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Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Question of the day

Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

* Center Square

Illinois State Police have some tips for drivers so they don’t end up on a viral road rage video.

A video of two drivers fighting on Interstate 57 resulted in the arrest of 26-year-old Sheniqka Thomas getting arrested and charged with criminal damage to property.

The video shows a woman swinging a bat from inside a car while swerving into another lane. The woman gets out and continues to swing the bat, engaging with another person. The viral video spurred the Illinois State Police to reach out to the public for help.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where someone is coming after you, don’t hesitate to call law enforcement.

“Do what you can to de-escalate the situation,” ISP Trooper Mindy Carroll said. “Give them some space and try to ignore them.”

And if someone’s left-lane lingering, phone-watching or other driving habits have you about to blow, Carroll said not to take it personally.

“Take a breather, step back a little bit, and do what you need to do to get away from that vehicle,” she said.

Car insurance analysis website theZebra.com said Millennials are most likely to experience road rage.

AAA said more than 12,500 injuries have been caused by driver violence since 2007.

* The Question: Have you ever been involved in a road rage incident? Tell us the story.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


*** UPDATED x3 - Firefighters support - Pritzker disses IPPFA - ILFOP expresses “strong concerns” *** Pritzker task force favors first responder pension asset consolidation, but stops short of recommending pension benefit administration consolidation

Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

* The full study is here, but this is the executive summary

Of the financial challenges facing the State of Illinois, perhaps the most critical to state and local governments’ overall long-term financial health is the long-standing challenge of our unfunded pension liabilities and the ever-increasing burdens that places on local property taxes. Illinois has more than 660 funds, the second-highest number of pension plans of any state in the country.

Within the constellation of pensions in Illinois, roughly 650 of them are suburban and downstate police and fire plans, most of which face headwinds in large part caused by the relatively small size of each plan. Because many are so small, they are unable to gain access to investment opportunities that provide the highest returns and competitive investment fees. Collectively these pension plans today earn significantly lower investment returns than larger pension plans. For example, suburban and downstate police and fire plans generated on average 2 percentage points less annually over the past 10 years than the statewide municipal employees’ fund. In addition, these numerous small funds pay substantially higher expenses to manage their assets and administer benefits. The sheer number of plans and the extraordinarily modest asset levels relative to other plans exacerbate both of these challenges.

Not only does this negatively impact the funding level of police and fire pension plans, but local taxpayers are left with the burden of paying taxes to make up for these lower investment returns, forcing most municipalities to rely on a never-ending cycle of increasing local property taxes or cutting services to meet their pension obligations.

To help solve the police and fire pension funding problem and relieve the burden on taxpayers, Governor Pritzker announced the creation of the Pension Consolidation Feasibility Task Force on February 11, 2019, to explore and make recommendations for consolidation of pension funds in order to achieve the greatest value for employees, retirees, and taxpayers. Members of the task force include municipalities, labor unions, former elected officials and financial experts.

After eight months of data collection, analysis, and many meetings, the Task Force recommends the State take the following actions:

STEP 1: Consolidate suburban & downstate police & fire pension plan assets.

The single most impactful step that the State can take to address the underfunding of downstate and suburban police and fire pension funds is to consolidate the plans’ investment assets. This step is immediately actionable and beneficial to the health of the plans, retirees, and taxpayers. Analysis by the Department of Insurance estimates that if the more than $14 billion of suburban and downstate police and fire plans were to achieve investment returns similar to the other larger Illinois plans over the next five years, they would collectively generate an additional $820 million to $2.5 billion in investment returns alone. If they were to achieve comparable returns over the remaining 20 years on their statutory ramp to 90% funded status, they would create an additional $3.6 to $12.7 billion in investment returns alone.

To achieve this consolidation, the Task Force recommends that the State create two new funds, one for municipal police beneficiaries and one for municipal fire beneficiaries, to pool the assets of the roughly 650 downstate and suburban police and fire funds and manage those assets. Each fund would be governed by a board with equal representation of employees and employers. Each local pension plan would maintain an individual and separate account within the new consolidated funds, such that no assets or liabilities are shifted from one plan to another. Each of the two consolidated funds will be held in independent trusts, separate from the State Treasury, with sole governance provided by their respective boards.

With up to $1 million a day in lost investment returns to the pension plans, the Task Force recommends there be legislation passed by the General Assembly in the fall of 2019 that will achieve this consolidation.

In addition, the Task Force recommends other statutory changes to ensure the State is compliant with the safe harbor standard of the Social Security Administration and Internal Revenue Code, thereby avoiding substantial and sudden future costs to municipalities resulting from non-compliance.

STEP 2: Review consolidation of suburban/downstate police & fire pension plan benefit administration; review of other state and local plans to determine advantages of consolidation

Downstate and suburban police and fire funds face further financial challenges beyond just the underperformance of investment returns and high cost of administering assets of these systems that consolidation will address. Therefore, the Task Force recognizes there may be additional advantages to consolidating the benefit administration of these plans. However, because such action requires further discussion with those who would be affected by such a change, it is the recommendation of the Task Force that it should continue to review the advantages and challenges of consolidating benefit administration, and to make potential recommendations to the Governor on this issue.

Additionally, there are 15 other pension systems in Illinois outside of suburban and downstate police and fire that bear significant financial burdens. Unlike suburban and downstate police and fire plans these funds are larger funds, and consolidation would not achieve material improvement of their investment returns. Because the current financial pressures on these systems are so significant, especially for the City of Chicago, it is recommended that the Task Force to continue to review the potential advantages of consolidation of these larger systems and to make recommendations to the Governor on this issue.

