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Vertical capital proponents to announce coalition

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* Media advisory…

Announcing Build UP Illinois – Coalition for Vertical Construction in Capital Bill

WHAT
Announcement of Build UP Illinois, a coalition to advocate and promote a vertical construction program as part of a comprehensive capital bill. Build UP Illinois is a consortium of groups representing P-20 education – including k-12 school districts and both private and public colleges – the Illinois hospital system and the AFL-CIO and affiliated building trades.

WHO
State Senator Andy Manar – Senate Appropriations II Chairman
Representative Jay Hoffman – Assistant Majority Leader
Michael Carrigan – President – Illinois AFL-CIO
Dr. Larry Dietz – President – Illinois State University
AJ Wilhelmi – President & CEO – Illinois Hospital Association
Dr. David Sam – President – Elgin Community College
Other Coalition Members

WHEN
Wednesday, May 1 at 9:00 AM

WHERE
Blue Room, Illinois State Capitol
Springfield, IL

It’s starting to come together.

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      


Republican who wants to challenge Underwood claims raising $150K in 6 days

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* The Hill

Republican Ted Gradel, who is challenging freshman Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) for the Illinois House seat she flipped last year, has raised more than $150,000 in the six days since he announced his candidacy, his campaign said Tuesday.

The six-figure haul is the latest sign that Underwood is likely to face a tough reelection fight next year as she looks to hold on to a congressional district that flipped to Democrats in 2018 despite President Trump’s nearly 4-point win there in 2016.

Gradel, a former University of Notre Dame field goal kicker and first-time candidate for public office, announced his bid for the suburban and exurban Chicago district last week in a video narrated by former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz.

In declaring his candidacy, Gradel joined a growing field of Republicans targeting Underwood in 2020.

Among the other announced contenders are Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis, Danny Malouf and Anthony Catella.

Rep. Allen Skillicorn is also gearing up for a GOP primary bid.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Question of the day

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* A few stories to set the mood…

* Spring break ending, legislators go to pot, gambling, Pritzker’s budget

* Latest pitch for Rockford casino involves getting support from Chicago, legislators

* There’s a lot on the agenda when lawmakers return to Springfield. Here’s a rundown

* The Question: Your predictions for the final five weeks of the spring session? Snark is heavily encouraged.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


Ethanol company shelves plan, blames Senate bill and tariffs

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* Jacksonville Journal-Courier

Marquis Energy has “shelved” plans for an ethanol plant in Scott County, the company announced Monday.

Citing state legislation and U.S. trade policy, the Hennepin-based company said it would let more than 800 acres in two-year land options in Scott County expire at the end of April. The plans are being canceled indefinitely, according to spokeswoman Danielle Anderson.

The company had plans to develop a $500 million ethanol plant — to be built near Bluffs, about 60 miles west of Springfield, by 2020. […]

Trade tariffs also were a factor in the decision. According to the company, tariffs have restricted international export markets for ethanol and distilled grains.

“These tariffs caused a reduction in corn value, leading to lower prices for U.S. farmers and adding to an already distressed agricultural economy,” Marquis said.

* From the company’s CEO

“Illinois government’s anti-business and high tax policies will require us to pursue company expansions in surrounding states. [Senate] bill SB 1407 is an example of legislation that will negatively impact our company’s expansion plans — removing our company’s choice in construction contractors we hire and the agreed upon price between the two parties, reducing competition and inflating costs.”

We’ve talked about SB1407 before. It’s got employer groups up in arms, particularly the manufacturers and the Black Caucus has some reservations as well because of the bill’s strong support by the trade unions. Its passage is not assured, so making a major business decision based on a bill that hasn’t even been voted on yet in the originating chamber is a bit… odd.

* From the Illinois News Network

Associated Builders and Contractors of Illinois President Alicia Martin said Senate Bill 1407 could be a slippery slope.

“The one component that we feel is very egregious is the fact that prevailing wages will be required on private work in these refineries and then where would the overreach come next,” Martin said.

Supporters of the legislation have told lawmakers in committee that the measure is about ensuring safety at refineries, and prevailing wage jobs are the safest jobs. […]

State Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, said if Illinois lawmakers could just get out of the way of businesses, Illinois’ economy could grow.

“If [majority Democrats] would stop doing political favors for their largest political donors I think that we could actually have an economy that thrives and we wouldn’t have to be talking about tax increases or fee increases or any of those things and we could just grow naturally,” Davidsmeyer said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      


*** UPDATED x7 - Pritzker’s office responds: “Another important step in the negotiations” - SDems explain - Not the final proposal *** Graduated income tax rates emerge

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* The Senate Democrats are being briefed today on the newly proposed graduated income tax rates.

The drafters have addressed the criticism of the “marriage penalty” by coming up with different rates for married people and single filers. The language is in Amendment 1 to SB687.

Remember that these rates only apply to income earned within the brackets. Here are the proposed rates for joint filers…

4.75% $0-10,000
4.85% $10,001-100,000
4.95% $100,001-250,000
7.75% $250,001-500,000
7.85% $500,001-1,000,000
7.99% $1,000,000+ (includes all income)

For taxpayers who do not file a joint return…

4.75% $0-10,000
4.85% $10,001-100,000
4.95% $100,001-250,000
7.75% $250,001-350,000
7.85% $350,001-750,000
7.99% $750,000+ (includes all income)

* Meanwhile, the state’s estate tax would be repealed on January 1, 2021 (Amendment 1 to SB689).

And I’m not quite sure yet what Amendment 1 to SB690 does to property taxes (it’s supposed to be a freeze of some kind), but click here and maybe some of you smart people can explain this in comments.

All three bills must move forward together, I’m told. One goes down, they all go down.

*** UPDATE 1 *** I’ve been advised to tell you that this is the Senate Democrats’ proposal. It’s not yet an agreed proposal. This is a step in the process. There’s still more negotiating to do, apparently.

*** UPDATE 2 *** House GOP spokesperson Eleni Demertzis…

We have said this since day one: A progressive tax is just a blank check for Democrats. They’ve already changed the rates from their initial proposal– without a care of the effects to middle class families and Illinois businesses. Democrats simply can’t be trusted with the ability to manipulate these rates anytime they want to spend more taxpayer dollars.

*** UPDATE 3 *** From the Senate Democrats…

Revenue:
Individual Income Tax Rates: $3.570 billion

Corporate Tax Rate: Increase from 7% to 7.99%: $350 million
Increased funding for programs/property tax relief:
Local Governments (LGDF) $100 million increase

Child Care: $130 million

Individuals receive a $100 income tax credit per child
Eligibility: Single filers ineligible if making over $80,000. Married filing jointly ineligible if making over $100,000

Property Tax Relief: $365 million

    · School district tax freeze: $265 million. (SB690) If the state funds special education, transportation, free and reduced meal programs and other mandated categorical programs AND funds the Evidence Based Funding formula at a minimum increase of $350 million, then the local property tax rates for school districts are frozen for that year. It remains frozen so long as the state continues to meet those funding levels.
    Illinois State Board of Education will certify funding levels, and if the levels aren’t met, districts can adjust rates as allowed under current law.
    · Property tax credit: $100 million. (Contained in SB 687)Increases income tax credit for property taxes to 6 percent from 5 percent.

