Friday, August 31, 2007

Health nut

The governor unveiled the first of five health care initiatives that are replacing his gigantic proposal to extend state-sponsored health care to all uninsured adults in the state, which failed to win any legislative support. The newer scaled-back version doesn’t have legislative approval, either, but the governor’s assuming some parts of the new plan won’t even need approval from the rulemaking body, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. Still, the five different initiatives will need a funding source some day.

The first portion, announced Thursday, expands the governor’s first-term claim to fame, All Kids, to young adults age 19 to 21. The state won’t insure them directly. It’s actually a program offered through Blue Cross and Blue Shield Illinois that covers those young adults who have “pre-existing” major illnesses, which would make them unlikely to get other private insurance plans otherwise. The administration estimates it would help about 7,000 people at a cost of $15 million to the state. This part does not need approval from the legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, according to the administration.

Neither will the state rebate program for families who have private health insurance but who have a hard time paying the monthly premiums. These families make up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or $61,950 for a family of four. The rebate would amount to 20 percent of their premium costs, maxing out at $1,000 a year.

Another portion would provide breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment to all uninsured women, potentially up to 261,000 people at a cost of $50 million to the state.

Two portions that could need JCAR approval are the expansion of the state-run program FamilyCare, which the governor wants to apply to families up to 400 percent of the poverty level. That’s up from the current 150 percent threshold and would include a family of four making $82,600 a year. The last part aims to help very low-income adults who don’t qualify for Medicaid because they don’t have any dependants in the household. The single adults would get help with primary care, medications and hospital visits.

Krista Donahue, chief of policy at the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, calmed one fear that the governor would ram this through JCAR to enact the plans a.s.a.p. She said the governor will not file emergency rules, which means the portions requiring JCAR approval will have 45 days for public review. She also said there has been no decision to guarantee the state would reimburse participating doctors in a certain amount of time. “The rumor out there that we are going to pay providers who participate in these programs faster is just false,” she said.


Cross Tabulation Tables

Cross Posted from Fako & Associates' Political Polling Blog.

Cross Tabulation tables (often referred to as "cross tabs" or "tabs") numerically display the results of a survey, showing how the answers to one poll question break down according to the answers to another poll question or other data derived from the sample.

Generally speaking, cross tabs are detailed statistical / numeric analysis of a survey, but in a raw, unfinished form. Your pollster will use cross tabs to generate a written analysis that will serve as your campaign's strategic guide and tactical play-book.

It is important to understand what basic components are necessary to generate a good set of cross tabs that will in turn give you the data needed to make strategic and tactical decisions. Although many campaigns have staff that understand how to read tabs, a campaign should not have to probe through cross tabs to get answers from their poll -- that's the job of the pollster.

Unlike a "topline report," which reports the breakdown of answers to a specific poll question in terms of the overall percentage of all respondents, a cross tab shows how the results of questions (such as who is winning in a trial heat) relates to a variety of demographic and attitudinal classifications.

(Figure 1, Click Image to Enlarge)
Technically speaking, a cross tabulation displays the joint distribution of at least two or more variables (e.g.: "Male" & "Candidate 1 Supporters" or "Male less than 50 years old" & "Candidate 1 Supporters") (See Figure 1).

The topline report might show Candidate 1 capturing 24% of the vote and Candidate 2 capturing 50%, with 26% undecided. A cross tab (See Figure 2), however, will show candidate 1 capturing 24% of the vote overall, but also shows candidate 1 capturing 31% among voters in the South Region and performing better among voters over 65 with 32% of their vote.

(Figure 2, Click Image to Enlarge)

Now that you have a basic understanding of how cross tabulations work and are read, it's important to know which demographics and attitudinal groups should be included in your cross tabs.

Every pollster has their preferred way of structuring questions and response items. We've created a very basic set of sample cross tabs with easy to understand response items to help show you some possible combinations withing the tables.

As you saw in Figure 2, demographic questions are among the most essential components of your cross tabs. You need to know how regional differences affect the opinion of voters; as we discussed the importance of a regional break-down in the previous section of the components of a survey. Beyond regions, your cross tabs may or should include, depending on the scope and purpose of your survey, demographic data like Gender, Age, Race, Political Party ID, Political Ideology, length of residence, education levels, income levels, marital status, if the household has school aged children and so on.

Cross tabs allow for more intricate demographic breakdown. As shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3 below, it's possible to combine variables to arrive at combinations of demographics, such as Men under Age 50 and Female African American voters. The combinations are nearly endless, but finite groups tend to statistically break down in reliability as the sample size decreases among the groupings and the margin of error increases. Your survey sample size will largely determine the level of micro-analysis capable within your cross tabs.

Beyond clearly defined demographic groups, your crosstabs should include various special attitudinal groups. The special groups may be defined through various variables based on the respondent's opinions and answers to both demographic and substantive questions in the survey. These groups can represent key targets for your campaign and a demographic picture of these voters can be developed by utilizing these groups in your cross tab analysis, allowing the pollster profile key target groups. Attitudinal groups (See Figure 3 & 4) can help you determine the demographic breakdown of various significant groups such as weak/strong supporters/opponents and undecided voters and variants of them such as undecided non-Democrats and uncommitted women, etc. They can include variables such as voters who support your party's top of the ticket, but do not support your candidate and swing / persuadable voters who in the course of the survey showed movement from undecided or supporting your opponent to supporting your candidate, etc. and numerous other possible attitudinal options. Depending on the construction of your survey, you can also determine who are single issue voters on hot button issues. There is a wide array of attitudinal possibilities, only limited by the scope of your survey.

(Figure 3, Click Image to Enlarge)
(Figure 4, Click Image to Enlarge)

In the end, a well constructed cross tab report will provide the numeric foundation and data for any campaign's strategic plans and are the root "source" for a pollster's written analysis and strategic advice. Pollsters who produce intricately detailed, useful tabs that go way beyond the standard factors will provide campaigns with higher quality strategic advice. Pollsters using this level of detail provide more precise direction on message, targets and strategy that increases the probability of developing a successful plan.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wild speculation or...

...wish Fitz gets it so the Senate can bog him down with sensless investigations and away from real investigations,

Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democratic, speculated that Patrick Fitzgerald, a U.S. attorney and the prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation, had a chance — albeit a small one — of replacing Alberto Gonzales: “If the choice is made to bring in somebody truly independent who will be quickly confirmed, Patrick Fitzgerald’s one.”
And a Giuliani quote from the same link that fits Illinois,
Rudy Giuliani: “How is it that we have the best higher education in the world and a weaker K-through-12 system? … What’s the difference? Why does one operate so well and the other not nearly as well? American higher education is based on a quintessential American principle — choice.”

More: “I’d give parents control over their children’s education. … We’ve got to have competition operating.”


That Rasmussen Poll

I think I'm the last guy in Illinois to prefer calling himself a Liberal (of the Joe Lieberman Tony Blair sorts) instead of Progressive. If this stuff all correlates the way it seems, I may have to chuck the label too.

7* In political terms, is Illinois becoming more liberal or more conservative?

53% More Liberal
21% More Conservative
26% Not Sure

8* Looking out over the next couple of years, will the quality of life in Illinois get better, worse, or stay about the same?

15% Better
40% Worse
39% The Same
5% Not Sure

9* How do you rate the economy in Illinois today—Excellent, good, fair, or poor?

3% Excellent
31% Good
45% Fair
21% Poor
0% Not Sure

10* Over the next couple of years will the economy in Illinois get better or worse?

21% Better
43% Worse
26% The Same
10% Not Sure


Silent Treatment

Even in the heated times in which we find ourselves, I want to give credit where credit is due. To the Governor. Governor Blagojevich.

The Governor today vetoed SB1463, legislation that would have mandated a moment of silence in schools, a moment of silence which is now a permissive option left up to the decision of local school officials.

Only one member of the Senate, Dan Rutherford, had the wherewithal to vote against the bill in that chamber, and if memory strikes me correctly, I was the only House member to speak against the bill in debate in our chamber, although to their credit, about two dozen House members refrained from supporting the bill.

