Thursday, February 18, 2010

Secrecy in the Illinois Capitol (and what to do about it)

February 18, 2010 - Yesterday, the Illinois Senate met in private to review a report on state finances. That's right, in private. A secret meeting to discuss the way your tax dollars are being managed - and mismanaged. The media and the public were actually barred from entering the Senate chambers. The State-Journal Register reports: FOR ABOUT 90 MIN­UTES Wednesday, senators gathered be­hind closed doors to hear a presentation from researchers with the Denver-based Na­tional Conference of State Legislatures about state budgets and the national economy. Senate President John Cullerton and Minority Leader Christine Radogno defended closing the meeting, saying that senators would be more comfortable in the discussion if their questions and remarks were not subject to public scrutiny. Cullerton said this applied especially to senators involved in elec­tions. The SJR points out that the closed session is a violation of the Illinois Constitution. To say the least, it stinks and should rightly be viewed with suspicion. The Chicago Tribune weighed in, too (emphasis added): At 10 a.m. Wednesday a respected research group, the Pew Center on the States, rolled out a report on severely unfunded pension obligations. One key finding: Illinois ranks dead-last nationally in the percentage of necessary money it has set aside to pay public employees' pensions. At precisely that moment, the Illinois Senate was meeting — illegally, we suspect — in closed-door session to hear a presentation about state budget problems nationwide. "You know you're not invited," Senate President John Cullerton told Statehouse reporters — including the Tribune's Ray Long, who was denied entry by the sergeant-at-arms when he sought to follow Cullerton into the meeting room. "Not invited," the man said! Perhaps John Cullerton hasn't read the state constitution, which mandates an open invitation to the press and public for meeting such as this. The Tribune continued: Think long about that. Cullerton, D-Chicago, and every Democratic and Republican senator who played along, didn't think you — or the reporters who try to keep an eye on politicians for you — had any place in that room. The open-meetings provision of the Illinois Constitution be damned. And never mind that you pay for the salaries, staffs and offices of every lawmaker in attendance: Sorry, citizens, it's your money, not your business. Today, two very important items come to my inbox from two important political figures: John Bambenek and Adam Andrzejewski. They write about the secrecy and dark chambers in which Illinois Democrats conduct the state's business in the legislature they control. But make no mistake: There were Republicans complicit in the secret meeting yesterday, too. The deadlocks, corruption, back room dealing and bullying in Illinois' capitol are legendary, and the overwhelming majority of comes directly from the Democrat Party, which controls the Legislature by majority. Certain Republicans share the blame; more on that in the future. FIGHTING THE SECRECY: The two important items below are press releases, if you will, but they are well written, informative and factual. The first item comes from John Bambenek, a conservative activist and author of the Put-Back Amendment. The second item is from Adam Andrzejewski, former GOP candidate for governor, who continues his activism. JOHN BAMBENEK (emphasis added): Something extraordinary happened yesterday. The Democrat controlled State Senate led by Democrat John Cullerton discussed our state fiscal crisis. What was extraordinary about it is that they met in secret and locked out the press, the cameras and the public. You read that right, they dealt with state business (and likely their massive tax increase plans) in a backroom. Despite our Constitution requiring the Senate to meet in the open and the intent of the Open Meetings Act to require it, they discussed the mess they caused and how they'll take more of our money behind closed doors. They have no shame. [One] Democrat called it a "joint caucus" meeting, so he says it's okay. I could put on a black cape and run circles under the rotunda and call myself Batman, that doesn't make it true. But Democrats like Cullerton get away with word games because they have complete power in the legislature. So does Mike Madigan, and that is the problem. How do you deal with a problem like Mike Madigan? In 2012, I plan to throw him a very pleasant retirement party. Here's how. With some of the top minds in Illinois, we wrote the Put-Back Amendment to end the radical consolidation of power in Springfield. It enacts term limits of 8 years, legilsative leaders are limited to 4 years. All legilsation must be made public for 7 days before a final vote. 25 legislators can force an up or down vote on any bill. No longer is it necessary to kiss Mike Madigan's ring to get good law considered. It ends gerrymandering by requiring maps be drawn on objective criteria with anyone (not just corrupt insiders) being able to participate in the map-drawing process. And it returns to 3-member districts with cumulative voting that we had before 1980. What will it cost to have Mike Madigan's retirement party? Just 1 sheet of 15 signatures. If we want to end the culture of corruption and "secret" meetings in Springfield, it costs each of you one petition with 15 signatures in the next 7 days (Feb 26th). If we get 500,000 signatures total by April, we will get this on the ballot. If the voters say yes, it becomes law. Mike Madigan cannot stop this. Learn more about the Put-Back Amendment and download petitions at Join the facebook page at: Together we can take back our state from the corrupt Chicago political machine, but its up to us. Can I count on you to get just 1 petition sheet filled and sent back? If so, I look forward to seeing you at Mike Madigan's retirement party in 2012! Sincerely, John Bambenek Precinct Committeeman Champaign County Facebook: Twitter: P.S. The timing of this amendment is critical. If we don't get this on the ballot, Mike Madigan will control the redistricting process and I don't need to tell you how destructive that would be for our party and how legilsators like Rep. Aaron Schock could be forced into retirement. Act now, just 1 sheet is all it takes. Paid for by the Office of John Bambenek, 715 Erin Drive, Champaign, IL 61822. (217) 493 0760 ADAM ANDRZEJEWSI (emphasis added): FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PRESS RELEASE Contact: Basia Sikora Wednesday, February 17, 2010 (630) 899-9191 The Illinois Senate locks the citzens of Illinois out of public business. “Legislature violates spirit of Open Meetings Act and letter of Illinois Constitution,” says Andrzejewski. Adam Andrzejewski, Founder of good government organization For the Good of Illinois, and former Republican Gubernatorial candidate, is calling on the Illinois legislature to meet the standard they themselves have imposed. “Today, the Illinois political class used the statehouse as their personal private meeting hall, abusing the state constitution, the open meetings act, and the spirit of open and transparent Government” stated Andrzejewski. “Illinois is at the juncture of political and financial crisis.” For the first time in state history, the Illinois Senate met in private with the National Conference of State Legislatures under a new extra-legal meeting defined as a “joint caucus”. The Illinois Senate gathered discuss the severity of and solutions to the Illinois budget crisis, a topic that is negatively impacting every Illinois citizen and business. Senate Sergeant at Arms held order and barred entry to the press under threat of arrest. “The people of Illinois pay for the lights, heat, building, and the salaries of the every state employee and legislator,” said Andrzejewski, “Yet the people of Illinois were locked out of the discussion.” One wonders what the Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, would say about this event. The Attorney General’s website states; “an open, honest and accountable government, the cornerstone of a democracy, can be achieved only through the free and open exchange of information between government and the public’.” [On Wednesday, Feb. 17], Andrzejewski filed a “Request for Review" with the "Public Access Counselor" at the Attorney General’s office under the new transparency and Freedom of Information Act reform law signed last year in wake of former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s arrest. Andrzejewski called on Attorney General Lisa Madigan, to render an opinion as to the legality of “joint caucus” meetings of the Illinois Senate in regard to the circumvention of the people’s right to know under the Illinois Constitution or the Open Meetings Act. RELATED: Illinois ranks dead last in funding pensions Madigan says he warned Cohen things would get worse John Cullerton -, a Wash Post Co Leave a Comment * Conservative T-Shirts * Follow CNB on Twitter * RSS Feed