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Judge tosses Rauner-backed Illinois redistricting referendum from ballot – Chicago Tribune

20 Jul

A Cook County judge on Wednesday tossed from the ballot a proposed state constitutional amendment aimed at removing much of the politics from legislative redistricting.

Judge Diane Larsen found that the referendum question put forth by the Independent Maps group was written in a way that violates the Illinois Constitution. The ruling means that, as of now, the question won’t appear before voters Nov. 8.

The ruling hands an initial victory to forces with ties to Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has maintained his hold on power at the Capitol for more than three decades in part because he’s had the power to draw the boundaries of legislative districts. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Madigan’s chief nemesis, supports the ballot question.

The issue isn’t over, however, as both sides in the case expect it will wind up before the Illinois Supreme Court because the ruling hinged on whether the proposal fits the small window for petition-driven initiatives changing the state’s primary governing document.

Backers of the map proposal gathered enough signatures to qualify for a spot on the fall ballot. The amendment would create a complex, multistep process in which an 11-member board, including representatives of the four legislative leaders, would be charged with drawing new boundaries for Illinois’ 118 House and 59 Senate seats after the once-a-decade federal census.

Seven votes would be needed for approval of a new map, including at least two members from each political party and three independents.

Currently, it’s up to the legislature to redraw district boundaries, creating a winner-take-all mapmaking process for either Democrats, as is currently the case, or Republicans in previous decades.

The Illinois Constitution only allows petition-driven amendments that affect “structural” and “procedural” changes to the legislature.

Supporters argued altering the mapmaking process fit the very definition of structural and procedural change. But opponents questioned the validity of the proposal since it would assign new duties to the state auditor general and Supreme Court — issues outside the scope of the legislative article of the constitution. The auditor general and Supreme Court’s duties are assigned in separate articles of the governing document.

Larsen agreed with the opponents’ argument.

The Independent Map group has raised more than $4 million, including $500,000 each from Allstate Insurance and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, a charitable trust established after the death of the longtime editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune that promotes civic engagement.

Other donors include $225,000 from wealthy businessman Lester Crown and $100,000 each from Citadel hedge fund founder Ken Griffin and Sam Zell, the businessman who acquired Tribune Co. only to have the media firm file for bankruptcy not long afterward.

The People’s Map, a group of prominent racial and ethnic businessmen, are leading the legal challenge to the map with Michael Kasper serving as their lead lawyer. Kasper is legal counsel for the state Democratic Party and a longtime ally of its chairman, Speaker Madigan.

Madigan aides have said the speaker is not involved in the lawsuit. State Board of Elections records show the People’s Map as having no donations or expenditures since 2015.

The only petition-driven initiative to make the ballot, and ultimately succeed, was the “Cutback Amendment” offered by Pat Quinn decades before he became governor. The amendment, which took effect with the 1982 election, reduced the size of the Illinois House from 177 members, three to a district, to 118 members running in single-member districts.

Some have contended Quinn’s proposal not only decreased competition for legislative seats but also enshrined more power in the four partisan leaders of the House and Senate over their members.

Source: Judge tosses Rauner-backed Illinois redistricting referendum from ballot – Chicago Tribune

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Gov. Bruce Rauner, you’ve proved Crain’s editorial board wrong – Opinion – Crain’s Chicago Business

26 Jun

Back in 2014, when Crain’s endorsed Bruce Rauner in the primary and general elections, we saw him as a pragmatic businessman who would bring long-overdue solutions to a state government in serious need of reform.

We agreed that a shake-up was most definitely in order, and we agreed with many of the ideas Rauner championed, including workers’ compensation reforms, fairer taxes, a sensible solution to the state’s pension crisis, less red tape, increased spending on education and reinvigorating the state’s economic development agency.

At the time, we were skeptical that the governor could accomplish much with a Democratic-controlled Legislature. But Rauner assured us that he’d dedicate himself to persuading his opponents—and he promised he would wield his executive powers to work around House Speaker Michael Madigan if he had to.

Madigan, of course, bears the lion’s share of responsibility for the mess Illinois is in, thanks to his decades in power. But Madigan is not the governor. Rauner is. And there’s no way to deny it: By nearly every measure, the state is worse off since Rauner took office. Pension liabilities now top $110 billion and are rising by the minute. The stack of unpaid bills is ballooning, turning Illinois into a notorious deadbeat. Vital social service agencies are being cut. Students are abandoning the state’s universities. Illinois’ credit rating hovers just above junk-bond range. We’re in Year Two without a budget—and the best hope for one is months away, after the Nov. 8 election.

