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Saturday, Aug 27, 2016

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


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Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* Today is National Dog Day, so here’s a pic of Oscar, who needs another haircut…

* Have a good one

It jumped so high, it touched the sky

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Rauner vetoes several social service bills

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* Lots of controversial vetoes today, including a bill to expand the child care assistance program, a pay raise for folks who care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a proposal to give social service providers notice of a contract termination (including when the state agency doesn’t have an appropriation to pay the contracts), and a bill backed by the Illinois Nurses Association on contracting out prison health care services. Click here to see them all.

* I’ll post react as it comes in. Let’s start with this one, mainly because it has a catchy headline…

Rauner vetoes expansion of program that helps working mothers on Women’s Equality Day

SPRINGFIELD- A proposal led by Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford that would have made child care more accessible to working parents and parents seeking a higher education was vetoed by Governor Bruce Rauner today.

“I’m disappointed that the governor chose to turn his back on parents working to give their children a better life,” Lightford said. “This legislation was meant to empower hardworking people and help them reach self-sufficiency.”

Senate Bill 730 increased the income eligibility threshold for the Child Care Assistance Program to 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level in 2016 and 250 percent by 2017. The change would have allowed thousands of families to qualify for the program.

Furthermore, the initiative would have expanded the program’s priority populations to include homeless children, children engaged in the child welfare system and families who need child care assistance to participate in education and training activities.

“We’re trying to give parents a leg up, many of whom are women,” Lightford said. “We should be investing in people who are already on the road to success who need a little help, because that’s how we begin to elevate our state together.”

The CCAP program provides financial assistance for working parents and students who need day care. Last year, many of those parents were left without child care after the governor made devastating cuts to the program.

* And here’s one from SEIU Healthcare…

Following is the statement of SEIU Healthcare Illinois Vice President Brynn Seibert in response to the breaking news that Bruce Rauner has vetoed Senate Bill 730:

“Bruce Rauner has done so much to endanger quality child care in Illinois and today is no different. Our hope was that he would take a chance to fix what he has broken. But his veto today of Senate Bill 730 shows that he is determined to create a dimmer and dimmer future for the children of Illinois and kill jobs in the process.”

“When Rauner unilaterally enacted his cuts to child care last summer, several experts, including his top administrator for the program, predicted the results would be “devastating.” And they were right. The program to help working families enter the workforce with quality child care had 55,000 fewer children participating than a year before, according to recent figures.

“Senate Bill 730 was an attempt to fix what Rauner broke and would have added an estimated 52,000 children to the program at a time when parents increasingly can’t afford child care and caregivers are being paid poverty wages. The vetoed legislation also would have provided a path out of homelessness or the child welfare system for many children.

“In recent days, we’ve seen Bruce Rauner pour his millions into the campaign coffers of candidates who vow to stand up for his special interest agenda that does nothing to fix our ongoing budget crisis, much less find solutions for the child care crisis facing Illinois. If only he found time to consider the future of Illinois children, instead of focusing on the future of a political agenda that has done us such harm.”

…Adding… Ray Graham Association…

Governor Rauner today vetoed House Bill 5931, legislation to address a workforce retention crisis among direct-support personnel (DSPs) who work with people with developmental disabilities. The community-based agencies that employ DSPs and the family members of the individuals with disabilities who they serve say Rauner’s veto will only deepen the crisis that has already put the state of Illinois in violation of a federal consent decree, forced DSPs to work for poverty wages and jeopardized quality of care for vulnerable children and adults.

“Illinois ranks 45th of the 50 states in spending for community services for people with developmental disabilities,” said Kim Zoeller, CEO of Ray Graham Association of DuPage County. “This workforce crisis is so great that Illinois is now in violation of the federal Ligas consent decree that ensures access to appropriate services. We are extremely disappointed by Governor Rauner’s veto.”

State government contracts with community agencies to provide day and residential services and supports for 27,000 people with developmental disabilities. But the community agencies are unable to attract and retain DSPs because for eight years the state has not increased their reimbursement rate, resulting in an average wage of just $9.35 an hour—below the federal poverty line for a family of four—for the 34,000 DSPs statewide.

Agencies across Illinois are currently unable to fill 1 in 4 staff positions.

“Our service system is crumbling,” Trinity Services CEO Art Dykstra said. “We are getting to the point where we will have to ask families to consider taking their loved ones home on weekends because we can’t adequately staff the houses.”

HB 5931 was intended to remedy this crisis by raising wages.

“My son is completely dependent on DSPs for his daily care,” said George Hardwidge, one of many family members who advocated for the wage bill. “When I watch what they do for my son and others with disabilities, it’s clear what they are paid simply isn’t enough.”

Even longtime DSPs are being pushed out of the field. Erica Hall has done the work for 14 years and said she has to work overtime just to make ends meet.

