Sunday, May 31, 2009

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - May 31, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 46,162 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the May 31, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Down to the wire

By Jamey Dunn and Bethany Jaeger, with Hilary Russell contributing
Some of yesterday’s moving parts actually started revolving around each other late in the day Thursday. The Illinois Senate approved two major revenue enhancements, one a sizable tax hike and another a major gaming expansion. That immediately put the onus on the House, which was in the middle of trying to advance an “insurance budget” to fund agency programs at bare bones levels.



Income tax increases and education funding
The momentum started in the Senate. Democrats tweaked a bill that was intended to address education funding, which would include an income tax increase of 2 percentage points for individuals. It would increase from 3 percent to 5 percent. Different versions of the measure have long been presented by Sen. James Meeks, a Chicago Democrat, but never found the support to pass. However, a looming deadline and $7 billion budget deficit this fiscal year has created new possibilities for an old concept.

One difference this time around is that the plan would only raise the corporate income tax rate from 4.8 percent to 5 percent, a much smaller increase than previously sought. It also would expand the sales tax to include services.

Senate President John Cullerton said the tax restructuring would help solve some of the chronic budget woes, but the plan would still come up $2 billion short of what the state needs to fully fund pensions and to maintain current spending levels. A vote for the tax plan, he said, inherently would be a vote for $2 billion in budget cuts.

House Bill 174 (the "new 750"), would provide some targeted tax relief.
It would raise the personal exemption and increase the earned income tax credit over two years to protect low-income residents. It also would provide property tax relief, which attracted Democratic Senators.

Over time, the tax plan would funnel more money into education and higher education, something Meeks wanted for years to address funding disparities between school districts throughout the state.

Republicans opposed the tax increase and sales tax expansion, describing it as a mistake during a recession. Sen. Matt Murphy, a Palatine Republican, said: “There’s a lot of different ways we can go at this if we go line-by-line through this budget, and I know because I’ve done it. This will cause more Illinoisans to lose their jobs, without a doubt.”

The bill passed with only Democratic votes. Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, gave an emotional speech about making his last-minute choice to vote for the bill. He said he had been praying about his decision and cast the vote that he knew would make his family proud. He said he had been telling leadership that he would vote “present,” but he changed his mind during floor debate. After the vote, Kotowski encouraged some House Republicans to follow suit.

Cullerton said that passing the bill in the Senate may help House Democrats feel safer about changing their minds. However, he said that the bill would need Republican support to pass. “When one chamber starts and passes a bill, they see that we’re still walking around — we’ve got a different version of what the governor has — that there’s a way to do this. So I think it’s a good start.”

But Gov. Pat Quinn is still backing the income tax proposal that has been introduced in the House. “I think the [temporary income tax] plan we have here in the House is probably the one we’ll have to go with. It’s straightforward. It’s pretty simple. It’s for two years. And the whole idea is for at least at this time to hold off dire catastrophes.”

Gaming
Momentum to consider alternative revenue sources continued with a Senate vote to expand gaming by adding four new facilities, including new gaming facilities in Chicago, Waukegan, Rockford and Danville. Existing gaming facilities, including horse tracks, also could start operating more slot machines. Senate Bill 744 would generate at least $150 million upon issuing the licenses, according to Sen. Terry Link, a Waukegan Democrat. Once the new facilities were up and running and the economy improved, he said the package could generate up to $1 billion a year.

Building new casinos and riverboats has been tried numerous times in the past few years, and similar proposals haven’t advanced in the House. But, Link said: “They need money and here’s a good way to give them money. So I think it's future is a lot better tonight.”

Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican who would receive a gaming facility in his district through Link’s bill, said the state may need an income tax increase. Then again, he said: “When you’re drowning and a life preserver floats by, your impulse is to grab it. When you have a community that’s so desperate for investment and jobs, you turn to things you normally wouldn’t even consider. I would support the riverboat. I don’t have the luxury to say I don’t.”

Bare bones budget
The so-called “insurance budget” advanced by House Democrats as a back-up plan would fund state agencies at about 80 percent of the level they were funded at last year, which would be about 50 percent of the governor’s proposed budget.

Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie tried early in the day to advance a temporary income tax increase. That wasn’t gaining enough votes. So late Saturday night, Currie tried to at least approve the “insurance budget” to keep the lights on, so to speak. Without it, agencies would be funded at 32 percent of Quinn’s proposed budget.

But after word spread that senators approved an income tax increase across the rotunda, several House Democrats started to peal off support for a bare bones budget. Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat and vocal advocate of human services, urged fellow lawmakers to hold off on a bare bones budget to “continue to fight for more solutions.”

Currie said she would prefer either version of an income tax over a bare bones budget, but it was a way to ensure something landed on the governor’s desk just in case chaos ensued Sunday, the last day of the regularly scheduled session.

If all else fails, Currie said she would call the bare bones budget again before Sunday’s midnight deadline. Here’s what it would do:

On the revenue side:

  • Sweep $356 million from dedicated funds four times throughout the year.
  • Refinance debt to get a 4 percent interest rate and save $600 million next year, saving $237 million over the life of the bonds.
  • Along with tapping into federal funds and starting other efficiencies, it would generate about $1 billion.
On the spending side:
  • State agencies could receive lump sums at half the funding level proposed by the governor.
  • The administration would have to figure out how to spread the money around and to cut certain grant programs.

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House approves recall provision

By Jamey Dunn, with Hilary Russell contributing
Illinois voters could have the chance to vote on whether they want authority to boot the governor from office, thanks to a measure that passed the House Saturday.



The House approved a similar effort last year after frustration from then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s alleged corruption scandals. But it stalled in the Senate.

This year’s measure, Constitutional Amendment 31, would allow voters to cast their ballots on whether they want to change the state Constitution to include a so-called recall provision.

Many said that the provision should include the ability to recall all constitutional officers. Franks said he would like to add that later, but in the wake of the alleged Blagojevich scandal, he wanted to give voters a way to address corruption in the governor’s office.

“I firmly believe if we’d had it during the last administration, we’d have used it,” he said. Franks added that he thinks the legislature would have never removed Blagojevich from office had he not been indicted.

Gov. Pat Quinn Quinn said a recall provision would make the legislature accountable because if a corrupt politician had to be removed, the General Assembly would have to sign on to the effort, along with voters.

The requirement to have legislators sign off on recall drew the most ire from Republicans. They said that making voters get lawmakers’ approval takes the power away from the people.

Republicans said they want Franks to hold the bill and negotiate some changes. Franks’ measure would not need to be approved until six months before the general election to get on the 2010 ballot. But Franks said it could be called in the Senate after the midnight deadline Sunday, when the legislature adjourns.

Here are some numbers associated with the recall process laid out in the bill:

  • A governor must be in office for 6 months before the recall process is started.
  • 20 House members and 10 Senate members from both parties would have to sign off on an initial recall proposal from citizens.
  • Once legislators approved the measure to put the question on the ballot, individuals seeking to remove the governor would have 150 days to round up the signatures to put the question of whether to remove the governor before voters. They would need a number of signatures equal to 15 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. For instance, Franks said the number of signatures currently needed would be 750,000 based off of the 2006 election.
  • There must be at least 25 different counties with 100 signatures each.
  • This version of the bill would only apply to the governor’s position, and it contains new safeguards intended to prevent abuse of the power. These new aspects came under fire from House Republicans.


