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Governor’s Lobbyist Order Cements His Control Over Bureaucracy PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 31 May 2015 05:56

Forget about the budget, forget about Governor Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Agenda,” forget about the almost unprecedented animosity during the spring legislative session between Democrats and Republicans.

The most talked-about issue under the Illinois Statehouse dome last week was a directive from one of the governor’s top staffers to all state-agency directors.

The agency directors received an order from the Rauner administration Wednesday demanding that they and their staffs not meet or talk with any lobbyists unless the governor’s Policy Office had first okayed the communications. The directors were also told to inform agency “stakeholders” that they didn’t really need to hire lobbyists anyway.

Iowa Should Abandon Its Level Playing Field for Education Funding PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 28 May 2015 12:25

When Davenport Community Schools Superintendent Art Tate announced in March that he planned to violate state law by spending more money per pupil than the state allowed, it highlighted the strangeness of Iowa’s rarely questioned status quo: There’s no mechanism for school districts to consistently exceed the base-funding level.

It’s not quite as simple as saying that Davenport’s school district can’t spend more than $6,366 per student this year. But in the name of funding equality across Iowa, the state is unusually restrictive – meaning that even if citizens in a community would support higher taxes for educational operations, there’s no way to make that happen.

At heart, Iowa’s system takes the admirable goal of adequate education funding and turns it into a straitjacket.

Rauner, Democrats Still Worlds Apart PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 24 May 2015 13:01

I spent the better part of last Wednesday asking folks around the Statehouse if they had anything positive to tell me. I went looking for anything that might indicate a silver lining to this increasingly nasty spring legislative session.

Mostly, people just laughed at me.

Other than some individual personal developments, there just wasn’t much positivity around. The governor’s chief of staff, Mike Zolnierowicz, and his incomparable wife Barret were about to have a new baby. They’re great people and that’s wonderful news, but it also means that “Z” was not going to be able to work on solving the problems for a few days.

A gaming-expansion bill appeared to be progressing. But I’m told the governor is in no mood to sign it as long as his “Turnaround Agenda” is being ignored by the majority Democrats.

The Senate Democrats, meanwhile, were expected to move legislation to help Chicago out of its horrific fiscal mess, but there’s still the problem with the governor’s refusal to do anything for the Democrats until he gets what he wants.

So I came up with nothing.

Republicans Snub Labor in Right-to-Work Vote PDF Print E-mail
Illinois Politics
Written by Rich Miller   
Sunday, 17 May 2015 05:30

Governor Bruce Rauner had several House Republicans over to the Executive Mansion last week to ask them to vote “present” when the House Democrats called their “right to work” bill the following day.

Right-to-work laws allow union members to not pay for any of their union’s services, even though unions are required by federal law to serve all their members. The laws can cripple unions, which may help businesses but tends to drive down wages.

Why would the Democrats bring an anti-union bill to the House floor? Various reasons – one of them being that they are so opposed to the idea and the governor has pushed it so forcefully that they wanted to finally get the issue off the table by killing it dead. They also wanted to put the Republicans in a tight spot of choosing between the governor and their friends in organized labor.

How Jury Trials Could Have Softened the Blow of the Financial Crisis PDF Print E-mail
Guest Commentaries
Written by Scott E. Stafne   
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 08:10

For most of our history, lawyers have thought of themselves as the unofficial fourth “arm” of the government. This view is more understandable from lawyers’ past role as “trial advocates” than from the present relationship between the bench and bar, which reduces the significance lawyers have in the administration of justice.

Under the law in effect in most colonies at the time our Constitution was written, lawyers were advocates who had the right to argue the merits of their clients’ cases directly to a jury. Juries, not judges, had the right to decide most cases as they saw fit both with regard to the facts and the law. As the Supreme Court noted in 1943’s Galloway V. United States: “In 1789, juries occupied the principal place in the administration of justice. They were frequently in both criminal and civil cases the arbiters not only of fact but of law.”

The king’s denial of the right to a trial by jury was one of the reasons justifying separation from England in the Declaration of Independence.

Many believed the right to a jury trial was not adequately guaranteed in Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution. Anti-federalists urged rejection of the Constitution unless it was amended to include a Bill of Rights, which secured the right to trial by jury in both criminal and civil cases. Patrick Henry, a lawyer and well-known patriot at that time, argued: “Trial by jury is the best appendage of freedom. ... No appeal can now be made as to fact in common-law suits. The unanimous verdict of impartial men cannot be reversed.” This result was not because the jury would always be right, but because the result came from impartial members of the community.

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