Yesterday, both houses of the Illinois General Assembly quickly passed an unconstitutional pension reform bill despite our state’s hard-working public-sector workers mounting an unsuccessful effort to convince lawmakers to vote against the legislation.
What I find to be even more disgusting is that the Chicago Tribune is running this cartoon comparing our state’s public-sector workers, who are an important part of our state’s economy, to a neutered dog.
The mainstream media in this country has long been an enemy of working-class Americans, but the Tribune comparing hard-working Illinoisans to a neutered dog is absolutely sickening. The pension reform bill that was passed by the General Assembly was more about screwing over the unions (which supported an alternative pension reform bill that included union concessions) than it was about fixing our state’s fiscal problems. Our state’s fiscal problems run much deeper than a badly-underfunded pension system. In fact, the only way that this state’s fiscal problems are going to be anywhere close to being truly fixed is if the Illinois Constitution is amended to allow for the General Assembly to levy a progressive state income tax, which would allow the General Assembly to raise taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans and give poor and middle-class Illinoisans a tax cut. Also, we need to consider other ways to help fix our state’s fiscal problems and help our state’s private-sector create jobs, such as merging state government agencies wherever it is reasonable to do so (one example of that would be to merge the Secretary of State Police with the Illinois State Police), establishing a state economic development bank, eliminating all corporate tax breaks and loopholes, legalizing, taxing, and regulating marijuana for recreational use, etc.
My thoughts on the pension reform plan that will be voted on by the Illinois General Assembly tomorrow
Tomorrow, members of the Illinois General Assembly are expected to vote on a pension reform plan that was negotiated by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders. You can read details of the plan here.
If I were a member of the General Assembly, I would vote against the legislation.
However, there are a few good ideas in the pension reform bill that I support:
- Future members of non-governmental organizations would be prohibited from participating in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF), State Universities Retirement System of Illinois (SURS), and the Illinois Teachers Retirement System (TRS)
- Public employee retirement systems would be allowed to take legal action if the state fails to make a legally-required pension payment and/or supplemental contribution.
However, there are other ideas and aspects of the pension reform deal that are bad, if not in apparent violation of the Illinois Constitution, that I oppose, which is why I oppose the deal:
- Workers would be stripped of their right to collectively bargain over the vast majority of pension-related matters.
- Beginning in 2015, some members of public employee retirement systems would be allowed to join a 401(k) plan, which would undermine the whole pension system in Illinois.
- The pension reform plan was negotiated behind the scenes by the State House Speaker and State Senate President (both of which are Democrats), as well as the State House Minority Leader and the State Senate Minority Leader (both of which are Republicans), and there’s the possibility that they may try to ram the bill into law as quickly as possible in order to avoid as much public scrutiny as they can.
The We Are One coalition of labor unions in Illinois has sharply criticized the plan, calling it “the biggest legislative threat to our retirement security that we’ve faced.” Call your state legislators and tell them to oppose any pension reform plan that is not supported by the We Are One coalition of unions…you have very little time left to do so.
- Unions target Senate Dems in pension reform battle (sacbee.com)
- Schakowsky calls on lawmakers to reject Illinois pension deal (voices.suntimes.com)
You can view a list of candidates who have filed for the 2014 Democratic and Republican primaries for the U.S. Senate, state executive (Governor/Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller, and Treasurer), U.S. House, Democratic Party of Illinois State Central Committee, State Senate, and State House races in Illinois here. The filing deadline is December 2, 2013, and the primaries are scheduled for March 18, 2014.
Since the list of candidates who have filed paperwork with the Illinois State Board of Elections is a 56-page PDF file, I’ll mention some of the more noteworthy things from the first day of candidate filings:
U.S. Senate: Two Republicans have filed to run against Dick Durbin: Doug Truax and Jim Oberweis.
Governor/Lieutenant Governor: The Pat Quinn/Paul Vallas ticket has drawn a Democratic primary challenge from a ticket consisting of Tio Hardiman and Brunell Donald. This is currently the only statewide race in Illinois that features a competitive Democratic primary, although a few U.S. House races and numerous state legislative races have competitive Democratic primaries. Four Republican tickets have filed: Bill Brady/Maria Rodriguez, Kirk Dillard/Jil Tracy, Dan Rutherford/Steve Kim, and Bruce Rauner/Evelyn Sanguinetti. Lieutenant-gubernatorial candidates are noted by the gubernatorial running-mate’s last name in parenthesis next to the lieutenant-gubernatorial candidate’s name.
Attorney General: No Republicans have filed for this race.
Secretary of State: No Republicans have filed for this race.
Comptroller: No Democrats have filed for this race, although Sheila Simon has been campaigning for comptroller for some time and is expected to file paperwork before the deadline.
Treasurer: This is an open-seat race. Two Republicans, Tom Cross and Bob Grogan, have filed for this race. Mike Frerichs (who is currently my state senator) is the only Democrat who has filed for the treasurer’s race.
U.S. House: Robin Kelly has drawn a Democratic primary challenger in the 2nd District: Marcus Lewis. I know virtually nothing about Lewis. Tammy Duckworth has not yet filed paperwork in the 8th District, but is expected to do so; there are two Republicans running for the Republican nomination. In addition to Erica Harold, Michael Firsching (one of Tim Johnson’s two GOP primary challengers in the 2012 13th District race) has also filed as a Republican primary challenger to Rodney Davis in the 13th District; three Democrats (Ann Callis, George Gollin, and David Green) have filed for the Democratic primary. Two Democrats have filed in the 14th Congressional District, Eric Thorsland has filed as a Democrat in the 15th District (my home congressional district), David Hale has filed as a Republican primary challenger to Adam Kinzinger in the 16th District, Eric Reyes (who attempted a write-in campaign in the 2012 17th District general election) is running in the Republican primary in the 17th District, and no candidates have filed in the 18th District.
