Monday, May 30, 2005
Sunday, May 29, 2005
The bill is very similar to the omnibus bill that the House passed in 2004, but was not called in the Senate, as it was caught up in the breakdown between Speaker Madigan and President Jones that led to the overtime session. Here, since the Senate sponsor (Terry Link) amended a House shell first and sent it back over for the House to concur, the bill passed without any problem, signaling a closer relationship between the two chambers and foreshadowing, perhaps, the spirit of cooperation between the Speaker and the President.
A few of the best provisions of the bill include:
*early voting by personal appearance from 22 to 5 days before an election, where anyone can show up to the election administrator's office and cast their ballot early. This will likely raise turnout. It will also create what an Arizona legislator (where they use early voting) calls a double feld campaign -- the first campaign is to get the early voters out, and the second campaign is the traditional election day operation. I think this is a good thing, as it makes for likely shorter lines on presidential election days, and it gives people a chance to cast a ballot without walking through the gauntlet of bored campaign workers pushing slips of paper on to them from 100 feet away from the polling place.
*better disclosure for anyone who spends money on campaigns, to avoid the non-disclosure from both the trial lawyers and the chamber on the Supreme Court race this last go-round.
*perhaps the best anti-fraud provisions in the nation related to computerized voting. I think there is a real risk of stolen or distorted election results from electronic voting equipment (google 'Ohio exit poll 2004' for some details on unanswered questions), and the new state law (assuming Governor Blagojevich signs the bill) that requires a third party to test the equipment vendor's computer code submitted to the State Board of Elections, as well as reinforcing the need for a voter-verified paper trail for all new equipment, will make it more difficult for a nefarious operative with one of the privately-held vendors to manipulate the results of an election. Other states and Congress should look at these provisions of the bill as models for ensuring a secure election, relative to voting equipment.
*the Internet voters guide for statewide candidates is a long overdue move, originally pushed by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and a task force led by Jesse White and Judy Baar Topinka. Ira Silverstein and Dave Sullivan, among others, have been methodically pushing for the proposal for years, and they deserve credit and thanks. The legislation does not require a voters guide for the primary election, leaving it to the Board's discretion, but I certainly hope the Board decides to exercise their discretion and set up a guide for the March 2006 election.
*deputy registrars can register anyone to vote, and not just people who live in their election jurisdiction. It is kind of dumb to have 110 separate election jurisdictions in the state, especially when it creates a barrier to getting people registered. I understand the Lake County Clerk didn't like this provision (triple hearsay, so that might not be correct), but the provision is a good one.
There might be a touch of irony that a bill that increases transparency in government was put together in a relatively non-transparent way and delivered to the General Assembly in the last 10 days of session, but that's a minor quibble as most of the provisions were debated or even passed separately over the last few years. The College Voter Registration Act in HB 715, for example, is also included in this bill too, and the Internet voters guide had already been passed out of the Senate this session separately.
One bad provision is an increase in the number of signatures from 300 to 500 and 600 to 1000 for nominating petitions for the House and Senate, respectively. Ballot access should get easier, not harder, as we have too few candidates on the ballot, not too many. And there isn't any move to make it easier for third party candidates or independents to get on the ballot in this bill, which is another long overdue move.
All told, though, it is appropriate that Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie pushed this bill, as it is largely a good-government, democracy-enhancing move.
Interesting, isn't it, that the Dems aren't getting much credit for the good-government aspects of the bill, and that the press on it is largely "Dems muscle through a bill that Republicans say will create voter fraud." I think the vote fraud argument is largely a red herring. Organizations commit voter fraud, not individuals, and expanding opportunities for individuals to vote usually doesn't increase opportunities for fraud to occur. It's not like this is a real power play, like a congressional remap to get an 11-8 DC delegation. It's a lot closer to a 'do the right thing' bill -- and I'll bet there won't be a single editorial congratulating the Dems on expanding the franchise or rebuking Republicans for opposing the move. I wonder if that's a message problem for the Dems.
