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Question of the day

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* Illinois News Network on a bill to hike the tax on vaping products to make it equal to tobacco products

Danne Reinke, from the Smoke Free Alternatives Coalition of Illinois, testified in opposition to the bill Tuesday. He said the measure would tax vaping products at 36 percent. He said consumers can use vaping products to help quit smoking cigarettes.

A spokesman for the Illinois Department of Revenue said: “E-cigarettes and vapor products are currently assessed the general merchandise rate of 6.25 percent.”

“It’s bad public policy,” Reinke said. “[Vaping is] the leading cessation product.”

State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, also had concerns about the measure.

“My biggest problem is taxing it as something it’s not,” Hutchinson said. “At its core, they’re not tobacco products. To tax them as something they’re not, it misses the opportunity. I’m not opposed to taxation, but we need to tax it as it actually is.”

Link said he’s open to continued conversation about the issue, but said there are real concerns.

“We have an epidemic going on,” Link said. “In our schools, we’re having a total epidemic with it. We’ve got to look at this in a different manner.”

“I’ve seen plenty of people who do stop smoking with vape products, but I also know we have a fear of the rising use among kids, so it’s complicated and I get that, but they’re not tobacco products so it’s hard for me to make that jump,” Hutchinson said.

* The Question: Should vaping products be taxed at the same level as tobacco products? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…

panel management

- Posted by Rich Miller   32 Comments      

Are people moving on?

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* The latest uproar in the Chicago mayoral race has given us an interesting insight into how much attitudes can change. As you may already know, some disgusting fliers are being distributed outside some South Side churches

On one side of the flyer is a picture of Lightfoot and her wife, Amy Eshelman, with a sign beneath the couple that reads, “The Gay Equality Act !!! It’s our turn.”

Beneath that is a line in red print: “1st openly gay woman in City Hall.” Above the couple is another line in red that says, “The Feminist and Gay Movement Have Come Full Circle.”

The flip side of the flyer says, among other things, “ALL CONTRACTS, JOBS AND EMPLOYMENT NEWLY ASSIGNED EXCLUSIVELY TO GAY PEOPLE!”

* Willie Wilson denounced the fliers…

* But here’s Wilson in 2014

“The black community… does not support same-sex marriage,” Wilson told me. “I believe marriage is between a man and women. I’ll die going to grave believing that.”

* Moving along

Bishop Larry Trotter, the senior pastor of Sweet Holy Spirit Church, who lobbied against the same sex marriage act in Illinois, now is supporting Lightfoot and denouncing the anti-gay fliers. Trotter says “I think the church at large is beyond that.” He also adds “I’m not voting for her because of her lifestyle, that has nothing to do with it.”

* Bishop Trotter on gay marriage in 2004

“When Mayor Daley and [Cook County Clerk] David Orr said they’d love to allow this, they opened this city up to another legion of demonic experiences,” Trotter told the audience.

* Rex Huppke

When LGBT activists fought to legalize same-sex marriage, opponents believed the sky would fall and the earth would be torn asunder. Again, the sky didn’t fall and the earth kept right on spinning.

With each step toward equality, fewer people have the capacity to hate. That’s because we start to understand differences, and we stop fearing them.

Most of us, anyway.

Hatred eventually reaches a tipping point where it becomes more broadly rejected. Are those anti-Lightfoot flyers hateful? Yes. But they’re also almost comically feeble, a voice from the past screeching into a present that no longer cares.

* Last word goes to Rev. Ira Acree, a Lightfoot supporter and pastor of the Greater St. John Bible Church in the Austin neighborhood

“Black people, at the end of the day, are like any other ethnic group,” Acree said. “They have their biases, but when they go inside the booth they vote their interests. We are against adultery and extramarital affairs, but we still supported Bill Clinton. We know how to support our interests. Lightfoot benefits our interests. Regular people don’t benefit from machine politics. We need someone to advocate for the little guy.”

* Related…

* How Willie Wilson changed his mind on LGBTQ people and endorsed Lori Lightfoot: “I used to think the same way.” Now, he says, “Let Christ do the judging. Not me.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      

The education beat

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* Dusty Rhodes at Illinois Public Radio

More than a year ago, Illinois lawmakers approved a total overhaul of the way the state funds schools. That landmark legislation, known as “evidence-based funding,” got a lot of media attention. But at the same time, something else happened that went totally unreported: The state also changed the number of instructional hours required in a school day from five to zero.