Democratic Party of Illinois State Central Committee: DPISCC members are elected from each of the state’s 18 congressional districts. Bobby Rush currently has no opposition in his 1st District congressional race, but Sylvester Reyes is running against Rush in one of the 1st District Democratic State Central Committee races. The other two districts with competitive Democratic State Central Committee races are in the 4th and 14th Districts. My two Democratic State Central Committee races (both of the 15th District races) both have a single candidate (in one of the seats, Lynn Foster; in the other seat, Brandon Phelps), each of which is currently unopposed.
State Senate: Districts 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 45, 48, 51, 54, and 57 are up for election in the 2014 Illinois Senate elections. My home district (52nd District) is not up for re-election in 2014, although, as I mentioned above, my Democratic state senator, Mike Frerichs, is running for treasurer. No candidates have filed for either the Democratic or Republican primary in the 15th, 30th, and 45th Districts, State Senate President John Cullerton currently has no opposition in the 6th District, and Don Harmon has drawn a Democratic primary challenger (Bob Galhorta) in the 39th District.
State House: All 118 districts are up for election in the 2014 Illinois House elections. My home district (104th District) has a Republican incumbent, Chad Hays, who has filed for re-election and currently has no Democratic challenger (For the record, I considered running in the 104th Representative District a while back, but I’ve long since decided not to do so). No candidates have filed for either the Democratic or the Republican primary in the 49th, 64th, 69th, 90th, and 99th Districts, Democratic State House Speaker Mike Madigan has no opposition in the Democratic primary in the 22nd District, but has a Republican opponent, both Maria Berrios and Will Guzzardi have filed for the Democratic primary in the 39th District, five Democrats have filed in the 40th District, Keith Martune has filed as a Republican primary challenger to Ron Sandack (a Republican supporter of marriage equality) in the 81st District, Gina Lathan has filed as a Democratic primary challenger to Sue Scherer (a Democratic opponent of marriage equality) in the 96th District, and two Democrats have filed for the open-seat race in the 103rd District.
Judiciary: My cousin, Edwin Barney, is running for the Fifth Circuit Court judgeship that is currently held by the retiring Judge Michael Clary. Barney has a Democratic primary challenger, Karen Wall, and Thomas O’Shaugnessy, currently the Vermilion County Recorder of Deeds, is running for Fifth Circuit Court Judge as a Republican.
Please keep in mind that, of all of the candidates who have filed so far, the only ones who I have endorsed are Pat Quinn/Paul Vallas (Gov/LG), Lisa Madigan (AG), Mike Frerichs (Tres), George Gollin (13th Cong. Dist.), Dennis Anderson (14th Cong. Dist.), Will Guzzardi (39th Rep. Dist.), and Edwin Barney (5th Cir. Ct. Judge), all of which are Democrats. Additionally, I intend to endorse Sheila Simon once she files for comptroller, and I also intend to endorse Dick Durbin (U.S. Sen.) and Jesse White (SoS) if no Democratic primary challengers file to run against them. If you have any information about any of the other Democratic candidates who have filed (especially if you know anything about Eric Thorsland and Gina Lathan), please leave a comment.
In just a short while, Governor Pat Quinn will sign into law legislation that will officially allow same-sex couples to enjoy the same right to marry that heterosexual couples currently enjoy.
To every member of the Illinois General Assembly who voted for marriage equality, and every person who vocally supported our cause to make Illinois a marriage equality state, thank you for making marriage equality in Illinois a reality.
U.S. Representatives Cheri Bustos, Tammy Duckworth, Bill Enyart, Bill Foster, and Brad Schneider, all of which are Illinois Democrats, voted for legislation, backed by Republican Fred Upton of Michigan, that would effectively repeal the Affordable Care Act by allowing health insurance companies to continue selling policies that don’t meet the standards set by the ACA.
I find it absolutely disgusting that the Democrats who voted to effectively repeal the ACA did so, especially since the whole reason why Republicans even pushed for the Upton bill was because President Obama apologized for lying about his “if you like your healthcare plan, you can keep it” promise when, in reality, he didn’t actually lie.
As much as I’d like to see Democratic primary challenges to Bustos, Duckworth, Enyart, Foster, and Schneider, the Democratic primary filing deadline is just a couple of weeks away, and I highly doubt that any of them will credible primary challengers.
Bruce Rauner, one of four Republicans running for Governor of Illinois, announced his intention to donate $500,000 of his personal wealth to his campaign, bringing his total self-contributions to $749,000, which, under Illinois law, will now allow Rauner’s three Republican primary challengers (Dan Rutherford, Bill Brady, and Kirk Dillard), Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, and Quinn’s Democratic primary challenger Tio Hardiman to raise unlimited amounts of money from campaign donors.
Here in Illinois, gubernatorial candidates are legally allowed to donate as much of their own money as they wish to their campaigns, but, if they donate even one penny over $250,000, other gubernatorial candidates are allowed to collect unlimited amounts of money from campaign donors.
Long story short, thanks to a venture capitalist who wants to privatize public education in this state, an avalanche of unlimited campaign cash is coming to Illinois, and that is bad for democracy.