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It’s Official and Unanimous – Rahm’s On the Ballot

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7 out of 7 Illinois Supreme Court Justices agree that Rahm Emmanuel is in fact a resident of Chicago.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled today that Rahm Emanuel can stay on the ballot for mayor of Chicago,  saying in a unanimous decision that he meets the state’s residency requirements despite spending most of the last year as White House chief of staff.

“The voters deserved the right to make the choice of who should be mayor. And what the Supreme Court said basically, in short, that the voters should make the decicions of who will be mayor,” a victorious Emanuel said after slapping backs and shaking hands with commuters at the Clark and Lake elevated train stop near his downtown headquarters.

“The nice part was to be able to tell the news to voters, because a lot of people had not heard it,” Emanuel said.

The court essentially took the position of the Appellate minority, and by that I mean their position is that the Appellate majority are a bunch of political hacks who wouldn’t know established jurisprudence if it jumped up and bit them square on the ass.  Allahpundit at Hot Air points out:

So harsh is it, in fact, that two justices wrote a separate concurrence criticizing the court for being unduly vicious towards the appellate court. (“[T]he tone taken by the majority today is unfortunate…”)

Surprise surprise, one of the two dissenting concurrences came from Ms. “I Think For Myself and Don’t Care That My Husband Rules the Chicago City Council With an Iron Fist” Justice Burke.  Can’t imagine she likes seeing them get this kind of lashing when all they did was what her husband ordered them to.


Something Tells Me Daniel O’Reilly Was Aiming for State Senate

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Madigan says NO!

So yesterday the news broke that Daniel O’Reilly, Village President of Stickney, IL, was busted for improperly claiming tax breaks on two local businesses he owns by the Cook County Assessors Office.

Stickney Village President Daniel O’Reilly improperly claimed property tax breaks on two of his businesses, prompting the Cook County assessor’s office to revoke those exemptions as well as one on his home, an official said Wednesday.

O’Reilly claimed homeowner exemptions on the two businesses since 2003, despite having claimed the exemption on his home in Stickney since 1999, said Kelley Quinn, a spokeswoman for the assessor.

Now if you’re not familiar with the Cook County Assessor’s Office, it’s run by Joe Berrios, noted Mike Madigan crony, chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party and “Mr. Pay-to-Play“.  The entire Illinois machine runs through Madigan and Berrios, and “improper tax breaks” are the currency they use.  So naturally when I saw this story, I got a little curious.

Turns out there’s something else going on down in Stickney (a suburb near Lyons and Berwyn).

It turns out Lou Viverito, State Senator from the 11th district, Stickney Township Supervisor and another Madigan crony, recently resigned from his Senate seat.  Right after he voted for the tax increase and also dicked over the Village of Brookfield.

In addition to his vote on the income tax increase, Viverito was the state legislator who authored a law outlawing any municipality from imposing an amusement tax on a zoo operating on land owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

That law, which passed the Illinois General Assembly on Jan. 7, appears to have thwarted a bid by the Village of Brookfield to impose a 25-cent-per-head tax on admission at Brookfield Zoo. The village imposed the tax in December despite the protests of the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates Brookfield Zoo.

The society lobbied state legislators to pass a law against the tax, which Viverito did in November, a move that blindsided the village.

According to the Tribune, Viverito wants Mayor Steve Landek of Bridgeview to replace him in the Senate.  These appointments are done by area committeemen.  And it just so happens that a fair amount of Brookfield is in the 11th Senate District, meaning their committeemen get to participate in the choosing of Viverito’s replacement.

Bear in mind the only evidence I’m going off of is listed above (plus what we all know about Madigan and Berrios).  What I am almost certain of is someone was lining up votes to challenge Landek in the committeemen vote.  Either O’Reilly was looking to be the replacement or he was an integral vote in one way or another and Madigan was sending a message to anyone considering any funny business.  I’m guessing the message has been received.

Really, you can’t feel too bad for the guy.  Whoever came out of this was going to be a machine crony anyway, and if you’re going to try to take down Madigan’s anointed, you have to be pretty damn stupid to still be suckling at the Berrios’ teet.  What did you think was going to happen?  If you wanted to just stump for votes without preparing for any consequences, go to the model UN.  The Illinois State Senate is probably not the place for you.

