Naomi Jakobsson
(Sean Powers/WILL)
September 10, 2013

Rep. Jakobsson Not Running For Re-Election

State Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Urbana) says she will not run for re-election.

Jakobsson has served in the Illinois General Assembly for the last decade, and she said she has a good reason for wanting to leave public office.

“I know this sounds like a cliché because a lot of people say it, but I really do want to have more time with family,” she said, adding that she has eight children and 12 grandchildren. "It was absolutely a tough decision."

Jakobsson’s term ends in January 2015, and she said she still has a lot of work ahead of her. Among the things she wants to accomplish, she is pushing for a graduated income tax, and the removal a hospital’s tax exemption status in cities “disproportionately impacted” by the loss of tax revenue.

Her district includes the University of Illinois, and she chairs the higher education committee.

It is unclear who will jump into the race to replace her, but she is already backing one possible candidate – her political director, Michael Richards, 34. He has also served on the Champaign County Board since 2007.

“I can’t think of anything better than going to Springfield to fight for the interests of Champaign-Urbana. We have some big shoes to fill,” Richards said. “Whoever represents our interests in Springfield needs to get the word across that we don’t need to be balancing the budget on the backs of state and university employees.”

In general, he said he would try to emulate Jakobsson’s voting record. He said he is still exploring a possible run, and plans to spend the next few days talking with family before making up his mind.

Meanwhile, the other Democratic state lawmaker in the Champaign-Urbana area, Sen. Mike Mike Frerichs (D-Champaign), is running for Illinois Treasurer.


September 04, 2013

Pension Panel Could Be Nearing Agreement

Legislators writing an overhaul of the state's pension systems could be nearing the end of their work. 

Feedback's been plentiful since late last month, when a draft of a pension plan drawn up by a bipartisan legislative committee was leaked. Unions hate it, saying it overreaches in cutting retirement benefits.

Meanwhile, business groups say it does not go far enough to save the state money. Not to mention complaints, including from the governor, that the committee is taking too long.

Now a key member of the panel is responding.

In a statement, Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) said the leaked plan is not the final version. He said "our conversations remain in a state of flux" but adds he is hopeful the committee is entering "the late stages" of deliberations.

Biss encourages more feedback on the leaked plan. Under it, state employees', teachers' and public university workers' pensions would still get cost-of-living increases, but instead of going up 3-percent automatically each year, it'd be a fraction of the consumer price index.

Employees would also have less taken out of every paycheck for pensions.


Bruce Rauner
(Seth Perlman/AP)
September 04, 2013

Political Newcomer Rauner Seeks To Overhaul Statehouse

Venture capitalist Bruce Rauner is drumming up his campaign for governor with a second campaign. Rauner, a Republican, is trying to get a question on the 2014 ballot that could lead to major changes in state government.  

He said he will donate a sizable portion of his personal fortune into the effort. Illinois Public Radio's Amanda Vinicky spoke about it with him at length in the following interview.

Meanwhile, at least one of Rauner's opponents in the GOP primary,  Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale),  is critical of the plan. Dillard said downsizing the Senate is a "slap in the face" to downstate voters, because it would make districts unmanageably large.  Dillard noted that he favors term limits for Illinois'  House Speaker and Senate President, with whom he says too much power is concentrated.

TEXT OF THE INITIATIVE:

PETITION FOR AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

We, the undersigned, being qualified electors of the State of Illinois, who have affixed our signatures in our own proper person to this Petition after July 1, 2013, do hereby petition, pursuant to Section 3 of Article XIV of the Constitution of the State of Illinois, that there be submitted to the qualified electors of this State, for adoption or rejection at the General Election to be held on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, in the manner provided by law, a nonseverable proposition to amend Sections 1, 2, and 9 of Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Illinois, the amended Sections and the Transition Schedule applicable thereto to read as follows:

ARTICLE IV SECTION 1. LEGISLATURE - POWER AND STRUCTURE

The legislative power is vested in a General Assembly consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives, elected by the electors from 41 Legislative Districts and 123 Representative Districts, with such numeration to become effective on January 1, 2023. These Legislative Districts and Representative Districts shall be drawn as provided by law following each decennial census.