In short, Illinois needs fixing more than ever. No matter how beneficial Rauner’s idea of reform might be for the state’s economy long term, what he’s doing to get there is not working.

Read More: Gov. Bruce Rauner, you’ve proved Crain’s editorial board wrong – Opinion – Crain’s Chicago Business

Morning Spin: Rauner spells out what it would take to cut budget deal with Democrats – Chicago Tribune

21 Jun

Gov. Bruce Rauner typically has been unwilling to offer specifics about what he would accept as concessions from Democrats for a grand bargain on the state budget.

For more than a year, his requirements often have been presented vaguely as some combination of the items in his turnaround agenda, which includes new limits on workers’ compensation benefits, new rules for civil lawsuits, a property tax freeze coupled with provisions that allow local governments to decide what gets collectively bargained, term limits on elected officials and new rules for drawing political maps. Along the way, the governor has added to the mix a proposal to help fix the state’s pension problem.

Rauner visited Tribune Tower on Monday and offered a clearer picture of what he would accept.

Changes to the rules on civil lawsuits, commonly referred to as “tort reform” is “off the table, for now,” Rauner said.

“The biggies,” Rauner said, are changes to workers’ compensation, the property tax freeze with collective bargaining provisions and legislation to alleviate the pension problem. Asked if that would be enough for him to strike a deal with Democrats, Rauner said: “Yeah, sure.”

That Rauner has set his sights on those items is no secret. There are working groups of lawmakers debating those topics now, and he’s focused much of his public comments on the three items in recent weeks. Still, it was the first time we’ve heard Rauner say specifically what would satisfy his general call for “reforms” alongside a budget deal that includes spending cuts and tax hikes.

Rauner’s answer might provide more clarity to casual observers of the budget impasse, but it’s unlikely to motivate Democratic lawmakers, who say they’ve lost trust in the governor because of his shifting rhetoric over the past year. Also, many Democrats are opposed to the workers’ compensation and collective bargaining proposals, which they contend would hurt the middle class. (Kim Geiger)

Source: Morning Spin: Rauner spells out what it would take to cut budget deal with Democrats – Chicago Tribune

Rauner: GOP could lose seats in fall, turn Madigan into Illinois ‘dictator’ – Chicago Tribune

21 Jun

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner said Monday he is “going to run again” in 2018, but acknowledged Democrats could pick up Illinois House seats in November and warned that could turn Speaker Michael Madigan into “the dictator of the state.”

During a far-reaching interview with the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, Rauner also suggested Mayor Rahm Emanuel was not strong enough to stand up to the Chicago Teachers Union and said a teachers strike or allowing Chicago Public Schools to file bankruptcy was needed to turn around the financially struggling district.

Rauner’s comments came as he stepped up his media appearances with Illinois approaching one full year without a state budget, a historic stalemate in which he has sought to use his bully pulpit against what he called Democratic “mouthpieces” angled against him.

The first-term governor is pushing a six-month stopgap spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1, as well as a full-year education funding plan Democrats contend does little for what CPS says is a $1 billion deficit. Rauner has spent recent weeks asking the media’s “viewers,” “listeners” and “readers” to contact lawmakers to back his legislation.

Source: Rauner: GOP could lose seats in fall, turn Madigan into Illinois ‘dictator’ – Chicago Tribune

Rauner claim of pension deal quickly shot down by Madigan, Cullerton – Chicago Tribune

21 Jan

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner once again attempted to triangulate the Democratic legislative leaders he has been warring with in Springfield, announcing Thursday that he had struck a deal with Senate President John Cullerton on pension legislation while blasting House Speaker Michael Madigan as “unreasonable” and “irresponsible.”

But the claim of a deal was immediately rejected by Cullerton, who said in a statement that the pension legislation outlined by Rauner “goes beyond what we discussed and beyond what I support.”

Rauner, who is less than a week away from delivering a state of the state address while he presides over a government that has gone seven months without a budget, summoned reporters to his 16th-floor office at the Thompson Center in Chicago to announce what he billed as a “first step” “in the spirit of compromise.”

