Friday, May 31, 2013

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford (R) Ready to Make His Run for Governor Official

Some say State Treasurer Dan Rutherford has been running for Governor from the day he became State Treasurer -- but this weekend, he'll make if official as he makes a series of stops to announce his candidacy. Here is the schedule of campaign stops he'll make this weekend. 

Dan will make a major announcement about his vision of the future of the State of Illinois with a rally in our home town of Pontiac, Illinois at 3:00 PM on Sunday, June 2, 2013. Announcements will be made in 13 stops around Illinois over a three day period, starting in Chicago. You are welcome to join him for any or all.  

Following is the itinerary:

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Harry Caray's
33 West Kinzie-Chicago
Doors Open: 9:30 AM
Program begins: 10:30 AM

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Mugz's Hideout
24045 West Front Street-Channahon
Participants Welcome: 12:30 PM
Program begins: 1:05 PM

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Livingston County Courthouse
112 W. Madison Street-Pontiac
Music and Garthering: 2:45 PM
Program begins: 3:25 PM

Sunday, June 2, 2013

American Legion Post 32
1120 Sangamon Avenue-Springfield
Doors Open and refreshments: 6:15 PM
Program begins: 7:15 PM

Monday, June 3, 2013

President Abraham Lincoln Hotel & Conference Center- Governor Bond Room
701 E. Adams Street-Springfield
Doors open: 8:45 AM
Program begins: 9:00 AM

Monday, June 3, 2013

Midwest Aviation
7700 Aviation Drive-Marion
Treasurer Dan Rutherford arrives at 11:30 AM. The program will follow.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Jet Aviation
10 Archview Drive-Cahokia
Treasurer Dan Rutherford arrives at 1:15 PM. The program will follow.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Quincy Regional Airport
Baldwin Field Main Terminal
1645 Highway 104-Quincy
Treasurer Dan Rutherford arrives at 3:10 PM. The program will follow.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Elliott Aviation-Conference Room
6421 74th Avenue-Milan
Treasurer Dan Rutherford arrives at 4:55 PM. The program will follow.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cliffbreakers Riverside Resort- Martini Room
700 W. Riverside Blvd.-Rockford
Doors open: 8:45 AM
Program begins: 9:00 AM

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Byerly Aviation
6100 W. Everett McKinley Dirksen Pkwy. Suite 2B-Peoria
Treasurer Dan Rutherford arrives at 11:15 AM. The program will follow.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Flightstar-Main Level Conference Room
7 Airport Road-Savoy
Treasurer Dan Rutherford arrives at 1:05 PM. The program will follow.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Greater Kankakee Airport
813 A. East 4000 S. Rd. Interstate 57 at Exit 308-Kankakee
Treasurer Dan Rutherford arrives at 2:50 PM. The program will follow.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gov Quinn Applauds the Passage of Fracking Bill in the Legislature

 Governor Pat Quinn today issued the following statement regarding the Illinois House of Representatives’ passage of Senate Bill 1715, the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act, and encouraged the Illinois Senate to act swiftly on this bill that contains the nation’s strongest environmental protections and significant economic potential. The governor called for passage in his 2013 budget address and the Quinn Administration helped negotiate the bill:

“Today’s passage of hydraulic fracturing legislation in the House brings good news for jobs, economic development and environmental protection in Illinois. This legislation will unlock the potential for thousands of jobs in Southern Illinois, while ensuring that our state has the nation‘s strongest environmental protections in place for this industry.

“Over the past year, we have brought together lawmakers, industry and labor leaders and environmental groups in a collaborative, bipartisan effort to develop the best possible legislation. This approach has not only worked, but been praised as a national model for transparency, public participation, environmental safety and economic development.

“I want to thank Rep. John Bradley for his hard work on this issue and environmental advocates for their efforts to ensure Illinois’ natural resources are protected.

“I urge the Senate to send this bill to my desk as soon as possible.”

Friday, May 17, 2013

AFT Union Publishes Video Promoting Sen Cullerton's SB-2404, the Pension Reform Bill

"WE ARE ONE ILLINOIS" VIDEO PROMOTING SEN CULLERTON'S VERSION OF PENSION REFORM.  This is the version backed by the Unions.  Many others support SB-1, the Pension Reform bill supported by House Speaker Madigan, which would cut costs by more than Sen Cullerton's version -- or so it's argued.


This is our community.  Our schools.  Our families.
When there’s a job to do, we get it done. 
Because service is more than a job.  It’s our calling.
So when pensions needed to be fixed, we came to the table.
With a fair, legal solution.  

Knowing we didn’t create the problem.  Knowing we’d still have to sacrifice.
We urged legislators to work with us.
To include an ironclad guarantee.
To be reasonable to workers and retirees who contributed from every paycheck.
They listened. And now we’re making progress.

But some still want to grab our contributions, our life savings.  Illegally take what we’ve earned.
So we must stand together again.
To do what’s responsible for all of us. 