Saturday, May 28, 2005
Unfortunately, it means we can't bond the pension gap at 5 percent and instead pay 8.5 percent in interest foregone.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Looks like I'm paying up, because the leaders apparently have convinced the governor to agree to skip out on two billion plus of pension payments for the next two years to plug the deficit.
Given that most observers think the pensions are too expensive to begin with, maybe starving the beast is as close to trimming benefits as one can get.
But it sure would be nice if Republicans would agree to float some bonds at 5 percent to cover the 2 billion instead of the de facto 8 percent loan in interest not earned that we are borrowing from the pensions. Unless, of course, we pull a United and just never fully cover the cost of the pensions.
There are no good options. Maybe this is the least worst. I definitely want to finance the future, not the past, and spending our dollars on schools, health care and infrastruture instead of pensions fits that bill.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Monday, May 23, 2005
Durbin decides not to endorse Governor Blagojevich six months before the filing deadline for the primary election.
And I say, good for him.
Not that I'm an anti-Blagojevich guy. But I think endorsements are crucial. They are, in many ways, one of the most important actions of an elected official. They should not be given lightly.
I kept a record of the 2004 Senate primary endorsements here, and I'm planning to keep one for all the constitutionals. Looks like the Republican endorsements will be more interested than the Democratic endorsements, as it's shaping up to be a status quo primary, but you never know.
And it does raise a question: are Illinois Democrats in 2005 like California Democrats in 2003, looking at a governor with nagging ethical questions stemming from big-time contributions and perceived favorable treatment chipping away at his poll numbers and faced with the tough question of dumping the nominee to keep a Dem in the mansion or sticking with the incumbent come hell or high water? The Democratic Governor then was Gray Davis. And we know what happened to him.
He certainly isn't perfect (who is?), but Venezuela seems like a better place to get oil profits than Saudi Arabia, which continues to fund Al Queda and has some disturbing ties to the Texas oil men that back Bush.
His short piece is here and some of the best parts of it will follow:
Of the top oil producing countries in the world, only one is a democracy with a president who was elected on a platform of using his nation's oil revenue to benefit the poor. The country is Venezuela. The President is Hugo Chavez. Call him "the Anti-Bush."
Citgo is a U.S. refining and marketing firm that is a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company. Money you pay to Citgo goes primarily to Venezuela -- not Saudi Arabia or the Middle East. There are 14,000 Citgo gas stations in the US. (Click here http://www.citgo.com/CITGOLocator/StoreLocator.jsp to find one near you.) By buying your gasoline at Citgo, you are contributing to the billions of dollars that Venezuela's democratic government is using to provide health care, literacy and education, and subsidized food for the majority of Venezuelans.
Instead of using government to help the rich and the corporate, as Bush does, Chavez is using the resources and oil revenue of his government to help the poor in Venezuela. A country with so much oil wealth shouldn't have 60 percent of its people living in poverty, earning less than $2 per day. With a mass movement behind him, Chavez is confronting poverty in Venezuela. That's why large majorities have consistently backed him in democratic elections. And why the Bush administration supported an attempted military coup in 2002 that sought to overthrow Chavez.
One more thing from DJW -- it's amazing to think about Brazil. Was it less than 30 years ago that Brazil was a military dictatorship and today is governed by Lula and the Working People's Party, perhaps the most progressive government of any major southern hemisphere nation?
Friday, May 20, 2005
Representative David Miller's work (I saw him talking up this issue a year ago at a conference in D.C.) with lots and lots of others to move HB 1100 through both chambers is a big bill that is a progressive victory.
The bill is here. For background on the issue, check out the CapFax blog and click on the ad.
Some big picture numbers I've heard. Payday lending, which is the practice of a corporation accepting a bad check from a paycheck-to-paycheck guy and charging ridiculously high interest rates, plus processing fees, to suck the financial vitality out of those working people to enrich usurious corporations, often out-of-state-owned, is about a $1.5 billion industry in Illinois. It's basically unregulated.