Remember, the end game here is 60-30-1. The firefighters in particular have a huge amount of Statehouse clout, but so do other players. One step at a time.

I’ll post react if it comes in.

…Adding… From the governor’s office…

“Under the current arrangement, Illinois’ suburban and downstate police and firefighter pension funds are underperforming by nearly one million dollars per day. That’s not just a missed opportunity – that’s a hole these funds are digging deeper every year – and then municipalities have to ask taxpayers to fill the hole,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We’ll be proposing legislation this fall to consolidate the assets of the 649 suburban and downstate pension funds into two statewide funds. This consolidation will improve the financial health of the plans and help secure the future for the retired workers who rely on them – and it will alleviate some of the property tax burden plaguing homeowners and renters across our state.”

*** UPDATE 1 *** ILFOP…

The Illinois Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) today expressed strong concerns about the recommendations contained within the Governor’s Committee on Pension Consolidation Report. FOP members had initially been optimistic that the committee would propose a process that would reduce fees, increase investment returns and better guarantee retirement security for law enforcement officers, their widows and orphans. However, the committee’s recommendations fail to accomplish these critical things.

“Law enforcement officers were not allowed to participate, provide feedback or be shown that this was anything other than an attempt to grab officers’ money,” said FOP Labor Council Executive Director Shawn Roselieb,who noted that the committee’s meetings were not open to the public. “Officers have paid their own money into these police pension funds every working day of their lives.”

The report recommends that the consolidated police pension fund be governed by a board where only 50 percent of the trustees are law enforcement officers. Illinois’ 16 current public employee retirement funds, including the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, are constituted of governing boards with a majority of members of the fund.

“No one is more concerned with the proper administration of public safety pensions than our 36,000 members,” Roselieb said. “But this committee thinks downstate police officers are the only public employees who are just not smart or sophisticated enough to manage their own money.”

The State of Illinois’ “worst in the nation” track record of managing public pensions is also cause for concern among working and retired law enforcement officers.

“Illinois police officers are not inclined to believe the state when it says it’s going to responsibly manage their money,” said FOP State Lodge President Chris Southwood. “This problem is at the heart of the FOP’s concern. Any consolidation must contain a firewall between police officers’ money and the people responsible for the pension system debacle in this state.”

Roselieb and Southwood urged members of the Illinois General Assembly to actively seek input from law enforcement officers and the general public on any pension consolidation proposal, something that the Committee on Pension Consolidation did not do when formulating its report.

“We applaud Governor Pritzker for taking on this tough subject,” Southwood said. “But the committee’s secret deliberations and their attempt to diminish future public input on the pension fund’s governance are not the right way to reach a good solution.”

*** UPDATE 2 *** Gov. Pritzker was asked today about opposition from the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association, which represents the 600+ local pension fund administrators and conducts training sessions. His response…

These are the folks who run the junkets. The recent one cost about $8 million to the taxpayers to send people to Lake Geneva on a retreat.

I realize that this is going to disrupt their business model, but frankly we have to do better for the taxpayers of this state.

*** UPDATE 3 *** From Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois President Pat Devaney…

We support the recommendations of the task force.

Oh, man, that’s huge. That does more for the prospects of passing this thing than just about anything else.

- Posted by Rich Miller   44 Comments      


Winchester lawsuit finally tossed after a year and a half

Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

* From April of 2018

While chairmanships appear settled across the state, the election of the 15th Congressional District state central committeeman - between incumbent Bob Winchester or State Sen. Chapin Rose - remains uncertain.

The congressional district includes all or part of 33 southern Illinois counties and is led by Congressman John Shimkus of Collinsville.

* May of 2018

Bob Winchester, central committeeman of the Illinois Republican Party since 1992, claims in U.S. district court that the party rigged an election against him.

His lawyer, Stephen Boulton of Chicago, alleges that the party improperly favored State Sen. Chapin Rose of Champaign for committeeman in an election on April 18.

According to Boulton’s complaint, irregularities occurred at county conventions across the 15th Congressional district.

* This week

A Republican Party operative has lost his challenge in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois after failing to be re-elected as central committeeman in the 15th Congressional District.

Robert Winchester, following his defeat in the April 2018 election to represent the district on the Illinois Republican Party (IRP) State Central Committee, had sued claiming the election was “fraught with irregularities” and that he was the actual winner - and not Chapin Rose, a Republican state senator representing the 51st District.

Winchester alleged he was denied by the “systematic machinations of the chairman of the IRP and committeemen,” including that his name was not placed on ballots, non-existent votes were added to his opponents’ tally, people were not able to vote for him, and the wrong results were reported. […]

The IRP, individual committeemen, the board and election winner Rose all filed motions to dismiss in the U.S. District Court, largely arguing that the federal court lacked jurisdiction over what is a state dispute.

District Judge Staci Yandle agreed and pointed out that the 11th Amendment “prohibits federal courts from entertaining suits by private parties against states and their agencies.” She also dismissed his argument - made in Winchester’s response to the motion but not in the original complaint - that his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and assembly were violated.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   5 Comments      


The current trend is not his friend

Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

* I always say one of the reasons I love covering politics is because things can change very fast. Here’s what could turn out to be a prime example from an NRCC press release dated October 3rd entitled “RIP Betsy’s campaign”

Hi there –

Socialist loser* Betsy Dirksen Londrigan hopped back on board the impeachment train!

The only thing worse for Illinois families than a socialist is a socialist so consumed by their hatred of President Trump that they cannot get anything else done.

