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No ratings bump, but Fitch revises Illinois outlook from Negative to Stable

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* A small bit of good news. From a press release

Fitch Ratings has affirmed the state of Illinois’ Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘BBB’ and revised the Outlook to Stable from Negative.

Additionally, Fitch has affirmed the ‘BBB’ ratings on the state’s outstanding GO bonds, and the ‘A-’ ratings on the Build Illinois senior and junior obligation sales tax revenue bonds, which are linked to the state’s IDR based on state dedicated tax analysis.

The Rating Outlook for the above bonds has been revised to Stable. […]

The Outlook revision to Stable reflects key developments over the last three months for the state including an unanticipated revenue surge in April 2019 that positioned the state to resolve a sizable fiscal 2019 mid-year budget gap and enact an on-time fiscal 2020 budget. The positive April revenue surprise seen in Illinois, and other states, supported a significant increase in fiscal 2020 estimated revenues, easing the path to budget adoption and allowing the state to reduce (but not eliminate) reliance on non-recurring measures. The state now has a plausible and achievable 2020 budget plan, leaving the state better positioned from a fiscal perspective, and the potential for a rating downgrade in the near-term has receded. The recent gains, however, are somewhat tenuous and their sustainability hinges on the state’s actions over the next several years, particularly around the November 2020 ballot initiative on the graduated individual income tax.

Illinois’ ‘BBB’ IDR and GO ratings continue to reflect an ongoing pattern of weak operating performance and irresolute fiscal decision-making that has produced a credit position well below the level that the state’s broad economic base and substantial independent legal ability to control its budget would otherwise support. The state’s elevated long-term liability position remains a key credit challenge.

More at the link.

…Adding… Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes…

Illinois is already much stronger than we were a year ago, and it’s refreshing that Fitch is recognizing the good news and progress we’ve made so far. We know we have a long way to go, but we are committed to improving our long term fiscal stability and building an economy that works for everyone.


Pritzker orders staff probe of college aid scam

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Click here for background if you need it…

* Center Square

Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants his administration to investigate reports of potential tuition assistance fraud in Illinois.

A report from ProPublica Illinois found wealthy parents used a legal process through the courts to transfer custody of their children to other guardians so the child can be eligible for tuition assistance like Illinois’ Monetary Assistance Program, which provides need-based grants to students that do not need to be repaid.

Asked about the report Wednesday in Chicago, Pritzker called it fraud.

“It’s terrible … There are more people applying for Monetary Assistance Program money than there are dollars that we could provide,” the governor said. “So if people are defrauding the system, these wealthy parents are literally committing fraud here, we need to go find them, root it out, and make sure those dollars go to the right people.”

Pritzker said the state has limited funding available for a limited number of qualified students “which we increased by 10,000 more students just this Spring.”

“We want it to go to the students who are most in need, not the people who are defrauding the system,” Pritzker said. […]

After the ProPublica report, Pritzker said he asked his staff to get to the bottom of it.

“So we need to look into it to make sure we are identifying people that are doing this, calling it out and making sure that we are preventing it from happening in the future,” he said.


Accused of wage theft and minimum wage violations, former progressive candidate blames staff

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* NBC 5

Two dozen ex-employees of former Chicago mayoral candidate Amara Enyia filed a wage theft grievance on Monday, accusing Enyia and her top staffers of owing them thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.

In a statement on the grievance, the group said Enyia’s campaign committee owed the 24 staffers a combined total of $56,825 in unpaid wages, overtime pay, minimum wage violations and unreimbursed expenses. […]

The statement did not identify the 24 staffers but said that they worked on Enyia’s field, communications, research and events staff and were initially promised repayment of campaign debt by March 15.

* Politico

Amara Enyia, the political phenom who energized the mayoral election earlier this year, is in the spotlight again. She’s being considered for the top job with the City Council’s Progressive Reform Caucus — but the move comes just as she’s being slapped with a lawsuit by two dozen former campaign staffers who say they haven’t been paid.

In a statement to Playbook, Enyia pushed back against the “unsettling” allegations.

She said that after losing in the first round of the mayor’s race, her staffers voted on whether to endorse either Lori Lightfoot or Toni Preckwinkle, or stay neutral. They voted for the latter and as a result, Enyia’s campaign didn’t get any assistance to pay off campaign debt. “The team decided that the values of being able to hold leadership accountable outweighed the monetary compensation they were due,” Enyia said in the statement. “That voluntary team decision was key because it meant the team knew fundraising post-campaign would be a challenge.”

Enyia says there have been two fundraisers and that “partial payments” were made to her staff as “a show of good faith.”

Partial payments? Election day was February 26th. Her campaign finance disclosures show that four of her 24 employees were paid on February 27 and 28 and nobody else received any payroll distributions through June 30th. Maybe she paid some people this month.

* Odd…

Click here and search for “Oakley” and you’ll see the issue.

* This isn’t the first time she’s had money issues

The Tribune reported Enyia did not report to the IRS $21,000 paid to her by Chris Kennedy’s governor campaign, for which she worked as a consultant for several months. Enyia called it an oversight.

The Tribune also revealed that Enyia owed more than $73,000 in fines to the Illinois State Board of Elections for failing to file campaign fund disclosures after her failed 2015 mayoral bid, which was far less successful than the 2019 candidacy. [Kanye West] made a donation to pay that fine.

Weeks before the election, Enyia’s former campaign spokeswoman filed a lawsuit alleging the candidate refused to pay her $24,000 for four months of work.

* He’s not totally wrong here…


“People are going to suffer and people are going to die”

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This bill passed both chambers on unanimous roll calls

Hospital corporations in Illinois now have to jump through more administrative hoops before they will be allowed to close or downsize a health care facility.

A new law that took effect this month requires the owners of those facilities to obtain a permit from the state’s Health Facilities and Services Review Board before they can close a hospital, ambulatory surgical treatment center, nursing home or other health care center. It also limits the number of times they can apply to discontinue a category of services to just once every six months. […]

The bill was prompted by a controversy in Cook County earlier this year when California-based Pipeline Health announced plans to shut down Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park, a hospital that serves a large number of low-income patients. […]

The new law took effect as soon as Pritzker signed it, but state officials were not immediately able to say whether it would affect the proposed Westlake closure.

* Another example

Warnings that “people will die” should a Blue Island hospital close punctuated a state panel’s hearing Wednesday in that city. […]

Dr. Annie Sinnott, who oversees MetroSouth’s emergency department, and fire chiefs from communities including Blue Island and Riverdale testified that ambulance transport times for critically ill patients will increase, possibly jeopardizing patient outcomes, should the hospital close.

