Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Twists and Turns - JCAR Update(s)

So in the latest, but not wholly unexpected, twist, the Governor today announced his intention to veto $500 million in 'pork and other non-essential spending' in order to increase 'healthcare security for half a million people.'

In my last post, I discussed my thoughts on member initiative projects, so I won't rehash that here.

Two things strike me as odd about this turn of events.

First, while the Governor clearly has the authority to line item veto spending measures, I do not believe that he has the authority to reappropriate those funds elsewhere.

One way that I think that he might try to do this (and I'm simply thinking out loud here, sort of) is via an agency reorganization. This would be an extraordinarily convoluted means of attempting to reach his goal, and I'm not sure that it would work in any event, but I just can't think of another means by which he could do it. (Another reason that this wouldn't make sense is that, if I am interpreting this section correctly, the House could nullify the Executive Order with a simple majority.)

For your reference, here is the Section that I am referring to.
The Governor, by Executive Order, may reassign functions among or reorganize executive agencies which are directly responsible to him. If such a reassignment or reorganization would contravene a statute, the Executive Order shall be delivered to the General Assembly. If the General Assembly is in annual session and if the Executive Order is delivered on or before April 1, the General Assembly shall consider the Executive Order at that annual session. If the General Assembly is not in annual session or if the Executive Order is delivered after April 1, the General Assembly shall consider the Executive Order at its next annual session, in
which case the Executive Order shall be deemed to have been delivered on the first day of that annual session. Such an Executive Order shall not become effective if, within 60 calendar days after its delivery to the General Assembly, either house disapproves the Executive Order by the record vote of a majority of the members elected. An Executive Order not so disapproved shall become effective by its terms but not less than 60 calendar days after its delivery to the General Assembly.
(Source: Illinois Constitution.)

The other thing that I find interesting is in Sen. Jones position and statement. There was a reported understanding among the leaders to stick together on the budget vote and any subsequent veto overrides. So Emil's standing with the Governor on this issue today would appear to be an outright 180 degree flip on the other leaders.

Going back on an agreement is never good form, that truism is magnified exponentially under the dome.

More substantively interesting is the Senate President's statement in the press release:

“The Governor has said he would not sign a budget that did not include his priority of health care. The four leaders knew the risk of negotiating an operating budget without the Governor in the room – I suggest today that I understand why the Governor is making this decision and I commit to working with him to fund health care within the operating budget that is on his desk.” said Senate President Emil Jones, Jr.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but that sounds like he is resigned to working solely within the present budget framework, by moving dollars around. It appears to signal a complete retreat from any significant new source of funding for healthcare.

There are two ways of looking at this. The first is that it was a Kafkaesque, but ingenious, way to put $500 million into expanded healthcare programs in our state. The second is that, if this is what the Governor truly wanted all along, he probably could have gotten it done in May. $500 million is a long way from the $8 billion GRT that he had thrown out there earlier.

Either way, there is sure to be enough spin on all sides of this latest development to create a new ride at the State Fair.

UPDATE - For those that don't know, I happen to be one of the members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). I have been advised that HFS will likely be filing rules for coverage expansion of both the 'Family Care' and 'Assist, Primary Care, Rx, Hospital' provisions of the Governor's plans. HFS counsel is maintaining that the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening and Treatment and Working Families Premium Assistance programs will not require rules, a position not necessarily shared by JCAR staff. Any expansion of All Kids would likely require new rules for Comprehensive Health Insurance Program.

When one looks at the members of JCAR, it's hard to tell how these rules are going to be received. Same fight, different battleground.

UPDATE - The update above is based solely on information provided to me by JCAR staff. In the interest of fairness, I want to point out here that I have also been advised that HFS is taking issue with the information as not being wholly correct. Not that HFS needs me to defend them, but I will say that I have known the Director and his immediate staff for quite some time and hold them in the highest regard. So for now, I'll simply let this issue play itself out and we'll see where it goes.


At August 14, 2007 at 4:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, I am a constituent. What is going to be done about CTA funding?

At August 14, 2007 at 4:26 PM, Anonymous PL said...

vyerwrJohn you actually sound surprised by the fact Emil Jones would do a 180 on an agreement. I know you are not that knaive.

