Tag: Pat Quinn

Illinois Supreme Court UNANIMOUSLY throws out pension theft scheme

This is a couple of days old, but I have great news to share:

The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday unanimously ruled unconstitutional a landmark state pension law that aimed to scale back government worker benefits to erase a massive $105 billion retirement system debt, sending lawmakers and the new governor back to the negotiating table to try to solve the pressing financial issue.

The ruling also reverberated at (Chicago) City Hall, imperiling a similar law (Chicago) Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed through to shore up two of the four city worker retirement funds and making it more difficult for him to find fixes for police, fire and teacher pension funds that are short billions of dollars.

At issue was a December 2013 state law signed by then-Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn that stopped automatic, compounded yearly cost-of-living increases for retirees, extended retirement ages for current state workers and limited the amount of salary used to calculate pension benefits.

The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously struck down the pension theft scheme despite Democratic Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan basically arguing that politicians don’t have to abide by the Illinois Constitution, which contains provisions protecting the pension benefits that our state’s public employees pay into one of several public employee pension systems, if there’s a significant pension shortfall. The Illinois Supreme Court, which has four Democrats and three Republicans, ruled unanimously that the provisions of Illinois Constitution pertaining to public employee pensions do, in fact, apply to politicians who try to screw over retirees.

Make no mistake about it, the fight against the Quinn-Rahm-Ranuer pension theft scheme is far from over.

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Illinois Republicans rail against democracy by opposing special election for state comptroller

Republicans, who are in the minority in both houses of the Illinois General Assembly, railed against democracy yesterday by publicly opposing legislation, which is currently on Democratic Governor Pat Quinn’s desk awaiting his signature, that would call a special election, which, if I’m not mistaken, would be held at the same time as the November 2016 presidential election, to fill the final two years of what would have been Republican Judy Baar Topinka’s second term in the comptroller’s office had she not died last month.

Republican State Senator Dave Syverson of Rockford thinks that allowing Illinoisans to vote for who they want to fill the vacancy in the comptroller’s office that was created by Topinka’s death instead of allowing a political appointee to serve four years in the comptroller’s office without having to face the voters is “political”:

Republicans including Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) blasted Democratic leaders for pushing the amendment through.

“I’m disappointed,” Syverson said. “It’s something that’s clearly political and the governor is doing this as part of his last hurrah.”

Apparently, Syverson thinks that whether or not to allow Illinoisans to elect their own public officials is a political stunt by Democrats and that Republicans should run the state forever. That’s one of the most un-American remarks I’ve ever heard from a politician.

Another Republican State Senator, Darin LaHood of Peoria, repeated a threat by Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner to challenge the legislation in court in a desperate attempt to block the special election from taking place and allow Rauner’s interim political appointee, Leslie Munger, to serve as comptroller for effectively a full four-year term without ever having to face Illinois voters in an election for comptroller:

While the amendment passed both houses easily and is expected to be signed into law, Republicans, including Darin LaHood (R-Peoria) say the fight isn’t over.

“I think there’s no doubt there’ll be a constitutional challenge to this. I think it will happen shortly after a new comptroller is sworn in on Monday,” LaHood said.

I’m not a lawyer, but the legal argument that LaHood and Rauner are trying to make appears to be badly flawed, and it’s unlikely that a court would strike down the special election legislation. Article V, Section 7 of the Illinois Constitution deals with filling vacancies in the offices of comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state, and attorney general, and it appears to allow the General Assembly to enact legislation to allow special elections to fill vacancies in those offices:

If the Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller or Treasurer fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, the Governor shall fill the office by appointment. The appointee shall hold office until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified as may be provided by law and shall not be subject to removal by the Governor. If the Lieutenant Governor fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, it shall remain vacant until the end of the term.

(emphasis mine)

Republicans can whine all they want about Bruce Rauner’s political appointee Leslie Munger not being able to serve four years in the comptroller’s office without having to face the voters of this state, but, more than likely, there will be a special election in order to allow Illinois voters to elect a new comptroller and Munger will only be able to serve two years before either having to face the voters of this state or step down from the comptroller’s office.

How the vacant office of Illinois Comptroller will be filled

Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican Comptroller of Illinois, died early this morning after suffering a stroke. She was 70 years of age at the time of death.

I’m not an attorney, but here’s the part of the Illinois Constitution that deals with filling vacancies in the state comptroller’s office (Article V, Section 7):

If the Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller or Treasurer fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, the Governor shall fill the office by appointment. The appointee shall hold office until the elected officer qualifies or until a successor is elected and qualified as may be provided by law and shall not be subject to removal by the Governor. If the Lieutenant Governor fails to qualify or if his office becomes vacant, it shall remain vacant until the end of the term.

This is an instance in which both the incumbent comptroller failed to qualify for a new term after being elected to a second term and died in office before completing her first term in office. Since I’m not sure if Illinois state law allows for a special election to fill the vacancy (the Illinois Constitution appears to allow the General Assembly to provide for special elections for comptroller if it wishes to pass a law in order to do so, but doesn’t require special elections for comptroller), I’m going to provide two scenarios for filling the vacancy in the Illinois Comptroller’s office; one scenario involves a special election being called and the other scenario involves no special election being called.

