WBEZ | Illinois politics http://www.wbez.org/tags/illinois-politics Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Proxy Wars: How Madigan gets Republicans to vote against their own plan http://www.wbez.org/news/proxy-wars-how-madigan-gets-republicans-vote-against-their-own-plan-113049 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP_641348072748.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>By now, most people probably have a sense that things at the Illinois Statehouse have gotten downright nasty, even if it&rsquo;s not completely clear what all the fighting is about&mdash;or, how it&rsquo;s playing out behind the scenes.</p><p>To reveal the parts of the fighting that the public doesn&rsquo;t get to see&mdash;the squabbling and cynical gamesmanship&mdash;WBEZ and Illinois Public Radio wanted to pull back the curtain.</p><p>WBEZ&rsquo;s Tony Arnold <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/proxy-wars-meet-rauner-aide-driving-democrats-crazy-113048">reports on one tactic from Republicans</a>.</p><p>But Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan has also been doing something that&rsquo;s really gotten under Republicans&rsquo; skin.</p><p>Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he has five big things he wants for the state of Illinois. On Aug. 25, the Illinois House of Representatives, which is lead by Democrats, brought one of the items up for a vote.</p><p>&quot;This will provide tax relief to the people of Illinois,&quot; explained Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), who called the bill.</p><p>Representatives were about to vote on Rauner&#39;s plan to freeze property taxes, something that would transform a main source of revenue for every town, city and school district in the entire state. One might think the fact that a Democrat was sponsoring one of Rauner&#39;s ideas amidst all the infighting was a huge deal&mdash;but no.</p><p>The discussion&mdash;or lack thereof&mdash;lasted all of two minutes. The package was voted down, in flames. And the media&mdash;Illinois Public Radio included&mdash;ignored it.</p><p>Because, this had happened before. Many, many times.</p><p>Rep. Bradley called the exact same proposal July 21...and, on June 9, June 23, July 1, July 9, July 15, Aug. 5, Aug. 12 and, as noted earlier, on Aug. 25.</p><p>Every time, it was the same result: A brutal, definitive death. It&#39;s become so routine by now, that Democrats like Rep. Elaine Nekritz (D-Buffalo Grove) joke about it.</p><blockquote><p>NEKRITZ: Is this lucky 13?<br />BRADLEY: I think it&#39;s 12.<br />NEKRITZ: Oh darn, next week.</p></blockquote><p>Altogether, property tax relief was brought up for a vote 14 times in just four months. That never happens. Bills usually get one chance, maybe two if they just miss the goal line&mdash;not a dozen.</p><p>It&#39;s a not-so-subtle way of Democrats taking one of Rauner&#39;s ideas and&mdash;in public&mdash;burning it to the ground. Over and over, on almost a weekly basis.</p><p>As one might imagine, Republicans got mad.</p><p>&quot;Boy, if we wanna know why citizens are skeptical, especially in its governance and its government. This whole process. What an embarrassment,&quot; Rep. Ron Sandack (R-Downers Grove) said.</p><p>Sandack is the designated mouthpiece for House Republicans. Just about every time Democrats called a vote on the property tax freeze, Sandack stood up, and railed.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s no reason to believe that this is any more legitimate than the eight, nine maybe 10 previous instances of this charade. This joke. This embarrassment. This waste of time. This sham. Because this is the personification, the definition, the embodiment, of a waste of time,&quot; Sandack said.</p><p>Part of the issue is that Republicans are watching one of their big-ticket items die over and over. But it&rsquo;s even more complicated than that: GOP legislators are helping do it; they&rsquo;re voting against against property tax relief.</p><p>It&rsquo;s important to understand something about Rauner&rsquo;s plan to freeze property taxes: It&rsquo;s attached to a plan that would undercut unions. He wants to freeze property taxes&mdash;if, and only if, Illinois also limits collective bargaining rights.</p><p>Democrats wouldn&#39;t ever go for that. So the way Democrats have played it, it&rsquo;s a little complicated. They break Rauner&rsquo;s single proposal in two, so that each part is voted on separately. That way Democrats get to look good voting to freeze your property taxes, then also make labor happy by killing the governor&#39;s anti-union proposal.</p><p>And killing that second part, that&rsquo;s a deal Rauner won&#39;t go for. So Republicans vote against all of it&mdash;and that&rsquo;s how you get a bunch of Republicans voting against property tax relief.</p><p>Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) said Democrats are playing games. At this point, he refuses to vote at all.</p><p>&quot;I don&#39;t vote,&rdquo; Batinick said in an interview. &ldquo;Fourteen times, 15 times, 100 times. At what point are we doing to start being adults and start actually addressing the issue instead of you, know, worrying about what&#39;s going to be on a mailer?&quot;</p><p>By &ldquo;mailer,&rdquo; Batnick was alluding to the political implications of all this. Democrats can legitimately print campaign fliers that say something like, &ldquo;Republicans stood in the way of property tax relief a gzzillion times.&rdquo; An attack ad like that has already gone out in Batinick&#39;s neighborhood.</p><p>&quot;This is not about policy, this is about campaigning. This is using the legislative structure for political purposes,&rdquo; Batinick said. &ldquo;My belief is good policy is good politics. That&#39;s not what&#39;s happening here. This is using the General Assembly to further your political gain.&quot;<br /><br />Democrats don&#39;t openly admit to this strategy; it&#39;s no political setup. They have said they&rsquo;re genuinely trying to compromise&mdash;after all, they presented a property tax freeze 14 different times.</p><p>The thing is, if Democrats were just wanting to use this against Republicans for campaign reasons, that&#39;s been taken care of.<br /><br />At a press conference, Illinois Public Radio asked Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan why his party keeps calling the same measure over and over, when it always meets the same fate? What&#39;s the point now? Isn&#39;t it just a little gratuitous and a waste of time?