“We’re dedicated. We want individuals with disabilities to have stability,” Hall said. “But working 70 hours a week means you’re stressed out and not getting much sleep. How do you take care of another person when you’re not taking care of yourself?”

The coalition of agencies, family members and DSPs collected and delivered to Governor Rauner thousands of postcards urging him to sign the bill. The coalition will now mobilize those supporters to urge legislators to override Rauner’s veto.

“After almost a decade of no increase for staff, it is time to recognize the DSP’s commitment and value to helping those who need the help,” said Carl M. La Mell, President of Clearbrook in Arlington Heights.

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      


Ok, that’s enough

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* Tribune

Mayor Emanuel flubbed a chance to take batting practice on the topic that has been the subject of so much South Side hand-wringing and North Side schadenfreude this week: the rebranding of Sox Park thanks to a corporate naming rights deal with mortgage lender Guaranteed Rate.

Perhaps thinking of his relationship with Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, Emanuel initially was circumspect when asked by WBEZ reporter Lauren Chooljian what he thought about calling the stadium Guaranteed Rate Field.

“I’m going to focus on my day job, that’s all,” he said. “Look, that’s a decision for them to make. What’s important is, obviously, the team does well and continue to make the city proud. I will — let me say this on behalf of the Reinsdorf family, both with the Bulls and also with the Sox, they’re incredibly generous in giving back to the community.”

Um, maybe he just didn’t want to make some of his constituents more miserable than they already were. Sheesh, man.

Sox fans love to criticize our own team. I’ve vented here myself. But if Cub fans join the fray, we get a bit ticked off. Go back to your publicly drunken little blue teddy bear fantasy world.

* So, let’s look on the bright side with Steve Daniels

The collective reaction of the town seemed to be: Really? This is the best the White Sox could do?

But, in between snickers, consider this. If the teams we root for and invest our time and dollars in are going to sell the naming rights to their sports stadiums to businesses, isn’t it at least a little refreshing that a local success story will adorn one of them?

Since its launch in 1999, Guaranteed Rate has grown into the 16th largest mortgage lender nationally, according to industry trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance. It’s the eighth largest if you leave out companies that make loans originated by outside brokers and mortgage banks. (Guaranteed Rate’s people originate all of the company’s loans.)

It managed to survive the worst housing bust in decades when dozens of firms like it failed.

Guaranteed Rate employs about 1,200 locally, more than 700 in its Ravenswood headquarters, and 3,200 across the country. It has 168 offices across the country. The company is originating about $2 billion in loans each month, growing at about 20 percent a year, according to founder and CEO Victor Ciardelli III.

He expects the company to make $21 billion to $22 billion in mortgages this year. It made $18 billion last year.

Ciardelli is an unusual character. He doesn’t come off as a slick corporate guy. He grew up in west suburban Oak Brook and bounced around for awhile before figuring out what he wanted to do. He’s driven and has ambitions beyond most mortgage banks. Hence, the White Sox deal. Hence, the unusual TV ad budget.

- Posted by Rich Miller   33 Comments      


I truly hate this US Senate race

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* Neil Steinberg

This came to mind when the senator currently holding her seat, Mark Kirk, said Barack Obama was “acting like a drug dealer in chief” and Kirk’s opponent, Tammy Duckworth, called the remark “unhinged,” which Kirk denounced as an attack on all stroke survivors everywhere.

“For people that have strokes, they can make tremendous comebacks,” Kirk said.

Some can. Others can be gravely impaired. Which group Kirk belongs to is open to debate. He claims he is recovered enough to do his job though, it seems, not so much that he can be criticized without immediately ducking for cover behind his disability.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t both insist that you are a fully capable, functioning adult ready to perform your governmental duties then collapse weeping and pointing at your boo-boo when someone says something mean about you. […]

The question whether his stroke incapacitated him further is one the electorate is allowed to ask. I sat next to him at the Dante Awards a year ago May, and while I didn’t give him a physical, he seemed pushed to the limits of his endurance by the demands of eating lunch. This, I hasten to say, is not an indictment of all people who have had strokes everywhere, but an observation specific to Kirk on a certain day.

While I agree with much of what Steinberg wrote, Kirk has trouble eating because he can only use one arm. So, that hit was not cool.

* Tribune

Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Tammy Duckworth has fired back at Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, suggesting her opponent was hiding behind his stroke and calling that “shameful.”

The comment, made while campaigning in Decatur on Thursday, came a day after Kirk accused Duckworth of mocking stroke victims when she characterized him as “unhinged” in a Tuesday speech.

The story so far: Duckworth was referring to Kirk’s likening of President Barack Obama to the nation’s “drug dealer in chief” for a $400 million payment in January’s Iran prisoner release deal. Kirk suffered a major stroke in 2012, and Duckworth assigned a term to him defined as “mentally deranged.” Kirk then said Duckworth was “so desperate to run for office that she would denigrate any stroke victim in America and make fun of them, and that’s awful.”

