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Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* Have a great holiday

From this town, we’d escape

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      

It’s just a bill

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* Interesting that one of the proponents of the regulatory bill is a lobbyist for the developer

Futuristic technology could give Illinoisans their own personal robots that follow wherever they go, and carry supplies like groceries.

In anticipation of a summer rollout of this technology, the Illinois General Assembly is moving a bill to regulate it. […]

His bill is primarily in response to a particular product, the personal robot gita, in development at Massachusetts-based Piaggio Fast Forward, an affiliate of the Italian company that makes Vespa scooters. […]

Aaron Winters, an Illinois lobbyist who represents Piaggio, said it’s expected to be available by this summer, which is “why it is important for the legislation to pass.”

But the product’s potential raises concerns about pedestrian safety and home rule powers, among other things.

* I didn’t realize this

An Illinois toddler died nine years ago after suffering third degree burns from bathwater. The Illinois House last week approved legislation to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The measure would require all new water heaters be equipped with a safety valve.

It was introduced in honor of Mikayla King. Her mother, Jennifer King, recounted the event to lawmakers last month. […]

During the trial, King said, experts testified that 2,000 people suffer severe scald injuries each year, despite the fact that safety technology has been available for more than 30 years.

But the safety feature was only offered on their high-end water heater models.


* I didn’t realize this number was so high

During a routine 2008 traffic stop in Chicago, LaSheria’s life was permanently changed. After being stopped, she learned that her driver’s license was suspended for parking tickets received in 1999, and that the debt had grown to more than $2,500. After struggling for weeks to support her family without transportation to and from work, she filed bankruptcy, hoping to get her license back. But the bankruptcy plan did not clear her debt, which ballooned to nearly $8,000. Today, LaSheria is still making monthly payments to the City of Chicago because of parking violations made nearly 20 years ago.

Sadly, this is not an isolated case. There is a hidden crisis in Illinois: Each year, nearly 50,000 licenses are suspended because drivers cannot pay tickets, fines or fees, and for other reasons that have nothing to do with driving. These suspensions are not aimed at making our roads safer. Instead, they force people to choose between unemployment and the risk of going to jail for driving on a suspended license.

Eighty percent of Illinoisans drive to work, and many employers require a driver’s license. When a person’s license is suspended, they are at risk of losing their job — one study of drivers in New Jersey showed that happened more than 40 percent of the time. License suspensions also punish families, because people need to drive to get their kids to school, buy food and access health care. When a person must choose between meeting their family’s needs and paying a fine to the government, they prioritize their family. […]

This year, Illinois legislators have a chance to rectify this injustice. The License to Work Act, sponsored by state Rep. Carol Ammons of Urbana and state Sen. Omar Aquino of Chicago, would eliminate driver’s license suspensions as a penalty for unpaid tickets and most other non-moving violations. It is crucial that our representatives in Springfield pass this legislation as soon as possible.

* Other bills…

* Proposed law would require Illinois children to start school by age 5, threatening kindergarten redshirting: “This needs to be a parental choice, and the state should not be mandating it,” said Alexandra Eidenberg, founder of the Chicago women’s and children’s rights lobbying organization We Will, and the mother of four children, including 5-year-old twins who attend Romona Elementary School in Wilmette. Eidenberg said members of her group are “extremely” opposed to the bill, which, if passed, would go into effect in the 2020-2021 school year.

* Chicago Public Schools Withholding Millions From Charter Schools In Spending Standoff: At Wednesday’s Chicago Board of Education meeting, members will be asked to approve a resolution that will set out how the school district wants to fund its charter schools. CPS Chief Operating Officer Arnie Rivera said once charter schools agree to have state law changed to align with the resolution, “we will cut the rest of their check.”

* Is Illinois’ Gas Tax Running On Empty?: If Illinois had had a variable rate in place over the last ten years, the per-gallon charge would have increased by 8 cents without any action by the legislature. That’s according to Carl Davis, research director at ITEP.

* Lawmakers Approve Jet Fuel Tax Crackdown: After years of noncompliance, Illinois lawmakers are moving forward with legislation that would require local taxes on jet fuel go to aviation-related projects, not into local coffers.

