Week in Review for 1/12/15 – 1/16/15

Governor Bruce Rauner and Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti 
Rauner takes oath of office; freezes nonessential State spending.  As he launched into his duties as Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner issued a series of executive orders to freeze all nonessential State spending, including spending on infrastructure projects.  Announcing that he will serve without pay, the new Governor announced he would impose a new code of ethics on himself and his office as part of a dramatic shift in the State political culture.

Governor Rauner has appointed Leslie Munger to be the new Comptroller of Illinois, replacing the late Judy Barr Topinka.  He has made budget reform, job creation, economic growth, and educational reform four of the top priorities of his new administration.  He and his staff have signaled their readiness to use additional executive orders to reorganize State agencies, abolish redundant and unnecessary offices, and reduce State spending. The new Governor is deeply concerned about Illinois’ economic standing in relation to comparable and neighboring states, and believes that genuine sacrifices will be necessary for the State to regain its standing and provide opportunities to young workers and families.

With Rauner this week was new Lieutenant Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti.  A resident of Wheaton, Sanguinetti became the first Hispanic Lieutenant Governor in U.S. history when she joined Rauner in taking the oath of office on Monday, January 12.

Budget – Governor Rauner
Governor orders spending freeze.  One of Governor Bruce Rauner’s first acts was to order State agencies to freeze all nonessential spending.  Executive Order 15-08 was an immediate follow-up to Rauner’s inaugural address, which pointed to Illinois’ history of poor fiscal management.  The governor and his top team are aware that Illinois currently has the lowest credit rating among the 50 states.  The spending freeze order is described here.

Some forms of spending are expected to continue.  For example, ongoing State-financed infrastructure projects may continue if construction has started or equipment purchased.  This exemption does not apply to major State programs that are currently in the planning stage, such as the proposed Illiana Tollway.  Programs funded by federal grants will be allowed to continue to spend new money from Washington.  State agencies, community colleges, and State universities will be allocated limited funds to continue their essential activities.  State agencies will be barred from awarding new contracts or grants during a review period to be supervised by the Governor’s office, which is expected to continue until July 1, 2015.  Exceptions are provided for rolling over or amending contracts that State agencies are required to fulfill by law.

The spending freeze is expected to set the stage for negotiations to govern State budget actions during the second half of FY15.  In the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2015, the State’s general funds are expected to run hundreds of millions of dollars short of expected spending, based upon the spending trajectory established by former governor Quinn before he left office.  Negotiations are also set to begin on the FY16 budget, which must be passed by both houses and signed by Rauner before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, 2015.  The Rauner budget review is expected to generate data that will play a key role in these negotiations.

Rauner – Inaugural Address
Governor’s inaugural address asks Illinois to return to growth pathway.  In his inaugural address, delivered in Springfield on Monday, January 12, Governor Bruce Rauner asked his fellow Illinoisans to work with him to reverse the anti-growth policies of Illinois’ recent past.  Pointing out that “our local businesses look in every direction and see states that are more appealing” for job creation and growth than Illinois, the new chief executive demanded that existing stakeholders recognize the danger and work with him on a cooperative path toward new policies.  Reboot Illinois has reprinted the text of Rauner’s address.

General Assembly
99th General Assembly inaugurated.  The 177 members of the 99th General Assembly were inaugurated in Springfield on Wednesday, January 14.  118 lawmakers are members of the Illinois House and 59 are members of the Senate.  The Southern Illinoisan has the story.

Of all four caucuses in the Illinois General Assembly, the House Republicans have by far the largest contingent of younger and new members. Reflecting a comprehensive desire by many voters to shift the way Illinois looks at and solves its problems, many of Illinois’ voters chose twelve new Republicans to join their colleagues as state representatives in Springfield’s Capitol.  Many of these members are current or former owners of Illinois small businesses and others are members of competitive professions.  The Caucus Blog describes these twelve new lawmakers here.  Representing many locations in Chicago’s suburbs and in Downstate Illinois, these new members are eager to make fiscal responsibility, job creation and economic development top priorities in the new General Assembly.  

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin
Jim Durkin officially elected House Republican Leader.  The choice, which followed the Caucus’s unanimous announcement after the November 2014 election that Durkin was their choice to lead them for a full term, was made official on Wednesday, January 14.  In the House’s inaugural session, Durkin was nominated by colleagues Chad Hays, Barbara Wheeler, and Bill Mitchell.  Under State law two candidates run for Speaker of the House, and the second candidate becomes the Leader of the minority party.  47 Republicans represent districts throughout Illinois in the 99th General Assembly, which will serve into January 2017.  The election took place immediately after the inauguration of the members of the new House.

“If we work together,” Durkin reminded his colleagues, “we have the ability to put our state back on the path to prosperity and success.”  Durkin’s office posted additional news about the House Republican Leader’s election here.

Comptroller Leslie Munger
Leslie Munger becomes Comptroller of Illinois.  New Comptroller Munger has joined Governor Rauner’s call for sharp changes in Illinois governmental policies and spending habits.  A resident of the northern Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire, she is a lifelong worker in the private sector with executive experience at McKinsey & Company, Proctor & Gamble, and Helene Curtis/Unilever. She is using her private-sector experience to work to make Illinois’ finances more accessible to the public.  Illinois’ financial information portal, The Ledger, is highlighted on the Comptroller’s website.

Leslie Munger took the oath of office on Monday, January 12 to replace elected Comptroller Judy Barr Topinka, who died in December 2014 before she could take the oath of office.  Munger, Bruce Rauner, and Evelyn Sanguinetti were joined in statewide office by Secretary of State Jesse White, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and Treasurer Bob Frerichs.  Munger has stated her intent to run as the incumbent Comptroller in a special election to be held statewide in November 2014.  

