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Delayed Session Illustrates Do-Nothing Status Quo PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 04 October 2015 05:26

The Illinois Senate had been scheduled to return to Springfield on October 6 after not being in session since September 9. But last week, the Senate President postponed session until October 20.

The reason is pretty straightforward.

The Senate has overridden several gubernatorial vetoes. It’s pretty easy for the majority party because the chamber has 39 Democrats, three more than the three-fifths required to override a veto.

The House has 71 Democrats, the exact number of votes required to overturn a veto in that chamber. So the Senate Democrats can be missing a few people or have some folks who don’t want to go along and still override the governor on partisan votes. But the House Democrats need every member in town, and they all need to be voting the same way for that chamber to succeed.

Because of that tight margin, and because the Republicans have marched in lockstep with their party’s governor, the House has only overridden one veto this entire year: the Heroin Crisis Act.

And the House was only able to override that bill because Governor Bruce Rauner allowed House Republicans to vote against his amendatory veto, which stripped out state Medicaid funding for heroin-addiction treatment. Rauner now gets to portray himself as fiscally conservative, while the Republicans got to do the right thing and make the much-needed criminal-justice-reform legislation an actual law.

To date, the governor and his staff have successfully fought off 62 override attempts, mainly in the House.

So much for Speaker Michael Madigan’s much-vaunted veto-proof House majority.

How the Government Makes Data Hacks a Thousand Times Worse PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by David M. Brown   
Friday, 02 October 2015 11:55

In May 2015, the federal government suffered a massive data breach, a hack that exposed the names and Social Security numbers of more than 21-million people.

In a press release, the Office of Personal Management (OPM) reported that as a result of its “aggressive effort to upgrade the agency’s cybersecurity posture,” the agency discovered the massive theft of background records, reportedly originating in China, including “identification details such as Social Security numbers; residency and educational history; employment history; information about immediate family and other personal and business acquaintances; health, criminal, and financial history; and other details. Some records also include findings from interviews conducted by background investigators and fingerprints. User names and passwords that background-investigation applicants used to fill out their background-investigation forms were also stolen.”

This was a new breach – not the same looting of 4.2-million records that the agency discovered in April of this year.

The news didn’t stop OPM Director Katherine Archuleta, appointed to the post in 2013, from congratulating herself for the agency’s great strides in security. It was her “comprehensive IT strategic plan” that led to the knowledge that these incidents had happened.

But Archuleta lasted about one day after praising herself for noticing the theft, and the latest news is that the fingerprints of 5.6-million people were also grabbed in the mega-hacking of OPM’s “cybersecurity posture.”

OPM assures us that “federal experts believe that, as of now, the ability to misuse fingerprint data is limited.” As of right now ... this second ... as we hit the press ... you probably have nothing to worry about if your fingerprints got stolen from OPM’s data banks. Hurrah.

Even Archuleta would probably concede that discovering a robbery is not quite as good as preventing it. But let’s go so far as to say that the nature of bureaucracy itself is more to blame than Archuleta is for having failed to fix how her agency functions.

Of course, governments are not the only organizations vulnerable to being cyber-attacked because of lax security. Other victims in recent years have included Target, Chase, and Sony.

But it’s the decades-old privacy-invading policies of the federal government that have routinely converted all such breaches of personal data into potentially limitless disasters for the victims.

Election 2016 Reminder: Who Needs Whom? PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by Thomas L. Knapp   
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 19:29

Memory has a way of playing tricks on the mind, but my recollection is that each of the seven presidential elections since I reached adulthood (I turned 18 the week after Ronald Reagan was re-elected in 1984) has been advertised – by the parties, by the candidates, by the media – as “the most important election of our lifetimes.”

Here comes the eighth. Same shtick, even if the Jerry Springer atmospherics have been turned up a little. The world will end if Candidate X is elected. Americans will starve in the streets if Candidate Y isn’t elected. You know what I’m talking about.

Of course, each presidential election is incredibly important to the parties, the candidates, and the media. Elections are their bread and butter. But are they really that consequential to the rest of us? On close examination, the only plausible answer is “no.”

Survey, Speech Make Negotiations Harder PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 27 September 2015 05:08

A poll and a speech might have hardened positions even further on both sides of the highly partisan and bitter state-government impasse.

The speech, by Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich, you likely already know about. The survey, taken by Governor Bruce Rauner’s pollster, you probably don’t. So let’s start with the poll.

Basswood Research, which has done extensive work for the Rauner campaign, surveyed 800 likely Illinois general-election voters September 14 and 15 and found quite a bit of support for Rauner and a whole lot of opposition to House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The poll, which had a margin of error of 3.5 percent, found that 45.5 percent approve of Rauner’s job performance, while 40 percent disapprove and 14 percent don’t know. Not great.

But a whopping 71 percent agreed with the statement “Bruce Rauner is trying to shake things up in Springfield, but the career politicians are standing in his way,” while just 21 percent said that wasn’t true.

It’s Time to Take a Fresh Look at Davenport’s Public Transportation PDF Print E-mail
Letters to the Editor
Written by Bob Babcock   
Thursday, 24 September 2015 09:28

I don’t know how many public officials or candidates have ridden the Davenport buses recently, but they should. I did recently and learned a lot while talking with the drivers and the riders. More was learned when discussing the problems with other Davenport citizens who don’t take the bus.

If we want to make Davenport thrive, improvements must be made. I’ve already begun working on a public-private partnership for heated bus shelters. However, the hours and days have to be expanded. Some people haven’t taken jobs because of the limited transportation. I know some ministers who’d be happy to see new faces at the services. Meanwhile, stores and entertainment centers would see a boost in sales, and Davenport would see more revenue from sales taxes.

Nearly 5,000 people ride daily. That is a lot of commercial activity.

We know the City of Davenport wants to attract young professionals and has steadily been improving the downtown area partly with that intent.

There are great minds in this city. Let’s use them to find solutions. We have the money if we use financial resources smartly. Perhaps Scott County and Rock Island County can team up for a regional transportation authority.

We need a public transportation system that will take people from where they live to where they work and where they want to spend time. The bottom line is that we have a good system now, but we can and must make it better.

Bob Babcock

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