* Wage-theft bill sparks debate about repeat offenders: The floor debate over House Bill 1653, which passed the chamber by a party-line vote of 69-43 earlier this month, put on display what it means for a party to be in a superminority, conservative lawmakers said.

* Car Sharing Lobbyists Battle Car Renting Lobbyists, Driving State Lawmakers Crazy

* Families Of Children With PANDAS Disorder Still Struggling To Get Insurance Coverage

* 90% of U.S. school boards are picked by voters, but not in Chicago. Here’s why that could change.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      

Question of the day

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* The 6th CD is represented by freshman Democrat Sean Casten…

* The Question: Her chances? Don’t forget to explain your answer, please.

- Posted by Rich Miller   38 Comments      

Energy News: Local Governments To Miss Out On $222 Million in potential tax revenue

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

“Only one of McLean County’s crush of proposed solar farms got state credits and can now proceed following a lottery last week, leaving 17 more county-approved projects in limbo until the state offers more opportunities to build.”

    - Bloomington Pantagraph

On April 10th, the Illinois Power Agency held a lottery to award renewable energy credit contracts to community solar, large commercial and industrial projects. Community Solar is for the 75% of Illinoisans who can’t put solar on their roofs. Demand was exceptionally strong, but due to the limited program size, approximately 90% of permitted community solar projects failed to receive contracts. Now those projects and the $222 million in tax revenue they would have generated for their communities over the next two decades is in jeopardy.

“Illinois’ community solar program was only able to support 12 percent of the projects that applied …the results were a disappointment to landowners”

    – Decatur Herald & Review

Without a fix to the state’s renewable energy program, remaining projects may not be built.

Vote YES on HB 2966/SB 1781 to fix Illinois’ clean energy cliff and let shovel ready projects move forward.

For more information, please visit

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White, rural and suburban enrollment plummets at WIU

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* The Dispatch-Argus takes a deep dive into Western Illinois University enrollment, which has declined 35 percent over the past decade

Ten years ago, WIU had just 515 Hispanic and 887 black undergraduates. In the current academic year, WIU has about 850 Hispanic undergrads and 1,400 black undergrads — an increase of more than 60% for each group. […]

But the diversification of campus has accompanied white flight. While black and Hispanic enrollment has climbed, white enrollment has done the opposite, falling about 50% since fall 2008. […]

A review of data from the 62 Illinois counties deemed “rural” by the federal government shows that rural enrollment at WIU has fallen by 48% over the last decade.

But the rate of rural decline is surpassed by the rate of suburban decline. A large part of WIU’s decrease comes from the five “collar counties” surrounding Chicago, including Kane County west of Chicago (down 51%), north suburban Lake County (down 59%), and Chicago’s western neighbor DuPage County (down 63%).

In 2008, the collar counties sent 2,725 students to WIU. In 2018, that number had dropped to 1,190.

While rural areas experienced a 15 percent decline in high school graduates between 2006 and 2016, the suburbs saw a 7 percent increase.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      

40,686 K-12 students in Illinois not vaccinated for measles

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* Illinois News Network

An Illinois-based public health organization is seeking public funds to battle against anti-vaccination rhetoric that it says has fueled a measles outbreak.

The Illinois Public Health Association is seeking a grant from the state to bring the fight to those who spread misinformation about vaccinations.

Executive Director Tom Hughes said the online presence of the anti-vaccination movement has resurrected the measles virus just as it was about to be officially eradicated from the country. […]

State data shows that most schools have immunization rates of more than 95 percent in Illinois, but only nine percent of the state’s private and public schools are at 100 percent. That means there are about 40,000 students enrolled in Illinois schools who have not been vaccinated, according to state data.

The data is here.

Keep in mind that a few of those kids are too sick to be vaccinated. That’s one very strong reason why everyone else needs to get their shots. Those vulnerable kids (and babies too young to be vaccinated) could die if they contract measles.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      

Circular firing squad escalates: Rep. McSweeney calls on Leader Durkin to resign

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* I told subscribers about this fight earlier today, so I’ll just leave this here…

…Adding… More…

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      

Audit: Department of Insurance not examining troubled local pension funds

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* The Illinois Municipal League continues its push for public safety pension fund consolidation

Illinois has more than 650 separate downstate municipal public safety pension funds. According to the IML, the math adds up to more than 10 million residents paying the bill for 40,000 pension participants. […]

“We are trying to resolve the issue of poor returns, not-great management, and create a system that can sustain these funds.” [said Brad Cole, IML executive director.]

