Community Bankers Association of Illinois

CAPITOL FAX - 9/21/2007

The subscriber-only blog password this week is: EMIL

FIGHT; WELLER; SCHOCK

DISMISSED

As you know by now, Sangamon County Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley dismissed Gov. Rod Blagojevich's lawsuit against the House Clerk yesterday.

The governor maintained that the Clerk violated the state Constitution on September 4th when the chamber met for a regular session and his veto message on the state budget wasn't entered into the House Journal. The Constitution specifically requires that messages be entered "immediately" and then gives the originating chamber (the House, in this case) 15 days to act. The governor's lawyers demanded that Judge Kelley force the House to retroactively enter the message into the Journal, which would have meant that by yesterday's hearing date, the September 19th deadline would have already passed for any action on the overrides.

Judge Kelley said in open court when announcing his dismissal that complying with the governor's wishes by requiring that the House forfeit its right to act on the vetoes "would be a grave injustice not only to members of the House, but also the people of Illinois who have the right to see the legislative process run its course."

But there's more to this than first meets the eye. Attorneys for House Speaker Michael Madigan and the governor had been meeting with Judge Kelley behind closed doors to discuss the case. Kelley obviously wanted to see a settlement rather than get the courts involved in a Constitutional battle between two branches of government, sources from both sides said. Since the House had already scheduled an early veto session for October 2nd, Kelley suggested that the chamber "enroll" the veto message on Monday the 17th, which would allow for an up or down vote on the first day of the veto session. The House had earlier offered to enroll the message on Wednesday, but decided to comply with the judge's wishes to avoid open litigation and a possible face-losing loss.

That wasn't good enough for the governor's office, however, which can't seem to come to an agreement with Madigan on anything. The governor demanded a full hearing on Thursday and lawyers from both sides filed their briefs (which will be posted at the blog later this morning). The governor's attorneys demanded that Kelley order the House to backdate the Journal entry to September 4th, flatly denied that the case was "mooted" by the September 17th entry, and generally stuck to its guns.

To the reporters present at yesterday's hearing, it appeared that Kelley stuck it to the governor but good. Not only did he have harsh words for the governor's case, he also slammed the "Hatfields and McCoys" atmosphere of the never-ending legislative session.

Later, the governor's office attempted to put the best possible spin on the result, insisting that it was their lawsuit which forced Madigan to enroll the messages on Monday instead of Wednesday and call a Committee of the Whole for October 1st instead of waiting until later in that week to debate the vetoes. They're right about that, but the fact remains that they insisted upon yesterday's formal hearing and they lost. Plus, moving up the veto vote is a pretty minor point, particularly when any good lawyer will comply with a judge's strongly stated desire to reach a settlement rather than take a case to an open hearing.

Also, it should be noted that the Senate met this week and didn't enter any of the governor's relevant veto messages into its Journal. The governor's claim that he is simply attempting to uphold his Constitutional right to a speedy hearing on his vetoes would have been strengthened if he had added the Senate to his lawsuit after Monday's session. Instead, the case was exposed for what it really was: A judicial extension of his intense political fight with the House Speaker.

And so the session goes. Nobody ever wants to give an inch and every possible opportunity is taken to slam the other side into the turf. This session will never end.

* Meanwhile, the governor vetoed the property tax assessment bill yesterday, adding language that increased the cap and extended it indefinitely. The House claims that the governor overstepped his Constitutional bounds and plans an override. If the override fails in either chamber, the bill will die and yet another political fight will be waged to determine who is responsible for millions of taxpayers not getting their promised relief.

Expect that political blame game to get very nasty, with the governor and Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan continuing their claim that Speaker Madigan is simply acting on behalf of his law firm's corporate property tax clients rather than for the benefit of the citizenry at large.

Houlihan has already demanded that Attorney General Lisa Madigan examine whether her father has violated the state's conflict of interest laws in this matter and some of the governor's alleged allies have distributed a flier to black churches throughout the state claiming that Madigan has attacked ComEd so much this year because the company no longer does business with his law firm. Madigan flatly and vehemently denies both charges, but it gives you an idea how far this thing has already gone and how far it will go if that assessment cap disappears.

The flier in question surfaced earlier this summer after a pastor in Decatur, who is the brother of one of Blagojevich's agency directors, made the flier available at his church. I'll post that flier on the blog later this morning. It's way over the top. The governor's office has denied involvement with the flier, claiming that it was produced by a well-intentioned but far too enthusiastic splinter group. The flier was also put on car windshields at a Black Caucus golf outing in Chicago earlier this summer. The governor's office reportedly tipped the media to the golf outing, which was held during a session day.

* On a somewhat-related note, the House Republicans held a conference call yesterday to discuss the upcoming veto session. Word from inside is there were more members than expected who said they would support three new casinos to fund a capital bill. Earlier this week, House GOP Leader Tom Cross said he doubted that three new casinos would be acceptable, but said for the first time that he could support a casino for Chicago. Cross may now reassess his bargaining position for next month. The Senate passed legislation earlier this week that would create three new gaming licenses, but that proposal will still have to be tweaked somewhat in the House for Cross to come on board for various reasons.

HALVORSON, RADOGNO MENTIONED AS REPLACEMENTS

Media reports suggest that embattled Republican Congressman Jerry Weller will announce today that he is retiring after this term.

The problem for the GOP is that there aren't a whole lot of well-known Republicans in that area who could make a strong campaign. Some higher-ups are hoping that state Sen. Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) will make the run, and she says she's considering it. Radogno is up for reelection next year, so she'd have to give up her seat to campaign in what will likely be a hotly contested race in a GOP-leaning swing district. About a third of her Senate district is in Weller's congressional district.

Senate Majority Leader Debby Halvorson is also being asked to make the run on the Democratic side. Emily's List, a campaign contribution aggregator that raises millions of dollars for female and other "friendly" candidates, is reportedly pushing hard on that one. Halvorson is not up next year, but she believes that she is in the running to eventually be the first woman Senate President, so that would be a tough decision for her.

Several House members on both sides of the aisle have said that they won't make the run, including Reps. Renee Kosel, Lisa Dugan and Careen Gordon. Stay tuned.

DEMS TO STAY NEUTRAL IN PRIMARY

A new Democratic candidate has surfaced to replace Republican state Rep. Aaron Schock, who is running for Congress. Jehan Gordon, a 26 year-old Peoria native who is backed by the county party chairman and state Sen. Dave Koehler, is expected to announce her campaign today.

There are two other Democrats who have expressed an interest in the race, Allen Mayer and Jimmy Dillon, both county board members. The district leans strongly Democratic, so the House Dems have decided to let the locals fight it out amongst themselves. With Schock gone, they figure they'll take the seat back anyway.

The House Republicans have not yet settled on a replacement, although Schock reportedly has his own choice for the seat. Schock is expected to do very well in the district next year, and the Repubs hope he has long coattails.

NEXT CAPITOL FAX WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26. I'm gonna fully recharge before the veto session. Talk to you in a few days.

2007 BY AHEAD OF OUR TIME PUBLISHING, INC.

Click here to visit the Capitol Fax Archive. There you will find past Capitol Fax Newsletters by Rich Miller.

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