“Real people with real problems are going to suffer,” said Sinnott, with other MetroSouth doctors standing with her. “People are going to suffer and people are going to die.” […]

[Dr. Henry Shin, the hospital’s medical chief of staff] blamed ownership changes in recent years, which have resulted in “services and staffing” being “gradually degraded” as a key factor in why people are seeking care at other area hospitals.

* But keeping the doors open will not be easy for some

Shrinking subsidies are pushing hospitals that serve the poorest communities in the Chicago area to the financial brink, and potentially threatening patient safety.

Hospitals are getting less money from various federal and state programs intended to offset the cost of treating poor and uninsured patients who can’t pay for care. At the same time, the number of people without health insurance is rising, due partly to the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and high insurance premiums. Even patients with insurance are struggling to cover out-of-pocket costs they incur under increasingly prevalent high-deductible insurance plans. […]

Cuts in Medicaid disproportionate share payments are set to take effect Oct. 1, but lawmakers are pushing for at least a two-year delay. An initial $4 billion reduction—to be followed by additional cuts—was mandated by the ACA under the assumption that Medicaid expansion and health insurance exchanges would reduce unpaid medical treatment. But uncompensated hospital care is rising again as court rulings and the Trump administration chip away at the landmark health care law. […]

Changes to the state’s hospital tax assessment program expected next year also worry some safety-net CEOs. They say they could lose tens of millions of dollars in funding if rates are more closely tied to patient volume, which has decreased across the board, or costly transformation efforts.

* Then there’s this problem in rural areas

“We have been without a physician position being filled for about a year now and it only had three candidates two of which surfaced lately,” says Administrator of Genesis Medical Center Aledo Ted Rogalski.

And patients can feel the difference and it presents a challenge to hospital administrators.

“We see our patients leaving our communities and going elsewhere because our wait time for our two and physicians can be up to 8 weeks at a time so those patients will travel elsewhere to seek care,” says Rogalski.

The shortage of rural healthcare providers is about four times that in metropolitan areas. […]

“It’s a negotiation between the manage care company (insurance) and the local entity. If you’re part of a larger organization you’re going to have more power at the bargaining table than if you’re just a standalone where that managing care company might say this is all we’re paying you, take it or we’ll send our patients elsewhere,” Rogalski adds.

* And the rich get richer

Northwestern Memorial Hospital is the only Illinois medical center to land among the 20 best hospitals nationwide, moving up three spots to No. 10, according to new rankings by U.S. News & World Report.

The academic medical center in Streeterville—which is nationally ranked in 12 specialties, including neurology and geriatrics—also topped the list of Illinois hospitals. Rounding out the top 5 in Illinois are University of Chicago Medical Center at No. 2, four-hospital NorthShore University HealthSystem and Rush University Medical Center, which tied for third, and Loyola University Medical Center at No. 5.


New laws

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Governor JB Pritzker signed a new law Wednesday that expands access for Illinoisans involved in the criminal justice system to gain employment in the health care industry.

“Over 4 million Illinoisans have an arrest or conviction record – that includes over 40 percent of our working age population,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This vicious cycle of poverty, crime and injustice – which disproportionately impacts communities of color – does a disservice to everyone involved, from affected families to employers to taxpayers. I’m so proud that this legislation will dismantle another part of the wall that blocks people with records from living a dignified life. Today, with this action, we’re showing the world that we are building an Illinois that works for everyone.”

Senate Bill 1965 creates a timelier and efficient health care waiver application process, expands the list of eligible organizations that can initiate a fingerprint-based background check and those than can request waivers to include workforce intermediaries and pro bono legal service organization, and allows people with disqualifying conditions to obtain waivers before receiving a job offer.

Prior to the passage of SB 1965, only health care employers who extended a conditional offer to an applicant could begin a fingerprint-based background check. The new law expedites that process to reduce the barriers to employment and occupational licensing within the state’s health care sector, which is projected to be the fastest growing industry in the next 10 years. SB 1965 takes effect immediately. […]

By 2026, the Safer Foundation estimates that more than 93,000 jobs will need to be filled in the industry, more than 18,000 healthcare technicians and more than 74,000 in health care support.


During a visit to SIU-E, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a new law expanding voting rights to both student members of the SIU Board of Trustees.

“Student voices matter. That, at its core, is why we’re amplifying the student voice on the Board of Trustees, offering each major campus equal say in board affairs no matter the date or time of year.” said Governor J.B. Pritzker. “I’m so proud to sign into law this legislation that will give both campus’ student trustees the right to vote on every issue that affects those they represent. Today’s announcement and the rejuvenation of SIU makes me truly excited for the future of Illinois.”

While the board is comprised of seven members appointed by the governor and two elected student trustees, only one student trustee has historically been given a vote on matters before the board. The campuses have rotated the vote in the past. The new law takes effect on January 1, 2020.


The perils of lawyerly language

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times

He’s widely considered the most powerful politician in Illinois, but there’s no proof that House Speaker Mike Madigan uses his numerous roles to influence Democrats throughout the state.

Nor that he mixes government and politics.

At least that’s what lawyers for the head of the state Democratic Party argue in their latest federal court filing, seeking to knock down a lawsuit accusing Madigan of using his vast power to rig elections and punish enemies. Madigan’s lawyers produced the lengthy reply on Monday in their quest to resolve the lawsuit before it could head to a trial. […]

“Defendants dispute that Defendant Madigan uses the numerous roles he holds to influence Democrats at all levels of government,” Madigan’s lawyers wrote. “The evidence cited does not support this statement, nor does the record otherwise support a statement.”

His lawyers also wrote that they “object to the word ‘influence’ as unreasonably vague, and ambiguous.”


Who in their right mind would ever believe that statement from Madigan’s attorneys?

* But there is a very hyper-lawyerly explanation for this. If you read the joint defendant response, you’ll see it very specifically references this exchange in Madigan’s deposition

Q: We talked about your role as a 13th Ward Democratic Committeeman. We talked bit about your role as a Third Congressional District State Central Committeeman. We talked a little bit about the role that you’re in as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, and I just want to ask you about that in particular. … What other role or position do you play or occupy as the Chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois?

A: You work with any Illinois Democratic which is to get involved with the Democratic Party of Illinois. You work with different candidates and so today there you are Democratic candidates for State Offices, and we’re working with them to help them get elected. In addition, we work with candidates for the Illinois House, candidates for the Illinois Senate, candidates for the United States Congress.