Total Estimated New Revenue (minus additional funding/property tax relief): $3.325 billion

SB 689 Repeal Death/Estate Tax

What it does:
Repeals what’s often referred to as the “death tax” in Illinois, the tax on the value of an estate that someone inherits. Of note, the agriculture community has been particularly critical of this tax. This provision is linked to voters approving the Fair Tax (SJRCA1).

Details:
SB 689 repeals the Illinois Estate and Generation Skipping Transfer Tax Act. It eliminates the Illinois Estate Tax on estates of persons dying on or after July 1, 2021, or for transfers made on or after July 1, 2021, only if Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 1 of the 101st General Assembly is approved by voters prior to that date.

Background:
Currently, the exclusion amount in Illinois is $4.0 million for persons dying on or after January 1, 2013. At the federal level, the exclusion amount is currently $22.4 million for deaths occurring between 2018 and 2025 for married couples aggregating their exemptions and $11.2 million for all other taxpayers.

If the amount of the estate exceeds ($4 million state, $22.4 million federal) either of these amounts for those affected taxpayers, it is subject to a 40% estate tax at the time of death. SB 689, as amended, eliminates the state tax imposed under this Act.

SB 690 Property Tax Relief

What it does:
As long as the state lives up to its responsibilities to fund school districts’ breakfast and lunch programs, student busing costs, etc., AND continue to invest an additional $350 million annually in overall school funding, then school districts tax rates are frozen. This provision is contingent on voters approving the Fair Tax (SJRCA1) Amendment.

This would be an annual process. The freeze would be contingent on the state meeting its obligations to fund education and thereby offset the need for local school boards to go to property taxpayers.

Note: All components would be effective Jan, 1, 2021, if and only if the Fair Tax Constitutional Amendment (SJRCA1) is put on the ballot by lawmakers and then approved by voters.

*** UPDATE 4 *** Sen. Dale Righter (R-Mattoon) just asked if the governor supports this specific rate structure. Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) who chairs the Revenue Committee, did not give a direct response, mentioning negotiations and saying the governor is supportive of the general principles of a graduated income tax.

*** UPDATE 5 *** No surprise here, but the Senate Executive Committee passed the rates bill and the estate tax bill. No debate yet on the property tax bill.

*** UPDATE 6 *** From the governor’s press office…

From day one, Governor Pritzker has made clear that he prioritizes negotiations with the General Assembly on the fair income tax. Today represents another important step in the negotiations, and we look forward to continuing those conversations with stakeholders in the House as well. Governor Pritzker’s focus on making our system more fair means that 97 percent of Illinois taxpayers will pay the same or less in income taxes, while only those making more than $250,000 will pay more.

*** UPDATE 7 *** The property tax freeze component just passed Senate Exec on a partisan roll call.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


Yes, Chicagoans do care, at least on this one issue

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* I told subscribers about this poll earlier today

The Illinois Education Association (IEA) today released the State of Education report, a first of its kind, bipartisan poll asking Illinoisans about all aspects of public schools. The results show most of those polled give Illinois schools (not teachers) a poor grade, think the state should be spending more money on students and believe teachers are undervalued, underpaid and should have a voice in what happens in schools.

“The State of Education report tells us what Illinoisans believe our students deserve when it comes to public education,” IEA President Kathi Griffin said. “The people have spoken, and I hope are lawmakers are listening. We are in the middle of a teacher shortage, and this poll shows us exactly why. We need to improve, enhance and address the inadequacies of our schools now so we can continue to ensure that every student has access to a high-quality, equitable public education.”

The data show that on the whole, Illinoisans believe fixing our schools should be a top priority, although there was no clear consensus on how to fix them. However, we do know Illinoisans overwhelmingly believe teachers’ and parents’ perspective are the most important when it comes to determining how schools are run.

“We know everything that happens inside a classroom is governed by decisions made outside of it,” Griffin said. “From the school board to the Statehouse to Congress and the White House, elected officials are determining what our students are learning, how they’re learning it and what resources are available. We need to start listening to those who are on the front lines with our students. Our parents, our teachers and our support staff should have a louder voice when it comes to decisions that impact our children’s futures.”

When asked if funding for schools should increase, 71 percent of those surveyed said yes. Those polled were then told student spending in Illinois is $13,000 per student per year, and nearly two thirds of those surveyed still thought that funding should increase. When it comes to teachers’ pay, those polled were six times more likely to believe teachers were underpaid versus paid too much or just right. A whopping 75 percent of those surveyed believe teachers should keep their full pension.

“We need career sustainability for our teachers — proper salary to start and one that fairly compensates our teachers throughout the life of their careers. Our students deserve the best and brightest facilitating instruction in our classrooms, and we need to do a better job of attracting and retaining high-quality teacher candidates,” Griffin said. “We’re in the midst of a teacher shortage, and this poll proves that Illinoisans understand that pay and benefits are important to address this crisis.”

The poll, conducted by Normington Petts and We Ask America, surveyed 1,000 Illinoisans between March 14 and March 27. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent with 95 percent confidence.

“These data points are unique because, as far as we can tell, no one has done this before in Illinois,” Jill Normington of Normington Petts said. “It makes sense, as well, to ask the people that public education serves what they expect from their schools.”

“By creating a bipartisan process, the IEA has produced an unbiased look at views around public education in Illinois and we were proud to be a part of it,” Mike Zolnierowicz of We Ask America said.

* The IEA asked me not to link to the crosstabs, but I went through them and something stood out for me in the responses to this question…

Priority for proposals to change IL Schools - Spending more money on technology to help long distance learning in rural schools in Illinois?

Respondents were asked to assign a number between 0 and 10 to the priority level, with 10 being the most urgent.

According to the poll, 71 percent of Chicagoans gave the issue a top priority of between 8 and 10. Just 56 percent of Downstaters in the northern half of Illinois gave it an 8-10 and only 51 percent of Southern Illinoisans assigned the issue the same priority.

* The moral of this story is that while some Downstaters like to complain that Chicagoans don’t care about them, Chicagoans in this poll were far more likely to support spending their own tax dollars to help rural schools than were Downstaters.

Now, maybe Downstaters don’t like the idea of distant learning. I have no idea. I’m just saying…

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


Support The Reproductive Health Act

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


“I begged DCFS… to go check on my daughter because they were going to kill her”

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* Ana Espinosa

A man’s girlfriend has been arrested for allegedly murdering his 8-year-old daughter earlier this year.

Cynthia Marie Baker (a.k.a. Cynthia Marie Clay), 41, was indicted by a McLean County Grand Jury on Wednesday for three counts of murder, one count of aggravated battery of a child and one count of aggravated domestic battery. […]

According to the indictment, Cynthia allegedly kicked the 8-year-old in the abdomen which resulted in peritonitis due to intestinal perforation from blunt force trauma. […]

Rica’s mother Antionetta Simmons, said she warned DCFS this would happen. She spoke with NewsChannel 20’s reporter Ana Espinosa on the case.

“I begged DCFS in January and I told them I didn’t care where Rica went, but somebody needs to go check on my daughter because they were going to kill her,” Simmons said. “I’m just so hurt that she’s not here. She didn’t even have a chance.”

