If At First You Don’t Succeed, Go to Springfield to Get Your Way

In 2012 the voters of McHenry County voted down a referendum which would have established a “County Executive” form of government. As described in an article by Kevin Craver in the Northwest Herald, the authority of the County Executive included:

  • Preparing the county’s annual budget;
  • Appointing people to boards and commissions;
  • Hiring and firing department employees;
  • Entering into intergovernmental agreements;
  • Negotiating with public and private entities to promote economic development;
  • Redrawing county board district boundaries after each decennial U.S. Census;
  • Appointing independent legal counsel.

After the referendum was defeated, the voters of McHenry County in 2014 passed a referendum to make the position of County Board Chairman a popularly-elected position, instead of being appointed by the members of the Board itself. In 2016, McHenry County elected its first popularly elected Board Chairman.

Not content with to work within the boundaries prescribed by the Illinois Counties Code, a bill narrowly tailored to apply to McHenry County was offered up during veto session which expanded the powers of the Chairman to do the following:

“With the advice and consent of a majority of the county board, a county board chairman elected by the voters of the county shall:

  • Create standing committees; and
  • Appoint members and chairpersons to standing committees.

This Section applies to counties having a population between 300,000 and 900,000.”

If these changes are going to be made, the voters of McHenry County should be the ones to make them. Instead, what we’re getting is the County Executive form of government by going to Springfield, which is a craven end-around attempt to do what the people of McHenry County rejected in 2012. I spoke out against the bill on the House floor, and I will encourage the Governor to veto the bill when it hits his desk.

Rep. Reick Fights to Preserve Voter Intent in McHenry County

Watch this video on YouTube.
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Electoral Chicken Feed Disguised as a Tax Freeze

They call it “Veto Session”, but it really ought to be called “Propose Bills and Make Speeches That Can Be Used on Campaign Materials Session”.

Case in point: Senate Bill 851, which would require counties to freeze all property tax levies for two years, and would increase the real estate homestead exemption from $6,000 to $10,000 and would increase the Senior homestead exemption from $5,000 to $8,000.

Generally, I’d say that anything that lowers property taxes is a good thing, and I’d be in full support. What S.B. 851 does is give everyone in Illinois the same homestead and Senior exemption that was given to Cook County in May. However, if it wasn’t good enough to give to everyone outside Cook County then, what makes it such a good idea now? Why? Electoral politics, of course. The bill’s sponsor is considered a target in the November election and needs to burnish her credentials for the folks back home. I voted against S.B. 473 in May because it did nothing for the people in my district, and while it now gives us the same treatment as Cook County, the combination of this with the two-year freeze will do more harm than good.

And here’s why:

  • First of all, it paints all taxing districts with the same broad brush. There are plenty of taxing districts here in McHenry County that have held their levies flat for years, and in some instances decreased them. They don’t need that model of financial rectitude, the Illinois legislature, to tell them how to do their business.
  • Second, the combination of increased exemptions and the freeze will do nothing to lower property taxes; all it will do is shift that burden to renters and businesses. We’re having a hard enough time as it is attracting and keeping businesses in this county, we don’t need to drive up their tax burdens even further.
  • While property taxes are too high, S.B. 851 carves out an important exemption: debt. Local governments have in most cases already set their budgets for the current year. If this bill were to be enacted, they’d be driven into a situation of having to borrow to pay current bills. Raise your hand if you think that’s a good idea.

I’ll be the first to say we need property tax reform, I’ve been saying it for years. But you don’t get reform by offering up “gotcha” bills just before an election year. I spoke against the bill on the floor of the House, my comments are here:

Rep. Reick: "Illinois needs tax reform, not tax gimmicks"

Watch this video on YouTube.

Here’s the final clue that this bill was just electoral chicken feed. After passing the House, the Senate adjourned without taking it up.

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It’s Time to Name Names of Sexual Harassers in Springfield.

Nothing has rocked Springfield in the past months more than an open letter describing an environment of sexual harassment “ranging from daily microaggressions to acts of pure viciousness”.

Before I go any further, let me say that I have no doubt that sexual harassment goes on in Springfield (though I wouldn’t know a “microagression” from a microwave. It sounds to me like a subjectively insignificant action that would be better handled with a puppy or a juice box). I have no sympathy for it, and if guys want to walk around acting like cave men with a club, count me out.

Last night on Chicago Tonight, four legislators were interviewed and talked about the letter and the need for legislation to address the problem. Carol Marin did her best to get them to describe their experiences and name the person who was the source of the harassment. When it came to naming names, she failed.

Representative Sarah Feigenholtz said that she herself hadn’t been harassed and didn’t know who the perpetrators are. If that’s true, then Representative Feigenholtz doesn’t get around much, because one thing that’s certainly more widespread in Springfield than sexual harassment is gossip. She then went on to put some of the blame on Donald Trump for the recent spike in harassment claims. That’s sure to advance the conversation.

Senator Heather Steans eschewed naming her harasser because it happened in the past. When asked if that let the guy off the hook, she dodged the question and said that witnesses need to be “trained” so they can jump in and object to the activity. She went on to say that training wouldn’t be enough, but we need training nonetheless.

Representative Robin Gabel said that “everyone can make their play, doesn’t go anywhere”, sounding as if everyone is entitled to one freebie. So what is it: harassment from the get-go or establishing flexible guidelines? You can’t have it both ways.

Representative Chris Welch said he heard from a male former staffer who said he’d been propositioned by a female legislator, which at least gives us the perception of gender-neutrality.