Let’s be clear: The new law didn’t force any changes, so most districts carried on with their usual schedules. And as soon teachers unions noticed the five-hour requirement had been dropped, they began to lobby to reinstate it.

But by that time, a few districts had embraced the new flexibility, and didn’t want to give it up. That left the Illinois State Board of Education caught in the middle. […]

“We found that many districts were primarily using flexibility this winter for e-learning days for students,” [Amanda Elliott is director of legislative affairs for the ISBE] says. “We heard from districts that they saw this as an opportunity to allow more use of dual credit classes, internships, career based learning experiences, and so there’s a lot of excitement about what this could mean for schools and students in Illinois.”

But now there’s legislation that’s going to restore the clock hours. It’s contained in an amendment that’s been negotiated by the state’s largest teachers union and a representative from a group of the most well-financed school districts — the kind most ready to take advantage of all this flexibility.

The amendment, however, contains some exemptions. Go read the rest for more info.

* Greg Hinz at Crain’s

In his first major legislative initiative, new Illinois Manufacturing Association President Mark Denzler says his top legislative priority is a bill that would waive tuition and other fees (including on-campus housing) at the University of Illinois and other state colleges and universities for students studying science, technology engineering or math who agree to teach in a state high school for at least three years after graduation, or a state institute of higher education for at least five years. […]

“If you talk to people in community colleges, they’ll tell you them they have plenty of classrooms available. What they lack is qualified staff”—instructors capable of teaching in the so-called STEM disciplines, he added.

The bill involved passed the Senate last year but stalled in the House. It is sponsored again this year by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill. Denzler said he’s been discussing the proposal with House leaders and officials in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration, and is hopeful of getting them to go along.

School labor unions have not yet signed on to the bill, but the measure comes amid the rising number of Illinois high school graduates who end up attending college out of state, with many never returning here. The estimated first-year cost is about $1.5 million, Denzler said, though that figure could multiply quickly in the future if the program works.

Eastern Illinois University, the Illinois Community College Board and the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance have signed on as proponents.

* Chalkbeat

The staff of the state charter commission has recommended that two charter schools rejected by Chicago have another chance to open their doors to students.

On Tuesday, the Illinois State Charter School Commission will consider those recommendations to approve a new citywide school run by Intrinsic, which wants to replicate its Level 1-plus campus, and to keep open a school by Urban Prep West, whose school was ordered closed.

On another appeal, the commission’s staff sided with the Chicago district in recommending that Chicago Education Partnership’s proposal for a second campus for its Moving Everest elementary school in Austin be rejected. The fourth school, Kwame Nkrumah, withdrew its appeal.

Earlier this year, the Chicago school board denied all new charter applications for the next school year, and announced plans to shutter two currently operating charter schools.

* Capitol News Illinois

A state senator wants to give all Illinois high school students the opportunity to walk across the graduation stage with an associate degree to complement their diploma.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, a Bloomington Republican, told the Senate Education Committee this week he is still fine-tuning the proposal, Senate Bill 2046, but the general premise is to quicken the pace at which young adults can enter the workforce.

“What some states have done, is they have offered or mandated high schools to provide an equivalent that would give people three choices: traditional education, or leave high school with an associate degree with either a path to a vocation or a path to a baccalaureate degree where they would be able to enter college as a junior,” Brady told Capitol News Illinois on Thursday.

As it stands now, Brady’s bill would require high schools to prove there is a path for students to achieve an associate degree by the time they leave high school, but there are no penalties written into the bill for districts that don’t offer such courses.

Zach Messersmith, representing school boards and administrators through the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance, testified Wednesday as an opponent to the bill as written, but said he discussed it with Brady and planned to work out some disagreements in the legislation. Brady said he is open to negotiation as well, and he was “less than thrilled” with the initial draft of the bill.

* Related…

* Report on Illinois School for the Deaf points out flaws: The state’s $18-million-a-year school for about 220 deaf and hard-of-hearing children and young adults from across Illinois hasn’t done enough to update its mission or involve the local and statewide deaf community, a study by a group that evaluates deaf schools says.

* Legislators help women pursuing a return to education with scholarships

- Posted by Rich Miller   15 Comments      

Illinois Renewable Energy is Facing a 2019 Funding Cliff

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

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Hundreds of renewable energy installations currently planned by communities, businesses, consumers and nonprofits will be unable to move forward

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• Expands successful programs encouraging a diverse & equitable workforce
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Vote yes on HB 2966 (Davis) / SB 1781(Cunningham)

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- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

Dunn is done

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* Brian Munoz at the Daily Egyptian

Former SIU President Randy J. Dunn improperly hired late Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s daughter and son-in-law as well as SIU’s vice president for academic affairs, according to an Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General report, the findings of which were obtained by the Daily Egyptian.

