Illinois election officials have decided the state will remain in a multi-state voter registration database that critics claim is inaccurate and could lead to security breaches.
The motion to withdraw from the Kansas-run Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program failed on Monday after the State Board of Elections voted 4-4. Five votes were needed for it to pass.
However, the issue could come before the Illinois board again or through the Legislature, as some advocates have promised.
Groups including the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights have raised concerns about the program run by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who’s also a vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s election fraud commission.
* It looks like the vote was along party lines…
…Adding… Press release…
State Senator Michael E. Hastings (D-Tinley Park) is disappointed in the Illinois Board of Elections’ decision to continue participating in the intrusive and controversial Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program.
The Board of Elections voted 4-4 this morning against a motion to withdraw from Crosscheck, meaning that Illinois will continue participating in the program despite substantial security and disenfranchisement risks.
“Voting is a fundamental component of our nation’s democratic values,” Hastings said. “Illinois residents deserve to have the peace of mind that the Illinois State Board of Elections is taking every necessary precaution to protect their sensitive personal information.”
The state of Illinois is also a member of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), which is considered to be more reliable in determining the accuracy of voter registration.
“I’m disappointed the Illinois State Board of Elections refuses to learn from the mistakes of the past,” Hastings said.
Last week, Hastings raised some security concerns and urged the State Board of Elections to abandon Crosscheck, during a joint House and Senate hearing.
Since 2010, approximately 8.6 million Illinois voter registration records have been submitted to the Arkansas and Kansas Secretaries of State, including names, birth dates and partial social security numbers.
During the hearing, members heard from advocates and experts that Crosscheck does not use secure networks and that passwords used to access information on the database have been sent through unsecure emails.
“We live in an online world,” Hastings said. “We have already seen the effects of using unsecure voter systems with the cybersecurity breaches during the 2016 presidential election. However, it seems like the lessons of the last election are lost on some members of the Illinois State Board of Elections board.”
Critics also argue the unsecure Crosscheck system is designed to suppress minority voters. Communities of color are more likely to have the same last names, which the program flags as a potential double voter. Additionally, the program does not check middle names or suffixes such as Junior or Senior.
The result is that voters with similar names can often be mistaken by the program as double-registered voters, which could have them potentially thrown off the voter rolls.
“I refuse to sit by and watch policies that promote voter suppression persist,” Hastings said. “Our nation’s heroes have gone to war and too many have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our democratic values. Taking away qualified voters’ ability to participate in the democratic process is an extreme injustice and disservice to the men and women who have fought to protect our freedoms.”
Hastings has continued to advocate and call for stronger cybersecurity protocols at the state and local levels to prevent further attacks on Illinois’ voter registration databases. He will explore additional action to secure the sensitive voter information.
The Illinois State Board of Elections (SBE) held a hearing Monday - to a full room - to receive public comments on the implementation of the new automatic voter registration law (Public Act 100-46).
Illinois will be the 10th state (plus Washington, D.C.) to implement automatic voter registration (AVR) into law, and is the first midwestern state to do so.
The law modernizes and reforms current registration laws so that whenever an eligible Illinois citizen applies for, updates, or renews a driver’s license or state ID, they will be automatically registered to vote at their new address, unless they choose to opt out. AVR creates a similar program for other social service and public assistance agencies, making Illinois’ law the farthest reaching AVR law in the country.
Members of the Just Democracy Illinois coalition testified in Springfield and in Chicago this morning to offer assistance and expertise in urging the SBE to work with other state agencies to implement the AVR law on time. Several coalition members expressed specific community needs to ensure the new process would maximize efforts to register voters of color, non-native English speakers, and young voters encouraging the Board to get additional community input throughout their implementation planning. “There’s value in a broad stakeholder process,” said Abraham Scarr, Director of Illinois PIRG.
“Illinois lags behind the country when it comes to voter participation by young people and voters of color,” said Ami Gandhi of Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. “If we implement AVR correctly, we have the potential to close these disparities and reach communities that have historically been excluded from our elections.”
Jay Young, the Political Director of Common Cause Illinois, encouraged the SBE to “think of the enthusiastic support for Automatic Voter Registration as a resource” to be called upon to overcome obstacles in the implementation process.
In submitted written testimony, Just Democracy Illinois reinforced with the SBE the goals of the new law:
For Illinois to have a more complete and accurate voter list,
To keep our elections secure by preventing the potential for the inadvertent registration of non-citizens,
To lower barriers for young voters, communities of color, and other under-registered demographics to register to vote and expand ballot access to encourage more participation at the polls,
And to maximize new voter registrations and voter registration updates.
The law has a mandatory implementation date of July 1, 2018 for the Secretary of State’s Department of Drivers’ Services. Other state agencies responsible for implementing AVR, including the Departments of Employment Security, Natural Resources, Financial & Professional Regulation, and Human Services, have an additional year (July 1, 2019) to comply with implementation.
