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Question of the day

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the governor’s SOTS address

Honest members of the General Assembly from both sides of the aisle have some good ideas, and so do I.

It’s time to end the practice of legislators serving as paid lobbyists. In fact it’s time to end the for-profit influence peddling among all elected officials at every level of government in Illinois. Disclosure of conflicts of interest and punishment for breaching them must be included in any ethics package for us to truly clean up government. Most states have a revolving door provision for legislators, and it’s time for Illinois to join them. Elected officials shouldn’t be allowed to retire and immediately start lobbying their former colleagues. It’s wrong, and it’s got to stop.

* The Question: Your thoughts on these specific proposals?

  30 Comments      


Select react to the State of the State address

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* MJM…

Speaker Michael J. Madigan released the following statement Wednesday following Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s State of the State Address.

“I want to thank Governor Pritzker for offering a straightforward assessment of the state of our state. For the first time in a long time, we come into a legislative session with the opportunity to build on success. Last spring, we worked across the aisle to balance the budget; we enacted reforms backed by the state’s leading business groups that will help small and medium-sized employers grow; we created innovative new job training programs; we fought to rein in the cost of health care and prescription drugs; we took critical steps toward property tax relief; and we began the process of replacing Illinois’ unfair tax system with one that provides relief for the middle class while making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.

“There is more work to be done though. Building on this progress means we must continue to make the tough decisions to balance the budget and pay down old bills, while ensuring critical services like our schools, senior care, career and vocational education, domestic violence shelters and breast cancer screenings are funded.

“While we have seen major steps forward, we have also seen the good work of the many honest members of this Legislature be overshadowed too often by the wrongdoing of individuals who have sought to put themselves first. It’s clear that we must take significant steps within the coming weeks to restore confidence in state government. But let’s be clear: bad actors will always try to game the system and break the law. We must commit to sending the clearest sign the game is over and every step will be taken to prosecute.

“House Democrats stand ready to work with Governor Pritzker and our Republican colleagues to balance our budgets, enact lobbying and ethics reforms, make health care more affordable, expand educational opportunities to build an economy that works for all, and continue building a stronger Illinois.”

* Baise…

Statement attributable to Vote No on the Blank Check Amendment Chairman Greg Baise:

“Barely 24 hours after another legislator pleaded guilty to corruption, J.B. Pritzker wants the people of Illinois to trust Springfield politicians with more of their hard earned money.

“The governor’s message is clear. He and the Springfield insiders refuse to stop spending and now demand a blank check from middle class taxpayers.

“The people of Illinois already know taxes are too high, and this new costly income tax will just send more families and small business owners fleeing a state whose crushing tax burden is already unmatched anywhere else in the United States.”

* Chamber…

Illinois Chamber President and CEO Todd Maisch released the following statement on Governor Pritzke’s State of the State Address. “Governor Pritzker presented a positive view of his first year in office, much of which the Chamber agrees with. The Governor embraced pro-growth tax incentives - including the Chamber’s data center incentive legislation - championed by pro-business legislators. He has committed to a professional economic development program, greater investment in workforce development and expansion of access to advanced technology for small businesses.

While bipartisan gains are welcomed by the employer community, we need to remind policymakers of the negative impacts of misguided policies enacted in 2019. Small businesses will struggle mightily with the burden of a $15 minimum wage. The wage is unfairly set at $15 regardless of geography or wage rates that vary greatly in our diverse state. Also, the proposed progressive income tax eliminates our current, true Fair Tax. It is already having a chilling effect on employers’ willingness to invest in Illinois.

A focus on our greatest job producers, small business, must be a priority in 2020 to balance the negative effects of 2019 policies. The Governor has demonstrated a good understanding of issues that impact small businesses, but still has pursued detrimental legislation. 2020 represents an opportunity to offer them more support with bipartisan policies to move our state forward.”

* IMA…

“Manufacturers across Illinois have demonstrated a commitment to working with Governor Pritzker and lawmakers to enact policies that move our state forward, create jobs and invest in our workforce. Last year, we worked together to enact an historic infrastructure bill, invest in apprenticeships, and commit to research & development which is the lifeblood of manufacturing innovation,” said Mark Denzler, president & CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “We look forward to partnering with the Governor to further strengthen our education system and reduce the overwhelming property tax burden on Illinois businesses and families. However, moving to a graduated income tax system and hiking energy costs on businesses that create jobs and drive our economy is the wrong approach.”

* CFL…

Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter released the following statement in response to Gov. Pritzker’s State of the State Address:

“Since Gov. Pritzker took office last year, the people of Illinois have witnessed a dramatic turnaround. From the approval of a bipartisan balanced budget to passage of the desperately needed capital plan, this Administration has found ways to work constructively with legislators to move the needle for working families. Because of our collective efforts over the past year, the working class of Illinois will see higher pay, more worker protections, expanded healthcare, and a dramatically revitalized state infrastructure. These are big wins for a state that was in desperate need of real leadership from its Governor’s office.

“Clearly, however, there is more work to be done. There are still too many workers struggling to make ends meet and too many families looking outside of Illinois for opportunity. I am encouraged to see Gov. Pritzker propose real solutions to tackle our long-term challenges head-on in today’s speech. From instituting the Fair Tax to passing a balanced budget to rebuilding the hollowed-out shell of state government, the Chicago labor movement stands ready to work with this Administration to continue the momentum of positive change we’ve built over the last 12 months.