Dunn entered a separation agreement with the Board of Trustees last July after it was discovered he coordinated with SIU Edwardsville administrators and legislators in an attempt to dissolve the university system.

The agreement stated Dunn would be entitled to a visiting professor position at SIUE for at least 18 months unless an external agency made a finding of his wrongdoing.

The agreement also stated Dunn’s employment would cease immediately and automatically upon the issuance of any findings showing he violated SIU System or Illinois policy.

The Office of the Executive Inspector General recommended Dunn not be rehired within the SIU system due to the violation of his contract.

Go read the whole thing. Dunn and Montemagno did a whole lot of damage to the SIUC campus, IMHO.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

It’s just a bill

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* Illinois Review

So one by one, elected officials within over 60 Illinois counties have agreed to stand up against state lawmakers restrictions by resolving not to enforce any laws that would infringe on American citizens’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

HB 3553, sponsored by freshman Democrat Terra Costa Howard, is a measure to stop the Second Amendment movement from building steam against the Leftist Progressive at the State Capitol - although many say it’s too late. The movement is big and growing.

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Illinois House’s Judiciary - Criminal Committee Tuesday, March 19, at 5:00 PM. It says that a county or municipality “may not pass an ordinance or resolution restricting enforcement of any State law or regulation concerning the ownership or use of firearms unless permitted to do so under the express provisions of the law or regulation.”

Effingham County board member Dave Campbell, who has been at the forefront of protecting Second Amendment rights with county resolutions, worked with his state’s attorney to put together their county’s Second Amendment resolution. Campbell was aware of the legislation being proposed to stop the resolutions, and was curious just how lawmakers would address Howard’s bill.

“Will state lawmakers vote to uphold Second Amendment rights? Or will they vote against locals declaring sanctuaries against state policies while Chicago and Cook County oppose federal laws concerning illegal immigration?” Campbell asked Illinois Review.

Campbell must’ve never heard about federalism. The state can indeed place limits on local government ordinances. And state and local police are under no statutory mandate to work hand-in-glove with federal immigration authorities.

* From an Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health action alert…

While we do have support in the senate for SB 1594, the Repeal of Parental Notice of Abortion, many senators are still on the fence, saying that though they “understand” that not all youth have healthy or safe relationships with their parents, but they are still conflicted.

* The Sun-Times published an editorial on the topic this week

Before retiring last year, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Susan Fox Gillis heard some of these cases, known as judicial bypass. She heard different reasons why girls couldn’t turn to their parents.

Many of the girls, she found, lived in volatile homes and reasonably feared being thrown out. Some girls had been sexually abused by family members.

“If the girls had been found out,” Judge Gillis told us, “there could have been serious repercussions.”

We strongly support parental rights, but we equally support the rights of minors to be safe.

It is sometimes said, rather glibly, that if a girl must by law tell her parents when she’s going to get her ears pierced, she should have to tell them when she’s going to get an abortion.

But nobody throws a kid into the street, or worse, for getting her ears pierced.

The Illinois Parental Notice of Abortion Act fails to protect. It only punishes.

* McDonough Voice

Two abortion bills have been scheduled for a hearing in the Illinois House’s Informed Consent Subcommittee — bills which 93rd District State Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, refers to as “extreme.“

House Bill’s 2495 and 2467 are collectively referred to as the Reproductive Health Act. But, according to Hammond, the act has little to do with informing women about their reproductive choices.

“The bills are a way to ensure that the abortion industry grows and that — if there were a reversal of Roe v. Wade — it would have no effect on that very lucrative business in Illinois,” Hammond said. “In 2017, abortion numbers continued to increase with 39,329 performed here. If these bills pass, that number will increase, and Illinois will become a third-trimester abortion destination.“

Pretty cynical take, if you ask me.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      

False Information on Reproductive Health Act (HB2495) Rebutted

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

There is a lot of incorrect information designed to distract and scare you about the Reproductive Health Act (HB2495). Let’s set the record straight.

    * The RHA affirms the fundamental right of all people in Illinois to access contraceptives, maternal care and abortion care. It makes it clear this is health care – not criminal activity. With the looming threat of attacks on fundamental rights to reproductive health care poised to go to the US Supreme Court, it is time to remove criminal penalties for health care in Illinois law.