“The 2018 elections will be a huge motivation for new voter registrations and registration updates,” said Andy Kang, Legal Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Chicago and Chair of the Just Democracy Illinois coalition. “It is imperative that the State Board uses every tool in its toolbox — including assistance from the Just Democracy Illinois coalition — to obtain the necessary resources to implement this law on-time and not keep voters from voting in November because of a preventable delay.”
AVR has a major positive impact on under-registered communities. After instituting AVR, Oregon saw a six percent increase in turnout among young voters and had registration rates among voters of color increase by 26 points, from 53 percent in 2012 to 79 percent in 2016, according to the Alliance for Youth Action.
In response to Just Democracy Illinois’ oral comments and testimony, Chairman William J. Cadigan called for a round of applause for the AVR’s unanimous, bipartisan passage in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly (passing the House 115-0 and the Senate 55-0). Chairman Cadigan also noted that they would hold another public hearing after the March 20th primary elections next year. To close out the topic, Cadigan stated that the SBE was currently working to submit a supplemental appropriations request to the General Assembly to ensure the effective implementation of AVR. Lance Gough, Executive Director of Chicago Board of Elections Commissioners, also urged the State Board of Elections to advocate for proper funding for AVR.
In recent years, Illinois has passed additional laws to improve registration rates and increase ballot access by extending early voting time periods, as well as implementing online and same-day registration. AVR is just the latest step Illinois has taken to be a national leader on voting rights.
For social service and public assistance agencies implementation, the Just Democracy Illinois gave the following recommendations in submitted written testimony in preparation for today’s hearing:
Regularly soliciting and incorporating input from community members who interface with these agencies, including communities of color, about topics such as service applications, interactions with agency personnel, and other issues critical to the success of successful AVR implementation at agencies;
Assigning a voter registration coordinator for each agency and a coordinator for each local office;
Ensuring that proper training is taking place; and
Requiring a comprehensive oversight system for compliance.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* From Bernie’s interview of Rep. Jeanne Ives…
And while Rauner’s corruption talk is often aimed at House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago, Ives said in general, she would take a different approach in dealing with Madigan.
“First of all, you don’t pick (a) personal feud with him,” Ives said. “You recognize him for who he is, which is the most powerful House speaker in the United States. … And then you work with his membership to build alliances and effect the change that they all know needs to happen, too.”
Reacting to Ives, JUSTIN GIORGIO of the Rauner campaign said: “The fight for the future of Illinois begins by taking down the Madigan machine. Governor Rauner is leading the fight against Madigan’s corrupt system with a reform plan that includes term limits, rolling back the Madigan income tax hike, and (providing) real and lasting property tax relief. Madigan has built a corrupt system over 40 years, and Governor Rauner is fighting to give power back to the people.”
Madigan spokesman STEVE BROWN noted that Rauner has cited accomplishments, like education funding and criminal justice reform, that “all happened with the speaker’s support.” Brown also said Rauner “may want to reflect” on his “classy” use of issues such as the opioid death problem and sexual harassment to raise funds. A “Team Rauner” email including a “donate” button was sent out this week, highlighting action on those and other issues.
* But Ives’ new pledge stands in stark contrast to an op-ed she penned in late June…
Whether it’s Irish stubbornness, blind ambition, or a descent into madness, Madigan is using all of his (considerable) political might to protect a political machine that was carefully constructed by politicians and powerful special interests. And, the machine doesn’t reform itself. The machine grows itself by distracting voters with glossy mail pieces and idiotic bills in public, so it can continue handing out favors in private.
Speaker Madigan doesn’t care that you are being taxed out of your homes, or are struggling with unemployment. He has spent years ignoring these problems, passing wildly unbalanced budgets, refusing to address the need for reform, and – ultimately – hollowing out Illinois’ middle class.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* The New York Times ran a story over the weekend entitled “When Unpaid Student Loan Bills Mean You Can No Longer Work.” The paper found that “Twenty states suspend people’s professional or driver’s licenses if they fall behind on loan payments.” Illinois is one of them…
Fall behind on your student loan payments, lose your job.
Few people realize that the loans they take out to pay for their education could eventually derail their careers. But in 19 states, government agencies can seize state-issued professional licenses from residents who default on their educational debts. Another state, South Dakota, suspends driver’s licenses, making it nearly impossible for people to get to work.
As debt levels rise, creditors are taking increasingly tough actions to chase people who fall behind on student loans. Going after professional licenses stands out as especially punitive.
Firefighters, nurses, teachers, lawyers, massage therapists, barbers, psychologists and real estate brokers have all had their credentials suspended or revoked.
Determining the number of people who have lost their licenses is impossible because many state agencies and licensing boards don’t track the information. Public records requests by The New York Times identified at least 8,700 cases in which licenses were taken away or put at risk of suspension in recent years, although that tally almost certainly understates the true number. […]
Proponents of the little-known state licensing laws say they are in taxpayers’ interest. Many student loans are backed by guarantees by the state or federal government, which foot the bills if borrowers default. Faced with losing their licenses, the reasoning goes, debtors will find the money.
But critics from both parties say the laws shove some borrowers off a financial cliff.
Illinois’ revocation law was passed in the 1980s, according to the NYT.