So, the objection was over what the MJM lawyers claim was a mischaracterization of what Madigan said. Madigan, they say, didn’t actually admit to using “the numerous roles he holds to influence Democrats at all levels of government.” As Hannah Meisel noted today

In an additional 64-page filing Monday, Madigan’s attorneys also attempted to have multiple exhibits of evidence introduced by Gonzales’ campaign excluded from the case, a standard legal move.


* Meisel also wrote about a different MJM filing today

Attorneys for House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) shot back at former primary challenger Jason Gonzales in a new court filing Monday, attempting to deconstruct Gonzales’ argument that Madigan allegedly putting up two “sham” candidates with Hispanic last names like Gonzales’ was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause to the 14th Amendment. […]

But Madigan’s lawyers pointed do a four-pronged legal test laid out in a 1973 case in front of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, in which two Democratic state senators were accused of pulling a bait-and-switch after one of them was drawn out of his old district after the 1970 Census and 1971 redistricting process.

In that case, State Sen. Robert Cherry was challenged by Ronald Smith in the 1972 primary election, and received 53 percent of the vote. But Smith alleged that Cherry had never intended on running in the general election, as evidenced by his dropping out of the race in September of that year, and being replaced on the ballot by State Sen. Ben Palmer — the senator who had been drawn out of his own district. […]

Madigan’s attorneys claimed that even Gonzales himself had previously conceded in filings for the case that Madigan would have supported Barboza or Rodriguez if either had won the 2016 primary, meaning neither of them had been placed on the ballot to pull any sort of bait-and-switch scheme.

* Also from that filing and mentioned by Hannah

Plaintiff’s definition of a “sham” candidate—based on the time and other resources he or she devotes to the campaign—is both impossible to administer and would disproportionately subject less popular and well‐funded candidates to the threat of litigation

Heck, I’m so old I remember when a bona fide sham candidate named Michelle Chavez actually won a House race

Chavez, a Democrat, was elected in 2004, defeating incumbent Republican Frank Aguilar in what was thought to be a non-competitive race. She had run in the primary, allegedly at the behest of Aguilar, and won the Democratic nomination, after which she did very little campaigning, for the general election.

Chavez was celebrating at Rep. Aguilar’s victory party when she found out she beat him.



A possible work-around of the bluenoses

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We’ve all seen the recent stories…

* Winnetka approves resolution halting cannabis sales until officials can examine local ordinances

* Lake Forest and Lake Bluff open to banning recreational marijuana sales

* Suburbs say no to recreational marijuana - Naperville, Libertyville and Bloomingdale vote themselves weed-free.

* Are suburbs going to allow sale of marijuana? So far more say ‘no’ or leaning no

* Northbrook board voices initial approval of first recreational cannabis business proposal

* But there won’t be that many dispensary licenses anyway

The new law would allow the state’s 55 existing medical marijuana dispensaries to open new retail shops on their current sites, and open a second site elsewhere — but only if local officials allow it.

In addition, applications for up to 75 new dispensaries will be due by Jan. 1, 2020, and are to be awarded by May 1, 2020, so entrepreneurs will want to know which areas will allow them to operate.

So, that’s 190 dispensaries in a state of 12.74 million people with 1,299 incorporated cities, towns and villages, 102 counties and 1,432 townships.

* More from today’s Tribune

In other states with legal pot, such as California and Colorado, where bigger cities tend to allow it, the majority of local governments ban pot sales. That results in large rural areas with no access to retail shops, which encourages a continued illegal market.

If the same thing happens in Illinois, [Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project] said, it would make a good argument for allowing home delivery, so people who have trouble travelling will have access.


…Adding… Greg Hinz

The wife of one of the architects of Illinois’ new law legalizing recreational marijuana [Rep. Kelly Cassidy] has landed a big job with an Elmhurst-based cannabis company.

Revolution Florida, a sister company of Illinois-based marijuana grower and dispensary Revolution Enterprises, named Candace Gingrich vice president and head of business development for the firm’s newly expanded operations in the Sunshine State. […]

Cassidy said in a phone interview she sees no conflict of interest in her spouse accepting the post, and rejected the notion that the job appears like a reward for services rendered.

“I sought an ethics opinion and got it cleared” by the House ethics officer, Cassidy said. Beyond that, she added, Revolution “has gone above and beyond to make sure Candace had no role in Illinois, just to cover appearances.”


Simmons leads $75 million remake of downtown Alton

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* SIUE graduate John Simmons has made a fortune as a trial attorney. He’s used some of that money to build things like the Simmons Cancer Institute on the campus of Southern Illinois University in Springfield. His law firm also has an employee foundation that contributes to several charitable causes.

But he’s now taken on a new project. He wants to remake downtown Alton, which has been empty and moribund for years. Gov. Pritzker went to Alton yesterday to highlight the ambitious effort

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday evening stood for a huddle of Alton city leaders and reporters gathered at the corner of Broadway and Henry, beaming with gratitude and excitement for the launch of AltonWorks, the $75M downtown revitalization investment plan courtesy of John and Jayne Simmons.

The governor was attending a ribbon cutting for the offices of AltonWorks, located at 601 E. Broadway. The Simmons’ have purchased more than 30 properties in the city’s downtown — many blighted — and hired a team of development experts to execute the largely unprecedented project. […]

Pritzker praised the plan’s focus on pedestrian-friendly landscapes and an emphasis on rooftop and riverfront development. An initial plan, first unveiled in May, indicated a total rebirth of downtown Alton as a “rooftop city” with picturesque views over the Mississippi for both residential and business spaces. Included are renovations of long-abandoned landmarks like the Grand Theater and Stratford Hotel buildings. The Simmons’ have snatched up nearly any property available in Alton’s downtown corridor. John Simmons earned much of the family’s wealth as an Alton-based trial attorney. […]

Jayne Simmons on Tuesday told The Telegraph that the AltonWorks project is early in Stage 1 as the team drafts a detailed master plan. Employees [20 so far] have been visible around downtown in recent weeks examining each property and doing maintenance as part of that process.

“We purchased over 30 properties, and some of them have office spaces, some have tenants, and a lot of them are empty, so we have to maintain those, and take care of them” she said. “We don’t want any of them continue to deteriorate.”

* More

The effort is projected to create millions of dollars in investment into Alton through private investors, joint venture partners, historic tax credits, and other state funding sources for projects including public infrastructure, transit connectivity, workforce development, business attraction and relocation, and broadband infrastructure.