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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Two-tiered pension plan stalls

Gov. Pat Quinn's proposal to provide less generous pension benefits for future teachers and state employees has been held and is unlikely to advance in the state legislature before the May 31 deadline.

Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat sponsoring Quinn's proposal in his chamber, said today that the governor asked for more time to negotiate with public employee and teachers' unions, both strong opponents to the two-tiered proposal. See background here. Harmon held HB 2643. Another version is SB 1292.

The proposal also would have allowed Quinn to skim the state's payment into the five public employee pension systems for teachers, lawmakers, judges, university employees and state workers. Illinois is scheduled to pay nearly $4 billion into the systems next fiscal year, but the amount that the state will actually pay is part of ongoing budget negotiations between the governor and the four legislative leaders.

They continue to meet behind closed doors this evening as they try to hash out an operating budget that's projected to have a nearly $12 billion deficit by the end of next fiscal year. We'll have more as soon as possible.

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House Dems paint picture without tax hike

By Bethany Jaeger, with Hilary Russell contributing
House Democrats maintain that without Republican votes, an income tax increase is likely to fail. And the back-up plan isn't pretty.

House Democrats did advance a two-year income tax increase and a phased-in earned income tax credit for low-income families this morning. Senate Bill 2252 would net about $4.5 billion for state coffers, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie said in committee. The personal tax rate would increase from 3 percent to 4.5 percent, while the corporate rate would increase from 4.8 percent to 7.2 percent, ending in 2011. The earned income tax credit would phase in from 5 percent to 7.5 percent the first year, followed by an increase to 10 percent the second year. It would be permanent after that.



Without new revenue, House Democrats could resort to sweeping money out of dedicated funds and refinancing debt as the only new revenue sources for a total of about $4.5 billion, according to Assistant Majority Leader Frank Mautino. That would result in state agencies getting about 80 percent of their annual budgets, and only about half of the grants for community services would get funded.

“So it’s not a partial budget,” Mautino said after committee. “That’s how much money is approved, and that’s how much they will get.”

Currie said during committee that the state is more than $7 billion out of whack today. And even if a temporary income tax increase generated $4.5 billion, the General Assembly would still have to curb spending.

“If anybody thinks this is a way to duck out of our responsibility to tighten our belts, the answer is, it doesn’t make it. But it will help prevent the kinds of disasters that real people face if we don’t do something to stem the tide.”

The lack of new revenue, she said, would result in a 68 percent cut across the board for state agencies. That would affect everything from childcare programs for low-income working parents to services for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill.

All Republicans in the committee voted against the tax increase and sided with business groups, which argued that the proposal would give Illinois the second highest tax rate in the country and further discourage businesses from investing in this state. Todd Maisch of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce added that the income tax increase would not address the deeper problem. “Between pensions and government-funded health care, if you don’t do anything to address those issues, you’re going to be back here in two years still needing another tax increase,” he said during committee. “The drivers of the costs are going to outrun the revenues you’re going to get from the tax increase.”

Rep. Mark Beaubien, a Barrington Hills Republican, said Illinois has gone down the road of a temporary tax increase before. “I think the citizens know where that’s going to go in the future.” The General Assembly levied temporary income tax increases twice in the 1980s. The 1989 increase was made permanent under then-Gov. Jim Edgar.

Meanwhile, the House committee also advanced a measure that would intend to soften the blow for retailers if the state increased the sales tax on cigarettes by a $1 over two years, as proposed in SB 44. Rep. John Bradley, a Marion Democrat, sponsored SB 415 in response to retailers' concerns, which we wrote about before. It would only take effect if the cigarette tax increase were approved.

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Shakedown Street

by Cal Skinner

While I was out getting the withheld-since-February, now released sweetheart contract the McHenry County College Board so generously financed out of something approaching $300,000 of our tax dollars, I noticed this bumper sticker on an older car with a round baby walker-rocker in back.

It was so, so appropriate to a new type of fund raising committee working its way through the legislative process in Springfield.

It's called a “constituent services committee.”

People like State Rep. Jack Franks regularly spend more money on their district office operations than provided by their office allowances. Campaign fund money pays for the rest.

Skip Saviano once told me his whole district office operation was financed with campaign money.

By using campaign money, legislators can operate overtly politically.

After all, campaign money is for running campaigns.

You read the definition of such a committee below and tell me if there any political restrictions:

“'Constituent services committee' means a political committee organized by an elected public official to accept contributions and make expenditures solely to defray the costs related to constituent services and upkeep of that official's office.”
The process is ripe for abuses.

“Sorry, Mam, we can't help you if you don't contribute to our constituent services committee.”

I am not suggesting that skillful politicians like Franks or Saviano would do that, but don't be surprised if you see such a scandal after this law takes effect.

If Congressmen have such a creature, a long-time congressional aide was not aware of it.

Friday in a last minute switcheroo, Franks has been made House Speaker Mike Madigan's first chief co-sponsor on this House Bill 7.
Posted first at McHenry County Blog, open for business this session weekend.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - May 30, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 46,100 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the May 30, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Too many moving parts

By Bethany Jaeger, with Jamey Dunn and Hilary Russell contributing
Plan A failed before it even got to the House floor for an official vote Friday.

Democrats said they don’t have enough support for a temporary income tax increase without Republican votes, so rank-and-file legislators were sent home early while leaders met to hammer out Plan B behind closed doors. Meanwhile, different plans to expand gaming and restructure state taxes to change the way the state funds education were floating around in the Senate. But that chamber went home early, too, leaving many legislators to see the May 31st adjournment date slipping away as no combination of revenue and spending options appear within reach.



House Democrats emerged from a closed-door meeting this afternoon with reports of competing priorities. Rep. Monique Davis of Chicago described it this way: “Some people want a tax increase. Other people don’t want a tax increase. Some people want a smaller tax increase. Others want it a little larger. Some don’t want to bypass the pension payment plan. Some people want to make the pension payment. So we’re absolutely all over the board.” She said House Speaker Michael Madigan is letting his members decide. “I think speaker’s doing what he does and that’s let everyone make up their own minds and their own decisions, but we’re going to have to realize what those decisions mean.”

House Minority Leader Tom Cross said Democrats don’t need GOP votes. They could do it on their own. “They’ve got 70 votes — 70 votes. Does anybody in this building think that if the speaker really wants to do this, he can’t do it? Everybody knows that if the speaker wants to get something done, he puts 60 votes on.”

Even if a majority of Democrats or Republicans agreed to raise the state income tax, the General Assembly would still have to cut spending, according to assistant Majority Leader Frank Mautino of Spring Valley.

But they can’t agree on where to scale back, either. That’s partially because Democrats say one of the only places left to cut is from the part of the budget that provides grants to community services, including everything from programs for AIDS patients to after-school clubs. But individual legislators don’t want to stop funding projects or programs in their districts.

“The state budget has become this mosaic of all these individual grant programs that even in times of crisis, we can’t move away from,” said Rep. Marlow Colvin, a Chicago Democrat, adding in frustration, “so it’s ridiculous.”

Mautino added: “There have been uncomfortable votes in the General Assembly, but never a hard vote. Any vote you make this year, someone gets hurt.”