* JB Pritzker is out with a response…
“The disturbing practice of revoking professional licenses of residents who fall behind on student loans must come to an end,” said JB Pritzker. “State agencies stripping Illinoisans of their licenses is morally repulsive and runs counter to our obligation to help families thrive. It’s time to put our government back on the side of working families, and that means fighting to protect their futures. As governor, I will bring an end to this practice.”
* The Question: Should Illinois continue revoking professional licenses for falling behind on student loan debt, or should the practice be stopped? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.
*** UPDATE *** ISAC…
We also noted the NY Times article this weekend regarding revocation of professional licenses for non-payment of student loan debt, as well as your related Question of the Day. We wanted to let you know that, at least with respect to the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, since 2015 the agency has no longer reported information on student loan defaults to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to request that a license be blocked or suspended.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Managing Director of Communications
Illinois Student Assistance Commission
- Posted by Rich Miller
* The Kankakee Daily Journal has been an avowed foe of House Speaker Michael Madigan since I was a wee lad. But check out today’s editorial…
The election for Illinois governor is a little less than a year away.
But one thing already is clear. Republican Bruce Rauner is running against Democratic Speaker of the House Michael Madigan. […]
If you view the history of Illinois governorships, it is possible to win by campaigning against the machine. Dan Walker did it. Rod Blagojevich did it. Dipping back into history, Henry Horner did it. Walker’s autobiography is “The Maverick and the Machine.” People will vote — sometimes — for reform.
But it is almost impossible to govern the state without some of those Democratic votes from Cook County. Indeed, savvy Republican governors, from William Stratton to Richard Ogilvie to Jim Thompson to George Ryan knew how to reach across the aisle and make an accommodation to get things done — whether it was keeping the White Sox in Chicago, creating the income tax or passing Illinois First bonds. It was a working alliance of Republicans downstate and Cook County Democrats.
Rauner might not like Madigan. He also is not alone is this feeling. You don’t have to agree with Madigan on everything. But the time has come to, perhaps, accept reality and work with him.
- Posted by Rich Miller
The editors of Crain’s Chicago Business are pulling the plug on our website’s comments section.
Since we launched ChicagoBusiness.com more than 20 years ago, we have employed a variety of tools—most recently a discussion platform called Disqus—to facilitate reader commentary. Inevitably, however, the trolls leave their trails of slime before we know it. Simply put, we do not have the personnel to manage this commentary, to keep it civil and fair and to halt the back and forth before it devolves into invective, name-calling and, in too many cases, outright hate speech. We’d rather not play host to these often anonymous commenters. They drive out more civil readers and potential commenters. They sully our content, our brand and our sponsors.
So, to borrow a phrase, we’re draining the swamp.
That said, we’re delighted to hear from you, our readers, via other means—namely, social media and email. Given the huge audiences Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media platforms continue to build, we hope you’ll find them a useful alternative for airing their views. You also will be speaking to the world at large, rather than inside the echo chamber that our comments section generally has become. Yes, people hide behind aliases on social media, too, but more often their identities are disclosed. If they’re spewing hate, at least you know who they are.
They do have a whole lot of profanity-loving mouth-breathers in their comment section. And since they won’t spend the money to ride herd on the commenters, it’s easy to see why they’d shut them down.
- Posted by Rich Miller
Monday, Nov 20, 2017
* I just received this press release from Local 150 of the Operating Engineers Union…
Updated Release: Democrat Lance Redneck Announces Run Against Jerry Long for State Representative
Lance Redneck? What an interesting name for a Downstate candidate.
Trouble is, the candidate’s name is actually Lance Yednock.
Now, I normally don’t make a deal out of auto-correct typos, but that one was just too hilarious to pass up.
* Here’s the release…
Lifelong Ottawa resident Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, announced his candidacy for the Illinois House of Representatives in the 76th District today. Yednock, 45, a business representative with the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, felt compelled to run after Jerry Long lied to union families and failed to support a measure that would have protected middle-class workers from Bruce Rauner’s dangerous agenda.
“I have spent my adult life building and cultivating relationships across our communities,” said Yednock. “I was driven to run for office by my passion to serve the working people of the Illinois Valley. I want to ensure that working families get a fair shake, something Jerry Long has failed to do since he took office.”
Before being hired on as a business representative by Local 150 in 2012, Yednock was an equipment operator for nearly 20 years. He also previously served on Local 150’s Executive Board for 7 years before being brought on staff. Yednock has a degree in political science and he lives in Ottawa with his wife.
“Lance is a hard worker, a committed husband and a trusted member of this community,” said Local 150 President-Business Manager James M. Sweeney. “Jerry Long sent working families up the creek without a paddle when he stood with Bruce Rauner and his anti-worker agenda. A line in the sand has been drawn, and I know Lance will fight every day in Springfield to ensure our voices are being heard.”
Long is a life-long member of the Teamsters, and has often used his union credentials as a way to curry favor in the district with voters. Leading up to a vote in Springfield earlier this month that would have protected middle-class families from Rauner’s anti-worker agenda, Long promised local community members he would stand up to the governor and vote for the measure. On the day of the vote, Long caved to Rauner’s demands and broke his promise to his union brothers and sisters.