    * The RHA codifies current standards of medical practice on who can perform abortions. An amendment to the RHA provides that while doctors perform surgical abortions, those with authority to prescribe medications (such as advance practice nurses and physician assistants) can prescribe abortion-related medications. With this amendment, the law on who can perform an abortion remains unchanged.

    * The RHA continues to regulate clinics that perform abortions – just like any other medical clinic. It is simply false to claim the law would eliminate any regulation. The bill writes into law the current practice in Illinois for decades – that we should regulate all health care facilities by science and fact-based needs, not ideology.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

Sanguinetti seriously considering bid against Casten

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* I told subscribers about this a couple of weeks ago. Illinois Review

Friday night at DuPage County Chairman Dan Cronin’s annual Corned Beef & Cabbage bash, Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti wasn’t shy about her intentions to run for the 6th CD in 2020. “I’m seriously thinking that I will run,” she said, and nodded her head yes when asked if that information could be shared with Illinois Review readers.

Sanguinetti - sporting a cast on her shin after a bout with a treadmill - successfully kept herself ideologically kept herself separated from Governor Bruce Rauner during her term and during the re-election campaign. She always made it clear she held her own opinions on issues that would hold up in her home district - despite her “good soldier” efforts to campaign on the team’s behalf.

Sanguinetti said she’d spoken with Roskam’s people and that they thought it was unlikely Roskam would seek re-election, so she was planning to move forward to regain the 6th for the Republicans.

Democrat Sean Casten defeated the incumbent Peter Roskam by 7.2 points last November.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

Supreme Court denies Van Dyke resentencing bid

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* Sun-Times

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a bid to resentence former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke in the murder of Laquan McDonald.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon filed a petition with the court in February seeking a new sentencing hearing for Van Dyke.

Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan gave Van Dyke 81 months behind bars in January. A jury in October found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.

The judge chose to sentence Van Dyke only on the second-degree murder count, finding it to be the more serious crime. Raoul and McMahon challenged that decision in their petition. […]

Meanwhile, Van Dyke’s lawyers filed a notice of appeal in anticipation of the petition from Raoul and McMahon. His lawyers later suggested they would drop it if the high court declined to get involved. If it did get involved, it would “open a Pandora’s box” of legal issues that Van Dyke could raise in an appeal of trial decisions, his conviction and the sentence.

That Van Dyke notice is here.

* From Justice Thomas Kilbride’s partial concurrence and dissent

Fundamentally, this matter involves a dispute on discretionary sentencing issues that are not suitable for resolution in an action seeking mandamus or prohibition relief. Consequently, petitioners’ motion seeking leave to file a petition for writ of mandamus or prohibition should be denied. See People ex rel. Birkett v. Konetski (recognizing that the extraordinary remedy of mandamus relief is not available for discretionary matters).

In my opinion, however, the controversy here presents an important issue that warrants the exercise of this court’s supervisory authority. Notably, respondent, the trial judge, expressly relied on an argument made by a dissenting justice in People v. Lee. Without question, that dissent does not represent the law in Illinois. […]

Under these circumstances, I believe this court should enter a supervisory order directing the trial court to vacate its final sentencing judgment and resentence Van Dyke in accordance with the applicable sentencing law, including this court’s relevant decisions.

Justice P. Scott Neville dissented in full.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      

Executive editor apologizes to Pritzker for letter comparing him to Hitler

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* Background is here if you need it. From the Peoria Journal Star Executive Editor Dennis Anderson

The Journal Star often gets calls and emails from readers asking: How can you have printed that?

Last Friday we got one from a staff member of Gov. JB Pritzker. The staff member had a legitimate gripe. Actually it was more than a gripe, and the governor should have been mad. We made a decision that was a mistake, and we apologize.

We published a letter from Larry Tadie of Chillicothe, who in making an impassioned point against abortion, compared the governor to Hitler. Tadie wrote that because of his Jewish faith, the governor should not support abortion, ending the letter: “How sad that abortion rights advocates now legitimize extermination at any stage of the baby’s development.”

Since the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, few issues have generated more letters to the editor than abortion. Some letter writers deal with the issue as policy, others get graphic, or tell personal stories. We strive to share all letters to give readers a fair understanding of the debate and what your neighbors think about the issue. The purpose of the editorial page is to allow readers to express their views and opinions. But publishing this letter crossed a line. […]

No matter which side you stand on the issue of abortion, or how passionate that position is, making the link between abortion and the Holocaust is not right. Reckless references to abominable history are part and parcel to the astonishing decline of public discourse in our country, and in this case we should have known better.