* From the indictment

A SEARCH WARRANT WAS EXECUTED ON THE ICLOUD BELONGING TO THE DEFENDANT’S PHONE WHICH REVEALED THE FOLLOWING IN VIDEO FORMAT WHILE R.R. WAS LIVING WITH THE DEFENDANT AT AN APARTMENT LOCATED AT 208 VALLEY VIEW CIRCLE IN BLOOMINGTON, ILLINOIS: MAY 26, 2018 - THE DEFENDANT SLAPPED R.R. WHILE R.R. IS STANDING BEHIND A RECLINER ATTEMPTING TO AVOID GOING INTO THE DEFENDANT’S ROOM FOR A PUNISHMENT. THE DEFENDANT SLAPS R.R. AS R.R. IS RUNNING AWAY FROM THE DEFENDANT IN ORDER TO AVOID GOING INTO THE DEFENDANT’S ROOM. AUGUST 23, 2018 - THE VIDEO DEPICTS THE DEFENDANT DRAGGING R.R. INTO THE BEDROOM BY HER NECK AS SHE YELLS AT R.R. TO STAND IN HER BEDROOM NAKED HOLDING CANS OUT TO HER SIDE DRIPPING WET AND SHIVERING. LATER R.R. IS STANDING NAKED IN THE DEFENDANT’S BEDROOM HOLDING CANS WHEN THE DEFENDANT COMES BACK INTO THE ROOM AND HITS R.R. ON THE BARE BUTTOCKS SAYING, “MAYBE YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ENGLISH.” SHE THEN ASKS R.R. “WHERE ARE THE CANS SUPPOSED TO BE?” THEN THE DEFENDANT HAS R.R. SHOW HER WITHOUT HOLDING THE CANS. AS R.R. IS DOING SO, THE DEFENDANT SAYS “COLD, AREN’T YA?” AS R.R. IS SHIVERING. LATER, THE DEFENDANT RE-ENTERS THE ROOM AND YELLS AT R.R. FOR NOT KEEPING HER ARMS STRAIGHT OUT. THE DEFENDANT HITS BOTH SIDES OF R.R.’S EARS/FACE ASKING, “DO I NEED A COLLAR FOR YOU?” THEN SHE PUTS HER HANDS AROUND R.R.’S NECK. WHEN R.R. CRIES, “NO” THE DEFENDANT FORCEFULLY PUTS R.R.’S ARMS BACK IN THE STRAIGHT POSITION TO CONTINUE HOLDING THE CANS. THIS GOES ON FOR OVER 23 MINUTES. SEPTEMBER 8, 2018

A VIDEO DEPICTS R.R. HOLDING THE CANS OUT TO HER SIDE IN THE CORNER WHEN THE DEFENDANT COMES UP BEHIND HER ON AND KNEES HER IN THE LOWER RIGHT BACK WITH THE DEFENDANT’S RIGHT KNEE SAYING, “THIS IS STRAIGHT” AS THE DEFENDANT STRAIGHTENS R.R.’S ARMS OUT. FURTHER INTO THE VIDEO, THE DEFENDANT COMES UP BEHIND HER AGAIN AND KNEES HER IN THE LOWER RIGHT BACK WITH THE DEFENDANT’S RIGHT KNEE TWO ADDITIONAL TIMES. ON THE FOURTH KNEE TO THE BACK, R.R. SCREAMS LIKE SHE IS IN PAIN. LATER IN THE VIDEO, THE DEFENDANT TAKES R.R.’S HEAD WITH BOTH OF HER HANDS AND BANGS IT OFF THE WALL.

I cannot come up with adequate language to describe how that makes me feel.

* DCFS’ sterile statement

DCFS is deeply saddened by the loss of Rica Rountree. DCFS’ involvement with Rica began in 2014 while she was living with her biological mother and continued after she was removed from her mother’s home and placed with her biological father. During her time with her father, DCFS conducted multiple investigations into allegations of abuse and found these allegations to be unfounded. There is currently a pending investigation into this death and we are committed to understanding exactly what happened in this case and being fully transparent with the public. DCFS is working closely with the new administration to review our practices, policies, and procedures in order to fully live up to our mission to protect vulnerable children in Illinois.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


LaHood favors raising gas tax for infrastructure

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* I’m not sure that LaHood’s testimony convinced a single legislator to vote for doubling the Motor Fuel Tax, or that Barack Obama’s Secretary of Transportation cooled out any Republicans, but whatevs, he was in town so that’s news

Former Republican congressman and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Monday that Illinois lawmakers need to hike the state’s motor fuel tax, but they’ll also need to convince some residents that they will spend the new revenue wisely. […]

“Illinois is one big pothole right now,” he said. “If the General Assembly raised the gas tax and fixed up the roads and bridges, people would be very happy.”

While the state needs to raise the gas tax, LaHood said he worried that lawmakers would have to convince Illinois residents who already shoulder one of the nation’s highest motor fuel taxes to trust them with spending the new revenue responsibly.

“The money has to be spent on roads and bridges. You can’t defer this money to pay for state police salaries or to pay for other things related to road safety or whatever,” he said.

* Also, lemme know when Quincy Republicans Rep. Randy Frese and Sen. Jil Tracy are ready to double the MFT

LaHood and Tom Oakley, a former newspaper publisher in Quincy, told the committee they would help lobby for an infrastructure bill when the legislature heads back to Springfield for the final legislative push Tuesday.

“What you have today, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, are two Republicans from downstate Illinois who are promoting to fix up our infrastructure and raise the gas tax to do it,” LaHood said.

LaHood’s testimony was followed by eight panels of speakers requesting added infrastructure spending that would benefit their varying organizations, businesses, agencies and boards. Those representatives were from transportation agencies, port authorities, higher education institutions, environmental organizations, pedestrian and bicycling advocates and other groups.

Mary Sue Barrett of the Metropolitan Planning Council — an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on regional growth — said those debating infrastructure spending often ask the wrong questions.

“First, we have to ask what’s the cost of inaction,” she said.

But, hey, so far it’s the only funding plan on the table and it’s strongly backed by Local 150 and has the support of the Illinois Chamber (albeit coupled with the phase-out of the sales tax on fuel). Even Senate GOP Leader Bill Brady wants to use MFT money. So, who the heck knows what will happen?

It would be helpful if the governor picked a lane, however.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      


Cannabis legalization details emerge

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* Sun-Times on the cannabis legalization bill

Under the legislation, which is being backed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, misdemeanor pot convictions would be expunged, people with cannabis convictions would be allowed to work in the industry and diversity hiring goals would be set for firms in the industry.

Additionally, [sponsoring Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago] said, the legislation would provide support for minority-owned businesses by offering technical assistance, as well as access to capital, loans and relief from fees that have posed a barrier to entry for smaller businesses. To further crack that barrier, the measure would also create new cannabis licensing categories for “craft” grow operations and companies that process and transport the drug.

“I’ve said for a long time that other states that have tried this have tended to try with a solution, but that presumes there’s a singular barrier to minority engagement in the industry,” Cassidy said. “And that’s simply not the case. These conversations have been about the best way to set up sort of a buffet of responses to the array of problems.” […]

“The proposal that I’ve seen has some really good language in it and now it’s just the part of fine-tuning and making sure that advocates remain in support and removing as much opposition as you can,” said [Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, the chair of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus], who couldn’t say whether any members of the black caucus are opposed to the legalization plan.