House Democrats do agree that lawmakers can’t balance the state budget solely but cutting spending. “We don’t have enough money for a full year at the levels there at this year,” said spokesman Steve Brown.

Among the alternative plans being considered is minimizing the budget to reflect the level of revenue available. That would include approving lump sums of state funding to agencies, which would then have to decide how to spread the money around to keep the lights on and the doors open until the money ran out. It’s expected that they would have to return to the Capitol to ask for more money early next year.

“I see leaving Springfield with a budget that reflects exactly what we have and what we’re willing to vote for in revenue,” Mautino said, later adding, “We’re just all trying to find something that will keep services running and provide the least amount of pain possible because there’s going to be pain — no matter what we do.”

Across the rotunda, Sen. John Sullivan, a downstate Democrat, said as the day progressed, it appeared more likely that the legislature would resort to a budget based solely on revenues available. But he wasn’t happy about it. “If we go past the 31st without a full budget being passed, all we’ve done is put off the inevitable,” he said. “We’re going to have to come back at some time and face reality.”

Both chambers will resume business Saturday, potentially, with Plans B and beyond.

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Medical marijuana may have to wait for a vote

By Hilary Russell
Despite two victories this week for legalizing medical marijuana, the bill probably won’t get a floor vote in the Illinois House before the May 31 deadline for the spring legislative session, according to it’s sponsor, Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie.


The bill passed out of a House panel last night. The Senate approved SBill 1381 the previous day. See background here.

But medical marijuana is taking a back seat to the state budget and whether it will include income tax increases, which could come up for a vote this evening.

If the medical marijuana bill isn’t called by Sunday, Lang said he could try again when lawmakers return from their summer break. “This bill is only difficult because people want to turn it into politics,” he said. "There are many people on this floor who have said to me, ‘It’s a really great idea, and I think it would help a lot of people, but I can’t vote for it.’”

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Campaign finance limits one step closer

By Jamey Dunn, with Bethany Jaeger contributing

A bill intended to reform campaign finance in Illinois that passed through the Senate yesterday is expected to come up for a vote in the House today.

It appears to be a compromised version that could get enough votes to pass both chambers. However, Gov. Pat Quinn’s support of the bill went against the recommendations of the Illinois Reform Commission, which he created.




None of the major reform groups in the state support the bill. Cynthia Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, described HB 7 as “phony reform” filled with loopholes.

Canary’s organization partnered with a large coalition called Change Illinois to advocate for reforms that mirror the federal system of campaign contribution limits: $2,400 limit on individuals, $5,000 limit on political committees, business and unions and a $30,000 limit on legislative leadership. The Illinois Reform Commission recommended the same limits.

Quinn said that enacting contribution caps for the first time in the state would be a historic change, even if they were more lenient than recommended by his commission. “This is a new world for Illinois,” he said shortly after he and House Speaker Michael Madigan testified in favor of the bill before a House committee this morning.

Madigan said that federal limits were too low and forced candidates to spend too much time trying to find multiple donors to contribute small amounts of money. He also said that they benefit incumbents who have an established list of donors that they could ask for cash.

Some aspects of the bill that Madigan outlined before the committee include:

  • Limited in-kind donations of advertisements, yard signs and people to knock on doors from businesses and labor unions supporting candidates.
  • Unlimited in-kind contributions for legislative leadership or statewide political parties.
  • Fines for violations of election rules would be increased. The Illinois State Board of Elections would be able to audit candidates and committees only if they missed two consecutive reporting deadlines.

Most of the new provisions would not take effect until January 2011, after the next general election. Madigan said that it was designed to keep the next election fair because candidates that started fundraising under the old rules would have an advantage over those who started under the new ones.

The Illinois Democratic Party also would be prohibited from offering support to a candidate in the primary immediately after the bill became law. Yesterday, Senate President John Cullerton said the Democratic Party voluntarily would abide by the new provisions before the law were enacted.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said she would like to see the same restriction applied to the Republican Party, but it was not included in the bill because Republicans were cut out of negotiations.

The provision actually could help Quinn because it would keep Madigan, chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois, from using the party to support his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is considering challenging Quinn in the Democratic primary for governor in 2010. When asked if he had compromised by accepting a less lenient cap on contributions in exchange for a ban on the Democratic Party's involvement in the primary, Quinn said, “Slate-making by the Democratic Party and using party resources in a primary has been a stock and trade for many decades.” He added: “I think this is a good step for reform and openness. It empowers everyday people who want to run for office. They don't have to run in machine politics. I think this is a very good reform.”

Speaker Madigan echoed supporters by calling it an imperfect bill but the result of compromise. “We don’t represent in this bill that there will be a complete shut down of money being spent for campaigns,” he said, “and we don’t represent that this bill is perfect. We don’t represent that it satisfies everybody. We do represent that it is a significant step forward for the state of Illinois.”

Rep. Ed Sullivan, a Mundelein Republican, responded, “Some of us have a disagreement on how big of a step it is.”

Shortly after HB 7 advanced through committee, House Republicans tried to push a measure, HB 24,which would mirror federal limits. It’s similar to recommendations from the Illinois Reform Commission. However, the GOP was unable to get the support needed to have the bill called on the floor for a vote.

“We will have an ethics bill presented in this House later today that fails the people of the state of Illinois miserably,” said House Minority Leader Tom Cross. Check back for updates on the bill.

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Texting bans head to the governor

By Hilary Russell
Drivers would be banned from texting while driving if Gov. Pat Quinn signs HB 71 into law. It passed both chambers, most recently in the House by a vote of 96-25. Quinn has 60 days to approve or veto it before it automatically becomes law.


Rep. John D’Amico, a Chicago Democrat, sponsored HB 71, which prohibits the use of cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), portable computers or any device that allows users to write, read and send an electronic message.

The bill does, however, exclude global positioning devices built into cars, as long as the devices are used only for getting directions. The bill also excludes law enforcement, emergency vehicle operators and drivers reporting emergencies. Commercial vehicle drivers also would be allowed to use electronic devices, provided they’re no larger than 10 inches by 10 inches.

Drivers also could use electronic devices as long as they are hands-free or voice-activated. And they could still pull over and text while parked on the side of the road.

Cell phones banned in school and construction zones
Another bill that passed both chambers would ban the use of cell phones in school speed zones, construction zones. The House approved HB 72 by a vote of 96-21.

The bill, also sponsored by D’Amico, would allow construction workers to use wireless phones. And using cell phones during emergencies would be exempt from the ban.

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Legislative Leaders Clothesline Citizens

by Cal Skinner

Don't see clothes lines much anymore.

Guess most people have clothes dryers now.

I think my bit-too-uppity Village of Lakewood has even banned this “green” way of drying clothes.

I found this clothes line in the blessedly unincorporated early McHenry County settlement of Ridgefield. It's northwest of McHenry County College in Crystal Lake on, would you believe, Ridgefield Road, not to mention Hillside Road and a bit of Country Club Road.

In any event as I drove by, I knew I didn't have a photo of a clothes line, so I took it.

When I arrived home and read how the legislative leaders had put no meaningful restrictions on their ability to gather all the money and decide which of their subservient members or to-be subservient members would get how much, I knew it had to be my “Message of the Day.”

Illinois voters have been “clotheslined.”

Or as some folks think “closelined.”