On Thursday, Duckworth was asked about Kirk’s statement. “Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, his irrational comments pre-date his stroke,” said Duckworth, referring to a string of Kirk exaggerations that came to light before the November 2010 U.S. Senate election. […]

“The fact of the matter is, he’s not been able to accomplish much of anything from before he had his stroke. And for him to use his stroke as something to hide behind is really shameful because there’s a lot of people — you know, neither one of us are victims. We have both recovered from disability. And to hide behind that, your ineffectiveness as a senator, behind that, is pretty shameful,” she said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   14 Comments      


Rauner signs life insurance bill

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* Press release…

Governor Bruce Rauner and Anne Melissa Dowling, Acting Director of the Illinois Dept. of Insurance, today announced two actions taken by the administration to help Illinoisans find lost life insurance money through the launch of the free Life Policy Locator Service and signing House Bill 4633 into law.

“I applaud Director Dowling and her staff for their efforts to make it easier for Illinoisans to access life insurance policy information, ensuring they can more quickly receive the benefits they are owed,” said Governor Rauner. “Updating our antiquated technology to increase employee efficiency and provide better customer service to the taxpayers that interact with state government has been one of my top priorities since coming into office, and our administration will continue to pursue efforts like the Life Policy Locator Service to bring state government into the 21st Century.”

The Life Policy Locator Service through the Dept. of Insurance (DOI) helps executors, legal representatives, or members of the deceased person’s immediate family find a life insurance policy or annuity contract left by a deceased loved one and serves to bridge the gap between insurance companies and Illinois citizens who think they may be listed as a beneficiary.

“Many times finding life insurance policies can be difficult and time consuming after a loved one’s death,” said Dowling. “But with this new free service, consumers can request help from the Illinois Department of Insurance to simplify the process of locating lost life insurance policies. This search service eliminates the confusion of trying to locate missing life insurance policies or annuity contracts and helps get those benefits to the intended beneficiary.”

After the necessary information is submitted, DOI will contact all state-licensed life insurance companies asking them to search their records for any life insurance policies or annuity contracts insuring the decedent. If a policy is found, that insurance company will contact the beneficiary to complete the claim.

In addition, today Governor Rauner signed House Bill 4633 into law. The legislation creates the Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act and requires insurers to run an initial, and then semi-annual, check against the Death Master File to determine if an insured has passed away. Insurers will be allowed to access the Life Policy Locator to help streamline the process and comply with the new law.

Finally, Governor Rauner and Director Dowling called on the General Assembly and the Treasurer to stop contingency arrangements with private finder companies. The Treasurer’s Office has paid these companies millions of dollars over the past several years, funds which would otherwise be put towards the pension systems, to locate unclaimed life insurance policies. With the launch of the free Life Policy Locator Service and the enactment of HB 4633, these arrangements should no longer be necessary. The savings will result in millions of dollars for the pension funds.

Illinoisans can learn more about the Lost Life Policy Locator Service, by visiting the DOI website at www.insurance.illinois.gov.

HB4633 is effective January 1, 2017.

Seems like a gratuitous shot at the treasurer, but at least he signed it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* A bit early, but this is from the good folks at the City Club of Chicago…


Tickets went on sale yesterday at about 3 o’clock, but believe it or not, it’s already sold out. Whew.

We always try to find ways to squeeze in more, so click here if you want to get on the waiting list.

* The Question: This year’s topic(s)?

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


State bond sale goes well, but still paid a higher price

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* Wednesday

Illinois’s next big bond deal sounds like a municipal-market oxymoron: the worst-rated state in the nation is offering more than half a billion dollars of AAA debt.

The $573 million of securities the state plans to sell Thursday are secured by a stream of sales-tax revenue that’s diverted to investors, earning the deal the highest ranking from S&P Global Ratings. That’s seven steps above the state’s general-obligation debt, which is backed only by the government’s guaranty to pay what it owes.

“We expect the state of Illinois’s sales-tax bonds to fare better than the state of Illinois’s GO bonds, primarily due to the substantial support from the designated sales tax,” said Richard Ciccarone, the Chicago-based president of Merritt Research Services LLC, which analyzes municipal finances. “However, they will suffer. It will extract a higher borrowing penalty than would normally be expected for such a high-rated bond issue because of the chronic financial pressures.”

The sale went better than expected, but the cost was still higher than other states with AAA ratings.

* Today

Illinois sold nearly $549 million of revenue bonds in competitive bidding on Thursday, dodging a steep market penalty the financially struggling state has paid for its general obligation bonds.

The Build Illinois bonds, backed by the state’s sale tax revenue, have high-quality credit ratings of AAA from Standard & Poor’s and AA-plus from Fitch Ratings versus Illinois’ low-investment-grade GO ratings, which are the weakest among the 50 states.