Teamsters Joint Council 25 has also stepped up to support Yednock’s race against Long. After Long voted in favor of allowing local “right to work” laws, the Teamsters Joint Council 25 President Terrence J. Hancock embraced Yednock as a candidate who will represent working families in the Illinois Valley.
“After the disappointment Long has personally delivered to working people by breaking campaign promises and supporting Governor Rauner, Long should turn in his union membership card and stop touting himself as a friend of labor,” Hancock said. “We will be supporting every effort to secure Lance Yednock’s place on the ballot in the upcoming primary election, and we will work hard to ensure that he is successful in November.”
“Jerry Long turned his back on working families when he chose to support Governor Rauner’s reckless agenda instead of standing up for the rights of middle-class workers,” said Laborers International Union of North America Vice President John Penn. “Jerry Long cannot be trusted and the families in the 76th district deserve better. That is why we are fully supporting Lance Yednock, a labor representative who has a proven record of standing up for working men and women.”
The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150 is a labor union representing 23,000 working men and women in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. Local 150 represents workers in various industries, including construction, construction material development, public works, concrete pumping, steel mill service, slag processing and others.
Suggested campaign slogans?
…Adding… That’s Redneck… um, I mean Yednock wearing the yellow vest…
- Posted by Rich Miller
Dr. Mary Meengs remembers the days, a couple of decades ago, when pharmaceutical salespeople would drop into her family practice in Chicago, eager to catch a moment between patients so they could pitch her a new drug.
Now living in Humboldt County, Calif., Meengs is taking a page from the pharmaceutical industry’s playbook with an opposite goal in mind: to reduce the use of prescription painkillers.
Meengs, medical director at the Humboldt Independent Practice Association, is one of 10 California doctors and pharmacists funded by Obama-era federal grants to persuade medical colleagues in Northern California to help curb opioid addiction by altering their prescribing habits.
* But is the pendulum starting to swing too far the other way? The I-Team looks at new restrictions on opioid prescriptions…
Jenni Grover, an ambassador for the U.S. Pain Foundation and a chronic pain advocate, said the stories of desperation she hears are heartbreaking. She said patients tell her they’re being treated as if they are criminal drug addicts, and doctors are abandoning them because of new regulations and possible scrutiny by the medical community and federal regulators. […]
State and federal leaders, as well as medical practitioners and other providers, are using multiple strategies to address the opioid crisis; curtailing the opioid supply is one of them. Drug abuse experts say between 2001 and 2011 there was a huge increase in prescriptions for drugs such as morphine, codeine and hydrocodone. They say these pills flowed too freely to the wrong kind of patient, causing unnecessary and deadly addictions and helping fuel the drug epidemic. […]
New analysis from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows 24 state governments taking action.
Most of the legislation limits first-time prescriptions to seven days. Some states are also setting dosage limits. As of right now, Illinois has no mandated restrictions.
The president of the Illinois State Medical Society said the group will continue to lobby against regulation.
But, Dr. Kern Singh, a spinal surgeon with Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center, said the reality is it’s very difficult to get insurance coverage for the non-narcotic, safer alternative treatments because they are so expensive.
Working with other pain specialists at Rush, he said they have created an effective approach to surgical pain that uses fewer opioids, but is frustrated because most insurance companies refuse to cover the safer, more expensive medication.
* The addiction problem is all too real…
Last year, according to the New York Times, more Americans died of drug overdoses than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.
* From a press release…
While the nation’s opioid epidemic has been portrayed primarily as an issue for white suburbanites, African Americans in Chicago and other cities in the Midwest are also significantly affected by opioid use but receive little attention, according to a new report by the Chicago Urban League’s Research and Policy Center.
The report, titled “Whitewashed: The African American Opioid Crisis,” notes that the African American death rate from opioid overdose in 2015 was higher than the general population in five states, including four in the Midwest: Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. The African American death rate from opioid overdose was also higher in West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
In Chicago in 2016, the African American death rate involving fentanyl, heroin and other opioids was 56% higher than the white death rate (39.3% vs 25.1%). While Black people make up approximately 32% of the city’s population, they accounted for nearly half (48.5%) of all opioid deaths. Death rates were highest in Black communities on the South and West sides, with Austin suffering the highest death rate of all community areas.
The report also highlights that African Americans are disproportionately arrested for drugs, at nearly three times the rate of whites, while approaches to the opioid epidemic have focused more on treatment. […]
* Chicago ranks lowest in the Midwest for medication-assisted treatment capacity and third worse among major cities.
* Despite making up just 15% of Illinois’ population, African Americans account for nearly a quarter of opioid overdose deaths in the state.
* In 2016, the overdose death rate for African Americans in Illinois more than doubled, climbing 132% and growing faster than any other racial group over a three-year period.
* African Americans accounted for nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths in Chicago in 2016.