I could write at some length as to why I found some fundamental flaws in what I would trust is well-intentioned legislation, but I doubt that I could put do it as effectively as the late Justice Seymour Simon did:

True, a child could silently recite a poem or count sheep (during a classroom moment of silence). However, that is not the point. It is the government-sanctioned and government-enforced religious purpose that is forbidden by our Constitution. So long as the purpose of the silence is to permit prayer, that purpose helps to establish religion, to break down the barriers between church and state and to undermine our precious religious freedoms. Even silence highlights the non-participant as different. The child who does not join the silence is singled out. Also, many religions have a format for prayer. Muslims kneel on a prayer rug facing Mecca. Catholics sometimes kneel. Many Protestants bow their heads. The moment of silence can end up with children acting in different ways to conduct their prayers, again causing some to feel different than their classmates. Like organized vocal prayer, an organized period of silent prayer will carry the sanction of the school authorities, the participation of the government in what should be strictly private activity. The minute of silence is dangerous in itself, but even scarier is the possibility that its advocates will use it as only the first step toward required, organized vocal prayer in the public schools....the late Illinois Supreme Court Justice Seymour Simon, 1995

To read the thoughts of several other prominent individuals more eloquent than me, take a look at Eric Zorn's post on this issue from earlier this year.

It would have been easy for the Governor to go along with the overwhelming number of legislators who supported this issue, but he held the line where it needed to be held. He did the right thing. And I give him full credit for doing so.

To read or post comments, visit Open House


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

From Back of the Pack to Head of the Class

The major new clean energy programs signed into law today by Governor Blagojevich are two major steps forward toward a cleaner, safer, and more affordable energy future for Illinois. After decades of dealing with the pollution and cost of relying solely on dirty coal and nuclear power, Illinois is now a national leader in promoting clean, renewable energy, and in helping consumer and businesses cut their electric bills by using less power.

The new requirement that 25% of Illinois’ electricity will come from renewable sources by the year 2025 will create new jobs in a pollution-free power industry. At the same time, utilities, the State of Illinois, and local governments will begin major new programs to reduce existing power use. By 2015, these programs are to cut existing power use 2% below today's levels. These conservation programs will deliver savings each and every month as our homes and businesses use less power. They will also create high-paying jobs in a clean, new energy economy.

By using less power overall, and by getting more and more of it from pollution-free sources like wind, Illinois is also taking two big steps to reducing our contribution to global warming. Scientists tell us that we need to reduce pollution by 80% to solve global warming, and that energy efficiency and renewable energy are the two most effective strategies for reaching these goals.

Historically, Illinois has lagged behind in implementing smart energy policies. Today, we move from the back of the pack to the head of the class in implementing smart energy policies for the future. This is one area where our leaders have agreed on major changes that are the right choices for Illiniosans today, and for our future.

Originally posted at IllinoisSierraClub


Un-Planned Parental-notification debate in Aurora

For years, pro-life advocates have argued in favor of tougher parental notification and consent laws by pointing out that it’s ridiculous for a teenage girl to need her parent’s consent to get her ears pierced or her tonsils removed, but not if she is having the highly invasive ‘medical procedure’ that is abortion. And for years, pro-choice advocates have dismissed that line of argument as silly, pointing out the obvious (and, for the purpose of their arguement, somewhat ironic) truth that abortion is hardly comparable to ‘ordinary’ medical procedures.

But, in the course of arguing that there was no reason to disclose to Aurora residents that the "medical building" being constructed by Gemini Development Corp. was really a Planned Parenthood clinic, pro-choice advocated have apparently changed their tune:

Planned Parenthood leaders have said they followed all developer guidelines -- a point on which city leaders agree -- and that the city zones for medical buildings and not for "podiatrists, general internists and plastic surgery."

Daily Herald, August 25, 2007
Since pro-choice advocates, including Planned Parenthood, have long argued - for reasons that make their operations sound more like “social services” than purely “medical” care - that abortion should not subject to standard parental consent requirements, it seems disingenuous for them to now suggest that they are merely performing “medical” services on par with podiatry or internal medicine.

Either Gemini Development Corp's application to develop a “medical building” was based on insufficient, if not downright misleading, information (in which case, the city should deny them their final occupancy permit), or Planned Parenthood is giving away the pro-choice arguement against parental consent laws. After all, if what they are doing is no different than foot surgery, than why should they not held to standard parental consent regulations.


Monday, August 27, 2007

The governor sues the speaker

The already strained relationship between Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his fellow Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan took another hit Monday. The governor officially filed a lawsuit against the speaker alleging Madigan “blatantly disregarded constitutional proclamations issued by the governor.”

The governor’s complaint, filed in Sangamon County Court August 24, says Madigan devised a “scheme” that constituted “unauthorized and escalating acts aimed at eradicating the governor’s constitutional and statutory powers.” In one instance, Madigan called a special session earlier than the governor proclaimed so representatives could go home that Saturday and come back Sunday night. The compliant also says he didn’t require his members to attend another special session, failing to convene a quorum and preventing the chamber from conducting business as the record overtime session continued.

“These unlawful acts by Madigan were all taken while the state of Illinois was facing the very real prospect of a government shutdown caused by the lack of a budget,” the complaint says.

Steve Brown, Madigan’s spokesman, said the speaker’s office will file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in the next couple of weeks. “[The governor] made a farce of the special session process, and this is just a continuation of that,” he said, adding the speaker recognizes the governor’s power to proclaim special sessions and complies each time.

We’ll see whether anything changes if and when the governor calls another special session, as indicated by the complaint: “The governor intends to call additional special sessions in the near future to address significant issues facing the state, including issues pertaining to the Illinois transportation systems which impact more than 2 million commuters per day.”


Not So Fast

Just when you thought that it couldn't get any stranger, this happens. The Governor has now gone to court to force Speaker Michael Madigan to hold special sessions when the governor calls one. The gist of the suit is that the Governor wants a judge to tell the Speaker to quit telling members not to come to Springfield when there's nothing for them to do. I swear I'm not making this up.

The suit strikes me as the equivalent of a kid telling his mom to tell his brother to quit calling him names.

Without even reviewing the relevant case law, I will tell you that I think that the suit has more holes in it than Bill Buckner's glove. The Speaker has no more authority to force members to stay home than he does to compel them to appear in Springfield.

In a brave defense of the suit, Rebecca Rausch pontificated that:
"It is imperative that (the governor's authority to call special sessions) is preserved and honored," she wrote in an e-mail to "After lawmakers failed to follow the governor's special session proclamations to address serious issues like funding for the CTA, RTA, and downstate mass transit, we asked the court to confirm the governor's authority."
Hmmm, sounds reasonable enough. Until you look at the Special Sessions that the Governor has called so far this year:
  • Aug. 13, 2007 Chicago Transit Authority funding
  • Aug. 12, 2007 One-month budget, health protection grants
  • Aug. 12, 2007 Statewide transit funding
  • Aug. 11, 2007 One-month budget, community health centers
  • Aug. 5, 2007 One-month budget, home health program
  • Aug. 4, 2007 One-month budget, renal disease program
  • July 30, 2007 One-month budget, hemophilia program
  • July 28, 2007 One-month budget
  • July 11, 2007 Gun legislation, assault weapons
  • July 10, 2007 Budget for supportive living program
  • July 9, 2007 Grants for sexual assault victims, prevention
  • July 8, 2007 Teachers and Judges Retirement Systems
  • July 7, 2007 State Retirement System funding
  • July 7, 2007 Child Support Administrative Fund
  • July 6, 2007 Pension funding
  • July 5, 2007 Pension funding
  • July 20, 2004 Abstinence Education Program
  • July 19, 2004 Teen Parent Program
  • July 16, 2004 New Americans Initiative
  • July 15, 2004 Trauma Center payments
  • July 14, 2004 Team Illinois program
  • July 13, 2004 Family Care fund
  • July 12, 2004 Children’s Place program
  • July 9, 2004 Pre-natal programs
  • July 8, 2004 Community youth programs
  • July 7, 2004 Homeless youth programs
  • July 6, 2004 Domestic violence programs
  • July 2, 2004 Fee-for-services initiatives
  • June 28, 2004 Department on Aging budget
  • June 27, 2004 Department of Natural Resources budget
  • June 26, 2004 Environmental Protection Agency budget
  • June 25, 2004 Transportation budget
  • June 24, 2004 Law enforcement, human services budgets
  • With a couple of minor exceptions, not worth noting here, while the Governor was quick to call these special sessions, he never actually thought about having anything for the Legislators to do once they got there.

    Take the mass transit funding issue for example. A number of legislators (myself included), unions, transportation advocates and interest groups have supported SB572 as a prudent means of not only avoiding a transit funding crisis, but of providing reform and accountability for years to come. In fact, it's safe to say that it is the only substantive proposal with any tangible support on the table.