* Politico

Concerns center on ensuring that minority business owners have a stake in the industry and making sure new money generated is channeled to communities that have historically suffered from the impact of drug abuse. Another flashpoint in the process is potentially expunging criminal records for offenders found guilty of possessing or selling marijuana prior to legalization. These are largely the same issues that tanked New Jersey’s plan last month to approve recreational marijuana, and that New York lawmakers are still debating. […]

The Black Caucus is in regular discussions with the governor’s office and lawmakers carrying the measure. “We’d like to create model legislation for the nation,” [Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago] said. “We want the strongest social equity program in the country and to be the most progressive on criminal justice reform issues.”

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy tells POLITICO that the concerns of the Black Caucus “have been part of our discussion from day one.” The Chicago Democrat is pressing legalization in the Assembly while state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) pushes for it in other chamber. Cassidy says that nationwide, the recreational marijuana industry is only 4 percent minority-held. “No state has gotten this right so far. We want to get it right.”

* Jaclyn Driscoll

As political negotiations on recreational marijuana continue, one prominent group, has not yet taken a stance: the Legislative Black Caucus. These are the African-American lawmakers in the Illinois House and Senate.

They are involved in the talks, though, according to state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, a Peoria Democrat and leader in the caucus.

“Any adult-use bill has to have specific consideration as it relates to restoring some of the harm that was done during the war on drugs to communities of color,” she said. “There should be ownership of people of color in this space.” […]

“We don’t want an adult-use program to look like the medical program which essentially is completely and wholly owned by rich people and none of them are people of color,” Gordon-Booth said.

True.

* More from Driscoll

Reporter: I understand this is a massive piece of legislation, but if there was one goal in passing recreational cannabis, what is it?

Cassidy: I’ve said this before. I want to pass the gold standard for cannabis legislation that the rest of the country can follow. That means a model that taxes at a level that allows the industry to grow, that allows patients and users access in a way that gets them into the legal markets, that creates an industry and allows an industry to grow that looks like the state of Illinois, that looks like communties we come from.

Lots more in that interview, including home-grow info, so click here.

* Can it pass?

“This is a nearly 300 page pieces of legislation,” said Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, who has been working on the issue for more than two years. “We want to make sure we’ve dotted all of the “I’s” and crossed all of the “t’s”.

There are potential hang-ups as the bill works its way through the legislature. Rep. Martin Moylan, D-Des Plaines, is sponsoring a resolution co-signed by 59 other House members of both parties to slow down the process of legalization. Cassidy scoffs at the need to slow down the process.

“This has been the most deliberative process I’ve seen on anything this big,” Cassidy said. “Sen. (Heather) Steans and I have been working on this for over two years. Dozens of town halls, multiple public hearings, hundreds of stakeholder meetings. There’s nothing rushed about this.” […]

“I think in the House, (legalization) is going to garner serious opposition,” [Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield] said. “I think it is going to be very difficult to get 60 votes in the House right now.”

* Leader Harris disagrees

House Majority Leader Gregory Harris of Chicago said he thinks a legalization bill has enough support to pass.

“I’m told it does. I’m not counting votes on it, understanding this is a topic where there can be strong opinions on both sides,” he said. “I think members are going to be very carefully taking the temperature of their district. But if you look around the country, this is where the trend is going.”

* And Rep. Moylan’s blatant insult of his colleagues isn’t doing his cause any good

“The proponents are trying to pull a con game on the state of Illinois,” [Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines] said Thursday. “I have almost more than 60 people who’ve signed on is because nobody else’s talking about what the harmful effects are.” Moylan said he’s been talking to nurses and law enforcement officials “on the ground” in states that have legalized recreational use to help gather information.

* Related…

* Analysis: How legal recreational marijuana works in other states

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


What Is The Credit Union Difference?

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

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- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


*** UPDATED x3 *** Legislators threatened with mass assassination if they don’t remove pension clause from state constitution

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* As I told subscribers earlier today, this letter was sent to several legislators. The Illinois State Police has been notified…


The above letter was postmarked in Champaign.

And people wonder why I’ve been urging a calming of the rhetoric on this topic for years.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Oy…



*** UPDATE 2 *** The IEA got one too The IEA president was only reacting to news of the letter. It didn’t receive one that we know about. The IEA did, indeed, receive one of those letters…

Kathi Griffin, president of the state’s largest teachers’ union, says she’s more concerned getting mental health services for the letter-writer than she is about her own safety.

“People who are well do not make threats like this. And I am hoping that nothing happens to anyone, and I’m hoping that we find whoever this person is, and I hope that w​e’re able to help them,” she says. “I feel confident that our police will find who is behind this, and I feel confident that this is someone who is acting solo, and I‘m going to be just fine.”

Earlier today, before learning about the letter, Griffin held a press conference to announce the results of a union-sponsored statewide survey. In an unplanned irony, the survey showed that 75 percent of Illinois residents want teachers to receive their full pension payment.

*** UPDATE 3 *** Finke

The exact number of lawmakers who received the letter is unclear. Senate Democrats said they are aware of one member getting it. Senate Republicans said at least four members got it. Several House Republicans received it said spokesman Eleni Demertzis.

“Several of our members have received the letter, including Leader (Jim) Durkin,” she said. “We receive or are subject to numerous letters of a threatening nature. Unfortunately, it seems the rhetoric and intensity of these letter campaigns has increased in recent weeks.”

I know of two Senate Democrats who received the letter.

- Posted by Rich Miller   104 Comments      


Rauners put their Winnetka house on the market

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* Dennis Rodkin at Crain’s

Former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana, on Monday listed a Winnetka home they’ve owned for more than two decades.

The Rauners are asking just under $3 million for the eight-bedroom, 6,800-square-foot house on Rosewood Avenue. They bought the half-acre site for $830,000 in May 1995, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. They finished construction of the house the following year, the listing from Jena Radnay of @properties indicates. […]

The Nantucket-style house has wood shingles, multiple high roof peaks and a white-pillared front porch. It was “designed to have total privacy while maximizing natural light throughout,” according to Radnay’s listing. Finishes inside include “finely crafted millwork, soaring ceilings and custom glass display cabinets,” it says. […]

The Rauners also have two downtown Chicago condominiums, both in a building on Randolph Street near Millennium Park. They have a 41st-floor unit that they bought for almost $1.23 million in 2008 and a 61st-floor penthouse that they bought the same year for a little more than $4 million, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Neither of these units was listed for sale as of Monday night.

* Tribune

The Rauners built the Winnetka mansion in 1996 on land that they had bought the previous year for $830,000. It has six baths, four fireplaces, millwork, high ceilings, a living room with a library, a dining room with a butler’s pantry, a great room, a kitchen with a breakfast room, a roof deck, a master suite with a spa bath and a lower level with a rec room.

The house sits on a 0.51-acre property in a neighborhood just west of Green Bay Road. […]

The Rauners also own numerous other homes around the U.S., including a penthouse co-operative unit at 50 Central Park West in New York City, which they purchased in 2005 for $10 million, and a four-bedroom, 5,370-square-foot mansion on Card Sound in Key Largo, Fla., which they purchased in 2003 for $5.6 million.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


Caption contest!

