Weekly Politics and News August 28, 2015
This week has been a whirlwind of successful events, from our call on Medicare reimbursement with Venson Wallin of BDO Health Advisory on Tuesday to our office-warming and fundraiser for Illinois State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz on Wednesday (a couple pictures below). Thank you to all who participated in these events with us!
If you or your staff were unable to make the call, don’t worry – you can listen to the recording here. We will soon post our notes on the call as well, but in the meantime just email our Director of Public Relations, Kayleigh Metviner (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like a copy.
Please see below for news from Washington and around the country, and don’t hesitate to email me or Kayleigh with any questions.
All best wishes,
Yehiel Mark Kalish
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, decided to support the Iran deal, becoming the only Jewish Democrat from the state to endorse the agreement. “What helps Israel and averts another potential Holocaust is whatever is most likely to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear bomb. My conclusion is that this deal – of the available alternatives to us, not what might or should have been – is the best,” he said.
New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind and a group of Orthodox Jewish leaders held a rally in protest of Rep. Nadler’s decision and to pressure undecided New York members of Congress to vote against the agreement.
New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman also decided to back the deal. In the Senate, Minority Leader Harry Reid announced his support of the deal and said he will do “everything in my power” to protect it.
Sen. Patty Murray, a high-ranking Senate Democrat, added her endorsement to the agreement, bringing the chamber closer to the 34 votes it will need to prevent the deal from being overturned.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released new projections showing that the country is not likely to hit the debt ceiling until November or December. The CBO’s previous estimate put the date in October. This additional time may allow Congress to put together a more comprehensive spending plan before year’s end.
Republican Rep. Mark Meadows is again considering trying to oust House Speaker John Boehner from his position. In July he offered a non-privileged motion to vacate the chair, which did not force the House to vote on removing Speaker Boehner. This time around he is considering a privileged motion, which would force a vote. Rep. Meadows has graciously offered to “entertain” the notion of becoming the Speaker himself.
Kentucky’s GOP committee voted for a presidential caucus instead of a primary next year, which will allow Sen. Rand Paul to run for both the presidential and Senate nominations. Sen. Paul has promised to pay for the caucuses, which could cost over $500,000.
You may have heard about Brady Olson by now, the Iowa teenager running for president under the pseudonym Deez Nuts. Although he clearly will not be elected, not least because he is too young to hold the position legally, he is actually making some waves. He is running as an independent, and he has endorsed Gov. John Kasich for the Republican candidacy and Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic side. We will have to wait and see how long this takes to play out, but in the meantime he is polling better than several mainstream candidates.
We have now made it through eight weeks without a budget, and the longer this continues, the more difficult it is going to be to implement one. Due to continuing appropriations from past years’ budgets, consent decrees, judicial orders, the signed education appropriations bill, and the expiration of a temporary income tax increase, Illinois is on track to spend billions more than it takes in. And this is before taking into account all of the currently unfunded social services.
Last Friday a federal judge ordered the state to pay the agencies providing services to residents with disabilities, but Comptroller Leslie Munger said the state did not have the cash to pay them. (Treasurer Mike Frerichs, however, thinks this is unlikely.) The spokesman for the Comptroller’s office said, “Bottom line: Because of the combination of the continuing appropriations we have to pay, along with the court orders, along with the loss of the income tax revenue, we’re facing significant cash shortages right now. That will continue until we have a budget agreement.”
On Tuesday, attorneys representing 10,000 residents with disabilities filed a motion to hold Illinois in civil contempt of the court for failing to pay. The court reiterated that the organizations needed to be paid, and the judge asked for an account of which bills had and had not been paid by the Comptroller. Payments like these are first authorized by vouchers from DHS, which are then forwarded to the Comptroller’s office to be paid. It seems that DHS did not authorize any payments for July until last week.
The required payments have reportedly been processed as of this morning.
Mayor Emanuel’s school budget proposal passed the school board on Wednesday. The $5.7 billion plan involves a tax hike, teacher and school staff layoffs, and $500 million in what the mayor and school board hope will be state funding. On this last part, House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie said, “I would not be betting real money on any kind of quick bailout from the state.” According to CPS, the district has until early 2016 to figure out what to do if the state does not fill that funding hole.
DHS held two hearings this week on Gov. Rauner’s proposal to make it more difficult to appeal denials from benefits programs, including Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). On Monday hundreds of people gathered in downtown Chicago to protest the proposal. Advocates, lawyers, and residents who depend on these programs testified against it at the hearings, and Rep. Greg Harris, chairman of the Join Committee on Administrative Rules, said, “You simply can’t pass something that will have a disparate impact on the elderly and disabled.”
Gov. Rauner issued an amendatory veto to HB 1, a bill sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang aiming to curb the heroin epidemic and promote treatment over law enforcement options. Although the bill passed both chambers with a total of only four “no” votes and, as the governor pointed out, was “a result of the recommendations of the bi-partisan Heroin Task Force,” he eliminated the funding portion of the bill that required Medicaid to pay for medication-assisted treatment of alcohol and opioid dependence. This change means those with private insurance will be covered for addiction treatment while those with Medicaid will not. Rep. Lang argued that not only does this threaten the lives of low-income addicts; it also does not take into account the future savings of diverting addicts from the criminal justice system and hospitals.
