Monday, June 30, 2014

Atty Aaron Maduff Updates Us on What's Happening in the Lawsuits Against the State Over the Pension Reform Law

Last Thursday, June 26, the /Circuit Court in Sangamon County spent several hours hearing motions from the pension funds' legal representatives. In this interview with Atty Aaron Maduff, who is representing the State University Annuitants Assn, we get an update on what happened, and how an agreement to NOT seek a Class-Action likely saved months of delay in getting the case to argument before the court.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois Issues Statement in Response to U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling in Harris v. Quinn

CHICAGO-- Home care workers and consumers affirmed that they are ready to stand up for quality home care in Illinois in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn today. 
Flora Johnson, a home care provider for over 14-years who cares for her son Kenneth, born with cerebral palsy, and serves as the chairperson of the Executive Board of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, issued the following statement:

“No court case can diminish the determination of the 25,000 Personal Assistants in the Illinois Home Services Program from our goals of delivering quality care to people with disabilities and assuring that home care jobs are quality jobs. The 30,000 people with disabilities in Illinois who receive our services deserve a stable, dependable workforce to help them to live independently in their homes, which is their primary desire.

“We are more determined than ever that joining together in unions is the best way for home care workers to ensure the quality care for which we strive. And we are prepared to work with the leadership of our state and allies of the disability community to ensure that we continue to have a strong voice for quality home care.  History demonstrates that since we’ve had our union, the quality of care, stability of the workforce – due to better wages, benefits and cost effectiveness of the Home Services Program – have improved dramatically.

“Our state will witness a drastic rise in the number of people who will need home care services as baby boomers enter their senior years in increasing numbers. It is in our best interest to be prepared for this increased demand.

“We will not allow the tunnel vision focus of anti-worker extremists like the Right to Work Foundation -- which brought this suit and whose only concern is to destroy unions -- to diminish the quality of life for people with disabilities who have benefited from a solid home care program.”

Bruce Rauner Statement on the FY 2015 Budget that begins July 1

From the Rauner Campaign, June 30, 2014

“Pat Quinn broke his promise on taxes and his only goal is to permanently take more money out of every hard-working Illinoisans’ paycheck – and this broken budget is the result. In five years of Quinn budgets, we’ve seen higher taxes and decimated education funding, and the results have been the highest unemployment in the Midwest and too many failing schools.  We need to fundamentally shake up the way Springfield does business and enact structural reforms to fix our broken state government.” 


House Republican Leader, Jim Durkin on the Supreme Court Decision on Quinn v Harris

“I applaud the United States Supreme Court's decision today by siding with Illinoisans Pam and Josh Harris by ruling that a home is not a union shop and that the sensitive decisions regarding the care for a disabled loved one needs to remain with the caregiver and in the home.
In June of 2009, the Governor issued Executive Order 15 which allows for collective bargaining in the home based support services provided, for the most part, by parents and family members of the disabled. Josh Harris suffers from Rubenstein-Taybi syndrome and other physical and mental disabilities. Josh's mother Pam Harris, is his caregiver. At that time, Pam and Josh lived a few blocks from me and she reached out to me expressing her grave concerns with the Executive Order 15 and how its full implementation would affect her son. I spent an afternoon with her and Josh and witnessed first-hand the daily care she provides her son. I soon introduced HR 720 which called upon the Governor to withdraw EO 15. Despite Pam's testimony with Josh present, the resolution failed in the Democrat controlled State Government Administration committee. This past year I reintroduced the Resolution.
Pam Harris speaks for the thousands of parents and family members who serve as caregivers. No one other than Pam Harris knows what’s best for Josh and the United States Supreme Court agrees.

Rauner Campaign Launches New Effort to Win Over Hispanic Voters


 — Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner has launched a coalition of supporters from the Latino community, a group that traditionally shows Democratic support.
Rauner and running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti announced Amigos de Rauner-Sanguinetti on Sunday afternoon at a Mexican restaurant on the city's Southwest Side. The campaign released a list of coalition members. It includes business leaders, bankers, attorneys, religious leaders and a Winnebago County board member.
Sanguinetti is the daughter of immigrants from Cuba and Ecuador.
Rauner said at the Sunday event that he wants to help Hispanic families — many of whom, he says, own small businesses — and who have been hurt by what he called high taxes and unreasonable government regulations while Quinn has been governor.
The coalition includes a Spanish-language website.