</p><p>The exchange went like this:</p><blockquote><p>MADIGAN: Remember that old expression? America is the land of opportunity. Remember that?<br />VINICKY: I know it.<br />MADIGAN: And so we&#39;re just abiding by that principle and providing opportunity to these Rauner Republicans in the House to fulfill their promise to freeze real estate taxes. In life sometimes, people are a little slow to take advantage of opportunities. So we don&#39;t want to foreclose the opportunity.</p></blockquote><p>When asked about plans to call the property tax proposal up for the same vote again in the future&mdash;if Democrats plan to keep putting Republicans through this&mdash;one of Madigan&rsquo;s floor leaders said, they&rsquo;d keep doing it until, &ldquo;something breaks loose.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Amanda Vinicky covers Illinois politics for WUIS and Illinois Public Radio. Follow her @<a href="http://twitter.com/AmandaVinicky">AmandaVinicky</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 05:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/proxy-wars-how-madigan-gets-republicans-vote-against-their-own-plan-113049 Proxy Wars: Meet the Rauner aide driving Democrats crazy http://www.wbez.org/news/proxy-wars-meet-rauner-aide-driving-democrats-crazy-113048 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/goldberg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>By now, most people probably have a sense that things at the Illinois Statehouse have gotten downright nasty, even if it&rsquo;s not completely clear what all the fighting is about&mdash;or, how it&rsquo;s playing out behind the scenes.</p><p>To reveal the parts of the fighting that the public doesn&rsquo;t get to see&mdash;the squabbling and cynical gamesmanship&mdash;WBEZ and Illinois Public Radio wanted to pull back the curtain.</p><p>Illinois Public Radio&rsquo;s Amanda Vinicky <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/proxy-wars-how-madigan-gets-republicans-vote-against-their-own-plan-113049">reports on one tactic from Democrats in Springfield</a>.</p><p>But Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner also has been doing something that&rsquo;s really gotten under Democrats&rsquo; skin.</p><p>If you think of the whole dispute at the Statehouse as a war, as it&rsquo;s been described, then think of Rauner and Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan as its generals; their back-and-forth is well documented. Much more so than how the shin-kicky, hand-to-hand combat is playing out on the front lines.</p><p>Enter Richard Goldberg.</p><p>Odds are, most Illinois residents have never heard his name, but Richard Goldberg is well known in the halls of the Capitol.</p><p>Goldberg works for Rauner&mdash;and he drives Democrats crazy.</p><p>Goldberg is young, he&rsquo;s 32. He used to work for Congressman&mdash;now U.S. Senator&mdash;Mark Kirk. And, Goldberg&rsquo;s very good on his feet: He&rsquo;s quick-witted and fast-talking, and he seems to like a good political fist fight.</p><p>The way Rauner has deployed Goldberg is as his administration&rsquo;s proxy with lawmakers. As in, Democrats have business to do with Rauner and the governor sends Goldberg as his representative.</p><p>Democrats don&rsquo;t like it, they see it as a slap in the face. They call hearings and Rauner sends someone they basically see as a whipper snapper.</p><p>Case in point: May of this year. State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago) called a hearing on workers compensation benefits. Raoul&rsquo;s done a lot of work on the issue in the past and, and knows it well.</p><p>And Goldberg shows up. Here&rsquo;s a transcription of how that went.</p><blockquote><p>GOLDBERG: These reforms are directly tied to our budget, to the future of fiscal sanity in this state, to be able to grow our economy, to be able to create jobs, to be able have the revenue base for our budget so that we are not just...<br />RAOUL: I&rsquo;d appreciate it if you could&hellip;<br />GOLDBERG: Mr. Chairman.<br />RAOUL: No, no. I am the chairman. I am the chairman.<br />GOLDBERG: Mr. Chairman.<br />RAOUL: I am the chairman.This is not the governor&rsquo;s office.<br />GOLDBERG: Mr. Chairman.<br />RAOUL: Senator Haine, you&rsquo;re recognized.<br />GOLDBERG: Mr. Chairman.</p></blockquote><p>Democrats like Raoul feel like Goldberg breaks all kinds of rules of decorum by interrupting committee chairs and talking out of turn. That&rsquo;s on top of the whole young whipper snapper effect.</p><p>&ldquo;Some people want to give campaign speeches or maybe impress the governor, that&rsquo;s fine to be done outside of the committee room, to be done wherever they want to do it &ndash; in the bathroom or wherever they want to do it,&rdquo; Raoul told reporters after that shouting match. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s not fine to be done when we&rsquo;re supposed to be debating the specific provisions.&rdquo;<br /><br />This scene of Goldberg as Rauner&rsquo;s proxy, and Democrats feeling insulted by it, played out a few times this year, and it only got worse.</p><p>In another Senate hearing, Democrats questioned the head of a state agency, Jim Schultz, who was appointed by Rauner. And even though Schultz was the one they wanted to hear from, he defered to Goldberg. As in, he tried to give Goldberg the floor.</p><p>Democrats were not OK with that.</p><blockquote><p>SEN. KIMBERLY LIGHTFORD: How do you see this being a good bill for our schools?<br />DEPT. OF COMMERCE AND ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY DIRECTOR JIM SCHULTZ: Well, two points. One is our property taxes are one of the highest in the country, so I think we need to find solutions to that. But it&rsquo;s tied to the other elements of this bill which I&rsquo;d like to defer to Mr. Goldberg to address the question.<br />GOLDBERG: Senator, if I could just address your question specifically, because you know Governor Rauner proposed<br />LIGHTFORD: I&rsquo;m still - I&rsquo;m still talking to the director. Rich, you&rsquo;re so rude. I&rsquo;ll come to you.<br />SEN. DON HARMON: Mr. Goldberg. Mr. Goldberg. When a senator is speaking. Mr. Goldberg. Mr. Goldberg. When a senator is speaking to you, I would strongly counsel you to close your mouth and open your ears and then you&rsquo;ll have a chance to respond.