After publishing several letters from white supremacist Matthew Hale, maybe they’re finally learning. Giving hateful people unchallenged public platforms normalizes them and encourages more such behavior.

The administration is sure on a roll with Downstate editorial boards this week.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

Herald-Whig goes ga-ga for JB

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* Yesterday’s Quincy Herald-Whig editorial twice used the word “wise” to describe Gov. JB Pritzker’s personnel choices (plus one more in the headline), scolded those who say he’s not hiring or appointing fast enough (tell that to the people overwhelmed with work because of the lack of hiring) and claimed the governor has a “genuine concern” for the local veterans home and the region. The editorial board’s conclusion

There are a number of much-needed projects on the horizon, and we will need the governor’s support to make them happen.

A new bridge at Quincy, four-laning Ill. 57 south from Quincy to the Interstate 172 interchange, finishing the remaining two lanes for the Macomb Bypass and work on the Mid-America Intermodal Authority Port all are key to the region’s economic success, and support from the new governor would be invaluable.

Pritzker in our meetings seems to think differently than some previous governors. A true entrepreneur, he does not appear to be the party-first-variety Democrat, but rather one who balances his progressive stances with a practical approach.

The state’s future will be rocky with problems and rightly pitted with intense policy debates. While we do not see eye-to-eye with the governor on some policies, we think Pritzker’s wisdom in proceeding cautiously and selectively has set up both his administration and the state for success.

We welcome in good faith the debates ahead, and we look forward to more capable, professional selections to help lead the Land of Lincoln forward.


- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

Different numbers, different stories on housing market

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* Crain’s

It’s taking a little longer to sell a home this winter, and real estate agents say one of the causes may be uncertainty over how last year’s revisions in the federal tax code will affect what individual buyers can afford to spend. […]

In Chicago and in Cook, Lake and Will counties, the average time a home is on the market before selling has been longer in the first two months of 2019 than during the same period in 2018, according to monthly data posted by the Chicago Association of Realtors on March 18.

Only in DuPage County is the average time on the market shorter than last year. The difference there is three days, to an average market time of 97 days.

The lengthening of market times has not been dramatic. In Chicago, at an average of 104 days, it’s taking six days longer to sell. In Will County, it’s taking five days longer, to an average of 90 days. But the housing market has been in delicate condition in recent months, with sales volume dropping and home prices slowing, which puts a spotlight on negative movement in any indicator.

* Bloomberg

The Washington, Dallas, New York and Chicago metro areas are experiencing increases in both new home construction and maintenance spending, according to a report by property data provider BuildFax.

“It’s yet to be seen whether housing activity in these cities will eventually slow as it has on a national level or if these will be key metros to watch as the U.S. potentially heads toward an economic slowdown,” wrote BuildFax CEO Holly Tachovsky in the report published Monday.

Chicago saw the most housing activity among the 10 largest metro areas with a 19.5 percent increase in maintenance spending and 60.2 percent climb in new construction. The growth might be related to the city’s strategic five-year housing plan to fight affordability concerns in the region, according to the report.

On a nationwide level, housing data shows a different story. Single-family housing authorizations fell 5.8 percent in February from the same time period last year. Repeat declines for this metric confirm the housing market slowdown is persisting, the report said. Existing housing maintenance and remodeling volumes also continued to decline at 5.5 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively.

Maybe it’s taking longer to sell homes because of all the new construction? I dunno. But I’m not sure you can look at these two stories and make a broad judgment.

- Posted by Rich Miller   11 Comments      

Open thread

Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

* Oscar is barking to go outside and I need to make more coffee, so have at it, but keep it Illinois-centric and be nice to each other.

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      

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Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019

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* Question of the day
* Are people moving on?
* The education beat
* Illinois Renewable Energy is Facing a 2019 Funding Cliff
* Dunn is done
* It's just a bill
* False Information on Reproductive Health Act (HB2495) Rebutted
* Sanguinetti seriously considering bid against Casten
* Supreme Court denies Van Dyke resentencing bid
* Executive editor apologizes to Pritzker for letter comparing him to Hitler
* Herald-Whig goes ga-ga for JB
* Different numbers, different stories on housing market
* Open thread
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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