“The state of our state is stronger than it has been in years, and together we will make 2020 another year of incredible progress for Illinois workers.”

More here.

  11 Comments      


State of the State open thread

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Click here to find the live feed. The text of the speech will likely be at this link somewhere.

…Adding… Text…

The following are the Governor’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Speaker Madigan, President Harmon, Leader Durkin, Leader Brady, Lieutenant Governor Stratton, my fellow constitutional officers, members of the General Assembly, distinguished guests and people of Illinois –

I want to begin by thanking the First Lady of Illinois, my wife, MK – With quiet strength and with little fanfare, you’ve worked hard over the last year to make this state more inclusive and welcoming to all, from DuQuoin to Springfield to Chicago, caring about and advocating for some of our state’s most vulnerable people. I want to say thank you for making some important aspects of Illinois shine once again.

To now former Senate President John Cullerton: I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for your many years of service to our state. You have always fought for your constituents and for all the people of Illinois with a clear devotion, with a vision to advance this state as a national leader in healthcare, education and civil rights, and with a willingness to listen and seek compromise at just the right moments. John, you’ve brought kindness and humor in even the toughest days in the General Assembly, and everyone on both sides of the aisle in this chamber will miss you as you embark on a new chapter of your life with your beloved wife Pam, who has made so many personal sacrifices over the last 41 years, as many unsung heroic spouses do. On behalf of a grateful state, we thank you both.

And in turn, I look forward to working with our new Senate President, a friend and ally for more than a quarter century and a long-time champion of the Fair Tax amendment, Don Harmon.

My friends, it has been a little over a year since I was inaugurated Governor. I have a real abiding love for the work I do every day… and a deep respect for how fundamentally humbling it is to serve in this office.

Illinois is a state with a grand history of profound impact on our nation and our world. We’ve sent four transformative Presidents to the White House. We were the first state to ratify two of the most important amendments to the U.S. Constitution, one abolishing slavery and another granting women the right to vote. The first cell phone was invented here. So was the first television remote control and the first widely used internet browser.

What all these things have in common is that they were the product of the talented and forward-thinking people of our state.

Illinois is great because our people are great.

That’s why it’s been important to me as governor to listen – truly to hear people from across our state who come with passion and perspective that’s different than my own. Keeping an open door policy means that I’ve been rewarded with a wealth of constructive feedback, advice and help from Democrats and Republicans alike – an indication that perhaps, here in Illinois, we are not as divided in our values and goals as some would have you believe.

Our state has challenges. We inherited a mess that was years in the making, and it had bipartisan roots. On day one it was clear to me that we had a government infrastructure that had withered from neglect and a lack of public trust. At times, it seemed like even the most basic things – like getting a government-issued iPad to work – were hard to do.

But one thing I know in life is that if you want to make profound change in a broken system, you have to do the next good thing that needs to get done. Big problems become big problems when you let small problems sit.

Let me share one small example: The story of the Thompson Center flags.

Sometime last summer, a watchful Twitter citizen noticed that the flags flying outside the state government building in Chicago, the James R. Thompson Center, were hanging a bit haphazardly from their rods, dangling by their last threads.

I have to admit, I didn’t notice it. In fact no one among the 2,000 people working there seemed to notice it – maybe because you could spend all day noticing things dangling by their last threads in the Thompson Center if you tried.

So we did a little research and found that the flags used to be serviced by a small, fourth generation family-owned business in Chicago that has tended Illinois’ flags for a century’s worth of parades, state visits, and sports championships.

But during the last few years – you guessed it – the flag company stopped getting paid. Like so many other small businesses in Illinois that were caught up in the budget impasse, this company did their best, but the Thompson Center flags ended up falling into disrepair.

Once the dangling flags were brought to my attention, we contacted the company and heard their story. We immediately paid them what they were owed, and the next weekend they came with a huge ladder truck and fixed it so our state’s flags flew straight once again.

As it turns out, fixing those flags made people really happy. In fact it’s the most pleased Twitter has ever been with me. I think it’s because this simple story about a flag at the Thompson Center is a metaphor for where state government has been – and where it’s going. And it reminded me that - we have a choice about how we tell our story. We could spend our time reliving every past failure, every bygone insult and fight – or we could fix things and be ardent voices on behalf of an agenda of opportunity in the years ahead. The last year has shown what we can do when we roll up our sleeves and work together to restore stability to our state.

Those who would shout doom and gloom might be loud – using social media bots and paid hacks to advance their false notions – but they are not many. You see, we’re wresting the public conversation in Illinois back from people concerned with one thing and one thing only — predicting total disaster, spending hundreds of millions of dollars promoting it, and then doing everything in their power to make it happen.

I’m here to tell the carnival barkers, the doomsayers, the paid professional critics – the State of our State is growing stronger each day.

Don’t believe me? Consider these facts…

Today the Illinois economy supports 6.2 million jobs. This is the most jobs on record for our state, and we now have the lowest unemployment rate in history. Last year, for the first time in nearly 20 years, every major region in our state was growing simultaneously – and even more remarkably, communities in southern Illinois like Carbondale have led that growth. Over the past year, Illinois has reduced its unemployment rate more than ALL of the top twenty most populated states in the nation — and more than our Midwestern peers.