Illinois has a huge $111 billion unfunded pension liability and a chronic budget deficit. It was the only state without a complete fiscal 2016 budget due to a political impasse.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch won the biggest chunk of the bond issue - nearly $187 million of tax-exempt refunding bonds.

The pricing resulted in a spread over Municipal Market Data’s benchmark triple-A yield scale for 10-year bonds of 48 basis points, about 20 basis points narrower than the state’s last tax-exempt Build Illinois bond sale in June 2013.

The spread was also almost 3.5 times narrower than Illinois’ 166 basis-point spread over the scale for 10-year GO bonds.

…Adding… From the governor’s office…

Hi there –
Wanted to send you this statement for bond sale post.

STATEMENT: We were pleased with strong interest from the public finance community that enabled the State to borrow at historically low interest rates – and by cutting interest rates in half on some of our outstanding Build Illinois bonds, we will provide taxpayers $56 million in savings without extending debt service payments.

Thanks!
ck

- Posted by Rich Miller   7 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Picking on the little guys

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* One of Chicago’s biggest problems is its over-regulation of small businesses, particularly very small one or two-person start-ups. So pardon me if I don’t get too excited by this

Nearly four years after Chicago aldermen crafted a new law regulating food trucks, an investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times and ABC7 Chicago’s I-Team has found the rules are frequently broken with violators seldom facing any consequences because enforcement by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is so lax.

Under the ordinance Emanuel proposed and the Chicago City Council approved in 2012, the city designated 37 “mobile food vehicle stands” across the city. The stands are supposed to be about 40 feet long — enough space for about two trucks. No other trucks are allowed to park in the same block outside of a stand. And the food trucks aren’t allowed to operate at the same location for more than two hours at a time.

Is anybody getting sick from the food? Are customers complaining about the quality? Are any brick and mortar restaurants going out of business because of the competition? Are there any serious problems as a result of this other than a little parking situation?

No idea, because it’s not in the story. It’s just a needlessly complicated city ordinance that isn’t being fully obeyed.

Meh.

* Meanwhile

The good folks at Airbnb are out with a study on how fast their business is expanding in the Midwest, and it inadvertently may have provided some ammunition for City Council critics of how the house-sharing service is changing the city.

The study, conducted July 1, 2015, to this June 30, found that, not unexpectedly, business is booming, with the number of nights someone used Airbnb to get a room up 91 percent over last year in Chicago and even more in smaller markets such as Indianapolis, Columbus, Ohio, Kansas City and Milwaukee.

What struck me, though, is the median number of nights hosted in that year by service providers: 38 nights, well over a month in which someone other than the owner was staying in the house or apartment that was being rented. The typical host here earned $4,300 from Airbnb in that year—a figure that could be far higher in some cases. […]

But downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly has a much different take.

“These are professional operators,” Reilly emailed me after reviewing a copy of the report. “So much for Airbnb’s laughably false ‘it’s all about the occasional nightly rental in my second bedroom to help pay rent’ narrative. . . .Looks like ’sharing’ remains incredibly lucrative for Airbnb in Chicago despite the new ‘industry-killing’ law on the books.”

Look, if the Airbnb folks are causing real problems in their neighborhoods (and some are), then address that and do something about it. If somebody wants to rent out their own home a few nights a month, why get everybody’s shorts in such a tight knot?

*** UPDATE ***  Some good news on Rep. Mike Zalewski’s Facebook page

On November 18 of last year, Noelle and Derrick came to see me in my district office. They run craft distilleries here. Our state happens to be gaining national notoriety for this particular industry. Illinois does this well.

We had a good conversation and it turned out Illinois law was preventing Noelle and Derrick from growing their small business. We drafted a bill, filed it, got input from stakeholders. Some stuff stayed in, some came out and ultimately it passed General Assembly. It’s my expectation that Governor Bruce Rauner will sign it later today and it’ll become law. And I thank him for that.

There’ll be no massive needle-moving as a result of #SB2797. Its effect won’t show up on graphs and charts and in commercials. But it’s real and It’ll help small businesses thrive. And we can all drink to that.

* Related…

* The private sector must unite to halt City Hall’s anti-business agenda

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


We’ve been a sorry state for a long time

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* From the New York Times

Declines in state support for public universities have helped reshape the geography of public college admissions, leading many students to attend universities far from home, where they pay higher, out-of-state tuition. An analysis of migration patterns among college freshmen shows the states students leave each year and where they go.

* Keep in mind that this is 2014 data, so it predates the impasse. The situation is likely much worse now. According to the NYT, 2,117 students came to Illinois for public college in 2014 and 16,461 left Illinois for other states. The main exit ramps that year

- Posted by Rich Miller   77 Comments      


Munger and Mendoza face off in hostile debate

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune editorial board debate between the four candidates for Illinois comptroller was quite spirited.