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* The governor is holding a press conference today about hemp cultivation…



…Adding… Apparently, people are wearing these shoes for cancer awareness. But we can still have a bit of fun.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Righter spreads rumor about capital bill threats

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* WCIA TV

[Senator Dale Righter, R-Mattoon] characterized the $15 minimum wage law as “economic loss” for his district and for the rest of the state. He also criticized several portions of Pritzker’s budget proposal, including a plan to legalize recreational marijuana.

Since the downstate Republican opposes nearly all of Pritzker’s budget proposals, Righter was asked if that conflict might complicate his ability to barter for capital projects in his district.

Righter says he was not in closed door negotiations about infrastructure projects in a capital spending plan, but the Senator claimed Pritzker administration staffers “have been quoted as saying, ‘You know what, if you don’t vote for some of these policies or if you don’t vote for the tax increases to fund this, then by golly, you can look forward to getting nothing in your district.’”

“I hope that’s just bluster,” Righter said. “I hope that’s just talk and it’s not actually the attitude of the administration. In the end, past administrations or elected officials who have taken that attitude, things wind up usually not working out well for them.”

I’ve never seen any quotes like that in public, nor have I heard any threats being delivered through private channels. Plus, that’s not how every other capital plan has been crafted, so I reached out to the governor’s office.

* Jordan Abudayyeh…

As the governor has said repeatedly, he is committed to passing a capital bill because our state is in dire need of better infrastructure. The governor won’t play political games with Illinois’ future, and he hopes all lawmakers come to the negotiating table in good faith to pass a statewide capital bill.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Scheme

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Another Illinois governor has drawn the attention of the feds, according to WBEZ.

Four of the last 10 Illinois governors have gone to prison. But this probe is different, because it drives at the core of Pritzker’s policy agenda: making Illinoisans pay what he thinks is “fair.”

The governor’s family took outlandish steps to hide their wealth and lower their tax burden. This hypocrisy reveals reality: Illinois’ middle class will be tapped for future tax hikes when revenues don’t come in as expected under Pritzker’s “fair tax” plan.

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

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

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*** LIVE COVERAGE ***

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2019

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


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Ives calls Pat Brady a “traitor” for small Durbin contribution

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Proft paper

Former GOP Chairman Pat Brady delivered yet another sucker punch to his own party by donating to far-left Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, former State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) told Prairie State Wire.

Ives, who nearly defeated Bruce Rauner in last Spring’s gubernatorial primary, called Brady a “traitor” for the $500 donation that federal records show he made to Durbin in March for his 2020 primary campaign.

“I am absolutely stunned that anyone would call himself a Republican and give money to Dick Durbin who represents everything our party is opposed to,” Ives said.

I read that and couldn’t help hearing Dave Weigel’s online voice say “She’s running.”

Think she’ll run against Durbin next year?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton today on a tour of Rock River Lumber & Grain with the Whiteside County Farm Bureau

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


One light problem fixed, but a million problems remain

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* As we’ve already discussed, CSL Behring has been trying to get a traffic light added to a three-light intersection for almost a year and a half so it could build a new turn lane for its employees. The company wants to expand its already huge facility in Kankakee County and it’s doing so without any state or local tax breaks or incentives. All it wants is that fourth light, which it will pay for.

IDOT claims it has been cooperating, telling me that an engineering consultant hired by the developer presented IDOT with a feasibility study last June and that IDOT agreed a month later that the new signal was warranted and then asked the consultant for a more detailed plan, which it submitted in late March.

But the company says otherwise, and expressed supreme frustration to the local newspaper.

* Gov. Pritzker toured the plant last week

The Kankakee County government is moving to reduce the shift-change traffic jams at the CSL Behring plant. And the state is vowing to speed up a request to make that happen.

The plan is to convert a three-way light at the Illinois Route 50 intersection at the Lowe’s hardware store to a four-way. CSL, the county’s second largest employer, promised to pay for the change.

On Tuesday, a county board oversight committee approved an agreement with CSL that the county would be the permit holder. The state Department of Transportation has signed a letter of understanding on the permit, which the county board is expected to vote on next month. […]

During the governor’s visit, Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said there “has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes” with the traffic light.

“We are expediting the reviews. I have a team specifically put in charge of that review,” he said.

While it’s great they’re prioritizing this project, I still do not see why it takes so long to get a turn-lane and a fourth traffic light approved. Why does this even require a special team doing “a lot of work”?

I brought up this CSL issue to the governor when I talked to him ahead of his 100-day anniversary. He agreed with me that IDOT needs an online portal to allow people to easily track their permit requests. A Pritzker aide took the idea to IDOT that same day and was told the agency was already working on it.

Illinois is Illinois, so it’ll probably never be a CEO’s favorite place to do business. But at the very least, we can do some things that will help businesses interact with the government, like tracking their stoplight requests. And maybe streamline the bureaucratic process while they’re at it?

* Related…

* Pritzker hails CSL’s ‘amazing growth’

* Editorial: Pritzker’s local visits a positive sign

* Gov. Pritzker Announces Safe Routes to School Grants

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


Meet the new boss…

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Every time somebody floats the idea of skipping or skimping on pension payments, they use the same argument that is ably outlined by Andrew Bodewes in this article. Every. Single. Time

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s pension proposal is not sitting well with state lawmakers, an adviser to the Illinois Teachers Retirement System told its board of trustees last week.

The governor’s plan is to reduce payments to the various pension systems by $850 million next year, while extending by seven years the time it will take to pay off $134 billion in unfunded liabilities.

While the plan appears unpopular now, Andrew Bodewes, the board’s legislative liaison, said that could change as the end of the session draws near and lawmakers have to consider the other options.

“I don’t want to suggest that the majority of the General Assembly could ever get to a place where they’re OK with reducing pension payments by $850 million,” Bodewes told the board during its annual retreat Thursday in Springfield. “But when they start looking at, ‘We’re going to cut schools by this, we’re going to close these parks; We’re going to reduce these services to children with learning disabilities,’ it starts to get real. Those conversations get very real. So I’m always sympathetic to the members.”

“We gotta skip pension payments so we can fund (fill in the blank).” It has always been thus. Always.

And, of course, that $850 million is what the governor claims the skimp would be. It could actually be as high as $1.1 billion per year for seven years. Amanda Kass, who calculated the higher figure, was on Illinois Public Radio the other day. Listen to the interview by clicking here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Congressional study finds Illinois is a regional brainiac hub

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* One Illinois

Reports of “brain drain” in Illinois are greatly exaggerated, according to a new congressional study.

The study, “Losing Our Minds: Brain Drain Across the United States,” from the Joint Economic Committee in Congress, finds that Illinois is outpacing other “Rust Belt” states in attracting top student talent, especially in the 2000s and over the last decade. […]

The study arrives at a “gross brain drain” by comparing the percentage of thirtysomethings who had been in the top third of students and left the state to those who remained in state. For 2017, all states saw more who left than stayed — reflecting a certain restlessness in the population — but the 8.3 difference in percentages in Illinois compared favorably to New York (7.9) and Texas (8.8), while lagging behind California (2.3), which ranked second in lowest “brain drain” behind only Wyoming (a 0.1 percent difference). Neighboring and similar states Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylania all registered differences of more than 15 percent by comparison.