ARTICLE IV SECTION 2. LEGISLATIVE COMPOSITION

(a) One Senator shall be elected from each Legislative District. Immediately following each decennial redistricting, the General Assembly by law shall divide the Legislative Districts as equally as possible into three groups. Senators from one group shall be elected for terms of four years, four years and two years; Senators from the second group, for terms of four years, two years and four years; and Senators from the third group, for terms of two years, four years and four years. The Legislative Districts in each group shall be distributed substantially equally over the State. Notwithstanding the foregoing, effective January 1, 2023, all Senate terms will be for four years.

(b) Each Legislative District shall be divided into three Representative Districts. In 1982 and every two years thereafter one Representative shall be elected from each Representative District for a term of two years.

. . .

(f) No person may serve more than eight years in the General Assembly. No person may be elected or appointed as Senator or Representative if upon completion of the term of office that person will have been a member of the General Assembly for more than eight years. Time served in the General Assembly before the session beginning in January 2015 does not count toward the eight-year service limitation.

ARTICLE IV SECTION 9. VETO PROCEDURE

(c) The house to which a bill is returned shall immediately enter the Governor's objections upon its journal. If within 15 calendar days after such entry that house by a record vote of two-thirds of the members elected passes the bill, it shall be delivered immediately to the second house. If within 15 calendar days after such delivery the second house by a record vote of two-thirds of the members elected passes the bill, it shall become law.

TRANSITION SCHEDULE

This Amendment takes effect upon adoption by the electors at the general election on November 4, 2014.

We also petition that, to the extent permitted by law, this proposition be submitted on a separate blue ballot and that the proposition and the related explanation be printed in substantially the following terms:

PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, ARTICLE IV, SECTIONS 1, 2, AND 9

Explanation of Amendment.

The purpose of this amendment is: (1) to establish term limits for members of the General Assembly; (2) to require a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the General Assembly to override the Governor’s veto of legislation; (3) to abolish two-year senatorial terms; (4) to change the House of Representatives from 118 representatives to 123 representatives; (5) to change the Senate from 59 senators to 41 senators; and (6) to divide legislative (senatorial) districts into three representative districts rather than two.

Place an “X” in the blank box opposite “Yes” or “No” to indicate your choice.

Listen

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) and Erika Harold (R-Urbana)
August 29, 2013

Davis, Harold Want More Information About Possible Syria Strike

Washington is considering a possible military strike against Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons. Illinois’ 13th district congressman and his Republican Primary challenger both say President Obama still needs to make his case for military action.

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) said he does not know much more about the situation in Syria outside of what he’s heard from the news media. The freshman lawmaker said he hopes the president gets Congressional approval before pursuing a military strike.

“I’m not going to be in favor of authorizing approval for a strike or boots on the ground of American soldiers without the president coming to the table and explaining to the world and explaining to America and the constituents I represent why it’s important to engage in that action,” Davis said.

A United Nations inspection team is in Syria looking at the possible use of poisonous gas, but Davis criticizes the U.N. for not starting its investigation sooner.

Meanwhile, Erika Harold of Urbana, who is challenging Davis in the Republican Primary, said she can’t support a military strike either without knowing more information

“When we’re talking about deploying American resources and putting American troops in harm’s way, I think we have to have a very high standard in terms of determining is this the best use of American force and is there an identifiable American objective that can be achieved,” Harold said.

Congressional leaders are expected to be briefed later on Thursday about the situation in Syria.


Joe Hendrick and Senator Bill Brady
(Amanda Vinicky/IPR)
August 29, 2013

Running For Lieutenant Governor Is A Risky Business

For the first time, candidates for governor in Illinois will choose their second in command.

They used to get stuck with whomever primary voters choose for lieutenant governor, whether the two got along or not.  It is an opportunity for candidates to find a running mate they work well with or perhaps someone to balance out the ticket.

It is expected at least some of the six men will try to broaden their appeal by pairing up with a woman, or to someone from a different part of the state.

The new selection process might also have unintended consequences.

For a role that is widely thought of as so irrelevant, even candidates for the position periodically suggest eliminating it. Elections for lieutenant governor have wreaked a lot of havoc in Illinois politics.

