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*** UPDATED x1 *** Today’s must-read

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* Tribune

The house had no address; the dead man had no name.

Illinois officials blacked out those details from their investigative report. Nobody else was supposed to learn the man’s identity or the location of the state-funded facility where his body was found.

The investigation was closed as it began, with no public disclosure, and the report was filed away, one of thousands that portray a hidden world of misery and harm.

No one would know that Thomas Powers died at 3300 Essington Road in unincorporated Joliet, in a group home managed for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Or that his caregivers forced a 50-year-old man with the intellect of a small child to sleep on a soiled mattress on the floor in a room used for storage.

Or that the front door bore a building inspection sticker that warned, “Not approved for occupancy.”

Not even Powers’ grieving family knew the state had looked into his death and found evidence of neglect.

As Illinois steers thousands of low-income adults with disabilities into private group homes, a Tribune investigation found Powers was but one of many casualties in a botched strategy to save money and give some of the state’s poorest and most vulnerable residents a better life. […]

The Tribune identified 1,311 cases of documented harm since July 2011 — hundreds more cases than publicly reported by the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Drop what you’re doing and go read the whole thing right now.

*** UPDATE ***  From IARF President & CEO Janet Stover…

No one enters the vocation of providing community-based care to individuals with intellectual developmental/disabilities because it is easy or lucrative. The individuals and organizations dedicated to this field are driven by their compassion and a sense of mission. We are saddened when confronted with suffering by those we serve, we grieve with families in the face of unspeakable loss, and we continuously strive to minimize the risks in serving people.

While today’s story in the Chicago Tribune detailed tragic instances where supports for individuals failed, it also acknowledged the extreme difficulties that all community service providers face - even in the best of circumstances. Most importantly, as this story made clear, Illinois’ network of community-based services and supports are not operating under the best of circumstances, with reimbursement rates having been frozen by the state for nearly a decade.

The single most critical issue facing the provision of community-based services and supports is the inability to recruit and retain frontline staff. For years, our community has been sounding the alarm about this growing crisis. Unfortunately, just yesterday, the Illinois General Assembly failed to override the Governor’s veto of legislation that would have increased wages for these frontline workers. That legislation represented the greatest step we could have taken in addressing a core problem outlined in the Chicago Tribune’s story. Yesterday’s actions represent a serious setback to these efforts. However, our compassion, our sense of mission, and our commitment to serving and supporting individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities will keep us moving forward.

There were other important issues raised by the Chicago Tribune regarding transparency, effective oversight, and other ways to improve reporting and accountability. IARF and the organizations we represent always stand ready to advance and support meaningful reforms that are person-centered and improve quality of life. We welcome the opportunity to continue working with the individuals and families we serve and state government towards those ends.

- Posted by Rich Miller   78 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* Fran Spielman

Before leading a huge delegation of movers and shakers on a trip to Rome to attend the elevation of Archbishop Blase Cupich to cardinal, Emanuel put in a last-minute pitch for the state budget deal that would give business leaders the “certainty” they crave to invest in Chicago and Illinois.

“The world is, in many ways, an uncertain place. And companies go to and expand where there is certainty about the future — where they think they can have the best potential to grow. They invest in certainty,” the mayor said.

“Springfield’s uncertainty is what undermines the state of Illinois, which I find Chicago located in, sometimes much to my chagrin. Springfield getting a budget — Springfield getting its financial overall house in order — would create certainty that would help us economically [to] grow. The uncertainty in Springfield is the biggest drag on the economic well- being of, not only the state but potentially Chicago.”

The delegation to Rome includes Rauner and his wife, Diana and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) and their wives.

So, there’s at least a chance for political bonding that could lead to deal-making. Or at the very least, a few prayers for an end to the political stalemate in Illinois.

* The Question: Do you think a deal to end the impasse will happen by the end of January’s lame duck session or will we see another stopgap? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.

survey solutions

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      

Jobs up, but IDES disappointed

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate in October edged up to 5.6 percent and nonfarm payrolls increased by +2,200 jobs over the month, based on preliminary data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and IDES. September job growth was revised up to show an increase of +11,500 rather than the preliminary figures of +7,400 jobs. Nonetheless, job growth is still below the national average, with Illinois -32,500 jobs short of its peak employment level reached in September 2000.

Construction payrolls decreased by -3,300 jobs in October which added to the three-month momentum against manufacturing and construction jobs as well as financial activities and trade, transportation and utilities. Three-month momentum favors professional and business services as well as government employment and to a lesser extent leisure and hospitality and education and health services.

“Illinois continues to recover at a slower rate than the rest of the nation as witnessed by the meager payroll gains in October,” said IDES Director Jeff Mays. “The recovery has been uneven among the various sectors as Illinois still lags in manufacturing, construction, and financial activities as well as trade, transportation and utilities.”