As the study put it: “Americans are a highly mobile people. Roughly a quarter to a third of adults in the United States have moved within the previous five years. While moving rates have declined in the U.S. over the last few decades, they are still higher than in nearly every other country in the world.”

The study also determined a “net’“ figure comparing the percentage of top students who left the state by their 30s against those in their 30s who moved into the state, and in 2017 Illinois proved to be one of the top states, with a 10.4 percentage point difference favoring “entrants.” That trailed only California, Massachusetts, and New York. Meanwhile, every Midwestern state but Minneapolis saw declines, with many of those states suffering double-digit losses by percentage points.

* From the study, here are the five states with the worst “Relative Net Brain Drain” and the best (defined as “the difference between the share of leavers who are highly educated and the share of entrants who are highly educated”)

West Virginia 19.8
Mississippi 17.5
Oklahoma 16.9
Delaware 16.1
North Dakota 15.1

—-

Maryland -9.8
Illinois -12.5
California -16.8
New York -21.8
Massachusetts -21.9

* We are the only “Rust Belt” state (aside from Minnesota) that’s attracting brainy talent

Our research finds that states that are doing the best—low gross brain drain and net brain gain—generally cluster along the Boston-Washington corridor and on the West Coast: Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California, Oregon, and Washington. Other brain gain states are regional hubs—Hawaii, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Illinois. … For the most part, these states are home to what Richard Florida would describe as “winner-take-all cities.” […]

Most Rust Belt states—Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri—have done poorly on these measures in both 1970 and 2017. Perhaps unsurprisingly, states that defy these regional trends (for example, Illinois in the Rust Belt, and Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia in the Southeast) seem to be attracting highly-educated out-of-staters to their dynamic metropolitan hubs.

Chicago is key.

* Illinois is the most popular destination for “Highly-Educated Leavers” in Iowa, Missouri, Michigan and Indiana. We’re the second most popular destination for brainiacs in Wisconsin and fourth most popular for smart Ohio residents. Illinois is what’s known as a popular “regional hub”

Overall, dynamic states along the Boston-Washington corridor (Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland), on the West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington), and in other parts of the country (Illinois, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and Hawaii) are the best at retaining and attracting highly-educated adults.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   25 Comments      


Eastern Bloc member posts anti-vaxxer propaganda

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* From Rep. Darren Bailey’s (R-Xenia) Facebook page..


Please make sure you are properly educated about vaccinations.

Posted by Darren Bailey for State Representative 109th District on Saturday, April 27, 2019

OK, first of all, the big highlighted case at his posted link of a death due to vaccination was a 19-month-old who had streptococcus pneumonia and four serious heart problems: Cardiac heterotaxy, dextrocardia, complete atrioventricular septal defect and pulmonary atresia.

Second, the article uses a chart from an ad clickbait website which supposedly shows the measles mortality rate dating back to 1900 and how it dropped years before the vaccine was introduced in 1963. But measles wasn’t even a reportable disease until 1919 and the numbers weren’t accurate when they were reported. From the CDC

Before measles vaccine was licensed in 1963, an average of 400,000 measles cases were reported each year in the United States. However, because virtually all children acquired measles, the number of cases probably approached 3.5 million per year (i.e., an entire birth cohort).

* Rep. Bailey also posted this comment in his thread…

Earlier this year, with the help of others, I introduced HB 342. It did not make it out of committee because of the misinformation and the money funneled from pharmaceutical companies to many politicians. The bill simply requires whoever is administering a vaccine to inform the patient if the vaccine contained aborted baby tissue.

Yeah, right. Big Pharma killed his bill. Okeedokee. More like common sense killed that turkey.

There is no “aborted baby tissue” in any vaccine. From the National Catholic Bioethics Center

Cell lines such as WI-38, MRC-5, HEK-293, PER C6, WI-26 VA4, and Walvax-2 are derived from tissue from aborted fetuses. Any product grown in these or other cell lines derived from abortions, therefore, has a distant association with abortion. The cells in these lines have gone through multiple divisions before they are used in vaccine manufacture. After manufacture, the vaccines are removed from the cell lines and purified. One cannot accurately say that the vaccines contain any of the cells from the original abortion.

And the Vatican says preventing the spread of deadly disease, particularly to children and pregnant women, must take precedence, so get your kids vaccinated.

Also, the US Supreme Court upheld a state’s right to enforce compulsory vaccination laws way back in 1905.

Rep. Bailey’s bill has two co-sponsors: Fellow Eastern Bloc member Chris Miller and Metro East Democrat Monica Bristow.

I cannot believe I had to waste two hours of my day doing research to debunk this nonsense.

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      


Hard cases make bad law

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* When Gov. JB Pritzker announced that Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, which is a combination of a think tank and a policy implementation consultant, would take a look at DCFS’ problems, the organization sent out a press release containing this passage

With the lowest foster care entry rate in the nation, Illinois has a high threshold for child removal. Safe implementation of this threshold depends upon the use of accurate and sensitive tools for detecting safety threats and risk, as well as the availability of preventive services to stabilize and support families as they work toward meeting the needs of their children.

* This is again coming to light in the wake of the death of yet another child, AJ Freund, who had been under DCFS oversight

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which on Friday revealed new details about the case, has limited legal authority to remove a child from a parent’s custody and does so only if it finds an “imminent and immediate” risk of harm. Even its harshest critics concede that not all deaths are preventable, as the overburdened state agency is tasked with the difficult job of trying to predict future human behavior.

* But, I mean, what the heck?

• [AJ’s mother JoAnn Cunningham] was investigated for child neglect even before AJ was born, when she herself was a foster parent.

• AJ spent the first 18 months of his life in the care of his cousin after being born with opiates in his system.

• Back in his parents’ home on Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake in June 2015, AJ’s family had 17 unannounced visits from DCFS workers and nine scheduled visits, according to DCFS records.

He remained in the home, even after a doctor expressed concern to a DCFS investigator about a large bruise AJ had on his hip that his mom said was caused by the family dog. AJ agreed to that account but commented to the doctor, “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe Mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.”

Ugh!

* More

Rep. Tom Weber, a Lake Villa Republican whose district includes the area where AJ lived, focused on the last contact DCFS had with the child before he was reported missing. After initially blaming bruises on the family dog, AJ told emergency room staff, “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me,” according to agency records. A DCFS investigator allowed AJ to leave the hospital with his father.

“That sounds like a red flag to me,” Weber said.

“And you are correct,” said Anne Gold, DCFS associate deputy for child protection, acknowledging the agency’s “missed opportunity.”

“We should be getting a second opinion from one of our child abuse experts,” Gold said. “So that piece was missed.”

The “piece was missed” and a child was murdered. Inexcusable.

* Family fights are often the worst fights. DCFS often has to sift through claims and counter-claims made by parents and their relatives during heated custody battles

Court records show a lengthy and often volatile legal fight between mother and daughter for custody of the boy. The boy’s grandmother outlines her daughter’s history of drug addiction and mental illness as well as her grandson’s own pleas to stay in the grandmother’s home.

Cunningham claims she ran away from her mother’s home at age 15 because of her mother’s “erratic and demeaning treatment” of her. The legal fight lingered for years, but ultimately the grandmother prevailed and retained custody of Cunningham’s oldest son.