So think of that billion five getting sucked out of the pockets of working people in Illinois, and a lot of it going to the big banks. Perpetuating poverty. Corporate loan sharking. All that.
Assuming the House concurs with the Senate amendments to HB 1100, and there's no reason to think that they won't work it out, this rapacious industry will have some real limites placed on it. It will probably cost them, and save working people, in the neighborhood of $300 million every year. Maybe more.
That's real wealth generation for the state.
This is a very good thing, and is the sort of thing that should inspire more people to engage with state government and politics.
Especially when the news is filled with leaked British memos showing the Bush Administration planned to invade Iraq months before 9/11, and then used the tragedy to lie to the electorate in order to take advantage of the opportunity to kick ass in a foreign land (see The Downing Street Memo for some more on this, and don't see the American corporate media for any of it), this victory is some good news. Politics is good!
Boland is cut from a similar cloth as Pat Quinn, with his background in the Citizens Utility Board. I'm a big Boland fan, especially because of his enthusiasm for opening up our election system. If he runs, I'm in his corner.
But I'm getting to be such a wuss! I hate the thought of risking it all to run for a bigger office. I guess I don't have the testicular virility to fully support good House members running for a different race. (Yeah, I'm a few days late, but it's still funny).
Speaking of testicular virility jokes, during floor debate today, Representative Bob Molaro was questioning Representative Marlow Colvin about the purpose of his bill, and grew increasingly exasperated, but wanted to assure Colvin that he wasn't trying to be difficult. He said "Look, I'm not just trying to bust your -- ahh, well, what's the word? Your testicular virility. OK? But what's the point of the bill?"
It was funny.
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
This would set up an internet voters guide for statewide offices on the State Board of Elections website.
This is long overdue. Unfortunately, the sponsors apparently had to strip out the provisions to authorize a printed voters guide, which at least a dozen states issue but not Illinois. But this is a good bill and I certainly hope it passes.
If you'd like to call your representative this week for a democracy-enhancing bill, SB 187 is a good one. It might not "rock the system" but it will teach some citizens about the candidates on the ballot, and that's a good thing. An educated electorate is a good thing.
I'm not sure why the bill only earned 31 votes in the Senate. Here is the roll call. Some usual Republican supporters of transparent government, like Rauschenberger, Lauzen, Winkel and Dillard voted no. The Democrats who voted no on this include Jacobs and Munoz which is not a good sign, especially as there isn't a compelling reason to vote against the bill besides a nagging sense that voters are already getting too much information. The Republicans who voted yes along with every other Democratic senator to save the bill are Dave Sullivan and Christine Radogno. They deserve some thanks.
I wonder which Republican state senators, based on their complete voting record, are the most reasonable, defined as willing to vote with the Democrats on a good government bills like this. It's hard to separate out partisan loyalty from the roll call, but that's the expectation of some Republican senators. And similarly, I wonder which Democratic senators are the most 'at risk' to peel away from the caucus position and kill a bill on good government bills like this. Comments, guesses, speculation or actual data is welcome.
Monday, May 16, 2005
Our governments starve passenger rail into the second-class, pokey Amtrak system. Why? Because it's a failed 'socialist' experiment. Governments can't run services efficiently, say the Bush Administration. So we spend less than $2 billion on Amtrak every year.
But United Airlines, a private company, decides to unload their pensions onto the government, and we taxpayers pick up the cost. Of NINE BILLION DOLLARS. Here's an article citing the government's estimate of the loss.
For a private company. Hey, at least it's not socialist! Who cares how much government money we throw at a company -- as long as it is privately held, it's efficient!
(Full disclosure. . .I'm following this stuff because one of my clients is the Midwest High Speed Rail Association that you can join here if you want.)
And George W. is riding his mountain bike.
This plane might need to be shot down. It's within three miles of the White House -- how many minutes until it hits the White House from three miles away? Two? Three? Five?
And George W. is riding his mountain bike.
This could be the second Al Queda attack on D.C. with the worst results possible. These are the moments that test leadership.
And George W. is riding his mountain bike.