Rauner said he was dusting off and endorsing pension legislation that Cullerton had first proposed years ago. But there was a catch: Rauner said he wants the legislation altered to exempt salary increases from collective bargaining rights.

The governor said Cullerton had agreed to that change, but Cullerton disagreed.

“The governor called me this morning to say he was going to back my ideas for pension reform,” Cullerton said in a statement. “The plan he outlined at his news conference isn’t what we talked about. It’s not my plan. It goes beyond what we discussed and beyond what I support.”

Madigan also weighed in, saying in a statement that he was opposed to the proposal, and even going so far as to speak for Cullerton.

“Despite the governor’s desire to drive a wedge between Democrats in the House and Senate, neither President Cullerton nor I will agree to make changes proposed by the Governor that will hurt the middle-class families of our state,” Madigan said.

Source: Rauner claim of pension deal quickly shot down by Madigan, Cullerton – Chicago Tribune

Draft document suggests rank-and-file budget compromise | POLITICO

17 Nov

CHICAGO — Illinois’ top leaders may not be able to find common ground on a budget, but rank-and-file legislators did reach a working compromise last month that took on some of the main issues now dividing the state Legislature.A document obtained by POLITICO shows that a bicameral, bipartisan group of lawmakers had reached far more consensus over the state’s budget impasse than their leaders.That included putting on the table a personal and corporate income tax increase, a controversial proposal to consider taxing retirement income over $50,000 and “allow (but not require) all school districts to bargain over 3rd party contracting, layoffs, class size, school year & technology (like CPS).”The confidential draft also laid out the possibility of “substantial workers compensation reform” and property tax freezes — both items that Gov. Bruce Rauner has said are must-haves for him to approve more revenue. House Speaker Mike Madigan has repeatedly said the budget should be decided separate from such issues, and has cast the governor as holding “extreme” anti-union positions that his caucuses cannot support.The working group had started as a group of female legislators, then broadened to include male lawmakers.Ultimately, Democrats said they were willing to compromise on the issues outlined in the document, but Republicans raised it up the flagpole and the governor’s office pushed back, saying it did include sufficient reforms, two lawmakers tell POLITICO.Still, those involved said the group’s discussions indicate much more room for movement than what the state has seen so far on its budget impasse.“There is definitely enough to work with for both sides to reach a compromise,” Republican state Rep. Karen McConnaughay of St. Charles told POLITICO. “That really represents the desire on everybody’s part to have movement.” Both sides say the document reflects what both parties could live with moving forward, though neither side considered it ideal.“It’s not a take-it-or leave it plan. It’s here’s a possible path forward, we’ve got to end this,” said state Sen. Heather Steans,a Democrat who represents parts of Chicago. “We’re destroying our state right now. All of our constituents want us to end this. We’re saying: here’s what an agreement would look like, you don’t like this one, come up with one you do like. Come up with an agreement. This is rank and file saying they need to get to an agreement.”Steans and McConnaughay were careful to note their leaders had not signed off on the ideas.“All you’re looking at is a menu of ideas that a variety of rank-and-file legislators were discussing. The group got as far as it could in terms of identifying ideas without getting more ideas from their caucuses and their leaders,” McConnaughay said.View the document here:

Source: Draft document suggests rank-and-file budget compromise | POLITICO

Rauner sticks to union-weakening demand to end stalemate – Chicago Tribune

8 Oct

Gov. Bruce Rauner restated his demand Wednesday that weakening the collective bargaining rights of public workers must be part of a deal to end the political stalemate that has kept Illinois without a budget since July 1.But House Speaker Michael Madigan, who controls the Democratic majority in the chamber, renewed his long-standing call for the Republican governor to focus on the budget and not on issues that would create “a lower standard of living for middle-class families.”The comments by Rauner, speaking at the annual luncheon of the Southland Chamber of Commerce, and a statement issued by Madigan showed there has been no visible progress in Illinois’ gridlocked government as many social service agencies are having financial problems.Upward of 90 percent of services are being funded largely by court order, and state spending is at the same rate as last year. Couple that with the January rollback of a state income tax hike, and the state is on a path to a potential $8.5 billion deficit in the current budget year.In his speech, Rauner contended that a change in collective bargaining inside government “is not a radical idea and it is not a partisan idea.” The governor said Democrats across the country have made union-weakening rules, including in Illinois by allowing the outsourcing of Chicago Public Schools janitors and the elimination of CPS union teachers’ ability to negotiate over longer school hours.”It’s not about Republicans versus Democrats. It’s about good government. It’s about making sure tax dollars go to education, economic growth, tourism marketing and services for the most vulnerable — not to expensive government bureaucracy,” Rauner said.Gov. Bruce RaunerGov. Bruce Rauner arrives Oct. 7, 2015, for a speech at the Southland Chamber of Commerce. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)”It’s time we in Illinois get serious about collective bargaining reform and unfunded mandate relief in government. It’s a critical bipartisan issue where we can find common ground. Getting rid of unfunded mandates and giving decision-making authority on bargaining, bidding and contracting back to local communities,” he said.Rauner repeatedly has pushed for legislation giving local governments and school districts the option of collectively bargaining with unions over wages and other working conditions. He also has pushed to end communities having to pay prevailing union wage rates to construction firms working on public projects.Those issues are part of his proposal to freeze local property taxes. But Democrats, with strong allies in organized labor, have approved only a local property tax freeze with no changes to collective bargaining.Rauner also said the only way to “guarantee” saving $750 million in state worker group health insurance costs as part of a plan pushed by Democrats would be to have lawmakers vote to remove unions from negotiating health insurance coverage in collective bargaining.The governor also touted $1 billion savings each for state and local governments if lawmakers changed public employee pensions by basing it on whether workers give up the right to have future pay hikes included in their retirement calculations.Rauner once again said Democrats, who have supermajorities in the House and Senate, should either negotiate with him and minority Republicans or pass a tax increase and override his veto. Rauner has made union-weakening provisions in state law a precondition for considering a tax increase.”Please choose now. Choose now. Time’s up. Let’s be reasonable. The people of Illinois have been waiting long enough,” Rauner said.

More: Rauner sticks to union-weakening demand to end stalemate – Chicago Tribune

Rauner, Madigan made the same mistake in Illinois budget battle – Miller – Crain’s Chicago Business

5 Oct

What’s happening in Springfield might best be explained by World War I.

We have an invading army (Gov. Bruce Rauner) aggressively marching right over one enemy (former Gov. Pat Quinn) before slamming headlong into trench warfare (legislative Democrats led by House Speaker Michael Madigan).

Now, before anybody gets their kerchiefs in a bundle, I’m not at all saying that Rauner actually is Kaiser Wilhelm II nor implying that the Democrats are the French, although Quinn most definitely was Belgium. OK, that was a joke. I’m just attempting to use a broad historical analogy here. No offense intended to Belgians.

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As with the Great War, we’ve seen monumental blunders on both sides. To start with, the Democrats completely misjudged the man who beat Quinn.

In 2002, Rauner and his wife hosted a fundraiser at their home for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. After introducing Boxer, the future governor launched into a long tirade about how labor unions were wrecking the nation, according to an acquaintance of mine who helped organize the event.

Being anti-union is core to Rauner’s existence. But he didn’t bash unions during his general election campaign, so the Democrats did not anticipate that the “real” Rauner would re-emerge.

Better intelligence about the new governor could have made a difference. Perhaps then the Democrats wouldn’t have expected Rauner to care or even notice that their party often had passed bills that were strongly opposed by public employee unions and that the trade unions (plumbers, sheet metal workers, operating engineers, etc.) didn’t much like those other unions, either.

Instead, Rauner caught them completely off guard, spending months touring the state after his inauguration demanding that the General Assembly approve a “right to work” law. As Senate President John Cullerton recently said on “Chicago Tonight,” the governor made it more difficult to reach an agreement because he firmly united all unions. Democrats, with their most important and most loyal constituencies completely up in arms, feel they can’t even make smallish deals.

When Rauner demanded that the Democrats let the “temporary” 2011 income tax hike lapse right after the election, they complied, figuring they eventually would cut a budget deal with Rauner that would have to include some additional taxes. They had no idea that the political neophyte would block a state budget unless his pro-business/anti-union agenda was approved.

Rauner has totally misjudged the Democrats, believing they would abandon the unions when poor people started losing state services. That hasn’t happened, partly because state and federal judges have ordered so much state spending, and partly because poor people don’t fund Democratic campaigns and most don’t vote Republican anyway.

