The final days of Madigan’s imaginary Democratic Party super-majority.


Illinois legislators are back in Springfield Tuesday for a few more days  of their veto session.

The purpose of the veto session is to give the super-majority of Democrats the opportunity to override Governor Rauner’s vetoes of legislation that they have already passed.

This is the reason they call it a veto session.

The veto session lasts two weeks. The first couple of days were before Thanksgiving. The second week (not really a week) starts tomorrow.

Governor Rauner spent $50 million dollars in the November election attempting to take away the super-majority from the Democrats.

He wasn’t able to do it in the Senate.

He was successful in the House.

When the next session begins in January Michael Madigan will still be Speaker, but he will only have a majority. Not a veto-proof majority.

But the Democratic Party’s veto-proof majority was always a figment of somebody’s imagination.

The  (senate) chamber voted to override Rauner vetoes on seven bills, including automatic voter registration and legislation raising the pay of home health care workers from $13 an hour to $15 an hour.

The House, meanwhile, continued to show that Madigan’s supermajority exists mainly on paper. The House tried to override four vetoes that Rauner made on House bills and failed on all of them.

Now the bills where the Senate approved overrides must still be approved by the House. If the House fails to do that, the bills will be dead.

Rauner claims he would be willing to compromise on some of his Turnaround Agenda in order to get a budget passed.

No state has gone this long without a budget since the Great Depression of 1929.

Among the parts of his Agenda he is still pushing are restrictions of workman’s comp,  a property tax freeze with no increase in alternative revenue sources and, of course, pension reform.

On this issue he has the support of Democratic Senate President John Cullerton.

Don’t be surprised if the Speaker also ends up supporting bargaining pension benefits with the state’s public employee unions.

The state’s public employee unions would have to agree.

Will the unions say no?

They haven’t before.

Madigan’s grand budget deal: A pension cost shift, tax increases, spending cuts, ending special ed and gen ed mandates.


-By Bev Johns. Bev is a special education advocate and activist.

Eventually there must be a grand deal in Springfield to solve the budget and pension problems – even if this deal is months away.

The real danger that Illinois education faces is that the elements of SB 318 will be incorporated into a grand deal.

House Speaker Michael Madigan wants to solve the pension problem by shifting the State cost to local school districts,just as Chicago now is.

All the other elements of SB 318 plus mandate relief could be part of this grand deal, plus general tax increases and State spending cuts.

Special education regulatory mandates (and some general education mandates) could be given little thought in such a grand deal.

We need to act now to make sure that does not happen.

The AP says the school superintendent group supports ONLY mandates “that don’t exceed federal requirements.” The elimination of many education mandates, including

Special Education class size regulations, has been the aim of school boards and school superintendents for years.

The goal now is to add school mandate elimination to Senate Bill 318 (or to a substitute bill) to allow school districts to eliminate costs to balance the money they will lose from the proposed 2-year property tax freeze.

As it now reads, SB 318 would blow up current school funding – completely eliminate the current school funding formulas on June 1, 2017.  

“The school aid formula will crash if this bill passes, and the commission fails to come up with a replacement,”

Phelon [spokesperson for Senate President Cullerton] said. 

Senate Bill 318 passed the Illinois State Senate, is currently stuck in the Illinois House of Representatives, but a grand deal would likely be put into a different bill.

State Representative Lou Lang stated in a House Executive Committee meeting that SB 318 would blow up school funding in Illinois because if Illinois can not even agree on a Budget this year, how could a commission agree on new formulas for school funding plus pension changes plus state intervention into local property taxes?

We need to educate our State Senators and Representatives NOW – it will be too late after the grand deal is negotiated behind the scenes.

We need to educate our State Senators and Representatives

NOW – it will be too late after the grand deal is negotiated

behind the scenes.

Is Madigan feeling a little defensive?


Yesterday I posted about Madigan’s role in the defeat of the override of SB1229.

Later in the day Madigan issued the following press release:

CHICAGO – House Speaker Michael J. Madigan on Tuesday released the following statement regarding the House override vote of the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1229:

“It was my expectation that all 71 House Democrats would be in attendance for legislative session last Wednesday. Instead, 70 were present. Had all 71 Democrats been present, as was expected, the House would have voted to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1229.

“Over the last several weeks, I worked with various interested stakeholders to gather support in the House to override the governor’s veto. During that time, every Democratic member of the House gave a commitment either to me or to these various groups that they would vote in favor of the override. Leading up to the vote, Representatives Dunkin and Drury, who had both previously voted for the bill, told members and representatives of labor that they would support the override motion. Even with Representative Dunkin’s absence, we called the bill for a vote at the request of the bill’s sponsor and AFSCME Council 31.