You’d think the grandmother’s legal victory would make it easier for DCFS to remove the other two children from the home, but that didn’t happen. AJ was allegedly murdered by his parents and the third child wasn’t removed until after he was reported missing.

Was that due to incompetence (bureaucratic or individual), or restrictive state laws or a combination of both? Probably both.

* More

Representatives on the Illinois house appropriations human services committee blasted that finding on Friday, questioning DCFS leaders as to why the case wasn’t referred to the judicial system, especially given the family’s long history of contact with the agency.

“Wouldn’t this raise red flags immediately?” said Rep. Anna Moeller. “There was no court involved here, DCFS never went to the court to ask he be taken out of that environment. It was allowed to persist.”

* We tend to swing back and forth on the law. For instance, do you remember this case from less than three years ago?

In a case that challenges racial disparities in the child welfare system, the Family Defense Center on Thursday filed a petition asking the Illinois Supreme Court to review a lower court decision to terminate all parental rights of a 23-year-old Peoria mother. The mother, who is biracial and identifies as lesbian, was found to be “unfit” and her rights to raise her 6-year-old son were terminated primarily because she used marijuana during a nine-month period in 2013 and 2014.

Torie I. and her lawyers at the Family Defense Center are asking the Illinois Supreme Court to determine that the strict legal requirements for the final and permanent severance of the parent-child relationship have not been satisfied. The Center argues that the State presented no evidence as to how Torie’s marijuana use affected her ability to care for her son or had harmed her son. Torie has admitted to smoking cannabis to calm herself, but never in front of her child.

Racial and sexual orientation bias may have played a significant role in the state’s decision to pursue a termination of parental rights, the petition suggests. The Center cites the child removal rate in Peoria County, which is nearly 8 times greater for African American than for families of other races. Torie’s child was placed in foster care with an unrelated, white pre-adoptive family, even though she had a strong bond with the child.

Chapin Hall’s initial report on DCFS is due soon. A legislative rush to judgment would not be advisable.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Another allegation hurled at Lewis & Clark president

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Our old pal Brian Brueggemann has been freelancing since the Belleville News-Democrat’s mass layoffs. Here is his latest

A Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm that has a $500,000-per-year, no-bid contract with Lewis & Clark Community College employs a son of the college’s president, Dale Chapman.

But Chapman says the firm does important work for the two-year college, and that his son’s employment there is not a factor in the college’s awarding of the contract.

The son’s LinkedIn page shows he started working for the company in 2008, the same year the college awarded the no-bid contract.

* It would be much easier to believe President Chapman’s claims if he didn’t have a history of these sorts of issues

Until now, the younger Chapman’s work connection to the college has not been publicly reported. But Dale Chapman and his wife, Linda Chapman, who serves as a vice president at the college, have previously drawn criticism for their pay. The Chapmans earn salaries that, combined, top $550,000 annually. Dale Chapman noted, however that his wife holds a doctorate degree from Harvard and that she was hired by a previous president. […]

In 2010, Dale Chapman retired from Lewis & Clark so that he could get access to his pension, then was rehired after two months. He had financial trouble at the time, due in part to a real estate deal that went bad. Chapman said he took a lump-sum payment of “about a million” for his pension. According to the State Universities Retirement System, the lump-sum payout was about $1.8 million.

Chapman in 2010 said he had to start over with his pension after he was rehired, but that he was “probably close” to being eligible for another pension.

*Sigh*

Go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      


Congressman Kinzinger touts himself for Air Force Secretary

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Congressman Kinzinger has done a remarkably good job of getting himself on cable TV news programs over the years. So, I’m not quite sure what to make of this yet

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger all but threw his hat in the ring for Air Force secretary on Saturday, saying he would “strongly consider” it if President Donald Trump made the offer.

“If the president would determine I would be the candidate, the person that he wanted to lead the Air Force, I would certainly strongly consider it,” Kinzinger, R-Ill., said in a Fox News interview on Saturday. Kinzinger was asked about a rumor that he was a candidate.

That story is from Defense News, which also threw a bit of cold water on the idea

Yet the five-term congressman’s prospects are unclear, at least in part because Trump has yet to nominate a defense secretary to lead the department and because Air Force Undersecretary Matthew Donovan is also seen as a contender for the job, at least in an acting capacity. […]

Aerospace analyst Rebecca Grant, of IRIS Independent Research, said it’s probable that the White House boosts Donovan, the service’s No. 2 civilian, to the acting Air Force Secretary role. […]

“To me, Matt Donovan looks like an easy choice given the number of acting officials that are there [at the Pentagon], and I get the sense that we have a holdup on nominations from the Senate side, and the White House is even less efficient than usual in getting people through. So I’d say, 60-40, they’ll keep Donovan,” Grant said. “He’s a shrewd leader and would be a very sound choice.”

Kinzinger is serving Illinois’ 16th District, which he won by 14 percentage points in last year’s election. Before selecting Kinzinger, the White House would have to weigh the political cost, with Republicans already in the minority in the House, of leaving his seat unfilled or of a special election to fill it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Our sorry state

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Fred Giertz, who’s with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, penned a recent op-ed on the all-too-predictable downfall of College Illinois, the state’s prepaid college tuition program

Unfortunately, the program was seriously flawed from the very beginning. The program was predicated on a number of highly questionable assumptions that should have been addressed at the onset.

The following is excerpted from an Institute of Government and Public Affairs report that I co-authored March 7, 1997. It was released and presented in testimony to the Illinois General Assembly when the prepaid tuition plan was being drafted:

“Prepaid tuition plans are very similar to defined benefit pension plans. If they are well planned and well administered, there is no particular reason why they should fail. There is one additional complication, however, in comparison to pension plans. Pension plans are based on various actuarial assumptions about future life expectancy, inflation rates, rates of return, etc. With prepaid tuition plans, there is an additional factor in that it is necessary to project future tuition costs. At public institutions, these costs are based on political, as well as economic, factors since the increase in tuition costs results not only from inflation, but also from changing levels of state support. As with public pension plans, there are obviously political incentives that may result in underfunding. It may be attractive politically to offer unreasonably low prices for prepaid tuition knowing that these costs will come due far in the future.

“… Many of the objections to early proposals were based on their wildly optimistic estimates of investment returns and tuition inflation rates that left the state bearing an unreasonable degree of risk which, in turn, might be passed on to the universities.”

These cautions raised in the report became a virtual roadmap leading to the current problems. Tuition growth rates were consistently underestimated because of diminishing levels of state support that led to increases that far outpaced inflation. These past underfunding problems cannot be addressed now by raising the costs for new entrants in the program. Since participation is voluntary, new buyers cannot be expected to pay to reduce the unfunded liability associated with earlier enrollees.

* A legislative fix is underway. From the status of Amendment 1 to SB2137

Provides for an irrevocable and continuing appropriation from the General Revenue Fund to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission if moneys in the Illinois Prepaid Tuition Trust Fund are insufficient to cover contractual obligations

The amendment passed the Higher Education Committee on a unanimous roll call. The committee later adopted a second amendment to stop any new prepaid contracts as soon as the bill becomes law. The bill’s 3rd Reading deadline was also extended to May 2nd.