</p></blockquote><p>Sen. Don Harmon, (D-Oak Park), the Democrat who told Goldberg to close his mouth, is the chairman of the Senate Executive Committee, where that exchange took place.</p><p>&ldquo;It was part of a much longer hearing and I, frankly, listening to it now, not particularly pleased with my condescending tone,&rdquo; Harmon recalled&nbsp;last month in an interview at his law office. &ldquo;But at the time it was like talking to my pre-teen children who were talking over each other, yelling at each other.&quot;<br /><br />It&rsquo;s worth mentioning that Harmon is not known for talking smack. If anything, Harmon has a reputation for going out of his way to be fair to the people who testify at the committees he runs. He&rsquo;s an attorney from west suburban Oak Park who&rsquo;s been a state senator for 12 years.</p><p>But when Harmon agreed to an interview about Goldberg, it was obvious that Harmon&rsquo;s had some things about the Rauner aide on his mind for a while.<br />&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;Rich&rsquo;s job is to be the governor&rsquo;s unmentionable anatomy. And he embraces that role with the flare and enthusiasm that can only have been born of years of experience in fraternity houses and undergraduate bars,&rdquo; Harmon said.</p><p>After the initial interview with Harmon, WBEZ went back to clarify what the senator mean when he said, &ldquo;unmentionable anatomy.&rdquo; He said he meant something that rhymes with &ldquo;grass bowl.&rdquo;<br /><br />Rauner&rsquo;s administration did not make Goldberg available for an interview for this story. But his office did send a written statement.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s no surprise that these local legislators aren&rsquo;t willing to clean up Springfield, when they relish the opportunity to personally attack a Navy reservist who served our country fighting terrorism in Afghanistan,&rdquo; said Lance Trover, a Rauner spokesman.<br /><br />In other words, Trover said: Hey Democrats, you just called a war veteran a &lsquo;grass bowl.&rsquo;<br /><br />Just a reminder that while all of this is going on, there have been virtually no meetings among leadership in Springfield, for months; and no real sign of progress. But Goldberg started doing something else that&rsquo;s made him even more notorious.</p><p>You know how Democrats were so mad when Goldberg would try to speak at those committee hearings? The only thing that could maybe make Democrats madder than that is Goldberg not showing up at all.<br /><br />Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) put on a display because Goldberg didn&rsquo;t show up at a committee hearing Bradley called into how Rauner was paying some of his staff.</p><p>&ldquo;Is there anyone from the governor&rsquo;s office here to testify? Is there anyone here from the governor&rsquo;s office to testify? Is there anyone here from the governor&rsquo;s office to testify?&rdquo; Bradley asked three times out loud at the hearing.</p><p>Goldberg wasn&rsquo;t there&mdash;because instead of showing up and antagonizing Democrats in person, he began to write them antagonistic letters.</p><p>The letters are full of lines where Goldberg straight up insults Democrats&rsquo; intelligence, or calls their hearings worthless.</p><p>In one letter Goldberg wrote, &ldquo;As you may know, 35 minus 28 equals seven. Given your support for a budget out of balance by $4 billion, finding errors in basic arithmetic is not a great surprise.&rdquo;</p><p>In another, he said &ldquo;holding sham hearings to rehash questions already answered in another committee is not a step toward compromise.&quot;</p><p>Some of the letters are a fireworks display of condescension and petty insults. And the icing on the cake, Goldberg&rsquo;s sign off:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;With warmest personal regards, I remain sincerely yours, Richard A. Goldberg, Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Chris Mooney, the director of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, said on a scale of one-to-10, the snark level of those letters reaches an 11.&nbsp;</p><p>But what stands out, Mooney said, is the motivation for this level of snark. Because some of the gimmicks going on are designed to be traps and could be turned into campaign hit pieces by the other party. But Mooney said these particular hearings and letters aren&rsquo;t likely to end up being used in campaign ads against one candidate or another.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s really gratuitous in this case. I don&rsquo;t quite understand it. It seems rather personal,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Some Democrats said they&rsquo;re embarrassed for the Rauner administration because of Goldberg, and that his presence in that job is a signal from Rauner that makes Democrats feel hopeless that any kind of deal is on the horizon.<br /><br />But Republicans defend Goldberg. They said Goldberg is a person of substance, and if Democrats would just listen to him they would see that. In other words, Republicans say, if there&rsquo;s a problem here&mdash;if something&rsquo;s toxic about what&rsquo;s happening with Richard Goldberg&mdash;it&rsquo;s the Democrats&rsquo; fault.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold is covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 05:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/proxy-wars-meet-rauner-aide-driving-democrats-crazy-113048 Judge rules no pay for Illinois workers without state budget http://www.wbez.org/news/judge-rules-no-pay-illinois-workers-without-state-budget-112338 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP120209138862 (1)_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><strong><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px; background-color: rgb(249, 249, 249);">▲&nbsp;</span>LISTEN </strong><em>A pair of courtroom decisions in Chicago Tuesday is drastically changing the dynamics at play in the political drama unfolding in Illinois state politics. Both rulings have to do with how the state government will operate as it goes further into shutdown mode. WBEZ&rsquo;s state politics reporter Tony Arnold joins host Melba Lara to break down what&rsquo;s at stake.