Tag: replacement

Paul Ryan and John Shimkus don’t understand the concept of insurance

It has become inherently clear that the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have zero concept of how insurance is supposed to work. Broadly speaking, insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss, and insurance can be an individual policy (such as a car insurance policy through a private-sector entity like State Farm, GEICO, or one of their competitors), a group policy (such as group health insurance plans provided by employers through a private-sector health insurance firm to the employers’ employees), or a government policy (such as the federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program commonly called Social Security). Likewise, health insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss associated with medical expenses, and can be an individual policy, a group policy, or a government policy. In order for insurance policies to be financially sustainable, those who do not need the benefits of the insurance policy in question must, by buying into the policy (which can be by paying premiums, taxes, and/or other means), effectively subsidize those who do need the benefits of the insurance policy in question.

The problem is, Republicans, who want to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), don’t understand how a financially-sustainable health insurance policy works.

At a recent press conference, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin bizarrely claimed that health insurance doesn’t work if healthy people have to effectively subsidize people people who are ill and/or injured:

…He even lost the suit coat and broke out the PowerPoint on Thursday. It was like watching something on cable access late at night, or a flop-sweaty rookie substitute teacher, and it was hilarious—except for the parts where people will lose their health insurance and die, of course. And this is what he said and, peace be unto Dave Barry, I am not making it up, either:

Paul Ryan said that insurance cannot work if healthy people have to pay more to subsidize the sick.

As if Ryan wasn’t far enough out of touch with reality, the person who legally represents me and several hundred thousand other people in downstate Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Shimkus, made the sexist motivation behind repealing the ACA publicly known in committee:

But Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois took the cake on Thursday night when he questioned why men aren’t exempt from paying into insurance plans that cover prenatal care. “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” the congressman said. “Is that not correct? And should they?”

Let me ask a similar question: Why should women have to purchase health insurance for prostrate cancer treatments? Clearly, men never need prenatal care, and women never need prostate cancer treatments. However, if only women had to pay for health insurance covering prenatal care, such a system, regardless of whether the public sector or the private sector were to administer it, would be financially unsustainable. The same problem would be the result if only men had to pay for health insurance covering prostate cancer treatments. This is because a large percentage of women will need prenatal care for at least several months of their lives, so it would be only women who never get pregnant effectively subsidizing those who get pregnant any number of times in their lives. Health insurance covering gender-specific health illnesses/procedures can only be financially sustainable if both men and women pay into a health plan covering prenatal care, prostate cancer treatments, etc..

While I’d never run for public office myself, John Shimkus may legally represent all people in the 15th Congressional District of Illinois, but a significant minority of voters in the 15th district, including me, understand that Shimkus doesn’t understand how health insurance works.

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Senate Republicans evade their constitutional duty

Earlier today, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died. Even though I strongly disagreed with the vast majority of Scalia’s opinions, I offer my condolences to Justice Scalia’s family.

However, Republicans who hold the majority in the U.S. Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and presidential candidates Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), couldn’t wait for Scalia to be cremated before showing that they are more than willing to evade their constitutional duty, with McConnell flatly saying that the Senate should wait until a new president is in the White House before confirming a new Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

This stands in sharp contrast with President Barack Obama, who intends to fulfill his constitutional duty by appointing a new associate justice to this country’s highest bench, even if Republicans obstruct his nomination.

By fulfilling one’s constitutional duty, I’m referring to, in this specific instance, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

(emphasis mine; in Article II of the Constitution, “he” refers to the president, regardless of the president’s gender)

The President has the power and constitutional duty to nominate an individual to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, however, the Senate has the power and constitutional duty to either affirm or reject the president’s appointment. It’s clear to me that one party to the process to appoint Supreme Court justices intends to do his constitutional duty (the President), whereas the other party does not (the Republicans who control the U.S. Senate).

The Senate is not required to approve of the president’s pick for the Supreme Court vacancy. The Senate can, if they wish to, establish a process to determine whether or not to approve or reject the president’s pick, and can opt to vote the president’s pick down, either in committee or in the full Senate. However, for the Senate to not establish any kind of process for accepting or rejecting the president’s pick amounts to completely evading the constitutional duty of the Senate.

From an electoral standpoint, it would be absolutely foolish for Republicans to obstruct the president’s pick to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. If the Republicans go through with their threat to obstruct the president’s pick until, at the earliest, a new president is sworn into office, that would, in effect, put control of both the White House and the Supreme Court on the line in the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections. That is the poker equivalent of going all in with a likely losing hand. This strategy could very easily backfire on Republicans, and they would not like the nominees that either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders (I’m a Bernie supporter) would pick. Hillary would likely nominate Obama to the Supreme Court, and Bernie would probably appoint someone who is ideologically similar to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most progressive of the current Supreme Court justices, if not even more progressive than Ginsburg. If Democrats were to retain control of the White House and regain control of the Senate, stalling on filling the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court could end up resulting in a more progressive justice than someone that Obama will pick being seated on our nation’s highest bench (I’m guessing that Obama will pick someone to his ideological right for Supreme Court). Furthermore, U.S. Senate races where Republicans are thought to be safe or favored, such as Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri, would become more competitive for Democrats, and U.S. Senate races that are either competitive or where Democrats are favored, such as Illinois and Wisconsin, would become even more favorable for Democrats.