Read more here:

Statement from Carole Brite President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Illinois on "Hobby Lobby" Ruling

U.S. Supreme Court Hobby Lobby & Conestoga Woods Ruling

Chicago  — (Date) All women deserve the right to the health care they need. We know first-hand how important it is for women to receive the method of birth control that works for them without hurdles or barriers.  That’s why Planned Parenthood fought so hard for the birth control benefit in the first place and why we’re focused on making sure that women have access to the method of birth control that’s best for them, without cost or other hurdles standing in the way.

Today American families were served a severe blow to their right to family planning when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods even though they did stipulate that the holding is limited to small “closely-held” corporations. The corporations in this lawsuit hold an extreme view, and unfortunately there are some politicians who want to go even farther — getting rid of the birth control benefit entirely. Bosses of private, for-profit businesses should not be able to interfere in women's health decisions, and neither should the politicians who want to roll back the birth control benefit entirely, taking away insurance coverage that millions of women benefit from.

Although the Supreme Court ruled in favor of these corporations, we applaud the Illinois General Assembly for having the foresight to pass the Birth Control Referendum. We are fortunate to live in a state that protects women’s rights to contraceptives. This referendum will help protect and strengthen the law we already have in light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The non-binding referendum will appear on the November ballot as this question:

Shall any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides prescription drug coverage be required to include prescription birth control as part of that coverage?

Planned Parenthood of Illinois believes that preventive care, including birth control, is basic healthcare for women.  Virtually all American women between the ages of 15 and 44 who are sexually active have used birth control at some time. Regardless of the size of the corporation, we will not let this ruling deter us from continuing to provide essential healthcare services to the more than 60,000 women, men, and teens across Illinois that entrust their basic health care rights to us — however small or large the corporation they work for.

# # #

Catholic Conference of Illinois "Elated" with Supreme Court Ruling in "Hobby Lobby" Case

CHICAGO  --  The U.S Supreme Court today issued a 5-4 ruling in favor of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties lawsuits against the mandate handed down by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)requiring all employers to offer insurance coverage of abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilizations.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, issued the following statement on the ruling:

We are elated the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes and affirms the importance of religious freedom in the practice of business. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties have scored an important victory regarding religious conscience that we hope portends a triumph for religious-based and nonprofit employers pursuing similar lawsuits.

All of these cases challenge the federal mandate requiring insurance coverage of such objectionable services as abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilizations. But the issue at hand goes far beyond birth control, which today’s ruling addresses.

The issue strikes at the heart of the first 16 words of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. …”

As we approach the Fourth of July and the celebration of our country’s independence, we in the Catholic Church observe our third annual “Fortnight for Freedom” from July 21-July 4, in recognition of America’s first freedom – religious freedom. We breathe a sigh of relief that it has been affirmed.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gov Quinn Signs Anti-Bullying Law Designed to Protect Kids In and Out of School

Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to crack down on bullying in Illinois. The bill will help protect Illinois students from bullying both inside and outside the classroom. 
“Intimidation and fear have no place in Illinois’ schools,” Governor Quinn said. “Every student in Illinois deserves to go to a school where they feel comfortable and safe. This new law is for all students who have been bullied but didn’t know where to turn. Our schools will now set comprehensive anti-bullying standards for all districts so we can help students succeed inside and outside the classroom.” 
House Bill 5707, sponsored by State Representative Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago), requires all public schools to develop and implement an anti-bullying policy. The policy must include a definition of bullying, procedures for the reporting of bullying, parental notification, the investigation of reports of bullying and actions that may be taken to address bullying. The new law is effective immediately.
“I heard from parents all over the state whose kids had been bullied and they had gotten no support from schools,” Representative Cassidy said. “It’s clear we were not doing enough, and this new law is a major step in the right direction.”
“Schools must give more than lip service to protecting kids. Learning can’t take place in an environment where students are not taught and expected to treat one another with respect,” Senator Steans said. “Students need to know where to go for help when they are bullied, and they need assurance that adults at school will support them and work to resolve the issue.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

DNR Director Marc Miller, the Bearer of Bear News

Statement by DNR Director Marc Miller

"The recent sighting of an American black bear in northwest Illinois has, understandably, generated many questions.  While these animals once roamed the Illinois landscape 150 years ago, seeing one today can be, at the very least, a startling sight.  While the black bear sighted most recently has shown no aggressive behavior towards humans, it should not be approached.  Help us keep this bear from being accustomed to people. Always observe wildlife from a distance.
Currently black bears are not protected under state law.  New legislation passed this spring adds black bears, gray wolves and mountain lions to the list of protected wildlife in Illinois. Even when signed by Gov. Quinn, the law won’t take effect until January 1, 2015.  This means that immediate decisions on the fate of these animals reside with local landowners or municipalities.  Once the new law takes effect, the Illinois DNR will have the exclusive statutory authority to manage these animals in Illinois.

