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.


Falco said...

This will probably piss you off but your 'Vich sounds like he has a lot of characteristics the same as our (yours and mine) Dubya and Uncle Dick.

Don Gwinn said...

Why would that piss me off? He's already Governor. And yes, the parallels are there to be savored and appreciated.

But no, you'd have to follow this guy for awhile to appreciate the difference. He's like what you'd get if Ted Rall tried to make a really good satire about Bush--but he's dead serious.

Rob said...

Don, Where'd you get the idea Senate Pres. Emil Jones hates Gov. Blagojevich?

Have you actually read or watched any news accounts over the past 5 years? The two are practically bosom buddies who gang up against Mike Madigan when they can.

...As for Rich Miller's post about the ISRA press release -- it wasn't because they were mean to Kotowski.

It was because they lied.

Blagojevich, and him alone, called that press conference. He used Kotowski's bill to get back at Madigan (the Speaker of the House). This particular bill passed the Senate but stalled in the House. Blago was attempting to use that stall to distract from his own ineptness in the budget negotiations.

Kotowski didn't even vote for Blagojevich for cryin' out loud -- he wrote in someone else instead (just search "Kotowski" on the GOP USA page there). And he wasn't at the Blago press conference (based on the guv's past antics, he may not have even been invited).

Say what you want about Kotowski but at least get your facts right (because the ISRA isn't offering up too many of those related to him, go figure).

I agree on the parallels between the guv and the prez, FWIW. Two acorns that landed on different sides of the tree.

Don Gwinn said...

You might have noticed that Jones is not carrying Blagojevich's water anymore, at least not publicly. I don't see him jumping to do anything for Blago. Meantime, Blago is walking out on meetings because Jones isn't there--walking out on the representative Jones sent with power to make deals on his behalf.

There's trouble in paradise.

The ISRA told what lie about Kotowski? Name one, please.

Tom said...

In New Jersey, we have a colorful governor as well, who will be a subject of mine over the next few days so we can compare notes.

The "large capacity mag" ban has been in effect for some time in New Jersey where our limit is 15 rounds (not 16 like most double stack semi-auto mags), so if anyone manages to launch any serious sounding objection to it that isn't a product of back room wrangling, I'd love to hear about it.

And thanks very much for your generous comments yesterday. I think it all underlines that we're all on the same side here, and should do our best to help out where we can. Focus on the hearts and minds you know what I mean?


Don Gwinn said...

Not all of us. Rob is on the other side, but we like him anyway.

BobG said...

So, basically you are saying that the state government is a bunch of jackasses?
We have that problem here in Utah.

Rob said...

Don, lucky you. I've been working on a post about the error-laden ISRA action alert since it came out.

I wanted to see what would happen with regards to the Special Session before posting it. You can read it here. Enjoy.

And Jones' quietness doesn't mean he's abandoned the guv. Just that he's not as interested in attacking the lower chamber. Jones' alliance with Blagojevich is a major part of the reason our lege is even in overtime in the first place. The House passed a budget before the deadline -- the Senate didn't even vote on it because Jones sent the Senators home.

Besides, you're now backtracking from the comments in your original post after I pointed your own erroneous conclusions.



If Utah (one of the most conservative states in the Union) is screwed up then folks among the right truly have nowhere to go. That or they just like complaining for complaining's sake. ;)