Monday, May 25, 2015

Campaign-style tactics fueling Illinois legislative gridlock - Washington Times

 

SARA BURNETT - Associated Press - Sunday, May 24, 2015

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - An already challenging legislative session has grown even trickier as Democrats and Republicans have begun targeting lawmakers with campaign-style mailers, TV ads and new multimillion-dollar political committees.

The Democratic Party, led by House Speaker Michael Madigan, sent the first of what’s expected to be several mailers, telling voters last week that GOP lawmakers “failed” them on controlling property taxes, citing a vote orchestrated by Madigan. Meanwhile, Gov. Bruce Rauner dispensed $400,000 from his $20 million political fund to fellow Republicans, while a conservative group targeted Democrats in TV commercials.

Two political committees - one created to support Rauner’s agenda and another that plans to get involved in Democratic primaries - have banked about $13 million from a handful of wealthy donors since forming last month. Madigan recently held his annual fundraiser, and the state GOP has been sending fundraising pleas to supporters asking them to donate to support Rauner’s efforts.

“Clearly the political season has begun,” said state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake, one of the targeted Democrats.

While it’s not unheard of for political parties or interest groups to target lawmakers during a legislative session - even 18 months before Election Day - the activity is amped up this year as the election of a Republican governor brings a new dynamic to the Democrat-controlled Legislature. It’s unusual for a governor to so directly throw a bunch of money around, but Rauner sees it as simply counteracting what Democrats have done for a long time.

With lawmakers heading into the spring session’s final week, some legislators say the heightened politicking is making progress tougher on major issues such as a new state budget, a $111 billion pension crisis, reining in property taxes and weighing whether to expand gambling. And the session so far has become a huge test of political wills.

Campaign-style tactics fueling Illinois legislative gridlock - Washington Times

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Solution to electronics recycling crisis making headway in Springfield | The Herald-News

 

By LAUREN LEONE–CROSS - lleonecross@shawmedia.com

JOLIET — The effects of the state's electronics recycling crisis played out last weekend during Will County's Recyclepalooza event, where attendance was "overwhelming."

  • More than half of the 1,000 people surveyed at the event said they were there to drop off electronics, said Marta Keane, recycling program specialist and green business relations coordinator for the county's Resource Recovery & Energy Division.

    Most electronic devices — televisions and computers included — have been banned from Illinois landfills since 2012, so there is nowhere for them to go without these programs, Keane said. But last week's event was so overwhelming that county officials had to turn people away.

    "Never in our history have we had to turn people away," Keane said. "We had to close it down at 2 p.m. The last car was serviced after 5 p.m. The last [contractors'] truck pulled away at 9 p.m."

    The good news is that new legislation making its way through Springfield is aimed at saving underfunded electronics recycling programs statewide, Keane said.

    Short-term fix

    A key change to House Bill 1455 addresses a major issue faced by electronics manufacturers: The expensive process of shipping cathode ray tube glass — a toxic material used in old TVs and monitors — overseas or out of state.

    The bill also adjusts the funding formula used by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to determine how much manufacturers pay into these programs. If nothing is done, the steep cost of recycling could shift to consumers or local governments.

    Local and state officials and the Illinois Manufacturers Association are onboard with these changes, said Mark Denzler, vice president and chief operating officer for IMA.

    Solving the CRT glass issue

    Complicating matters is CRT glass, which is heavy and difficult to recycle.

    Most manufacturers ship CRT glass overseas or out of state due to the lack of certified CRT recycling facilities in the U.S., Keane said. The latest proposal provides manufacturers the cheaper option of sending the leaded material to Peoria Disposal Company, where it would be stored at a landfill until it could be properly recycled.

    “While we don't favor landfilling the material, we see this a crisis,” Keane said. “This is not a final fix. This is a Band-Aid fix.”

    The move is estimated to save costs to manufacturers. The stored material would also count toward recycling goals.