NOTE: New polling shows nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of voters in Republican-held battleground seats think Democrats are too focused on impeaching President Trump.

NRCC Comment: “Betsy Londrigan’s hatred of President Trump and obsession with impeachment has already marked the beginning of the end of her campaign.” -NRCC Spokeswoman Carly Atchison

*According to The New York Times, Betsy Dirksen is a socialist loser. (U.S. House Election Results 2018, The New York Times, January 28, 2019).

* From that NRCC poll referenced above, which was conducted September 28-30

In NRCC target seats, voters oppose impeachment: 44% support –47% oppose. In Republican-held battleground seats voters oppose impeachment:46%-49%.

That’s an awfully darned narrow margin to be confidently predicting the death of a campaign. But, like I say, things can always change. And that could be happening right now.

* From a Fox News poll conducted October 6-8

A new high of 51 percent wants Trump impeached and removed from office, another 4 percent want him impeached but not removed, and 40 percent oppose impeachment altogether. In July, 42 percent favored impeachment and removal, while 5 percent said impeach but don’t remove him, and 45 percent opposed impeachment.

Since July, support for impeachment increased among voters of all stripes: up 11 points among Democrats, 5 points among Republicans and 3 among independents. Support also went up among some of Trump’s key constituencies, including white evangelical Christians (+5 points), white men without a college degree (+8), and rural whites (+10).

Among voters in swing counties (where Hillary Clinton and Trump were within 10 points in 2016), support for impeachment increased to 52 percent, up from 42 percent in July. [Emphasis added.]

* Public sentiment is moving historically fast…



* Unlike Downstater Rodney Davis, who hopped all the way on board the Trump train and has been actively fundraising off Londrigan’s support for an impeachment inquiry, former state Rep. Jeanne Ives’ suburban congressional campaign has taken a more focused approach

“If [Democrats] really want to move forward with an impeachment inquiry, let’s have a vote, Nancy Pelosi. Give Republicans a chance to subpoena testimony, as well…”

…Adding… Rodney Davis is a former Shimkus staffer

Just hours after the decision to leave Syrian Kurds to fend for themselves against Turkey, Illinois Congressman John Shimkus calls the President’s decision “terrible and despicable.”

Shimkus goes on to tell KMOX’s Mark Reardon that he told staff “to take my name off the I support Donald Trump list” and that he is “saddened for the Kurdish people.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   66 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Legislators want AG to investigate standardized test maker over data sales

Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

* I’ve asked the attorney general’s office for a response. I’ll let you know if they say anything. From an Illinois Families for Public Schools press release…

Ahead of next week’s administration of the PSAT exam in schools around the state, nine Illinois state legislators are asking Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to investigate the business practices of a major state vendor, the College Board, the standardized test maker that sells the SAT, PSAT and Advanced Placement exams.

The lawmakers sent a letter to AG Raoul Thursday, October 10th signed by: Senators Cristina Castro, Robert Martwick, Laura Murphy and Robert Peters and Representatives Robyn Gabel, Will Guzzardi, Lindsey LaPointe, Aarón Ortíz and Ann Williams.

The letter explains that the College Board has been selling data collected from Illinois public school students who take the College Board’s exams and that such sales are illegal under Illinois law.

Since 2017, Illinois has prohibited vendors from selling or renting the personal information of students collected in schools under the Student Online Privacy Protection Act (SOPPA), an Illinois state law. In addition to violating SOPPA, in many cases the data sales may also be violating Illinois’ Children’s Privacy Protection and Parental Empowerment Act, which bars the sale of data of a child under 16 without parental consent.

The College Board’s data sales were reported on last year by the New York Times, and the US Department of Education has warned school districts and state education agencies about the issues surrounding these sales. At an IL Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this spring, a representative of the College Board, Todd Iverson, confirmed that the College Board is selling Illinois’ student data—at the time for $.45 per student record.

This summer, Illinois Families for Public Schools, a public school parent advocacy group, began assisting parents with submitting consumer fraud complaints to the Attorney General’s office. Parents and students are not informed of the College Board’s data sales, and in some cases are explicitly told that the College Board does not sell data. Parents are asking for the AG to bar the College Board from future sales of Illinois student data and to prevent the College Board from collecting or redisclosing student data without written, informed consent from a parent for any student under 18.

“My child was told that participating in the College Board’s Student Search Service survey was for his benefit. Neither of us knew the answers he provided were for sale. As a parent, I have the responsibility and the right to control what happens to my child’s personal data. And as a taxpayer, I don’t understand why the College Board needs to make money off this data. Aren’t they already being paid for the tests themselves?,” asked Chicago parent Gina Silva, who filed a complaint about the data sales with the IL AG.

The College Board does millions of dollars of business every year in Illinois with state and local governments. They currently have a $29 million contract with the IL State Board of Education for the SAT and PSAT tests. Last year the state paid more than $2 million to cover the fees for the AP tests for low-income students. The state’s largest school district, Chicago Public Schools, has an $8.35 million contract with the College Board. In addition, Illinois public institutions of higher education are some of the buyers of the data from the College Board.

Since spring of 2018, the IL State Board of Education has mandated the administration of the SAT to all high school juniors to fulfill requirements of federal school accountability law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. The SAT is now a requirement to receive a diploma from a public high school in Illinois. This year the state will begin mandating the PSAT in 9th and 10th grade. Many schools administer the PSAT/NMSQT in the fall of 11th grade as well. The College Board’s Advanced Placement tests also now play a role in Illinois’ school rating system.