237 Illinois businesses from all over the state made Inc Magazine’s List of Fastest Growing Businesses in the Nation, including companies in Columbia and Rock Island, St. Charles and O’Fallon, Taylorville and Chicago.

Student applications to Illinois’ public universities increased last fall for the first time in many years. Illinois is the second-largest producer of computer science degrees in the nation, accounting for nearly 10 percent of all computer science degrees awarded in the entire United States.

Our great state has an awful lot that’s going right.

And just look at what a difference a year can make.

We passed a bipartisan, truly balanced budget on time, with renewed investments in job creation, cradle to career education, and physical and mental healthcare. Even the credit rating agencies and financial analysts described a “distinct improvement” in our fiscal stability, and investors took notice and lowered our state’s borrowing rate.

A balanced budget is an important accomplishment, but it’s more than just about fiscal discipline. It’s a moral document that reflects our values as a state.

Thirteen years ago, Bonnie Brackett and her family opened the doors on a new family business: Heartland Kids Early Learning Center in Marion, Illinois. Over the years, hundreds of Williamson County’s babies and toddlers have gone through her program, which is one of the top-ranked in the state.

But as with hundreds of childcare providers across Illinois and more than ten thousand parents, the budget crisis became Bonnie’s crisis and disrupted families across the area. At one point, Bonnie’s staff dropped to a low of 14 teachers from a high of 21.

Bonnie, one of only three childcare centers in Marion, almost had to close her doors.

But this year, with the increase in state funding for childcare that we announced in December, Bonnie is not only able to stay in business but has a plan for teacher training, rebuilding enrollment, classroom improvements, and even beginning the process of hiring more staff. Now, thanks to our bipartisan investments, dozens more parents in Marion can go to work, and Bonnie can get back to the business that matters most to her: caring for the children of Southern Illinois.

Bonnie Brackett is here today, and we want to thank her for all she does for her community, for our kids, and for our state.

For the first time in a decade, we passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Rebuild Illinois will create and support 500,000 jobs in the state as we fix our aging and crumbling roads and bridges, bring broadband to parts of the state that are internet deserts, as well as modernize our hospitals, our community centers, our state police facilities, our universities and colleges – all of the things that keep us going and growing.

Over the last several months I’ve had the pleasure of attending many local events celebrating the jobs and projects that Rebuild Illinois is bringing to our communities. Most times those events are attended by legislators and mayors and local officials of both political parties, and it’s clear that when we stand together in front of the public and talk about what we are doing together to literally rebuild bridges and roads and childcare centers and schools – we restore a little bit of the public’s trust that has been lost in government institutions at all levels in the past few decades.

Rebuild Illinois is about more than just roads, bridges and universities; it’s about jobs: middle class careers with wages and benefits, the kind of jobs that help you raise a family. And together, we did more to make these jobs more inclusive and diverse, by investing in the Illinois Works program to recruit new construction apprentices and set strong goals for our public works projects to include diverse employees.

With me today is Reggie Marizetts Junior, a first-year apprentice with Laborers’ Local 165 in Peoria. Reggie fell in love with hands-on work early in his life, and it’s his apprenticeship where he is learning all the skills to succeed not just now, but for decades to come. Reggie intends to become a full-time journeyman and later to pursue his lifelong dream: opening a father-son construction company with his dad. Reggie, please stand so we can cheer for your hard work and your bright future.

Over the next six years, in addition to our expansion of apprenticeships, Rebuild Illinois will transform our infrastructure – even as we create a lot more opportunities for Reggie and thousands of young people just like him, with steady work that will help make sure that our economy works for everyone.

Last year we made enormous strides toward equality and opportunity when Democrats and Republicans came together to legalize adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric legislation in the nation which will result in 63,000 new jobs, and new opportunities for entrepreneurs, especially those from communities that have been left behind. It gives us a chance to collect tax revenue from the residents of Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Indiana, and most importantly, we’re giving a second chance to hundreds of thousands of people who had a low level cannabis conviction or arrest on their record.

The bipartisan License to Work Act that I signed two weeks ago ended the practice of revoking driver’s licenses for unpaid parking tickets and fines – because often the only way someone has to pay their parking ticket is if they can travel to work. We restored driving privileges to more than 50,000 people.

When public policy makes it a crime to be poor, it ends up costing us all. The situation you may be born into, the struggles you may be born with — even the struggles you never expected to be your own — should not be allowed to write your entire future.

We’ve also begun the long work of tackling our pension problems. In addition to expanding our state pension buyout program, in the fall veto session we accomplished something that eluded governors and General Assemblies for almost 75 years by consolidating 650 downstate and suburban first responder pension systems – which will alleviate local property tax burdens and strengthen the funds that offer a decent retirement to our police and firefighters.

Maybe more significantly – the bill we passed was supported by both a leading progressive Representative, Will Guzzardi, AND an outspoken conservative Senator, Dan McConchie.

All I can say is, anything is possible.

We did big things to help people. Real people who live and work here every day. We raised the minimum wage, advanced equal pay for women and minorities, provided millions of Illinoisans relief from high interest on consumer debt, and expanded health care to tens of thousands more people across the state.