Do you think those who use the incorrect spelling are just too young to know what a clothesline is”

If Pat Quinn wants to go out in a blaze of glory and pass a petition seeking a constitutional amendment on Term Limits for Legislative Leaders, count me in.

Posted first on McHenry County Blog.

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ICPR SAYS MUCH MORE WORK NEEDED ON CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION LIMITS LEGISLATION

HOUSE BILL 7 IS FULL OF LOOPHOLES

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


Over the objections of reform advocates throughout the state, the Illinois Senate on Thursday approved a bill (HOUSE BILL 7) to establish contribution limits but with so many loopholes that the legislation is "limits" in name only.

Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR), issued the following statement:


“The disappointing Senate action should not be rubberstamped by the House,” said Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR). “This phony reform should be blocked, and reform-minded legislators should insist on filling the loopholes created by the Senate.”

ICPR and the CHANGE Illinois! coalition have advocated real reform modeled after the federal system of campaign limits -- $2,400 limit on individual contributions, $5,000 limit on PAC, business and union contributions and a $30,000 limit on contribution from legislative leadership PACs to legislative candidates.

SOME OF THE PROBLEMS WITH HOUSE BILL 7

NO LIMIT ON IN-KIND CONTRIBUTIONS: Not only are the dollar amounts of the limits high but there are no limits on "in-kind" contributions from one candidate's committee to another. That means legislative leaders could use campaign funds to hire staff, pay for commercials and send direct mail on behalf of candidates. None of those would be covered by a contribution limit. It has the potential to exempt millions of dollars from the limits.

ANNUAL (CALENDAR YEAR) vs. ELECTION CYCLE LIMITS: Because the federal system uses election cycles of primary and general elections, officeholders and challengers are treated the same. But the Senate bill would set limits -- $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a PAC, business or union -- on a calendar year basis. That protects incumbents. For example, using the federal system, a governor and challenger could each get no more than two maximum contributions in a four-year period. But under the calendar year system, sitting governors could collect the maximum level in each of the governor's four years in office. Because challengers usually don't gear up for campaigning and fundraising until about two years before the election, a challenger could collect the limit from a contributor only twice before the general election. That's a potential 2-to-1 advantage for an incumbent.

TRANSFERS FROM LEADERS' (AND OTHERS') COMMITTEES: Any candidate for any office in Illinois could transfer up to $90,000 in cash to another candidate's committee. There are so many potential transfers of funds from committee to committee that it would be easy for legislative leaders to maneuver millions of dollars to targeted candidates. The end result would be the same as exists today.

ENFORCEMENT: Enforcement of campaign finance laws would remain extremely weak in Illinois. We had recommended the State Board of Elections be directed to make random audits of campaign committees to determine whether they were disclosing the contributions and expenditures required by law. The Senate bill would only give the State Board of Elections the ability to order an audit when a committee failed to file a quarterly report two times in a calendar year.


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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - May 29, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 46,023 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the May 29, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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As good as it gets?

By Jamey Dunn

A measure that would limit campaign contributions advanced through the Senate today. Supporters tout it as a historic first step towards reform, while opponents say it’s filled with loopholes that would preserve the status quo.


“I see holes in this that you could drive a Mack truck through,” said Sen. John Jones, a Mount Vernon Republican.

Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, said HB 7 is not perfect because it is the result of long and difficult negotiations. “It does an awful lot more than I thought we would be able to do when I started this process a few months ago,” he said.

The bill includes:
$5,000 limits on contributions from individuals.
$10,000 limits on contributions from corporations or labor unions.
$90,000 limits on transfers from statewide political parties.

The measure did not win support from numerous government reform groups, including the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and a conglomeration of powerful groups called the Change Illinois. It also was opposed by Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Reform Commission on principle, said Commissioner Patrick Collins. The commission wanted a lower limit on donations and real-time disclosure of campaign contributions year-round. House Bill 7, on the other hand, would only require real-time disclosure during May, the height of the legislative action and budget negotiations. Otherwise, candidates would file campaign contribution reports four times a year.

Many Republicans stood in opposition, as well, and identified one “hole” in the legislation as creating a new category of committees, called constituent services committees. Under the measure, legislators would have a separate fund to pay for maintaining their offices and assisting people in their legislative districts. Contributions to the fund would be capped at $5,000. The money could not be used for campaigns.

However, Kent Redfield, a political scientist who runs the Sunshine Database to track campaign contributions, said money from the new special “constituent services” fund could be used to hold events for constituents that would actually be thinly veiled campaign efforts.

Good government advocates also didn’t like how often people could donate to each candidate. For instance, Harmon’s bill would allow individuals to donate up to the $5,000 limit every calendar year, as opposed to every election cycle. Opponents said the annual cycle would favor incumbents. Redfield said the annual cycle would benefit politicians who could start fundraising in office well before their next races. Yet, he said challengers would probably not be as successful starting early without an office and name recognition backing their efforts.

The most hotly contested aspect of the bill was the lack of limits on in-kind contributions from statewide political parties to candidates. For instance, the Democratic Party of Illinois could only donate $90,000 in cash, but it would still be able to give unlimited amounts of airtime for advertisements, yard signs, mailers and manpower to knock on doors to its candidates.

“That’s the big loophole,” Redfield said, adding, “it’s codifying the status quo.”

Redfield also said that limiting campaign contributions from lobbying groups might force legislators to seek contributions elsewhere, particularly their statewide political party leaders.

Gov. Pat Quinn, who testified in favor of the bill before a Senate committee Thursday, said it was good enough to move the public interest forward, but it was not perfect. He called it the “best we can do at this time.”

Harmon said HB 7 was the only version that could pass both chambers.

Collins, former assistant U.S. prosecutor, said legislators told him that the measures couldn’t be changed because they were tightly negotiated between the legislative caucuses, and any changes could kill the bills. Commissioner David Hoffman, inspector general for the City of Chicago, added that it was a convenient way of saying that no one really knows what would happen if changes were made, but they won’t take the chance to find out.

Sen. Minority Leader Christine Radogno also criticized the process and said that Republicans had been shut out of negotiations.

Harmon said that the issue could be revisited outside of “the pressure cooker” of a looming deadline and budget negotiations.



Read more...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

FOIA rewrite passes both chambers

By Bethany Jaeger
All public bodies could be held to much higher standards when withholding documents and other information from the public. Legislation to strengthen the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and its enforcement will be sent to the governor’s desk. The House and Senate approved SB 189 with only one person voting against it.



The measure is part of a series of government reforms approved by the General Assembly in response to two consecutive governors being targeted by federal corruption charges. It’s also one area targeted by Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Reform Commission.

We’ll have more about how the commission and the legislature have worked together — or not — soon. But the FOIA revisions demonstrated one area where all interested parties made compromises.

The negotiation process wasn’t exactly smooth, however. One week ago, the Illinois Press Association deemed a draft of the proposal “worse than existing law.” But the new version contained within SB 189 won “enthusiastic” support from the association.

Commissioner Hanke Gratteau said the FOIA revisions represent a “giant step forward” for transparency in government. They also would narrow the number of exemptions that allow public bodies to withhold otherwise public information, and the law would have stronger teeth with the addition of a so-called public access counselor and the ability to level civil penalties for noncompliance.