“I believe the failure to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1229 will be used by the governor as part of his ongoing effort to bring down wages and the standard of living for middle-class families.”

A week after the vote The Powerful Speaker of the Illinois House feels the need to explain his failure to win an override vote?

Feeling a little defensive, are we Mr. Speaker?

I would say it reeks of defensiveness.

“Bwaaa. Dunkin told me he would be here and vote the way I ordered him to.”


Either he is the all-powerful Wizard of Oz or he’s not.

If, as I speculated, this vote came as no surprise to him and was just another Madigan power play.

Or he couldn’t deliver.

Either way, we shouldn’t let The Speaker be our speaker.

For The Speaker, losing is winning.


Last Wednesday’s Illinois House vote on labor’s SB1229 was an epic battle between Governor Rauner and Speaker Madigan.

And Madigan lost.

Or did he?

For those of you who haven’t been following this story closely, the Governor has threatened to lock out state employees covered by the AFSCME collective bargaining agreement and shut down the state rather than bargain a fair contract.

The state’s public employee union leadership supported SB1229 which would place a resolution of the contract issues into the hands of a third-party arbitrator, essentially removing Rauner from the process.

SB1229 passed both houses of the state legislature and then was vetoed by the Governor.

The veto was overruled by the super-majority of Democrats in the Senate but fell short by three votes in the House.

Madigan’s House.

Excuse me if I am suspicious.

Labor is furious at Chicago Democrat Ken Dunkin, a Rahm supporter, who was conveniently out of town when the vote in the House went down. “I don’t work for Madigan,” Dunkin said.

Yet nobody counts votes like Madigan counts votes. He knew a week ahead of time that he didn’t have the 71 votes needed in the House to override Rauner’s veto. Yet the vote went ahead.

Madigan doesn’t let those things happen unless he has a plan.

Who loses politically if the AFSCME bargaining leads to a state shut-down?

Rauner, not Madigan.

And AFSCME workers lose too. As do the people they serve.

What does Madigan care about collective bargaining rights?

Not a bit.

What does Madigan owe the public employee unions?


What have the leaders of the public employee unions done to fight Rauner other than to follow Madigan around like a bunch of puppy dogs?


Reboot Illinois, a pro-business web site noticed the same thing:

Madigan thinks and strategizes ahead. In allowing this public loss, Madigan still can turn to the union and say he did all he could. He can say the Democrats and their union backers still are in the epic battle of their lives against Rauner, a Republican with never-before-seen resources to wage election warfare. And in so doing, Madigan secures maybe even more money, manpower and loyalty from AFSCME and other public unions.

Calling the vote when he knew all Republicans had pledged to back Rauner also gives Madigan and Democrats campaign fodder because there are a few Republicans in Central Illinois who have strong union membership in their districts. Those Republicans just endangered their political futures for Rauner.

Madigan cares most about maintaining his majority and defeating Republicans.

But, is that all that’s going on here? Charlie Wheeler, an astute former Sun-Times reporter who’s watched Madigan and Springfield for decades, thinks there could be more. Wheeler, who now runs the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said he believes Rauner erred several times this year in demanding all Republicans vote with him when several should have voted differently to help their re-election chances.

Madigan worked well over the years with Republican governors Thompson, Edgar and Ryan. And he’s been saying for weeks the state needs a budget. While state workers are being paid and much of government still is functioning, that won’t continue forever. There’s no court authorization to pay for food for prisoners, for instance, Wheeler notes. Who gets the blame if they go unfed, riot and something bad happens? The Governor is much more likely to bear that blame.

I have been saying all along that the state’s public employee unions are missing an opportunity by letting The Speaker be our Speaker.

We should be looking ahead three years and creating a pro-labor working families electoral alternative to Rauner.

And Madigan Democrats.

How many betrayals do we need to learn the lesson?

Madigan fails? Whose Speaker is he?


Is it kind of an Illinois political version of Stockholm Syndrome?

Stockholm Syndrome is defined as “a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.”

Wednesday afternoon’s news from Springfield:

“House Speaker Michael Madigan’s efforts to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a union-backed bill that would prevent a strike or lockout were dealt a blow Wednesday when one Democratic lawmaker said he would not be returning to the Capitol to cast a vote,” reports the Chicago Trib.

“That’s a Rauner win, in case you’re keeping score,” says CapitolFax’s Rich Miller.