Until that time, we recommend that homeowners in the counties where the bear has been sighted should, for a short period of time, remove their bird feeders, keep pet food inside, and secure your trash cans and barbecue grills.  By removing easy sources of food for the bear, we can encourage it to stop searching for food near homes.  The public is encouraged to visit the living with wildlife in Illinois website at for useful information.”

Friday, June 6, 2014

President Obama's Remarks at Normandy, on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day


Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Omaha Beach
Normandy, France

11:16 A.M. CET

     PRESIDENT OBAMA:  President Hollande; to the people of France; friends; the family; our veterans: 

If prayer were made of sound, the skies over England that night would have deafened the world.

Captains paced their decks.  Pilots tapped their gauges.  Commanders pored over maps, fully aware that for all the months of meticulous planning, everything could go wrong -- the winds, the tides, the element of surprise -- and above all, the audacious bet that what waited on the other side of the Channel would compel men not to shrink away, but to charge ahead.

Fresh-faced GIs rubbed trinkets, kissed pictures of sweethearts, checked and re-checked their equipment. “God,” asked one, “give me guts.”  And in the pre-dawn hours, planes rumbled down runways; gliders and paratroopers slipped through the sky; giant screws began to turn on an armada that looked like more ships than sea.  And more than 150,000 souls set off towards this tiny sliver of sand upon which hung more than the fate of a war, but rather the course of human history.

President Hollande, distinguished guests, I’m honored to return here today to pay tribute to the men and women of a generation who defied every danger -- among them, our veterans of D-Day.  And, gentlemen, we are truly humbled by your presence here today.  (Applause.)   

Just last week, I received a letter from a French citizen.  “Dear Mr. President, and the American people,” he wrote, “[we are] honored to welcome you… to thank you again for all the pain and efforts of [the] American people and others in our common struggle for freedom.” 

Today, we say the same to the people of France.  Thank you, especially, for the generosity that you’ve shown the Americans who’ve come here over the generations -- to these beaches, and to this sacred place of rest for 9,387 Americans.  At the end of the war, when our ships set off for America, filled with our fallen, tens of thousands of liberated Europeans turned out to say farewell, and they pledged to take care of the more than 60,000 Americans who would remain in cemeteries on this continent.  In the words of one man, we will take care of the fallen “as if their tombs were our children’s.”  And the people of France, you have kept your word like the true friends you are.  We are forever grateful.  (Applause.) 

Here, we don’t just commemorate victory, as proud of that victory as we are.  We don’t just honor sacrifice, as grateful as the world is.  We come to remember why America and our allies gave so much for the survival of liberty at its moment of maximum peril.  We come to tell the story of the men and women who did it so that it remains seared into the memory of a future world.

We tell this story for the old soldiers who pull themselves a little straighter today to salute brothers who never made it home.  We tell the story for the daughter who clutches a faded photo of her father, forever young; for the child who runs his fingers over colorful ribbons he knows signify something of great consequence, even if he doesn’t yet fully understand why.  We tell this story to bear what witness we can to what happened when the boys from America reached Omaha Beach.

By daybreak, blood soaked the water, bombs broke the sky.  Thousands of paratroopers had dropped into the wrong landing sites; thousands of rounds bit into flesh and sand.  Entire companies’ worth of men fell in minutes.  “Hell’s Beach” had earned its name. 

By 8:30 a.m., General Omar Bradley expected our troops to be a mile inland.  “Six hours after the landings,” he wrote, “we held only ten yards of beach.”  In this age of instant commentary, the invasion would have swiftly and roundly been declared, as it was by one officer, “a debacle.” 

But such a race to judgment would not have taken into account the courage of free men.  “Success may not come with rushing speed,” President Roosevelt would say that night, “but we shall return again and again.”  And paratroopers fought through the countryside to find one another.  Rangers pulled themselves over those cliffs to silence Nazi guns.  To the west, Americans took Utah Beach with relative ease.  To the east, the British tore through the coast, fueled by the fury of five years of bombs over London and a solemn vow to “fight them on the beaches.”  The Canadians, whose shores had not been touched by war, drove far into France.  And here, at Omaha, troops who finally made it to the seawall used it as shelter -- where a general barked, “If you’re Rangers… lead the way!”