But check out this claim by Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza about appointed incumbent Leslie Munger

“Her campaign chairman is the actual mayor who passed Right to Work legislation, the only piece of Right to Work legislation in the entire state of Illinois to pass, and it happens to be in her own home town. One of the central issues of Gov. Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda. She’s not fought against the Turnaround Agenda. She’s championed the Turnaround Agenda.”

Munger claimed the allegation was “false” and said her campaign manager did no such thing.

Um, this wasn’t about the manager, it was about the chairman. And Mendoza was right about that and repeated it several times.

* In an attempt to show her independence, Mendoza claimed that she “helped chair” the House’s Blagojevich impeachment committee. While she helped sponsor the resolution, she merely served as an “alternate member” of the actual committee.

* And then there was this

Munger said she also heard from the governor over her decision to delay paychecks for lawmakers, saying Rauner argued nobody should get paid during the budget impasse.

Wait. I thought Gov. Rauner was solidly in favor of paying state workers during the impasse. Somebody isn’t telling the truth.

* Another attempt by Munger to demonstrate her independence

At the top of the list was Munger’s refusal to follow the governor’s orders to withhold so-called “fair share” fees from unions, as he instructed in an executive order shortly after taking office in 2015. Those are the fees government workers must pay to unions to cover the cost of collective bargaining even if an employee chooses not to join a union. After consulting with Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the speaker’s daughter, Munger said withholding the fees would violate federal law.

* The Mendoza response

“I believe she has not stood up to Gov. Rauner,” said Mendoza, a former state lawmaker who’s in her second term as city clerk. “The one time she mentioned was about two weeks into her job, and I feel like it was a big surprise even to the governor.”

If it was such a big surprise to the governor, then wouldn’t that support Munger’s claim?

* And they’re both sticking with their parties on the impasse

“We cannot get to a balanced budget without a growing economy,” Munger said of Rauner’s so-called turnaround agenda. “I think you have to do it.”

Asked if Democrats should bend in their opposition, Mendoza said they would not give in to Rauner’s proposals that would “sacrifice the hardworking men and women in this state.”

* Related…

* RAW VIDEO: Comptroller debate

* Comptroller hopefuls argue independence from Madigan, Rauner

- Posted by Rich Miller   30 Comments      


I’m still befuddled by this move

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

* I just don’t understand why the Independent Maps folks made the Illinois Auditor General part of the redistricting process when the Illinois Constitution clearly states that constitutional amendments via citizens’ initiative shall be limited to stuff contained in the legislative article. The Auditor General isn’t in the legislative article.

Judge Mary Mikva, while sympathetic to the Independent Maps’ 2014 effort, clearly warned them back then that their attempt to include remap participants who were outside the scope of Article IV was a very big problem. Yet, they did it again this time by making the auditor general an integral part of their plan. So, is it any wonder why a majority of the Supreme Court teed off on that single aspect?

The reformers spent millions of dollars and expended untold hours of human resources at the local level gathering signatures, and yet they couldn’t read those simple tea leaves provided by Mikva? The remap reformers should’ve known better than to tempt the fates. An abundance of caution should’ve been in order.

If some angry Republicans are right, the majority would’ve found another, more unexpected way to declare this thing unconstitutional. That’s entirely possible. But, for crying out loud, the reformers were given a decent road map in 2014 and they didn’t follow it.

* So, next time (if there is a next time, and I’m betting there will be because this is a great campaign issue for the Republicans - so much so that there are some Democrats who believe the remap reform language was designed to fail), how about following the letter of the Constitution? Did nobody learn anything from the pension reform debacle? When the justices are so inclined, they stick to strict constructionism.

- Posted by Rich Miller   46 Comments      


*** UPDATED x5 - Motion approved - Noven to withdraw - $421 million budget hit - One appointee appears to be ineligible - The plot thickens as three new board members appointed *** Controversy expected at TRS hearing today

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

*** UPDATE 1 *** As subscribers were warned earlier this week, the governor has appointed three new TRS board members. Martin Noven, Laura Pearl and Anne Marie Splitstone were all appointed this morning. So, the governor can more easily block this move today.

*** UPDATE 2 *** The state statute requires that TRS board members live outside of Chicago

Each such appointee shall reside in and be a taxpayer in the territory covered by this system

Martin Noven resides in Chicago. Stay tuned.

*** UPDATE 3 *** This chart is in today’s TRS package. I’m told by the governor’s office and a Democratic legislative source that it means the additional cost to the state in the coming fiscal year would be $421 million. Wow…

*** UPDATE 4 *** Chicago resident Martin Noven is not at the TRS meeting. I’m told he will withdraw his nomination this afternoon.

*** UPDATE 5 *** The motion was approved. Here comes the big hit, folks, although I would expect a possible legal challenge because of the Open Meetings Act stuff.

[ *** End Of Updates *** ]

* We discussed this earlier in the week

The board that oversees the Teachers Retirement System is scheduled to vote on whether to lower the expected rate of return on investments, a move Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office has warned could blow a massive hole into the state’s already shaky finances.