“High costs and competition from surrounding states continue to drain manufacturing jobs from Illinois. We saw several manufacturers move across the border to Wisconsin in October,” Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity Acting Director Sean McCarthy said. “1,600 new manufacturing jobs is a start, but it is a drop in the bucket compared to the 10,000 manufacturing jobs Illinois has lost over the last twelve months – an average loss of nearly 200 jobs per week. We can build on this month’s growth by making Illinois more competitive and affordable for manufacturers.”

In October, the three industry sectors with the largest gains in employment were: Professional and Business Services (+4,800); Government (+2,000); and Manufacturing (+1,600). The three industry sectors with the largest declines in employment were: Construction (-3,300); Other Services (-3,100); and Trade, Transportation and Utilities (-1,000).

Over the year, nonfarm payroll employment increased by +29,500 jobs with the largest gains in two industry sectors: Professional and Business Services (+31,400); and Leisure and Hospitality (+16,500). Industry sectors with the largest over-the-year declines in October include: Manufacturing (-10,000), Construction (-5,500) and Financial Activities (-5,100). The +0.5 percent over-the-year gain in Illinois is less than the +1.7 percent gain posted by the nation in October.

The state’s unemployment rate is higher than the national unemployment rate reported for October 2016, which edged down to 4.9 percent. The Illinois unemployment rate is down -0.3 percentage points from a year ago when it was 5.9 percent.

The number of unemployed workers increased +1.7 percent from the prior month to 366,600, down -5.3 percent over the same month for the prior year. The labor force was nearly unchanged over-the-month and grew by +0.6 percent in October over the prior year. The unemployment rate identifies those individuals who are out of work and are seeking employment. An individual who exhausts or is ineligible for benefits is still reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.


- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

Pot revenues jump in Colorado

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* From The Cannabist via NCSL

Colorado marijuana shops in September reeled in $127.8 million in sales of medical and recreational cannabis, notching a new revenue record for the third consecutive month, according to newly released data from the Colorado Department of Revenue.

So far this year, sales have topped $974.3 million in nine months, about $22 million shy of the $996.2 million revenue totaled for the entirety of 2015. This time last year, September monthly sales were $94.7 million — $38.3 million from medical marijuana and $56.44 million from recreational marijuana — and year-to-date sales were nearly $733.8 million.

The sales jump this time around can be attributable to soaring recreational marijuana sales. In September, medical marijuana sales were $39.6 million while the portion of sales coming from recreational purchases was $88.2 million — the highest-ever monthly total for adult-use sales.

The September 2016 sales generated about $19.2 million in tax revenue for the state, bringing the year-to-date total for taxes and licensing fees to $144.2 million.

* I went to Denver last weekend on a spur of the moment break just to get the heck outta here for a bit. The flight was cheap, the hotel wasn’t bad and the steaks were awesome. Denver is not a very walkable city, but I liked it.

And unless you went to a couple of different “hipster” strips, the pot shops were practically invisible. Yeah, I smelled it walking down the street a couple of times, but I’ve smelled pot in Bucktown, too. So, really, if you weren’t looking for it you didn’t notice it.

One reason for that is people aren’t legally allowed to consume the product in public places. You have to smoke it in your home. So, if you don’t live in Denver or live in a building that forbids smoking, you have to smoke it on the sly. My hotel, for instance, imposed $500 fines and immediate evictions if caught smoking weed in your room or even on your room’s balcony. Of course, regulating the public consumption of “edibles” is a lot tougher.

* But Denver’s voters just approved a public consumption ordinance by a 53-47 margin. So things are about to change

Just about any kind of business other than a dispensary could apply for a cannabis consumption permit so that people could use marijuana in a designated consumption area within that business. Participating locations must follow the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, which means tobacco businesses could allow smoking indoors, but other businesses could only allow smoking on patios that aren’t near the main entrance or visible from the street.

The business will need the support of a neighborhood organization or business district to obtain a license. The city doesn’t currently have a mechanism in place for getting that type of neighborhood approval for an application, [Dan Rowland, city spokesman] said.

Rowland said he’s unsure when the city will start issuing licenses, but he doesn’t have any reason to think it won’t be sometime in 2017.

Once in place, pot-friendly locations will give tourists, people who live in federally subsidized housing, people whose landlords or HOAs don’t allow smoking and people who just want to consume somewhere other than the comfort of their living room a legal place to do so.

Even with the restrictions, pot tourism is already a big thing out there. Every waiter I had assumed that’s why I was in town (maybe it’s the beard). But public consumption will surely attract more people, as long as they work to keep everything reasonable.

* A legalized, regulated and taxed production, distribution and consumption chain is the ideal way of doing things. If you buy weed in Denver you’re not supporting criminals. Thumbs up!