By the end of that longest day, this beach had been fought, lost, refought, and won -- a piece of Europe once again liberated and free.  Hitler’s Wall was breached, letting loose Patton’s Army to pour into France.  Within a week, the world’s bloodiest beach had become the world’s busiest port.  Within a month, one million Allied troops thundered through Normandy into Europe, and as our armies marched across the continent, one pilot said it looked “as if the very crust of the Earth had shaken loose.”  The Arc de Triomphe lit up for the first time in years, and Paris was punctuated by shouts of “Vive la France!” and “Vive les √Čtats-Unis!”  (Applause.)  

Of course, even as we gather here at Normandy, we remember that freedom’s victory was also made possible by so many others who wore America’s uniform.  Two years before he commanded armies, Eisenhower’s troops sliced through North Africa.  Three times before D-Day, our GIs stormed the beaches at Sicily, Salerno, Anzio.  Divisions like the Fighting 36th brawled their way through Italy, fighting through the mud for months, marching through towns past waving children before opening the gates to Rome.  As the “dogfaces” marched to victory in Europe, the Devil Dogs -- the Marines -- clawed their way from island to island in the Pacific, in some of the war’s fiercest fighting.  And back home, an army of women -- including my grandmother -- rolled up their sleeves to help build a mighty arsenal of democracy.

But it was here, on these shores, that the tide was turned in that common struggle for freedom.  What more powerful manifestation of America’s commitment to human freedom than the sight of wave after wave after wave of young men boarding those boats to liberate people they had never met? 

We say it now as if it couldn’t be any other way.  But in the annals of history, the world had never seen anything like it.  And when the war was won, we claimed no spoils of victory -- we helped Europe rebuild.  We claimed no land other than the earth where we buried those who gave their lives under our flag and where we station those who still serve under it.  But America’s claim -- our commitment -- to liberty, our claim to equality, our claim to freedom and to the inherent dignity of every human being -- that claim is written in the blood on these beaches, and it will endure for eternity.

Omaha -- Normandy -- this was democracy’s beachhead.  And our victory in that war decided not just a century, but shaped the security and well-being of all posterity.  We worked to turn old adversaries into new allies.  We built new prosperity.  We stood once more with the people of this continent through a long twilight struggle until finally a wall tumbled down, and an Iron Curtain, too.  And from Western Europe to East, from South America to Southeast Asia -- 70 years of democratic movement spread.  And nations that once knew only the blinders of fear began to taste the blessings of freedom. 

None of that would have happened without the men who were willing to lay down their lives for people they’d never met and ideals they couldn’t live without.

None of it would have happened without the troops President Roosevelt called “the life-blood of America… the hope of the world.” 

They left home barely more than boys and returned home heroes.  But to their great credit, that is not how this generation carried itself.  After the war, some put away their medals, were quiet about their service, moved on.  Some, carrying shrapnel and scars, found that moving on was much harder.  Many, like my grandfather, who served in Patton’s Army, lived a quiet life, trading one uniform and set of responsibilities for another -- as a teacher, or a salesman, or a doctor, or an engineer, a dad, a grandpa. 

Our country made sure millions of them earned a college education, opening up opportunity on an unprecedented scale.  And they married those sweethearts and bought new homes and raised families and built businesses, lifting up the greatest middle class the world has ever known.  And through it all, they were inspired, I suspect, by memories of their fallen brothers -- memories that drove them to live their lives each day as best they possibly could.

Whenever the world makes you cynical, stop and think of these men.  Whenever you lose hope, stop and think of these men.

Think of Wilson Colwell, who was told he couldn’t pilot a plane without a high school degree, so he decided to jump out of a plane instead.  And he did, here on D-Day, with the 101st Airborne when he was just 16 years old.

Think of Harry Kulkowitz, the Jewish son of Russian immigrants, who fudged his age at enlistment so he could join his friends in the fight.  And don’t worry, Harry, the statute of limitations has expired.  (Laughter.)  Harry came ashore at Utah Beach on D-Day.  And now that he’s come back, we said he could have anything he wants for lunch today -- he helped liberate this coast, after all.  But he said a hamburger would do fine.  (Laughter.)  What’s more American than that?

Think of “Rock” Merritt, who saw a recruitment poster asking him if he was man enough to be a paratrooper -- so he signed up on the spot.  And that decision landed him here on D-Day with the 508th regiment, a unit that would suffer heavy casualties.  And 70 years later, it’s said that all across Fort Bragg, they know Rock -- not just for his exploits on D-Day, or his 35 years in the Army, but because 91-year-old Rock Merritt still spends his time speaking to the young men and women of today’s Army and still bleeds “O.D. Green” for his 82nd Airborne.