Illinois’ Own Failed Stimulus Loses Its Funding

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Back in January of 2009, hyped up on stimulus-feva, Illinois passed a $31 billion capital bill called “Illinois Jobs Now”.  Today, thanks to the owner of the Chicago Blackhawks and an Illinois Appellate Court a lot of the funding for it is now going…going…gone.

The Illinois Court of Appeals has ruled the General Assembly acted unconstitutionally when it approved funding sources for the state’s $31 billion capital construction program.

The lawsuit that led to Wednesday’s ruling was filed by W. Rockwell Wirtz, better known as Rocky Wirtz. His family is best known as owners of the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. The foundation of their financial fortune, however, is Wirtz Beverage Illinois, a distributor of alcoholic beverages.

Used to getting their way in Springfield, the Wirtz family was infuriated when the legislature ignored their objections to the liquor tax.

A spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan estimated that the ruling eliminated at least 40 percent of the funding sources devoted to the state’s giant capital construction program.

The decision is available here.

Ultimately this is going to cause some big problems, largely for the same reason that this was found to be unconstitutional.  For some stupid reason when the package was passed the spending and revenue portions were put in separate bills.  The revenue portion, the part that was found to be unconstitutional, was found to be so as it violates Illinois’ Single Subject Rule.  The standard for this rule is whether there’s a “natural and logical” connection between the different aspects of a bill.  Had the spending and revenue portions been part of the same bill, the funding probably could have been sold as the natural and logical connection of funding the capital bill.  Instead, the only thing that connects the provisions in a stand-alone revenue bill is “revenue”, which has already been ruled to be too broad.

This also means that the spending bill is still law.  If Madigan’s projections of this cutting 40% of the capital bill’s funding, that would mean there is now $12.4 billion is newly unfunded spending.  This would erase all of the benefits to the deficit from the tax hike, and add an additional $5 billion to it.  In other words, there is going to have to be another tax hike.  Like, right now.

Considering the reaction to the last tax hike, good luck with that.

A lot of the problem could be dealt with by a stand-alone video gambling bill, but that’s going to be a tough sell.  Video poker, aka “the crack cocaine of gambling”, was a big issue in the last election in just about every Republican-leaning and centrist area of the state.  Most of the new guys ran against video gambling, and the survivors typically ran away from their vote and would be loathe to immediately show that those tacts were bullshit.  It could probably pass, but it’d be a lot rougher than it was last time (and it wasn’t pretty last time).

On top of that, back then the proponents of the package had the myth of jobs and stimulus and whatnot to help sell the bill.  Now they can’t.  Any stimulative effect has long since been priced in, and just as the conservatives expected, Illinois still sucks.  So instead of buying jobs, growth and stability, now it’s just staving off a budget collapse to pay for annoying road construction.

In short, get your popcorn ready.

Quinn to Sign Civil Unions Bill Next Monday

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New Normal

Via CapFax (and subsequently via NowInGayChicago), State Rep Greg Harris posted on his facebook page Saturday:

Governor Pat Quinn will sign the Civil Union Law on Monday, January 31. The signing ceremony will be in the afternoon in the Chicago Loop, and open to the public. Details will be announced early next week.

Personally, I see the gay rights movement similarly to how I view the modern environmental movement, that it’s a legit movement that allowed itself to be co-opted by a bunch of commies, and subsequently  I don’t support it.  If it was just about gays, fine, but it’s never been about that.  It’s always been “So you’re not a homophobe?  The only way you can prove it is voting for these communists.” which means it actually has nothing to do with gay rights.

But I digress.  Politically, there are two aspects to this that I find most interesting.  The first is the idea of shifting baselines, the second is the fundamental differences between the Illinois Democratic Party and the national Democratic Party.

After 2004 gay marriage seemed to the untrained eye to be dead and buried.  Everyone seemed to agree (aside from college students and college-town liberals) that marriage was a union between a man and a woman, and the support was so lopsided that pushing for gay marriage ever again seemed quixotic at best.  After California, one of the bluest of blue states voted down gay marriage immediately following the left wing blowout of 2008, little seemed to change in the conventional wisdom.  Still, gay rights proponents had a plan.