    The Illinois House and Senate passed resolutions earlier this month supporting the move, noting "stockpiles of abandoned CRT glass have been discovered at several former electronic waste processing facilities across the U.S."….

  • Read more by going to Page 2 on the following:  Solution to electronics recycling crisis making headway in Springfield | The Herald-News

    Jim Nowlan: The looming public unions strike in Illinois - The Daily Journal: Local Columnists

     

    From my distant vantage point, I foresee as inevitable a first-ever strike in July by state of Illinois public employee unions.

    There is just no way to bridge a chasm wide as the Grand Canyon between feisty GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is probably spoiling for a strike, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is the lead union in negotiations with the state that are on-going to replace a contract that expires July 1.

    I think Rauner wants to make a national name for himself as the governor who toppled the unions from their comfortable perches. He cannot do so in the union-friendly Democratic legislature so he will seek to break the backs of the unions via the collective bargaining process.

    If successful, he would indeed become a national political figure.

    Rauner already has gone to the federal court for a judgment in support of his efforts to stop public employee unions from exacting dues from workers who don't join the unions.

    The governor's role model in all this is undoubtedly President Ronald Reagan, who in 1981 momentously faced down the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization by replacing controllers who had struck illegally.

    Reagan's action subsequently hobbled unions across both the public and private sectors. They haven't been the same since.

    In Illinois, public employee unions, who represent about 95 percent of the state's 62,000 employees, have grown fat and sassy under sweetheart contracts negotiated during the past decade with Democratic governors who craved their votes and dollars.

    During this period, pay for unionized workers went up more than 50 percent while that for non-union supervisory employees actually went down as a result of a pay freeze combined with required unpaid furlough days.

    No wonder that thousands of supervisory employees migrated to union membership so they could earn as much as those they supervised.

    The unions also have used contract rules to tie state agency executives in knots. For example, agency executives find it almost impossible to recruit talent from outside union ranks.

    Union rules allow state employees to claim any open position on the basis of seniority. If the claimant is not qualified for the position, the state will provide training assistance for the employee.

    One non-union manager I know tried to promote a deserving employee to a better job — but because of required union postings of job openings and seniority, the wrong person got the job. This is not unusual.

    Rauner is itching to take back control, humble the unions and make a name for himself. How will he do it?

    I am guessing, in negotiations, Rauner's people will seek cuts in pay, the right to privatize state work, elimination of seniority, increased health-care premiums, and prohibitions on union membership for management employees.

    All of this, of course, is the equivalent of waving bright red capes in front of the bulls.

    Gov. Jim Thompson signed a collective bargaining law for state employees in 1983, which allows all but "essential" employees such as prison guards to strike. There has never been a major strike against the state of Illinois.

    I talked with old friend Michael LeRoy, a professor of labor relations at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and author of a book about collective bargaining.

    "Union leaders usually counsel their members against strikes," says LeRoy, "but there is often enormous pressure from the rank-and-file members to go out (on strike)."

    LeRoy sees AFSCME and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), another major state of Illinois union, as "hard bargainers" in behalf of their members.

    Though not an expert on labor negotiations, I predict the governor's final contract offer this summer will be unacceptable, even insulting, to AFSCME.

    This will set the stage for an "impasse" (in which further bargaining would be futile), a legal term in collective bargaining, along with that of "good faith bargaining." These terms of art typically end up being interpreted by the courts as applied to conflict situations such as this will certainly be.

    Rauner then will seek to implement his final offer, and in response AFSCME will go out on strike.

    This will mean war, and as such it will be bitter. Hold onto your hats.

    Jim Nowlan is a former Illinois legislator and aide to three unindicted governors, and he is the lead author of “Illinois Politics: A Citizen’s Guide” (University of Illinois Press, 2010, and co-author of "Fixing Illinois, University of Illinois Press, 2014). He can be contacted at jnowlan3@gmail.com.