A representative of the Illinois Municipal League, however, said lawmakers would start to find out soon after the bill became law that it would place a heavy burden on local governments.

If signed into law by Quinn, a specialized lawyer would monitor and mandate the release of public information. The public access counselor is housed in the Illinois attorney general’s office, which would gain significant power by being able to subpoena information. The counselor would be able to issue binding opinions about whether public bodies, in fact, must release the information being requested.

The process also would get faster. Public bodies would have to reply to requests within five business days, as opposed to the current seven days. And if a public body denied a request, the public would have to take fewer steps and less time to appeal that denial.

“It used to be request, denial, appeal, denial. Now it’s just request, denial, and you’re ready to go,” said Don Craven, interim executive director of the Illinois Press Association. “So we shortened the process.”

Not all of the association’s recommendations made it into the final version, according to Craven. For instance, the association wanted final reports or documents prepared by consultants or independent contractors to be made public. Craven said that suggestion refers back to former Gov. George Ryan’s administration, when the state hired a private firm to issue a report about the economic impact of bringing Boeing Corp. to Chicago. The firm prepared a final report, gave it to the governor and the court held that a FOIA request was exempt because the report was “pre-decisional,” despite being the final report that guided policy, Craven said. Such reports, as well as internal staff analyses, remain exempt from the FOIA.

Some legislators expressed concern about a change to the personal private exemption. Ann Spillane, the attorney general’s chief of staff, said the reforms clarify the standard of a “clearly unwarranted invasion of privacy.” For instance, employees’ electronic time sheets — when they’re officially on the state’s clock — is public information and should be subject to the FOIA. However, if an employee clocked out to go to a doctor’s appointment, the reason for clocking out would be redacted.

Here are some other highlights of the final version, which would become law if the governor signs SB 189:

  • Courts could decide to impose a fine ranging from $2,400 to $5,000 for public bodies that intentionally failed to comply with FOIA. And if a public body waited too long to reply to a request, then it couldn’t charge a copying fee or rely on the exemption that says the request was “unduly burdensome.”
  • Courts would be required to award attorneys’ fees to individuals or entities who had to file a lawsuit to force a public body to release public information. Current law permits courts to do so but does not force them.
  • Public bodies could still redact, or black out, information from public records, but they’d still have to provide the rest of the information.
  • The bill does include a higher standard for proving a public body’s denial of a request.
  • Public bodies would have to designate specific employees to complete training about the FOIA and the Open Meetings Act.

Read more...

Medical marijuana bill advances in the House

By Hilary Russell
The Illinois Senate made history last night by approving a bill that would authorize the limited use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The measure advanced again tonight when a House committee approved the same measure by a vote of 4-3.



Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, said SB 1381 could be called in the House as early as tomorrow. Lang sponsored another version, HB 2514, which has the same intent but different restrictions. He said he’d try to advance the version sponsored by Sen. Bill Haine, an Alton Democrat, because it already cleared one hurdle by passing the Senate.

Lang said he would only call the bill for a full House debate if he felt sure he had enough votes for it to pass. “I am not a legislator that does test votes,” he said. “I am not going to run this out to the floor and have people vote on this pro and con. If there’s a vote taken on this bill, it will be when I think I can pass it.”

Opponents maintain that marijuana is a gateway drug and will lead to drug addiction and be accessible to children. Republican Rep. Patricia Bellock of Hinsdale said one reason she objects to the bill is because marijuana is an illegal drug. Most law enforcement agencies in the state also oppose this legislation.

Rep. Ron Stephens, a Greenville Republican, said there will be no way to know how many plants patients have in their homes. The bill calls for a 60-day supply of the drug, or two ounces of dried cannabis sativa and three mature flowering plants. See background here.

Haine and Lang maintain that the bill’s language is very strict and clear. Anyone who violated or abused the law would face criminal punishment.

The next step is for the bill to be called on the House floor and debated by the full chamber. We'll have more if that happens.


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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - May 28, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 45,939 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the May 28, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Medical marijuana bill passes Senate

By Hilary Russell
The board read 28 eyes, 30 nays and 1 present when the bill was called for a vote. This was only the second time in the history of Illinois’ General Assembly that this kind of bill had made to the floor. As Senators watched the neon numbers go up, down and up again, the hushed room began to fill with chanting. At 29 votes, just one shy of the number needed to pass, one Senator was visibly worried. Then, at the last second, the votes changed to 30. The bill had passed.

Applause and gales of laughter broke out once the votes were confirmed.


Sen. Bill Haine, an Alton Democrat, sponsored SB 1381, which would allow terminally ill patients to enroll in a three-year pilot program and permit the use of marijuana without fear of criminal punishment.

“I feel relief,” Haine said. “I love working complicated bills and very controversial. I’m happy it’s over. … This is major step and a victory for common sense.”

Haine’s bill would allow an individual to get a prescription from his or her primary care physician for a 60-day supply of marijuana, or two ounces of dried cannabis and three flowering plants. See the background here.

The Illinois Department of Public Health would oversee the program and ultimately determine how many plants and dried ounces constituted a 60-day supply. The bill also designates that a primary caregiver, who is registered with the department, to grow and or purchase the marijuana for the patient.

The plant’s medical effects versus its benefits are greatly debated because it is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is classified as a federally illegal drug.

But for patients who have chronic or terminal conditions, the drug, supporters say, has been a lifesaver because it helps to ease nausea and increase appetite.

Some lawmakers in support of the bill spoke on a personal note about the contraindications they witnessed themselves or of loved ones who have to take multiple prescription drugs at a time.

Sen. Linda Holmes, an Aurora Democrat with multiple sclerosis, said passing this bill was the right action to take. “We are talking about people here that are not looking to abuse a drug,” she said. “To sit here and say that this drug has the potential to be abused, therefore, we should not be voting in favor of this bill, … well, then go home and empty out your medicine cabinet because all your pain medications and all your sleep medications have the potential to be abused.”

Sen. Kwame Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, moved the room to silence as he spoke about a recent visit with his mother. Raoul said she suffers from a variety of ailments and, as a result, her doctors have prescribed her multiple drugs to treat one issue while prescribing others to offset side effects. “This is a bill about compassion for those who are suffering,” Raoul said. Having recently lost his father, Raoul noted, “pharmaceuticals had no answer for the pain he had to go through. So we can make this a political issue, but this is about compassion.”

Opponents fear if the bill becomes law, it would pave the way for drug addiction and open a can of worms the state doesn’t have the time or resources to deal with. Sen. Dale Righter, a Mattoon Republican, opposed the bill and said he thought there were too many loopholes. One of his main concerns is that the bill does not require patients or their caregivers to have background checks.

“The bill would allow people to grow and possess cannabis. Those folks are not subject to a background check,” Righter said. “This bill does not require law enforcement to be involved in the administration program at all, and I think that’s a fatal flaw.”

Haine said every dispensary would be required to go through a background check, but the patients are the ones responsible for the caretaker. “It’s a bit offensive to demand everyone go through a background check,” Haine said. “If the patient is not qualified, the doctor will not sign the recommendation. We delineate the diseases [that qualify] and demand extensive corroboration from the doctor.” He added that if the privilege were abused, the prescribing doctor’s license would be on the line, too.

Now the bill moves to the House, where Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, will sponsor it. But with only four days left before the spring session is scheduled to end, Haine said he suspects the bill would wait to be called until the annual fall session or even later.