The board will convene in Springfield on Friday morning to consider the change. When the board last altered the assumption from 8 percent to 7.5 percent in 2014, the state ended up on the hook for an additional $200 million in pension payments.

It’s an added cost state government can ill afford after going more than a year without a full budget. The Rauner administration suggests it could lead to deeper cuts and the need for even higher taxes down the road.

The TRS board meeting begins at 10 o’clock this morning. Our friends at BlueRoomStream.com will be streaming it live, so click here if you’re interested.

* The governor was asked about the pending TRS vote yesterday. He said he didn’t want a decision to be “rushed” and acted upon “behind closed doors” by a “partial” board. But TRS usually acts in August on these recommendations, the meetings are not private and Rauner has allowed the board’s three vacancies to go unfilled to date.

Raw audio…

There had been word earlier this week that the governor would finally fill the three TRS board vacancies before the meeting, but it didn’t play out (at least, not yet). Plans change in this business.

* As I told subscribers yesterday, there is some potential controversy with the TRS board’s agenda. They changed the document yesterday morning after I wrote that they didn’t have the assumed rate of return listed as an action item. A memo from Georgia Man, Chief Compliance Officer and Deputy General Counsel for the governor was sent out late yesterday afternoon…

As you know, the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) scheduled a board meeting to be held on Friday, August 26, 2016. The publicly posted agenda included items for informational purposes and items for which action will be taken, the latter of which were noted with asterisks. That agenda included “Review Assumed Rate of Return” as an item under the Executive Director’s Report, but did not indicate that any action would be taken on that item. Then, on Thursday, August 25, 2016, after media inquiries, the agenda was modified to indicate that action will be taken on the “Review Assumed Rate of Return” item.

As an initial matter, the second agenda posted on Thursday, August 26, 2016 must be disregarded. The Open Meetings Act requires an agenda to be publicly posted at least 48 hours before the meeting. 5 ILCS 120/2.02. The Attorney General has advised that a public body, including TRS, may not change its publicly posted agenda within 48 hours of the meeting. Illinois Open Meetings Act, Frequently Asked Questions for Public Bodies, Ill. Att’y Gen., at p. 5 (Jan. 8, 2013) (hereinafter, “OMA FAQs”) (“A public body cannot change the agenda less than 48 hours before the meeting.”). Therefore, the second agenda posted on Thursday, August 25, 2016 is not compliant with the Open Meetings Act. (It could also be argued that because the initial agenda was removed, the TRS board meeting is no longer in compliance with the Open Meetings Act at all.)

Further, the Open Meetings Act prohibits the TRS board from taking action on the “Review Assumed Rate of Return” item at its meeting on August 26, 2016. The Act permits a public body to “consider” an item not set forth on the agenda (5 ILCS 120/2.02), but Illinois courts and the Attorney General have held that a public body may not take final action on such an item at that meeting. See, e.g., Rice v. Board of Trustees of Adams County, 326 Ill. App. 3d 1120 (4th Dist. 2002) (holding that “consideration of” an item of new business not included on the agenda for the meeting is limited to deliberation and discussion and does not include taking action on such item) and OMA FAQs at p. 4 (advising that the Act “does not permit the taking of a vote on such a matter at that meeting”).

As the court in Rice held, the purpose of the Act is to ensure that the people are informed as to the conduct of public business. The initial TRS agenda specifically indicated that action would not be taken on the “Review Assumed Rate of Return” item. Changing the agenda within the 48-hour period prior to the meeting is an admission to that effect. Taking action on an item not marked for action on the publicly posted agenda would violate both the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Act.

* I asked Dave Urbanek at TRS for a response to the issue…

The Open Meetings Act is silent on whether “action items” must be specifically identified in an agenda. It is sufficient that items subject to action are identified on the agenda. We add the asterisks to our agendas as a courtesy. We decided today to add that asterisk.

See OMA section 120/2.02 (c)

Dave

* But I also talked yesterday with Mary Patricia Burns, an attorney who represents some state and local pension funds. Sen. Don Harmon is also a partner with her firm.

Burns told me that she believes the board is in “technical violation” of the Open Meetings Act. She pointed out the obvious: The board changed the agenda, so it must have figured it made a mistake. But that change happened within the 48-hour posting period, which is highly problematic.

* Burns pointed to the attorney general’s Open Meetings Act FAQ page

Can the agenda be changed?

A public body cannot change the agenda less than 48 hours before the meeting.

Can the public body take action on items not on the agenda of regular meetings?

No. While the public body can discuss items that are not on the agenda of a regular meeting, the public body cannot take action or make any decision with regard to items or topics not on the agenda of a regular meeting.

Seems pretty clear to me.

“It’s not something I would’ve done,” Burns said. “I would’ve tried hard to avoid this problem.”

Agreed.

