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House Does Some Heavy Lifting (Finally) on Pension Reform PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 31 March 2013 05:26

As it turns out, Illinois House Democrats didn’t need Republicans to put 30 votes on a significant pension-reform bill.

There’s been worry for at least two years that the Democrats would have to rely heavily on Republicans to get anything out of the chamber and that maybe even 30 Republican votes – half the required 60-vote majority – wouldn’t be enough to pass a pension-reform bill.

But 41 House Democrats voted for a bill this month that severely whacked retirees’ annual cost-of-living increases. Just 25 Republicans voted for the bill – five votes fewer than they’ve repeatedly said they had for a significant pension-reform proposal.

The measure would cap annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) at $750 or 3 percent, whichever is less. That change has the impact of limiting COLAs to only the first $25,000 of annual pension income. Anyone who makes less than $25,000 would continue to receive compounded increases until the cap is hit.

The proposal also forces retirees to wait until they either are 67 years old or have been retired at least five years to receive their annual COLAs.

 
University-Trustee Battles Sap Energy from Important Efforts PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Monday, 25 March 2013 08:01

A recent meeting between Metro East legislators and Governor Pat Quinn’s staff turned heated at times, and as a result nothing was accomplished in the standoff over Quinn’s appointments to the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees.

The governor’s three appointments to SIU’s board were unanimously rejected by the Senate in late February – the first time anybody I’ve talked to can remember anything like that happening. But the governor has doubled down instead of compromising.

Quinn replaced three members with close ties to the university’s Edwardsville campus, which is near St. Louis. For years, governors followed a “gentleman’s agreement” that gave the Edwardsville campus three of the governor’s seven nominated members. That agreement has coincided with explosive growth at the formerly backwater campus, so locals are loath to go back to the old days of being treated as the redheaded stepchild of the Carbondale campus. Just one of Quinn’s new appointments had connections to Metro East, a complete unknown who applied for the trustee post on the Internet.

 
Seventeen Benefits of the War on Drugs PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by Kevin Carson   
Wednesday, 20 March 2013 05:37

With American drug-use levels essentially the same as – and levels of drug-related violence either the same as or lower than – those in countries such as the Netherlands with liberal drug laws, public support for the War on Drugs appears to be faltering. This was most recently evidenced in the victory of major drug-decriminalization initiatives in Colorado and Washington. Some misguided commentators go so far as to say the Drug War is “a failure.” Here, to set the record straight, are 17 ways in which it is a resounding success.

1) It has surrounded the Fourth Amendment’s “search and seizure” restrictions, and similar provisions in state constitutions, with so many “good faith,” “reasonable suspicion,” and “reasonable expectation of privacy” loopholes as to turn them into toilet paper for all intents and purposes.

2) In so doing, it has set precedents that can be applied to a wide range of other missions, such as the War on Terror.

3) It has turned drug stores and banks into arms of the state that constantly inform on their customers.

 
Business Opposition Torpedoes Viable Pension Plan PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 17 March 2013 05:51

“Pardon me,” said Ty Fahner to a nearby microphone that he had accidentally bumped during testimony to the Illinois Senate Executive Committee last week.

Fahner could probably be excused for apologizing to an inanimate object. The president of the Chicago-based, business-backed Civic Committee and self-styled pension expert had been forced to sit in the hearing room and wait for hours before testifying against Senate President John Cullerton’s omnibus pension-reform bill.

Cullerton was obviously furious with Fahner for helping organize the opposition to his bill, and he grilled former Illinois Attorney General Fahner mercilessly, tag-teaming with Senate President Pro Tempore Don Harmon, who picked apart the hostile witness piece by piece. Fahner tried to remain calm, but apologizing to the mic showed how much he was rattled.

 
Votes Show Pension Reform a Long Way Off PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 10 March 2013 05:40

House Speaker Michael Madigan was hoping on March 7 to avoid the same results as the previous week.

Back then, one of his pension-reform proposals received just one vote – his own. None of his other pension amendments received more than five votes.

That wasn’t supposed to happen. Members of his leadership team thought some of those amendments would get at least a few dozen votes. Oops.

Making matters worse, the House Republicans refused to even participate in the process, with not a single member voting up, down, or “present” on Madigan’s amendments.

Asked about the GOP refusal to vote, Madigan on last Wednesday’s Illinois Lawmakers television program said he believed the Republicans had made a “mistake.”

“They’re elected,” Madigan told host Jak Tichenor. “And their electors tell them to come here and vote. They don’t tell them to come here and not participate.”

 
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