We are reaffirming that our most important commitments are to our children and their education. Mark my words, Illinois will be the best state in the nation to raise a young family. Today, 20,000 more kids are getting childcare, and thousands more are going to preschool. To address our state’s shortage of teachers, we raised the minimum teacher salary so we can retain educators in Illinois, and we made it more attractive for out-of-state teachers to move here. We made it easier for high school graduates to get a skilled wage by expanding vocational training and career and technical education for the first time in a decade. And after years of decline, we are turning around university student enrollment by making college more affordable, expanding scholarships to an additional 10,000 college-bound students – and this fall, more than half of the families in our state will be eligible for free tuition at the University of Illinois.

We made healthcare more available – and more affordable.

Working with Senator Andy Manar, we capped out-of-pocket insulin costs at $100 for a 30-day supply so that no one in Illinois has to decide between buying food and paying for the medicine they need to stay alive.

We expanded insurance coverage for mammograms and reproductive health. And we protected people who need treatment for life-threatening allergic reactions.

Overall, the number of opioid related deaths are declining.

We diminished dependence on opioids by reforming the medical cannabis program to cover chronic pain conditions, and we’re focused on using evidence-based practices to reduce racial disparities as we continue to battle the opioid crisis.

In the face of the resurgences of measles, mumps and other diseases, we restored federal funding of our state immunization program — which was shut down under the previous administration.

We raised the age to buy cigarettes and vaping products to 21, so we can reduce youth tobacco use.

We stood up for human rights and civil rights when we put Donald Trump on notice that Illinois will not be complicit in his shameful and draconian immigration policies.

We opted in — to welcoming refugees to Illinois – continuing a proud tradition in this state that stretches back to my great grandparents, welcomed here a century ago after fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe.

We invested in public safety by expanding the number of new Illinois State Troopers. And we’re building a new state police forensics lab so we can solve crimes faster and address the backlog of DNA testing of rape evidence — because crime victims shouldn’t have to wait for justice.

We stopped bad-mouthing the state and started passing laws that make Illinois more attractive for businesses and jobs. Working across the aisle, we brought tax relief for 300,000 small businesses through the phase out of the corporate franchise tax. And we laid the groundwork for new high-paying tech jobs by opening new business incubators, by incentivizing the building of new data centers, and by investing $100 million in a University of Illinois and University of Chicago partnership that will make Illinois the quantum computing capital of the world.

Jobs and businesses are coming to this state because we are investing in the things that have always made us great: a skilled workforce, modern infrastructure, great public schools, top research universities, a robust agricultural sector, and a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship literally built into the steel frames of our skyscrapers – themselves a symbol of Illinois’ ambition and belief in the future.

By almost every measure, over the past year we’ve improved the financial wellbeing, health, education and safety of the residents of Illinois – and we did it working together.

And now we have to work together to confront a scourge that has been plaguing our political system for far too long. We must root out the purveyors of greed and corruption — in both parties — whose presence infects the bloodstream of government. It’s no longer enough to sit idle while under-the-table deals, extortion, or bribery persist. Protecting that culture or tolerating it is no longer acceptable. We must take urgent action to restore the public’s trust in our government. That’s why we need to pass real, lasting ethics reform this legislative session.

Honest members of the General Assembly from both sides of the aisle have some good ideas, and so do I.

It’s time to end the practice of legislators serving as paid lobbyists. In fact it’s time to end the for-profit influence peddling among all elected officials at every level of government in Illinois. Disclosure of conflicts of interest and punishment for breaching them must be included in any ethics package for us to truly clean up government. Most states have a revolving door provision for legislators, and it’s time for Illinois to join them. Elected officials shouldn’t be allowed to retire and immediately start lobbying their former colleagues. It’s wrong, and it’s got to stop.

There are many more ethics reforms that must be addressed this spring, and I expect the legislature’s bipartisan ethics commission to issue its report in the next 8 weeks. Restoring the public’s trust is of paramount importance. Let’s not let the well-connected and well-protected work the system while the interests of ordinary citizens are forgotten. There is too much that needs to be accomplished to lift up all the people of Illinois.

The overwhelming majority of people involved with government and public policy and politics here in Illinois truly just want what is best for this state. From legislators to citizen activists to reporters – they chisel away at intractable problems and put their shoulders into making real, lasting institutional change. They don’t get distracted or dejected – whether they are battling poverty, fighting for increased education funding, or fixing the unglamorous but essential problems of our state’s IT infrastructure. Illinois is full of people who love our state and are willing to work earnestly every day to fight for her.

Which is why we have to be committed to the hard work of changing another aspect of the political culture in this state that has too often rewarded a go-along-to-get-along attitude at the expense of truly ethical conduct.

When I took office a year ago, I hired people who came from all walks of life, all different backgrounds – who were diverse in gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, geography and life experience and whose only loyalty is to good ideas and good results. And I took heat for it from some who had been here a very long time. Many were incredulous that I wasn’t just automatically hiring the same old faces that get jobs year in and year out.

A commitment to diversity and inclusion is not just a talking point for me, and I hope that the past year has proven that. I have an administration that looks far more like the state we represent than any that has come before it. I have elevated talented people who have been overlooked for far too long, and our state is doing better because of it.