- Posted by Rich Miller   146 Comments      


React to remap reform ruling

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

[This post has been bumped up for visibility.]

* People’s Map Chairman, John Hooker…

In recent months, we’ve seen laws targeted at depriving the voting rights of minorities across the country overturned one by one. Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court joins those decisions as another victory for democracy. If this effort was upheld, minority voters across the state would have had their voices and rights weakened by a misguided and dangerous effort that would have resulted in a loss of representation.

For example, the proposal would result in a loss of minority influence by its requirement that district maps follow municipal boundaries. Through this and other similar changes made under the guise of reform, the backers of this initiative were attempting to minimize the number of districts in which minorities would have a voice. Any attempt to weaken the rights of minority voters is an attack on democracy itself, making today’s ruling a victory for a fair and truly accountable electoral process.

* Gov. Bruce Rauner…

“What drives people away from Illinois is the sense that our political system is broken and our government is unaccountable to the people. The Illinois system only works for the political insiders who benefit at the expense of the poor, the vulnerable and the middle class.

“Today’s court decision to deny Illinoisans the right to vote on a redistricting referendum does nothing to stem the outflow or change people’s views of how the system is rigged and corrupt.

“When the General Assembly reconvenes this fall, they should put political reform - term limits and independent redistricting - at the top of the legislative agenda so that incumbents aren’t locked into power and democracy is restored through competitive general elections.

“Legislative districts should represent people based upon the community where they live. Politicians should not pick their voters by drawing spaghetti-like district lines with the sole intent of keeping one party in power regardless of how the people vote.

“Fair maps create fair districts. The system is broken and controlled by career politicians. People leave when they cannot hold their politicians accountable.

“This is not a partisan idea; this is the people’s idea. Independent redistricting has strong support from both Republicans and Democrats, including President Obama, as well as non-partisan, good government groups. More than 500,000 citizens signed the petition to allow the entire state a chance to be heard on this issue of fairness. It is an affront to our democracy that the courts struck down yet another citizen-led referendum drive to fix the system that only benefits the people in power.”

* Dennis FitzSimons, Chair of Independent Maps…

The Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling is extremely disappointing to all of us – to our bi-partisan coalition, to the more than 563,000 Illinois voters who signed petitions to put this important amendment on the ballot and to the many, many more Illinoisans eager for an opportunity to make the Illinois General Assembly more responsive to all of Illinois.

The Supreme Court rules give us the opportunity to seek rehearing and our legal team is weighing that option.

Delegates to the 1969-70 Constitutional Convention created a redistricting process they believed would encourage bipartisan mapmaking. It hasn’t worked. The result has been partisan maps, fewer competitive elections and voter dissatisfaction.

Mapmaking by legislators – the very people whose reelections depend on partisan maps – has led to a decline in competitive elections and voter dissatisfaction. The only way to end partisan mapmaking is to turn the duty over to an impartial commission as has been done in California and Arizona. Unfortunately, the only way to make that change in Illinois is by a constitutional amendment brought to the ballot by citizens.

It’s very clear the drafters of the 1970 Illinois Constitution understood that dynamic, and that’s why they gave voters the power to propose amendments to change the legislative article and specifically the provisions relating to redistricting.

Drafters of the Illinois Constitution would not recognize the interpretation made by the Supreme Court majority. According to the majority, voters cannot propose sensible changes to the legislative article that would make a meaningful difference in the way legislative district boundaries are drawn.

In short, the system is broken, and the way this Court interprets the Constitution seems likely to prevent its repair.

* Illinois Republican Party…

The only thing standing in the way of political reform is Mike Madigan. Madigan and his allies sued to stop citizen-led ballot initiatives for Independent Maps and term limits, and the Speaker has used his power to stop both from passing or being voted on in Springfield. Madigan has worked tirelessly against reforms that would threaten his ability to rig Illinois’ political system in his favor. Legislators from both parties must reject Madigan’s obstructionism and demand reform. – Illinois Republican Party Spokesman Steven Yaffe

- Posted by Rich Miller   42 Comments      


Divided court kicks remap reform off ballot

Friday, Aug 26, 2016

[This post has been bumped up for visibility.]

* The Illinois Supreme Court has blocked the remap reform amendment from appearing on the ballot. The 4-3 opinion, written by Democratic Justice Thomas Kilbride and decided on partisan lines, completely centers around the last four words of article XIV, section 3 of the Illinois Constitution

Amendments shall be limited to structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV.

Article IV deals with legislative duties, powers, etc.