Take the scenario that led to this new method of selecting someone for the role.

In 2010, with party leaders' attention elsewhere, a wealthy pawn broker and political newcomer named Scott Lee Cohen beat out four Democratic legislators in the race for lieutenant governor.

"And I focused on that position because I felt it was the right office to allow me to bring in my business experience, and to be honest my life experience," Cohen said after the primary, when word had spread that Cohen had once been arrested for domestic abuse, creating an outrage.

It looked like Cohen could drag down the Democrats' gubernatorial nominee, incumbent Pat Quinn. 

Democratic leaders pressured Cohen to step down. It worked out for Quinn; he basically got to handpick Sheila Simon as a running mate. but it was a big enough scare that in 2011, the General Assembly changed the process.

Starting with the upcoming election, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor must run as a team  -- in the primary, as well as in the general election.  That has left voters like Niles Township Republican Committeeman Joe Hendrick wondering:  "Who's the lieutenant governor candidates?"

The shirt he was wearing at Republican Day at the State Fair was visual proof of his status as an undecided voter. It was covered in stickers - including one for each of the four Republicans running for governor. Hendrick said whom each of the candidates chooses for a running mate might help him make up his mind.

"I don't know that it would matter, but it could matter,” he said. "Either positive or negative, I mean if they put out someone that balances them but ... is .... extremely one way, then I might not be enthusiastic about that candidate."

For now, rumors abound.

On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Simon chose to run for another office rather than stay on with Quinn. The Governor's not ready to say who'll replace her, only saying earlier this month that "there are a lot of good people out there, we're working on that.”

Democratic challenger Bill Daley, a former U.S. Commerce Secretary, is also reportedly still searching.  Republican candidates are beginning to make their declarations.

There are campaign insiders who admit that it has not been easy finding a credible, experienced politician willing to pair up with a candidate who isn't even assured of getting out of the primary, but none of the candidates profess to having trouble, including Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington). 

As the GOP's nominee for governor in 2010, Brady was matched with Jason Plummer, then a relatively unknown, 29-year-old lumber company heir. Political strategists say Plummer did not help Brady win. Brady said while Plummer was a great candidate, he is excited about the opportunity to run as a team.

“This gives you an option to be ideologically on the same path,” Brady said.

Brady said he sees no downside to this new method, but Jim Nowlan said he does.

Nowlan is now a member of the state's Executive Ethics Commission, but in 1972 he was a 28-year-old legislator and the Republican's nominee for lieutenant governor.

"And was clearly not the first choice of incumbent Gov. Dick Ogilvie, but he was had enacted the income tax and was not particularly popular," he said.

Nowlan said Ogilvie's initial choices had turned him down. 

They feared they had be paired with a likely loser, ending - or at least putting a dent in - their political careers. 

They predicted correctly - Ogilvie and Nowlan lost. Nowlan said it is an indicator of what may be happening behind-the-scenes as candidates for governor court potential running mates for 2014.

"It creates some challenges for the governor candidates because prospective running mates will look at the prospects and say 'Gee, I could lose in the primary with you,' " he said.

Whereas before, it was up to a lieutenant governor to win or lose a primary on his or her own; after that, there was a 50/50 shot at winning. But now candidates for that post will be tied, for better or for worse, to a gubernatorial candidate from the onset. 

The ’14 field is crowded -- there's a six-way race for governor.

"That's why it is difficult for House members in the legislature to give up their seats in order to run for a post where they could lose at two gates on the running course," Nowlan  said.

Nowlan said it is a great opportunity for some up-and-comers, but they're also taking a big risk.

And even if they do win, this new method of match-making means there'll be a tighter link between governors and their number twos in the future. 

A lieutenant governor's sole, constitutional responsibility is to be on standby to take over -which is exactly how Pat Quinn came to be governor, following Rod Blagojevich's ouster.

Though Quinn stood by Blagojevich until nearly the end, it was well known the two weren't close. That saved Quinn during the 2010 campaign. He was able to overcome accusations he'd been part of Blagojevich's schemes.

From here on out, lieutenant governors will not be able to make that excuse.