Lang said: “I’m going to try to move it as far through the House system as I can and as quickly as I can and do a head count. This morning, I did not have enough votes to pass the bill.”

He added that now there are 30 senators who voted for this bill, which means there are 60 representatives for those senators. “So maybe now they’ll feel that they have some political cover and will feel OK to vote for the bill.”

Read more...

Recall returns, other reforms coming

By Bethany Jaeger and Jamey Dunn
The legislature continues to advance measures that would try to prevent the alleged wrongdoing by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich from going on long enough for a federal indictment to intervene.


Rep. Jack Franks, a Woodstock Democrat and longtime Blagojevich critic, revived his effort to change the state Constitution so voters could “recall” elected officials. The effort failed last year. This time, however, he’s calling for a constitutional amendment that would only focus on allowing voters to recall the governor, not other statewide officeholders or legislators.

Franks called it a first step and said that recall should only be used in extreme situations, describing recall authority as a “nuclear option” to remove corrupt or inept officials. He pointed to 18 other states that have some version of a recall provision, but it’s only been used twice in recent history, the most recent in California in 2003.

The bill is scheduled for a committee hearing tomorrow morning. We’ll have more then.

Sen. Susan Garrett, a Lake Forest Democrat, also is sponsoring a measure to increase transparency in the way the governor appoints people to boards and commissions. While Gov. Pat Quinn’s office already published a Web site listing all appointments, Garrett’s bill, SB 1602, would aim to increase transparency, prevent conflicts of interest and “ensure the process isn’t dominated by political insiders.” She referred to several Blagojevich appointments involved in the ongoing federal investigation of using public office for private gain.

Both Franks and Garrett said the legislature continues to advance reform measures not addressed by Quinn’s Illinois Reform Commission. Franks said the panel did good work, “but by no means is it all inclusive or the only reasonable voice.”

The commission did not make a specific recommendation, for instance, about whether to let voters recall elected officials. Commissioner Patrick Collins previously said the group only gave recommendations that received unanimous support, and recall was not unanimous but deserved additional consideration.

One area the commission did make specific recommendations was campaign finance. While last week’s attempt to debate so-called contribution limits soured, another attempt could be made as soon as tomorrow. Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, went as far to say he expects some form of contribution caps to pass both chambers tomorrow. The process is expected to start with a Senate committee hearing in the afternoon.

Harmon has been negotiating a compromise with lawmakers and the Illinois Reform Commission. He said there is “if not broad agreement, at least broad acceptance” of $5,000 contribution limits for individual donors. That’s a more lenient limit than the $2,400 cap recommended by the commission. But the bigger sticking point, according to Harmon, is whether to limit the amount statewide political parties can donate to their candidates.

But a statement from House Speaker Michael Madigan today made it seem as though that issue may be close to a resolution among Democrats.

A public TV program called Illinois Lawmakers reported that Madigan said he and Senate President John Cullerton have come to an agreement on capping the amount of money political parties can transfer to candidates’ campaign committees. Both leaders have withheld their support of the idea in the past.

“We are moving in the right direction.” Madigan said. “There should be caps on contributions. There should be caps on transfers between committees.”

FOIA rewrite advances
One area where lawmakers did strike a compromise with competing versions is strengthening the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act.

The Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Attorney General expressed disappointment with a watered down version last week, but both enthusiastically supported the version that won House approval today. “This bill did not have everything we wanted, but we were very happy with this bill,” said David Porter, spokesman for the Illinois Press Association.

Senate Bill 189 would increase the standard for public bodies to proving a requested document is exempt from the law. It also would shorten the time public bodies would have to respond to requests from seven business days to five.

One major change is that a certified “public access counselor” would have authority to review and determine whether documents should have been released under the FOIA, and he or she would be able to subpoena documents. The counselor could go as far as issuing binding opinions to resolve disputes and sue to enforce those opinions.

We’ll have much more in the next few days.

Read more...

House challenges idea to skim pensions

By Bethany Jaeger and Jamey Dunn
The General Assembly should fully fund the state’s contribution into the public employee pension systems, according to a measure approved by the House today. But the move contradicts Gov. Pat Quinn’s proposal to short the pension payment to free up some money that could help fill a $7.4 billion budget deficit next fiscal year.



Today’s floor debate over SB 1186, sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan, pitted the need to repay long-term debt against the immediate decline in state revenues. Gov. Pat Quinn proposed skipping about $2.3 billion in payments next fiscal year. Madigan today essentially took that option off the table — for now — saying he and the governor have a “legitimate difference of opinion.”

Next fiscal year, which starts July 1, is the last year of a so-called “ramp-up” payment that is part of a statutory schedule to force the state to gradually fund its share of the long-term pension obligations. Next year’s payment is supposed to exceed $4 billion. But the deficit is projected to reach at least $7.4 billion, according to Madigan.

The speaker said the bill to force full payment reflects that there was little support for a partial payment (102 members voted in support of full payment). But it also simply reinforces existing statute. The entire House GOP supported full payment. Fourteen Democrats, on the other hand, voted “present.” Several said that making a partial payment would free up more than $2.2 billion that could help fund safety net services during the economic recession.

Madigan laid out the revenue picture with and without a full pension contribution, which could bolster his argument that the state should increase the state income tax to balance the budget and pay its bills. Here’s Madigan’s break down:

  • $16.9 billion – The amount already approved by the House to fund basic state operations and employee contracts. (It’s not yet approved by the Senate.)
  • $3.5 billion – The amount left over to dole out to state services.
  • $10 billion – The amount needed to fund the rest of Quinn’s proposed spending plan.
  • $7 billion – The amount that would have to be cut to balance the budget without an income tax increase.

But even with an income tax increase of 1.5 percentage points, as proposed by Quinn, the state would only garner about $3.7 billion. Legislators would still have to cut nearly $3 billion more to achieve a balanced budget.

Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, said that the cuts that would be needed without a tax increase could be more than most lawmakers want to consider. “I don’t know if any of us have come to grips fully with what cuts of that magnitude would mean to people who live in our districts,” he said. “We’ve got pages and pages and pages of potential cuts, and they will hurt real people. And we’re trying to balance that.”

Harmon added that the Senate Democratic Caucus sees the pension payments as part of the larger budget negotiations. “Obviously, we’d all like to make the full pension payment. It’s just a question of the competing needs and the limited revenue available. It’s within the context of the overall budget development, not a stand alone issue.”

Republican Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine disagreed that Democrats are looking at the bigger budget picture, which he said could lead to a piecemeal approach and, ultimately, mistakes. “It’s almost like they’re doing these things in a vacuum,” he said. He suggested short-term borrowing as a way to fully fund pensions and avoid an income tax increase.

The legislature could always do what it did last year: approve an unbalanced budget and force the governor to cut programs over the summer. There are many ways this scenario could play out.

Meanwhile, Quinn’s effort to enact a two-tiered system that would provide less generous benefits to newly hired teachers and state employees has stalled but is still in negotiations behind closed doors.

Read more...

Don’t expect GOP support

By Hilary Russell, with Bethany Jaeger contributing

Democrats had the past six years to prevent the deficit facing the state, according to Senate Republicans. And the GOP Caucus says it’s unwilling to concede on raising income taxes to fix the problem.