“We hope Alton will serve as a process ‘proof of concept’ for replicable and scalable demonstration of our commitment to downstate revitalization,” the company’s mission statement says.

“I want to thank John and Jayne Simmons for sharing their vision,” Pritzker said. “I very much want to be part of that vision. This is something we can do all across Southern and Central Illinois.

“Frankly, we should be doing this everywhere.”

I’ve been to that town several times and always thought it was a diamond in the rough. Hopefully, this will work.


Caption contest!

Wednesday, Jul 31, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Facebook


Question of the day

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Caption?…


“There’s simply no evidence at this time that the ICC is in bed with ComEd”

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Crain’s a couple of weeks ago

On Nov. 8, 2016, Robert Zulauf and his nephew, Jordan Zulauf, were working in Sterling, about 115 miles west of Chicago, on cable television lines. The two were contractors to Comcast, which shares a utility pole there with Commonwealth Edison. The Zulaufs were preparing to work when a metal wire meant to attach the pole to the ground suddenly became electrified after coming loose. Jordan Zulauf was shocked and knocked unconscious. His uncle, running to help, was electrocuted and burned to death.

When 23-year-old Jordan Zulauf came out of a coma weeks later, he discovered he had lost both his arms, according to his attorney, Philip “Flip” Corboy Jr. His 32-year-old uncle was survived by a wife and three children.

The deadly accident was the result of a loose “guy wire”—the name for the metal lines supporting utility poles and angling down from the pole to the ground—and an improperly installed insulator meant to keep such wires from becoming electrified if they come into contact with high-voltage lines when they do come loose, according to attorneys for the estate of Robert Zulauf and Jordan Zulauf. They have sued ComEd and Comcast in Cook County Circuit Court and are asking for punitive damages for wrongful death and injury. If granted, the damages could run in the tens of millions of dollars, or even over $100 million.

ComEd is contesting the lawsuit. What’s unusual is that the Chicago electric utility is being aided in its defense by its regulator, the Illinois Commerce Commission. The ICC is fighting to bar plaintiffs’ access to records on the accident and even to keep them from interviewing current and former workers.

The ICC also didn’t bother to do an investigation of the accident, apparently in violation of statutes. They simply asked ComEd to explain what happened.

* More

The commission used to act as a more proactive watchdog on such public safety issues. In reports dating back more than a decade, ICC inspectors found numerous violations of the sort that caused the accident in Sterling. In Ameren Illinois’ downstate service territory, inspectors found 51 “guying” violations in 2007, according to an ICC report on Ameren’s reliability.

The ICC no longer files such reports.

* Crain’s today…

A Cook County Circuit Court judge has rejected the claims of privilege that Commonwealth Edison and the Illinois Commerce Commission asserted over communications between the two following the November 2016 electrocution of two cable-TV contractors that resulted in one’s death and the loss of both arms for the other.

The ruling July 18 by Judge Moira Johnson requires the ICC and ComEd to provide the results of a state inquiry into the Nov. 8, 2016, accident in Sterling, Ill., to attorneys seeking wrongful-death and -injury damages on behalf of the families. She dismissed the commission’s arguments that doing so would chill future interactions between the regulator and ComEd in similar situations.

Corboy & Demetrio, one of the most prominent personal injury firms around, is involved in this case. And they have been recently pushing a line of argument that the new ICC Chair Carrie Zalewski needs to stop defending ComEd. For instance…

Attorneys for the state persisted in making their arguments of privilege even after Crain’s wrote about the ICC’s eyebrow-raising moves to protect ComEd in the case. That means that Chairman Carrie Zalewski, whose family is caught up in the Justice Department’s probe of the relationship between ComEd, House Speaker Michael Madigan and various people close to the speaker, apparently signed off on the unorthodox legal maneuver.

“There is an unholy alliance that’s taken place here between the Illinois Commerce Commission and Commonwealth Edison, and they have stretched all credulity in trying to claim that these statutes protect them from disclosing documents that exist in this case,” attorney Stephan Blandin argued July 18 in court. Blandin represents the estate of Robert Zulauf.

“The information submitted by Mr. Blandin concerning the chairman, her father-in-law, all this information is well beyond the scope of what the ICC is doing here today,” responded Conor Desmond, who’s with the Illinois attorney general’s office and is handling the case on behalf of the ICC. “There’s simply no evidence at this time that the ICC is in bed with ComEd or whatever Mr. Blandin’s attempting to assert in this particular proceeding. There’s a pending investigation going on and at this time there’s nothing to suggest the ICC is improperly doing its duty here.”

This case began long before Zalewski took over as chair a few months ago, but whatever works, I suppose.

And that defense from the AG’s office is a bit comical. I mean, “at this time”? Doesn’t that suggest the ICC could’ve been or still could be in bed with ComEd?


New laws

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

People who are taken to court over unpaid debts in Illinois will have new protections beginning Jan. 1 under a measure Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law Monday.

The new law will cap interest rates at 5%, down from 9 %, on consumer debt of less than $25,000 following a court judgment. It also will limit the window during which creditors can collect on a judgment to 17 years, down from 26 years under the current law.

State Rep. Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the legislation, said it will help low-income consumers escape the cycles of debt that can trap them in poverty.

“Those who are seeking to repay their debt are working hard to do it,” Guzzardi said. “These aren’t people who are trying to shirk their obligations; these aren’t scofflaws. These are hardworking Illinoisans who want to pay back what they owe.”

* Press release…

Governor JB Pritzker signed a package of legislation to strengthen penalties for life-threatening violations on roadways in an effort to protect law enforcement officers, first responders and road workers.

“Since 2002, Scott’s Law has said that drivers approaching a vehicle with their hazard lights on must slow down and move over. This is not optional. This is how we keep our heroes and first responders as safe as possible in their line of work,” said Gov. JB Pritzker. “This new and enhanced law protects those whose employment requires them to pull over on the highway. No policy will ever make restore the families of Trooper Gillen, Trooper Jones-Story and Trooper Lambert, nor will the loved ones of the construction workers or emergency responders killed on the job ever feel that their lives are made whole again. But with these laws, we are cementing our state’s commitment to safety: helping to protect the people who make our world better, our lives easier and our families safer.”

Several state troopers have lost their lives this year on the state’s roadways; two were killed when drivers violated Scott’s Law. The package of legislation honors the memory of Troopers Christopher Lambert, Brooke Jones-Story and Gerald Ellis, and the new law seeks to save more lives of the brave public servants who risk their lives to serve the people of Illinois.

