Saturday, May 14, 2016

Proof that rallies matter

Capitol Fax has coverage of an attempt by the Rauner administration to prevent unions from publicizing the May 18 at Springfield by posting fliers on union bulletin boards at state work sites. An officious memo was sent out claiming this was a violation of the Ethics Act. I'm not lawyer enough to parse that act authoritatively, but the claim looks pretty bogus. "Political activity" is pretty narrowly defined by the act to apply to elections, and what are union bulletin boards for, anyway?

More interesting, perhaps, is the obvious sensitivity among some in the Rauner camp about this rally. When you stretch the law to censor publicity about something, that shows you're worried. SIUC  veterans will remember the outcry when the SIU administration censored the SIUC Facebook page during the strike. I suppose the quick action by SIUC to paint over the graffiti on Faner recently is somewhat similar case, though removing graffiti isn't  censorship.

Some wag quickly adopted a rally flier to reflect the latest developments . . .

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Budget plan presented to GA leadership, governor

A bi-partisan group of legislators has shared a plan to balance the state budget with combination of budget cuts and tax hikes. Here stories from the State-Journal Register (Springfield) and Politico .

This could be a big deal. Details from the plan are sketchy. It does not contain any of the items from Rauner's Turnaround Agenda, but also apparently does not include things like K-12 funding or any effort to address the long-term pension crisis. The only detail in either story on higher ed funding is a requirement for universities to pick up pension costs for employees making more than $180,000.

In less happy news, Capitol Fax notes that Mike Madigan issuing an uncompromising statement on his goals for this session; an informal survey of readers on that blog shows a slight majority coming down in opposition to what blogmaster Rich Miller called "reasonable compromise" on Madigan's part.

There's also a lawsuit against the Independent Map proposal to change the way Illinois draws legislative districts. Reboot Illinois has a story on the lawsuit, including speculation on whether Madigan is behind it. A group affiliated with Madigan successfully blocked a similar proposal last year.  Reboot also reposts this cartoon from the Tribune, which attacked Madigan for attempting to stop redistricting reform in an editorial today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

DE won't print this summer

The DE announced today that it won't be putting out a hard copy newspaper this summer. The reasons were lack of relevant on-campus classes, which means fewer staffers will be on campus, and problems finding a printer now that the university has cut the amount it is willing to pay for printing. These aren't positive developments, obviously enough, and they reflect budget cuts (and, for summer classes, declining enrollment).

Gus BodeThe DE says they will be publishing something virtually, but as there won't be much of a staff on-campus, one doesn't imagine their online presence will be particularly robust, either; certainly reporters won't be here to interview people, take pictures, etc.

This summer could be eventful for SIUC, and not in a good way--particularly if we don't see a state budget anytime soon. I'm not cynical enough to believe that the administration has starved the DE of funding in order to help limit media coverage of possible cuts on campus, but that could be an effect, intended or not.

The DE often does excellent work. DE coverage is vital not only for campus issues but some local ones--like their work on the Tim Beaty killing in Carbondale. Other student papers are cutting back print editions as well, but it looks like the DE is cutting back, period, this summer.

Health insurance premiums could double

If your eyes glaze over when reading news of the AFSCME negotiations with Governor Rauner, consider this bit from the info on our Benefit Choice Information regarding our health care.
CMS has indicated that employee and dependent premiums could potentially double. 
 AFCSME negotiations are currently on hold, as Rauner claims they are at an impasse, which would allow him to impose his terms--including that doubling in premiums. AFSCME says Rauner has not been negotiating in good faith. These are precisely the charges we saw at this campus, though Rauner is seeking a ruling from the labor board before imposing terms. Democrats in the Assembly have been pushing a measure to require binding arbitration to settle such disputes; the On Labor website has a good summary of what such a bill would mean.

Capitol Fax has a he-said she-said version of negotiations. AFSCME is planning a rally on May 18 in Springfield to protest against Rauner.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Optimism of a sort

Progress Illinois has a good story on a presentation today by legislators who are members of the self-styled group of "budgeteers". Legislators from both sides of the aisle are quoted as being cautiously optimistic about progress. Here's a memorable bit from two Democratic Senators, Andy Manar and Daniel Biss, calling out GOP talk about reform.
Biss commented on the Illinois GOP's calls for "structural reforms."

"I think we need to be a little bit careful about the unicorn -- that it's attractive to talk about reform when we mean cut," Biss said. "Just saying reform, instead of saying cut, doesn't necessarily mean that we're achieving a magical resolution that allows us to spend less without hurting people." . . .

Manar predicted that a potential budget agreement could mirror the spending plan Democrats passed last year. Rauner vetoed most of that Democrat-backed budget, citing its $4 billion shortfall.

"That was a bare-bones budget that was passed by the majority," Manar said.

The state senator added: "I would echo Daniel's sentiments that if there was a magic unicorn running through the Capitol, somebody would have caught it by now and would have put it into a bill, and we would have passed it and the governor would have signed it. There are no easy choices."

Bryant, Rauner losing support in Southern Illinois

Rich Miller reports findings from a new PPP poll showing that Terri Bryant is losing support rapidly.

In August Bryant had a 50-27% positive approval rating; she's now at 42% approve and 43% disapprove.

Rauner himself carried Bryant's district 60-33, but now 57% of voters disapprove of how he's handling his job, as opposed to 33% approving.

The only head to head poll I can find  dates back to February, when it was reported by the Illinois Observer; it showed Bryant ahead of her democratic opponent, Marsha Griffin.

As Rauner's victory margin shows, Bryant's district (which includes the western half of Carbondale) leans Republican, but her race certainly looks competitive at this point.

Griffin will appear at the FA event this Wednesday from 5-7 at Evergreen Park, together with Illinois Senate candidate Sheila Simon. FA organizers are also promising good food and drink. I would assume there will also be a report on progress (or the lack thereof) in bargaining. So come out and vote in the FA election, meet local General Assembly candidates, and celebrate the end of the semester.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

State updates

News from Springfield is coming more slowly after the flurry occasioned by the return of the legislature.

The State-Journal Register has a story updating the progress on negotiations on the budget. The process is driven now by two bipartisan groups of legislators, neither consisting of leaders in either house, though one of the groups is working with aides from leaders and the governor. Moderate optimism seems the tone here, but no agreements have yet been reached by either group of legislators, and once they do reach agreement they will almost certainly need agreement of the leadership before putting measures to a vote.

The SJR /AP also reports that the Independent Map group delivered some 550,000 signatures on petitions to put their proposal on the ballot in November. It would replace the current system, whereby the Legislature (i.e., the majority party in the legislature) draws political districts with an independent commission. The drive will face two challenges: while they have almost twice as many signatures as required to put an initiative on the ballot, many by prove invalid; and there may be legal challenges on other grounds. Last time the group tried this, Mike Madigan had lawyers mount and win a court challenge ruling the proposal was unconstitutional.

Redistricting petitions arrive in Springfield
I've not picked up on any news on the prospects of the latest university stop-gap spending bill, the one that passed the Senate last week and would bring university funding up to 60% of 2015 levels. The House could pick up that bill when it returns to session on Tuesday. Fingers crossed.