Saturday, May 31, 2008

Governor, Just Do the Right Thing

Sign the Bill

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Told You So

Even Stevie Wonder could have seen this one coming:
A temporary ban on an Illinois law requiring a moment of silence at the start of the school day was expanded Thursday to apply to all school districts across the state.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman will remain in place while a legal challenge alleging the law is unconstitutional moves forward.
As I've maintained from the onset of this issue, the underlying law was pointless and last year's amendment made it even worse. The bill that I sponsored this year, which was passed by the House before being taken hostage in the Senate would have fixed the problem, but once again, common sense failed to carry the day in Springfield.

So now we wind up just where I predicted we would, with dollars that should be going into classrooms instead going into courtrooms, all in the name of fighting for an unenforceable law with no penalty provisions. Political folly at its finest.

Old Time Hockey

This is going to be great.

An announcement that the Blackhawks will play the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field in the NHL's second outdoor Winter Classic could come as early as today, according to Comcast SportsNet.
I saw a little bit of the Penguins/Sabres game that was played outdoors in Buffalo and it was one of the cooler sporting events that I'd seen in a while. The prospect of seeing the Hawks and Red Wings outdoors, in Wrigley no less, sounds like a can't miss prospect.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Reform and Renewal Strikes Again - UPDATED

From the "Bobbi Steele's Got Nothing on Me" Department comes news that former Sen. Ronen is the latest to take a ride on the taxpayer-funded Pension Gravy Train Express.

Former state Sen. Carol Ronen's brief gig in Gov. Blagojevich's office has proven as lucrative as a win in the Illinois Lottery.

Ronen worked just eight weeks for the governor earlier this year, but that job will provide her with a windfall of at least $37,995 every year for the rest of her life.

Ronen's stint as a Blagojevich senior adviser is enabling the governor's onetime Senate floor leader to reel in a $102,000-a-year state pension. Ronen, 63, will earn 35 percent more in retirement than she did as a $75,301-a-year legislator representing part of Chicago's North Side lakefront.

Had Blagojevich not hired Ronen and she retired from the Senate at this time, her pension would be $64,005 annually.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that her shameless efforts to shill for the Governor as a political attack dog seem to be the only thing that anybody can point to that she did during her two-month stint as a 'senior adviser'. Par for the course I guess.

But there should at least be some kind of rule among pension hustlers that if you're going to pull a move like this, that you have the decency not to try to defend it. Carol must not have gotten that memo:

Ronen defended the money she will earn in retirement...

"My entire career has been devoted to public service, part of the time in the Legislature and part of the time in the executive branches of state and city governments," Ronen said. "My pension is based on all those years of service. It's not a scam."

Um, it may not be illegal, but it sure as heck is a scam. She's going to make more in retirement than she ever did while working. That doesn't fly in the private sector and it stinks in the public sector. I'm glad that at least that loophole was closed several years ago.

But unfortunately, the last laugh is once again on the taxpayers as Carol will be laughing her way to the bank. Year after year after year.

UPDATE - And from the "Timing is Everything" Department, we get another eye-opening look at just how bad Illinois' pension problems are.
In the time it takes you to read this sentence, Illinois taxpayers will be $200 deeper in debt.

The state’s pension debt will exceed $44 billion this summer, increasing at a rate of about $120 per second, according to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration.

The debt already tops $42 billion — enough to give every one of Illinois’ 12.8 million residents a check for $3,300 or buy 937,000 Cadillacs at $45,000 a pop.

The combination of debt in terms of both money and percentage gives Illinois the infamous distinction of having the nation’s worst pension problem, according to an Associated Press review of records and interviews with experts. And there’s no solution in sight.
You have to give the Administration credit, it takes a lot of testicular virility to dole out golden parachutes to loyalists and then talk about the need for pension reform.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Never Forget, Ever Honor

At some point while you're enjoying this holiday weekend, try to remember the meaning behind this, and every, Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Remembering Larry

The House of Representatives will have an official remembrance of the life of Rep. Larry McKeon this Tuesday at approximately 11:30 or Noon in the House Chamber.

Larry and I were elected the same year from adjoining districts, and had the opportunity to work together on issues both in Springfield and back in our neighborhoods. Getting to know Larry as both a friend and colleague was a true privilege.

Even after he retired, I would still see him in the halls of the Capitol, as recently as last Friday, as he advocated for issues he cared about. When my assistant in Springfield told me shortly before session on Wednesday that Larry had passed away overnight, it didn't really sink in at first. Not that one has anything to do with the other obviously, but he had seemed about as content as could be of late.

For friends of Larry who aren't in Springfield, or can't come by the Capitol, you can watch or listen to the proceedings live at this link to the House audio and video feeds.

There will also be a memorial service for Larry in Chicago the next few weeks. I'll pass on the details once they're available.

Saturday, May 03, 2008


This is one of the best stories about sportsmanship that I've seen in a long time. Even metaphorically, it stands in stark contrast to the situation in Springfield where members of the same party are unable to work together, not to mention the discord across the rotunda where bill-jacking has become rampant.

Maybe some people could learn something from this story:
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- With two runners on base and a strike against her, Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University uncorked her best swing and did something she had never done, in high school or college. Her first home run cleared the center-field fence.

But it appeared to be the shortest of dreams come true when she missed first base, started back to tag it and collapsed with a knee injury.

She crawled back to first but could do no more. The first-base coach said she would be called out if her teammates tried to help her. Or, the umpire said, a pinch runner could be called in, and the homer would count as a single.

Then, members of the Central Washington University softball team stunned spectators by carrying Tucholsky around the bases Saturday so the three-run homer would count -- an act that contributed to their own elimination from the playoffs.
You really should read the rest of the story. Or you can watch the video about it.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Con-Con Galore

The Legislative Research Unit has shown once again why they are a shining star when it comes to doing their job really well. The text below is from an e-mail which I just received from the LRU:

The Legislative Research Unit has compiled the documents on this Website to provide information in advance of the constitutional convention referendum to be held at the November 4, 2008 General Election.

This site brings together information on the 1970 constitutional convention and earlier conventions; the last referendum on holding a constitutional convention in 1988 (which was rejected); and current issues for consideration if a convention were held in 2010. Many of the resources on this site were not widely available to the general public.

This Website is offered to legislators, their staffs, journalists, advocates on both sides of the convention issue, and members of the general public who seek information on the Illinois Constitution and the issue whether to call a constitutional convention.

Part I—History provides information on Illinois’ past constitutional conventions, including the last one in 1969-1970. It includes the Introduction to the 1970 Illinois Constitution from the Record of Proceedings of that convention, which gave a history of earlier Illinois constitutional conventions. It also contains summaries of research papers prepared before the 1970 convention, and related reports by the Legislative Research Unit.

Part II—1988 Referendum describes legislative and other preparations for the first mandatory constitutional convention referendum in 1988. It includes information on the Committee of 50 (a group established by the General Assembly in 1986 to advise on whether another convention was necessary). A list of proponent and opponent groups for a 1990 convention, and a copy of the voter pamphlet on the referendum, is included.

Part III—Current Issues gives information about the forthcoming 2008 constitutional convention referendum. It describes legislative actions and provides links to recent articles and other materials on the 2008 referendum. Proponent and opponent groups are listed, along with topics that a 2010 convention might be expected to address.

It also contains a list of constitutional revision experts and contact information for them.

Part IV—Other States contains a Legislative Research Unit report on recent constitutional revision efforts in other states, using either automatic referenda or other means.

Part V—Bibliography provides a supplemental bibliography of printed sources on constitutional revision in Illinois.

The information referenced can be found at the link at the bottom of this page.