“We offered suggestions year after year after year about how to deal with it, and we were rebuffed at every turn,” said Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, adding that raising the income tax would create rather than solve problems. “It would put us in a very non-competitive situation with other states, and we would be one of the highest flat rate taxes. If the corporate rate were to go up by a similar amount, then we would be the highest in the world.”

She said the feeling among Senate Republicans is that the Democrats created the mess and, therefore, need to do their own housecleaning. And they can do it without Republicans because the majority party has 37 members, seven more than needed to approve an income tax increase.

Senate President John Cullerton, however, said yesterday, “I don’t think we have 30 Democrats.” The Senate Republicans also do not support shorting the state’s payment into the public employee pension system. Doing so, Radogno said, contributed to the ongoing budget problem and would worsen it.

Reforming state government also is running into a few hurdles. Last week, Radogno sponsored SB 350 on behalf of Gov. Pat Quinn’s Illinois Reform Commission. It would limit campaign contributions to $2,400 for individuals and $5,000 for corporations. It also would limit the amount statewide political parties could donate to their targeted candidates to $30,000.

While Radogno said Republicans are willing to compromise on the number of the campaign contributions limit, the cap on transfers from statewide political parties is a different story. “The fundamental reform has to include leadership committees, and that’s where we can’t compromise. Either they’re in or they’re or out, and, in our view, they must be in.”

The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn its spring session on May 31, although the unresolved issues surrounding an operating budget and a reform package could toss the session into “overtime.” That would mean that all legislation approved after May 31 would need an extra majority of votes, giving Republicans a seat at the table — and a part of the blame — whether they wanted it or not.

Overtime or not, Radogno said her caucus remains calm. “It’s always an interesting last week. My guess is if there’s a sense of panic of might be on the other side of the aisle.”




Read more...

GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - May 27, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 45,859 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the May 27, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Civil union bill advances

By Hilary Russell

The fight to legalize civil unions in Illinois won a small victory today when it advanced out of committee by a vote of 4 to 2. Whether it will be called for a vote on the floor, though, remains to be seen.

Rep. Greg Harris, a Chicago Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would afford heterosexual and homosexual couples the same legal rights as married couples.

Currently, whereas a spouse would typically have the right to serve as a power of attorney in medical decisions, a person in a same-sex relationship would not.

The bill would not legalize same-sex marriage, which, depending on the state that the couple resides in, affords the same state and federal rights as a heterosexual married couples.

Harris wouldn’t say how many votes he has secured or if he’s close to calling the bill in the next few days, considering the legislature is scheduled to wrap up the spring legislative session.

We continue to count votes in the House,” Harris said. The problem, he said, is that opponents fear giving rights to same-sex couples would open the door to same-sex marriage. “It appears that people have a concern with the intermingling of religious and civil marriage, but the vast majority of people believe that all couples deserve basic rights.”

While one victory took place here, the California Supreme Court today ruled that civil unions will remain legal, but same-sex marriages remain illegal since voters enacted a ban in November 2008. Fifty-two percent of voters supported Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Proposition 8 materialized with a ballot drive, but opponents of the civil unions claim that it takes more than voter initiative to change the state’s Constitution. Changing the state’s Constitution requires two-thirds of the General Assembly to approve that the question be placed on the ballot in the general election. Then a majority of voters must ratify the change.

For more context about what is happening in other states, see the National Conference of State Legislatures.








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Prepare for revenue vs. spending showdown

By Bethany Jaeger
The General Assembly has five days until the constitutional deadline of May 31 to approve a state operating budget, and there are only three days until Senate President John Cullerton wanted to adjourn so everyone could go home by this weekend.

Things are still pretty fluid in the Capitol, with lots of options being discussed but few commitments being made to any of them.


“There’s Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, and, so far, we have not seen B nor C,” said Sen. Donne Trotter, budget negotiator for Senate Democrats.

Plan A includes funding basic portions of the budget to keep the lights on and to secure federal stimulus funds regardless of whether the legislature approves an income tax increase. And that plan, approved by the House last week, wouldn’t fulfill spending obligations for state programs and public employee pensions. House and Senate Democrats are circulating lists of programs that would not be funded under the core budget plan, forcing members to rank programs that could be cut or not.

Those lists are leading up to the plea for a state income tax increase, but for that to happen, Democrats need Republican support. Senate President John Cullerton said he doesn’t believe his caucus has 30 votes necessary to approve an income tax increase, leading him to turn to Republicans. The GOP, however, doesn’t want to approve an income tax increase unless the General Assembly first tries to trim spending and make existing programs more efficient, including instituting managed care policies and other Medicaid reforms.

Sen. Dale Righter, a deputy Republican leader from Mattoon, said, “To say that there isn’t any waste in state government is to say, ‘I agree with the last six years of Rod Blagojevich’s budgets,’ and I don’t think any of them want to say that.” He added that constituents want comprehensive reforms that affect every dollar the state spends, not just a percentage of it. He said enacting a half-year budget would unlikely include any reforms.

“Once you support that and put that into law, then you’ve locked that in place. And you’ve said, ‘OK, there’s nothing we can do about that spending.’ And I don’t think that’s the message we want to send.”

As Democrats and Republicans consider their options behind closed doors tonight, consider this breakdown of general revenue versus spending and the large gap between the two, according to Democrats.

Spending side

  • Legislators are working with about $23.8 billion to dole out, including federal stimulus funds.
  • The House last week approved $16.9 billion to keep the lights on and to secure federal stimulus funds, leaving about $6.9 billion to split among state programs.

Revenue side
  • According to Senate Democrats, the state would need an additional $4 billion just to get to last year’s funding levels (a.k.a. a zero-based budget).
  • And then it would need between $2 billion and $4 billion to pay the state’s full share into the public employee pension systems.
  • That means, according to Trotter, that budget negotiators anticipate needing up to an additional $8 billion to get up to last year’s funding levels and to fully fund the pensions.
  • Shorting the pension payments is always on the table. Making a minimal payment, however, would not pay down the compounding liabilities.
  • So is approving a temporary budget that would distribute the money on hand but would not be enough to get through the year. Cullerton said he opposes the idea of a half-year budget.
  • Gov. Pat Quinn also has proposed a two-tiered pension system so that newly hired teachers and state employees would earn less generous retirement benefits. While the administration suggests long-term savings would result, teachers’ unions strongly disagree and point to a report by the legislative Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.

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Is the Tribune Using Front Page Newspaper Article to Pimp for an Income Tax Hike?

by Cal Skinner

You may have noted that the Chicago Tribune is putting a story with the logo

“STATE OF
CORRUPTION"


on its front page.

Everyday, I guess, but I only looked at Friday's and Monday's papers for this article.

Friday the upper right hand story was entitled

Reform
heads for
frenzied
Friday

It was by Springfield Bureau Chief Ray Long, with the assistance of Ashley Rueff and Robert Becker.

It probably tilts toward the reformers' point of view a bit, but it tells what's happening in the State Capitol.

Monday's article, by Rick Pearson, is not so objective.

Reform
may be
cover for
tax hike

Pearson starts with the premise that reform could be linked to an income tax hike.

As if taxpayers would willingly accept a 50% income tax hike for any change in the way of doing business that led the Democrats to hike spending by a billion dollars a year since they took control of all three branches of state government, thus, getting the state into the mess it now has.