Senate Bill 1862
Strengthening Scott’s Law

To prevent fatalities on Illinois roadways, SB 1862 expands Scott’s Law to cover more workers and enhances penalties upon violation.

The new law extends Scott’s Law protections to include a stationary authorized vehicle with oscillating lights, first responders, IDOT workers, law enforcement officers and any individual authorized to be on the highway within the scope of their employment or job duties.

It also increases the minimum fine to $250 for a first violation of Scott’s Law and to $750 for a second or subsequent violation as well as adds $250 assessment fee for any violation of Scott’s Law which will be deposited into a new dedicated fund to produce driver education materials, called the Scott’s Law Fund.

Criminal penalties will increase to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, if violation results in damage to another vehicle or a Class 4 felony, punishable by up to one to three years in prison, if violation results in an injury or death of another person. Under the new law, an aggravating factor will be added to reckless homicide charges if Scott’s Law was violated.

The Secretary of State is also required to include written question on Scott’s Law in the driver’s license test.

The law takes effect immediately.

Senate Bill 2038
Creating the Move Over Task Force

To study the causes of violations and ways to protect law enforcement, emergency responders and residents of the state, SB 2038 creates the Move Over Task Force, made up of 20 members.

Members of this task force will include:

    the Director of Illinois State Police (ISP) or his or her designee, who serves as Chair
    the Governor of Illinois of his or her designee
    the Secretary of State or his or her designee
    the Secretary of Transportation (IDOT) or his or her designee
    the Director of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority or his or her designee
    the President of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Association or his or her designee
    the President of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association or his or her designee.
    the President of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police or his or her designee;
    the President of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois or his or her designee;
    one member appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
    one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives;
    one member appointed by the President of the Senate;
    one member appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate; and
    the following to be appointed by the Governor:
    two representatives of different statewide trucking associations;
    one representative of a Chicago area motor club
    one representative of a Chicago area transit safety alliance
    one representative of a statewide broadcast association
    one representative of a statewide towing organization
    the chief of police of a municipality with a population under 25,000.

Members of the Task Force must serve without compensation and must meet no fewer than three times. Additionally, the Task Force must present its report and recommendations to the General Assembly no later than January 1, 2020.

The law takes effect immediately.

Senate Bill 1496
Increasing Construction Zone Fees

To keep workers safe as they rebuild our roadways, SB 1496 increases penalties for violations in construction zones.

The new law sets a penalty of between $100 and $1,000 for a driver who disobeys traffic-control devices within designated highway construction zone or maintenance zone and increases the penalty cap for a person who violates the rules on entering a construction or maintenance zone when workers are present from $10,000 to $25,000.

The law takes effect January 1, 2020.

“There is no reason why officers and first responders can’t be safe while addressing an incident on the side of the road,” said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Antonio Muñoz (D-Chicago). “It needs to be second nature for drivers to slow down and move over whenever any vehicle is stalled on the side of the road.”

“The rapid increase just this year in those being hit or fatally killed is extremely concerning,” said Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). “We must properly educate drivers to slow down and move over when approaching emergency vehicles, highway maintenance, tow trucks or other vehicles and personnel on the side of the road.”

“The men and women who are our first responders deserve to be protected while doing their jobs,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville). “The tragic deaths over the last year require us to do everything we can to educate the public that they must “move over” and, if they don’t, they will face increases penalties. Our first responders and their families have earned that from us.”

“Today with Gov Pritzker leading the way, we send a clear message to the first responders of Illinois and their families: we care about you and we want you to make it home safely,” said Rep. Marcus Evans (D-Chicago). “With so many distractions in the vehicle nowadays, we need to stress roadway safety.”

“Our law enforcement officials put their lives on the line every single day,” said Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield). “We need to work hard to stop these needless tragedies from happening again.”

“These new laws represent the good that happens when members of the General Assembly work together in good-faith on a bipartisan basis,” said Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park).

“Our hope is that the changes included in this legislation will help stop the accidents that could and should be avoided,” said Sheriff David Clague, President of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association. “We believe that the changes signed into law will help better protect our emergency responders and all those on the roads of Illinois.”

* Press release…

Gov. Pritzker Signs Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act

Governor JB Pritzker today signed sweeping legislation to prevent coal ash from polluting communities across the state of Illinois.

“Coal ash is a public health issue and a pollution issue, and the state of Illinois is taking action to keep communities safe,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This new law will protect our precious groundwater and rivers from toxic chemicals that can harm our residents. With the Trump administration loosening standards on coal ash, Illinois is raising the bar to protect our environment and the health of people across our state.”

Senate Bill 9 prohibits coal ash discharge into the environment, requires IEPA approval for permitting and closures of coal combustion residual (CCR) surface impoundments such as landfills and piles, guarantees financial assurances from CCR owners or operators for future closure or maintenance costs, and directs the IEPA to propose new rules to the Pollution Control Board around the regulation of coal ash in the state, which it will then implement within 12 months.

The new coal ash regulations will be developed by IEPA within eight months and must satisfy the following requirements:

    Must be at least as protective and comprehensive as the federal regulations or amendment promulgated by the U.S. EPA
    Specify the minimum contents of permit applications.
    Specify which types of permits include requirements for closure, post-closure, remediation, and other requirements.
    Specify when permit applications must be submitted.
    Specify standards for review and approval by IEPA for permit applications.
    Specify meaningful public participation procedures and other methods and procedures.
    Prescribe the type and amount of the performance bonds or other securities required.
    Specify a procedure to identify areas of environmental justice concern.
    Specify a method to prioritize CCR surface impoundments required to close if not specified by the U.S. EPA.
    Define when complete removal is achieved.
    Describe the process for identifying an alternative source of contamination when the owner/operator believes it is not from the impoundment.

The new law also directs new funds into the Environmental Protection Permit and Inspection Fund to help IEPA run the program. Power plant owners will pay an initial fee of $50,000 for closed impoundments and $75,000 for those that haven’t completed closure. Annual fees will begin on July 1, 2020: $25,000 for those that haven’t completed closure and $15,000 for each impoundment that’s closed but hasn’t completed post-closure care.

Senate Bill 9 takes effect immediately.

“With SB 9 becoming law, Illinois clearly demonstrates that we are not content to simply respond to environmental catastrophes after they occur, but instead that we will stand up and protect our homes and families from those risks,” said Sen. Scott Bennett (D- Champaign). “This is comprehensive, proactive legislation that provides the protections, regulations and financial assurances that we need to prevent more coal ash crises in our communities.”