Whenever the world makes you cynical, whenever you doubt that courage and goodness is possible -- stop and think of these men.

Wilson and Harry and Rock, they are here today, and although I know we already gave them a rousing round of applause, along with all our veterans of D-Day -- if you can stand, please stand; if not, please raise your hand.  Let us recognize your service once more.  (Applause.)  These men waged war so that we might know peace.  They sacrificed so that we might be free.  They fought in hopes of a day when we’d no longer need to fight.  We are grateful to them.  (Applause.)   

And, gentlemen, I want each of you to know that your legacy is in good hands.  For in a time when it has never been more tempting to pursue narrow self-interest, to slough off common endeavor, this generation of Americans, a new generation -- our men and women of war -- have chosen to do their part as well. 

Rock, I want you to know that Staff Sergeant Melvin Cedillo-Martin, who’s here today, is following in your footsteps.  He just had to become an American first -- because Melvin was born in Honduras, moved to the United States, joined the Army.  After tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he was reassigned to the 82nd Airborne.  And Sunday, he’ll parachute into Normandy.  (Applause.)  “I became part of a family of real American heroes,” he said.  “The Paratroopers of the 82nd.”

Wilson, you should know that Specialist Jannise Rodriguez joined the Army not even two years ago, was assigned to the 101st Airborne, and just last month earned the title of the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault Soldier of the Year.  And that’s inspiring but not surprising, when the women of today’s military have taken on responsibilities, including combat, like never before.  (Applause.)  

I want each of you to know that their commitment to their fellow servicemembers and veterans endures.  Sergeant First Class Brian Hawthorne’s grandfather served under General Patton and General MacArthur.  Brian himself served two tours in Iraq, earned the Bronze Star in Baghdad for saving the life of his best friend, and today, he and his wife use their experience to help other veterans and military families navigate theirs.  And Brian is here in Normandy to participate in Sunday’s jump, and here, just yesterday, he reenlisted in the Army Reserve.

And this generation -- this 9/11 Generation of servicemembers -- they, too, felt something.  They answered some call; they said “I will go.”  They, too, chose to serve a cause that’s greater than self -- many even after they knew they’d be sent into harm’s way.  And for more than a decade, they have endured tour after tour.

Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg has served ten.  And I’ve told Cory’s incredible story before, most recently when he sat with my wife, Michelle, at the State of the Union address.  It was here, at Omaha Beach, on the 65th anniversary of D-Day, where I first met Cory and his fellow Army Rangers, right after they made their own jump into Normandy.  The next time I saw him, he was in the hospital, unable to speak or walk after an IED nearly killed him in Afghanistan.  But over the past five years, Cory has grown stronger, learning to speak again and stand again and walk again.  And earlier this year, he jumped out of a plane again.  The first words Cory said to me after his accident echoed those words first shouted all those years ago on this beach:  “Rangers lead the way.”  (Applause.)

So Cory has come back today, along with Melvin and Jannise and Brian, and many of their fellow active-duty servicemembers.  We thank them for their service.  They are a reminder that the tradition represented by these gentlemen continues.       

We are on this Earth for only a moment in time.  And fewer of us have parents and grandparents to tell us about what the veterans of D-Day did here 70 years ago.  As I was landing on Marine One, I told my staff, I don’t think there’s a time where I miss my grandfather more, where I’d be more happy to have him here, than this day.  So we have to tell their stories for them.  We have to do our best to uphold in our own lives the values that they were prepared to die for.  We have to honor those who carry forward that legacy, recognizing that people cannot live in freedom unless free people are prepared to die for it.

And as today’s wars come to an end, this generation of servicemen and women will step out of uniform, and they, too, will build families and lives of their own.  They, too, will become leaders in their communities, in commerce, in industry, and perhaps politics -- the leaders we need for the beachheads of our time.  And, God willing, they, too, will grow old in the land they helped to keep free.  And someday, future generations, whether 70 or 700 years hence, will gather at places like this to honor them and to say that these were generations of men and women who proved once again that the United States of America is and will remain the greatest force for freedom the world has ever known.  (Applause.) 

May God bless our veterans and all who served with them, including those who rest here in eternal peace.  And may God bless all who serve today for the peace and security of the world.  May God bless the people of France.  And may God bless our United States of America.  (Applause.)

                        END           11:43 A.M. CE