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Question of the day

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* From Peter Hancock’s interview with the governor…

Capitol News Illinois: What do you think you learned about state government in your first year? Is there anything you know now that you didn’t know coming into the job?

Pritzker: Certainly from outside of government, I had seen that government had been hollowed out and that there were agencies that just weren’t fulfilling their functions properly. But it isn’t until you get inside of the agencies that you see just how bad it really is, that they hadn’t been fulfilling their mission – in part because of morale, in part because of a failure to fill positions that are authorized to be filled, and in part because there’s a failure of mission and direction. When I came into office, it was frankly worse than I thought. And so I have worked very hard over the course of my first year to change that and to set us in the right direction.

And we have made real progress. I’ll give you one example, if I may. We walked into office and found that there was a backlog of people who had applied for Medicaid, many of whom are eligible for Medicaid, and those who have applied for what’s called redetermination. Year-in year-out, Medicaid recipients have to reapply. That backlog had grown to 140,000 people. That’s basically because under my predecessor, they had stopped processing those applications. And so when we walked into office (seeing a) 140,000 backlog, we had to work very hard to address that. We basically cut that in half in just a year, which is a very hard thing to do, because we were already understaffed.

Today is the one-year anniversary of Pritzker’s inauguration. His campaign committee, Think Big Illinois, has compiled a list of accomplishments. Click here for that.

* The Question: On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the best score, how would you rate Gov. Pritzker’s first year in office? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…

image polls

– Posted by Rich Miller  


Cabonargi claims Harmon mistakenly listed as an endorser

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* This press release caused quite a stir within the Senate Democratic caucus…

Progressive Leaders Endorse Michael Cabonargi for Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court
Progressives at multiple levels of government rally behind the only candidate with a vision to bring progressive reform to the Clerk’s office

Michael Cabonargi, candidate for Clerk of the Cook County Circuit Court, announced today that he received endorsements from an ever-growing list of progressive leaders who represent the people of Cook County at various levels of government, including the following:

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago)
State Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park)

Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) is also running for circuit court clerk. The Senate President election is this coming Sunday, so endorsing against Sen. Martinez wouldn’t have gone down too well in the caucus, no matter which side Martinez is on. Harmon has said he endorsed Sen. Dan Biss in the Democratic gubernatorial primary because Biss was a colleague and he endorses colleagues.

* Harmon’s people say he did not endorse Cabonargi, even though he has been a contributor over the years and passed petitions for him. Sen. Martinez told me Harmon also assured her this morning that he did not endorse Cabonargi.

* Cabonargi spokesperson Rebecca Evans…

Mike has appreciated the support and friendship of Don Harmon for a number of years, but his name was mistakenly listed on a large list of endorsements that was announced today. It’s since been corrected.


…Adding… From an email sent by Democratic Party of Oak Park Committeeman Don Harmon (xxxxx@donharmon.org) in November of last year…


– Posted by Rich Miller  


Rate the new Darwish cable ad

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* We talked yesterday about how Rush Darwish is the first Democrat running in Dan Lipinski’s 3rd Congressional District to send direct mail. I also told you he would air a cable TV ad today. The campaign claims they’re “spending $9K this week in 3 zones and will be upping our spend weekly hereafter.”

Rate it…

* Script…

[ON CAMERA] I’m Rush Darwish and I approve this message because Americans deserve a choice when it comes to our healthcare.

[VO] Choice is a fundamental American value. The freedom to choose where you live, who you marry, how you make a living.

[VO] I’m the only candidate in this race who believes that we should provide Medicare for all who want it, while also keeping a private insurance market so you have a CHOICE when it comes to your insurance.

[ON CAMERA] If quality, affordable healthcare is important to you, vote for me, Democrat Rush Darwish for Congress.

– Posted by Rich Miller  


Pritzker warns of “gathering storm for people who are headed in the wrong direction”

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* The governor spoke with reporters in Chicago today. Here’s the raw audio…

* Most of the questions were McClain-related…

This McClain email is emblematic of a culture that has been poisonous in Springfield for far too long. Those who protect the culture, those who tolerate it, those who promote it, well, they’ll have to answer for their role in it. […]

If an investigator contacts someone and asks them to cooperate, they should cooperate. Not put a smug grin on their face and laugh about not cooperating like Mike McClain did. And furthermore, anyone who thinks that it’s OK to talk about these things [rape and ghost payrolling] like they’re in a crime syndicate doesn’t belong in Springfield anymore. We need change.

* There was also this exchange…

Reporter 1: Are you saying that if the feds asked Mike McClain to cooperate against Mike Madigan that he should?