Captain Renault from Casablanca
"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

Patrick La Salle

At August 14, 2007 at 4:30 PM, Anonymous Chicago Cynic said...


Your analysis is fascinating. Personally, I think this is partially a deft demonstration by Rod that whether people like him or not, he's still relevant and powerful. But as you pointed out, he could have done this in May without killing thousands of people's summers.

Kind of pathetic.

At August 14, 2007 at 4:31 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...


There is no question in my mind that this is something that has to be addressed-and soon. I believe that SB572,am3 is the presently the most realistic means of accomplishing this goal, and I am hopeful that whether it is via that mechanism or something else, that we take decisive action prior to the CTA's implementation of service cutbacks and layoffs.

At August 14, 2007 at 4:36 PM, Blogger Cal Skinner said...

You might want to re-visit the bill I introduced in 1997, I think, which would define a specific reason for impeachment of department directors.

The reason would be refusal to release appropriated funds.

At August 14, 2007 at 4:38 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...


It may be fascinating, but I'm still far from sure that I'm right. My head hurts from even coming up with that theory.

I just don't see how else he could even arguably do what he says he is going to do. So until then, I'll go with my musing.

At August 14, 2007 at 6:48 PM, Blogger Cook County Cretin said...

I think I can sum up the recent turn of events in a way we all can understand. That is, "?!!!!".

At August 14, 2007 at 7:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rep. Fritchey:
While I think it was a pretty interesting and savvy public move by the Governor today (whether it’s consitutional is another issue), it’s bothersome that he chose this route to help the uninsured. During this past year, he could have been working and negotiating with legislators on a genuine way to fund health care – rather than trying to shelve legitimate projects at the 11th hour. But he obviously knows that if the public now hears it’s a choice between “pork” or “cancer screenings” he can count on the resulting opinion.
This whole situation is unfortunate, but I genuinely hope that at the end of the day, there will be funding for healthcare. I just think of the number lives that could be saved through preventative measures and knowing that we have the medical technology available and are not allowing every single person to benefit from it, well, it’s just disturbing. In so many third world countries, women, for instance, have absolutely no access to medical technology – no opportunity to be screened for breast or cervical cancer. I just feel strongly that if we have the opportunity to help as many women as possible, we have an obligation as a state to do it – not only to save them, but to show respect for the countless women around the world who will never have a chance to be saved.
Sorry this is so long – it’s just sad that the Governor had such an opportunity to do something really great with health care, and it’s turned into a circus.

At August 14, 2007 at 9:51 PM, Anonymous Lainer said...

Rules? The motto of this administration seems to be "We don't need no stinkin' rules." They didn't need 'em for the stem cell research grants -- why bother with petty little things like rules when you're talking about doling out millions of dollars to highly controversial projects that the legislature wouldn't approve? Same with the proceeds from the veterans' lottery... five areas of concern, but put 90 percent of the money toward only one (health care, of course) and the heck with what the GA's intention was. Doesn't surprise me a bit.

At August 14, 2007 at 10:19 PM, Anonymous Disgusted said...

Rep. Fritchey: I think JCAR may want to take a serious look at all of this health care expansion, especially where All Kids is concerned. The program has more arms than an octopus, they change their plans, ideas and forms constantly. They are the hardest people to work with because they decide everything by committee and no one person will take a stand, so it takes FOREVER to get an answer to a question from them. And to top it off, doctors want no part of it because the state is constantly behind in paying its bills.

I work in this every day and while reliable universal health care for everyone is a wonderful idea, it will not work in present-day Illinois. Our political and fiscal situation is awful and has been for years. We use bandaids to plug holes in programs, and spend millions on ideas that whither away eventually.
This is governing by reaction, not by thought for what is right and for what voters and taxpayers of Illinois want. You cannot hold the golden ring in front of a pauper and be shocked when he thumps you for pulling it away in another display of broken promises.
All Kids, Vet's care, Family Care are convoluted, expensive and under-utilized because they don't deliver.

At August 15, 2007 at 9:06 AM, Anonymous lake county democrat said...

So why doesn't the House *now* offer Blago $500 million - 1 billion for health care if he'll restore the allegedly worthy earmarks (I'll assume that most of them are) and increase taxes a touch: still far less than the Guv's $8 billion but a decent compromise, with the Dems acting like Dems and everyone relatively happy and in a position to move forward for the next few years? Oh yeah, Project Lisa Madigan for Governor.