* With so many people addicted in this country, rehab scams are everywhere…
(T)he $35 billion rehab industry is increasingly being exploited by individuals who are taking advantage of those who need help the most. (For an excellent glimpse into these issues, the 2015 documentary The Business of Recovery lays out a chilling case for a broken, ailing, desperately in-need-of-its-own-rehab rehab system.)
* However, there is an alternative for at least some of that pain treatment…
Illinois’ medical community has been somewhat reluctant to publicly embrace medical marijuana in the two years since the state’s first dispensaries opened.
But some physicians say the matter has taken on added urgency as the nation sinks deeper into an opioid crisis involving both prescription drugs, and heroin and its synthetic analogs. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are 40 prescription opioid deaths a day, Illinois health officials have warned it’s the most dangerous public health issue facing the state and President Donald Trump has declared opioid addiction a public health emergency. […]
Though Bush-Joseph speaks for himself — not for Rush University Medical Center where he is a professor, and not for the Chicago White Sox or Bulls, with whom he has worked — his word as a leading arthroscopic surgeon carries some weight. After severe injury or surgery, he concedes patients typically need opioids like Percocet and Vicodin for a month or two. But after that, he believes patients should have potential access to marijuana as another longer-term alternative. […]
The doctors support a new bill before the Illinois General Assembly that would expand the state medical marijuana program to allow cannabis to be used by any patient who qualifies for use of opioids. Such a change could vastly expand the program, which now has only about 27,000 participants. Currently there are about 40 specific conditions, including cancer and AIDS, that qualify sufferers to apply to use medical marijuana.
If passed into law, the new bill would allow those who qualify to receive a one-year marijuana card, without the fingerprinting and criminal background check now required. Approval would be expedited to 14 days, rather than the two to three months it can now take.
* ‘It never really leaves you.’ Opioids haunt users’ recovery: It’s hard to say whether businessman Kyle Graves hit rock bottom when he shot himself in the ankle so emergency room doctors would feed his opioid habit or when he broke into a safe to steal his father’s cancer pain medicine. For straight-talking ex-trucker Jeff McCoy, it was when he grabbed a gun and threatened to blow his brains out if his mother didn’t hand over his fentanyl patches.
* Opioid addiction treatments face off in US trial: Both drugs had high relapse rates and there were overdoses, including fatal ones, in the experiment in 570 adults. The study , published Tuesday in the journal Lancet, is the first to compare the two drugs in the United States, where an opioid addiction epidemic has doctors and policymakers deeply divided over treatment strategies.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* The Champaign News-Gazette is not impressed with the anti-sexual harassment legislation just signed into law…
The fact is that individuals, no matter their status, cannot police themselves because they don’t wish to police themselves.
They appoint the inspector general. The inspector general answers to a committee made up of the individuals she’s supposed to police and operates under the rules the people she’s supposed to police write. Even by Illinois standards, that makes no sense.
That’s why Rauner called for “meaningful reform” to ensure the legislative inspector general “has robust and independent investigatory and enforcement power.”
That should include clear prohibitions, not vague guidelines. Further, the penalties must have teeth, particularly in terms of public disclosure of alleged wrongdoing confirmed by an impartial investigation.
It’s a tricky business to penalize elected officials for misconduct that might fall short of that required for criminal prosecution. That’s why the public needs to be made aware of sleazy, unethical conduct so they can take it into consideration at the next election.
* And neither is Chuck Sweeny…
An additional problem that has yet to be fixed is the makeup of the legislative ethics commission. It has eight members, four Democrats and four Republicans, all of whom are sitting members of the General Assembly. See any potential problems with that? Me, too.
And so does state Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, a former member of the ethics commission when it was headed by Tom Homer, the last legislative inspector general. Homer resigned in December 2014. He wasn’t replaced until last week. Bivins says that at least 26 ethics complaints were not heard in the interim. One of those unheard complaints involved a sexual harassment allegation by a lobbyist against state Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago.
“Tom Homer was frustrated because he said the job lacked teeth,” Bivins said. Part of that lack of teeth could be due to the fact that four members of the commission can stop any action against a member of their party. There’s no neutral tiebreaker.
Bivins’ bill would reform the commission’s makeup so that sitting lawmakers cannot investigate their colleagues. It says that legislators and lobbyists cannot serve on the ethics commission for 10 years after they have left office or stopped lobbying. (Some ex-legislators become lobbyists.)
Bivins says his bill is “gaining some steam” in Springfield in the race to deal seriously not only with sexual harassment complaints but also with ethics complaints in general.
* And neither is Madeleine Doubek…
The legislative inspector general can’t suspend a lawmaker. She or he at least needs the power to both impose fines and censure lawmakers, Homer said.
More thorough statements of economic interest need to be created that detail how lawmakers make money from their other jobs and from investments so the public can judge whether they have conflicts when they vote or speak out about something.
Restrictions on IGs need to be lifted on what can be forwarded to a prosecutor for potential criminal action, along with how quickly it must be forwarded.
“I do not believe this statute was written with the accuser in mind,” McConnaughay said of the legislative inspector general laws. “To me, it’s written to protect the accused. It’s absurd.”