Pritzker: I think anybody that is interviewed by an investigatory body should be forthcoming with the information that they have. […]

Every person in Springfield needs to take a good hard look at themselves and ask what their role has been in creating this culture, the availability in engaging in corruption, the culture that I’m talking about that’s so poisonous. […]

Whether you’re a leader, or a member, or a lobbyist or anybody engaged in that Springfield culture, you gotta ask yourself what direction you’re taking things, or what you’ve done to contribute to it or what you’re doing to alleviate the concerns that voters and the rest of us have about this culture and the corruption.

* Last excerpt…

I think there is a gathering storm for people who are headed in the wrong direction, the people who created this culture, the people who are contributing to it. As you know there are investigatory bodies involved just in this McClain email, including a former federal prosecutor our OEIG, including a prosecutor leading the state police… including a prosecutor in Champaign County that are all engaged in rooting out what’s involved in this particular matter with Mike McClain. And then there’s the broader matter which obviously the federal government and the FBI are looking into. So we’re going to know a lot more in short order. […]

Nobody belongs in Springfield who is engaging in this kind of corruption.

– Posted by Rich Miller  


You can’t know if something works until you test it

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* Tribune…

Despite previously saying she had the City Council votes and wanted to move forward on a plan to allow people to smoke weed in Chicago tobacco shops, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will not present the ordinance to the City Council this week, her administration said Tuesday.

The mayor’s team will head to Springfield to try to get state lawmakers to make several changes to the laws governing where people can publicly smoke cannabis, which could delay the implementation for several months or longer as the amendments make their way through the legislature.

That will leave many Chicagoans without anywhere to legally smoke weed they purchase in dispensaries, since landlords can prohibit tenants from smoking in the apartments they rent and smoking is not legal on sidewalks or in cars. […]

Lightfoot’s City Council floor leader, Ald. Gilbert Villegas, 36th, said aldermen raised “a whole bunch of concerns” about the way the state rules and the mayor’s plan were designed. It could take until February or March at the earliest before state lawmakers act on those changes, Villegas said.

“At the earliest” is right. Lawmakers rarely favor reopening laws they just passed unless it’s for technical changes. That’s what they did with cannabis in November and it’s one reason why the mayor’s casino bill went nowhere during the veto session.

Easing the public consumption laws by lowering the start-up fees, expanding the cigar bar alternative, deleting the 1500-feet between shops mandate, etc. could take a lot of time or never pass. Remember, the bill passed last year because it didn’t have those things. The taxes fund the program, lots of legislators feared looser public consumption rules and they absolutely didn’t want to create dense cannabis shop clusters like they’ve had in Denver and California.

This is how the Statehouse works. Pretty much the only way to pass a sweeping new law is to load it up with restrictions or tack on a sunset date to convince the squeamish to go along – and there’s a lot of squeamish people in the General Assembly. And then they wait to see if all heck breaks loose before easing up a bit.

Think about the civil unions path toward marriage equality. There have been exceptions (death penalty abolition being one), but those exceptions tend to prove the rule.

* I’m not saying that Chicago can’t possibly make some changes. But the city needs to stop delaying its own local actions while it places demands on the state legislature that a majority of legislators are super-reluctant to pass so soon.

Thankfully, Mayor Lightfoot also said today that she plans to bring the cigar bar expansion ordinance to the floor next week, because, as mentioned in the headline, the only way legislators can see if something works or doesn’t work at the local level is if locals go ahead and try it out (and that goes for the casino as well). /rant

– Posted by Rich Miller  


More Pritzker interviews

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* From Greg Hinz’s interview of Gov. Pritzker…

In a phone interview, Pritzker referenced only in passing some of last year’s accomplishments, from raising the state’s minimum wage to enacting a $45 billion capital plan and strengthening abortion rights. He said he’ll begin year two by focusing on a bit of advice from one of his GOP predecessors, Jim Edgar, to enact a balanced state budget—in Pritzker’s case, for the second year in a row.

“We’ve got to keep on with our progress,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more to accomplish.” […]

The governor was a little more specific on his graduated income tax amendment, again dangling the possibility of guaranteeing that a greater share of the proceeds will go to pay off the state’s huge pension debt. Pritzker has offered $200 million a year, but in our chat said, “It could be more.” […]

The governor also indicated that Mayor Lori Lightfoot and he are in agreement on proposed legislation designed to revive a proposed Chicago casino. Lightfoot needs some of the revenue from the gambling center to pay pension costs, and Pritzker needs some for debt service on his capital plan. The two officials “have a common understanding” about what should be in the bill, but they’re not the only interested parties in the Capitol, Pritzker said.