There are 1,298 municipalities in Illinois, Cole said. Those with populations of 5,000 and larger are required to have pension funds if they have police and fire departments. […]

Unfunded pension liabilities are an ongoing concern for many cities, including Moline. Cole said Moline’s fire pension fund is only 33% funded, and the police pension fund is 44% funded.

* Coincidentally, the Illinois Auditor General just released its audit of the Department of Insurance. Part of the probe looked at whether Insurance is complying with a state law to examine each of those same public safety pension funds every three years. The Auditor General went back to 2004, meaning that in the audit period, Insurance should have examined each of those funds four different times.

Here’s what the Auditor General Found

* 2 public safety pension funds were examined three times in 14 years (one examination missed)

* 230 funds were examined two times (two missed)

* 383 funds were examined once (three missed)

* 1 fund was never examined (four missed)

* 36 funds were currently under examination (17 missed one to two examinations, 18 missed two, 1 missed three)

In response, the Department of Insurance said it was seeking legislation to shift to an audit of the funds every five years, instead of three.


- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      

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Friday, Apr 19, 2019

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Raoul turns up the heat on bus company

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* Ten days ago

Attorney General Kwame Raoul today announced a consent decree with a transportation company that requires it to end its practice of discriminating and harassing customers and their families. The consent decree resolves a lawsuit the Attorney General’s office filed in 2018 against Suburban Express, Inc. and owner Dennis Toeppen.

The consent decree was entered today by Judge Andrea Wood in the Northern District of Illinois to resolve allegations that Toeppen and Suburban Express discriminated against customers on the basis of race, national origin and religion; harassed customers with public shame and ridicule; and intentionally compromised customers’ personal information. Suburban Express is a company that provides bus services to students at colleges and universities in Illinois, Iowa and Indiana to the suburban Chicago area and Chicago airports.

The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Suburban Express and Dennis Toeppen alleging the defendants engaged in discrimination against customers, including a December 2017 mass-marketing email to customers that touted bus rides with, “Passengers like you. You won’t feel like you’re in China when you’re on our buses.” The lawsuit also alleged Suburban Express encouraged its employees to avoid certain students who appear not to speak English when distributing coupons for bus services. According to the lawsuit, Toeppen even posted an online video mocking Asian students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The consent decree is here.

* Two days ago

A statement on the company’s Facebook page continued to dispute the claims of the lawsuit and said the terms of the consent decree imposed “some minor requirements” on the company.

“Madigan’s lawsuit contained numerous false, unproven, unproveable (sic) and legally inconsequential allegations,” the statement said. “Suburban Express felt that it was being extorted by the state, but chose a $100k payment to state rather than spending $250k-$500k defeating the lawsuit.” […]

Suburban Express’ statement also asserted that Raoul’s office mischaracterized the agreement and said it’s considering its own legal action against Raoul and a top deputy.

“Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s press release on the matter is false and defamatory in the extreme, in that it claims his office proved the various false and unproven allegations,” the statement said.

…Adding… From the company’s website

We speak English only. If you are not fluent in English, please have someone who is fluent in English assist you with your travel plans and purchase.

Suburban Express is required to display the below paragraph by a recent agreement with hypocritcal, extortionist Illinois politician Kwame Raoul. Thinking of opening a business in IL? Think again. High taxes and opportunistic, parasitic governement [sic] place a high burden on job creators in Illinois. Note that we have never engaged in any discriminatory conduct. Rather, this is a big show foisted upon us in order to ingratiate certain voters to elected officials.

* Also Wednesday

Suburban Express and owner Dennis Toeppen have allegedly violated a consent decree reached last week with the Illinois attorney general.

According to a motion filed Wednesday morning by the AG seeking a $10,000 fine, Suburban Express posted defamatory webpages of customers and failed to post a nondiscrimination statement everywhere it was required to.