Listen

Pat Brady
(Seth Perlman/AP)
August 27, 2013

ACLU Hires Former Illinois GOP Chair To Lobby For Same-Sex Marriage

The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has hired former state Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady to lobby for a same-sex marriage bill in Springfield, months after his own support of same-sex marriage sparked a controversy that led to his resignation.

The ACLU confirmed Tuesday that it has hired Next Generation Public Affairs, the lobbying and public relations firm Brady co-founded after he left his party job in May.

“I think the very core of the conservative movement, which I consider myself a part of, is application of equality under the law for all,” Brady said Tuesday in an interview with Illinois Public radio station, WBEZ in Chicago.

Brady will focus on lobbying House Republicans in hopes of getting the same-sex marriage bill passed during this fall’s veto session, he said. He will also tap the political donors he cultivated during his four years as party chairman to raise money for groups that support gay marriage, and for Republican lawmakers who may be hesitant to cast a yes vote, fearing a challenge in next year’s primary.

Brady’s hiring comes after the ACLU launched a $10 million national push in June, aimed at winning support for same-sex marriage from Republican lawmakers and voters in a handful of states, including Illinois.

Steve Schmidt, a GOP strategist who was formerly a top advisor to Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, is heading up the national effort.

Brady declined to say how much the ACLU is paying him.

He quit his unpaid party post May 6, following a months-long controversy sparked by his public support of same-sex marriage, a stance which contradicts the GOP platform. Brady rankled some party bosses on the State Central Committee when he announced his support for the bill without telling them first.

He survived an attempt to oust him in April, but there was a quiet agreement reached among party bosses that he would leave later on his own terms.

Despite the past controversy, Brady now said he has no problem working for the liberal ACLU, even if it means taking flak from social conservatives.

“Liberty, freedom and equality under the law are all things that Republicans and conservatives have believed in for a long, long time,” he said. “So I don’t have any qualms with that, and I really excited  to help work with them and get this done right in Illinois.”

Illinois’ same-sex marriage bill cleared the State Senate on Valentine’s Day, with Sen. Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) casting the lone GOP yes vote. A push to call the measure for a vote in the State House fizzled in the final hours of the spring session, after supporters backed off because they thought it might fail.

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has said he will sign the bill into law if it gets to his desk.

But getting a same-sex marriage bill through the Democrat-controlled State House may require Republican votes, as not all Democrats support it. The two GOP State Representatives who are publicly supporting the bill, Ron Sandack of suburban Downers Grove and Ed Sullivan Jr., of Mundelein, say there are a handful of Republicans who might be persuaded to vote yes.

Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage, has vowed to spend money to defeat Republican lawmakers who vote in favor of same-sex marriage.

But there are also plenty of deep-pocketed GOP donors ready to support those lawmakers in the March 18 primary, Brady said.

“There’s gonna be, I think, plenty of money to help those people,” he said.

Illinois’ political calendar has made the future of the same-sex marriage bill more difficult to predict.

The bill could be called for a vote when lawmakers head back to Springfield for their fall veto session in late October and early November.

But state lawmakers will not find out until Nov. 18 whether they will have challengers in March’s primary, which could make some lawmakers hesitant to cast a controversial vote before knowing whether there will be someone to use it against them in next year’s primary.


Reps. Jim Durkin, Dwight Kay, and Raymond Poe are seeking the position of House Republican leader.
(Illinois House of Representatives)
August 27, 2013

Illinois House Republicans Rushing To Fill Leader Post

Republicans in the Illinois House will meet Thursday afternoon in Springfield to select a new leader.

A letter obtained by Illinois Public Radio says finding a replacement for outgoing Minority Leader Tom Cross is "of the utmost urgency."

It was less than a week ago that Minority Leader Tom Cross announced he was stepping down. He is expected to instead run for state treasurer.

Seventeen House Republicans signed a letter officially scheduling the meeting Thursday. They say there is no time to waste in electing Cross' successor.

According to the letter, the House GOP's fundraising arm, the House Republican Organization, is in "dire financial straits," and that shoring-up funds ahead of next year's election will be difficult until a new leader is in place.

Whether anyone has the 24 votes needed to win that position is unclear — tallies are fluid. Candidates who believe they have the votes may be hurrying to lock in support before there's time for a split.