I said above that I have no sympathy for those who think that they’re entitled to act like boorish clods. The reason I have no use for it is that I was brought up that way, I had parents who taught me that human nature is imperfectible and it was my job to resist the baser instincts to which we’re all subject. In that regard, Senator Steans is right, training won’t be enough. Nothing will be enough until human nature bends toward androgyny.

But if my colleagues want me to sign on to this, they’re certainly not doing it the right way. I’m not saying I’m blameless, but I’m damned sure not going to allow myself to be painted with their broad brush, nor will I subject myself to whatever “training” is imposed. By implying that I’m part of the problem simply by occupying a seat on the House floor or through the accident of birth of having been born male, they’re giving me every reason to say “no”. I assume the culture extends beyond Ira Silvertein. If they want my support, then name names.

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Regardless of Who Becomes Governor, Illinois Needs A Republican-Led House

Several weeks ago I wrote a post talking about the perceived “civil war” in the Illinois Republican Party, in which I took to task those who would position themselves in the middle of the battlefield and then attack both sides.

As we move closer to the March primary and the November general election, it’s time to examine exactly what’s at stake for Illinois and what the best strategy is for assuring that there is at least one body in state government that stands against the worst of whatever happens, regardless of who’s elected Governor.

We have a Republican Governor who has shown himself to be untrustworthy and, because of that, has invited a primary challenge. It’s widely assumed that he’s unelectable. I’m not so sure, because the Democrat challengers who’ve surfaced have shown themselves to be nothing more than a pandering mob that will make the situation even worse. I mean, do you want a $15 per hour minimum wage? A government-run workers’ compensation company that will be funded with 10 million of your tax dollars? Making a resolution by a local government objecting to the state’s prevailing wage law a criminal offense? Do you want another billionaire who thinks that Governor is an entry-level position?

Please don’t consider this to be an endorsement of Bruce Rauner. It’s not. No matter who’s elected Governor in 2018, this state is in trouble. We’ve endured nearly 4 years of dysfunction, and there’s a strong likelihood that the next 4 won’t be any better, especially if the next Governor is named Kennedy, Biss or Pritzker.

And it’ll be even worse if the Democrats reclaim their super-majority in the House. Take the 3 bills referenced above. All that stood between legislative sanity and those bills becoming law were House Republicans who drove down the vote for the minimum wage (61-53), upheld the veto of the workers’ comp bill (65-50) and the prevailing wage bill (70-42). We’ve held the line on those and many other bills which would make Illinois an even bigger economic clown car than it is now.

The only sure guarantee of there being an adult in the room after the 2018 election is if Republicans increase their numbers in the House by the nine seats it will take to take the Speaker’s gavel out of the hands of the Democrats.

Say what you want about a failure of leadership with the budget votes, but put the blame where it belongs. The frustration of our caucus doesn’t belong with our leadership; it belongs squarely in the lap of the Governor. For a guy who made his fortune closing deals, this administration has shown itself to be utterly incapable of understanding what can and cannot be done when it’s a minority player in each house.

So how do Republicans add nine seats our caucus? We don’t do it with cranial flatulence such as this from the “outsider” running in the 82nd District primary:

“Too many longtime Republicans take the easy way out and surrender to the Democrats rather than fight for fiscal prudence and our future.”

What you call “surrender” is a concession to the reality of simple math. In case you haven’t looked: THE DEMOCRATS HAVE MORE MEMBERS ON THEIR SIDE OF THE AISLE THAN WE DO. Run as an outsider all you want, even if you get elected, your presence won’t add one more Republican to the House. Unless we pick up those nine seats, all your talk about fiscal prudence will crash upon the reality of a House controlled by the same knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who’ve controlled this state for decades.

Republicans have a long history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, and this descent into tribalism is nothing more than a variation on that theme. We are not going to succeed so long as those who fancy themselves to be kingmakers insist on eating their own.

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Who Fills the Vacuum in the Illinois GOP “Civil War”, and Why?

Pig WrestlingJonah Goldberg has written an article in National Review talking about the recent primary election for Senator in Alabama. I was struck by how much the points he made apply to the current situation within the Republican Party in Illinois.

From the article:

“The conservative movement is caught in a Catch-22 of its own making. In the war against “the establishment,” we have made being an outsider the most important qualification for a politician. The problem? Once elected, outsiders by definition become insiders. This isn’t just a semantic point. The Constitution requires politicians to work through the system if they’re going to get anything done.

Look at all the senators who rode the tea-party wave into power…To one extent or another, they are now seen as swamp things, not swamp drainers, by the pitchfork populists…

But there’s a larger dynamic at work. It’s like taking the job seriously is an automatic disqualification for the perpetually furious. Merely talking like a halfway responsible politician — “we don’t have the votes,” “we have to pay for it” — is proof of selling out… What’s both funny and sad is that there is remarkably little intellectual or ideological substance to the current populist fever…

A lot of people are simply mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore. Republican politicians can’t ignore the anger. Ideally they’d channel it toward productive ends, as they did in the past. But further stoking the anger for political gain is not just ill-advised, it’s pointless, because eventually politicians have to govern.”

We’re seeing the same thing playing out here in Illinois. In July, 15 of my Republican colleagues voted to override the Governor’s veto of a budget bill. Since then, the long knives have been out, with a well-funded effort to primary those members which has resulted in the decision of 11 of them (as of this writing) to not run in 2018. Calling them “tax traitors” and worse, they’ve created an environment which makes it impossible to have a serious conversation about the most pressing problems facing this state. The primary challengers are running as “outsiders”, with promises of the kind of financial support that would drain resources and make it virtually impossible to withstand a well-funded Democrat challenge in the general election.

But here’s the funny thing: the Governor who was betrayed by those 15 members is now Continue reading

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