    The Governor's response? "I'll veto it." His alternative that he wanted to have a special session about? Um, none.

    You see, the whole idea of having a special session is to actually deal with a critical issue, like, oh, I don't know, mass transit funding, a capital bill, a BUDGET. You know, things like that.

    But to call one solely as a means of trying to wear legislators down into submitting to his unsupported legislative initiatives bastardizes the process to no end.

    The Governor is right, the concept of special sessions is being blatantly abused - but not by the Legislature.

    To read or post comments, visit Open House


    The FCC is Coming

    Cross-posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

    For years, ICPR has been concerned that broadcasters don't do enough to educate the public about elections. What little news coverage there is tends to focus more on polling and the horse race than on issues, and viewers tend to see more ads than news stories.

    The problem got so bad that local media reformers filed complaints in 2005 with the Federal Communications Commission arguing that the failure to cover important local issues was a violation of broadcasters' legal obligation to serve the public interest. (the complaint was dismissed without comment)

    The Federal Communications Commission has announced plans to come to Chicago next month. We urge readers who share our concerns to make the trip and let the FCC know what viewers deserve to see.

    Details of the meeting are sketchy at the moment. The announced date is Thursday, September 20, and they intend to take public comment. The exact time and place of the meeting are yet to be announced. So, as the broadcasters are fond of saying, stay tuned. But also, be heard. Make plans to attend the hearing, and start thinking of what you'd like to say to the FCC.


    Saturday, August 25, 2007

    Marathon Pundit Chicago River dumping follow up

    A couple of weeks ago, Niles Journal reporter Daniel Cameron interviewed me on the telephone about my July 17 post about a milky substance I saw pouring into the North Branch of the Chicago River.

    From his article, What Is This Stuff?

    Concerned, Ruberry decided to get some evidence. He continued his run a mile and a half south to his home, grabbing a camera to take pictures. When he returned two hours later, the substance was still pouring out of the tunnel.

    "This wasn't runoff from some guy washing his car," said Ruberry. "Whatever it was, there was a lot of it."

    Ruberry, who works in telecommunications in Niles, decided to take action. He called the Cook County Forest Preserve Dist. The district said it would come investigate, but when it hadn't appeared after 15 minutes, Ruberry left the scene.


    The Cook County Forest Preserve stated last week that it had no record of Ruberry's call, but said it would perform an investigation.

    This does not surprise me. Among local law enforcement agencies, the Cook County Forest Preserve Police is regarded as a patronage haven for ward-heelers.

    Think Chief Wiggum and the fictional Springfield Police from The Simpsons, and you have a pretty good idea what to expect from them.

    Here's what I did that afternoon: I called 911, and the dispatcher transferred me to the Forest Preserve Police. If there is a next time, I'll call, based on information I've gathered since July 17, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Cook County Water Reclamation District, and a non-government group, the Friends of the Chicago River.

    The Cook County Forest Preserve Police can be tough when they want to be. Here's what I wrote a few months ago about a reputed incident, in a post about the crime rate in my hometown of Morton Grove:

    Oh, in late 2005, while running not too far from the spot where the drifter's body was found, a Cook County Forest Preserve policeman, on a bitterly cold day, confronted me about allegedly--and I want to reiterate, allegedly, urinating fairly deep inside a grove of trees. No one else was there, which says a lot about the law enforcement force derisively known at "the tree police."

    It's nice to know Chief Wiggum's boys have their priorities straight.

    The polluter has not been caught.

    Later today, or perhaps tomorrow, I'll have some more North Branch of the Chicago River pictures--this time of the flooding from this week's heavy rains.

    To comment on this or view my continuing series on my July trip to Kansas, click here.


    Friday, August 24, 2007

    You scratch my back ...

    “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” might not work in Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s budget game. If his budget vetoes announced Thursday are a political ploy to try to buy support from friends and to punish enemies, then he might lose in the long run.

    “He seems to operate on the kind of strategy that it’s all about bringing pressure on the legislature from the outside,” said Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Springfield. And by the next election cycle, he said the governor’s key Democratic base, especially the African American population around the Chicago area, might grow wary if projects in their neighborhoods don’t get funded as promised. “I think that over time, he’s wearing out his act. I think that with people reacting to individual projects and the questions being raised about whether he’s actually producing in terms of health care, over time that really hurts his popular support.”

    Blagojevich is determined to get his health care plan, which his office says would open the doors for all uninsured women to receive breast and cervical cancer screenings and expand other state-sponsored health insurance to low- and middle-income adults. As noted in Thursday’s press release, the governor’s plan has to go in front of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to change state regulations so he can implement and expand the programs even after the legislature denied him his original health plan. It still has a long way to go.

    Another question being raised by state government insiders is why he cut a little more than $4 million in total from the budget of Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office. An AG spokeswoman, Cara Smith, said some of the cuts are significant. Most disappointing to the office is the reduction in money for her inspector general, who is an independent lawyer responsible for investigating complaints of ethical violations. Each constitutional officer has one. Lisa Madigan’s was docked $50,000. But Smith said Lisa Madigan doesn’t have anything to do with her inspector general’s budget. “That budget is [not] controlled by the attorney general. It’s completely controlled by the inspector general. And it’s very disappointing that it would be touched at all. That work is the furthest thing from ‘pork.’”

    Spokesman Justin DeJong of the governor’s budget office said all constitutional offices were funded at last year’s levels, but he has to get back to me about the inspector general line item in the attorney general's office.


    Governor to AIDS Advocates: Screw you very much!

    The AIDS Foundation of Chicago has been one of the most vocal and consistent supporters of Governor Blagojevich's "Illinois Covered Plan."

    They've got to be wondering why they went out on a limb for the Governor, after learning that his budget vetoes included nearly $700,000 in cuts to HIV/AIDS prevention, in addition to more than $6.6 million in cuts to funding for substance abuse treatment. Drug addiction remains one of the largest underlying causes of HIV/AIDS. (Hat Tip to CapitolFax, for going to all of the trouble of summarizing these cuts.)

    Of course, this is not the first time that Blagojevich has put HIV/AIDS patients on the chopping block.

    Back in 2003, Blagojevich reneged on a promise to the Latino Caucus to provide $3 million in additional funding to expand HIV/AIDS prevention in minority communities, vetoing that money from the budget.

    When is the AIDS Foundation of Chicago going to wake up and smell the backstabbing?


    Rep. Coulson calls kettle black

    State Representative Elizabeth Coulson (R-17, Glenview) today came out swinging against one of the strongest opponents she's faced in years. In this Winnetka Today article on her upcoming reelection campaign, Rep. Coulson complains about Democratic challenger Daniel Biss using the benign ActBlue Illinois PAC fundraising tool:

    That Biss reported donations totaling $19,150 from "Act Blue," a national Web site that allows Democrats to set up accounts to raise money for candidates of their choosing, bothers Coulson.

    "Act Blue" donations are reported in lump sums, but individual contributors through "Act Blue" are not required to be identified "so we don't know where the money is coming from," Coulson said. "It's a (political action committee) that raises money from all around the country. It's exactly the kind of PAC we've tried to address in ethics reform."

    (As clarification, there is an "ActBlue" federal PAC and an "ActBlue Illinois" state PAC. Mr. Biss' donations have come from the state PAC, ActBlue Illinois.)

    You can see for yourself exactly that ActBlue is basically a means for candidates and campaigns to easily process political donations. Rep. Coulson, political animal that she is (that's a joke, friends), tries to misconstrue that basic function by pointing out that the donations that come into ActBlue Illinois for Mr. Biss are aggregated together such that the Biss campaign does not have to reveal who the actual donors are.

    I understand the trepidation there but Rep. Coulson is conveniently ignoring two facts, making her appear a bit hypocritical.

    First, because it is an Illinois registered PAC, ActBlue Illinois's donations to state-level candidates must be listed on the ActBlue Illinois D-2 forms. Reporter Stiefel writes that ActBlue reports in "lump sums" which is technically true -- transfers to candidates are reported as a lump sum on that candidate's D-2 form.

    But, ActBlue's own D-2s themselves must, by law, list the individual contributors of $200 or more. Anyone can look up that info and find out the names of the donors, just as with any other registered Illinois candidate, campaign or PAC. Moreover, since Mr. Biss is currently the only state-level candidate in the Land of Lincoln using ActBlue Illinois, it's very simple to determine the donors intending to raise funds specifically for him.