Change needs to happen. And much of this change needs to happen outside of the scope of legislation. It’s about how we, as public officials, conduct ourselves in private that also matters. Common sense and basic decency need to prevail in the everyday interactions that make government work. People need to treat disgusting suggestions with disgust. The old patronage system needs to die…finally and completely. The input of women and people of color need to be treated as essential to decision making – not as some token show of diversity.

Bit by bit, inch by inch, I am working hard to reverse the harm that has been done to people and communities that have been left behind over many generations by government policies and elected officials who were content to simply ignore them. I remind myself every day that I have obligations not just to the current people of Illinois, but to the many people who preceded us who were discriminated against, harmed, treated as lesser, and forgotten – lasting damage that echoes through too many communities today. We are obligated to make our future more equitable and fair.

I came into this office with the message that I am committed to doing things differently in my administration. A lot of folks didn’t believe me a year ago. Now you can see how far we can come in a year – even when work still remains.

It’s time for us to recommit ourselves to the hard work of bringing prosperity and opportunity to all communities in Illinois through a fairer tax system, job creation, education and job training programs, child care and pre-school, and a focus on building essential tools of success such as high-speed Internet in all corners of our state.

This spring, working with legislators, we will begin the long path toward a fairer criminal justice system. That starts with phasing out cash bail and following many of the recommendations made by the bipartisan criminal justice reform commission created by my predecessor, most of whose ideas were never adopted because of the rancor and dysfunction.

Our spring agenda must also address the pressing issue of adopting new clean energy legislation that reduces carbon pollution, promotes renewable energy, and accelerates electrification of our transportation sector. We saw the effects of climate change right here in Illinois last year with a polar vortex, devastating floods, record lake levels, and emergency declarations in more than a third of Illinois’ counties.

Urgent action is needed — but let me be clear, the old ways of negotiating energy legislation are over. It’s time to put consumers and climate first. I’m not going to sign an energy bill written by the utility companies.

Property taxes in Illinois are simply too high. That’s why it’s time to put the best ideas to work from both sides of the aisle. Local governments continue to max out their levies even when they don’t need to. There are perverse incentives in state law that encourage that. We can change the law to support local governments and lower property taxes. And with nearly 7,000 units of government in Illinois, it’s time to empower local taxpayers to consolidate or eliminate them. These changes, along with our landmark pension reform that consolidated police and firefighter pensions, can make a serious dent in property taxes.

Today in Illinois we are governing with our heads and our hearts. In a time when cynicism has too often become the rule rather than the exception, we’re proving that we really can make progress. We’re showing the rest of the nation what pragmatic progressive leadership looks like – and putting our state back on the side of working families.

A year ago, I shared a story at my Inauguration. It was also about flags – about how a couple in Barrington, Illinois, had their Pride flag stolen from their backyard and replaced with an American flag.

Bigots wrapping themselves in a veil of patriotism are an increasingly familiar sight these days, and it’s a dangerous trend.

But the community fought back. A neighbor, Kim Filian, upon hearing about the incident, put a Pride flag in her yard in solidarity. And then suddenly lots of people were asking for them, and she was giving out Pride flags to everyone in Barrington – they were popping up in yards all over the neighborhood.

Kim told the news at the time: “Frankly, I’ve grown weary of this, of all this hate. And I gotta say, it just seemed like there was one thing that I could do that I had control of.”

I’ve thought a lot about that story this past year. It reminds me of the fundamental goodness and decency of the people who live here in Illinois and about how hard they will fight for each other.

It reminds me that we all ought to think a little like Kim Filian every day – to remember the things we have control of.
So this past June, I asked Secretary of State Jesse White to fly a Pride flag over the Illinois state capitol for the first time in our history. After all, we have a choice about how we tell our story, and I want our Illinois story to be one of hope, inclusion, opportunity and kindness. I want it to be inspired every day by the fundamental goodness of the people who live and work here and who struggle so hard for a fair shot.

Those are good ideals to live by. Those are good ideals to govern by. Let’s all try to remember them in the year ahead.

Thank you.

  49 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - More Senate stuff

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Cunningham is new Senate President Pro Tempore

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I told subscribers about this yesterday

New Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, announced his leadership team Tuesday on the first day of the 2020 legislative session.

Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, will remain the chamber’s majority leader, while Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, will become an assistant majority leader and president pro tempore — a position once held by Harmon under former President John Cullerton before he changed the caucus’ leadership structure.

Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines, will serve in another newly created position — that of deputy majority leader.

Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, previously a majority caucus whip, will ascend to assistant majority leader as well. She joins Sens. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, and Tony Munoz, D-Chicago, who all already held assistant majority leader positions and will retain them.

Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan) is no longer an Assistant Majority Leader. He’s expected to retire in the coming days. Go read the rest.

* Here’s Cunningham at the 2015 Chicago Marathon…

Caption?

  30 Comments      


It’s just a bill

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* WSIL TV

Illinois House Republicans presented their 2020 legislative agenda Tuesday. Their main areas of focus are property tax relief, legislative redistricting and ethics reform.

House Minority Leader Jim Durkin says “these are interesting times” as Democrats have worked with Republicans on a balanced budget and pro-business laws. He says work on property taxes and fair maps should continue with bipartisan efforts. […]

Rep. Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) says Democrats should work with their colleagues across the aisle to hold themselves accountable.