Gov. Rauner signed SB 248 into law, and effective January 1, 2016, any political committees that make independent expenditures of $1,000 or more must file a report with the Board of Elections within five business days throughout the year, and within two business days during the 60 days prior to an election.
Rep. Kenneth Dunkin introduced HB 4276, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, this week. The act would legalize the sale and possession of certain amounts of marijuana and marijuana accessories by adults 21 years of age and older, and it would impose an excise tax of 10% on the sale of marijuana by cultivators to manufacturers and retailers.
Harbory in Marion is the first medical marijuana dispensary to be fully licensed in Illinois. Harbory’s CEO hopes to open it by the end of October, though this will depend on whether farmers have adequate marijuana crops ready by then.
Republican state Rep. Ed Sullivan announced he will not seek re-election, citing a battle with diabetes and a firm belief in term limits. Rep. Sullivan reportedly plans to support Nick Sauer, a member of the Lake County Board and the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Sauer is also supported by Gov. Rauner against Dan McConchie, an ultra-conservative nonprofit executive.
Several legislative override votes are expected to take place in the House next Wednesday, when Democratic leadership is pushing to gather all of its members on the floor. So far, the governor has vetoed 21 House bills and issued an amendatory veto to 10 more.
Although leaders in New York and New Jersey are still trying to hash out their plan for construction of the new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, $300 million of work has already been started. Amtrak set the money aside to begin the first stages and designs, knowing the project is only going to become more expensive with each passing day. Gov. Cuomo, Gov. Christie, and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx are still haggling over the federal and state costs of the project, but “Amtrak isn’t waiting on an agreement. The existing rail tunnels below the Hudson are 105 years old and well past capacity.”
The New York City Council approved almost $10 million in grants to hundreds of nonprofits throughout the city, but none of the money has made it to the grantees. The holdup is due in part to reforms instituted in 2007 during an investigation of fake charities.
On Sunday several groups that want Upstate New York to secede from Downstate New York will rally at General Clinton Park in Bainbridge, NY. Rather than seeking independent statehood, which would be exceedingly difficult, the groups are likely to discuss splitting into two autonomous regions of the same state. The leader of one group said, “Our Secession plan calls for establishing a more republican form of government than the total democracy NYS currently has which allows Downstate to rule upstate, while upstate can occasionally block things downstate wishes to enact.”
Eva Moskowitz, who founded the Success Academy charter school network and currently serves as its CEO, may run against Mayor de Blasio in the next mayoral election. Moskowitz is a Democrat, but she may be backed by the Republican party because, as a NY Post headline reads, “GOP so desperate to get rid of de Blasio it will back a Democrat.”
Mark Gearan, the state Gaming Commission chairman, left his post this week. He was appointed by Gov. Cuomo in 2014, and he oversaw much of the recent expansion of the state’s gaming industry. Gearan is also the president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and he plans to devote more of his time to that position.
Three of Bergen County’s freeholders are requesting that Bergen Regional Medical Center expand its drug detoxification unit as the county contends with rising heroin abuse. Owners of the Bergen Regional Medical Center say they are already planning to expand the number of available beds, but county officials are concerned that addicts seeking recovery help are being turned away. The medical center’s lease with the Improvement Authority expires on March 1, 2017, and county executive James Tedesco appointed a task force to study the center’s future.
Federal Superior Court Judge Michael Hogan approved the settlement between the Christie administration and ExxonMobil over environmental damages. The settlement is controversial because of the drastic difference between what the state was originally seeking from ExxonMobil, $8.9 billion, and the final settlement of $225 million. The judge also expressed concern, however, over the delayed cleanup of Morses Creek, which state Sen. Ray Lesniak believes could be an opportunity to appeal the approval of the settlement.
Jackson Township adopted a “no-knock” ordinance on Tuesday to address homeowner complaints about aggressive solicitors.
Legal marijuana advocacy group ResponsibleOhio filed an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday to require the Ohio Ballot Board and Secretary of State to rewrite the summary of their constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot. The ballot summary as it currently stands refers to ResponsibleOhio’s initiative as a “monopoly,” which the group claims is “fatal to the validity of the ballot.” The Supreme Court needs to decide quickly, as ballots will be sent to overseas voters in mid-September.
US Sen. Rob Portman and former Gov. Ted Strickland are currently neck and neck in the polls for Sen. Portman’s seat, thanks to a barrage of anti-Strickland ads from the Portman camp. Hillary Clinton endorsed Strickland during her first rally in Ohio, however; and this race continues to be close. Cincinnati City Councilman PG Sittenfeld also figures in as a primary challenger to Strickland.
This year’s budget slashed school safety grant funding by 65% to $7 million over the next two years. While many schools used their last round of funding to buy durable security equipment, which they can continue to use regardless of new funding, others are concerned they will no longer be able to employ school resource officers.
State Rep. Tom Dermody, Chairman of the House Public Policy Committee, will not seek reelection next year.
The special election for the House seat of the late Dave Dill will be held on December 8th, and the primary will be on September 29th. So far, three Democrats are vying for the nomination: Koochiching County Commissioner Rob Ecklund, Ely City Councilor Heidi Omerza, and Bill Hansen, a Cook County small business owner.