    And that's precisely what Mr. Biss himself is now doing. An advocate of ethical and transparent governance himself, he immediately recognized the issue as being important and resolved it by simply listing every donor over $200 that has contributed to his campaign via ActBlue Illinois. In other words, Mr. Biss is going above and beyond by applying state law -- disclosing $200+ donors -- before such a law even exists. (In fact, he even lists several donors who fall under that threshold.)

    Mr. Biss states:

    Due to a quirk in campaign finance law, contributions made via ActBlue are listed in a separate section of Illinois's campaign finance disclosures. This has caused some people to wonder whether transparency is compromised. Actually, ActBlue gives rise to greater transparency. For example, my ActBlue hub actually says how many contributions I've received in addition to the total dollar amount; it also breaks this information down for each fundraiser. However, the confusion is understandable. I am deeply committed to openness and transparency in politics, and consequently, I am using this page to supplement the information provided in the Illinois disclosures. (link is original)

    The second fact Rep. Coulson chooses to overlook is that she herself receives PAC money ... a lot of PAC money.

    In just the past two years, Rep. Coulson has accepted well over $100,000 in PAC money (seek out "Transfers In" on the D-2 forms). Remember, Mr. Biss had only raised $19,150 via the ActBlue Illinois PAC up to the end of the latest reporting period.

    ArchPundit points out that, to be intellectually honest on this topic, Rep. Coulson ought to now determine who all the donors to all those myriad PACs are that have helped her own campaign and publicly disclose those individuals (just as Mr. Biss immediately did).

    In addition, the Winnetka Today reporter, Lynne Stiefel, in a follow-up article about the 17th district ought to disclose some of the basic information I've discussed here (chiefly, that it's relatively easy to determine who ActBlue Illinois donors are and that Rep. Coulson has taken in more than $100,ooo of PAC money in just the last two years herself).

    For how much Republicans nationwide complain that people ought to be able to donate however much they want to political campaigns (as a "free speech" issue, which I suppose implies that money talks), Rep. Coulson sure has an odd way of showing it.

    (c/p at Illinois Reason)


    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Blagojevich Makes New York Times

    And in a way that hints at pay-to-play.

    Posted on its web site Thursday night, the New York Time article is entitled,

    Now a Lobbyist, Ex-Senator Uses Campaign Money
    Former U.S. Senator Robert Torricelli (D-New Jersey) "abruptly quit the 2002 race amid allegations of ethical misconduct and became a lobbyist," according to the article.

    A $10,000 campaign contribution merited a couple of paragraphs in the article:
    On Oct. 29, 2003, Governor Blagojevich of Illinois made a fund-raising trip to New York and had a private meeting with Mr. Torricelli and Leonard Barrack, whose law firm, Barrack, Rodos & Bacine, had hired the former senator as a consultant, according to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times.

    Five days after the meeting, Mr. Torricelli and the firm itself each gave $10,000 to Mr. Blagojevich’s reelection campaign account, according to campaign disclosure reports. (Mr. Torricelli drew on his Senate campaign account for his donation.)

    On Feb. 20, 2004, the law firm was placed on the Illinois State Teachers Retirement System’s list of preferred outside attorneys, according to a spokeswoman for the state fund.

    The retirement system’s board of trustees decides who is placed on that list, not the governor. But the governor appoints 4 of the 11 members of the board.
    First posted on McHenry County Blog.


    How Aurora did with the veto pen....

    How Aurora Did (looking at budget items that contain the word Aurora excluding IMSA)

    $250,000 For Operation Ceasefire for the City of Aurora -- Vetoed
    $ 18,656 For flodd control on Indian Creek -- Survived
    $200,000 For the new police station -- Vetoed
    $ 75,000 For Aurora Township for programs -- Vetoed
    $ 20,000 For A grant to AU for working with East and West Aurora SDs -- Vetoed
    $250,000 For Provena Mercy at either the Aurora or Elgin locations -- Vetoed
    $100,000 For infrastructure improvements. -- Survived
    $ 60,000 For Aurora Family Counseling Service -- Survived

    Final Score

    $545,000 To local government entities Vetoed
    $118,000 To local government entities Survived

    $250,000 To local non-profits Vetoed
    $ 60,000 To local non-profits Survived

    Glad we have a Democratic state senator, Democratic Mayor and Democratic state rep and a lobbyst so we don't get jerked over during the budget process.


    More at OneMan's Thoughts including what the governor's press releases say about the importantance of Nursing Education vs. what his veto pen says...


    I'm back in time for budget cuts

    I'm nice and refreshed from our honeymoon in Germany and expect to blog as regularly as possible again. Thanks for understanding while I took a break from state budget reporting. Now, back to work.

    Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday signed a state budget, allowing $340 million in school aid payments to immediately be issued. At the same time, the governor cut $463 million out of the state budget that was approved by both chambers earlier this month. The amount wasn’t surprising — he chopped about 1.7 percent of the $59 billion plan sent to him — but some of the cuts seem to contradict the governor’s numerous press releases about his priorities: health care and services for low- and middle-income families. For instance, he eliminated or reduced some cost-of-living raises for social service providers, cut money for community-based mental health services and decreased the amount allotted to expand broadband Internet services to rural areas. All cuts will become law if Senate President Emil Jones Jr., who’s been a Blagojevich ally most of the session, follows through on his promise not to let his chamber override the governor’s vetoes.

    Along with the cuts is the governor’s never-ending push for health care. “While I’m pleased that we’re making a record investment in education, families across the state are still being priced out of health coverage and don’t have a way to see a doctor when they need to,” he wrote in a press release. “That’s why I’m removing almost $500 million in special pet projects and other spending that we simply can’t afford. And at the same time, we’re preparing new rules and administrative changes that will give half-a-million Illinoisans access to health care.” The details are still unknown, but his plan so far is designed to expand eligibility of existing state-sponsored health programs such as All Kids and Family Care.

    The first-year cost of the health initiative is the exact amount Blagojevich cut from the budget: $463 million. That gives the impression he’s not spending money that he doesn’t have authority to spend, but it’s not that easy. The money doesn’t simply transfer from the line item cuts to his expanded health care programs. More on that another day.

    As for the budget cuts, many are for state agency payroll and contracting services. “These are places where we thought we could achieve efficiencies while not impacting services,” wrote Justin DeJong, spokesman for the governor’s budget office, in an e-mail. Another common reduction in agency budgets was the state contributions to the employees’ retirement systems.

    While he cut $75,000 here, $100,000 there, he made a lot of other reductions or total vetoes that might make some waves:
    • Chunks of $3 million, $5 million or $7 million at a time for such education-related programs as reimbursements for transportation services, school safety block grants and supplemental payments to fast-growing school districts
    • $6.62 million eliminated for cost-of-living adjustments for community-based substance abuse providers; and a $10 million reduction (from $29.3 million to $18.3 million) in cost-of-living adjustments for developmentally disabled providers that the governor’s office says was over-estimated in last year’s budget
    • $6.25 million eliminated for a satellite campus of Lincoln’s Challenge, a military academy focusing on early intervention of high-school dropouts
    • A $2.5 million reduction (from $3 million to $500,000) for the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, which will join other states in planning a celebration of Lincoln’s 200th birthday in 2009
    • About $26 million reduced from the Department of Human Services’ programs for home health care, autism diagnosis and other mental health services
    • Nearly $5 million cut from the Illinois Arts Council, chaired by House Speaker Michael Madigan’s wife, Shirley Madigan
    • $6.25 million eliminated for the statewide program Operation CeaseFire, a violence prevention program in 15 communities around Chicago, Rockford, Decatur and St. Louis.

    Rep. Bob Flider, a Mount Zion Democrat, said he was particularly disappointed in the Operation CeaseFire cut because he says it sends a message to the former prison inmates who are now helping others get jobs that their mission isn’t important. Last year, the governor announced $3.9 million for the project. You can read more about it in our upcoming September issue.

    DeJong had this to say: "While CeaseFire and other initiatives may serve a purpose for a particular community or organization, we can't afford to spend taxpayer dollars on them right now. With the changes the governor made, the budget better reflects the needs of the state."

    Flider also said projects in his district, including money for a food pantry and a homeless shelter, are among the $141 million cut of so-called pork projects, or legislative initiatives slipped into the budget so members can “bring home the bacon” to their constituents. Most of the pork projects cut by Blagojevich are in Democratic districts. Flider said those services are hit in political crossfire. “The governor has declared war on House Democrats, but it’s the people in my district who suffer,” he said. Why would the governor target projects in his district? Flider said that's because he's responding to what the majority of his constituents want: a priority of making timely payments to current Medicaid providers before expanding or creating new health care programs. “The governor wants his health care plan, and he’ll do anything to get it,” Flider said.