“Let’s move these pieces of legislation - revolving door prohibition, no lobbyist legislators, and expanding the statement of economic interest to the level of judges,” Wehrli said. “These are things that we all agree upon, bipartisan support. Let’s get them done.”

* Center Square

Illinois lawmakers want to allow for abused cats and dogs to have legal representation in court.

Proposed legislation filed by State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, would have the Illinois Department of Natural Resources create a county-by-county database of legal professionals, from lawyers to paralegals to experts on animal abuse, willing to step in on a dog or cat’s behalf when a person is facing punishment for neglecting or abusing them.

“You have abusers of animals that effectively get off with little to no punishment,” Skillicorn said. “No one’s really looking out for animals that could be physically abused.”

The bill is limited to dogs and cats. The motion to appoint a special legal aid for the animal may be made by any party in the court.

* Center Square

[Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield], along with state Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, introduced legislation to create a compact among states so that member states won’t offer tax breaks to companies in exchange for corporate investment.

“If we’re going to claim that small businesses are the engine of our economy, we need to give them the level playing field to succeed,” Villivalam said.

So far, seven other states have introduced similar legislation. New York Assemblyman Ron T. Kim introduced legislation in that state in October 2019. In Florida, state Sen. Anna Eskamani filed the “Interstate Compact Agreement to Phase Out Corporate Giveaways” Act last month. Republican State Rep. Bill Plett of New Hampshire filed House Bill 1132, which was scheduled to be heard in committee Tuesday. Senate Bill 121 was filed in West Virginia earlier this month, with Iowa and Maryland following suit. […]

Kansas and Missouri enacted a truce via executive orders that they would not offer each other’s businesses tax incentives to get them to cross the border.

The Illinois bill is structured in a way that would not mean Illinois would be alone in ending the use of incentives to attract businesses, Morgan said. It would only take effect when both states have enacted the legislation. It wouldn’t end the practice of giving out incentives for businesses already in Illinois either.

More from Capitol News Illinois

Senate Bill 2502 and House Bill 4138 would enter Illinois into the Phase Out Corporate Giveaways Interstate Compact. That would involve an agreement not to use tax incentives or grants to lure a specific company away from any other compact member for the purposes of relocating a corporate headquarters, manufacturing facility, office space or other retail development.

That prohibition, however, would not apply to tax incentives that are available generally to all businesses such as workforce development grants. It also would not apply to company-specific incentives offered by local governments or incentives offered to companies already located in Illinois.

The bills also call for establishing a national board that would make recommendations about how to phase out other kinds of corporate incentives.

Although the initiative is being sponsored by two Democrats, it also has the backing of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which was founded in 2004 by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

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See you after the State of the State address!

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a compensated advertisement.]

* Both the House and the Senate have canceled tomorrow’s session, so stop by before you head home

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Sandoval roundup

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Here you go…

* Read the 27-page plea agreement and charging documents against ex-state Sen. Martin Sandoval

* Guilty plea lays bare ex-state Sen. Martin Sandoval’s greed in red-light camera bribery scheme. ‘So why don’t I get that offer?’: Sandoval’s 27-page plea agreement laid bare a striking level of greed, even in a state accustomed to elected officials going off to prison for trading political power for cash.

* Former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleads guilty to tax fraud, bribery charges: As part of a plea agreement, Sandoval has agreed to fully and truthfully cooperate in any matter in which he is called upon by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Sandoval admitted in the plea agreement that he solicited and accepted financial and other benefits from an individual affiliated with a Chicago-area red-light camera company, in return for Sandoval using his official position as a state senator to block legislation harmful to the red-light-camera industry, the release said. Sandoval also admitted he engaged in corrupt activities with other public officials and accepted money from other individuals in return for using his official position to attempt to benefit those individuals and their business interests. Sandoval admitted accepting more than $250,000 in bribes as part of criminal activity that involved more than five participants, officials said.

* Ex-Sen. Martin Sandoval said he was going ‘balls to the walls’ for red-light camera company for thousands in bribes: Sandoval could be seen wiping his face with his hands before the judge took the bench, and he only spoke when questioned by the judge. At one point, he seemed to inadvertently reveal the identity of SafeSpeed, which had been referred to in court records only as “Company A.” “I accepted money in exchange for the use of my office as state senator to help SafeSpeed — Company A,” Sandoval told the judge.

* Ex-state Sen. Martin Sandoval charged with bribery in red-light camera scheme: A 2017 Chicago Tribune investigation documented how Sandoval intervened on behalf of SafeSpeed to push state transportation officials to change their stance and allow the company’s cameras to be installed at the relatively safe intersection of Illinois Route 83 and 22nd Street in Oakbrook Terrace. The push came even though the Illinois Department of Transportation’s policies required that cameras target dangerous corners to improve safety.

* Who will Sandoval take down with him?: In total, he got $70,000 in payments from an red-light company that is not identified in the charges. Which leaves the question of where the other $180,000 in bribes Sandoval admitted to came from.

