Jim Broadway

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Illinois School News Service

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Volume 25, Number 47, July 29, 2019

Pritzker rated nation's best new governor

By Jim Broadway, Publisher, Illinois School News Service

It must make the folks at the Illinois Policy Institute cringe. Here's the governor, a Democrat who campaigned on promises to raise taxes and sign legal recreational marijuana into law, and raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour ($15!), and now some magazine rates him as the top newly elected governor in the nation.

Well, it's not just any magazine. It's Governing Magazine, a publication focused narrowly on the outcomes of democracy at every level - national, state, county, municipal. Its reports and analyses are in-depth. They withstand fact-checks. All 7,000 or so state legislators, and thousands of state executive office leaders, read it.

And as the writers and editors of Governing Magazine see it, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker is the most effective newly elected governor in America today, based on his performance and the policy outcomes of the first legislative session of his term. Here's an abbreviated version of what Governing has to say:

"The Democrat has been able to make the most of his party's solid majorities in the legislature and successfully work with Republicans to strike bipartisan deals. Pritzker's legislative achievements fall in two areas: progress toward fiscal stability and a shift to the left on social issues.

"On fiscal policy, bipartisan negotiations produced a budget that provides full funding for a new K-12 school formula, increases money for early childhood education, and modestly boosts spending for higher education and public safety.

"Pritzker enacted a transportation capital plan funded by increased gas taxes, as well as an education and public facilities capital plan that is funded by higher taxes on gambling and cigarettes. And the legislature placed on the 2020 ballot a Pritzker-backed measure to move the state income tax from flat to graduated."

Yes, Pritzker is clearing his desk, a little. Of the 68 bills listed on the ISNS bill-tracking web page, the governor has now dispensed with 22 of them - by signing all of them into law, no vetoes or changes imposed. The signed bills are listed first on the page, in the order of the dates on which Pritzker's actions are recorded.

Toward the bottom of the list of signed bills are the seven most recently signed; they became law on Friday. They address a variety of topics, some simple and narrowly focused - others a bit more complicated. HB 35 puts the "Grow Your Own Consortium" in charge of the state GYO program. That's an especially good move.

Most School Code Bills are non-controversial and bipartisan - as HB 2272 should have been. The bill simply subjects the "contract schools" in Chicago to the provisions of the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act, statutes that have long been imposed on public schools statewide.

How could a partisan caucus take a position against that bill? Makes no sense, but that's what the House Republicans did. By the time the bill reached the status of third reading in the Senate, the foolishness of the House GOP stance apparently was obvious. The bill passed the "upper chamber" unanimously.

Sham think tanks have long tentacles. Speaking of the Illinois Policy Institute, I recently restored a feature on the home page of Illinois School News Service, a popular feature in which site visiters can click the link to another state and find out what's going on, public education-wise, in other parts of the country.

I click on "Kansas" at random, and Google put this item on the list of choices. Yes, it's a guest column in a publication called "Liberal First." Let me explain. "Liberal" is actually the name of a city in Kansas. Who'd have guessed? Anyway, the columnist's entire rant is an attack on the Kansas Association of School Boards.

The columnist's employer is the Kansas Policy Institute, which linked the attack on KASB on their home page. The KPI also had an article similar to a theme you have seen on the IPI site, a diatribe deploring the number of "millionaire" members of public employee retirement systems. (They reach that million-dollar conclusion by figuring that a retiree whose pension is $50,000 per year will live another 20 years - and 50 X 20 = 1,000,000.)

Anyway, you can see the similarity between the KPI and the IPI, right? Well, here's what else they have in common: they are "affiliates" of the State Policy Network, a national organization feeding talking points to state-level groups set up in the 1990s by conservative Republicans - a former congressman, in Illinois' case.

Their annual meeting next year will be hosted by the IPI in Chicago. You should attend.

Why the dirty tricks on Davis' behalf? Last fall it was the field director for U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis' reelection campaign that was arrested after crashing a fundraiser for Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan - who came within a percentage point of unseating the Republican incumbent in last November's general election.

Davis fired the guy, apologized to Londrigan and generally acted as if he hadn't known his campaign staffer was planning to record Londrigan at the event, hoping she would say something that could be edited into a political faux pas. Rodney's quite adept at acting as if he doesn't know stuff.

But now he has to do it again, with feeling. This time, it's not just a disposable field staffer. This time, the "dirty trickster" is Nick Klitzing, former executive director of the Illinois Republican Party, campaign staffer for former Gov. Bruce Rauner's two election campaigns, clerk for Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier.

Nick lied about being on staff of the student newspaper at SIUE (my alma mater) to get on a Dirksen campaign press call so he could badger her into saying something she would regret. But she didn't cooperate, and Klitzing's fakery was quickly found out. (I told you last year not to trust Davis; look at his eyes.)

Snippets:

The Illinois Human Rights Commission has made it clear - transgender students are to have unfettered access to the locker rooms and restrooms that are used by students of the gender they now identify as their own. Advocates for LGBTQ constituencies are delighted. Conservative religious groups are pretty unhappy.

More on Pritzker from Bernard Schoenburg: I've known every writer in the important position of political reporter for The State Journal-Register since 1981 and Schoenburg is the best, the most accurate, objective and professional in every respect. Gov. JB Pritzker holds nothing back, Bernard reports.

State-required student assessments lack alignment, according to the State Board of Education. This is problematic for school districts, so a process to be conducted - likely similar to one conducted by State Superintendent Carman Ayala when she was a district superintendent - is apparently on the horizon.

So you thought Jeanne Ives was finished? Far from it. The former state House member who nearly derailed former Gov. Bruce Rauner's reelection campaign (before he could derail it himself) is running for Congress. Her tone seems softer. Will 6th District voters remember the Ives of 2018 and reject her? Or will they buy the calm, patriotic, fan of diversity that she now projects at her campaign web site? She's not a fit for the 6th, but I would not vote against Ives.

Were you like the Barrington jeweler who contributed to the "Conservative Majority Fund," an anti-Obama PAC that got nearly $10 million in contributions - but spent only $48,400 toward achieving the goals it promised the contributors? Could that be you? If so, I have no sympathy for you.

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