“This legislation represents a significant step toward cleaner water and air for communities living near coal ash throughout the state of Illinois,” said Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Champaign). “I want to thank Gov. Pritzker for protecting taxpayers and our public health because those who create the mess, should clean it up.”

“By signing this bill into law, Gov. Pritzker has taken a historic step in protecting communities and the environment from dangerous coal ash pollution across Illinois,” said Colleen Smith, legislative director for the Illinois Environmental Council. “Now, polluters will be held responsible for the cleanup of their toxic waste — not residents of Illinois.”

“This big step toward protecting our water supply and a clean energy future is the result of hard work by community leaders across the state and their legislative champions,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We applaud Governor Pritzker for his support and signing of this legislation, and for his bold vision of a 100% clean energy future for all Illinois communities. Cleaning up these toxic coal ash sites is an essential step toward a just transition for these communities, and a future in which their water is protected and new jobs are created in the technologies of the future.”

“This coal ash legislation is an important environmental protection success to protect safe, clean and drinkable water in Illinois,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “ELPC is pleased that Gov. Pritzker signed SB 9 because it will protect our water quality, air quality and public health.”

“We are so pleased that Governor Pritzker has signed Senate Bill 9 into law,” said Pam Richart, Co-Director of Eco-Justice Collaborative. “Community calls to clean up pollution from coal ash dumped on dozens of power plant sites across the state have been ignored for far too long. This bill ensures that those living near coal ash will have a say in how these dumps are cleaned up, so that public health and local economies are protected.”

“Thank you to Governor Pritzker for signing the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act,” said Andrew Rehn, a water resources engineer with Prairie Rivers Network. “We would not be here today with the incredible leadership from Senator Bennett and Representative Ammons and heroic efforts from community groups across the state. We are now taking the first steps in cleaning up the toxic coal ash stored in unlined pits across Illinois.”

“The communities of faith represented by Faith In Place Action Fund applaud the Governor signing SB 9 into law,” said Celeste Flores from Faith in Place Action Fund. “Illinois joins other states that are putting its residents’ health before industrial polluters’ profit. We look forward to working with IEPA to engage communities most affected by coal ash on the rulemaking process.”

“With this law, Illinois is joining other states that are working to protect their citizens from toxic pollution from coal ash dumps,” said Jennifer Cassel, an Earthjustice coal program attorney based in Chicago. “For too long, utilities have been allowed to dump this pollution into unlined pits with no regard for the consequences. That will no longer be the case in Illinois.”

“This is a great win for Coal Ash Communities, especially for Waukegan residents that have been continuously affected by corporate polluters,” said Dulce Ortiz from Clean Power Lake County. “The governor is putting the State of Illinois in a good trajectory in signing SB 9 into law, by sending a message that environmental justice communities across the state are being put before profitable industrial polluters like NRG Energy. Waukegan residents commend Governor Pritzker and our state legislators for making SB 9 into law. Our land is our children’s future and we look forward to the state of Illinois to continue strengthening protections for our vulnerable environmental justice communities.”


Open thread

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I am finally leaving St. Louis and driving back to Springfield, so I’ll be away for awhile. Please be nice to each other and keep the conversation Illinois-centric. Thanks.

…Adding… I’m back. Posting to resume in a bit.


“We have become the target of whomever these shooters are”

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Alice Yin at the Tribune

The usually bustling corner of Stewart Avenue and 75th Street seems emptier now without Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire.

The two mothers were familiar faces at the Englewood intersection, where the group Mothers Against Senseless Killings has camped out every day during the summer since 2015 — hoping to break the cycle of violence in the neighborhood by transforming a corner with a history of bloodshed into a lively hangout for mothers and their children.

Just before 10 p.m. Friday, Grant and Stoudemire were standing at the corner when a blue SUV passed by and someone opened fire, according to Chicago police. Both women were shot several times in the chest and died at University of Chicago Medical Center. A man was hit in the arm and was stabilized at St. Bernard Hospital.

Police had no motive and have made no arrests.

MASK founder Tamar Manasseh called the shooting “one of the saddest nights of my life.”

* Kelly Bauer at Block Club Chicago

Tamar Manasseh, the founder of the group, held a press conference at the corner Sunday. Manasseh’s work has led to investment in the area, including the creation of Block Academy, a community resource center that will give teens and young adults the opportunity to finish their high school education. […]

“Andrea and Chantell were the second and third women to be shot out here in a month,” [Manasseh] said. “I take that as a personal threat. When you come for one of us, you better believe they came for all of us.” […]

“The murder of a woman brought us to that corner, so there’s no way we’re going to let the murder of another drive us away.”

* The group has created a GoFundMe page to raise money for information about the killings

In the past month 3 young women, mothers, have been shot within a hundred feet of where MASKChicago/ Mothers & Men Against Senseless Killilng hang out, where our children come to play and eat dinner every night, where we have worked and invested in building a school and community resource center. On July 26th at 10 pm two of them died.

They weren’t in gangs, associating with the wrong people, in the wrong place at the wrong time, or any of the other things they tell us so we blame the victims instead of the shooters who no one seems to be able to catch.

They were just women, just like me, like you, and we have become the target of whomever these shooters are.


At this point, I don’t know if I’m more afraid for my life or what we are giving the children, our block and the entire community over to if our fear convinces us to leave our corner, abandon our mission, our school, and our people. Therefore, WE AREN’T GOING ANYWHERE.

The murder of a woman brought us to that corner, so there’s no way we’re going to let the murder of another drive us away.

We deserve to live without fear and the young women, Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire who were torn from their children and families on July 26th at the bus stop across from their homes on 75tb and Stewart, deserve justice.


*** UPDATED - Pritzker admin say it may not apply to Sterigenics *** Sen. Curran files bill to ban ethylene oxide, wants special session

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

As Willowbrook and surrounding communities continue their fight in court to keep Sterigenics closed, State Senator John Curran (R-Downers Grove) continues to work on legislative solutions to keep dangerous ethylene oxide emissions out of the communities.

“Sterigenics should not be allowed to reopen,” said Sen. Curran. “This facility has been leaking dangerous levels of ethylene oxide into the area for decades, and there has been zero accounting for the damage that they have already done.”

Curran has continued to file and advance legislation to protect the community since news of the issues first broke. He was recently able to pass legislation into law, SB1852, which created the strongest regulations in the nation on the deadly gas. Senator Curran believes the new law, along with existing laws, is more than enough to allow the Illinois EPA to deny Sterigenics any permit to use ethylene oxide in WIllowbrook.