Toeppen has also brought back his notorious “Page of Shame,” which includes phone numbers, email addresses and home addresses of customers he says had dishonored payments, were “fare cheaters” or have been banned from Suburban Express.

“The Consent Decree requires Defendants ‘not to penalize customers based solely on online comments about any Defendant, including reviews,’” Assistant Attorney General Jeff VanDam wrote. “Defendants flouted this requirement immediately after entry of the Consent Decree by posting a defamatory web page that penalizes a customer through viciously attacking the customer solely for online comments about Suburban Express.”

The web page includes screenshots of that customer’s Yelp reviews of Suburban Express, links to the Google Maps page for what Toeppen says is her childhood home and links to her LinkedIn page. It also criticizes her mental health.

* Yesterday

The company also allegedly attacked a person of “Asian origin” by labeling them an “insane … spoiled child” and saying the individual reminds them of a prominent Asian-American who advocates against discrimination, adding that readers should Google that activist “for a good laugh.” […]

Reached via email Thursday, Toeppen claimed he was on vacation in the days after the consent decree was signed and stated he believed he had 30 days to “cure any breach” of the agreement, “whether intentional or accidental.”

Toeppen also took issue with the “refunds” outlined in the decree, stating that term never appears in the agreement. Instead, he says his company internally is referring to payments resulting from the decree as “Vote Purchase Payments” and “Beer Money for Suburbanites.”

The term “refunds” isn’t in the agreement, but this is

The time period for customers to seek payments under this Consent Decree shall commence on the Effective Date and shall end 180 days after the Effective Date.

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      

New tollway director, ICC chair named

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* Sun-Times

The Illinois Tollway on Thursday named Jose Alvarez, the former COO of the Chicago Housing Authority, as its executive director, as Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration completed a full sweep of the tollway’s board.

Alvarez also served as deputy chief of staff for Chicago Public Schools and chief of staff for the state superintendent of education for Washington, D.C., schools.

Alvarez replaces interim director Kevin Artl, who previously served as chief operating officer. Artl led the agency after former Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman, whom former Gov. Bruce Rauner appointed in 2018, left the board in mid-March.

* Daily Herald

“He’s been there and done it,” tollway Chairman Will Evans said. “He’s got experience running a large agency; the CHA is, I think, the second largest housing authority in the United States.

“You’ve got a large organization that he’s been used to managing, he made a lot of changes and it’s really a great team member that’s going to join us.”

Alvarez’s hiring comes with the backing of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, who on Feb. 28 replaced the entire tollway board in the wake of concerns about cronyism in hiring and contracts. Usually, governors let tollway directors finish out their terms.

Alvarez replaces former Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman, an influential Republican, who was picked with support from former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner in February 2018. Gorman exited March 15 this year.

* Daily Energy Insider

Gov. JB Pritzker made two new appointments to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) this week, naming Commissioner Carrie Zalewski chairman and adding Maria Bocanegra to the commission.

Both positions still require approval from the Senate. That said, outgoing ICC chairman Brien Sheahan has already congratulated Zalewski on her new position, which follows her recent, five-year term appointment to the ICC. By contrast, Bocanegra will serve only a four-year term.

Both women come to their positions from backgrounds as attorneys and in public service. […]

Zalewski has worked as a state regulator, on the Illinois Pollution Control Board and as Assistant Chief Counsel for the Illinois Department of Transportation, in addition to private practice work. She also received her education in-state, at Chicago-Kent Law School and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. […]

Bocanegra has served as an arbitrator at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, in the public seat on the Labor Advisory Board for the Illinois Department of Labor, in addition to her private practice work. She is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law and Quincy University.

- Posted by Rich Miller   22 Comments      

Courts go back and forth over hospital closure

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* CBS 2

Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park appears to be saved again, at least temporarily, after a series of back-and fourth court rulings over the future of the hospital.

Last week, a Cook County judge blocked the hospital’s owners, Pipeline Health, from moving forward with plans to close the facility. When the company allegedly violated that order, another judge ordered them to restore nearly all hospital services or face daily fines of $200,000.

On Thursday, an Illinois Appellate Court panel tossed out the first judge’s temporary restraining order against Pipeline Health, stating Melrose Park had no standing to seek the TRO.