* I followed up with a question about how many kids are taking these tests in Illinois…

Hi Rich,

In 2018, about 140K students took the SAT in public schools. (The numbers from 2019 will be released at the end of the month but enrollment should be similar.)

In spring 2020, there will be a similar number taking SAT plus another ~300K because the state is now requiring schools to administer a PSAT to 9th and 10th grade as well.

In addition, about 110K students took at least one AP test in 2018. (But, presumably almost all of them are already being counted in the above stats.)

In terms of how much the College Board is making from data sales though, the $.47 per record is, I think, only for the data from high school juniors. For younger children, they charge more—up to $5 per record. (This is according to representatives from some of the state’s public universities and colleges who said this at a College and Career Interest Task Force meeting last November.)

…Adding… From the Illinois Families for Public Schools…

Correction, looking back at my notes from that meeting—colleges/universities are paying up to $5/record for this data, but it’s not clear from what was said whether that was from College Board in particular or from another data broker. Here’s the College Board’s current price list.

*** UPDATE *** From the AG’s office…

We are aware of these concerns and are looking into this.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


The 13th Ward never gives up, and that is now a problem

Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

* This is classic 13th Ward behavior right here

The 13th Ward campaign workers hit the streets aggressively, asking people to sign sworn affidavits revoking their support for a little-known college student challenging Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s handpicked alderman.

Some Southwest Side residents said they were bombarded with repeated visits followed by repeated voicemails. Others told the Tribune they were yelled at when they refused to sign the piece of paper put before them.

One woman recounted how she hid for weeks from the political troops, sending her increasingly irritated husband to the door with excuses for why she wasn’t available. “They kept coming and coming and coming to my house. … Three times a day for a very long time,” she said.

Just when she thought it was safe to answer the door, they were on her porch again. She said she signed the revocation so they’d stop showing up. She said she worried that complaining publicly would mean she’d lose city services.

The strong push by Ald. Marty Quinn’s supporters was part of an unusual effort to keep 19-year-old David Krupa off the February ballot using a little-known quirk in election law.

Go read the rest. Those folks are really something.

- Posted by Rich Miller   39 Comments      


State automatically enrolling people in lowest rated Medicaid managed care program

Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

* In case anyone is still wondering why some of us were so upset about the state’s rush to shove thousands of foster kids into Medicaid managed care, here’s Stephanie Goldberg at Crain’s

Illinois is funneling more people into the Medicaid managed care plan with the highest turnover and lowest scores on state quality measures.

The Illinois Department of Healthcare & Family Services sends 35 percent of new Medicaid enrollees who didn’t request a particular plan to NextLevel Health. That ties CountyCare for the highest percentage assigned to any of the state’s Medicaid managed care providers.

NextLevel gets all those new customers despite poor quality grades and high rates of defection among its current members. The plan finished last in the state’s latest quality survey, which rated NextLevel “low” or “lowest” in five of six performance metrics. Meanwhile, NextLevel lost customers at twice the rate that patients left the program overall.

Go read the rest.

* Meanwhile

A new study found waste accounts for roughly one-quarter of all U.S. healthcare spending, an estimate that’s in the same ballpark as its predecessors.

The cost of waste in the U.S. healthcare system ranges from $760 billion to $935 billion annually, according to a JAMA review of 54 peer-reviewed studies, government reports and other information, released Monday. The study found one-quarter of that could be cut using interventions found to reduce waste. […]

The current study divided waste into six previously identified categories. Administrative complexity accounted for the most waste, at $265.6 billion annually. Below that was waste due to pricing failure, which costs $230.7 billion to $240.5 billion annually. Failure of care delivery accounts for $102.4 billion to $165.7 billion annually. Overtreatment or low-value care results in $75.7 billion to $101.2 billion in waste annually. Waste related to fraud and abuse costs between $58.5 billion and $83.9 billion annually. Finally, failure of care coordination generates $27.2 billion to $78.2 billion in waste annually.

The study also estimated potential annual savings from measures shown to cut waste. In aggregate, those interventions could save $191 billion to $282 billion annually, or about 25% of the total cost of waste.

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 - Sens. Bush, Morrison want chairmanship stripped - Mendoza says Sandoval should step aside *** Leader Brady wants Sandoval chairmanship yanked

Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

* Tina Sfondeles

The two top Democrats in the state Senate see no reason to remove Sen. Martin Sandoval from his leadership position on a key committee despite a federal raid of his home and offices, putting them at odds with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and others in the Illinois Senate.

Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, on Wednesday joined Senate President John Cullerton in taking a wait-and-see attitude on Sandoval, whose Chicago home and Senate offices in Cicero and Springfield have been searched by federal agents. […]

But signaling a sign of dissension, Assistant Majority Leader Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, told the newspaper that it’s time for Sandoval to step down from the committee.

“It would be wise for Marty Sandoval to step down as chair of the Transportation Committee while this investigation unfolds,” Harmon said.

Subscribers know more about this topic. Some Senators are going a lot further than Harmon.

* Meanwhile…


*** UPDATE 1 *** I missed this one from Brian Mackey

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza is joining calls for state Sen. Martin Sandoval to step down from his role as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. […]

“I think everybody that serves in this dome, and outside looking in, should be very concerned about these allegations,” Mendoza said. “And he should do the right thing and step aside.”

Asked whether she’s begun reviewing Sandoval’s spending requests, Mendoza said she has not. But she added she’ll be watching infrastructure spending.

