on a leave of absence working for a local labor organization, provided “the participant does not receive credit in any pension plan established by the local labor organization based on his employment by the organization.” […]

Because the term “pension plan” in section 8-226(c)(3) is ambiguous in this respect, it must be liberally construed in favor of the rights of the pensioners so as to apply to a defined benefit plan only and not to defined contribution plans. See Kanerva, 2014 IL 115811, ¶ 55. Accordingly, we reverse the circuit court and hold that the term “receive credit in any pension plan” as used in section 8-226(c)(3) does not include defined contribution plans.


*** LIVE *** Rauner press conference

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the governor’s office…

Gov. Bruce Rauner today asked the Illinois Investment Policy Board (IIPB) to investigate the listing practices of home-sharing company Airbnb to determine if there is a violation of Illinois state law prohibiting investment in companies engaged in boycott, divestment or sanction (BDS) against the Jewish state.

Airbnb Inc., the San Francisco-based online marketplace that its members use to list properties for lodging or other tourism experiences, recently decided to remove all listings in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a development that Rauner called “abhorrent and discriminatory.”

“We find Airbnb’s decision highly disturbing and we are calling on the company to reverse its West Bank decision,” Rauner said. “We are also looking into ways that we can exert pressure on Airbnb to end its prejudicial policy against the Jewish state.”

“We must not — and will not — remain silent when we detect discrimination of the sort being practiced by Airbnb,” Rauner told the IIPB in a letter released today. “An investigation — and the scrutiny that accompanies it — could impact the behavior of investors around the country if Airbnb follows through with a reported potential public stock offering and these concerning policies remain in place.”

Under Rauner, Illinois became the first state in the nation to pass a law aimed at halting discriminatory business practices against Israel. The country is one of the state’s most important business, education and cultural partners.

* He’s holding a press conference right now on this and other things, including the veto session


What Is The Credit Union Difference?

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

It’s simple. Credit unions are member-owned, so any earnings are simply returned in the form of lower loan rates, higher interest on deposits and lower fees. Credit unions create a fair financial alternative for the taxpayers of Illinois. Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that don’t focus on increasing revenue or paying dividends to outside stockholders. Illinois credit unions are focused on the member-owners we serve. Visit to learn more about the benefits of credit union membership.

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Calendars and vetoes

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Bustos elected DCCC chair

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Hill

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) was elected chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday, beating out Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Denny Heck (D-Wash.).

Bustos won 117 votes, compared to 83 for Heck and 32 for DelBene. […]

Bustos dropped out of the assistant leader race to run for the DCCC position. She is slated to succeed DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (N.M.), who was elected Wednesday to serve as the next assistant leader.

Bustos currently serves as the co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and was the committee’s recruitment vice chairwoman during the 2016 election cycle.

* Also…


FEJA Will Make Solar Power Accessible for All

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Across Illinois, consumers of every type will benefit from clean energy thanks to the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA).

FEJA’s Illinois Solar for All program will offer affordable solar power to residents who can’t afford solar panels or do not own their own home. Customers who participate in the Illinois Solar for All program will immediately and consistently see lower energy bills and eligible participants pay no upfront costs. Beyond affordability for consumers, Solar for All will support job training and careers in the solar workforce to deliver FEJA programs.

The state of Illinois must build on the success of FEJA and continue to expand this new clean energy economy to every corner of Illinois.

Visit to learn more.

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The rest of the story

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* One of the oldest ploys by interest groups here is to trot out a preacher to use race to make their case for them and the Tribune fell for it hook, line and sinker

Anti-marijuana forces warned Wednesday that legalization will allow white corporate exploitation of minority customers, comparing its effects to those of alcohol and tobacco.

The Rev. Gregory Seal Livingston of New Hope Baptist Church said that legalization will amount to marijuana companies “pimping” blacks and Hispanics.

“Profit is the motive,” he said. Livingston spoke in downtown Chicago with several other members of Healthy and Productive Illinois, a group that opposes legalization and is supported by Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a national anti-cannabis organization.

Illinois has already decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, which takes away much of the social justice argument in favor of legalization, said Livingston, who has been active in social justice issues in Chicago.


* From that same Tribune reporter a few weeks ago

[Kevin Sabet, head of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization] said decriminalization of marijuana, which took effect in Illinois in 2016, addresses many of the social justice issues.

That sounds familiar.