* From the opinion

(T)he framers of our constitution intended this court alone “to determine whether constitutional requirements for a proposed amendment were satisfied.” Coalition I , 65 Ill. 2d at 462. That role does not require us to read between the lines of every proposal in an attempt to discern the propriety of the proponent’s underlying intentions; our role is solely to determine whether the proposal comports with the strict limitations set out in article XIV, section 3. […]

As presently constituted, article IV does not mention the “subject” of the Auditor General’s office or its duties, even in passing. Moreover, the additional duties the ballot initiative imposes on the Auditor General creates changes that neither “‘attack [n]or *** concern the actual structure or makeup of the legislature itself.’ ” Coalition I , 65 Ill. 2d at 470 (quoting 4 Proceedings 2911 (statements of Delegate Perona)). Therefore, the duties of the Auditor General have never been and are not now a “subject contained in Article IV” as currently constituted. Thus, that provision is not a proper “subject” of the legislative article, in violation of the limitation in article XIV, section 3.

Finally, Independent Maps makes the policy argument that upholding the circuit court’s finding that the plaintiffs were entitled to judgment on the pleadings will “make it largely impossible to make meaningful reforms in the redistricting process.” We respectfully disagree. The Auditor General is not the only potential nonlegislative actor capable of filling the duties outlined in its proposal. Certainly Illinois has other offices or individuals that are unencumbered by the limitations expressed in Article XIV. Indeed, the scheme proffered in the instant proposal is not the only model of redistricting reform that could be imagined. The constitutional right of the citizens of this state to alter the legislative article by ballot initiative is not tied to any particular plan, and we trust that the constitutional confines of article XIV, section 3, are sufficiently broad to encompass more than one potential redistricting scheme.

* From Justice Karmeier’s dissent

The amendment proposed by Independent Maps would supply the requisite authority for the Auditor General’s participation in the process. That the additional authorization would appear in a different constitutional provision than the one in which the Auditor General’s basic duties are defined poses no constitutional problem. Nothing in the 1970 Constitution requires that all of a constitutional officer’s responsibilities be set out in a si ngle article, and such is certainly not the case with respect to the redistricting-related duties of this court and the Attorney General under the current redistricting mechanism.

Moreover, the additional duties the Auditor General would assume under the amendment would not alter any of the responsibilities the Auditor General already possesses under article VIII. To the extent the Auditor General’s duties would change, the change would pertain solely and exclusively to the redistricting process, which, as set forth earlier, is a structural and procedural subject of article IV and therefore subject to amendment under article XIV, section 3 (Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, § 3). The change would have no effect at all beyond that limited sphere.

When the delegates to the 1970 Constitution drafted article XIV, section 3, as they did, they were mindful that attempts could be made to circumvent their intention and use the initiative process as a substitute for legislative action by the General Assembly or to make substantive changes to the constitution unrelated to legislative article. See Coalition I , 65 Ill. 2d at 468; CBA I , 137 Ill. 2d at 401-04. That is why they made clear that any amendment proposed under article XIV, section 3, “would be required to be limited to subjects contained in the Legislative Article, namely matters of structure and procedure and not matters of substantive policy.” 6 Proceedings 1400. In no sense would inclusion of the Auditor General in the redistricting process run afoul of these concerns. It is not an attempt to bypass the General Assembly’s authority to enact legislation, nor is it a subterfuge to alter other substantive provisions of the constitution. As I have just noted, the change pertains solely and exclusively to the redistricting mechanism of article IV, section 3, which the amendment proposed by Independent Maps’ initiative would replace. Taking into account the limited subject matter to which the initiative power may be applied under article XIV, section 3, while construing article XIV, section 3’s provisions “so as to effectuate [its] basic purpose ***, to provide a workable initiative scheme unfettered by restraints which unnecessarily inhibit the rights which article XIV confers” ( Coalition II , 83 Ill. 2d at 247), I would hold that plaintiffs ’ challenge to that aspect of the proposed initiative in count I of their complaint must therefore be rejected.

* Expect this dissent to get plenty of media play

But the three Republican justices on the court each wrote separate dissenting opinions, including a stinging rejection of the majority view by Justice Robert Thomas.

Thomas said the majority’s action should “include a bright orange warning sticker for readers to paste over” the citizen-initiative section of the constitution that reads “Out of Service.”

“Today, just as a critical election board deadline is about to expire, four members of our court have delivered, as a fait accompli, nothing less than the nullification of a critical component of the Illinois Constitution of 1970,” Thomas wrote.

“The majority has irrevocably severed a vital lifeline created by the drafters for the express purpose of enabling later generations of Illinoisans to use their sovereign authority as a check against self-interest by the legislature,” he wrote.

His dissent began: “The Illinois constitution is meant to prevent tyranny, not to enshrine it.” And concludes: “Today a muzzle has been placed on the people of this State, and their voices supplanted with judicial fiat. The whimper you hear is democracy stifled. I join that muted chorus of dissent.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


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* *** UPDATED x5 - Motion approved - Noven to withdraw - $421 million budget hit - One appointee appears to be ineligible - The plot thickens as three new board members appointed *** Controversy expected at TRS hearing today
* React to remap reform ruling
* Divided court kicks remap reform off ballot
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