</em></p><p>Illinois won&#39;t be allowed to pay state workers in full during an ongoing budget impasse, a Cook County judge ruled Tuesday, potentially leaving some 65,000 employees without a paycheck and putting added pressure on lawmakers to approve a new spending plan.</p><p>Judge Diane Larsen said that without a 2016 budget in place Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger may only pay some workers who are covered under a federal labor law. Those workers would receive the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour plus overtime.</p><p>But Munger&#39;s attorneys and lawyers for the state&#39;s personnel agency said it would take as long as a year to determine which employees would be paid under federal law and adjust payroll because of antiquated computer systems. That effectively means no workers will be paid until Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the Legislature approve a budget, the comptroller&#39;s attorneys said. It&#39;s also likely to trigger federal fines and penalties.</p><p>Larsen&#39;s ruling likely won&#39;t be the final word. Munger and the leader of the state&#39;s largest public-employee union separately said they plan to appeal, and Rauner directed the state personnel department to do the same. Thirteen labor unions representing state employees also have filed a lawsuit in St. Clair County seeking full pay. A hearing in that case could occur this week.</p><p>&quot;Public service workers in state government are on the job despite the lack of a state budget for the fiscal year that started July 1,&quot; said Roberta Lynch, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. &quot;Throughout Illinois they are keeping their communities safe, protecting kids, caring for veterans and people with disabilities, and providing countless other vital public services - and they should be paid for their work on time and in full.&quot;</p><p>The comptroller&#39;s office must begin processing payroll on Thursday for workers to receive their first paycheck of the new fiscal year as scheduled in mid-July. Rauner told employees in a memo last week that they must continue coming to work, and AFSCME has said its members plan to do so. The governor also said his office is asking local banks and credit unions to offer loans to workers who need help paying their bills.</p><p>Larsen acknowledged the situation is unfortunate but said the state constitution prohibits the comptroller from paying bills without spending authority or a federal mandate. She said responsibility lies with Rauner and the Legislature for not agreeing on a spending plan, and with state officials who have known since at least 2007 that their computer systems were incapable of meeting federal law.</p><p>Lawmakers have been deadlocked over a budget for weeks. Rauner, a conservative businessman seeking pro-business reforms in Illinois, vetoed a budget passed by the Legislature that fell far short of available revenues. Democrats such as House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are seeking increases in revenue to ensure the government continues to provide social services and other key operations.</p><p>Lisa Madigan, a Democrat and the speaker&#39;s daughter, had asked the judge to clarify what state government is obligated to pay without an approved budget. Her office argued that the only way for all workers to be paid their regular salaries is for Rauner and the Legislature to act.</p><p>Munger, a Republican, wanted the judge to rule that all state employees be paid their regular salaries. Her attorneys noted Madigan agreed to an order that all workers be paid during a 2007 budget impasse, and he questioned whether the difference this time around is politics.</p><p>Madigan&#39;s office said circumstances are different because in 2007 lawmakers had passed a temporary budget and were days away from approving a full plan. A spokeswoman denied politics played a role.</p><p>&quot;This entire situation has been caused by the failure of the Governor and the Legislature to enact a budget,&quot; Madigan said in an emailed statement.</p><p>Without appropriation power, the comptroller is limited to paying only crucial bills, such as debt service and pension payments, as well as federal-program participation fees and payments required by court orders.</p><p>A Rauner spokesman noted legislators passed a law last year allowing them to continue to be paid without a budget and said the governor would support similar legislation to cover state workers. It was unclear if or when a bill will be introduced.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 07 Jul 2015 13:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/judge-rules-no-pay-illinois-workers-without-state-budget-112338 Race to replace ex-Rep. Schock a classic GOP primary contest http://www.wbez.org/news/race-replace-ex-rep-schock-classic-gop-primary-contest-112316 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/shock_2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; The race to replace former U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock has shaped up as a classic Republican primary, pitting the son of a longtime Illinois congressman and Cabinet member against a conservative writer who has railed at what he sees as the &quot;establishment&quot; GOP hand-picking the disgraced lawmaker&#39;s successor.</p><p>Three Republicans and two Democrats will appear on Tuesday&#39;s ballots, but most eyes have been on State Sen. Darin LaHood, the son of former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and Michael Flynn, who helped found the late blogger and commentator Andrew Breitbart&#39;s BigGovernment.com.</p><p>Candidates in the deeply Republican territory say Schock&#39;s resignation after mounting scrutiny of his extravagant spending, and the lingering scandal &mdash; including grand jury and FBI investigations &mdash; has left voters disillusioned. The former Republican representative enjoyed strong support and visibility beyond his central Illinois district until questions surfaced about his use of taxpayer funds, like for ornate office decor in the style of &quot;Downton Abbey&quot; or worldwide travels plastered on Instagram.</p><p>The five candidates hail from diverse work backgrounds and political ideologies, but they all argue one point in common: They&#39;re nothing like Schock. Here&#39;s a look at the race:</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Republican Faceoff</span></p><p>LaHood, a former state and federal prosecutor, has the most name recognition and received early support from the Illinois GOP. He&#39;s raised roughly $1 million and picked up key endorsements, including from the National Rifle Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.