By Constitutional law, the Comptroller of Illinois is the guardian of the cash flow of the State.  During times of budget crises, the Comptroller must safeguard inadequate State general revenues and allocate them to pay as many of the State’s bills as possible.  All of these bills are invoices for goods and services that have already been delivered.  In many cases, essential nodes of private-sector infrastructure, such as Illinois hospitals and health-care clinics, must receive cash flows from the State in a timely manner in order to remain in business.

Ethics – Revolving Door 
Rauner executive order aimed at stopping revolving door’s spin.  Governor Rauner’s Executive Order 15-09, issued on Tuesday, January 13, placed new requirements and prohibitions upon Executive Branch employees of the State.

The Rauner order is aimed at stopping the revolving door and banning such conduct by persons leaving the State’s executive branch.  The order bans executive branch employees and appointees from negotiating for employment with a lobbyist or lobbying firm.  It creates a one-year-long barrier between the act of leaving an executive-branch position and accepting any compensation for lobbying. The order also sharply reduces, to a “de minimis” level, the amount of food and beverages that an advocate or lobbyist can buy for a member of the executive branch.

The Rauner order sharply increases the scope of the required annual filing of annual Statements of Economic Interest by State employees.  Current law requires executive-branch employees in relatively high pay classifications, and ones with supervisory responsibilities, to disclose their holdings and interests.  Under the expanded disclosure requirement, mandated disclosures will include additional information about each filer’s outside work, volunteer work, legal status, and property holdings. The Rauner order imposes this mandate upon all employees of the Executive Branch.  The Rauner executive order is covered by Springfield public radio station WUIS/91.9 here.

Medical Cannabis 
Medical cannabis infrastructure, other issues left behind for Gov. Rauner.  Departing Gov. Quinn refused to take action on several key issues on his desk before leaving office on Monday, January 12.  Particularly at issue are rules to complete a governance structure for the State’s complex system for securely dispensing medical cannabis.  Although most of the required rules have been adopted, professionals say that additional rules language is required in order to complete the legal structure that will govern the opening of dispensaries and their sales of cannabis to card-carrying, approved patients.  Quinn refused to sign prepared language to continue the process to be used to adopt these rules.

The ex-governor also signed legal language that, if it remains in place, will further unbalance Illinois’ already unbalanced budget by imposing new mandates on State vendors and subcontractors.  Final acts taken by the departing chief executive included signing the new State law governing the licensure and operation of ride-sharing firms such as Uber and Lyft. A summary of Quinn’s final acts in office was published by the Chicago Tribune.

Quinn – Criminal Law
Controversial pardons and commutations issued by Quinn.  In a bundle of “midnight pardons” issued during his final hours as governor of Illinois, former chief executive Pat Quinn sparked additional criticism of his decisions.  One of his clemency decisions, a legal paper to cut in half the 40-year prison term being served by Tammy Englerth, drew biting words from a principal prosecutor involved in the case.  Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, a member of the same political party as the former Governor, called the clemency move “mind-numbing.”  The Associated Press and its partner, the Belleville News-Democrat, have the story.

Under the Quinn commutation, Englerth – who pleaded guilty to murder in a case that involved the dousing of her sleeping husband with gasoline – will be eligible for parole in 2025.  Other controversial moves made by the departing governor included commutation for a man who wounded several Chicago police officers during a shootout.  Article V, Section 12 of the Illinois Constitution grants wide powers to governors of Illinois, including lame-duck Governors, to issue pardons and commutations.

Rep. Wayne Rosenthal
Rauner looks Downstate for key DNR hire.  The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the State agency that oversees Illinois fishing licenses and hunting licenses; it watches over most state parks, fish and wildlife areas, and natural areas.  The Department also oversees Illinois coal mining and fossil-fuel drilling, including fracking for crude oil and natural gas.

Representative Wayne Rosenthal (R-Morrisonville) has been picked by Governor Rauner to be DNR’s new director.  News of the appointment became public on Thursday, January 15.  The Montgomery County-based Journal News has the story of the new path taken by their area’s hometown lawmaker.

A veteran U.S. fighter pilot with the Illinois Air National Guard, Rosenthal has served in the House of Representatives as a working farmer and advocate for Illinois hunters and sportsmen.  Rosenthal is expected to leave the Illinois House on Monday, January 19.  State law provides for the prompt appointment by local leaders of a replacement lawmaker for the 95th House District, which includes all of Montgomery County and portions of Christian, Macoupin and Madison counties.

Sunshine in State Government
New Rauner executive order calls for increased transparency.  Under current law, a small number of high-level positions in State government are exempt from civil service protection.  Designated as positions essential to the making and shaping of public policy, these are the positions within State government hired by the Governor and his leadership team.  On Thursday, January 15, Governor Rauner filed a new executive order pledging transparency in all of these hires.

Under Executive Order 15-10, all of these policy hires will be published on the existing Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal.  They will be sorted by name of employee, name of employing agency, division within the employing agency, and the job title for which the person was hired.

The Rauner executive order was described as a response to a recent scandal involving the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).  The Better Government Association (BGA), a private-sector organization, studied IDOT hiring in 2013.  The BGA investigators found widespread use of a legal loophole to evade civil-service laws and rules during the Quinn administration years.  The study found that an unknown number of IDOT positions had been classified as executive-level, policymaking positions and exempted from civil service.  Questions of possible patronage hiring, raised by the BGA investigation, helped lead to the departure of the Secretary of Transportation in the middle of the 2014 election season.    

Week in Review
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