Jumping from no recognition of the legitimacy of gay relationships to seeing them as, for all intents and purposes, identical to straight relationships was clearly a bridge too far.  Still, this was not an across the board rebuke of any recognition of gay relationships.  Polling showed people really weren’t comfortable with gay partners being kept from each other as one died in the hospital.  Polling showed that people didn’t mind the extension of non-child related legal rights (like sharing health insurance) to gay couples.  In other words, the door was cracked open.

Smart political movements know that this meant there is an opportunity.  If they could create an institution where gays got these things, and with it some sort of legal recognition of the legitimacy of their partnerships, the baseline would shift.  In other words, there would be a new normal.  Once this new normal took root in the hearts and minds of the American people, it becomes much easier to chip away at the fringes…what about passing on Social Security?  What happens if a gay cop dies in the line of fire?  Eventually that leads to the question “What happens if a gay cop with two adopted kids dies in the line of fire?  Are you going to send them into foster care over letting them stay with their other dad?”  Once that’s established, both partners are recognized as parents, which means it’d be silly not to let gay couples adopt as couples.  Once they’re doing that, what’s really the point in not letting them marry?

It often feels too slow for the people who believe these are fundamental rights, but it’s also terrifying to people who think that gay marriage is actually a cheapening of the institution of marriage, because it can’t be stopped.  Every time they try to stop it, they wind up delegitimizing themselves (What, you’re actually for sending a dead cops kids to foster care just because he’s gay?  You actually think that gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to spend their final moments on this Earth together?).

So that’s how something goes from gay marriage in 2004 to how gay marriage is eventually going to become politically acceptable.  In short, it’s a done deal (unless the gay rights movement makes a big screw up, opening the door for the evangelicals to do the same thing to them).

So on to the second point.  Isn’t it kind of weird that the Democrat governor in one of the bluest states in the nation even bothered with the “Will I or won’t I?” schtick on the Civil Unions bill?  To people from outside Illinois, or people from the North Shore it does seem weird, but the reality is that the Illinois Democratic Party has a lot more in common with the Democratic Party from the movie “Gangs of New York” than it does with the national Democratic Party.  There are certainly liberals in the Democratic Party, but there is no binding ideology.  It has a lot more to do with ethnic tribalism, with the IDA serving as the arbiter of who gets what.

This is why the Republican Party doesn’t really get anywhere here.  The Republicans make arguments about ideology – illegal immigration, spending cuts, etc., but when you get in and around the city, it’s all about pork (and whether your ethnicity’s neighborhoods get any).  When you try to make an ideological case in this situation, all you’re demonstrating is that you don’t grasp the actual issue at hand.

Feds Trying to Let Illinois Go Bankrupt

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Elevating jigs

I know that treating the Constitution like it was some kind of, ahem, law is not particularly in vogue right now, but let’s think about this one for a minute:

Policymakers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.

Unlike cities, the states are barred from seeking protection in federal bankruptcy court. Any effort to change that status would have to clear high constitutional hurdles because the states are considered sovereign.

But proponents say some states are so burdened that the only feasible way out may be bankruptcy, giving Illinois, for example, the opportunity to do what General Motors did with the federal government’s aid.

So sovereign states would go to a court that would have to be empowered to dictate their current and future asset allocation.  It’s OK, it’s a just a hurdle, right?

Naturally the bond markets are having a shit fit even at the mention of this, which strikes me as kind of silly considering if you’re into bond trading chances are you can do math, at least at the level where it’s fairly obvious some kind of default is coming with most states.

Still, there is some precedent:

The story began, as so many do, with the best of intentions. In 1927, the state of Arkansas took responsibility for $54.8 million in debt sold by hundreds of road districts to prevent its default.

Combined with the state’s own $84 million in highway-system bonds and $7.2 million in toll-bridge securities, the assumption of district bonds pushed Arkansas’ debt to $146 million. Coupons on the bonds were as much as 5 percent.

Fast forward to March 1933 in the depths of the Great Depression — not Senator Reaves’s best of circumstances. The Arkansas General Assembly passed the Ellis Refunding Act, which sought to exchange all outstanding highway debt for state bonds carrying a 3 percent coupon, maturing in 25 years.

“Interest on highway and toll-bridge bonds, amounting to $770,500, due March 1, is in default, and this fact spurred the Governor in his demand for a refunding program that would yield revenue sufficient to meet any emergency and insure stability to outstanding obligations,” the New York Times reported.