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      

It’s about the message received, not the message sent

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* Call me crazy, but putting this particular slogan on the side of a semi-truck may not be the best way to convince potential students to load up on college debt

Eastern Illinois University is betting it will catch the eyes of potential students with a rolling message on the side of big-rig trucks.

The Charleston school said in a Tuesday news release that four trucks that belong to the Rural King retail chain will haul trailers bearing Eastern Illinois’ logo and messages such as “Our Alumni Go Places” over an 11-state area.

Um, couldn’t “Our Alumni Go Places” imply to travelers that the driver is an EIU alum? And, if so, how does that help?

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with truck drivers. My father and his father both drove trucks for a living. I’m just saying this is a weird juxtaposition and not particularly well thought-out.

* Perhaps we can come up with a better slogan for the struggling university to put on the side of semi-trucks?

- Posted by Rich Miller   56 Comments      

Illinois Policy Institute’s legal arm picking up settlement tab

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* AP

Officials in Lincolnshire say the Chicago suburb has settled two of the three lawsuits it faces regarding a right-to-work ordinance.

Under the deal approved Monday, the nonprofit Liberty Justice Center will pay $10,000 on behalf of the city to the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. Officials say in exchange the union has agreed to drop two state court lawsuits.

That’s really odd. I’ve never heard of such a thing. But, hey, when you’re apparently attempting to gut organize labor in order to weaken the Democratic Party (see Wisconsin, et al), you’ll do stuff like this, I suppose.

* Tribune

The Lincolnshire ordinance approved late last year only applied to private companies within the village and not to public-sector employees such as police officers.

The two lawsuits questioned procedural matters in connection with the meeting at which Lincolnshire village board members approved the ordinance. One of the lawsuits filed in state court alleged an Open Meetings Act violation, arguing officials prohibited two union supporters from speaking during public comment at the meeting where the ordinance was approved.

Depending on the outcome, the lawsuit could have nullified trustees’ approval vote of the ordinance, Huebert said.

The other lawsuit pertained to email exchanges involving village officials following the meeting at which the ordinance was approved, he said.

The third lawsuit is in federal court. It claims that a municipality in a state that isn’t “right to work” can’t unilaterally pass a “right to work” ordinance.

- Posted by Rich Miller   16 Comments      

Unclear on the concept

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* Press release from moments ago…

Despite news that the state’s bill backlog has now reached $10.6 billion, Democrat leaders in the Illinois House and Senate decided to end the first week of the fall veto session after only two days.

“There is no bigger problem facing Illinois than our massive budget shortfall, and there’s no excuse to not be at the Capitol working to solve it,” said State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington). “The people of Illinois deserve a government that is working for them, not taking an early vacation.”

* Press release from early this morning…

Daily Public Schedule: Thursday, November 17, 2016

What: Governor Bruce Rauner Addresses Media with Chicago Delegation Headed to Rome for the Elevation of Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich to Cardinal

Where: O’Hare International Airport – Terminal 1, Gate C18
10000 W. O’Hare Ave., Chicago

Date: Thursday, November 17, 2016

Time: 1:30 p.m.

Included among that delegation is Senate President John Cullerton.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

Today’s maps

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* Presidential results…

The map key is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      

Kelly floats her name for governor

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* US Rep. Robin Kelly is the latest to float her name for governor

Kelly told the Chicago Sun-Times, “People have come to me about giving thought to running for governor, being encouraging, asking is this something I would consider.

“I love my seat. I love being here,” Kelly said, a reference to Congress. “But I would say, I’m honored to be asked, but at this point, I would not rule anything out.”

Kelly won her third election last week for the far south suburban 2nd Congressional District seat. In 2013, she replaced the disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and since coming to Congress she has made curbing gun violence her central issue. […]

A Matteson resident, Kelly has downstate Illinois ties from her 2010 campaign and her years of living in Peoria, where she attended Bradley University, picking up undergraduate and grad degrees.

Bit of a stretch on those Downstate ties. [A commenter fills us in below about her time in Peoria, which is far longer than implied above.]

Your thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

The law of unintended consequences

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* From Robert Okazaki at Avenues to Independence, which provides “homes, jobs, and social opportunities to hundreds of adults with autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and other physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities”…


Lost in the higher profile news issues coming out of Springfield yesterday was the failure of the House to override the Governor’s veto of HB 5931 which would raise starting wages for direct care workers supporting people with disabilities in community programs funded by the state to $15/hour.

Just last week, Cook County voted to increase their minimum wage; Chicago started their increases last July. Please understand that I do not deny the need to improve wages for disability and human service workers statewide. However, I feel that in their eagerness to improve wages for lower wage workers, both jurisdictions have given Governor Rauner an unintended advantage in the fight for his Turnaround Agenda.