</p><p>He describes himself as &quot;much more conservative&quot; than his father, who worked in President Barack Obama&#39;s first administration, and notes his 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union. But LaHood was critical of GOP leaders, saying the party needs to be more proactive by laying out alternatives to the Affordable Care Act and a clear plan for the economy, and by reducing the national debt.</p><p>&quot;(Republicans) have to lead with conservative ideas and they&#39;re not doing that,&quot; said LaHood, 46. &quot;They&#39;re not passing any bills and putting them on the president&#39;s desk.&quot;</p><p>Flynn says people are fed up with party politics, and he was motivated to run after it appeared the GOP had cleared the field for LaHood.</p><p>He claims candidate forums hosted by Republican county organizations have been tightly controlled &mdash; when it comes to allowing news media coverage and when candidates speak &mdash; and says there should be fuller debates on health care and tax structures. Flynn has raised about $63,000, but the conservative Person to Person PAC announced support of him this week and praised his writing, saying others &quot;were too timid to stand up to power brokers.&quot;</p><p>Flynn, 47, a central Illinois native who also lived in Washington, has worked on local legislative campaigns.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Shaking Schock</span></p><p>Candidates say the circumstances of Schock&#39;s resignation in March have reverberated throughout the campaign.</p><p>&quot;What happened to Schock is a parable,&quot; Flynn said. &quot;People with a lot of promise and a lot of energy and a lot of opportunity and get so immersed in the system there, they feel they are above the law and are different.&quot;</p><p>LaHood said voters want someone who won&#39;t get &quot;sucked in by Washington, D.C.&quot; He talked about staying &quot;grounded&quot; and said during the legislative session he drives more than an hour back and forth to Springfield each day so he can spend the night with his family.</p><p>Republican Donald Rients, who works for State Farm, and the Democratic candidates &mdash; high school teacher and veteran Robert Mellon and Springfield school board member Adam Lopez &mdash; all say the Schock situation levels the playing field because voters are frustrated with scandal, regardless of party, and want change.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The district and turnout</span></p><p>Illinois&#39; 18th district comprises acres of rolling farmland to global manufacturers like Caterpillar Inc. The region includes at least part of 19 counties, and portions of Peoria, the state capital, Springfield, and the Mississippi River town of Quincy.</p><p>The geography presents problems for candidates, who have to travel wide to reach voters.</p><p>Turnout is expected to be low, considering it&#39;s a special election in peak summer vacation season. That puts pressure on the candidates to reach loyal party voters who are more likely to come vote.</p><p>The general special election is Sept. 10.</p></p> Sun, 05 Jul 2015 06:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/race-replace-ex-rep-schock-classic-gop-primary-contest-112316 As budget deadline approaches, Illinois faces a government shutdown http://www.wbez.org/news/budget-deadline-approaches-illinois-faces-government-shutdown-112281 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/springfield_0_2_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A budget standoff that could interrupt some state services beginning Wednesday is worth the pain if it yields fundamental business and political changes in Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner says.</p><p>Turning the Democrats&#39; phrase of his reform proposals against them, the Republican governor said Tuesday the initiatives he continues to insist upon are &quot;extreme common sense.&quot;</p><p>The new governor made the rounds at state agencies Tuesday to speak to employees as he and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly girded for the new fiscal year amid continuing disagreement on how to fund state operations.</p><p>Lawmakers were in session Tuesday. The House planned to take testimony from 15 key state agencies on how they plan to weather a &quot;shutdown&quot; with no budget deal, but had retired to private party caucus meetings early in the afternoon.</p><p>Democrats want to find the revenue necessary to cover what they say are vital operations, while Rauner first demands rule-changes in liability lawsuits and worker-injury compensation, along with term limits for politicians and an impartial method for drawing political district lines.</p><p>The Legislature sent him a $36 billion spending plan that Democrats acknowledged was up to $4 billion out of balance, but argued Rauner could reduce spending in areas he saw fit to keep government moving ahead while talks continue. The governor vetoed the bulk of that plan last week.</p><p>To Rauner, who&#39;s in the midst of his first state budget battle, the changes are essential to producing more tax revenue and keeping spending in check. To Democrats, they&#39;re &quot;extreme.&quot;</p><p>&quot;They&#39;re extreme common sense,&quot; Rauner told reporters after talking to Illinois Emergency Management Agency employees. He repeated his Monday promise to see that workers get paid even without agreement on a spending plan, a scenario the Democratic attorney general later said lacked legal precedent.</p><p>&quot;What is extreme in Illinois is our property tax burden, what is extreme is our deficit and our debt, what is extreme is our low economic growth, our low rate of job creation and our high rate of conflicts of interest inside government,&quot; he said.</p><p>If Wednesday comes without a budget, there is money enough to pay 65,000 state employees through mid-July. But it&#39;s likely some services provided by government contractors will begin shutting down or stop because payments will cease.</p><p>Rauner dismissed the idea that the anticipated confusion and commotion surrounding a shutdown could cause more harm.