Look, stopping at decriminalization means the supply and distribution chain will still be run by criminals, some of them violent criminals. We need to dry up these criminals’ revenue source as much as we can in order to get their operations out of neighborhoods.

* The Tribune used some of Rev. Livingston’s more “reasonable” quotes, but conveniently left out his comparison of legalizing marijuana to the use of alcohol “as an instrument of genocide” against Native American people…

I could say that SAM should stop enriching violent criminal networks, but I won’t. That would be as intemperate as yesterday’s press conference. /s


*** UPDATED x2 - Taxes? - Ward office raided, too *** This may not end well

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Whoa…

…Adding… Hmm…

*** UPDATE 1 *** Tribune

Burke’s ward office on the Southwest Side also had the same brown paper taped over its front door with three signs that read, “Office closed.” An officer sitting in a squad car parked behind Burke’s ward office said a search warrant was being executed inside but offered no further details. […]

A law enforcement source told the Chicago Tribune that FBI agents raided Burke’s City Hall office and that the search was ongoing. No arrests were made or are imminent, said the source, who had no details on the nature of the investigation.

…Adding… Prudent…

*** UPDATE 2 *** Greg Hinz

There was no immediate word on what instigated the raids, but Burke’s influence as chairman of the Finance Committee over the city’s workers’ compensation fund could be a focus. Burke has kept outside oversight of its payouts to a minimum—even outside the purview of the city’s inspector general.

Another area of law-enforcement interest could be reflected by a recent surge in payments to the Internal Revenue Service by one of Burke’s campaign finance committees.

According to filings, Friends of Ed Burke paid nearly $150,000 to the IRS during the three months ended in June. That compared with much more modest sums in earlier periods, including two checks issued for $2,154.80 each and a third for $84 in 2017’s second quarter.

The committee also stepped up its payments to the Illinois Department of Revenue, sending more than $10,000 during the three months ended in June.



House expunges Kifowit’s remarks

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here. The House Democrats filed their own motion to expunge only after the House Republicans filed one of their own. Here’s the AP

The Illinois House took the rare step Wednesday of erasing from its record a Democratic legislator’s remark suggesting she’d like to infect the water supply of a GOP colleague’s loved ones with “a broth of Legionella.”

* Sun-Times

Soon after Kifowit read her apology, Breen addressed the controversy, while also urging legislators to act with more “civility” and “decency.”

“Earlier this year, I received a death threat that prompted police protection for my home and family. And my family and I endured a vile, filthy election campaign with $2.5 million spent to falsely connect me to rapists and child molesters. And yesterday, we all listened as a member of this House leveled a heinous death wish on my family.”

Breen said his wife and two adopted sons — ages 2 and 2-months are “the joy of our lives.”

“We know that if the representative had made that statement to me in the parking lot outside or left it on my office phone voicemail, she’d be in custody right now,” Breen said. “But because she made her remarks right here, they were met with applause, instead of handcuffs.”

* Tribune

“This body, this state, is at a tipping point,” Breen said. “We are faced with two paths. We can continue on our current path of worsening threats, and even violence. Or we can make the difficult decision to take the path up, to civility and decency.”

* Daily Herald

“There certainly needs to be accountability for the conduct we saw yesterday. Otherwise this sort of despicable behavior will become the new standard of what we allow in this chamber. And it will set the bar for acceptable conduct very low for the people of our state,” Breen said.

“In my four years here, I’ve watched this General Assembly avoid the tough decisions needed to divert our state’s government from the path to fiscal ruin. Now, I wonder whether this General Assembly will have the character to divert our state’s politics from the path of moral and ethical ruin.”

* Illinois News Network

Republican state Rep. David Harris, who previously served as the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, said Kifowit’s initial comments were inappropriate.

“Sometimes when people get in the heat of a debate they get a little too carried away,” said Harris, R-Arlington Heights. “That doesn’t mean that a resignation is in order.”

Harris said the fact that Kifowit apologized “shows a graciousness on her part.” […]

Kifowit said she wouldn’t resign. Rather, she suggested Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah should resign.

“The person who should resign is director Shah,” Kifowit said.

Kifowit said Shah was responsible for the veteran’s deaths. Shah did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


*** UPDATED x1 *** Rauner sues attorney general, One Illinois over FOIA issue

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here. From One Illinois

The governor is suing the state attorney general and One Illinois to withhold emails on government appointments from the public.