SCENARIO #1: SPECIAL ELECTION

  • Either Democratic Governor Pat Quinn (if he makes the appointment before he leaves office) or Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner (if Quinn does not make the appointment before Rauner is sworn into office) appoints someone until a successor chosen by voters in a special statewide election for comptroller is sworn into office.
  • The special election would be held either in the spring of 2015 (possibly at the same time as the Chicago mayoral election and other local elections across the state), the fall of 2016 (possibly at the same time as the presidential and U.S. Senate elections), or on some other date as specified by any law allowing for a special election for comptroller.

SCENARIO #2: NO SPECIAL ELECTION

  • Either Democratic Governor Pat Quinn (if he makes the appointment before he leaves office) or Republican Governor-elect Bruce Rauner (if Quinn does not make the appointment before Rauner is sworn into office) appoints someone to fill the vacancy in the comptroller’s office.
  • The next general election for comptroller is scheduled for November 2018, meaning that whoever is appointed by either Quinn or Rauner would, depending on the date that the appointee takes office, serve slightly more or less than a full four-year term as comptroller.

If someone can definitively tell me what procedure is used for filling a vacancy in the Illinois Comptroller’s office, let me know by leaving a comment on this blog post.

Illinois House Democrats fail to pass minimum wage increase

How I feel about Illinois House Democrats failing to pass a minimum wage increase (image credit to National Football League, CBS Sports, and C.J. Fogler; views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not those of Tom Brady, C.J. Fogler, the New England Patriots, the National Football League, CBS Sports, or any other person or entity)

On November 4, an overwhelming majority of Illinois voters voiced their support for increasing our state’s minimum wage to $10 per hour.

However, despite the fact that the Illinois Senate passed a minimum wage bill, the Illinois House of Representatives adjourned without passing legislation to raise our state’s minimum wage, presumably because one or more Raunercrats in the state house oppose raising the minimum wage. This is a major failure by State House Speaker Mike Madigan and the rest of the Democrats who have a supermajority in the state house because they completely ignored the will of the people of this great state.

Raising the minimum wage would boost our state’s economy by putting more money into the pockets of the working poor, enabling them to spend more money on goods and services. Furthermore, raising the minimum wage would make Illinoisans less reliant on social safety net programs like foodstamps and heating assistance, saving taxpayers money while keeping our social safety net intact for people who need it.

The fact that Democrats in this state can’t pass a minimum wage increase proves how gutless the Democratic Party of Illinois is.

An Autopsy of the Democratic Party

Since being re-elected in 2012, President Barack Obama has declared war on Social Security by threatening to cut benefits, has presided over a Bush-Obama surveillance state that has violated the Fourth Amendment rights of the American people, refused to issue an executive order on immigration, and has spent more time trying to compromise with far-right Republicans that are completely unwilling to compromise with anybody.

Then throw in Democratic U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and gubernatorial candidates who have run awful campaigns, antagonized progressives, and have flatly refused to fight for anything, and we now have a Democratic Party that is, for all intents and purposes, effectively dead. Republicans are going to gain upwards of two dozen seats in the U.S. House, take control of the U.S. Senate, and score a net gain of state governorships. Even in states like Illinois, Michigan, and Maryland, which are usually thought of as Democratic strongholds, Republican candidates won gubernatorial races in each of those states.

Although reasons for Democratic losses vary widely by race to race, the #1 reason why the Democratic Party has been handed massive defeats tonight is the party leadership effectively treating progressives as if they don’t exist, even though they are the core of support for the party. Democratic governors, U.S. Representatives, U.S. Senators, and candidates for those offices have, among other things supported fracking, pension theft, free trade agreements, privatizing public education, the Keystone XL pipeline, tax breaks for businesses, and Republican witchhunts against Democrats, as well as opposed environmental regulations, common-sense gun control measures like background checks, and even health insurance for millions of Americans. In many states/areas of the country, progressive ideals like raising the minimum wage, protecting reproductive rights, legalizing marijuana, and expanding Medicaid got significantly more votes in many parts of the country than most or all Democratic candidates did in those states/areas, indicating that there are people who are politically left-wing but, for whatever reason, vote for Republican candidates.

Pat Quinn, who lost re-election in the Illinois gubernatorial race, is probably the single-best example of someone who has alienated nearly every political ally and lost re-election because of it. In the past four years, Quinn gave out special tax breaks to two of the largest corporations in Illinois (Sears and CME Group), gerrymandered Illinois’s congressional and state legislative districts, opened up Illinois to fracking, and enacted a pension theft scheme that was partially struck down by the Illinois Supreme Court. Additionally, Quinn picking Paul Vallas, a supporter of Michelle Rhee’s anti-public education ideology, further alienated progressives, making his problems with Illinois progressives even worse. Because of all of that, Illinois will have a far-right Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, who wants to run Illinois like his venture capital company that did more to destroy jobs than create jobs, screw the poor in every way possible, and destroy the public education system in Illinois.