Maybe Madigan can rope Representative Ken Dunkin into returning from vacation. But it doesn’t look like it this afternoon, and the clock is ticking down on the override of a Rauner veto of a bill backed by labor.

Dunkin, a Chicago Dem, endorsed Rahm in the last election.

Stockholm Syndrome?

The state’s public employee labor unions have been captives of the regular Democrats and Madigan for so long, the election of Bruce Rauner caused them shivers of elation when they found that they were on the same side as The Speaker.

The same Speaker that had invited Stand for Children to write a bill that required a super majority of Chicago teachers to approve a strike. The same Speaker who had authored the unconstitutional pension theft SB1.

Once Bruce Rauner became governor the Democrat’s Speaker became labor’s Speaker too.

It was deja vu all over again.

Instead of seeing the opportunity Rauner’s anti-union agenda creates for building a working families state-wide electoral movement, along with joining with those protesting in the streets, the state’s union leadership has ceded the anti-Rauner leadership to The Speaker.

It appears that they have identified with their captors.

Rauner didn’t win. Quinn lost, says Madigan. He’s right.


The conventional wisdom on Speaker Madigan is that he doesn’t really care about anything other than his own political power.

I think that is a fair estimation.

Which means the guy can count votes.

In an interview with a local ABC affiliate in Springfield Madigan discusses numbers. The dude can count.

He points out that the Democratic Party plan was to put a minimum wage referendum on the ballot last November to pull votes for Quinn.

650,000 more people voted for the referendum than voted for Quinn.

I pointed out a similar fact. 10,000 Democratic voters voted for Democratic Senator Dick Durbin but left the governor’s line blank.

In large part these were union members and progressives who could not bring themselves to vote for a Democrat who sold them out on pensions.

I even wrote about it in this article for In These Times.

And I caught some hell for simply saying something that was true.

We can learn something from Speaker Madigan when it comes to counting votes.

But the real lesson to be learned is that if you want those votes you have to stand with the working families of Illinois.

Madigan’s Iron Dome.

Mike Madigan has been Speaker since 1983. Remember Lee Elia?

All this debate about whether we should vote for Quinn or not.

Save your breath.

When November’s election rolls around, the most powerful man in Illinois will be re-elected to office.

And you won’t be voting for him.

That would be the State Rep from the 22nd House District.

He will get the votes of a few thousand people, out of couple million in the state that will vote that day.

Michael Madigan.

He has been Speaker for all but two years since 1983.

The year Cub’s manager Lee Elia explained Chicago to the press.

Madigan is protected by an Iron Dome.

His daughter is the state’s Attorney General.

It is a relationship that will surely torpedo any further political ambitions she may have.

And he has appointed a legislative Investigator General who is nothing more than his golfing partner.

Roberts, 72, is a past Sangamon County state’s attorney, U.S. attorney for central Illinois and chief legal counsel to Edgar. Since 1997, he has worked for Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, a law firm based in Chicago with about 500 lawyers working in offices in 11 states. Roberts is the firm’s managing partner.

Roberts was a registered lobbyist from 2000 to 2013, state records show, but says he never lobbied the General Assembly.

His law firm, though, has financial and political ties to Madigan, other Democrats and also Republican legislators, records show. Among them:

Political committees controlled by Madigan paid Hinshaw & Culbertson more than $40,000 between 2002 and 2008, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Roberts represented Madigan during an investigation by federal authorities in Springfield into the possible misuse of state resources that ended in early 2005 with no charges filed.

Hinshaw has contributed to the campaign funds of Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago; Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne, D-East St. Louis; Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont; and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin, R-Western Springs. Roberts personally donated $500 last year to the campaign fund of state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission that approved Roberts’ appointment on May 30. Other members of that committee include Clayborne, who until recently worked for the law firm run by Roberts in its downstate Belleville office.

State agencies have hired Hinshaw and paid the firm more than $1.8 million over the past five years, state records show. That includes $2,339 from the Cullerton-led Senate Democrats in the 2012 budget year and $1,950 from the Madigan-led House Democrats in 2014.
Roberts says he worked directly with the Senate Democratic leaders but couldn’t recall if he personally worked with the House leadership. He says he also has counseled House Republican leaders.

Roberts says those connections won’t get in the way of him doing his job, which pays him on a case-by-case basis at a rate of $215 an hour to investigate misconduct complaints against lawmakers.

“I wouldn’t have taken the job if I thought there were conflicts,” says Roberts, who started in the post July 1, replacing Tom Homer, a Naperville attorney and former judge and Democratic state representative.