No one thought to call the President of the United States.
That's our leadership in Washington. An MIA President.
Here's an excerpt from one of the few times our corporate media reporters took on the White House with hard questions about this appalling lack of leadership from the White House. It's from Editor and Publisher, through Yahoo News.
If you feel safe with President Bush in office, you should tell me how. Because days like this when the President rides his mountain bike while a plane barrels towards the White House make me very nervous about trusting Republicans with national security.
Friday, May 13, 2005
The new vehicle is HB 755, perhaps as close to the 750 brand as they could get.
The bill status is here and the text of the amendment is here (it's long).
There's a good article in the State Journal Register here.
Basically, this is a 2005 version of the swap. The details are still a little murky (I haven't read it all yet), but it's great news and a big sign of progress.
Who says the House is always more progressive than the Senate. . . .?
When you're right on the substance but wrong on the politics, you're Rod Blagojevich on campaign finance reform
No one should be allowed to give $10,000 to a political candidate.
That distorts democracy.
Governor Blagojevich's press release listed a lot of fundamental, significant reforms that would make Illinois government cleaner and better.
And reformers took the press release and (in this fantastically symbolic move by Representative John Fritchey) crumpled it up. And spit on it. And scoffed. And burned it. And slowly shook their heads in disgust at such a cynical, transparently-PR move.
Governor Blagojevich, in his press release, lists a lot of good people supporting the reforms, including Pat Quinn, Abner Mikva, Cindi Canary and Hugo Rojas. Senator Ronen and Representative Phelps have been tasked to carry the as-yes-unwritten bills.
So who is right?
Most observers think the governor's earnest call for cleaner politics is an empty ploy. It's certainly not a serious consensus-building exercise to pass far-reaching legislation, and all the earnest words in the world don't excuse the lack of any real effort to engage with legislators on implementing reforms.
But on the other hand, lots of big reforms start with something less than the best of intentions. There is real progress made in that the Governor of Illinois has called for significant campaign finance reform. That's a good thing.
And although the press release -- not the bill, because there isn't one -- deserves the scorn from legislators it received (who, after all, are looking for legislation), it's still a damn good press release.
It's called "Why I Support John Bolton" and it starts off like this:
I know this may not sound politically correct, but as someone who has abused and tormented employees and underlings for years, I am dismayed by all of this yammering directed at John Bolton. Let's face it, the people who are screaming the loudest at Bolton have never been a boss and have no idea what it’s like to deal with nitwits as dumb as themselves all day long. Why, even this morning my moronic assistant handed me a cup of coffee with way too much milk in it. I was incensed.
"You stupid ignoramus," I screamed, doing all I could to restrain myself from tossing the luke-warm liquid in her face. “There's too much freaking (I didn’t say freaking) milk in here! What the freak is wrong with you?!”
Monday, May 09, 2005
In 2003, there were some big bills. A rise in the minimum wage. A huge upswing in FamilyCare (making us one of the best states in the Union). Civil rights for homosexuals. Ethics reform. The state's first housing policy. Polluter pays for water dumpers. Covering birth control for all insurance.
What's the big bill in 2005? Medical malpractice? Mass transit. . . kind of. Finally giving kids from poor areas a decent education? Nope.
Republicans in D.C. don't act this way. They use their political capital.
Some legislators are grumbling that the agenda is getting more cautious and less visionary. And that's not why they took the job.
That's probably the role of the movement -- to push the party to get bigger, get bolder and help deliver a higher standard of living for people.
What should we do? More and better teachers, from K through college. Renewable energy everywhere to get energy jobs in Illinois, not Houston or Saudi Arabia. Force the coal power plants to install state-of-the-art pollution control equipment so they can burn Illinois coal and help bring back Southern Illinois from the brink. (Why Southern Illinois electeds oppose the most stringent clean air requirements in Illinois plants is beyond me. With the best equipment, the plants can burn high-sulfur Illinois coal. Am I missing something?) Change economic development from tax credits for corporations to buying health insurance for employees. Tax relief for people making less than 40 grand. Tax the wealthy more because they can afford it -- and because those taxes are subsidized by the feds. Build another college. Expand the number of students at our existing colleges by 10% -- at least. Get the extra students from overseas if we have to. Let the non-violent drug offenders out of prison and use the money for financial aid for colleges. Quit locking people up for drug possession in the first place. Move from an institution-based system of care for the disabled and the old to a community-based system which is cheaper and better.