That’s good news about the casino. Those two absolutely must be on the same page for this to have any chance.

* From Bernie’s interview of Gov. Pritzker…

On property taxes, Republicans have complained that a task force on the issue hasn’t taken their ideas seriously.

“Many legislators on both sides regularly contact me to talk to me about their ideas for lowering property taxes,” Pritzker said, “so I have heard many of the ideas already.” He said he would be “happy to listen” to GOP proposals.

But, he said, he did a lot over the course of the year to alleviate the burden on local property taxes including raising state school funding. The pension consolidation bill for downstate police and fire pension systems also ultimately will save “billions of dollars,” he said. The savings are expected to come through better returns and less administrative costs when about 650 local pension funds are consolidated into two for investment purposes.

Despite some continued differences with Republicans, Pritzker said his ability to work with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle “probably stands in stark contrast to the national stage, and to my predecessor.” He was referring to President Donald Trump and former GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, whose battles with Democrats led to more than two years without a state budget in place.

The property tax burden is around $30 billion a year. He did a bit more than nibble around the edges, but lots more needs to be done.

– Posted by Rich Miller  


It’s just a bill

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* Kurt Erickson at the Post-Dispatch…

When Deborah Bruyette imagines a world where it is 5 p.m. in Missouri, but 6 o’clock in Illinois, she doesn’t like it.

“That’s a no go. It would just throw everything off,” said Bruyette, a Freeburg resident who works at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.

The idea of having Missouri and Illinois in different time zones is circulating after the Illinois Senate approved legislation earlier this year that would make daylight saving time the standard in Illinois.

Although the proposal still needs approval in the Illinois House, as well as the signature of the governor and an OK from the federal government, it has residents and business owners on both sides of the Mississippi River thinking how it might affect their lives.

* Ben Orner at Capitol News Illinois…

Sex education in Illinois middle and high schools would be required to include a discussion on sexting if a bill introduced in the state House of Representatives becomes law.

House Bill 4007, introduced by Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, would require sex education curriculum in grades 6-12 to include material on the legal and social risks of sharing sexually explicit images, messages and videos.

“This is something that a lot of our students are dealing with and are partaking in without really understanding what the consequences could be,” West said.

* Cole Lauterbach at The Center Square…

After hearing reports of first responders losing life insurance coverage after getting anti-overdose drugs for work, an Illinois lawmaker wants to prohibit such cancellations.

State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, said she didn’t know that there was a coverage issue until a resident of her district reached out.

“A constituent had been denied life insurance when she had the prescription because she is a first responder,” McDermed said. “When we investigated, we found out that this is an issue and that a number of states have already acted legislatively to address the issue.”

Her legislation, filed last week, would bar life insurance providers from denying coverage or dropping a contract for a first responder solely because that person got a prescription for an opioid antagonist, the most common being naloxone or Narcan.

Then the story goes on to describe the bill, but the full text is actually silent on first responders. Here’s the summary…

Prohibits a life insurance company from denying coverage to an individual, limiting the amount, extent, or kind of coverage available to the individual, or charging an individual or group to which the individual belongs a different rate solely because the individual has been prescribed or has obtained through a standing order an opioid antagonist.


It’s a law that’s been on the books in Illinois for more than 50 years, but State Representative John Cabello is looking to have the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act repealed.

The 68th district Republican filed House Bill 4067 which would eliminate the law that requires all Illinois residents to apply for a FOID card in order to legally possess or purchase guns or ammunition in the state.. Those in favor of FOID cards say it helps keep Illinoians safe because the application process includes a background check. But Cabello argues that FOID cards are needed in just three other states: Hawaii.. New Jersey and Massachusetts. So why is it needed in Illinois.

“For me it’s seems like it’s just another road block for law abiding citizens,” said Cabello. “Criminals are never going to go out and get what they need because they’re criminals. It’s just one more layer of government. I think right now there is a 62,000 back log of people trying to get their FOID or renew their FOID. It’s a problem that we’ve had for a long time. “

* Aaron Gettinger at the Hyde Park Herald…

Hyde Park-Kenwood’s state representatives have long been vocal about the need to refine Illinois’ legalization of marijuana, and both introduced legislation to that end late last year that may be considered in the legislature’s spring session.