I administer a human service organization in Cook County supporting individuals with disabilities where the majority of our funding comes from the State of Illinois. Unlike other business that can raise their prices or reduce staffing to cope with mandatory minimum wages, the vast majority of my organization’s revenues and staffing patterns are controlled by the state. It has been 10+ years since any increases have been provided to our funding rates; I dare not go below their statutorily required staffing ratios less I lose my license to operate.

Many human service agencies in Northeast Illinois are facing this same dilemma. Each minimum wage mandate puts another straw on the bridge that supports human services in Chicago and Cook County. Without an increase in Illinois funding, current state supported services will collapse under the weight of these mandates.

Communities outside of Chicago/Cook still maintain a minimum hourly of $8.25. While not a liveable wage, human service organizations in these areas are not subject to the same financial pressures put forth by the mandatory increases.

Chicago/Cook legislators (overwhelmingly Democrats) have no choice but to seek relief for their area organizations in need of more state support. Governor Rauner and his Republican colleagues will not face the same pressure from their area constituencies. Unless they want to see a complete collapse of social services in their districts, Democrats will be forced to accept more of the Turnaround agenda

Chicago and Cook County, working to improve conditions for their low wage workers, will have fallen into an unintended consequence trap.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

Rauner rubs it in with volunteer day

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* Press release…

Governor Rauner Declares First Annual State Day of Service

Governor Bruce Rauner today announced that April 22, 2017, will be the first annual State Day of Service in the state of Illinois.

Throughout the past few years, many volunteer groups have expressed an interest in helping out at various state agencies. However, due to the previous AFSCME contract, severe restrictions were placed on the use of volunteers. The recent decision by the Illinois Labor Relations Board will now allow the state greater flexibility in using volunteers.

“We are all residents of Illinois and all working towards the goal of making the state a better place to live and work,” said Governor Rauner. “Given the state’s challenging financial circumstances, it is absolutely essential that we engage partners when and where we can. Through the first State Day of Service, we will be able to provide additional services at no cost to taxpayers, while giving volunteers an opportunity to give back and help their fellow Illinois residents.”

On the State Day of Service, groups and individuals will be able to come together across the state to assist state agencies through activities like cleaning up state parks, working on projects at the state fairgrounds or even volunteering at the state’s veterans homes.​

In the coming weeks and months, more information regarding the timing, location, and activities that will occur on April 22, 2017, will be released.

* It’s also probably no coincidence that the announcement comes today

Public service workers in Illinois state government are planning a day of demonstrations across the state amid cost-cutting efforts by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The “Don’t Dictate, Negotiate” events Thursday are being organized at 120 worksites across the state. They come after a state board ruled Tuesday that contract talks between Rauner’s administration and the state’s largest public-employees union are hopelessly deadlocked.

- Posted by Rich Miller   68 Comments      

More horrible pension news

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* Dave McKinney reports that unfunded liabilities for state-funded public pension systems grew by almost 17 percent to a record $129.8 billion

During fiscal 2016, the largest state pension fund, the Teachers’ Retirement System, and the State Employees’ Retirement System lowered their assumed rates of return to 7 percent from 7.5 percent and 7.25 percent, respectively.

The Judges’ Retirement System and General Assembly Retirement System reduced their assumed rates of return to 6.75 percent from 7 percent. The State Universities Retirement System did not alter its long-range investment return estimation.

Combined, those moves led to an increase of more than $9.6 billion in overall accrued liabilities for all five pension systems, accounting for nearly three-quarters of the overall increase in unfunded liabilities from $111 billion in fiscal 2015, CGFA reported.

The other driving force was poor investment returns during fiscal 2016, ranging from a 1 percent drop for the General Assembly Retirement System to a 0.2 percent increase for the State Universities Retirement System, which was the best-performing state fund, CGFA said.

The full COGFA analysis is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   37 Comments      

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

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

Good morning!

Thursday, Nov 17, 2016

* I think we need a new state song

And even when you’ve changed it or condensed it

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

* Kennedy unveils "government reform agenda"
* Accidental (and apparently harmless) password leak could prompt move away from Crosscheck program
* Question of the day
* Another legislative gun fight
* A consolidation stalemate in McLean County
* *** UPDATED x1 - Denied *** Dynegy seeking a new deal on pollution control
* *** UPDATED x3 - Biss responds - DCEO upbeat *** Illinois lost 10,800 jobs last month
* Status hearing sheds no light on lawsuit against Rauner, except he wants it dismissed
* Pritzker buys into pot myth, but is right on the broader point
* Welcome to our world, Mr. Coates
* *** UPDATED x1 - Brown responds *** The devil is always in the details
* Rauner eliminates manufacturing program during Manufacturing Month
* Make this happen, please
* Define "investing"
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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