* Sen. Jason Barickman: I am concerned, however, that there are still many areas where our state ethics act falls woefully short and may, in fact, inhibit the ability of the Legislative Inspector General from being an effective investigator. The people of Illinois need to be able to have faith in their government and to be able to trust their elected officials. After reviewing the statute and the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC) Rules, I have come up with a non-exclusive list of problems that should be considered by the General Assembly. I welcome your feedback on the issues I’ve outlined below, as well as any recommendations which you have for the Legislature to consider which will strengthen our ethical standards and practices.
* Rauner both signs and critiques sexual harassment legislation: Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday signed into law two measures targeting sexual harassment in Illinois politics, while also saying there’s far more work to do and dubbing one “hurried” and “very flawed.”
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Fritz Kaegi isn’t getting anywhere near the publicity he ought to be receiving, but that may change soon…
Politicians are stepping up to buck Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios, who is under heightened scrutiny for his business and campaign practices.
Today, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and the 22nd Ward organization are expected to endorse Fritz Kaegi for assessor. Already, state Sen. Heather Steans and clerk David Orr have backed Kaegi.
This summer, Garcia said Berrios’ relationship with attorneys and law firms was problematic because he accepts campaign donations from those who file property tax assessment appeals. Garcia moved to ban the practice. Berrios has been under fire for years, but scrutiny intensified after the Chicago Tribune this summer exposed rampant inequality with how properties are assessed with poor and minority property owners bearing the biggest burden, and wealthy owners winning “unsanctioned tax breaks.” Will others follow? Stay tuned.
“J.B. Pritzker’s silence on Joe Berrios is stunning, but not surprising. The Berrios-led Cook County Democrats were one of Pritzker’s early backers. Even worse, Pritzker received a $230,000 property tax break from Berrios on his Chicago mansion after ripping out the toilets. It’s clear - J.B. Pritzker will do anything to line his pockets and win an election, even if it means supporting corrupt politicians like Joe Berrios.” - Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Aaron DeGroot
Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia is the latest Cook County Democrat to oppose Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios’ re-election.
Berrios has been under fire for running what is essentially a property tax racket and Democrats like “Chuy” Garcia, Heather Steans, David Orr, and Chris Kennedy want nothing to do with him.
But there’s been one notable Democrat who has been silent on Joe Berrios - J.B. Pritzker - and it’s no surprise. Pritzker owes a lot to Berrios.
The Cook County Democratic Party, an organization chaired by Berrios, endorsed J.B. Pritzker’s campaign for governor in what some Democrats called a” backroom deal”.
Even worse, Pritzker was embroiled in a property tax scandal of his own where he ripped the toilets out of his multi-million dollar Chicago mansion to get a $230,000 property tax break from Berrios. Pritzker’s property tax appeals attorneys have given over $100,000 in campaign cash to Joe Berrios’ various political organizations.
J.B. Pritzker will do anything to line his pockets and win the Democratic nomination for governor, even if it means getting in bed with Madigan’s Chicago Machine and turning a blind eye to corrupt politicians like Joe Berrios.
* Meanwhile, Chris Kennedy has never been comfortable talking about the death of his father. For instance…
Chicago Magazine: You were 4 when your father, Bobby Kennedy, was killed. Do you have memories of him?
CK: Let’s keep moving.
* But he seems to be moving past that…
* In other campaign news…
Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold was at a forum in California last week where she was asked about being a woman running as a Republican in a party headed by President Donald Trump.
Harold gave a lengthy response at the Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit. But that response didn’t include a mention of Trump’s name. Instead, she also appeared to take a shot at the Democrats running for attorney general who have made attacking the president a top priority.
“As attorney general, my job is neither to support nor oppose whoever is the president because my job is to enforce the rule of law. And I take that very seriously. So, I’m not running for attorney general as a platform to denounce whoever may be in office, whether it’s a person of my party or not. It’s to stay focused on what my state’s interests are, to stay focused on what it is that the law says and to make sure I champion the interests of my state,” she said. […]
Apparently reminded by the questioner of the original question, Harold responded: “As attorney general, it’s my job to stay focused on what are the interests of the people of my state. It’s not my job to support or oppose any person who’s in power.”
State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, who has been critical of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner, is backing a primary challenger in the gubernatorial race.
McCarter has endorsed state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, as the two have criticized Rauner’s decisions to sign legislation that allows state health insurance and Medicaid money to go towards abortions, sign an education funding bill that included extra money for Chicago Public Schools, and sign legislation that protects people who are in the country illegally from being detained solely because of their immigration status. […]
“We have a real choice in Jeanne Ives. Someone who can lead Illinois in the right direction,” McCarter said. “We need someone who will stand up for us and fight for us; not just tell us he supports us, throws around a lot of money and says ‘Be my friend because I have a lot of money.’ This election is about morals not millions. It’s about telling the truth and standing up for the people of this state.”
* Press release…
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4), a national leader on issues of crucial importance to Latino and immigrant communities, on Monday endorsed Jesse Ruiz in the Democratic race for Illinois Attorney General.