On Dec. 27, State Rep. Curtis Tarver II (D-25th), who represents Hyde Park east of Ellis Avenue and southern Kenwood east of Woodlawn Avenue, filed House Bill (HB) 4009, which would amend the Juvenile Court Act to expunge law enforcement records of people who committed cannabis-related violations before turning 18.

His bill would also require law enforcement agencies to allow access, review and confirmation of automatic expungement. Circuit court clerks would similarly expunge people’s juvenile court records. […]

In November, Buckner introduced HB 3953, the Cannabis Banking and Credit Union Act, which would create state-licensed financial institutions to provide banking services to cannabis businesses.

– Posted by Rich Miller  


Pritzker vows again to straighten out the DCFS mess

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* Gov. Pritzker set aside about ten minutes for interviews with some political reporters last week. I’ll have more on my interview for subscribers tomorrow. Hannah Meisel decided to focus on DCFS…

In an interview with The Daily Line last week, Pritzker touted $128 million in new granted to DCFS in the current year’s budget, along with efforts to hire more frontline agency workers to both investigate claims of abuse and neglect and at the agency’s so-called “front door” — its overworked hotline.

But some changes are slower than others. Pritzker said thousands of DCFS employees are being retrained on his watch.

“Don’t think that’s a small thing,” Pritzker said. “That takes time and effort and expense and we’re doing all of that. We’ve replaced personnel. We put in new policies and procedures. And, very importantly, we have outside advisors and monitors that are helping us to figure out what more needs to be done…Because this is maybe the important thing that government does it protect the most vulnerable people, the defenseless people in our society and the kids who are in the DCFS system, as well as the many who don’t get identified to DCFS.”

The governor also pointed to an uptick in reports to DCFS as evidence the agency is beginning to turn around. Agency officials told The Daily Line that DCFS investigated 5,000 more claims of abuse and neglect in the 2019 fiscal year as compared with 2018.

Pritzker acknowledged the dismal numbers and conclusions published in DCFS Inspector General Meryl Paniak’s annual report earlier this month, in which Paniak and her staff found that 123 children died in the 2019 fiscal year even after DCFS had prior contact with the child or families. Additionally, Paniak confirmed to The Daily Line last week that in the first half of the 2020 fiscal year, 56 children DCFS had prior contact with had died.

“We have a lot to work on at DCFS itself,” Pritzker said. “Some of it is what was elevated in the OEIG report, which was very important. These are challenges DCFS has had for years…It is the hollowing out of government over a number of years prior to my becoming governor that has led to the tragedies that we’re now seeing.”

* More on the DCFS angle from Shia Kapos’ interview…

It’s no surprise Pritzker is pivoting toward efforts to improve the lives of children. In the private sector, he supported education at every level.

During his first year in Springfield, the governor said worrying about children under the care of the embattled Department of Children and Family Services is what kept him up at night. “They deserve better,” he said. A recent report notes 123 children who had contact with the department in 2019 had died.

* Matt Hopf at the Quincy Herald-Whig…

An inspector general’s investigation into Illinois’ child welfare agency after the October 2018 deaths of two Quincy children found multiple lapses in the department’s ongoing investigation with the family that started more than six months before the blaze.

This includes an investigator with the Department of Children and Family Services not going inside the home at 611 N. Eighth for a required visual inspection and multiple failures in following up in the case.

After the Oct. 12, 2018, fire that killed Toby Brewer, 8, and Emma Kramer, 5, fire officials found extension cords hand-spliced together with masking tape, including one placed under a mattress, which were later determined to be the cause of the fire.

The family was supposed to vacate the home in September 2018 and was squatting there. There was no electricity or other utilities to the home, and the extension cords were used to receive electricity from a neighboring home.

One of the family’s two other children later told fire investigators that the cords would “snap and pop and smoke” and that they would hold the cords over their heads until the popping stopped.

– Posted by Rich Miller  


I stand by my story

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* Um…

Sunday can’t come soon enough for state senators who will gather in Springfield that day to elect a new Senate president. There was buzz Monday fueled by blogger Rich Miller and WCIA reporter Mark Maxwell that state Sen. Elgie Sims was backing out of the race and endorsing Kimberly Lightford over Don Harmon. But a source close to Sims tells Playbook he’s still deciding. So we wait.

First of all, Lightford herself told Maxwell that Sims was backing her. The interview is not online yet, so I asked Mark for the transcript…

Mark Maxwell: Do you have the support of Senator Sims?

Senator Kim Lightford: I do.

MM: That seems like a significant development.

KL: It is. Senator Sims is a capable member of our caucus. I’m honored to have received his support.

MM: What got him across the line?