    Gov Walker on FPC Duluth

    Dan Walker's advice to Ryan on avoiding FPC Duluth,

    Aside from being farther away, Walker says the Duluth prison has other downsides. He has described his nearly 18 months there as demeaning and miserable.

    He told the Chicago Sun-Times that the Oxford prison is supposed to be more relaxed and that its guards less cruel.
    No kidding, Walker writes in his book of cowering while guards allow inmates to gang rape Walker's cellmate.

    Senator Durbin: ask the BOP if Walker was truthful on FPC Duluth? And if so, what's been done?

    xp Prairie State Blue


    Sun Times: Crooked cops’ reign of terror

    Today's Sun Times,

    The crooks knew just what to say to the young teller to get her to cooperate.

    Two dirty Chicago cops had made sure of that.

    The robbers knew about her roommate. They mentioned her parents' home address. They even knew about the motorcycle her dad kept -- in his carport, under a cover.

    Terrified for her parents' safety, the teller did what she was told.

    She let the robbers into the Richton Park Currency Exchange she had just closed up for the day. Unlocked the vault. And watched as they stuffed more than $107,000 into garbage bags and took off.
    Someone please tell Tony Peraica (and Andy McKenna) an out-of-control Chicago PD is an issue that's fair game for the GOP. The Progressives won't touch it.

    Al Sharpton deserves some credit for coming to town, but the GOP is letting Illinois down for not fighting abuses that give new meaning to Reagan's get Government off our backs.


    Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    ICJL: There They Go Again

    The new scorecard from the Illinois Civil Justice League shows just how extreme and out of touch their pro-insurance industry, pro-polluter, anti-corporate responsibility agenda really is.

    Looking at the positions that the ICJL has taken on legislation, even by their own admission of the measures' impact, their scorecard should make us all wary of their extreme agenda:

    Bills the ICJL opposes:

    HB 511-FOIA Public Settlements.
    This bill would make municipality and public agency settlements public under the Freedom of Information Act.
    [yeah, why SHOULD taxpayers know where their money is going?]

    HB 1121-Judicial Campaign Financing .
    Establishes the Illinois Public Campaign Financing Fund as an alternative source of campaign financing for Illinois Appellate and Supreme Court candidates.
    [Hmmm...wonder why the ICJL, which has given millions to Republican, pro-insurance industry judicial candidates, is for allowing big money to influence judicial campaigns?]

    HB 1798-Wrongful Death Act-Damages.
    This bill allows the plaintiff to sue the defendant for damages under the Wrongful Death Act for grief, sorrow, and mental suffering.
    [Ironically, the ICJL didn't oppose GOP legislation passed a couple of years ago that provides the same compensation if someone kills your pet, but opposes wrongful death benefits if someone kills your kid. Murnane must be a dog lover.]

    SB 20-Jury Expansion.
    This bill would include Illinois taxpayers who claim an Earned Income Tax Credit into the list of potential jurors.
    [God forbid we let poor people on juries]

    SB 222-Judicial Campaign Reform
    This bill would establish guidelines for the public financing of Illinois Supreme Court and Appellate Court campaigns. It also sets mandatory contribution limits with respect to all judicial election campaigns.
    [Yeah, see HB 1121 above]

    SB 486-Class Action Residual.
    This bill provides that residual funds left over from paying the class in a class action settlement shall be distributed to one or more charities by court approval.
    [I can only conclude that the ICJL's position is that if Wal-Mart manages to drag out lawsuits resulting from their distribution of tens of thousands of lead-tainted baby bibs across America long enough that the children actually die before the case is settled, then Wal-Mart should be rewarded by getting the money back. That's corporate irresponsibility, ICJL-style]

    SB 747/SB 1027-Services Rendered
    This bill, referred to as the "Plaintiffs' Windfall Bill," is similar to legislation introduced last year. It would require that defendant's pay to the plaintiffs the full bill for expenses, even if the plaintiffs themselves received a discount on those expenses. In essence, it allows compensation to the plaintiff (and their lawyers) for amounts which were not actually lost.
    [Instead, the ICJL wants to reward negligent defendants when an injured citizen gets a discount from their hospital]

    SB 1296-Liability Remaining Parties
    This bill changes the formula for determining apportionment of fault by dividing fault only among the remaining parties in the case. It excludes parties who have settled prior to trial from the equation, allowing for plaintiffs to sue the deepest pockets after settling with those more at fault.
    [Instead, the ICJL wants defendants to remain on trial even after they've been dismissed from a case, and even allow juries to award damages against them, Sounds fair to me. Not.]

    SB 1501-Class Action Residual
    This bill is similar in nature to SB 486. Provides that after class members are paid, any residue plus interest shall be paid to nonprofit organizations that benefit the class or facilitate healthcare services in Illinois.
    [See SB 486 above.]

    The ICJL agenda is so extreme that not even the Republican Party supports it.

    In the Illinois Senate:

    Not ONE single Republican scored 100%, or even above 85%.

    Minority Leader Frank Watson only scored 83%.

    Converting their scores to grades, here's how Senate Republicans faired:

    A (90-100%): 0
    B (81 - 89%): 5
    B- (80%): 4
    C (71-79%): 1
    C- (70%): 0
    D (61-69%): 3
    D- (60%): 1
    F (59% or lower): 4

    Over in the Illinois House:

    Only one Republican scored above 80%, and House Minority Leader Tom Cross earned a B-.

    14 House Republicans scored 25%, including those well-known "Friends of Trial Lawyers":

    - Bill Black (17%, and tied for the lowest score of any Republican)
    - Beth Coulson (25%)
    - Roger Eddy (25%)
    - David Leitch (25%)
    - Bill & Jerry Mitchell (25%)
    - Ruth Munson (25%)
    - Rich Myers (20%)
    - Aaron Schock (25%)

    I guess we now know why the ICJL required a 75% or better to score as a "Friend of Fairness", but lowered the bar for "Friend of Trial Lawyer" arbitrarily to 15%. Calling 14 House Republicans "Friends of Trial Lawyers" probably wouldn't have gone over too big with Tom Cross.

    Republican-turned-Democrat Bob Pritchard's score of 67% was better than 35 of his former House Republican colleagues.

    And finally, the grades for House Republicans:

    A - 0
    B: 1
    B-: 1
    C: 8
    C-: 0
    D: 2
    D-: 2
    F: 31


    ICJL Releases Their Legislative Scorecard

    The Illinois Civil Justice League today released a mid-session scorecard tracking the voting records - on civil justice issues - of all members of the Illinois General Assembly. This scorecard reflects the roll call votes on the floor of the House and Senate, as well as committee votes on and sponsorships of bills that are important to the Illinois civil justice reform effort.

    By looking at roll call votes, committee votes and bill sponsorships, ICJL has produced the most detailed legislative scorecard – on any issue - in the state of Illinois.

    “It is important that Illinois voters know where their legislators stand on issues relating to the reform of our state’s troubled legal system,” said Edward Murnane, president of ICJL. “For too long, the personal injury trial lawyers have held too much clout in Springfield, advancing their stealth agenda of increasing their profits at the expense of hard-working Illinois citizens. This scorecard enables the average voter to know if his or her legislator stands with them – or with the trial lawyers.”

    The scorecard assigns each legislator a percentage scored based on the number of times he or she supported or opposed a key bill. ICJL then highlighted the best and worst scores through the following groups:

    FRIENDS OF FAIRNESS – This group highlights those legislators who exhibited an exemplary voting record on civil justice reform issues by having an aggregate score of 75% or higher. The legislators honored in this group are:

    Illinois Senate “Friends of Fairness”

    · Senator Bill Brady
    · Senator J. Bradley Burzynski
    · Senator Kirk W. Dillard
    · Senator John O. Jones
    · Senator Chris Lauzen
    · Senator David Luechtefeld
    · Senator Matt Murphy
    · Senator Dan Rutherford
    · Senator Dave Syverson
    · Senator Frank Watson

    Illinois House “Friends of Fairness”

    · Rep. Suzanne Bassi
    · Rep. Bob Biggins
    · Rep. Tom Cross
    · Rep. Brent Hassert
    · Rep. Sidney H. Mathias
    · Rep. Chapin Rose
    · Rep. Timothy L. Schmitz
    · Rep. Ron Stephens

    “We feel that it is only right to honor and call attention to those legislators who consistently support common sense lawsuit reform – and reject the trial lawyer agenda,” said Murnane, who added that the scorecard also recognizes those legislators who consistently support trial lawyer-backed policies as members of the “Trial Lawyer Caucus.”