The Great War ended when the kaiser feared that the same sort of revolution he had helped foment in Russia would happen to him.

Both sides in Springfield have been doing pretty much the same thing to each other.

More: Rauner, Madigan made the same mistake in Illinois budget battle – Miller – Crain’s Chicago Business

Rauner warns lawmakers on budget: Longer it takes, more painful it becomes – Chicago Tribune

18 Sep

With lawmakers away from the Capitol for most of September, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday sent a memo reminding them that the longer the budget stalemate continues, the worse the cuts or possible tax increase will be.

“The unfortunate truth is the longer we take to resolve our issues, the more painful the choices we must face will become. The cuts we will have to make become deeper and what we ask of taxpayers will be steeper,” Rauner warned in the letter.

The governor argued the patchwork of court rulings that has kept money flowing made clear that the Democratic budget he vetoed “was not workable” as even without a full spending plan the state continues to spend billions more than it’s taking in.

Rauner then made yet another pitch for his agenda of business-friendly, union-weakening changes that largely have been rejected by ruling Democrats, saying “the structural deficit caused by years of fiscal neglect is simply too large to close without accompanying legislative changes to mandatory spending categories.”

His plans call for toughening eligibility standards for injured employees seeking workers’ compensation benefits, limiting prevailing wages for union workers and overhauling the civil lawsuit process to cut down on big payouts. Rauner also wants to lift mandates on schools that require they provide physical education or driver’s education and to ease restrictions on what contractors they can use for things like janitorial services.

Rauner’s team included a letter supporting those efforts sent from a group representing the state’s largest school districts. But there was no mention by the group of Rauner’s other proposals to link a property tax freeze to curbing collective bargaining rights of teachers and other workers or limiting prevailing wage on school construction projects. A spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, was quick to dismiss the governor’s latest missive.

“His demands don’t save the state a dime but could cost some middle-class workers everything,” Cullerton spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon said. “He continues to hold the budget hostage to demands that will disproportionately harm the working families. Meanwhile, the bills are piling up and our bond rating is threatened.”

“What’s the value of having a leader who claims he can run government like a business when the cost of doing business is only increasing under his leadership?” Phelon added.

Rauner insists his proposals are about long-term savings for state and local governments.

“To claim structural reforms are ‘non-budget items’ is like claiming crude oil is a ‘non-automobile item’ simply because a car is primarily made of iron, aluminum, plastic, steel, rubber and glass. This, of course, disregards that gasoline literally fuels the car, a key component of what makes it work,” Rauner wrote.

The memo follows a Wednesday decision by Comptroller Leslie Munger to pay for early-intervention services for children with developmental disabilities. Providers had not been paid during the impasse and some were preparing to end services, but Munger said her attorneys decided providers should receive money under an earlier court decision.

Meanwhile, another judge ordered that the state must pay for home care services for seniors, saying the program falls under a decades-old consent decree aimed at protecting Medicare services for the poor.

Source: Rauner warns lawmakers on budget: Longer it takes, more painful it becomes – Chicago Tribune

Under fire, Democrat lawmakers file legislation to stop own pay hike

28 Jul

House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, filed legislation on Tuesday that would prohibit lawmakers from getting a scheduled pay hike.

The move comes as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner rallies against the pay increase as the budget impasse reaches it’s nearly one-month mark.

The legislation filed Tuesday would stop lawmakers’ getting their automatic cost-of-living increase that would boost their salaries 2 percent — or nearly $1,400 in addition to their $68,000 base legislative salary.

Republicans have attempted to pass such legislation.

On Twitter Tuesday, Rep. Ron Sandack, R- Downers Grove, said: “House Reps tried for TWO weeks to advance our bill to suspend the Dems’ COLA raise. My, how things change, yes? #Duh”

And Rauner’s spokesman, Lance Trover, said in a statement, “As we approach the end of the month, Speaker Madigan and the politicians he controls have one final chance to side with Republicans and make a clean up or down vote on stopping themselves from getting an automatic pay increase.”

Madigan previously would not comment on the raises. But last week he told reporters the pay raise wasn’t in his spending plan.

“We did not appropriate for the pay raise or the COLA adjustment,” Madigan said.

Democratic leaders and the governor have been unable to come up with a spending plan for the new fiscal year, which began July 1.

via Under fire, Democrat lawmakers file legislation to stop own pay hike.

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