KL: I think he just realized that I’m the person to lead the caucus in a new direction with a lot of creativity, a lot of new ideas on how we can collectively come together and collaborate. He and I just spoke about it a number of times as we’ve been campaigning along the way. I’m just really glad that he’s decided that I would be a better fit for it for the race.

MM: Can we presume that means he’s bringing a few votes along with him?

KL: I’m not certainly sure about the level of support the Senator has arrived at, but I know for he and I, we have a good understanding of where he wants to be.

And I talked to Sims and the Senator told me he’s endorsing Lightford.

– Posted by Rich Miller  


McClain roundup

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* Kristen McQueary spent some time going through lobbyist expenditure reports and then wrote about several legislators who had meals with Mike McClain…

His lobbyist expenditure reports show a long list of regular breakfast, lunch, drink and dinner companions at Springfield bars and restaurants. Honestly, he should have put up a sleeping cot at Saputo’s or Sangamo Club and skipped the walk to his hotel each night. Would have been more efficient.

He actually had an apartment in town. But, she’s right, he was out and about every day. And he was one of those people who refused to allow anyone else to pick up a tab. Wait staff would always side with him because he brought in so much business. The only exception was Speaker Madigan, who almost never allows anyone to buy his meals.


Of course there’s nothing wrong with lobbyists taking lawmakers to dinner. It’s what they do.

But the trail of relationship-building shows why all of Springfield suffered a wave of nausea when the Tribune first reported that the feds had raided McClain’s house and recorded his phone conversations. It’s why so many players in Springfield are tiptoeing along the marble corridors of the Capitol and nibbling their fingernails.

McClain was Madigan’s guy. That gave McClain power. It gave him access. He knew everybody. He worked with everybody.

It must be isolating to be McClain now. Because nobody wants to be linked to Mr. Everybody.

* Press release excerpt from the Illinois Democratic Women and Chicago NOW….

It is time to shine a bright light on why Mike McClain had so much political power in Springfield. McClain emailed two of the most senior officials in state government referencing rape and a coverup as well as ghost payrolling without fear of any negative consequence. McClain’s email is further evidence of unscrupulous behavior in our state capital which harms women and everyone who calls Illinois home. The women of Illinois will no longer tolerate this kind of abuse of power within our political system. McClain’s actions and those who have enabled him put our state’s future at risk. The time is up on this toxic culture in Springfield.

* From Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria) on yesterday’s collateral damage…

John Sullivan is one of the very best legislators that I have ever had the privilege to serve with in the legislature. What he brought to the Senate and then as director of Ag was a true public service mindset and a desire to do right. As a farmer – legislator, he brought a unique perspective that made a difference for the people he represented and for the State of Illinois. John was the perfect person for the governor to choose as his Ag Department Director. His leaving that office is a loss for the state.

* Related…

* WBEZ: Pritzker’s Agriculture Secretary Resigns In Fallout From ‘Rape In Champaign’ Email

* Sun-Times: Pritzker’s agriculture chief ousted over ‘rape’ email he now says he ‘simply did not read’ in its entirety

* WGN: Pritzker’s Dept. of Agriculture director out following email scandal

* AP: Ag chief resigns over email controversy

* Tribune: Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s agriculture chief resigns over his handling of ‘rape in Champaign’ email, governor’s office says

* Capitol News Illinois: Sullivan resigns as ag director at governor’s request

* Center Square: Pritzker fires Illinois Ag Director who knew of 2012 ‘rape in Champaign’ email

* Telegraph: Elik wants Bristow to comment on 2012 email

– Posted by Rich Miller  


Happy anniversary!

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* Illinois Policy Institute…

“Michael Madigan: Elected without fuss.”

So reads one Illinois newspaper caption from Jan. 13, 1983, the day after Madigan’s peers in the General Assembly elected him speaker of the House for the first time. The choice was easy. Madigan had recently redrawn Illinois’ legislative maps, which meant many lawmakers in part owed their jobs to the 40-year-old from Chicago’s Southwest Side.

Madigan has now held that speaker’s gavel for 35 of the last 37 years.

The state’s median age is 37 years old, meaning one man has served as speaker for the vast majority of most Illinoisans’ lives. No legislative leader in American history has held power for longer.

What were you (or your parents) doing in January of 1983?

– Posted by Rich Miller  


Open thread

Tuesday, Jan 14, 2020

* I’ve been trying to pull together some longish posts on a few topics and finally looked at the time. Oops. So, talk amongst yourselves, but be nice to each other and keep the conversation Illinois-centric. Thanks.

– Posted by Rich Miller  


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