    TRIAL LAWYER CAUCUS – Although there were many legislators who supported the majority of trial lawyer measures, the Trial Lawyer Caucus represents those who were especially vigilant in supporting the anti-civil justice reform agenda: those who had an aggregate score of 15% or lower:

    Illinois Senate Trial Lawyer Caucus

    · Senator Michael Bond
    · Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins
    · Senator M. Maggie Crotty
    · Senator John J. Cullerton
    · Senator William Delgado
    · Senator Michael W. Frerichs
    · Senator Susan Garrett
    · Senator Debbie DeFrancesco Halvorson
    · Senator Don Harmon
    · Senator Mattie Hunter
    · Senator David Koehler
    · Senator Dan Kotowski
    · Senator Terry Link
    · Senator Edward D. Maloney
    · Senator Iris Y. Martinez
    · Senator Michael Noland
    · Senator Carol Ronen
    · Senator Martin A. Sandoval
    · Senator Jeffrey M. Schoenberg
    · Senator Ira I. Silverstein

    Illinois House “Trial Lawyer Caucus”

    · Rep. Edward J. Acevedo
    · Rep. James D. Brosnahan
    · Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie
    · Rep. William Davis
    · Rep. Mary E. Flowers
    · Rep. John A. Fritchey
    · Rep. Careen M. Gordon
    · Rep. Deborah L. Graham
    · Rep. Julie Hamos
    · Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez
    · Rep. Jay C. Hoffman
    · Rep. Kevin Joyce
    · Rep. Lou Lang
    · Rep. Kevin A. McCarthy
    · Rep. George Scully Jr.
    · Rep. Cynthia Soto

    The full scorecard, with analysis, can be viewed online at


    Aiham Alsammarae: battling Iranians or fleeing Fitz?

    Today's Trib says,

    Eight months after Aiham Alsammarae escaped from a Baghdad jail and returned to his home in suburban Chicago, an Iraqi judge has thrown the book at him, sentencing the former electricity minister in absentia to 21 years in prison in a corruption case.

    Yet Alsammarae, an Oak Brook resident who had gone back to his native Iraq to serve in the government after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, isn't exactly hiding at home. He says he recently returned to the maelstrom of Iraqi politics, traveling to Jordan to join other Iraqi officials in forming an opposition front as he continues to insist on his innocence.

    Reached on a Jordanian cell phone, the Iraqi-American dual citizen, 55, said he is in Amman meeting with Iraqi political leaders in an effort to counter what he says is Iranian influence in the Shiite-majority government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which has been prosecuting him.
    While the ST told us a few days ago,
    Rezko, 52, is fighting federal charges that he solicited kickbacks from companies seeking state business under Blagojevich. Sources in December told the Sun-Times the feds are investigating Rezko's dealings in Iraq, where Rezko once had a contract from Alsammarae's agency to build a power plant.

    Alsammarae, who lives in the Chicago area and was a college classmate of Rezko, is a dual U.S.-Iraqi citizen. He left his post as Iraq's electricity minister in May 2005, about a month after Companion got the contract. Alsammarae was accused of financial corruption by Iraqi authorities and jailed in Iraq last year before escaping and returning here.

    Companion's contract called for it to fly 150 Iraqis to the United States for police-type training. Among the subjects: how to shoot AK-47 rifles.

    As Frawley sought to revive the contract in spring 2006, Blagojevich's chief of staff, John Harris, directed the state's homeland security adviser, Jill Morgenthaler, to find "a military site for the training of Iraqi police forces,'' Morgenthaler wrote in an April 26, 2006, e-mail. She wrote the letter in June 2006 offering the Savanna site.
    Makes you wonder if Alsammarae isn't running from Fitz's questions instead?

    Is it too cynical to think Illinois isn't offering training sites for Secuirty Contractors because others feel some day, they may need a spring from the joint, doing it the Chicago Way?

    Update: from the NYT story in Dec on the escape,
    Mr. Alsammarae shed little direct light on the two leading theories of how he escaped: either with the help of a mysterious Western private security firm that appeared at the station on Sunday, or with the complicity of the Iraqi police.

    “I don’t like to harm these people who helped me,” he said.

    Despite the charges against him, Mr. Alsammarae said he did not believe that the American authorities would arrest him in Chicago. “I hope they are smarter than that,” he said.

    xp Prairie State Blue


    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Neat idea: to increase election judges, release them from the jury pool

    (I know this is a bit far afield of Illinois politics and government, but I thought Illinoize readers would enjoy it)

    We've got a problem: not enough election workers (called election judges in Illinois). Our elections are run essentially by volunteers and we have a lot of elections (four in a two-year cycle). Many election judges are senior citizens and they have to put in a 13 or 14 hour day. It's a challenge every election cycle to generate more volunteer election judges.

    In a debate last week before the Los Angeles City Council on a motion to study instant runoff voting and several other reforms put together by rising star Eric Garcetti, President of the Council, Member Janice Hahn expressed a really interesting idea. (You can watch the debate here -- jump to Item #28 on the agenda).

    She noted that election judges (called pollwatchers in California) are fulfilling their civic duty and serving the Republic. She also noted that lots of people would prefer not to serve in juries (they are hard to plan and many people get booted out of the jury pool). Council Member Hahn suggested that a great way to increase the number of election judges would be to release election judges from the jury pool, as serving on election day is as much a civic duty as serving on a jury of a defendants' peers.

    I think it's a great idea and we ought to implement it in Illinois.


    Illinois Med-Mal Reform Nears Two Years ... and Working

    But Trial Lawyer Assault Is Inching Along Too

    Later this week, it will be the second anniversary of the enactment of Public Act 94-677, the medical malpractice reform legislation passed in response to a severe doctor and hospital crisis in Illinois and in the aftermath of political and grass roots activity that overturned long-standing trends, particularly in Southern Illinois.

    Following that wordy preamble, there are three significant facts:

    First, the new law appears to be working. The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reported Friday (story below) that medical malpractice lawsuits are down in Illinois.

    Second, two years is a significant marker in Illinois because the statute of limitations in medical malpractice incidents in Illinois is two years (in virtually all cases). That means lawsuits filed between August 25, 2005 and this week MAY (actually, most likely WILL) concern alleged malpractice that occurred before the new law took effect. Lawsuits filed after August 25 will involve incidents that took place while the new law was in effect. (There are some exceptions to the two year statute of limitations involving cases in which an injury cannot reasonably be discovered during the two year period; then a lawsuit must be filed within four years).

    The Third is that one of the anticipated challenges to P.A. 94-677 is likely to be heard in Cook County Circuit Court next month. The lawsuit, filed in Chicago last November, is before Judge Diane J. Larsen. While the case itself accuses a doctor and hospital of malpractice in the case of a child born with severe brain damage, the attention of the nation's legal community will be focused on the challenge to the constitutionality of P.A. 94-677 that accompanies the suit on behalf of the estate of Abigaile Lebron.

    It was not surprising that a suit involving a child -- in this case a new-born -- was selected by the plaintiffs' community. A case provoking sympathy is always the best, especially in front of a jury.

    It also should not be surprising that the number of medical malpractice suits is down.
    In fact, it proves the point that litigation will drop if trial lawyer winnings go down. The "cap" enacted in 2005 deals only with non-economic damages, the subjective and often emotionally-determined portion of an award that provides most of the plaintiffs' attorneys' fee. In Illinois, the fee can be as high as one-third of the first $150,000, scaled down to 20% of awards over $1 million.

    Under the new law, the non-economic damage award can't exceed $500,000 in cases against doctors, and $1 million against hospitals.

    We saw the same result in Illinois following the enactment of the Civil Justice Reform Amendments of 1995 which capped non-economic damages in most civil cases, not just medical malpractice litigation. There was a dramatic reduction in litigation but the pace quickly picked up after the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the law in 1997.

    But caution must be used in analyzing the numbers right now since even lawsuits filed today or tomorrow or anytime this week could be suits dealing with incidents that happened before the law was in effect and there are likely to be many plaintiffs' attorneys who are waiting it out, and others who are convinced the new law will be ruled unconstitutional and thus eventually, there will be no cap on non-economic damages.