However, Democrats alienating progressives wasn’t the only reason why Democrats lost big time in this year’s midterm elections. The gutlessness of many Democratic candidates was one reason why Democrats lost big time. One of the best examples of this is Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic opponent to presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. During her Senate campaign, Grimes largely distanced herself from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), whose Kentucky state health insurance exchange is known as Kynect. Grimes could have centered her campaign around McConnell wanting to repeal the ACA (which would result in the repeal of Kynect) if she wanted to. Instead, she tried to make the race a referendum on McConnell, and it didn’t work. Another reason why some Democrats lost their races was the candidates themselves running flat-footed or even completely out-of-touch campaigns. Bruce Braley and Mark Udall are two examples of this. Braley, who lost the Iowa U.S. Senate race to Republican whacko Joni Ernst, came across to Iowa voters as an elitist and focused largely on issues that aren’t top priorities among Iowa voters (although they are very important issues), such as reproductive rights and student debt. Had Braley focused his campaign on issues like the minimum wage and wind energy, he might have won the election. Udall, who lost the Colorado U.S. Senate race to Republican extremist Cory Gardner, seemed to have all sorts of trouble trying to getting Democratic voters to mail their ballots in under Colorado’s new vote-by-mail system for whatever reason and didn’t really take his Republican challenger seriously for much of the campaign, and that’s the two primary reasons why Udall lost.

You add all of those reasons up and more and you get the atrocious campaign of Mary Burke, the Democrat who lost the Wisconsin gubernatorial election to far-right Republican incumbent Scott Walker, who will likely be the Republican presidential nominee two years from now. Not only did Burke alienate progressives in numerous ways (such as supporting parts of Scott Walker’s union-busting law that dealt with public employees being forced to overpay into pension and health care plans, supporting Common Core State Standards, refusing to support marijuana legalization, emphasizing “bipartisanship” with far-right Republicans at every opportunity, etc.), act like a gutless wimp for the entire campaign (such as largely refusing to call out Walker for the corruption in his administration until late in the campaign) and run a flat-footed and out-of-touch campaign (such as having an inner circle mentality throughout the campaign and running TV ads praising Ronald Reagan and trying to pass off someone working 60+ hours per week as a success story), she also had Democratic party bosses and political operatives bully any other Democrat who tried to run against her, fueling a negative perception that Burke was only interested in serving the powers to be of the Democratic Party and nobody else.

Another factor as to why 2014 has been a terrible year for Democrats is the lack of an unified party message, largely due to the Democratic Party being too big of a tent for its own good. The fact that Democrats range anywhere from left-wing to center-right on the ideological spectrum makes a unified party message of any kind practically impossible, and, when there is a unified party message, it’s in the form of calling for bipartisanship and compromise at virtually every opportunity. What most Democrats who run for public office don’t understand is that, while “bipartisanship” and “compromise” are approved of by most Americans, “bipartisanship” and “compromise” doesn’t motivate a single person to vote, and it’s virtually impossible to compromise with the far-right Republicans in this country.

In short, as a result of, among other things, Democrats alienating the progressive base of the party, Scott Walker will likely be the Republican presidential nominee two years from now, far-right Republicans will be running state governments in Democratic-leaning states, Republicans will have an even larger majority in the U.S. House than previously, and Republicans will control the U.S. Senate. The Democratic Party will only be consistently successful if and only if the party truly becomes a progressive, pro-middle class, pro-woman, pro-worker, pro-public education, pro-democracy, pro-environment, pro-peace, and pro-human rights party, the party and its candidates deliver a unified progressive message that can be used to drive progressives to the p0lls in large numbers and effectively attack Republican opponents, and Democratic elected officials and candidates actually fight to make America a better, more progressive place to live.

First Lady of the United States: The most overhyped person in America

You may have heard about Michelle Obama, the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS), campaigning for Democrats like Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke over the past couple of weeks.

However, this blog post isn’t about Pat Quinn or Mary Burke, in fact, it isn’t really about Michelle Obama. It’s about the Office of First Lady of the United States, whose holder has traditionally been the most overhyped person in this country thanks to the corporate mainstream media in this country.

The Office of the First Lady, automatically bestowed to the wife of the president should the president have a female spouse, has virtually no political power, with the duties of the office including being in charge of official social and ceremonial events at the White House and having the power to appoint her own staff members, all but a couple of which serve non-political functions (even the ones who do have political functions have no real influence on public policy). Despite that, the corporate media in this country fawns over the First Lady, providing extensive coverage of practically every event the First Lady does at least in the local area of where the event is being held, if not nationally. Even worse, the corporate media in this country will frequently obsess over what the First Lady wears, which I think is absolutely absurd. As long as she’s not doing anything stupid or illegal, I don’t care about what the First Lady does.

Should, someday in the future, a man be spouse of the president, through either the election of a woman in an opposite-sex marriage or a man in a same-sex marriage, the title of the office would probably be changed to First Gentleman of the United States, although the corporate media would fawn over whoever were to hold that office as well in a similar manner that they currently fawn over the First Lady.

One of my biggest pet peeves is how the corporate media in this country treats the family members of the most powerful people in this country, especially the First Lady of the United States, like royalty.