It’s time to start watching again after a welcome holiday break.
Despite the gravitational pull of the Chicago mayoral race, much of our good-government focus is on Springfield and the Illinois General Assembly this week, where a brief lame-duck session provides a unique (and some would say a dangerous) opportunity for political leaders to forge coalitions around controversial issues that may be easier to pass now—with the help of departing members—than later, when the new legislature is seated and lawmakers have to measure each vote in the context of political impact.
So pay close attention as state officials consider a variety of plans to deal with the budget and pension crises, including a massive expansion of gaming, a big increase in the state income tax and a multi-billion dollar borrowing and debt restructuring package. The sweeteners for these difficult votes may be significant cost-saving and accountability reforms in Medicaid, education, worker’s compensation and budget transparency.
The must-read news stories on the upcoming Springfield session include “The Lay of the Land,” which is the headline on Rich Miller’s scene-setter in Capitol Fax, a Bloomberg background report and the first item in Laura Washington’s Sun-Times column.
I’m also watching some other things today:
- Darrell’s Debut. The Trib reports the incoming GOP chairman of the leading Congressional watchdog committee, Darrell Issa of California, says the goal of his committee on government oversight is to identify $200 billion in waste. That’s a pledge all of us will be watching closely.
- Lights. Camera. Action. The Trib opines that red light cameras are successful and should be continued because they’ve led to more driver caution and, as a result, fewer accidents. Government officials lament the unmet revenue goals, but Trib says caution trumps cash.
- Down in the dumps. Southtown Star reports that the Illinois EPA spent more than a million dollars cleaning up an illegal dump in south suburban Markham. But the finger-pointing continues over who’s responsible for not tackling the mess and the mess-makers soon enough.
- Drowning in red ink. Sun-Times’ Watchdog column reports that more than 116,000 alleged home and business deadbeats in Chicago have racked up $67 million in unpaid water and sewer bills since 2008.
- More watchdogging. Another Watchdog column says that Cook County judge James Ryan, who’s been battling with bar groups over his fitness for the bench, and with the BGA and Fox Chicago News over our stories about his work habits, has been sued twice in connection with personal business dealings in the south suburbs. Some of the details of the business transactions come from economic disclosures obtained by the BGA.
Photo: Romana Klee/Flickr