    Jim Nowlan: The looming public unions strike in Illinois - The Daily Journal: Local Columnists

    Saturday, May 23, 2015

    Illinois prisons director resigns 2 months after taking job - Chicago Tribune

     

     

    Just two months into his tenure as Rauner's state prisons director, Donald Stolworthy resigns

    Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's state corrections director, who took over a crowded prison system just two months ago, has resigned, officials confirmed Friday.

    The governor's office gave no reason for the premature departure of Donald Stolworthy, named to the $150,228-a-year job on March 9.

    "At our request, he has agreed to help during the transition period to continue our transformation of the Department of Corrections while we identify the leader that will succeed him," Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement.

    Corrections Department spokeswoman Nicole Wilson said Stolworthy was "not available" for an interview Friday. She referred questions to Kelly.

    The 54-year-old Stolworthy, put in charge of penitentiaries designed for 32,000 prisoners but which hold 48,000, had come from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, where he assessed foreign prison systems and guided senior administration officials.

    l

    Stolworthy raised some eyebrows early on with a memo that said sick-time and overtime rules governing union employees were leading to unreasonable costs. The Springfield Bureau of Lee Enterprises newspapers reported in April that Stolworthy said contracts with bargaining units — such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — contribute to "many of the ills" in the agency.

    With a budget of over $1 billion, the agency beset by legal actions over health care and mental health treatment and continued criticism of inmates conditions must deal with the same bleak financial picture that all state government faces.

    Rauner and the General Assembly are entering the final week of the spring legislative session without agreement on a budget plan that faces a possible $6 billion deficit.

     

     

    "There's no money, and the cuts they may have to make they may not want to," Sen. David Luechtefeld, a southern Illinois Republican whose constituency includes thousands of prison workers, said of Rauner's cabinet. "Being a director right now is really difficult because you know that likely you're going to have to make a lot of cuts that you may not want to make."

    Filling the position requires the advice and consent of the Senate. Stolworthy had not been confirmed, but Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who is vice chairman of the Executive Appointments Committee, knew of no reason why it would have hit any snags. While he had not spoken to Stolworthy, Manar said the acting director had contacted him, but they'd not yet set an appointment.

    Luechtefeld says another transition "slows the process down," and Manar said the agency needs "stability" soon.

    AFSCME reacted to the Stolworthy memo by pointing out there wouldn't be so much overtime pay if there were more staff members. There were 16,200 employees in June 2000 compared to 11,200 in February, according to state figures maintained by The Associated Press. The union said on Friday it's also eager for a permanent chief.

    "All employees of the state prison system work around the clock to keep Illinois communities safe," AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said in a statement. "They deserve — and all Illinoisans should demand — committed, professional leadership of the Department of Corrections that is never subject to political influence."

    Click on the following for all of the story: Illinois prisons director resigns 2 months after taking job - Chicago Tribune

    Cash Penalties for Salary Spikes for near retirees

    What The Chicago Tribune failed to state is that some of these raises were in labor contracts and/or individual administrator’s contacts prior to enactment of the law and as such must be paid.

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    This information is available at: 

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/ct-search-for-cash-penalties-at-your-school-district-database-pension-20150522-htmlstory.html

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    Friday, May 22, 2015

    Mr. Walberg passes Rauner’s Turnaround as requested

    Cathy Ward

    May 20 at 10:17pm · Edited ·

    BOONE COUNTY BOARD, following the advice of chair Bob Walberg voted tonight (Wednesday night) to support Ill. Gov. Rauner's "Turn Illinois Around" plan by a vote of 7-4 with board member Karl Johnson abstaining - despite the pleas to vote no from of a standing room only crowd of union members from industry, education, and law enforcement. The only board members voting no were Kenny Freeman, Sherry Branson, Craig Schultz and me. While I agree we need changes in Illinois, as u...nion members eloquently noted, this plan needs to be revised to help all our people. Very passionate night for many with strong statements, applause for the unions, and dozens of unhappy people leaving the meeting. I'm sure there is more to come on this. Those voting for Walberg and Rauner were Paul Larson, Denny Ellingson, Sherry Giesecke, Ray Larson, Jeff Carlisle, and Brad Stark.