“As the office that will be paying the checks for the $45 billion capital plan, we want to make sure we’re doing everything within our power to vet every single one of those, and make sure that they are 100 percent on the up and up and legitimate,” she said.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Subscribers already knew this

“If he doesn’t do it on his own, the Senate president should remove him from the Transportation Committee and from leadership as long as he’s under investigation,” said state Sen. Melinda Bush, a Grayslake Democrat. Bush has communicated her stance to Cullerton and to Pritkzer, she said. “When these kinds of behaviors are called into question, it reflects on all of us. It’s incumbent on us to make sure these individuals are removed from decision-making power positions until they’re cleared.” […]

Assistant Democratic leader Don Harmon said it would be “wise” for Sandoval to step down “while the investigation unfolds.” […]

“I would hope that after many years of service in the Senate, out of respect for the institution of the Senate and the people he represents, that (Sandoval) would voluntarily step down,” said [Sen. Julie Morrison], a Deerfield Democrat. “And if he chooses not to do so, I think the responsibility to remove him falls on the president of the Senate.”

But not this

Sen. Iris Martinez, a Transportation Committee member and assistant Democratic leader, said if she were in Sandoval’s position she would step down from the committee chair position as a “courtesy” to the other committee members while the investigation runs its course. But whether Sandoval steps down or is removed is ultimately something for Sandoval and Cullerton to decide, Martinez said.

Tribune reporters also talked to some Republicans.

- Posted by Rich Miller   29 Comments      


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Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


ComEd and Exelon hit with grand jury subpoena on Sen. Sandoval

Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

* Steve Daniels with the scoop

Commonwealth Edison is again enmeshed in a federal investigation of corruption in Illinois politics.

The utility, along with parent Exelon, received a grand jury subpoena Oct. 4 requiring “production of records of any communications with certain individuals and entities, including Illinois State Senator Martin Sandoval,” the companies disclosed last night in a Securities & Exchange Commission filing. […]

For ComEd and Exelon, it’s the second federal subpoena they’ve received in the past three months. Earlier, they acknowledged requests for information surrounding “lobbying activities” from the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago. That investigation focused at least in part on former Southwest Side Ald. Michael Zalewski’s efforts to get lobbying work for ComEd, according to reports at the time. Zalewski has been a close ally of House Speaker Michael Madigan for years.

* From the company’s SEC filing

As previously disclosed, Exelon Corporation and Commonwealth Edison Company (the “Companies”) received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, which required production of information concerning lobbying activities in the State of Illinois. On October 4, 2019, the Companies received a second grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois that requires production of records of any communications with certain individuals and entities, including Illinois State Senator Martin Sandoval.

The Companies have cooperated fully with the U.S. Attorney and intend to continue to cooperate fully and expeditiously with any government requests or inquiries. On June 21, 2019, the Exelon Corporation Board formed a Special Oversight Committee, consisting solely of independent directors, to oversee the Companies’ cooperation and compliance with the subpoena, any further action taken by the U.S. Attorney and any resulting actions that may be required or recommended. The Special Oversight Committee has engaged independent outside counsel to advise and assist the Committee.

You know it’s serious when a company creates an oversight committee like that with outside counsel.

Whew.

…Adding… I should’ve added this for context, although it’s difficult to know for certain right now if this is, um, related

Sandoval’s daughter, Angie, works for ComEd as a senior account representative.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


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Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


*** LIVE COVERAGE ***

Thursday, Oct 10, 2019

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


- Posted by Rich Miller   1 Comment      


Question of the day

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* WCIA

Have you ever considered leaving Illinois? If you have, a new study says you are not alone. A survey out of the University of Illinois Springfield found while more people feel the state is moving in the right direction this year compared to years past, most still feel Illinois is going down the wrong road.

The UIS Research Center study found that 61 percent of people surveyed have considered moving out Illinois in the past year but researchers said it’s just a thought for many.

“When we look at the data, we actually ask folks about action related to the leaving the state and when you actually look at those actions,
Like applying for jobs out of state, applying for housing, it’s actually really low like in the single digits,” said Alan Simmons, Director of Survey Research at UIS.

* Bernie

On the topic of out-migration, 61 percent of respondents said they have considered moving out of Illinois in the past year. But of those 61 percent, only 16 percent looked for jobs in a new state and just 5 percent applied for such jobs; and 26 percent looked at out-of state housing but just 2 percent applied for such housing.

Reasons of those considering out-of-state moves included lower state taxes, 27 percent; state government and policies, 17 percent; better weather, 15 percent; lower crime, 13 percent; job opportunities, 12 percent; better schools, 6 percent; and family or personal reasons, 8 percent.

In 2018, 53 percent of respondents to a survey that year said they considered moving out of state in the previous 12 months. Simmons said that while the 61 percent in this year’s survey is higher, actions leading to actual moves out of state are “pretty low.′

“I think a wider study would need to be done to talk to folks that have left and maybe even folks that have moved into the state as well to … really unpack the kind of migration that has been going on,” Simmons said.

* The Question: Have you ever seriously discussed leaving Illinois? Explain either way. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   100 Comments      


Pritzker doubts energy bills will advance during veto session

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* Center Square

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he doesn’t expect to see a broad state energy plan come together during the General Assembly’s brief fall legislative session.

As lawmakers prepare to return to the state capital later this month for the fall session, a number of policy issues could be discussed – from gun control measures to e-cigarette regulations. […]

But the governor said doesn’t expect a broad energy plan to surface during the fall session.

“It certainly is something that’s being considered as part of a broader energy package,” Pritzker said. “I don’t know that we’ll be able to get to it during a veto session.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to come back for three days beginning Oct. 28 and then three days beginning Nov. 12.