</p><p>&quot;We need structural reform and see, change is hard,&quot; Rauner said. &quot;But we need to have change. If all we&#39;re going to do is keep the status quo, and if all we do is raise taxes to cover up the status quo, we&#39;ll continue in our long-term slow decline and the people of Illinois deserve better than that.&quot;</p></p> Tue, 30 Jun 2015 08:23:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/budget-deadline-approaches-illinois-faces-government-shutdown-112281 No conspiracy required: The true origins of Chicago's February elections http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/no-conspiracy-required-true-origins-chicagos-february-elections-111585 <p><p>With Chicago&rsquo;s municipal election less than a week away, we couldn&rsquo;t help but notice a bevy of questions related to the fact that the races for mayor and city aldermen are settled in late February. In short, a lot of folks suspect that the timing, with the chance of sub-zero temps and snow, amounts to a conspiracy &mdash; one that undercuts the whole democratic thrust of the election itself.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean, nasty cold weather would seem to suppress voter turnout,&rdquo; says Curious Citizen Dave Seglin.</p><p>Another question-asker, Jesse Ackles, adds: &ldquo;My cynical take on it is that it really seems to favor incumbents.&rdquo;</p><p>The most concise formulation of the question comes from Eric Sherman, a local campaign worker who&rsquo;s been canvassing for votes in this nasty cold weather. Here it is:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why are the Chicago Municipal Elections held in February? What&rsquo;s the REAL reason?</em></p><p>For the record, Eric&rsquo;s not entirely sure the timing is a ploy meant to mess with the administration of democracy, but his formulation (&ldquo;the REAL reason&rdquo;) resonated with a lot of commenters on Twitter and Facebook.</p><p>Regardless, we&rsquo;re going to clear things up, for sure. But a warning to conspiracy theorists: You&rsquo;re not gonna like this. It turns out, there&rsquo;s good evidence that the timing of the February elections was intended to broaden voter participation, not narrow it. Don&rsquo;t blame us. Just read ahead and then blame the historical record.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">On the paper trail</span></p><p>Let&rsquo;s clarify what we&rsquo;re talking about when we say &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s February elections.&rdquo; Most towns in Illinois hold party primaries on the last Tuesday of February, while the municipal or so-called &ldquo;consolidated elections&rdquo; happen on the first Tuesday in April.</p><p>Chicago, though, is different. The city holds no primaries for alderman or mayor. Since 199, mayoral candidates have been elected on a nonpartisan basis. Run-offs are held between the top two vote getters if there is no clear majority. Those occur in April.</p><p>Ok, on to the origin story.</p><p>The obvious call to make first is to the Chicago Board of Elections. Jim Allen, a spokesman, says Chicago has held its election around this time of year as long ago as 1837.</p><p>&ldquo;The first mayoral election where Ogden beat Kenzie was in May, and ever since then as far as I can tell we&rsquo;ve been swearing in our mayors in May.&rdquo;</p><p>Of course, this was back when mayors only served one-year terms and City Hall was a saloon. But even Allen, who&rsquo;s been doing this for awhile, is a little stumped about the origins of the current date.</p><p>&ldquo;The part that&rsquo;s going to be hard is finding this bridge between May and when it got pushed back to February,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Is it a political reason that it&rsquo;s incumbent protection, by keeping the voters at home and turnout low? Who knows. That&rsquo;s for a political scientist to noodle over.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Primary election reform </span></p><p>Our next stop: Chicago&rsquo;s Municipal Reference Collection, which resides on the 5th floor of the Harold Washington Library. There, librarian Lyle Benedict begins with relevant passages in the<a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=001000050K2A-1.1" target="_blank"> Illinois compiled statutes</a>.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s elections, like every Illinois municipality, are set by state law. Except for a few years after the Civil War, these elections were held in April, as set forth in the Cities and Villages Act of 1872.</p><p>For most of the 19th century these were elections in name only; candidates that appeared on the ballot were chosen ahead of time by party bosses at state conventions.</p><p>All of this changed during the Progressive Era, when reformers pushed to institute open primaries, which would let average party members participate.</p><p>The change was hailed as a huge step forward.</p><p>On March 7, 1898, the<em> Chicago Tribune</em> wrote about a gathering of 800 young African-Americans at Bethel Church. The esteemed lawyer Edward E. Wilson was quoted addressing the crowd:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The days of corrupt politics in Chicago are numbered. A few more wise laws such as the new primary law will sound the death knell of the corrupt politician, the ballot-box stuffer, and ward heeler, and honest men will control the elections, and when that time comes honest men will cease to be ashamed to play their part in politics.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1898/03/07/page/7/article/honest-primaries-discussed" width="300"></iframe></p><p>According to Benedict and legislative records, there was another change in the works: These primaries were set for February &mdash; more than a month before the April elections. In 1905, Benedict says, Chicago held its first February primary elections.</p><p>&ldquo;Looks like the Republicans were February 14, the Democrats were February 24 and the Socialists were March 4,&rdquo; Benedict notes, pointing to old election rolls.</p><p>These open primaries empowered average voters (at least eligible<em> male</em> voters), but reformers felt it didn&rsquo;t go far enough. Over the next decade they advocated for direct primaries, which would consolidate all of the state&rsquo;s primaries &mdash; regardless of party &mdash; on a single day.