     

    Above is from Cathy Ward’s Facebook.

    Republicans to try to launch Rauner's 'Turnaround Agenda' Friday | Chicago

     

    SPRINGFIELD — House and Senate Republicans on Friday are expected to begin their push for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

    Republican leaders in each chamber will be sponsors of six individual bills that will be filed simultaneously in each chamber, sources said.

    Among the measures:

    • A proposal for a property tax freeze that may include a proposal allowing local communities to decide whether they want to have a “prevailing wage.” Rauner has blasted current laws that require non-union construction firms doing work on governments or schools to pay the prevailing union wage in that community.
    • An attempt to overhaul how the state’s legislative districts are drawn
    • A reform of worker’s compensation costs
    • A term limits bill
    • A proposal making it easier for municipalities to file for bankruptcy.
    • A proposal to limit awards granted in lawsuits.

    Sources say the move by Rauner’s administration is to respond to complaints by Democrats that the governor has failed to give them specific language he wants included in reform measures he’s pushing.

    “Democrats have all but abandoned his working groups,” one source with knowledge of the proposals told the Sun-Times. “This is his response to the Democrats’ failure to cooperate and meaningfully find common ground on his agenda items.”

    In recent weeks, the Democrats have called votes on an anti-union right-to-work to work bill and a series of social service cuts — measures they have patterned after Rauner’s proposals and watched go down in flames with Democrats opposing and Republicans basically ignoring.

    The new Republican proposals do not include a push for right to work, which failed to win one yes vote following a heated House debate last week.

    One Republican said the six so-called “vehicle bills” to be filed Friday should at least get an airing on the committee level.

    “I welcome that opportunity. Look, from a minority perspective in the House, we’re fighting off bad bills and fighting off bad bills brought ostensibly in the name of the governor. They were examples of political theater only,” said state Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove. “I’d like to have a real debate. I think the issues are important enough to have a serious discussion.”

    Rauner has spent much of the last several months trying to sell his Turnaround Agenda around the state. It was largely viewed as an attack on unions, but Rauner has said he is looking to create a more business-friendly climate in Illinois. Rauner’s remarks on the anti-union, right-to-work proposal have gained the most publicity, drawing a strong rebuke from unions statewide. A majority of communities have rejected the agenda or adopted their own versions.

    Still, Rauner has held up his agenda as a condition in budget negotiations — something that has rubbed Democrats the wrong way.

    “It’s very unusual for a governor to wait to the very end of session to file bills for ideas that he supports. That’s exceedingly rare,” said state Sen. Dan Kotowski, D-Park Ridge. “It’s [usually] a pretty intense and comprehensive process.”

    Democrats have pounded the governor for not putting his ideas into legislative form earlier in the session.

    “There is still time to work with the governor on some of his initiatives,” said state Sen. John Cullerton’s spokeswoman, Rikeesha Phelon. ”But the budget process should not be held hostage to an agenda to maximize profits for corporations at the expense of the middle class.”

    It’s unclear what kind of reception the new filings will find in the Illinois House. House Speaker Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, has called votes on components of Rauner’s plan for weeks — sending the bills to their graves.

    “We voted on much of that stuff already. We’ve been asking for the administration’s language on bills for weeks, maybe longer than weeks,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said late Thursday. “We’ve been working in a professional, cooperative manner with the administration. We’ve asked for language, they weren’t working. We’ll look at what they proposed. If it’s something that the House has already voted on, what changes? All I see is town after town, county after county voting down [Rauner's plan].”

     

    Republicans to try to launch Rauner's 'Turnaround Agenda' Friday | Chicago