As we’ve discussed before, a leadership determination was made in the spring to move all energy bills forward at once. But with ComEd facing some attention from the feds, nobody wants to touch their proposals.

* But some public support appears to be building for this proposal…


Pritzker has pushed a whole host of progressive legislation this year, and now the clean energy people want him to step up on this one.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Pritzker unveils mandated five-year economic plan

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* Governors are required by state statute to issue five-year economic plans. Pat Quinn published the latest five-year plan. It’s now Pritkzer’s turn…

Governor JB Pritzker and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity released a 5-year plan to create an economy in Illinois that works for everyone. To expand prosperity throughout the state, the plan is focused on fostering job creation, improving wages, building greater equity, and attracting and supporting businesses.

“Since I took office in January, we’ve already begun making strides toward growing our state’s economy after years of neglect and intransigence. For the first time in nearly two decades, we’ve seen simultaneous strong job growth in every region of the state,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Underlying my vision is the fundamental principle of equity. No matter their zip code, every Illinoisan deserves economic opportunity. Where in the past sustainable and inclusive economic development has been elusive, instead I am committed to reinvigorating the most important foundational element of Illinois’ economy: our diverse and talented workforce.”

The initiatives outlined in the report lay the foundation for long-term growth by focusing on key growth industries with a broad reach like technology, manufacturing, life sciences and healthcare, and transportation and logistics.

There’s a lot to this thing. The executive summary is here. The full plan is here.

* Greg Hinz got an advance look

The most striking thing in the report is its call for emphasizing help for seven industry clusters: agriculture/agriculture tech, energy, information technology, life sciences/health care, manufacturing, transportation/logistics and small business.

Though some economists say trying to cherry-pick certain industries for help is a losing strategy compared to, say, across-the-board tax cuts, others counter that identifying and then nurturing and growing certain industry clusters has proved to pay big dividends. Pritzker clearly agrees with the latter sentiment, and pointed to New York, which a decade ago had little presence in the life sciences industry but has since targeted that field with major success.

“It’s not that we’re picking winners and losers,” said Erin Guthrie, who heads Pritzker’s Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity and who sat in on the interview. “It’s that we’re picking six areas where we feel we should put in extra work because they’re fast-growing” and the state already has a significant presence in them.

In agriculture, which clearly already is a pillar of the state’s economy, the plan proposes to help better integrate tech solutions to problems including “eroded soils, more pests and pathogens, degraded quality of stored grain, and lower crop yields” from global warming. Pritzker wants to spend $420 million to expand broadband—mostly downstate—enlarge foreign trade zones to facilitate access by food processors and exporters, and increase joint-research efforts at academic and related facilities, such as the proposed Discovery Partners Institute in the South Loop here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Maybe take it with just a touch of salt

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* News-Gazette editorial

Illinois may not be flying high in its standing with the public, but Gov. JB. Pritzker is.

A new poll — dubbed the Illinois Issues Survey — conducted by the University of Illinois-Springfield Survey Research Office shows that nearly six out of 10 state residents have a positive view of how Pritzker is conducting himself as governor.

OK, first of all, this is an online poll, so I wouldn’t jump to any hard conclusions just yet.

Secondly, I’ve heard some GOP grumbling about how the partisan universe in the Illinois Issues Survey is way more favorable to Gov. Pritzker than other polls: 53 percent Democratic vs. 30 percent Republican. That’s a +23D universe. By contrast, Gallup’s polling last year had Illinois at +16D. The Simon Poll’s most recent survey this spring had Illinois at +12D. That spring poll had Pritzker’s job approval at 40 and his disapproval at 38.

Even so, if you apply Gallup’s partisan makeup to the Illinois Issues Survey, you still get a 58 percent job approval rating for Pritzker. It’s a 57 percent approval rating if you apply the Simon Poll partisan universe.

According to the Illinois Issues Survey, Pritzker experienced a 14-point increase in his approval rating among Democrats vs. the Simon Poll, which is to be expected after the session he had. But he also saw an 18-point increase among independents (31 to 49) and more than a doubling of his approval rating among Republicans, which skyrocketed from 15 to 32. I dunno.

Again, this is an online poll and I’m not yet sold on that methodology.

* Illinois Public Radio

A broad majority of Illinois voters support major changes to the state income tax, favoring a system where the wealthy pay more. That’s according to new survey data from NPR Illinois and the University of Illinois Springfield.

The survey says 67 percent of registered Illinois voters support a graduated income tax. That’s where people who earn more money pay a higher tax rate, and people who earn less pay a lower rate.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker made the proposal a centerpiece of both his campaign and his freshman legislative session. Given that, it’s not surprising the plan enjoys widest support among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic (79%). Next are non-leaning independents (59%), and finally Republicans and independents who lean Republican (49%).

Since the polling universe skews so high for Democrats, this is not a surprising result. Also, while the result is in line with several Simon Poll results over the years, support is now ten points higher than the 2018 Illinois Issues Survey.

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


Justice Burke has some explaining to do

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* WBEZ dug up 10 Illinois Supreme Court cases where Justice Anne Burke participated in the decision even though her husband Ed Burke’s law firm represented one of the parties in property tax matters. There’s zero evidence that Burke tipped the scale on behalf of her husband’s clients, but the pledge she took when she was first sworn in looks inoperative to my eyes

On the day she first was sworn in as a justice in 2006, Burke pledged to be mindful of potential conflicts of interest that might involve her politics or her husband.