There may well be a suburban/downstate divide when it's time to vote — Rep. Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, is pitted against Representatives Raymond Poe, of Springfield, and Dwight Kay, who's from Madison County.

While Kay was not a signatory to the letter, he says choosing a new leader should happen sooner than later.

"If we put this off a month, or we put it off longer than a month, we have some very serious practical matters in terms of operating a party," Kay said. "And I don't think any of us want that."

Republicans are in the super-minority in the House — they have 47 members to Democrats' 71.


DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan
(Courtesy of Bob Grogan)
August 26, 2013

DuPage Auditor Running For State Treasurer

DuPage County Auditor Bob Grogan says he's running for state treasurer.

The Republican put out a news release Monday saying that he will announce his candidacy during a news conference Tuesday at the Du Quoin State Fair.

Grogan has served two terms as DuPage County auditor. He is an accountant and lives in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove.

Republican Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford has announced that he is running for governor.


August 25, 2013

Swearing In Ceremony Set For New State Lawmaker

The newest member of the Illinois General Assembly is set to the take the oath of office later in the day.

John Anthony was chosen by Republican officials to replace resigning state Rep. Pam Roth of Morris. The 37-year-old Anthony is a Kendall County sheriff's deputy. He'll be the first black Republican lawmaker in the state Legislature since the early 1980s.

The swearing in is set for 6 p.m. Monday at the Grundy County Courthouse in Morris.

Anthony has been a sheriff's deputy since 2008 and has also worked as police officer in Champaign. He and his wife founded a nonprofit organization for children. Their group is called the YARN Foundation and offers afterschool programs, among other things.

Roth says she's moving to Texas where her husband's job was transferred.


Richard Nixon
(AP Photo/File)
August 21, 2013

Tapes Show Richard Nixon As Watergate Scandal Loomed

Two future US presidents called Richard Nixon in support after he gave a speech on the Watergate scandal amid a staff exodus, newly released tapes show.

The calls are among the final installment of released recordings from the Nixon administration.

Nixon ended his Oval Office taping system a year before he resigned.

The recordings are the last of a total of 3,000 hours of tape released by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Another 700 hours remain restricted by national security and privacy concerns, but the archive says they will now be reviewed in order to see what can be released.

'Great pride'

The tapes cover the time period between 9 April and 12 July 1973, the day before the existence of Nixon's secret recording system was made public to a Senate panel probing the scandal.

It includes the day three senior White House officials resigned over the affair and another was sacked.

Three days earlier, Nixon press secretary Ron Zeigler can be heard briefing the 37th president about the possibility of further serious revelations by the Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.

The calls from the future presidents came on 30 April, after Nixon had made a public address over the growing Watergate scandal.

Ronald Reagan, governor of California at the time, told Nixon the speech had been the right one to make.

"I just want you to know, we watched and my heart was with you," he said. "I know what this must have been in all these days and what you've been through.

"You can count on us, we're still behind you out here and I wanted you to know that you're in our prayers."

George H W Bush called the same evening. The newly appointed chairman of the Republican National Committee said he had watched the speech with "great pride".

Nixon complained to Mr Bush about the reaction from broadcasters.

"The folks may understand," Nixon said, before adding later: "To hell with the commentators."

'Change the world'

Despite the crisis engulfing him, Nixon remained actively engaged in global diplomacy.

At one point - in discussions with an aide - Nixon can be heard describing the Chinese as "the ablest people in the world".

The president can also be heard holding a lengthy Oval Office conversation with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev before a June 1973 summit.

Nixon expresses a close interest in ties with China - a relationship he at one point describes as the "key to world peace".

In the hour-long one-on-one, assisted by an interpreter, the two leaders chatted about personal topics, including their families.

"We must recognise.... while we will naturally in negotiations have some differences, it is essential that those two nations, where possible, work together," Nixon said to Brezhnev.

"If we decide to work together, we can change the world," he said. "That's my attitude as we enter these talks.''

Previous releases show the president as a paranoid man who was obsessed with the Kennedy family.

He considered Senator Ted Kennedy such a political threat that he ordered surveillance in the hope of catching him in an affair.

Nixon remains the only US president to resign.


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