Actually, this wasn’t the first state default.  Still, read the piece.  Basically what happened was the bondholders got an injunction against using gas or automobile taxes for anything but highway maintenance, and Arkansas cut a deal with the bondholders where they raised the taxes and eventually paid off the bonds (but not without nearly defaulting several more times).

The issue is that back then Arkansas guaranteed the debt with a specified revenue stream (gas and auto taxes).  Now they’re all general obligation, meaning they’re backed with the full faith and credit/taxing authority of the issuing state.  This could mean there’s no recourse, or it could mean that some random federal judge could use the power of injunction to determine what things a state could legally pay for before paying off its debt, even without bankruptcy.  The state would still be sovereign in a de jure federalist sense, but as a bond issuer who has entered into default they’d be like any corporation that did the same.

So unless I completely misinterpreted GO bonds (which is a definite possibility) the goal of creating a mechanism for bankruptcy would be more about codifying what happens in this situation instead of leaving it entirely up to the whims of whatever judge gets this turd dropped at his/her doorstep than it is a federal power grab.  That said, it would still be a massive federal power grab, because granting states the ability to declare bankruptcy means they give up their sovereignty regardless of whether they ever use this ability, as federal sovereignty is a necessary premise of the ability even existing.

Obviously, any lawyer input on this would be greatly appreciated.

(Hopefully) Dumbest Controversy of the Day: Giffords’ Doc’s Parents Gave Money to Tea Partiers

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Ah, it is so sweet to live in this new era of civil discourse.

The name of Michael Lemole, the University of Arizona neurosurgeon who’s been treating U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ brain injuries since the Jan. 8 shooting, may sound familiar to Palm Beachers.

That’s because Lemole’s mom and pop, heart surgeon Gerald Lemole and his wife, Emily, live in a $7.1 million house on The Island. They also own a more modest $3.5 million house, also in Palm Beach.

According to campaign filings, Lemole’s parents have showered with thousands in contributions — $15,700 in 2010 alone — Tea Party candidates vying for national offices.

Ironically: Among their favorites are some of the very people whose controversial rhetoric and campaigns are said to provide a fertile ground for the likes of Jared Loughner, who allegedly injured Giffords and killed six others in Tucson.

For the life of me I can’t wrap my head around what exactly is supposed to be the issue here.  Is it because they think his parents will get him to be a bad doctor?  Did he let his parents sneak in and plant a chip inside her head during brain surgery?  Even if we ignore the fact that there is absolutely nothing to back up the most ridiculously cynical meme in my political lifetime (that the Tea Party somehow deliberately got into the mind of this paranoid schizophrenic and made him shoot Giffords and kill a Republican judge), what’s the argument here?

My best guess is that the columnist has some sort of beef with the parents, and is dumb enough to think now’s his opportunity to smear them in the press.  Which, sadly, is not the worst thing we’ve seen from the press in the wake of this tragedy.  Or he’s just a scumbag piece of shit who’s looking to pull a Bill Maher, in which case, mission accomplished asshole.

Open Thread: RNC Chairman Vote

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End Times?

Above the fold final update: Congratulations to newly elected Chairman Priebus.  I’m optimistic.


So today is the day.  Consensus seems to be that Wisconsin State Party Chair Reince Priebus is going to win.  He’s got 38 public commitments.  Steele’s all but done, with only 17 public commitments.  To put that into perspective, during the last election it was clear that Chairman Mike Duncan was toast when he only got 52 votes on the first ballot.

Priebus has the easiest shot, but he’s in a somewhat precarious position because he’s too pro-Steele for the anti-Steele people and too anti-Steele for the pro-Steele people.  If one of the dark horses, Ann Wagner (14 commitments), Saul Anuzis (14 commitments) or Maria Cino outperforms expectations on the early ballots we could see Steele’s supporters go to Priebus and everyone else going to the de facto anti-Steele consensus candidate.

Priebus is hoping to hit a number on the early ballots that confirm his inevitability, so RNC members who don’t want to spend the next term locked outside will get behind the winner.

Nominations start around noon, and voting soon thereafter.

Note: Everything (and there’s a lot) is after the fold. Read the rest of this entry »