</p><p>This was a contentious issue, as entrenched party interests sought to preserve the status quo. A <em>Chicago Tribune</em> article from Oct 15, 1907, was headlined: &ldquo;New Primary Act May Cause Spasm: Measure to be Introduced Today at Springfield Is So Direct That It Staggers Politicians.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1907/10/15/page/1/article/new-primary-act-may-cause-spasm" width="300"></iframe></p><p>Reformers eventually won out, however, and the day lawmakers selected was the last Tuesday in February. That date has stuck ever since.</p><p>At the time this was a radical change, according to Maureen Flanagan, a historian at the Illinois Institute of Technology.</p><p>&ldquo;The parties can&rsquo;t just hunker down and control everything,&rdquo; she says, adding that since the general elections were in April, moving the consolidated primaries back to February gave voters a lot more say.</p><p>&ldquo;So if you&rsquo;ve got, say, 6 weeks, [candidates] have a chance to get out and give speeches, do interviews, and it does in fact make it possible for people to know who the candidates are,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>And, Flanagan says, people felt they now had a voice in deciding who would run the city, which led to an increase in voter turnout.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Timing is everything</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/snow%20gearing%20up.jpg" style="float: right; height: 467px; width: 350px;" title="A trio of campaign volunteers for Alderman Proco Joe Moreno bundle up against the cold as they prepare to hit ward precincts with flyers and door-hangers. (WBEZ/Derek John)" />Okay, at this point, we can just say it: The conspiracy theories are dead wrong about why Chicago elections are in February. The timing wasn&rsquo;t originally created to suppress voter turnout &mdash; quite the opposite.</p><p>The next question is: Why do so few people remember it that way?</p><p>Well, one reason is that &mdash; starting in the 1930s &mdash; the Democrats have dominated municipal elections. Then, there&rsquo;s the Democratic Machine, which has been implicated in notorious election shenanigans: Sitting politicians doled out jobs for votes, ballots sometimes were &ldquo;lost&rdquo; during key contests, and nepotism often prevailed in the selection of candidates. Little wonder that citizens find the very timing of elections suspect.</p><p>Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at UIC, was one of the few independents who was elected to the City Council back in 1971. He says for local ward races, especially, the Machine was hard to beat.</p><p>&ldquo;Aldermanic elections are frequently thrown to the Machine for many reasons: patronage, jobs, favors, corrupt contracts. But the winter weather does not help,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>And yet Simpson provides at least one example of when February&rsquo;s blustery weather worked against the Democratic Machine.</p><p>This was during the 1979 Democratic mayoral primary. The incumbent, Michael Bilandic, faced Jane Byrne. As the two went head to head in January, blizzard after blizzard deposited enough snow to practically shut down the city. By the end of one gigantic snowstorm, Simpson says, Chicagoans could look out their windows and see 5 or 6 feet of snow staring back at them.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;d be skiing to the grocery store because you couldn&rsquo;t get there any other way,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The &lsquo;L&rsquo;s weren&rsquo;t running, so they cut the &lsquo;L&rsquo; stops in the black community, which enraged the black community.&rdquo;</p><p>These political problems piled up &mdash; nearly as high as the snow &mdash; until just a few weeks later, when Bilandic went down to a shocking defeat.</p><p>While Simpson acknowledges other factors, he says the timing of the election was huge.</p><p>&ldquo;If it had been held in April, Jane Byrne probably wouldn&rsquo;t have been elected.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Today&rsquo;s election reforms</span></p><p>While it&rsquo;s still hard to campaign during the winter, in some ways it&rsquo;s never been easier to vote in Chicago.</p><p>Echoing the Progressive reforms from a century ago, new rules have extended the early voting period and allowed more people to use mail-in ballots. Starting in 2016, every polling station in the city will have same-day registration.</p><p>One last thing to note. Chicago&rsquo;s average voter turnout for municipal elections hovers around 40 percent. Compare that to turnout in San Antonio, Texas. According to <a href="http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/blog/fairvote-report-low-turnout-plagues-u-s-mayoral-elections-but-san-francisco-is-highest/#.UqoBkvRDtrE" target="_blank">figures collected by the voter advocacy group Fair Vote </a>, turnout in that city&rsquo;s last few mayoral elections averaged below 10 percent.</p><p>Translation? Chicago&rsquo;s turnout is higher than nearly every other big city &mdash; even those in warmer climates, where braving the outdoors in February isn&rsquo;t so intimidating.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker2.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Question-asker Eric Sherman standing in front of a map of Chicago’s 1st ward. (Derek John/WBEZ)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Who asked our question?</span></p><p>We received several versions of this question about the timing of Chicago elections, but the one we got from Eric Sherman accompanied a great backstory. He&rsquo;s a local political activist and self-proclaimed political science nerd. He&rsquo;s currently working on Alderman (1st) Proco Joe Moreno&rsquo;s reelection campaign, which means he&rsquo;s often going door-to-door in this brutal weather.</p><p>&ldquo;People are nice about it and sometimes they&rsquo;ll let you in,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;If you can get into an apartment complex, that&rsquo;s great. That&rsquo;s a good 15 to 20 minutes where you&rsquo;re inside a building.&rdquo;</p><p>When we tell Eric how the February election date was originally a reform that encouraged greater voter participation, he gets ecstatic.