* Former Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval Promised To Go ‘Balls To The Wall’ For Red Light Camera Firm SafeSpeed: However, according to a search warrant from a federal raid on Sandoval’s home and offices last September indicates the feds are casting a wide net in their ongoing corruption probe. The warrant revealed federal investigators were seeking evidence related to a vast array of subjects — including SafeSpeed; ComEd; Cook County Commissioner and McCook Village President Jeff Tobolski; businessman Michael Vondra; video gambling company Gold Rush Gaming; several unnamed Illinois Department of Transportation officials; and several asphalt, concrete, and construction companies. Lausch declined to speculate why Sandoval would have taken bribes after so many public officials in Illinois have been convicted of similar crimes.

* Ex-Illinois lawmaker Martin Sandoval charged with red-light camera bribery: Sandoval also was charged with a count of filing a false tax return. It accuses him of misstating his income in a 2017 return when he indicated he made around $125,000. His income “substantially exceeded that amount” and Sandoval knew it, the filing says.

* Former IL Sen. Martin Sandoval pleads guilty to bribery, will assist corruption probe: Sandoval is the fourth Illinois politician to face corruption charges since last January. Last fall, federal agents raided Sandoval’s home and offices. He resigned from the senate after. “It is a very stubborn problem we seem to have here in Illinois,” Lausch said.

* Former State Senator Martin Sandoval pleads guilty in bribery scheme: “I don’t know if I’ve ever been more embarrassed than watching the federal government cart cardboard boxes out of the Capitol. It turned my stomach,” newly elected Senate President Don Harmon said of the FBI’s Sept. 24 raids of Sandoval’s offices.

* Ex-Sen. Martin Sandoval Pleads Guilty to Bribery, Tax Offense: Until his resignation, Sandoval had represented the 11th Senate District - encompassing parts of Chicago’s Southwest Side and the surrounding suburbs - since 2003. Democratic leaders selected freshman state Rep. Celina Villanueva to fill the vacancy earlier this month.

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Frank and Cinda Edwards perish in plane crash

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sean Crawford

Sources have confirmed former Springfield Mayor Frank Edwards and his wife Cinda, the Sangamon County Coroner, died when a twin engine plane crashed Tuesday afternoon. A third unidentified person also died, along with a dog on board.

The plane had left Florida and stopped for gas in Alabama. It was headed for the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.

“The tower reported the plane was having trouble on approach due to weather and its instruments,” said Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell. “The plane apparently tried to make a circle around Springfield where they could come in again. At that time is when the tower lost contact with the plane.”

The Piper Aerostar went down in a field and caught fire on the southeast side of Springfield, near Rochester. The crash site, near White Timber Road, was only about 75 feet from a house, said Campbell. No one on the ground was injured, but some residents were evacuated as a precaution.

My deepest sympathies to the family and to the coroner’s staff who had to respond to this tragedy. That must’ve been just horrible.

* Bernie

Residents in the area said they heard “a loud boom” as the plane crashed.

“I was sitting in my chair in the living room. I heard the explosion and thought it was an unusual sound,” said Ward 1 Ald. Chuck Redpath, who lives near the scene. “I ran over to the crash site and the plane was already engulfed when I got there. There were a handful of people, police officers and the fire department, on the scene already. The flames were so high, about 30 feet that no one was getting close. It was a scene you don’t want to see.”

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ISP starting to get a handle on DNA testing backlog

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Jerry Nowicki at Capitol News Illinois

When an Illinois Senate panel met last March to discuss the state’s backlog of untested forensic evidence, there were more than 70 DNA samples in murder cases more than a year old awaiting action from Illinois State Police forensic investigators.

That number is down to 14, representatives of the Illinois State Police told the same Senate Public Health Committee on Tuesday, but they noted the number is still too high and standard wait times for DNA processing are still too long. […]

ISP Director Brendan Kelly said there are several challenges facing the agency, but around October, the completion of DNA tests began outpacing the number of tests coming in for the first time in years.

The average time for processing DNA evidence is about 215 days, or seven months, Kelly said, adding that the goal was to get to six months. That number shrank from 288 days in September.

I would suggest that six months is still too long.

* WCIA

Kelly made a point to include references to increased numbers of qualified staff available because of a positive state budget counteracting previous cuts. He stated completion rates of biology/DNA assignments finally outpaced the incoming evidence with the backlog decreasing 16% since last year.

Regarding 70 unsolved Chicago homicide cases with DNA evidence at the lab discussed in a previous committee meeting, Assistant Deputy Director Woolery stated testing on all but two cases has been completed and the two outstanding cases were awaiting court action.

  4 Comments      


Kinzinger praises Illinois nukes, demands action, but won’t say if he supports another bailout

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* US Rep. Adamn Kinzinger penned an op-ed this week about the crucial nuclear energy sector in Illinois. His conclusion

Unfortunately, due to laws and regulations in Illinois, these federal proposals won’t be enough. The most effective and necessary actions to help save our nuclear fleet can only come from Springfield — from the Governor and General Assembly. If state officials fail to act, our nuclear generating stations will close. If that occurs, we face the prospect of blackouts, unreliable electricity costs, increased gas emissions, and job losses statewide. The lost tax revenue would hurt our communities and make it difficult to pay for things like high quality schools and the critical local services we rely on daily.

Now is the time to act. If you’re concerned about this impending crisis like I am, please contact your representation in Springfield. This is too important of an issue not to act, and quite frankly, the future of Illinois depends on it.