    One thing that is certain, however, and it tracks what happened between 1995 and 1997, is that there has been no outcry from anyone, other than trial lawyers, that injured people are being denied fair compensation for their injuries and financial losses.

    Nor has there been any indication that medical professionals are being any less careful and diligent and vigilant in their dealings with people in need of medical care.

    The system is working, the number of lawsuits is down, and there has been a change in the perception of Illinois' medical malpractice climate. At least two new medical malpractice insurers -- including one headed by a former president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (Kim Presbrey, 2001-2002) -- have begun operations.

    In fact Medicus Insurance, a Texas-based insurer, made it clear that medical malpractice reform in Illinois was a prime reason for its decision to get involved here.

    Judges in Madison County, one of the most scorned jurisdictions in Illinois, have initiated new mediation and arbitration proceedings in medical liability cases and they have held several meetings with doctors and hospitals in an attempt to improve mutual understanding and trust.
    Let's hope the success of the last two years will be matched with the same success in the next two ... and the next ten ... and next 20 and more. The winners will be Illinois patients who are, after all, us.

    History And Details Of PA 94-677. (Includes sponsors and text).

    Case Information Summary Record Of Abigaile LeBron, etc., et al. v. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, et al., No. 06 L 12109


    The Chicago Tribune Sunday included a story (see below) describing a growing practice by doctors of expressing regrets or apologies when a potential physician mistake has caused problems.

    It makes sense. Most physicians -- probably all whom we know -- would readily express regret or apology if something the physician or other medical provider did caused problems, rather than provided cures.

    The problem has been the aggressive nature of the plaintiffs' lawyers who specialize in medical malpractice litigation and who search for evidence that it was a doctor's action that led to a patient's problems, including, possibly, death.

    So doctors have been advised against any communication that could be used against them, including an expression of regret or an apology. My guess is that most doctors don't like that restriction, that they would prefer to communicate openly with patients without the fear of providing ammunition to the trial lawyers.

    As the Tribune reported:

    One of the biggest obstacles to disclosure is the fear of lawsuits. More than 30 states, including Illinois, have passed "apology laws" that prevent expressions of regret from being used against physicians in court. But most lawyers are skeptical and insurance companies typically still insist that doctors break off all communication with patients or families after medical snafus occur.
    The 2005 medical-malpractice reform law enacted in Illinois included reference to the "sorry" concept and even included a proposal for a pilot program in Southern Illinois.

    But the proponents of that concept were closely tied to and funded by the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, not a good sign that fairness is the objective. In fact, the leader of the trial lawyer-backed "sorry" proposal in Illinois actually lobbied against the bill that included the proposal because it included a limit on non-economic damages, which is the most despised concept in the minds of trial lawyers.

    So while there are many reasons to support the idea of physicians' expression of regret or apology, to make it work it has to be free of the destructive and duplicitous motivation of the trial lawyers.

    -- Ed Murnane
    Illinois Civil Justice League
    August 20, 2007


    George Ryan Conviction Upheld

    The racketeering conviction of former Governor George Ryan, a man who was elected state representative the same year I was, has been upheld.

    Here is the Chicago Tribune article about the appellate court decision.

    The decision was 2-1 that he had a fair trial.

    When the appellate court took the case and allowed Ryan to remain out of prison during his appeal, it said that, if the conviction were upheld, he would be incarcerated almost immediately.

    = = = = =
    The photo of an unsmiling George Ryan was taken from a photo used as evidence at his trial.


    An I-Pass Conundrum

    Remember our new friend Artistmac from YouTube. Last month I posted one of his videos lamenting how the I-Pass couldn't be changed from car-to-car because of some glue that suggests that the expectation is there that one should only keep an I-Pass in one car. He's back with more thoughts on the Illinois Tollroads.



    Jennifer Hunter Watch

    Skeeter found the Giuliani in Illinois stuff boring. He's right.

    Here's Jennifer Hunter writing on a candidate's wife. Hunter's insights amaze,

    But the family decided to say "yes" to the Democratic race partially to confront those fears, said Michelle. "I am tired of being afraid . . . I don't want my girls to live in a country that is based on fear."
    I've been spending lots of time in Hyde Park and Kenwood lately. My wife gets the creeps with those Police Boxes with the Blue Lights on top. Why don't we start making our home Chicago safe from the punks (and sadly some of the cops).

    ...she travels with her husband in part "to model what it means to have family values," adding "if you can't run your own house, you can't run the White House." She didn't elaborate, but it could be interpreted as a swipe at the Clintons.
    didn't elaborate ...could be interpreted.... How much does it have to be spelled out for Ms Hunter. This was a kick in the teeth.

    My colleague Mary Mitchell asked Michelle how she was able to "snag Barack." But Obama knows he is the lucky one. At least he should know. Michelle is an incredible asset to his campaign.
    I was in a brawl once at a tavern in Berwyn started when my buddy's girl friend insulted a big guy about his tattoos.

    The candidate's wife just got him into a brawl he didn't need either, and with an opponent who packs an awfully mean wallop. This is a bad fight to have picked and it will have no winners.

    Having the oblivious Hunter flacking your campaign no winner either.

    Update: Hunter explains today,
    OK, but as I stood there in Atlantic, Iowa, listening to Michelle Obama talk and hearing the cadence of her speech, my immediate reaction was that she was obliquely referring to the Clintons.

    Why did I think that?

    Well, she said she and Barack were modeling "what it means to have family values in this country and we haven't seen that for a long time" [emphasis added]. Wasn't Bush the family values guy? What did Michelle mean by "we haven't seen that [family values] for a long time"?

    Then she talked about the future president being someone who "respects family . . ." Did Bill Clinton show respect for his family with his bimbo eruptions? Did he consider the impact on his child, let alone his wife?

    Michelle Obama added: "So our view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House."


    The Clintons certainly did have a hard time running the White House and their own house during the Monica Lewinsky affair as independent counsel Kenneth Starr and his henchmen began snooping around and President Clinton was impeached by Congress.

    So you can see where I was going with this. It didn't take a huge leap of logic. My mistake was not grabbing Michelle Obama when she left to ask for further elaboration -- I was waiting to hear her husband speak.

    But at least my column -- which is my own opinion -- did give the news shows something really important to talk about.

    Bang is right. Bang is what happened to me in the tavern in Berwyn.

    Some times those logical leaps best left unlept.


    Arellano, Durbin, Obama, and Guttierez

    Deb Saunders on Arellano's Overdue Departure,

    Clearly, Arellano believes that she has not only a right to violate American law, but also that she should be rewarded for doing so. "God wants me to serve as an example of the hatred and hypocrisy of the current administration," she told the Chicago Tribune.

    It's that attitude that has many Americans wondering why it took so long for authorities to deport Arellano.

    Thank Congress. Illinois Democrats -- Sen. Dick Durbin and Rep. Luis Guttierez -- sponsored "private bills," special legislation designed to help an individual or named group, to make Arellano a permanent resident. (Durbin cited Saul's need for American health care due to a "medical emergency" -- reportedly attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other health problems.) While the bills didn't pass, they served to delay Arellano's deportation.

    While Arellano has urged supporters to pressure Durbin and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to introduce "my private bill" again, neither senator has obliged.
    Whatever you think about Arellano, it's pretty clear Durbin's not a guy you want to count on when winds change.


    Sunday, August 19, 2007

    The Emil Jones - Rod Blagojevich Pay Raise: will the GOP push it?

    From Eric Krol's review of Emil Jone's year a few days ago,

    Critics blasted Jones for cutting a deal this week with Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich: in return for not overriding Blagojevich’s budget vetoes (and keeping the governor relevant), Blagojevich signed the pay-raise legislation Jones wanted. “I’ve been fighting for these pay raises for a year,” a proud Jones said after his fait accompli.

    A midnight deal to raise lawmakers’ pay by 10 percent? That, more than anything from this ill-fated session, could resonate with voters, assuming Republicans push it next year.
    John Ruskins at least gives a nudge of a push over at Illinois Review.

    Don't bet on Illinois Green's rocking any boats in Springfield with this one. Look at their outdated website. Those Ron Paul kids showed how activists can use enthusiasm, a camera, and the internet to get a point accross.

    Illinois voters gave Greens a chance last election, and the Democrats gave Greens a perfect opportunity to leverage that chance into something with weeks and weeks of a tragic soap opera in Springfield.

    All Greens needed was some enthusiasm and a camera to start pumping out those You Tube videos.