However, the Illinois EPA and Attorney General’s office recently entered into an agreement that could possibly allow the Sterigenics facility to reopen, an agreement that also does not hold the company responsible for years of dangerous emissions. Curran is filing additional legislation to make sure the facility stays closed.

“The only way to guarantee the residents of Willowbrook and the surrounding communities clean air that is free of ethylene oxide today, tomorrow and for generations to come, is to completely eliminate the source of the contamination,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said. “I applaud Senator Curran for his continued efforts on behalf of the affected residents not only in his district but on behalf of all Illinoisans who have a right to breathe clean air.”

Senate Bill 2264 completely bans the use of ethylene oxide by CAAPP permit holders for most operations by January of 2021, and for all CAAPP permit holders by January of 2022. The dates are designed to help ensure a safe transition for the supply of critical medical devices. It also creates a strong financial disincentive for Sterigenics to spend millions of dollars in upgrades to attempt to meet the extremely stringent requirements of SB1852 for a very limited term of operation before the complete ban takes effect.

“I am grateful that Governor Pritzker has offered to call a special session to deal with this issue and that he has clearly stated that he supports a ban on the use of ethylene oxide,” said Sen. Curran. “The Governor has proven that he is able to use his position to push through major legislation and I look forward to working with him to advance this bill.”

Senator Curran also continues to support the legal efforts of Willowbrook and the surrounding communities to stop the existing seal order on Sterigenics from being lifted.

I’ve been saying for a while that DuPage County State’s Attorney Berlin is a big key to solving this. He and AG Raoul worked out the agreed order which allowed Sterigenics to reopen and now he’s supporting legislation to outright ban ethylene oxide.

I asked the governor’s office, the House Republicans and the Senate Democrats for a response.

…Adding… John Patterson with the Senate Democrats…

Thanks for letting me know about this, Rich.

We look forward to reviewing the legislation.

Translated: Curran didn’t reach out to the super-majority party before filing his bill.

* House GOP…

Rich - We, too, look forward to reviewing

*** UPDATE *** Governor’s office…

We are reviewing this legislation, but a preliminary analysis indicates it would not apply to Sterigenics, which will not require a CAAPP permit in the future. We remain open to working with members of the General Assembly on this issue.

…Adding… Press release…

Ethylene Oxide

Today, the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois issued the following statement after legislation was introduced in the State Senate to ban the use of ethylene oxide:

“We strongly oppose this effort to ban this critical chemical building block. Ethylene Oxide helps make many products Illinois families use every day, including certain plastics, adhesives, safety glass, textiles and personal care products. Critically, ethylene oxide supports our healthcare industry through the sterilization of medical supplies that are relied on by families across our state and region.

“Over 1,500 Illinois jobs would be directly impacted by a ban of ethylene oxide while countless other Illinois jobs dependent on products made with ethylene oxide would be affected.”

“Illinois already has the most stringent standards for ethylene oxide in the nation. Banning this important chemical would harm the healthcare industry our state relies on and unnecessarily burden businesses and consumers across our state.”


Godspeed and good luck

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Posted in full with permission from the Sun-Times. Here’s the paper’s editorial board

We’d like to take a moment to express our appreciation for the Illinois National Guard troops now headed to Afghanistan.

To them we say, “Godspeed and good luck.”

And thank you.

Your unselfish commitment to our country calls for recognition and commendation from every resident of Illinois and every American.

As Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at a send-off on the South Side, one of five such events across the state over the weekend, the young men and women of the 178th Infantry Regiment do indeed represent “the very best of our state.”

Their deployment — 400 men and women in uniform — is the largest mobilization of Illinois National Guard troops in more than 10 years.

Let’s take a moment, too, to send our best wishes to the families and friends of the troops, who will undergo training in Texas before heading to Afghanistan for a year.

National Guard members are citizen soldiers, not full-time military. The mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, grandparents and spouses and children of these men and women perhaps never expected to see their loved ones march off to a war zone.

Now they’ll spend the next year hoping and praying for a safe return.

American troops are no longer engaged in official combat in Afghanistan, but the danger is still very real: Just on Monday, two U.S. troops were killed by an Afghan soldier. In late June, two other American service members were killed.

So we join with the families to await the safe return of those 400 troops. And we remember the four members of the 178th Infantry who died in the regiment’s previous deployment to Afghanistan during 2008 and 2009.

America awaits the safe return of all 14,000 U.S. service members still deployed in Afghanistan today. Our nation has spent nearly two decades at war there, and the toll has been devastating: More than 2,400 troops killed and more than 20,000 left with crippling injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

And, by a United Nations estimate, more than 70,000 Afghan civilians have been killed.

The conflict drags on even as most of us here at home, cocooned from the dangers and the sorrow, all but forget.

Then 400 of our own, from the towns and cities of Illinois, join the battle.

And the praying and worrying begin anew.


Coli is cooperating with feds

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

…Adding… The plea agreement is here.

* Sun-Times

A onetime labor leader with ties to several prominent Illinois politicians is set to plead guilty in federal court Tuesday in a lesser-known extortion case that still threatens to reach deep into the state’s halls of power.

A federal grand jury accused Teamsters leader John T. Coli in 2017 of extorting $325,000 from Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, the clout-heavy studio that is home to such hit TV shows as “Chicago Fire” and “Empire.”

The case has quietly simmered in the background for the last few years. Since then, the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that the case against Coli was built with the help of Cinespace President Alexander S. “Alex” Pissios, who wore a wire against Coli.

Pissios told authorities that Coli had introduced him to Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel, as well as Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton. They all received campaign contributions from organizations under Coli’s control.

* And then a bombshell was dropped today…


Nobody was hurt and we didn’t lose, so count it as a win

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Missouri Times

Those rooting for the home team only had one chance at bat to do so. With the sky above Busch Stadium turning as dark blue as Missouri’s jerseys, the clouds unleashed the rain shortly after [Missouri] Rep. Travis Fitzwater got the game’s one and only hit, landing him on second base.

But then, amidst the jubilant — if not slightly astonished — cheers from both dugouts (after all, Illinois’s pitcher finally got the ball across home plate), the annual Bi-State Softball Showdown between the Show-Me State and the Land of Lincoln came to an abrupt halt.

The game was rained out after just one opportunity at bat. […]

Illinois captain and state Rep. Jay Hoffman alleged the rain delay was directly caused by a “rain dance” from the Missouri team; his allegations could not be corroborated by this reporter.

It was fun while it lasted, which wasn’t long.

* The evening was not without “controversy”…

Schmitt is Missouri’s attorney general. A ringer, in other words.