Right. Of course there aren’t any conflicts.

As for Rauner and Quinn?

In the words of the immortal Lee Elia, “They can kiss my f*ckin’ ass right downtown and PRINT IT.”

Springfield legislators get summers off. Nobody complains. Will Guzzardi and Michael Madigan.

guzzardi at johnny's

State Rep-elect Will Guzzardi and Johnny’s Grill which is no longer.

One of the talking points for teacher bashing is how teachers get paid for summers off.

When I try to explain how this isn’t true – that teacher contracts are a per diem – that we are contracted (in my case) for 185 days, the eyes of whomever I was explaining this to glaze over. It’s just easier to wrap your head around the summers off talking point. And don’t even begin to explain teacher pay schedules – about steps and lanes.


I feel the pain of many New York teachers who are trying to explain their unhappiness with the proposed new contract and so -called retroactive pay. Some teachers will be dead before they ever see a penny of it.

Oh. And was UFT President Michael Mulgrew quoted correctly in the NY Times?

“It’s the city’s money; we work for the city,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “So, once again, I can’t stress this enough, we work this out through negotiations. Retroactivity is not a God-given right.”

Damn. There’s a guy I wouldn’t want bargaining a contract for me. New York teachers haven’t had a pay increase in five years and Mulgrew is talking about God? God doesn’t negotiate good teacher contracts. Unions do. Or should.

Let me return to my discussion of teacher bashing and summers off.

Legislators in Springfield go home for the summer on Saturday – weeks before teachers do – and nobody complains about that.

And for good reason.

Okay. They passed a marriage equality bill. Not small potatoes, but a little late in the game. Probably minutes before a judge would have ruled the same thing. We now have 19 states that have decided what is obvious to many: The state has no interest in keeping people from getting married.

If they did they would have some explaining to do about Bruce and Diana Rauner.

Okay. Legislators in Springfield voted to legalize medical marijuana. Although that won’t stop Chicago police from arresting seven  one hundred and fifty times more minorities than white people for pot possession. Even though the cops could just write a ticket.

On the other hand, Illinois legislators refused to address the revenue issue.

No vote to put a Constitutional change from a flat tax to a graduated income tax on the ballot.

No millionaire’s tax.

And today Madigan admitted he didn’t have the votes to keep the 5% flat income tax. It will now return to 3.75%, causing massive cuts to public schools and social programs.

Not enough votes to raise the minimum wage.

Not enough votes for guaranteed minimum sick days.

We are talking about Democratic Party votes. Democrats have a veto proof majority in both Illinois chambers.

They voted to cut Medicaid.

They voted to cut workmen’s comp.

And, of course, they broke their promise to uphold the Illinois Constitution when they passed SB1 and cut public employee pension benefits.

About State Representative Laura Fine. She represents a district in the north suburbs of Chicago where many of our Skokie Organization of Retired Educators (SORE) live or taught. We are a retiree chapter of the Illinois Education Association.

Twelve hours before the vote on Senate Bill 1 ten members of our group met with Representative Fine to explain why she should vote against pension theft. She told us that she had not read the bill and hadn’t decided how she would vote.

Twelve hours later she voted yes. Her oath of office, her promise to her constituents, to uphold the Constitutional pension protection clause meant nothing to Representative Fine.

There was no confusion that SB1 violated the Constitution. Even Attorney General Lisa Madigan admitted that in her response to the court. Her claim isn’t that SB1 is constitutional. Her claim is that the state has the police powers to ignore the constitution.

You know. Kind of like martial law.

Representative Fine – like many of those in Springfield – engages in selective promise keeping. She defended her refusal to address revenue by claiming legislators had made a promise to roll back the 5% income tax.

This weekend Capital Fax’s Rich Miller wrote a column about whether or not my new State Representative Will Guzzardi will vote next January to return Michael Madigan to his position as Speaker.

Michael Madigan will be the Speaker in the next session. Whether Will votes for him or not is purely symbolic.

My hope is that Will – who is not only my State Rep-elect, but is someone I consider a friend – will vote no.

Sometimes symbolic votes are important. I think it would make those who worked for his election proud of him if he were say no to Madigan as Speaker.

If Will never gets to be inside enough to get a bill passed with his name on it, I don’t care. If he never gets to be a wheeler-dealer in that snake pit we call Springfield, I don’t care.

That he spends the next session being a voice for working families, teachers, public employees and the rest of us who sent him there – that will be good enough.

And then he can take the summer off.

He will get no complaint from me.