“I’m constantly on the lookout for any possible — what appears to be, which I might not even think is an appearance of — impropriety or conflict. I go the opposite way,” she said. […]

In the case involving Jason Sloan, a court spokesman said Justice Burke was unaware that her husband had any financial relationship to ComEd.

“I can confirm on the record that Justice Burke did not know who was or was not a client of Klafter & Burke in 2011 and still does not know who may or may not be a client of Klafter & Burke to this day,” court spokesman Christopher Bonjean said in a statement.

Court rules dictate that judges shall “make a reasonable effort to keep informed about the personal economic interests of the judge’s spouse.”

You cannot be both “constantly on the lookout” for even the appearance of conflict and then never make a reasonable effort to ask your attorney spouse about possible conflicts.

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


World’s Greatest Newspaper

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* I somehow missed the bottom of this editorial until a buddy recently forwarded it to me

Editor’s note: A previous version indicated that Andrew Johnson was elected president. In 1865, Johnson, next in line as vice president, assumed the presidency after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The Tribune regrets the error.

Editorials reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board, as determined by the members of the board, the editorial page editor and the publisher.

What?

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


CTU wants to negotiate affordable housing issues

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* CTU…


* Mayor Lightfoot last night…

“Today marked the 49th time that CTU and CPS negotiators met at the bargaining table, and the 142nd day that CTU has still not provided us with a comprehensive counter-proposal. Instead of providing a response to our comprehensive proposal, CTU presented its demands to set the City’s affordable housing policy through their collective bargaining agreement, demanding that the City enact CTU’s preferred affordable housing policy as part of their contract.

“My administration is committed to addressing Chicago’s affordable housing challenges. That’s why I appointed the City’s first housing commissioner in a decade, and announced a new and transparent plan for distributing Low Income Housing Tax Credits, with more progress to come. The CTU shares much of our vision on affordable housing, and I invite them to engage in the policymaking process with housing providers, advocacy organizations and other stakeholders who must be a part of this important discussion.

“Affordable housing is a critical issue that affects residents across Chicago, and everyone’s voices need to be heard during this process. As such, the CTU collective bargaining agreement is not the appropriate place for the City to legislate its affordable housing policy.

“We are a week away from our deadline to resolve this contract and avoid a strike. We need CTU to come to the table with written proposals on the core issues we need to address in order to resolve the contract. Once this contract is resolved, our Department of Housing will continue to work closely with stakeholders—including unions like the CTU—to ensure everyone in all of our communities has access to a safe, affordable, accessible place to live.”

* Sun-Times

CTU spokeswoman Chris Geovanis said late Tuesday that housing costs need to be addressed to help students and lower-paid support staff who she said don’t make enough to live in the city, even though they are required to.

It’s “sad that [the mayor] continues to distort our proposals and try to force a wage agreement that would still leave the children of teaching assistants and school clerks eligible for free and reduced lunch under federal poverty guidelines,” Geovanis said.

The two sides will bargain every day this week except Wednesday in observance of a Jewish holiday. Negotiators will also meet Saturday.

Still, there doesn’t appear to be a resolution in sight with just more than a week left before the union’s Oct. 17 strike deadline.

- Posted by Rich Miller   107 Comments      


This is one huge dragnet

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

The Illinois Senate recently released a heavily redacted copy of the federal search warrant served during the raid of Sen. Martin Sandoval’s Statehouse office last month. And the Village of McCook also released a heavily redacted search warrant from the federal raid of its town hall.

It’s impossible to tell from the redactions exactly how many individuals and entities are under investigation, but it’s a lot. McCook’s warrant has almost six full lines of text blacked out after the phrase “Items related to.” Sandoval’s warrant contains 67 redactions, but it’s unclear if all those are for separate individuals and entities or just multiple words in the same names.

Even so, by counting things like “Associate A,” or “Lobbyist B,” or “Official A’s company,” I totaled up more than 70 people and entities clearly listed in the two warrants.

And we’ve only seen parts of two of the numerous search warrants served. So there’s more. We know the Village of Lyons also was hit, as was a sand and gravel operation owned by a businessman named Mike Vondra.

Vondra is known in some circles as “The Wizard,” a nickname that is both complimentary and disparaging at the same time. It comes from his uncanny business sense and his ability to work the system to benefit his many companies, which naturally makes some of his competitors furious.

Vondra’s main business is asphalt, perhaps one of the most politically drenched industries in this state. Asphalt companies vie for contracts with this state’s innumerable local governments, as well as with the state. Many of those companies are by necessity politically active. Vondra is said to excel at this.

Vondra has been an honorary chairman of Sandoval’s huge annual golf outing fundraisers over the years and has contributed thousands of dollars to Sandoval’s campaign fund. As chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Sandoval took the lead in his chamber on the state’s massive new infrastructure law.

Vondra’s Statehouse lobbying team is led by Victor Reyes, whose Roosevelt Group firm started working for Vondra in 2006. Reyes is super-close to Sandoval and has worked to elect Sandoval and his allies for nearly two decades. Nothing has emerged to connect Reyes or his firm to the current federal investigation.

At least seven municipalities are being looked at during this probe. We know that because the FBI was looking for evidence in Sandoval’s office regarding “Municipality 7 Attorney, Municipality 7 President,” etc.

The feds were looking for any items related to five unnamed officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation in Sandoval’s office. According to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the agency has received no federal subpoenas or search warrants and neither has his office.

The G was also looking for information in Sandoval’s office about two unnamed lobbyists, an unnamed “Foundation,” an unnamed construction company, an unnamed highway company, an unnamed “lounge” and an unnamed “Club.”