* Kinzinger’s spokesperson sent me a copy of the op-ed and I followed up…

I read that this week and am not clear on what he wants the state to do. Should the state, for instance, approve Exelon’s request for yet another bailout?

From last October

The threat is explicit now.

Springfield will have to swallow hard and agree to legislation next spring to rescue Exelon’s financially ailing Illinois nuclear fleet despite the legal cloud enveloping the company, or the company will move to close plants. That was the message CEO Chris Crane delivered on a Halloween earnings call with analysts.

For good measure, he added a fourth plant to the three the company already has said are at risk of early closure.

Now in the crosshairs: Exelon’s LaSalle power station in addition to the previously identified Byron, Braidwood and Dresden plants. Two other Illinois nukes, Clinton and Quad Cities, already are benefiting from more than $200 million a year in ratepayer subsidies, enacted in the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act.

* The reply…

Hi Rich – thanks for reaching out on this. To answer your question, the Congressman understands and appreciates that this issue is complex, fluid, and delicate. Given the consequences associated with retiring any of our Illinois nuclear generating stations early, the Congressman felt it was important to make the public aware of the situation and instill some urgency, but did not feel it would be productive to make hardline, specific demands.

  20 Comments      


Pritzker’s opioid executive order praised

Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release from earlier this week…

Building on the state’s commitment to address the opioid crisis, Governor Pritzker today signed Executive Order 2020-02 to better address racial disparities in responding to the opioid crisis by establishing the Governor’s Opioid Overdose Prevention and Recovery Steering Committee. Illinois is also dedicating $4.1 million state dollars to expand recovery and prevention services for individuals with opioid use disorder in all corners of the state.

This year, Illinois saw the first decrease in five years in opioid overdose deaths. Despite this decrease, opioid overdose deaths among white residents in Illinois decreased 7% in 2018 while deaths among African Americans increased 9.1% and deaths among Latinos increased by 4.3%.

“This executive order begins an effort to achieve social equity as we work to end the opioid crisis in Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We will coordinate innovative, evidence-based approaches in partnership with harm-reduction organizations, establish local systems of care in disproportionately impacted communities, and create a comprehensive statewide opioid plan. I’m equally proud to announce that my administration is increasing our state investment in this fight by over $4 million in this fiscal year. Illinois has made great strides in responding to the opioid crisis that has swept the nation,but our work won’t be done until all our residents have the opportunity to live their most fulfilling lives.”

The Governor’s Office in conjunction with the state’s Opioid Crisis Response Advisory Council will create an Opioid Social Equity Committee to make policy recommendations regarding how to address social and racial disparities in the opioid crisis response. They will also establish local recovery-oriented systems of care councils in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the crisis in order to reach out to and engage individuals in all stages of recovery.

The Executive Order also focuses on harm reduction strategies that promote safer use of opioids to save lives. These strategies will help reduce both the risks of infectious HIV, HCV and Hepatitis A and fatal overdoses. This includes supervised consumption sites, where individuals with opioid use disorder are under the supervision of trained staff with the goal of ensuring the safety of both the individual and the general public.

* Chicago Urban League President & CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson…

The Chicago Urban League is heartened by Governor Pritzker’s Executive Order 2020-02, which will provide $4.1 million in opioid prevention and treatment monies to address the racial disparities in Illinois’ overdose death rates.

In 2017, our Research & Policy Center released “Whitewashed,” a report that detailed the high rates of overdose among African Americans around the country and especially here in Chicago. According to a separate recent study, African Americans are 33 times less likely than whites to be prescribed buprenorphine, a kind of medication-assisted treatment that is used to treat opioid-use disorders and also protects against overdose.

The monies will also provide stipends for doctors to become trained in prescribing buprenorphine and to distribute 50,000 kits of naloxone, the overdose reversal medication, in areas that have extremely high overdose rates. This is much needed funding to address the disproportionate rate of opioid deaths that is devastating African-American communities.

While overdose deaths in Illinois have decreased for the first time in years, in 2018 deaths among African Americans increased by nearly 10% and deaths among Latinos increased by 4.3%. Opioid overdose deaths among white residents in Illinois decreased by 7%. Having the state acknowledge these disparities and create solutions to this public health crisis is a welcome step in a new direction.

* Heartland Alliance

Individuals who are dependent on opioids experience trauma at every turn. They are often rejected by their support systems, face countless barriers to accessing healthcare, and often have fewer opportunities to opportunity and employment due to permanent punishments caused by archaic criminal justice practices. Frequent setbacks and personal loss only add to the challenge of achieving recovery and building a rewarding and stable life.

The investments in recovery and prevention services announced along with the Executive Order build upon evidence-based models in Chicago and throughout the state. Distribution of naloxone in areas hard hit by opioid use and overdose will save countless lives. The state’s treatment systems will improvement significantly by prioritizing MAT services in all settings. Heartland Alliance has seen the success of these initiatives are we are thrilled that the state is dedicating some of its scarce resources to these proven models.

Our health and behavioral health safety net systems have a critical responsibility to unravel this knot. Governor Pritzker’s executive order lays the appropriate groundwork, and allows all of us to refocus our efforts on addressing racial inequities and utilizing culturally-sensitive support strategies that work.

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Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020 - Posted by Rich Miller

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