Call your legislator.  
Tell them to support Senate Bill 2404 … the only fair, constitutional solution to the pension problem.
And tell them to stand up for working families.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Concealed Carry Measure Finally Moving in the Senate

The Senate's Executive Committee today Considered a Concealed Carry measure, referred to as Amendment 1 sponsored by Sen. Raoul and attached to House Bill 183.

Earlier this spring, Senate President John J. Cullerton designated Senate Judiciary Chairman Kwame Raoul to negotiate a legislative proposal for concealed carry.Senate President Cullerton issued the following statement regarding House Bill 183:
"I want to commend Sen. Raoul for negotiating another tough issue on behalf of our caucus. The framework of this proposal acknowledges the diversity of our state, embraces local control, and provides for sensible safeguards."

House Bill 183 does the following:
·       Directs State Police to give concealed carry licenses to people who meet certain qualifications
·       Allows local law enforcement to object to a local resident’s application
·       Allows a gun owner to carry a concealed weapon in Chicago only with a special endorsement; while applicants are subject to the same qualifications, Chicago police can conduct their own investigation
·       Prohibits loaded weapons in certain kinds of places, e.g. schools, hospitals and public transit
·       Allows home rule municipalities to ban guns in other kinds of places by ordinance
·       Requires applicants to pass a firearm training course
·       Closes the private sale and transfer loophole by requiring a seller to verify that the buyer’s FOID Card is still valid
·       Strengthens mental health reporting requirements
·       Requires a gun owner to report a lost or stolen gun within three days of realizing it is missing

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Statement by Maryjane Wurth, President of the IL Hospital Assn., on HHS data on Hospital Charges

On May 8, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released hospital-specific charges and payments for the top 100 Medicare cases treated by all U.S. hospitals.  A review of the data has caused some to question why there is wide variance in charges for the same type of discharge and whether a patient would actually pay the different price.

It is important to note that in Illinois the overwhelming majority of patients do not pay charges. Medicare and Medicaid pay hospitals substantially less than the cost to provide the care.  Insurers pay based on individual contracts with each hospital and also pay substantially less than charges.  Patients with health coverage only pay their insurance deductibles and co-pays as required.

Several years ago, Illinois passed landmark legislation – the Hospital Uninsured Patient Discount Act – to ensure that uninsured patients do not pay full charges and either receive their health care for free or have access to significant discounts. In addition, Illinois passed the Fair Patient Billing Act that standardized the billing and collection process and streamlined the financial assistance process for patients.

Every year, Illinois hospitals and health systems provide inpatient and outpatient services to nearly 900,000 uninsured Illinoisans who seek medical care, and to thousands more who are underinsured and need financial assistance. Hospitals provide $1.5 billion in care for which they receive no reimbursement.

Hospital charges vary due to sets of complex factors, such as the hospital’s local community, unique mission of care, different and unique services provided (e.g., trauma, neonatal intensive care, burn units, etc.), different populations served, and a range of different public and private payers.

In addition, the complexities of individual medical care, with individual items priced specifically to meet regulatory, legal and payment requirements, must be coupled with vast individual and regional differences in hospitals—from rural critical access hospitals to academic medical centers, community, city, suburban and specialty hospitals.

Illinois hospitals and health systems provide care to patients from every segment of society, every minute of every day, regardless of their ability to pay, their insurance status or their citizenship status.

Controlling costs is a top priority at hospitals across the state. They are actively engaged in many initiatives to coordinate care, reduce readmissions and unnecessary utilization and provide high quality care in the right setting at the right time for better outcomes, improved population health and lower costs.

Dualing Pension Bills, and Debate on Constitutionality Face Illinois Lawmakers

Thursday, May 9, 2013

So after years of needing to pass pension reforms, the Illinois Legislature now has two competing versions of reforms.  One -- SB-1, passed the House of Representatives and is sponsored by Speaker Michael Madigan.  It would make extensive changes and is generally agreed that it would provide greater savings to the state IF it becomes law and is ruled constitutional. 

Today, the Illinois Senate voted to approve SB-2404, the Reform measure sponsored by Senate President John Cullerton, that would trade continued healthcare benefits for retirees, in exchange of a lessening of the 3% annual Cost of Living Adjustment [ COLA].  It's this COLA that's been a financial killer for the state as even in low inflation periods -- as we are now in -- the state is forced to pay ever increasingly large benefits, that compound year over year. 

But for now -- neither of the reform measures have passed both houses of the legislature.  Gov Quinn seems to be prepared to sign off on either measure.  But the big question is:  Will the Supreme Court rule that these changes are constitutional ?   Everyone agrees that whatever reforms are passed, someone will sue over the changes, and base their lawsuit on the Constitutional protection of pensions that was included in the 1970 Constitution, which remains the governing law today. 