* Some recent history…

* College Illinois bailout now tops $500 million - Permanently halting the college-savings program and honoring existing contracts will end up costing taxpayers more than $6,800 for every student who has gone or will go to college using it.

* It’s time to put College Illinois to pasture for good

- Posted by Rich Miller   23 Comments      


Shaw out, BFC in

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* Bernie

MARK SHAW, president of the Republican County Chairmen’s Association of Illinois, was removed last week by Democratic Gov. J.B. PRITZKER as a trustee of the Teachers’ Retirement System.

Shaw, who is also Lake County Republican chairman, was named to the expenses-only post by then-Gov. BRUCE RAUNER in August 2018. Shaw had been serving in a term that was supposed to last until July 2022, but he never got Senate confirmation. Pritzker has also removed or replaced four others named by Rauner. One Rauner appointee, LAURA PEARL of Glenview, was confirmed by the Senate and remains on the board. […]

“It was disappointing to be removed precipitously like this,” Shaw said. He said in his 8 ½ months there, “I’ve served with a bunch of fine people” on the board and staff. “I think we accomplished quite a bit.” He noted that the board had all 13 members in recent months, until recent changes reduced membership to 10. […]

Shaw made some news last spring when, after the March primary, he challenged TIM SCHNEIDER for the chairmanship of the state GOP. Shaw had the support of then-state Rep. JEANNE IVES, who nearly defeated Rauner in the primary.

Ultimately, with agreement from Rauner and Schneider, a deal was reached to keep Schneider as chairman, but to also to have Shaw become a co-chair of the GOP and the president of the county chairs’ group.

* Petrella

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday named a former longtime Democratic leader in the Illinois House to a $117,000-per-year job on the state’s Pollution Control Board.

Former House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a South Side Democrat who served 40 years in the General Assembly, announced in September 2017 that she wouldn’t seek another term. Currie was the first woman to be named majority leader in the House and served as Speaker Michael Madigan’s top deputy for more than 20 years.

In a news release announcing a batch of nearly two dozen appointments, the Democratic governor’s office praised Currie as “a champion for clean air and water.” […]

Currie, whose Pollution Control Board term ends June 30, 2021, replaces board member U-Jung Choe, whom then-Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed in April 2018.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


How will we pay for a capital bill?

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* From the Tribune

Beyond a once-a-decade mega-transportation bill, lawmakers are looking for ongoing road and transit related funding sources. One possibility is an increase in the state’s 19-cent-per-gallon motor fuel tax, a levy that has not been increased since 1990, when it was 16 cents per gallon. Lawmakers also are looking at tying the gas tax rate to inflation, allowing it to grow over time.

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has backed a motor fuel tax hike in exchange for eliminating the state’s sales tax on gasoline, a move that could provide cover for some Republicans. But others say that instead of eliminating the sales tax on gas, which goes to overall state spending, the state should slowly transfer its revenues to transportation-related spending. […]

There have been talks about funding building projects, known as “vertical infrastructure,” through taxes on legalized marijuana and sports betting. That, however, would take away money that Pritzker has dedicated to other parts of his budget. […]

Already there appears to be a general reluctance among some Senate Democrats to vote on a capital bill until the General Assembly addresses the income tax change.

1) Indexing the MFT to inflation is a no-brainer and should’ve been done decades ago;

2) Redirecting the state sales tax on gas and diesel to capital projects isn’t a bad idea, but only if the budget can sustain the hit;

3) Pritzker has only tapped into cannabis/sports betting licensing fees in his proposed budget, leaving open the possibility that usage revenue could be spent on something else down the road;

4) Vegetables before dessert, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Never a dull moment

Monday, Apr 29, 2019

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

There’s probably never a good time for a news story about how a source claims you, your wife and your brother-in-law are under federal investigation. But when that report is aired just days before what is likely the most consequential five weeks of your entire governorship, that’s definitely not an opportune moment.

Chicago’s public radio station WBEZ reported on April 24 that a single law enforcement source claimed Gov. J.B. Pritzker, his wife MK and his brother-in-law Thomas Muenster “are under federal criminal investigation.”

According to the story, the federal probe started last October and appears to be focused on the now-infamous toilet scandal. The Cook County Independent Inspector General claimed after an investigation that the removal of toilets from an unoccupied mansion next door to the governor’s principal Chicago residence, in an apparent attempt to lower its property tax bill, was a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers of over $300,000. Pritzker himself did not appear to be personally implicated.

Interestingly enough, WBEZ also pointedly mentioned that Mrs. Pritzker’s personal assistant Christine Lovely has retained former federal prosecutor Reid Schar as her attorney, but the article does not claim that she is under investigation. Lovely and Muenster each signed affidavits claiming the property in question had been uninhabitable and vacant since 2012. The governor’s office confirmed to me that Lovely is still Mrs. Pritzker’s assistant.

“There are no signs that criminal charges are imminent,” the WBEZ article claimed.

Indeed, the former Cook County assessor, who reduced the Pritzkers’ property tax bill, and the reformer who defeated him last year both told the Chicago Tribune that they were unaware of any federal investigation, which seems a bit odd.

And I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the county inspector general last week, asking for copies of any federal subpoenas relating to the issue and was told, six months after the federal investigation supposedly started, they had no such documents.

As we all have seen over the years, federal investigations can take lots of time and sometimes only result in the reputational damage of being investigated. The feds have high conviction rates, but that’s partly because they carefully choose whom to indict.

For instance, the Sun-Times reported last week that testimony in the criminal trial of a former employee of Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown revealed the feds started investigating Brown in 2014. Five years later, she’s still under a cloud with no end in sight.

A federal investigation of Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino was first reported in 2016, when grand jury subpoenas of his former legislative campaign workers were revealed. Three years hence, no public statements have been issued about where the investigation stands.

Setting aside the potential (if any) legal consequences, this story could obviously damage the governor’s ambitious spring legislative agenda. Republicans will have a new rallying cry to oppose his plans. Pritzker is counting on bipartisan agreements on a capital bill and on legalization of both recreational cannabis and sports betting.

The governor also needs every single Democrat he can get on his graduated income tax proposal, but some Democrats could become even more skittish than they already are about standing with him on votes that could hurt their reelection chances.

The piling-on began almost immediately. Ideas Illinois, the dark money group formed to oppose Pritzker’s graduated income tax plan, released a statement the morning the story was broadcast that read in part: “Governor Pritzker should immediately abandon his push for this massive Jobs Tax on middle class families because he can’t expect people to pay more when he is reportedly under criminal investigation for gaming the system to pay less.”

But, really, it’s just too early to tell what will happen to his overall agenda. Legislative leaders are usually not quick to make up their minds about how to deal with these sorts of things. It could all depend on how Pritzker reacts in the coming days. So far, they’re issuing the standard statement about how they haven’t been contacted about any investigation, but potential targets are only rarely whistled in by the G. Pritzker repeated his line from the campaign that all rules were followed.

Even so, all this has to be making the governor’s people sick to the very pits of their stomachs right now. Everything, and I do mean everything, is riding on what happens in the General Assembly during May. Significant failure would devastate not only Pritzker’s budget, but the other big things Pritzker wants to accomplish as governor.

Nothing like a little drama to spice things up, I suppose.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


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