    Talk about a Party that blew it.

    xp Praire State Blue


    Chicago the City that Works

    Arlene Jones over at Austin Weekly News lists some good questions for West Siders to ask at the Budget Hearing Meeting.

    Here are a few other things you might want to mention to the mayor and his staff: drug dealing, CTA, Chicago Public Schools, potholes, 9 percent sales tax, city stickers, people putting illegal apartments in basements and attics, parking tickets, jobs for teens, booting of cars, police response time, hired trucking program, affordable housing, loud car stereos, police cameras, public urination, job training programs, privatizing of city jobs, CHA, stores selling loose cigarettes, storefront churches, garbage, businesses with ties to slavery getting city business, predatory lending, racial profiling, programs for seniors, people running stop signs, stores selling alcohol to underage kids, sexual predators being housed predominantly in the black community, traffic lights and why they can't be timed to allow traffic to flow, bicycle lanes, winter parking restrictions, encouraging businesses to locate in Chicago, the Kedzie and Chicago Service Center, speeding of cars on residential streets, redevelopment of the West Side business districts, illegal immigrants who are charged with felonies not getting reported to immigration officials, what to do with the old 15th District station on Chicago Avenue, police patrols, allowing Chicagoans to again register handguns, missing asphalt, Meigs Field, dog-fighting, the $40 million trucking scandal, white-owned businesses pretending to be minority-owned, city contracts to vend at the airport; city employees who now feel they should be able to live in the suburbs and work for the city, police taserings, forcing children to cross gang territories as locals schools are closed, and on and on.
    Things to keep in mind next time someone tells you Chicago's never looked better. Yeah, but.... is this the best Chicago can do?

    xp Praire State Blue


    Saturday, August 18, 2007

    Illinois Straw Poll with Ron Paul Activists

    I got this video via a comment made when I talked about the Illinois GOP Straw Poll on my blog at the state fair this week. I know that this is more national in scope, but this is just one video about the straw poll where I'm sure there hasn't been much video coverage. There's probably more on YouTube if I get to looking.


    Elvira Arellano

    Interesting how immigration's disappeared as a story after those huge rallies.

    I'm pro-immigrant. Always have been. When the salesman from the 12th Street Store would stop by my Dad's Dime Store, my Dad would ask him to tell me the story of how his parents told him it was time to leave Russia because they couldn't feed all the kids. So at age 13 he walked accross Poland and Germany for Hamburg to get the boat for America.

    But It's hard to get around the illegal in illegal-immigration. It's just hard to argue a case for over-looking the law.

    Yet I think most Americans would. We're a generous people with an innate sense of social justice.

    It's just the activists take the attitude America owes them,

    "Elvira is on a mission to bring the news that this issue is not dead," Lozano said. "We need to mobilize and make sure this issue is not just empty campaign promises."
    It's hard to warm up to an illegal on a mission to tell us what to do.

    Americans will sit their kids down to hear the story of an immigrant, legal or illegal (my Dad never asked), who as a kid walked across Europe for the promise of America. But it's awfully hard to hear a lecture from an illegal immigrant about empty promises.


    Friday, August 17, 2007

    ESL vote fraudster found guilty of improper asbestos removal

    Well, I broke down in East St. Louis. Tom Waits, The Train Song.

    When people commit vote fraud, it's not a difficult leap of logic to assume other crimes may have been committed. Such is the case of Charles Powell Jr.

    Earlier this week the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Powell was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for his role in the improper disposal of asbestos of a landmark East St. Louis building. Powell was on the town's city council at the time.

    Powell is already is prison for taking part in a vote-buying scheme during the 2004 elections while he was chairman of the East St. Louis Democratic Party.

    H/T to Cal Skinner at the McHenry County Blog.

    Related Marathon Pundit posts:

    Convicted vote thief joined by top local Dems at his pre-prison going away party

    Two more in East St. Louis vote-fraud case sentenced

    To comment on this post, or to view my photographs from Greensburg, Kansas, click here.


    Thursday, August 16, 2007

    United Services Delivers for the Governor

    Cross-posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

    Gov. Blagojevich first sought office on a promise to end business as usual. And he does seem to have developed some new practices. In the past, state contracts were, on occasion, granted to companies known to support the patron's campaign fund. Now, today's press reports suggest, contractors are showing support for their patron in new ways.

    United Services of Chicago apparently paid for busses to send people to the State Fair on Democrats' Day, some of whom wore Blagojevich t-shirts and who boo'd Blagojevich's chief rival in Springfield, House Speaker Michael Madigan. Some even told reporters that they were working for the Blagojevich campaign.

    United Services has many financial ties to the Governor. Contracts with the group grew from $1M in FY04 to $1.9M in FY07, and the group appears to be in line for $2.3M in state money in FY08. Press coverage has focused on a $775K DCEO contract on FY07, but the bulk of state funding appears to be through IDHS and IDOT.

    Press reports suggest that Eddie Read, head of United Services, ran a PAC that gave money to Blagojevich's campaign fund. That would, of course, be the old way of doing business. The new way, apparently, is to have supporters who will pay for busses to deliver protestors to hound your opponents.

    The contracts, the campaign contributions and the busloads of support raise too many questions and - once again - make Illinoisans question the fairness and honesty of their state government. A partial solution would be to enact legislation prohibiting state contractors from contributing to the officeholder who awards the contract. HB 1 and other "pay-to-play" legislation is pending in the Illinois Senate. Now that their day of State Fair play is over, legislators should get serious and pass legislation to limit opportunities to pay-to-play.


    Being up-front with readers ‘no long applicable’ at the Journal Star

    From today's Journal Star:

    A statement released Tuesday by the Dahlquist* family did not run in full in Wednesday editions. Sports Editor Bill Liesse felt it appropriate it run now. We have deleted a third paragraph regarding Danny's wake and funeral that is no longer applicable.

    Well, thank you PJS from saving readers from having to read a whole paragraph that's no longer applicable. I'm sure readers will appreciate you for not wasting a whole 30 seconds of their day. But for those of us who are curious, what WAS that paragraph? Thanks to blogger Peoria Illinoisan, we can read it:
    “Based on the intrusive behavior we have experienced the past two days, we will be very disappointed to see television cameras and reporters at the visitation and funeral for our son, Danny.”

    Of course, the Journal Star sent reporters to attend both services (here) and had photographers outside both (here and here), making sure the grieving faces of friends and family members are recorded for posterity.

    This is probably going to mark me as a heretic at the Church of the Public's Holy Right to Know, but I've never really agreed there's a need for the media to attend these things. The news media's job, in my humble opinion, is to increase the public's knowledge and understanding of the world so that they can better function in and promote a free society. I'm not sure how looking at photos of people's faces as they are crying over their dead relatives makes America a better place.

    Someone is sure to say that media coverage is these events is a way for all Peorians to cope with the grief over this tragedy. I'm thinking that gawking isn't about helping people grieve. All the people who do need to grieve are already there.

    The sad truth is that the media often hides behind claims of the public's right to know when all the media is doing is satisfying consumers urge for voyeurism.

    These were services for one young man. The family's request for privacy should have been honored. Just because it was possible for reporters to attend and physical possible for photographers to stand across the street and snap pictures, that doesn't mean it SHOULD have happened.

    But people can respectfully disagree on this issue. So let's put aside the issue of the morality and ethics of photographing a funeral against the family's wishes. There also the issue of the Journal Star's deliberate decision to keep its readers from knowing that they've been doing this against the stated wishes of the family. How ironic that the public's right to know doesn't include facts that make the PJS look bad. It's somewhat short of a lie, but not by much.

    It would have been one thing to not report on the family's statement. It's quite another to report on it, but leave out that stuff that makes your news organization look bad.

    Twenty years ago, they would have gotten away with it, because the good-old-boy media industry frowns on one news organization criticizing another. Sure, it might have ended up in some media review that the public never reads. But this is the age of the Internet. There's no way that bloggers weren't going to catch this and report on it. Did the journalistic brain trust at 1 News Plaza really think for one moment that bloggers wouldn't find out and call them on this?

    The Peoria Journal Star: Unethical AND stupid. What a sad combination. And, how sad that this is what is becoming of Peoria's one and only daily newspaper. We need something new in Peoria.

    * Background: Four Bradley University students face aggravated arson charges stemming from the death of their friend and roommate Danny Dahlquist. They have told police that the fire started as the result of a prank that went bad.

    Cross posted to Peoria Pundits.


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