Hours later, the Illinois Supreme Court put the restraining order back in place, giving Melrose Park an opportunity to file an appeal by Friday afternoon.

* Tribune

The decisions Thursday followed months of an escalating drama over the future of the 230-bed hospital, particularly in the last couple weeks as the sides have battled one another in court over whether the hospital should be allowed to cut services earlier than expected.

Pipeline Health bought Westlake, West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park and Louis A. Weiss Memorial Hospital in Chicago, for $70 million in January. Pipeline pledged at the time to save the hospitals. Just weeks after that purchase, Pipeline stunned community leaders, saying it would close Westlake by July because financial losses exceeded projections, threatening to drag down the other two hospitals.

Melrose Park sued Pipeline and its leaders, accusing them of lying about their intention to close Westlake, so they wouldn’t face opposition while seeking approval from a state review board to buy the hospitals.

Last week, Pipeline announced it would suspend many services at Westlake early, saying staffing had dropped to unsafe levels. Melrose Park sought and received a temporary restraining order to stop Pipeline from cutting services early, at least until after a state review board could consider Pipeline’s application to close the hospital. A Cook County Circuit Court judge found Pipeline in contempt of court for violating that order Tuesday and ordered Pipeline to restore most services at the hospital by Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, Pipeline offered to give the hospital to Melrose Park — a move that the village called a “stunt.”

* Sun-Times

Pipeline Health, the new owners of Westlake, had been held in contempt of court Tuesday for violating the restraining order. The company had until Thursday morning to restore service or run the risk of being fined $200,000 a day.

“We believe when the entire Illinois Supreme Court reviews the case, it will agree with today’s earlier decision: The Village of Melrose Park has no standing,” Pipeline CEO Jim Edwards said in a statement Thursday evening. […]

“Before Pipeline purchased the hospital, it promised — under penalty of perjury — to keep Westlake open and to continue providing charity care to the community,” Ari Scharg, the village’s attorney, said.

Last month, a lawsuit was filed by the village against Pipeline, accusing the California-based company of fraud. That case is still pending.

* ABC 7

The Illinois State Health Facilities and Services Review Board is expected to make a decision about whether the hospital will stay open for good by April 30.

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Friday, Apr 19, 2019

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

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Our sorry state

Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* Jerry Nowicki

Since March 2014, 20 state-licensed skilled-care nursing homes have closed for financial reasons, while many of those continuing to serve the state’s neediest elderly populations face staffing shortages and operating deficits caused by diminishing state government investment. […]

“These facilities are closing, and I can tell you more are going to close,” said Pat Comstock, executive director of the Health Care Council of Illinois, a nursing home advocacy group. “It’s happening because we have a situation in Illinois where they can no longer financially survive.”

The pace of closures has quickened in recent years, with five skilled-care nursing facilities – those that house the sickest and most vulnerable – closing from 2014 to 2016, six closing in each of 2017 and 2018, and three already shutting their doors in 2019, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

To fully quantify the issues facing the industry and their possible solutions, HCCI commissioned a study conducted by the business advisory firm Plante Moran, the Claude Pepper Center of Florida State University, and managed care Medicaid expert Meredith Duncan.

The 85-page report states Illinois’ Medicaid ranks 49th in the nation for Medicaid reimbursement rates, and nursing homes lose approximately $15,000 per year – or an average of $41 per day – for each Medicaid-funded patient. Those shortages create a $649 million single-year funding shortfall across the industry in Illinois.

There’s a lot more to this story, so click here for the rest.

- Posted by Rich Miller   34 Comments      

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Friday, Apr 19, 2019

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Friday, Apr 19, 2019

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      

* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* It's just a bill
* Question of the day
* Energy News: Local Governments To Miss Out On $222 Million in potential tax revenue
* White, rural and suburban enrollment plummets at WIU
* 40,686 K-12 students in Illinois not vaccinated for measles
* Circular firing squad escalates: Rep. McSweeney calls on Leader Durkin to resign
* Audit: Department of Insurance not examining troubled local pension funds
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser list
* Raoul turns up the heat on bus company
* New tollway director, ICC chair named
* Courts go back and forth over hospital closure
* *Yoink*
* Our sorry state
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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