Although he lost his re-election bid Nov. 6, Gov. Bruce Rauner filed suit a week later to fight a binding opinion issued by Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office that 1,783 emails should be released to One Illinois in a Freedom of Information Act case.

The move was unexpected — at least by One Illinois — in that Rauner could have simply ignored the binding opinion issued by the attorney general’s public access counselor and forced One Illinois to file suit to compel enforcement. Instead, he took the initiative in filing — and in spending government money and resources to keep the emails from the public.

According to legal experts, suits against binding opinions in FOIA cases are likely losers, as the public access counselor has already examined and ruled on the issues. Madigan’s office will handle the litigation and press for release of the emails.

If the suit’s not decided by the time Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker is inaugurated Jan. 14, control of it would pass to his administration and he could simply move to release the emails. The Rauner administration would violate several laws if it tried to destroy the emails before he left office. Professor Emeritus Kent Redfield of the University of Illinois at Springfield speculated that Rauner could seek a restraining order that would extend beyond his term in office, but such rulings are rarely granted in these cases.

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

We’re not suing the AG, we can’t just ignore the opinion.

We’re appealing a binding decision made by the Public Access Counselor.


Rauner’s VOICES Act veto overridden by both chambers

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Illinois News Network

It’s now law for police in Illinois to certify in a timely manner complaints of abuse or assault filed by illegal immigrants, who can then use such reports in working toward certain citizenship visas.

Gov. Bruce Rauner had vetoed Senate Bill 34, the Voices of Immigrant Communities Empowering Survivors, or VOICES, Act. The Senate passed it over his veto earlier this month. On Wednesday, the House did the same.

State Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford, who supported the measure, said it will protect immigrants who are crime victims, regardless of how they entered the country.

“This is not an automatic pathway to citizenship, but what it is is empowering individuals in our community who may be undocumented to come forth and talk about crimes that have happened which only moves or serves to make the rest of us, all of us, safer because we’re able to address the crimes these individuals are victims of,” Wallace said.

Illinois State Police said the measure could cost an extra $425,000 for additional staff to process requests within 90 days. There’s also the potential for more lawsuits against state police, the agency said in a fiscal note. It’s unclear how much it could cost local police agencies.

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, said he was concerned that an illegal immigrant could potentially get special visa priority for merely reporting a crime.


* Illinois Public Radio

The measure requires Illinois law enforcement to submit the proper paperwork to the feds within 90 days. Whether or not an immigrant crime victim ultimately gets a visa will still be up to those authorities. […]

“It has been layers of difficulty to try to place the protections on people, everyday people, that deserve it,” [Rep. Lisa Hernandez. D-Cicero] said of the legislative effort.

* Tribune

Rauner vetoed the proposal in August in southern Illinois, as he tried to get rural conservatives who back President Donald Trump behind his re-election.

“That ties the hands of law enforcement,” Rauner said at the time. “It can delay deportations that should otherwise occur.”

* JB Pritzker…

“I applaud the House and Senate for overriding the veto of SB 34 and standing up for immigrant families across the state,” said Governor-elect JB Pritzker. “The VOICES Act is critical legislation that protects immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking and other crimes, and I’m proud to see it enacted into law. Illinois is a welcoming state, and I look forward to serving our 1.8 million immigrant residents as your governor.”


*** UPDATED x1 *** Anecdotes are not data

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here if you need it. From the Illinois News Network

A report from Oregon shows that workers’ compensation costs are falling in Illinois, but a manufacturing group said employers here have yet to see any savings.

The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association heralded a report this week from the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services that ranked Illinois workers’ compensation costs at the 22nd highest in the nation, down from the eighth highest. […]

Illinois Manufacturers’ Association’s Mark Denzler said while the industry group has seen the Oregon report, the state’s employers haven’t seen the savings.

“We talk to companies on a daily basis who actually pay workers’ comp and write the checks for it and they have not seen significant reductions in workers’ compensation costs,” Denzler said.

Love me some Denzler, but show us actual numbers.

*** UPDATE *** With a hat tip to a commenter, these are the premium rates before they dropped from 8th highest to 22nd highest in the nation. You can plainly see premiums were already going down. From the Illinois Department of Insurance


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Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

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* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Isabel’s afternoon roundup
* Feds to provide more migrant funding... Just $19.3 million for Illinois
* Question of the day
* It’s just a bill
* Bill to expand IVF/infertility insurance coverage overwhelmingly passes Senate
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
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