“For decades, Jesse has been a leader in the fight to improve public education, to protect immigrants, and to promote civil rights,” Gutierrez, the senior member of the Illinois Congressional delegation, told a crowd of supporters at a news conference held in the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. “As Illinois Attorney General, I know that Jesse will stand tough when Donald Trump attacks our fundamental rights.”
…Adding… From the twitters…
* State Week: Are Voters Thinking About 2018?
- Posted by Rich Miller
Todd Stroger — the former Cook County board president who was easily unseated by Toni Preckwinkle amid furor over a county sales-tax increase — told WFLD-Channel 32 on Monday morning that he plans to run against Preckwinkle in the next county board president’s race.
Stroger cited the outcry over the since-repealed penny-an-ounce soda tax that Preckwinkle pushed as a primary reason for his political comeback attempt.
“I felt vindicated when they had to bring the whole tax back,” Stroger said of the soda tax. “There’s a lot of people who are not happy with the current administration, and I think there’s a lot of people who had felt I did a good job.”
* CBS 2…
Stroger said Preckwinkle’s decision to raise sales taxes in 2015 proves he was right when he did so in 2008.
“I believe what that showed was that tax was needed. What we’ve seen in the last seven years is the budget has gone from $3.2 billion to $4.8 billion. The question is where is all that money going? Why do we need such a large increase?” he said. “I won’t be able to tell you that until I’m able to get in the books.”
Stroger also said he opposed the idea of a sweetened beverage tax when he was county board president.
“I thought it was a bad idea back then. So we’re not looking at the same race that was happening in 2010,” he said. “This isn’t 2010. This is 2017. So this is a different age.”
Video of his announcement is here. Stroger had about $111K in his campaign account at the end of the last quarter.
*** UPDATE *** From the Preckwinkle campaign…
“After inheriting a broken system as Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle closed budget deficits of more than two billion dollars, cut wasteful spending, and improved the County’s bond ratings. She remains focused on protecting essential services, reforming our criminal justice system, and strengthening access to medical care for Cook County families.”
“Cook County voters know what Toni Preckwinkle has accomplished and we are confident that she will be successful in both the Democratic primary and general election in 2018,” said Preckwinkle for President’s Political Director Scott Kastrup.
* Cook County commissioners get behind Preckwinkle’s budget cuts
- Posted by Rich Miller
* My weekly syndicated newspaper column…
Operating Engineers Union Local 150 is making good on its threat to back a Republican primary opponent against House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.
The union local’s president, Jim Sweeney, told me he had about a dozen members in Durkin’s district passing nominating petitions for Burr Ridge Mayor Mickey Straub a couple of weekends ago. Straub is running against Durkin as a Republican. Sweeney said he expected to double that number the following weekend.
Challenging a legislative leader in a primary is just not done. But these are not normal times.
Local 150 led the fight against Bruce Rauner in the 2014 Republican gubernatorial primary and then backed a Libertarian Party candidate against him that fall.
The union’s leadership has fumed as Rauner has pushed his anti-union agenda, and now wants some payback on Durkin for helping to kill their bill to ban the creation of “right to work” zones by local governments. The governor vetoed the bill and the union tried twice to override Rauner without success, mainly because Durkin was able to keep his caucus together.
Since the union blames Durkin, they’ll ally themselves with anybody, including Republican activist Dan Proft, if they have to. Proft is backing Straub against Durkin, who he claims isn’t fit to be Leader. But Proft is not exactly known for being a big union supporter.
In fact, according to the Daily Law Bulletin, Proft co-founded the Liberty Justice Center, which, irony of ironies, is representing Lincolnshire against a lawsuit backed by Local 150 over the village’s creation of a local right to work zone – the very event that Local 150’s vetoed bill tried to outlaw. Don’t even try to wrap your mind around all that. You’ll go nuts. This fight is beyond ideology. Sweeney and Proft have a common cause — messing with Durkin — and they’re sticking with that.
Leader Durkin, for his part, took the diplomatic high road, releasing a statement saying: “Our caucus has worked with Local 150 in the past and will continue to work with them, where we can, in the future.”
And, indeed, Local 150 recently sent a mailer praising Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) for her vote to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the union’s right to work zone ban.
But you gotta figure Leader Durkin had to be gritting his teeth when he approved that statement. A primary race is a lot like a family fight. And even though Local 150 has a ton of Republican members and has supported Republican candidates in the past, its involvement is undoubtedly seen as outside meddling. The fact that Sweeney lives in Speaker Mike Madigan’s district probably doesn’t help matters much.
The race is already starting to heat up. One of Proft’s newspapers, the West Cook News, published a story a few days ago about Durkin’s law practice, connecting the Leader’s bond work for the City of Berwyn to legislation allowing local governments to tie bond payments directly to revenue they receive from the state. Durkin voted for the securitization legislation, which just recently helped the City of Chicago obtain a “AAA” credit rating on a bond sale. Critics contend the law will allow municipal governments to more easily go into ever-deeper debt, and the paper ran a quote from someone calling Durkin’s vote a “horrible conflict of interest.”