Big ideas are exciting. We need more of them.
My favorite parts:
I do draw a distinction between a movement and a party. One of the books I've been reading recently, which I found really interesting, is Richard Viguerie's book "America's Right Turn." If you simply substitute "progressive" for "conservative," it offers a pretty good road map of how to think about these issues. His basic point is that the job of a party is to get elected and the job of a movement is to promote ideas and an ideology. And unless the movement kind of understands that that's its role -- and not getting elected -- and unless the party understands what its relationship is to the movement, you kind of end up with a muddle. Which is not to say that it may not be strategic sometimes for the movement to back candidates who are not precisely in line with its ideology.
At MoveOn, we're the outsiders. We're definitely on the movement side of the equation. We don't want to be the party. We want to be the people on the outside keeping the party accountable to its best self.
Do you see MoveOn's role to be one of reaching out to people in the middle who may be coming to terms with these issues now as opposed to rallying, and collecting money from, the base?I don't know if you've ever played the board game Risk. With Risk, the way you win is to build out from your base. You get a heck of a lot of armies on Australia, or whatever it is, and then you reach out. And if you spread yourself too thin, you kind of implode from all sides because there's no center of gravity. At some point, absolutely, you reach out, but progressives are too quick to skip over the first step. There are a hell of a lot of people who are low-hanging fruit -- who agree with us, who are ready to work on behalf of these issues if they're given an effective way to do so.
The best evidence that 'Democrats with backbone' works well is on Social Security, so far.
No Democrats broke under the pressure to come up with a compromise plan. And this Wall Street giveaway is looking less likely to fly than it did in January.
And he's right that we need to beef up our base. More of us need to get engaged with the Democratic Party. It's not perfect, but nothing is.
Saturday, May 07, 2005
Friday, May 06, 2005
So take a guess.
Yeah. Not so much.
About 37% of the vote.
The Conservative Party won 33%.
And the Liberal Democratic Party won 22%.
That's according to an exit poll in this article.
The reason why things get so ridiculously distorted between the share of the vote earned and the share of the seats won is that the United Kingdom does not use proportional representation.
Instead, they use the system that we've inherited -- electing one legislator from a district who faces the impossible task of representing people who voted against her.
The Labor Party is enjoying a manufactured majority in the House of Commons. And that's not right.
Hopefully the next election in the UK will use proportional representation -- Irish-style voting. Check out www.IrishVoting.org to see what they (and we) should do.
(Thanks to Rich Miller and particularly the poster Yellow Dog Democrat, for posting this tidbit here in the fifth comment. I'll just copy his post)
As I've pointed out elsewhere, roughly 13,000 of the inmates currently in Illinois prisons are serving time for non-violent, Class 4 felony drug possession. Not drug dealing, drug possession.
Is this a good use of taxpayer dollars, at a time when the waiting line for getting into a drug treatment program on the outside is six months? I don't think so.
If the poster is correct, we are wasting a ton of money. I understand the cost per inmate is in the neighborhood of $20,000 annually (plus or minus 5 grand). So, some quick math., 13,000 inmates times $20,000 each is $260 million.
Let's say we can put them into drug rehab for half that. That's $130 million annual savings. That sure helps close the structural deficit.
That would be a great bill to work on. I wonder who would lobby for that?
Thursday, May 05, 2005
Here's the cartoon. Check it out. Very funny.
UPDATE AND GRIPE: Thanks to the Austin Mayor for pointing out my post was truncuated. The Treo 600 is doing that to my emails as well. I'm slightly less happy with Sprint. If anyone knows how to fix that bug, suggestions would be welcome.