Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Who Needs to Pay the Bills? Illinois Has Guns to Ban!
I want to try to explain what's happening in Illinois politics today, but you're going to have to bear with me if you're not from here.
OK, we have a Governor named Rod Blagojevich. He has huge hair, he loves Elvis, and he runs the state as his own personal fiefdom. He got the Democratic nomination for Governor because he's the son-in-law of a powerful Chicago alderman. His father-in-law said this publicly; it's not speculation on my part. That's the guy we're dealing with, OK? Some of you out-of-staters might have heard of The 'Vich before, because he started in politics as a crusading anti-gun Representative in the U.S. Congress.
Now, Illinois is divided into fiefs. You have the Mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, who's loosely allied with Blagojevich. Then you have Michael Madigan, who is both Speaker of the House and father of the Attorney General (Lisa Madigan.) Finally, you have Emil Jones, the President of the Senate. Illinoisans will notice that although I say these people each have their own fiefs, they're all from Chicago, which means they all compete for the same turf and the same patronage. It gets ugly. Daley and Blagojevich dislike each other, but maintain a loose alliance. Jones and Madigan hate Blagojevich, but maintain fierce enmity. Did I mention that ALL these people are Democrats?
Illinois' budget runs out at the end of the fiscal year, which ends June 30th. Logically, this means the Legislature must pass and the Governor must sign a budget by June 30th every year, but this they NEVER do. This year is no exception, but it's actually worse than it sounds. You see, Blagojevich decided this year to propose a new method of taxation--basically, a Value-Added-Tax similar to what's done in Europe. This would have raised tax rates through the roof. The 'Vich tried to sell it as a way to soak the rich corporations, but most people understood instinctively that corporations don't pay taxes--their customers do. The legislature ended up voting unanimously against this tax increase, and The 'Vich threw a hissy fit.
You see, The 'Vich does not live in the Governor's Mansion, a beautiful, stately home provided in the heart of downtown Springfield. No, that would mean he'd have to live down here among the clodhoppers. He lives in Chicago. When he feels the need to descend to Springfield, he summons a state plane, which is flown to Chicago, flies him back here, flies him back to Chicago, and then returns here. If that sounds obscenely cumbersome and wasteful, that's because it is. The result of this has been that the upper leaders in most state departments live in Chicago, too, and have a three-day work week in Springfield so that they can travel on Monday and Friday.
Anyroad, here we are. It's July 10th, and the state is operating on an emergency budget that runs out at the end of July. Blagojevich has been blasting the rank-and-file legislators for a month now, blaming their three-day work week for the budget impasse, while steadfastly refusing to meet with anyone, especially Madigan and Jones. He won't even discuss the budget with these people, instead choosing to skip meetings, cancel meetings, walk out of meetings, screen his phone calls . . . you get the picture.
Well, yesterday things got even stranger. Governor 'Vich has been saying for a few days now that he's going to call special sessions and force the legislators to meet 7 days per week from now on, and this he has done. Of course, he's not doing anything at all to make a budget deal, so they have nothing to vote on, but it costs the state many thousands of dollars and makes him look good to . . . well, surely somebody, so for him it's worth it. The rest of us may hate it, but we elected the slimy little bootlick TWICE(!) so we've earned our lumps. Anyway, today The 'Vich unveiled his new strategery:
Call a special session, to pass a ban on high-capacity "assault weapon" magazines! Yay!
The weirdest part about this, to me, is the reaction of one of Illinois' most respected insider-statehouse reporters, Rich Miller. Miller isn't happy with the ISRA because they were mean to Dan Kotowski, and the ISRA had the temerity to send out an action alert over the weekend warning its members to be ready for just such a trick--an action alert that we now know was accurate in all details except for one: the ISRA said Kotowski and The 'Vich* would be asking to ban "most of your guns." Instead, they merely want to ban "most of your magazines"--any magazine that holds more then ten rounds. Miller asked Kotowski, you see, and Kotowski told him right out that he doesn't want to ban anyone's guns, so there you go. That can't be the agenda, unless of course Kotowski is also signed on as a sponsor to a sweeping gun ban. Oops--he is!
So that's where we are now. No budget, ten days past the deadline, not negotiating a budget, not attempting to initiate negotiations toward a budget--but we're going back to the drawing board on gun control. Gawd Almighty, do I LOVE this state!
*Ironically, although they share the same agenda on guns, these two Democrats--you guessed it--really dislike each other.