The same publication ran another story about a Republican congressional candidate making fun of Durkin’s bill to set up a statewide sexual harassment hotline. “What does it say about Rep. Durkin and his colleagues whom he supposedly leads when he all but admits that an anonymous hotline is required?” said Jeffrey Leef, a River Forest radiologist who is running against U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and has supported a universal annual base salary of $30,000 to $40,000 (yes, you read that right). “The only submission that Jim Durkin should be making is my order of french fries when he takes his more-appropriate job of cashier at McDonald’s.” Classy.
I’m thinking we’ll see more stuff like that, and not just in obscure publications, but in mailers and other advertising. A fundraising e-mail from September claims the Illinois Policy Institute’s John Tillman, along with the Illinois Opportunity Project’s Proft, Pat Hughes and Matt Besler, had already raised $25 million toward a $30 million goal to elect “a ‘Reform Slate’ of candidates to run in House elections across the state to pick up the nine seats Republicans need to gain control of the House and depose Madigan once and for all.” They haven’t yet reported receiving that cash, however.
- Posted by Rich Miller
* From the Southern Illinoisan…
Gov. Bruce Rauner made a cameo appearance Wednesday in Southern Illinois, appearing at a hastily-called, bizarre press availability at Sahara Woods State Fish and Wildlife Area near Carrier Mills.
Rauner appeared with Wayne Rosenthal, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, to announce the construction of an all-terrain vehicle track at the park. The proposed 26-mile track is something that no one has been clamoring for.
Assembled media members fired questions at Rauner after the announcement. His response, or lack thereof, was reminiscent of an absentee father bringing elaborately wrapped gifts to his child’s birthday party, but having absolutely no idea what was inside the packages.
It wouldn’t have taken much thought to anticipate the first two questions — how many jobs will be created by this project and when will ground be broken. Yet, Rauner didn’t have these most basic answers.
Instead, he looked to Rosenthal for assistance. Come on. That’s like punting on first down.
The paper recently published a story about how the governor hadn’t been to deep southern Illinois in several months. It appears the governor got the message, but the editorial board obviously isn’t buying it.
- Posted by Rich Miller
Radioactive waste continues to pour from Exelon’s Illinois nuclear power plants more than a decade after the discovery of chronic leaks led to national outrage, a $1.2 million government settlement and a company vow to guard against future accidents, an investigation by a government watchdog group found.
Since 2007, there have been at least 35 reported leaks, spills or other accidental releases in Illinois of water contaminated with radioactive tritium, a byproduct of nuclear power production and a carcinogen at high levels, a Better Government Association review of federal and state records shows.
No fines were issued for the accidents, all of which were self-reported by the company.
The most recent leak of 35,000 gallons (132,000 liters) occurred over two weeks in May and June at Exelon’s Braidwood plant, southwest of Chicago. The same facility was the focus of a community panic in the mid-2000s after a series of accidents stirred debate over the safety of aging nuclear plants.
A 2014 incident at Exelon’s Dresden facility in Grundy County involved the release of about 500,000 gallons (1,900,000 liters) of highly radioactive water. Contamination was later found in the plant’s sewer lines and miles away in the Morris, Illinois, sewage treatment plant.
Another leak was discovered in 2007 at the Quad Cities plant in Cordova. It took eight months to plug and led to groundwater radiation readings up to 375 times of that allowed under federal safe drinking water standards.
* Chicago intends to sue U.S. Steel after 2 toxic spills this year, mayor says
* Editorial: Toxic leak into Lake Michigan should not have been a secret: The critical importance of leveling with the public in such matters also is illustrated by a new Better Government Association review and Associated Press investigative report of leaks from local nuclear power plants. The BGA and AP learned that radioactive material continues to leak from Exelon’s Illinois nuclear power plants. The leaks were properly reported, but we now are confronted by an EPA boss, Scott Pruitt, who takes a skeptical view of environment protections. We have less confidence that Pruitt’s EPA will partner with the public, and not with the despoilers of the environment, when such leaks occur.
* AP Exclusive: 4 in 5 Illinois debris sites high in toxins
- Posted by Rich Miller
* Other stuff…
* Will pop-tax anger unseat Preckwinkle, or fizzle out?: In a poll paid for by what Preckwinkle calls “Big Soda” interests, she was less popular than Donald Trump. Preckwinkle scored an abysmal approval rating of 33 percent, while 50 percent disapproved of the job she was doing, according to the poll conducted by David Binder Research of San Francisco from Oct. 28 through Halloween — a couple weeks after county commissioners went against Preckwinkle’s wishes and repealed the pop tax.
* Kennedy lands endorsement from Danny K. Davis: “He said to me, ‘Your father and your uncle, they were willing to send in federal troops to improve the educational opportunities for people of color in the United States. How far will you go?’” Kennedy said. “I said, ‘I’ll go that far.’” … On Sunday, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin and former Chicago Ald. Bob Shaw endorsed Kennedy alongside Davis.
* Tom Kacich: It’s still early, but danger could await Davis in ‘18
* Parkhurst vs. Dugan? Let’s get ready for a political rumble
- Posted by Rich Miller
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