The Sun-Times has reported that federal investigators asked Summit’s mayor “whether another political figure tried to pressure village officials into giving a local bar a license to operate later into the night,” but it’s not clear if either the lounge or club in the Sandoval warrant are connected to Summit.

Multiple media outlets have reported that the feds are asking questions about SafeSpeed, a politically connected red-light camera company.

Red-light cam companies are popular with a certain set. With enough influence over a town government you can get a cam or two (or more) installed and then receive a percentage of the fines. Some Statehouse lobbyists have supplemented their incomes by recommending cam locations to their municipal clients. The cam companies are also popular with politicians who need jobs for their campaign workers.

But the Sun-Times also reported that the feds asked Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski’s chief of staff about SafeSpeed investor Omar Maani and some low-income housing projects Maani built in Cicero and Summit. The feds also asked the mayor of Summit about the housing projects, according to the Sun-Times. According to the Forest Park Review, Maani at one time worked for a man who now handles legal work for the Town of Cicero. Sandoval has a lucrative translation contract with Cicero. The Roosevelt Group also lobbies for Cicero and SafeSpeed.

Again, we don’t know yet who will be ensnared, but it’s one of the biggest dragnets we’ve ever seen in Illinois, and that’s saying something.

One more thing. The warrant served on McCook includes items relating to “CW1” and “CW2.” That federal “CW” reference usually translates to “Cooperating Witness.”

* Related…

* Chicago’s IRS Criminal Investigation division has its first female leader

- Posted by Rich Miller   3 Comments      


What’s the dealio on Cullerton and Sandoval?

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* My Crain’s Chicago Business column

On paper, at least, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton appear pretty similar.

They’ve both served in the General Assembly since the 1970s, they’re Chicago Democrats from political families and are White Sox fans with season tickets. Cullerton is the godfather of Madigan’s only son.

But they don’t wield their power the same way.

Over the years, Madigan has been far more top-down than Cullerton. His nickname isn’t the “Velvet Hammer” for nothing. Madigan’s longtime chief of staff, Tim Mapes, was given more power than any of the speaker’s elected members. Madigan’s staff constantly tries to micromanage House Democrats. Cullerton’s staff is much more deferential.

Cullerton is more of a delegator. He gently defers to his members, even devolving some power to them this year with a committee rules restructuring.

The column eventually gets to what I think is behind Cullerton’s refusal to move Sen. Martin Sandoval out of his Transportation Committee chairmanship, so go read the rest before commenting, please.

* Related…

* Editorial: Pritzker’s right, remove transportation chair

* Editorial: Before spending on roads, bridges, Sandoval must go

* Senator under scrutiny by feds exerted muscle on tollway’s contract with campaign donor

* Silence on Sandoval? Illinois lawmaker’s reaction is priceless: BRADLEY: “Okay, let’s go outside. You don’t want to talk about a senator who has received search warrants?”

- Posted by Rich Miller   8 Comments      


Sun-Times names rumored cooperator: “Our partner has run amok”

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* This rumor has been going around for about a week now. Here’s the Sun-Times on Monday

The politically connected CEO of a red-light camera company under federal scrutiny insisted “we don’t pay people off,” amid new revelations that agents recently approached another village mayor and a company salesman as part of their investigation.

“There is no subpoena to SafeSpeed,” Nikki Zollar told the Chicago Sun-Times late last week in her first public remarks since federal agents fanned out across the southwest suburbs on Sept. 26, seizing records and interviewing people. […]

Zollar said she believes that a SafeSpeed “partner,” businessman and developer Omar Maani, appears to be cooperating with the government, as do other sources familiar with the probe. […]

Her company is “trying to find out what we need to do to distance ourselves from him.”

“Our partner has run amok in some way,” Zollar said.

* Sun-Times yesterday

An upscale cigar shop and lounge in southwest suburban Countryside is proving to be an intriguing — and, until now, little-known — link to political players involved in an ongoing federal corruption investigation that saw agents swoop into Chicago and the southwest suburbs over the last two weeks, seizing records and interviewing public officials.

The business, Casa De Montecristo, offers choice cigars for sale, a living room-type space to unwind with a blazing fireplace where customers can puff away while watching sports on a large-screen TV and a separate “VIP room” in the basement, accessible by elevator, that offers dim-lighting, booths straight out of a Rat Pack-era nightclub, televisions and a bar for special events. Attractive women were often on hand working as servers. […]

It turns out a central figure in the corruption probe, Omar Maani of Burr Ridge, often entertained or otherwise socialized with political figures there, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. […]

Maani was there so often, in fact, that many people — including his business partners in other endeavors — thought he owned the swanky establishment. These days some of them believe he was something else: A businessman who was secretly cooperating with federal authorities as they attempted to snare local politicians.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   24 Comments      


*** LIVE COVERAGE ***

Wednesday, Oct 9, 2019

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      


« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* If you're Dick Lockhart's friend, please get in touch with him ASAP
* Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend
* *** UPDATED x2 - "Agreed to step down" *** Pritzker withdraws nomination of Cesar Santoy to Tollway board
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Afternoon update
* Question of the day
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser list
* *** UPDATED x2 *** Sanguinetti bows out of congressional race
* Open Letter: The University Of Illinois Must Protect First Amendment Rights
* *** UPDATED x2 - Sandoval submitted chairmanship resignation letter *** Sandoval's chairmanship appears to have been yanked
* *** UPDATED x19 *** Senate Democrats release unredacted Sandoval search warrant
* Take it easy
* Forbes: Gov. Pritzker is 6th wealthiest Illinoisan
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