In the Senate Executive Committee hearing on Weds, Sen President Cullerton argued again that his approach is far more likely to pass a suit that would go to the Illinois Supreme Court, as -- he argues -- his bill brings about reforms that are agreed to by the workers, given that they are guaranteed a choice of option A or B.  That the workers pick which way they wish to go -- is therefore [according to Cullerton] an agreed to labor agreement and therefore not a mandated DIMINISHMENT of pensions benefits. 

The House version, sponsored by Speaker Madigan, would force change on pension recipients, and lower the cost to the state.  As to the Constitution's saying it is unlawful to diminish state pensions, Madigan is relying on the principal referred to as the Police Powers argument.  In essence, that would be that it is the obligation of the state to continue to be an on-going enterprise that can deliver essential services to citizens.  That the fact that the year over year growth of the pension costs is threatening the delivery of the state's essential services -- means [ according to the backers of SB-1] that the state has not just a right, but an obligation to ensure that it can afford to keep functioning.  And therefore the Supreme Court would rule SB-1's cuts of pensions, IS constitutional  -- or so the thinking goes.  

After all -- this is the State of Illinois, not a mom and pop business that is threatened with bankruptcy. [ as some have pointed out -- it's also in the constitution that the state is supposed to have a balanced budget, but hasn't followed that constitutional provision for years ! So why start worrying now about what is or isn't constitutional ! ] 

So the legislature now has 2 1/2 weeks to pick its poison, and cut the future cost of pensions by each house passing either SB-1 [ the Madigan plan that cuts costs more, but may be harder to pass constitutional review] or SB-2404, the Cullerton bill that cuts costs less, may force the state to continue to provide free healthcare [ that could be MORE expensive in the future than the pension benefits], but is seen as being more likely to be approved by the Supreme Court. 

Or there's option three:  Having had each house pass a version, both could not fail to pass the other's bill, and the pensions go on for now has they have... underfunded, with growing liabilities.   

That means the state's pension costs will continue to rise every year, and the gap between what the state has to pay on the pensions, and what it can afford to pay -- will mean other areas of government from education, to transportation and law enforcement --- will see their department's spending cut, as lawmakers and future governors struggle to fill the insatiable black hole of the publicly funded pensions. 

Still to come before the end of May -- is Speaker Madigan's attempt to shift the future cost of paying the pensions of [non-chicago] teachers to local school districts.  This represents about 56% of the pension obligations to the state.  Pushing those off to the local districts WOULD greatly reduce the future unfunded liabilities to the state.  But it could then shift those unfunded liabilities to local property taxpayer, depending on how the deal is structured.   

As some have said it's like sweeping the dirt under your neighbor's rug ! 

We Are One Illinois Statement on Bipartisan Senate Passage of Senate Bill 2404

The following statement is attributable to the We Are One Illinois coalition:

"Our coalition is encouraged by this powerful show of support for a solution developed with unions representing public employees and retirees.

"Today's strong, bipartisan vote in the Senate sends a clear message to the House: SB 2404 is constitutional, reasonable, and responsible. The House should pass the bill without change or delay." 

For more information:

Illinois Senate Passes Sen Cullerton's Pension Reform bill SB-2404

SPRINGFIELD – The following statement was released by Senate President John J. Cullerton following Senate passage of SB 2404:

“I’d like to thank my Senate colleagues, the representatives of teachers, nurses, police officers, and public employees who worked together to pass a plan to address our pension crisis.

The courts, bond houses, and our funding priorities demand a law that is clearly constitutional. This bill is fair and respects the plain language of the pension clause. For that reason, I believe that it has the best chance of withstanding a court challenge.

The framework of this bill also achieves the goal of relieving financial pressures starting with the $1 billion pension payment scheduled for FY 15. The plan is estimated to save the state $45 to 51 billion over the next 30 years.

Ambitious savings projections should always be balanced against the prospect of netting zero with an unfavorable court decision. Members of the Senate have calculated this risk and demonstrated their adherence to the plain language of the Illinois Constitution today.”


Under the bill, Active Members would have three options:
Choice A: Agree to a 3% simple COLA which they would receive two years later than when they would currently receive their first COLA, have access to retiree healthcare, receive all future salary increases as pensionable, be able to enroll in a cash balance plan, and members of TRS would be eligible for early retirement;
Choice B, Option 1: Retain the 3% compounded COLA, but have no access to retiree healthcare, and have all future salary increases always offered as non-pensionable; or
Choice B, Option 2: Retain the 3% compounded COLA but with a 3 year delay, have access to retiree healthcare, all future salary increases would be offered as pensionable, and contribute an additional 2% of salary.

Under the bill, Retirees and members who have given a notice of retirement as of January 1, 2013 would have two choices:
Choice A:  Retain the 3% compounded COLA, but agree to skip their compounded 3% COLA on a two-year staggered basis in exchange for retiree healthcare access; or
Choice B: Retain the current COLA, but lose access to retiree healthcare.