That said, I agree about the redirection of funds -- if this is possible, it really reduces the legislature's power beyond what anyone would want it to be.

At August 15, 2007 at 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Democrats in our legislature have any backbone left they will begin to realize that Sen. Jones, DeLeo, Ronen and the rest of Blogo's apologist are a disgrace to their party.

Shame on all of you if you let this stand.

At August 15, 2007 at 10:50 AM, Anonymous constituent said...

John, Thank you for your quick reply and your comment on CTA funding. I looked up SB 572 online and it looks interesting, although I definately couldn't get through reading the whole thing. However, I did notice you're not a sponsor of the bill. Considering your district is heavily dependant on transit, would you consider doing so? Also, when do you think this issue will be resolved? The cuts are really just around the corner.

At August 15, 2007 at 11:46 AM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...


I have in fact already signed up as a co-sponsor of the bill. It just might not be on the system yet. As to the timing of action on the bill, I just don't have a solid answer to give you, other than to tell you that it is obviously on the front burner for many legislators, including myself.

At August 15, 2007 at 11:59 AM, Anonymous constituent said...


Thank you for your quick reply, and for sponsoring the transit funding bill. You're about the most transparent, forthright politician I have ever encountered. Cheers!

Do you think your other, favorite constituent will veto the transit funding bill? What can be done about that?

At August 15, 2007 at 12:05 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

Your guess is as good as mine.

At August 16, 2007 at 12:31 AM, Anonymous another constituent said...

well, not EVERYthing is still on this merry go round - THank you for your support of the property tax bill. as i'm sure you've heard, there's a lot of people who say this bill doesnt do enough and wipes out relief after three years. personally i'm grateful for teh extension but also want to see more in the next few years. i know you also push for acquisition based assessments. do you think the speaker would support this kind of plan? his buy in is apparently key. thanks again.

At August 16, 2007 at 10:33 AM, Anonymous Tim said...

Is this tiff between Madigan and Jones/Blagojevich going to derail the transit issue? Please don't let it.

At August 17, 2007 at 9:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


When it comes to "pork" projects, and members initiatives, you know the doling out of funds for questionable projects, why can't a list of these projects be printed BEFORE the budget is voted on, so the taxpayers can view them. Maybe if we were allowed to see this list, we could decide which projects would be worthy of our tax dollars. You got to admit, some of these grants are nothing more than the buying of votes by certain politicians. Is there anyway you could institute some type of legislation on this issue? Or do you think your collegues might give you a hard time. I sure would like to see what my elected officials plan to do with thier allotments.

At August 19, 2007 at 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice move for the Gov! Let the reps vote for pork over healthcare when the Seante President has said he will not even call this again for a vote.

Then again, to get Madigan's help for re-election, I am sure they will do just that. I am told that those who did not vote against Madigan's budget (where he tried to cut out the Gov) were told they'd get no pork.

Some system...Why do the rank and file put up with it? It seems that many are too lazy to run their own campaigns and raise their own money.

At August 21, 2007 at 12:39 AM, Blogger ArchPundit said...

==Nice move for the Gov! Let the reps vote for pork over healthcare when the Seante President has said he will not even call this again for a vote.

This is completely bogus in terms of the trade-off. Even if the veto of the initiatives stands, that doesn't mean the money goes to health care. It does not. It cannot be spent.

The Governor is not proposing putting any more money into the system, he's proposing make the rules to more broadly cover people--at the same time there isn't the money to cover the expansion in the budget.

The Governor is playing a game of chicken that if the programs run out of money after he thinks he'll get expanded coverage, the Lege will bring in more money.

It's a clear abuse of the Constitution, though he probably cannot get through the rules he needs to bankrupt the system to use that bankruptcy as leverage.

At August 21, 2007 at 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw that your sponsorship of the transit bill is now online. Thanks.

Please update us on when a transit bill may go forward. I'm very worried about my bus getting cut.

At August 24, 2007 at 4:55 AM, Anonymous Disgusted said...

So the JCAR members' projects survived the cut. Talk about bribery! I have never seen a more petulent or petty man (meaning Milarod) in government since Richard Nixon. What a disgrace the state of Illinois is.


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