Democratic Party officials pick Scott Bennett to replace Mike Frerichs in Illinois Senate

Scott Bennett, a Champaign County Assistant State’s Attorney from Champaign, has been selected to replace Illinois State Treasurer Mike Frerichs in the 52nd Legislative District seat in the Illinois Senate, and Bennett will serve the final two years of Frerichs’s current term and intends to run for a full four-year term in the state senate in the 2016 elections.

However, Bennett’s remarks before and after accepting the appointment from Champaign County Democratic Party Chairman Al Kurtz (officially, there were two people who were on the 52nd Legislative District Democratic replacement committee, but Kurtz had a majority of the weighted vote, so, in effect, he single-handedly picked the replacement senator) have me very concerned about what his voting record would look like as a state senator.

In a public forum held in Champaign last week where Bennett and the 11 others who sought the appointment were publicly vetted, Bennett publicly bashed Champaign, Urbana, and Danville, the three largest cities in the district that have the vast majority of the district’s population, and claimed that he was seeking the appointment to serve the smaller communities and rural areas of the district, something which Republicans normally do as a coded way of stirring up racial resentment among voters:

“I bring that up because the 52nd District is more than just Champaign, Urbana and Danville. It also includes a lot of farms, and includes over a dozen small communities that have concerns and needs very different from its urban neighbors,” said Bennett. “And I believe I’m one of the only candidates on this slate that understands the concerns and the needs of those communities.”

Apparently, Scott Bennett thinks that he’s responsible for representing a small minority of the district’s population and not the entire district. It’s worth noting that the entire district has 217,468 residents according to the 2010 U.S. Census, and Champaign, Urbana, and Danville combined have a total of 155,332 people, or 71.43% of the district’s total population. To put that another way, Bennett thinks he’s responsible for representing 29.57% of the district’s total population, when, in reality, he’s responsible for representing 100% of the people who live in the district.

Bizarrely, Bennett claimed to be conservative and progressive at once:

His background, Bennett said “is conservative, but I have a long history of working with progressive candidates and their causes.”

Bennett’s background is certainly conservative: he comes from a conservative family that also includes a far-right Republican state representative-elect, Tom Bennett, although it’s commonplace here in Illinois for family members, even close family members, to have completely different party affiliations and political views, in fact, I have relatives who I disagree with politically on many issues, so just because someone has conservative relatives means absolutely nothing about that person’s political views. Regarding Bennett’s claim of having a “long history of working with progressive candidates and their causes”, I want to make two points about that: Bennett never cited any examples of his history of working with progressive candidates and causes that I am aware of, and just because someone supports a progressive candidate for public office doesn’t make one a progressive.

Regarding issues that Bennett views as important, education, which is indeed a very important issue in this part of the state, appears to be the issue that Bennett regards as most important to him:

“We are failing our citizens in so many ways,” he said. “You invest in education. You make sure that we all have a fair and equitable chance at technology and training so that it shouldn’t matter, your opportunities shouldn’t be dependent on what Zip Code you were lucky enough to be born into. It’s also to make sure we reinvest in vocational training in our high schools so those students who are interested in a four-year degree can still get job training so they can support their families after they get out of school.”

That kind of statement on education policy could be used by virtually any politician of any political party and ideological persuasion. Bennett’s remarks on education could describe a very progressive pro-public education policy, such as increasing funding for public schools, establishing a fairer formula for allocating state funds to local school districts, and holding schools, administrators, and teachers accountable based on curriculum and academic standards, not standardized tests. However, Bennett’s remarks on education could describe a very conservative anti-public education policy, such as privatizing public schools, establishing charter schools and school vouchers, implementing academic standards that emphasize standardized testing and overemphasize career preparation, giving big business interests more control over education, and shaming and cutting funding from poorly-performing schools.

While Scott Bennett will be my state senator for at least the next two years, what his voting record will look like two years from now is a huge mystery, given that his previous job involved prosecuting criminal cases, a job that generally doesn’t involve making public policy decisions, and he’s given no real indication of what his ideological leanings are. I would strongly encourage Senator Bennett to hold public listening sessions in every part of the district over the next two years in order to better know the voters, taxpayers, citizens, and people of the 52nd Legislative District. I think that he’ll find that the people of this district have very progressive values.

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.