The St. Louis Regional Chamber really went all-out this year. They even had a brief fireworks show after the rain passed.

* But man did it ever rain…

* Post-game presser…

* Final score…


Bustos shakes up staff during DCCC turmoil

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Washington Examiner

Five more Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staffers were ousted yesterday just hours after the sudden resignation of executive director Allison Jaslow. The DCCC has been reportedly plagued with controversy over a perceived lack of diversity among its top ranks.

Jaslow, an Iraqi War veteran, was considered a close ally of DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos. She did not offer a specific reason for her departure yesterday. By the end of the day, communications director Jared Smith, communications aide Melissa Miller, political director Molly Ritner, deputy executive director Nick Pancrazio, and diversity director Van Ornelas had all tendered their resignations.

Top members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus have reportedly been fighting with Bustos over the lack of diversity, demanding more minorities comprise the senior staff of the committee. Meanwhile, an aide who came under fire for a series of past homophobic and racist tweets, Tayhlor Coleman, is still employed by the DCCC.

As the Washington Examiner reported yesterday, spokesperson for the Republican Party’s campaign arm Michael McAdams said, “Mutiny underway at Cheri Bustos’ DCCC. What a disaster for House Democrats.” Present figures, however, show the DCCC currently out-fundraising the GOP.

* Bustos statement

“Today has been a sobering day filled with tough conversations that too often we avoid, but I can say confidently that we are taking the first steps toward putting the DCCC back on path to protect and expand our majority, with a staff that truly reflects the diversity of our Democratic caucus and our party,” Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., the chairwoman, said in a statement.

* Politico

The staff turmoil follows criticism from many Democrats that Bustos has done little to address the lack of diversity in the upper ranks of the campaign arm since winning the chairmanship late last year.

Bustos also rankled some Democrats by routinely saying she was out to “finally” build a “world class” DCCC — which was perceived as a slight to the previous chairman, Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, who helped lead the party back to the majority after eight years out of power.

And lawmakers felt misled about Bustos’ handling of Tayhlor Coleman, a DCCC employee who came under fire for a series of derogatory tweets she sent nearly a decade ago disparaging the LGBTQ community and Hispanics. Coleman is still employed with the campaign arm.

A staff turnover of this magnitude seven months into the Democrats’ majority is jarring, and will present Bustos with a set of new challenges. She will be forced to rebuild the committee’s top leadership from scratch in the middle of a presidential campaign that has much of the party’s best talent tied up.

Bustos is, indeed, under a microscope. Democrats across the Capitol have privately griped about what they see as a subpar campaign committee with a chairwoman unresponsive to members’ concerns, and unable or unwilling to live up to her own promises to hire a diverse staff.


Rodney Davis hosts first public forum in years

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller


Hundreds of voters packed an auditorium at the Richland Community College Monday night to hear Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) answer questions from the public in his first open town hall-style event since the election of President Donald Trump.

Guests had to show government identification to enter the premises. Government staff approached several noisy critics throughout the energetic event, but ultimately did not remove them from the audience. Police officers in uniform guarded the doors while plainclothes officers peered through curtains and monitored a tense crowd from behind hallway doors.

Agitated activists booed and hissed while buoyant supporters clapped and cheered the incumbent Republican who navigated questions about his record and President Trump’s inflammatory tweets with more poise and grace than his rambunctious stage mate, state Representative Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur).

When a veteran man stood and accused Davis of ignoring what he saw as racism in the president’s tweets, Caulkins swooped in, chided the man, and asked “what does that have to do with this?”

Caulkins is a member of the Eastern Bloc.

* Herald & Review

[Herald & Review Editor Chris Coates, the night’s moderator] frequently had to shout over raucous interruptions from an audience who repeatedly engaged the politicians in one-on-one debates with their own impromptu yelled questions.

Caulkins, particularly, grew annoyed at a barrage of interruptions and engaged one audience heckler whom he asked to stand up. “If you don’t want to be part of this, if you don’t want to be civil about it, you can leave,” said Caulkins. “I got a right to speak,” replied the audience member.

“No, you don’t,” said Caulkins, as the two traded jabs on the nature of democracy and the forum.

Coates repeatedly managed to restore order and kept the questions and answers moving over a wide sweep of topics from the economy to healthcare, climate change, gun violence and voting fairness.

* The exchange was harsher than portrayed above…

* More…

* News-Gazette

— On Trump’s recent tweets and chants from his supporters at rallies, some of which have been described as racist by political opponents and others: “We need to tweet a lot less and govern a lot more.”

Speaking specifically about the president urging four non-white female Democratic members of Congress to go back to the countries they came from — three of the four were born in the U.S. — Davis said: “I do not think that was an appropriate thing to talk about.” […]

— On armed violence in America: “It is pretty tough answering a gun violence question when you have experience having to run from bullets without talking about it,” Davis said, referring to a gunman opening fire in 2017 during a Team GOP softball practice in Virginia.

“We were victims of gun violence from a crazed lunatic who was intoxicated by politics. We need to address the mental health crisis in this country.”

— On the Affordable Care Act: “Thank you, Obama, for the 60 million Americans who still don’t have coverage.”


College aid “scam” uncovered here

Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Bullet points…

* ProPublica Illinois

Dozens of suburban Chicago families, perhaps many more, have been exploiting a legal loophole to win their children need-based college financial aid and scholarships they would not otherwise receive, court records and interviews show. […]

Parents are giving up legal guardianship of their children during their junior or senior year in high school to someone else — a friend, aunt, cousin or grandparent. The guardianship status then allows the students to declare themselves financially independent of their families so they can qualify for federal, state and university aid, a ProPublica Illinois investigation found.

“It’s a scam,” said Andy Borst, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Wealthy families are manipulating the financial aid process to be eligible for financial aid they would not be otherwise eligible for. They are taking away opportunities from families that really need it.” […]

ProPublica Illinois found more than 40 guardianship cases fitting this profile filed between January 2018 and June 2019 in the Chicago suburbs of Lake County alone. The parents involved in these cases include lawyers, a doctor and an assistant schools superintendent, as well as insurance and real estate agents. A number of the children are high-achieving scholars, athletes and musicians who attend or have been accepted to a range of universities, from large public institutions, including the University of Wisconsin, the University of Missouri and Indiana University, to smaller private colleges.

Go read the rest. Sheesh. And keep in mind that the money for the state’s need-based MAP grants is never enough to cover all applicants. So, these kids could be taking grant money away from students who actually deserve it.



Tuesday, Jul 30, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller

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