Did you know
“rank-and-file legislators may decide the more reforms they enact, the more it could give them cover for raising the state's income tax...”
Didn't think so.

Having established the theme of his article, Pearson goes around and asks whether such a quid pro quo is likely.

Needless to say, he found someone to agree with the strategy he advances. And he got quoted first.

But others, like Senate President John Cullerton and House Republican Leader Tom Cross disagreed.

House Speaker Mike Madigan is the only significant voice to support Pearson's thesis.

And the “let me continue doing what I've always done, but limit what others (excluding newspapers) can spend” approach to finance reform is not meaningful reform.

Pearson doesn't even point out that most of the so-called reform folks are liberal enough to be in favor a massive income tax hike anyway.

Keep an eye the Tribune's coverage of this strategy for passing a huge tax hike this week.

Posted first on McHenry County Blog, where I wonder why Ed and Anne Burke's real estate tax bill is lower than mine.

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - May 26, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 45,776 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the May 26, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Flossmoor Getting the Change Braun Promised

Not even sworn in yet, mayor-elect Paul Braun has already taken steps to alleviate Flossmoor's tax burden while still improving services. On Tuesday, May 19th, Braun led a delegation of Trustees (Philip Minga and Diane Williams), our village Clerk (Pam Nixon) and our village Manager (Bridget Wachtel) down to Springfield to lobby our state legislators for funds. This is a radical departure from the past, where our soon-to-be former mayor sought "Home Rule" status so that he could raise our taxes at will.

Flossmoor's delegation met with Senators Toi Hutchison and Maggie Crotty and Representatives Anthony DeLuca and Al Riley. Braun tells us:

We were very well received and we were able to press three Flossmoor projects for possible funding. The projects that we requested funding are for replacement of street lighting in the central downtown business area (Sterling & Flossmoor Rd) $500K; reconstruction of the Brookwood Bridge $115K; and storm sewer replacement/rehab for the Flossmoor Hills area $200K for engineering and $1M cost.

All of the legislators told us that Flossmoor's timing for funding requests is excellent as all of the legislators are submitting funding requests this week. All four legislators also told us how pleased they were to see Flossmoor being more active and involved in State affairs.

When we met with Senator Crotty, we were also able to speak with IDOT Director Gary Hannig about problems we have been having with the last resurfacing of Flossmoor Road. Director Hannig promised us he would look into the matter and get back to us.

It's exciting to realize that the village of Flossmoor has stepped into the modern age, recognized that we are connected to the rest of the south suburbs and become more aggressive in getting funding for the projects we need. Change has come to Flossmoor. Oh, Happy Days!

Paul Braun will be sworn in on June 1st at 7:30pm. There will be a short village board meeting and a reception afterwards (cake and coffee). Everyone is invited to inaugurate this transition to the 21st century!

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GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips - May 25, 2009

Articles of interest to Illinois Republicans recently posted by ABC7, NBC5, CBS2, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain's Chicago Business, Daily Herald, Suburban Chicago News, Suburban Life, Pioneer Local, Southtown Star, Rockford Register Star, Bloomington Pantagraph, Peoria Journal Star, Springfield State Journal Register, Belleville News Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Illinois Review, Public Affairs, Champion News, Illinois Family Institute, Americans For Truth, Chicago Daily Observer, Tom Roeser, Capitalfax, etc. Since January 1, 2005, GOPUSA ILLINOIS has brought 45,776 such articles and information on many upcoming events to its subscribers' attention each morning, free of charge, and without any advertising. To view the May 25, 2009 GOPUSA ILLINOIS Daily Clips, please visit www.gopillinois.com. Thanks

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Township Government Courts Abolition

by Cal Sklnner

“This is nothing, absolutely nothing,”

Northwest Herald reporter Amber Krosel quotes newly-sworn in Grafton Township Trustee Gerry McMahon at Thursday night's meeting.

This was the same day that McMahon and his fellow trustees were given their third McHenry County Court smackdown concerning their illegal attempts to build a new township building.

McMahon was giving a lecture about how insignificant the taxpayer meerkat's (the original title of this series was "The Skunk, the Meerkats and the Elephant") concern about paying for the over $5 million new township hall the township trustees are trying to shove down their throats.

The cost was so small.

It was like comparing a meerkat to an elephant.

That's what McMahon argued.

What McMahon just can't comprehend is that the meerkat taxpayers might just want to be asked their permission before being put in debt for $5 million.

The "trust me" argument from public officials went out of style with President Jimmy Carter.

President Ronald Reagan brought the "trust, but verify" method of dealing with the Soviet Union.

Ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich and other crooked and arrogant Illinois state and local officials have brought citizens to the stage of

"Why should we trust you?"

The surface reason for issuing the over $5 million in debt is that current township facilities are inadequate.

But the real reason is that if the township board even doesn't take as much money as it can get, it forever will lose whatever that stream of income is.

It's a function of the tax cap, which allows local governments to take from us what they got last year, plus the increase in the cost of living.

If a district ever takes less than the maximum allowed, its “base” is lower for the next year and every year thereafter.

Oh how I wish there were more public officials who did not adhere to the

“Tax to the Max”
philosophy.

Township Assessor Bill Ottley gave me this insight after the annual town meeting while inquiring why I, who lives right across the township line in Algonquin Township, cared about what Grafton Township was doing.

Proponents of the debt certificate financing scheme the township trustees are trying to put in place argue that taxes will not go up.

What they mean is that tax bills will remain the same. They won't be higher than they already are.

There most certainly will be more taxes extracted from Grafton Township taxpayers.

You can't pay back more than $5 million without someone's pocketbook being lighter than it would be without bearing that burden.

But, proponents keep arguing,

“Taxes won't go up.”

Daily Herald reporter Jeffrey Gaunt suggests such a pitch is worthy of a used car salesman.

But as Gaunt so persuasively wrote about the Carpentersville School District 300 referendum in January 2006:
“It’s a little like tacking 10 years onto a five-year prison sentence. You’re already in prison, the argument goes, so what’s a few more years.”
In Grafton Township’s case, it's tacking on 20 years.

For argument's sake, let's say the impact on Grafton Township tax bills is too small to worry about.

Is anything else wrong with the town hall picture?

I can think of two things.

The first concerns the democratic process.

Township government is supposed to be, but is less and less, the government of the people.

I can remember when uppity township electors wrote in $1 for each line item in the Nunda Township Road Commissioner's budget. I think the commissioner was Leroy Geske. That was around 1970.

Residents of a private subdivision road wanted township taxpayers to improve it, but the township road commissioner, citing state law, refused.

Retaliation didn't deprive him of his salary because it's in the Town Fund.

That was the same year that Algonquin Township Assessor Forrest Hare's supporters added $500 in legal fees to sue the McHenry County Supervisor of Assessments Willard Hogge for having equalized Algonquin Township's property values higher than they should have been.

The township attorney frittered away the money telling the township board, which did not want the suit to go forward, why it couldn't be done.

The Illinois General Assembly, always being responsive to township officials, plugged that hole.

It prohibited electors from voting on budgets.

= = = = =
The other articles in this series are can be found here:
The Skunk, the Meerkats and the Elephant - Part 1

The Skunk, the Meerkats and the Elephant – Part 3


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