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s another example of the contradictory nature of Chicago politics,&quot; he says. &quot;People get really negative and really pessimistic, and they assume the whole system is rigged. As someone who&rsquo;s involved in local &nbsp;politics, it&rsquo;s not rigged. If it was, we wouldn&rsquo;t be out there knocking on doors and getting supporters.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Derek L. John is WBEZ&#39;s Community Bureaus Editor. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/derekljohn" target="_blank">@derekljohn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 18:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/no-conspiracy-required-true-origins-chicagos-february-elections-111585 Gov Quinn signs making 'revenge porn' a felony http://www.wbez.org/news/gov-quinn-signs-making-revenge-porn-felony-111308 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/springfield flickr matt howry.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Distributing private images online without a person&#39;s consent will be a felony under a law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>The measure addresses so-called &quot;revenge porn&quot; in which a former romantic partner posts private pictures or videos in retaliation.</p><p>Democratic state Sen. Michael Hastings is a sponsor.</p><p>He says it&#39;s &quot;psychological abuse to the highest degree.&quot;</p><p>His office says it&#39;s already illegal to put identifying or graphic information without consent on pornographic websites.</p><p>But state law didn&#39;t previously address privately-shared images.</p><p>Quinn said Monday that cyberbullying can have lasting and devastating effects.</p><p>He says the law cracks down on perpetrators and will prevent more people from becoming victims, most of whom are women.</p><p>Critics had expressed free speech concerns.</p><p>The law takes effect in June 2015.</p></p> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 09:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/gov-quinn-signs-making-revenge-porn-felony-111308 Topinka remembered as honest, tough at memorial http://www.wbez.org/news/topinka-remembered-honest-tough-memorial-111250 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/topinka_0.png" alt="" /><p><p>COUNTRYSIDE, Ill. &mdash; Late Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka has been remembered as a tough, honest leader with a signature sense of humor.</p><p>Crowds filled a union hall in suburban Chicago on Wednesday to pay respects. Individuals included the state&#39;s top leaders, lawmakers, local leaders and Illinoisans who knew her for more than 70 years.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-comptroller-judy-baar-topinka-dies-111213">Judy Baar Topinka in her own words</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Gov. Pat Quinn says Topinka took on tough challenges in life. She was also a former state treasurer, GOP head and lawmaker.</p><p>Portraits of Topinka lined an entrance, along with photos of past campaigns, her family and dogs.</p><p>Former Gov. Jim Thompson says Topinka would have appreciated the bipartisan crowd gathered at the memorial.</p><p>Topinka died last week after suffering complications from a stroke. She had won a second full term in November. A replacement hasn&#39;t yet been named.</p></p> Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/topinka-remembered-honest-tough-memorial-111250 Unions sue to stop Chicago pension overhaul http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/city hall chicago flickr daniel x o nell.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Current and retired city workers and their labor unions have filed a lawsuit arguing a law overhauling Chicago&#39;s pension systems is unconstitutional.</p><p>The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court also asks a judge to stop the law from taking effect Jan. 1.</p><p>Chicago has the worst-funded pension system of any major U.S. city.</p><p>Legislation approved last year seeks to eliminate a $9.4 billion unfunded liability in two pension systems by increasing contributions and cutting benefits. It would affect about 57,000 laborers and municipal employees.</p><p>The plaintiffs are 12 current and former workers and four unions, including AFSCME Council 31 and the Illinois Nurses Association.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the law is constitutional. He says the changes are needed to ensure pension funds remain solvent and retirees receive benefits.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 Same-day registration means long lines for some Illinois voters http://www.wbez.org/news/same-day-registration-means-long-lines-some-illinois-voters-111063 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Voting banner AP.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Polls have closed across Illinois after voters cast their ballots in the state&#39;s 2014 midterm election.</p><p>The exception includes a handful of polling places in Chicago that were allowed to stay open later on Tuesday evening. That&#39;s because election judges arrived late and polls didn&#39;t open on time.</p><p>Some Illinoisans taking advantage of a policy adopted this year allowing Election Day voter registration have ended up in long lines.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/calls-aimed-election-judges-dissuade-attendance-111061">Dirty trick&#39; robocalls dissuaded Chicago election judges from polls</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen spoke to reporters about the issue during a Tuesday afternoon conference call.</p><p>Allen says it&#39;s the first time the city has dealt with Election Day voter registration.</p><p>Allen says the process is necessarily time consuming. He cited the need to cross-check data to ensure someone isn&#39;t registered elsewhere.</p><p>A judge also extended voting for same-day registrants in Lake County until 9 p.m.</p><p>That happened after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan argued that the Lake County clerk opened sites offering a new same-day signup option at 10 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.</p><p>The clerk says the sites opened late because of a shortage of poll workers.</p></p> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 19:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/same-day-registration-means-long-lines-some-illinois-voters-111063