Play of the Week:
Gov. Rod Blagojevich's ongoing political war with House Speaker Michael Madigan, his fellow Chicago Democrat, hit a new low this week. His administration deep-sixed the wife of Tim Mapes, Madigan's chief of staff, as part of its continuing effort to purge itself of workers with ties to House Democrats.
Bronwyn Rains is a child psychologist and longtime contractor with the Illinois Department of Human Services. She rated eligibility applicants for Social Security disability payments. She began work for the department before marrying Mapes.
Word of her firing was reported Thursday by Capitol Fax, a newsletter for Illinois political insiders. CapFax reported that Blagojevich's action "probably fatally poisoned an already super-toxic Statehouse atmosphere."
Blagojevich's war with Madigan increasingly underscores matters large and small at the Capitol, as Blagojevich seizes every opportunity to undercut Madigan, the undisputed head of Illinois Democrats before Blagojevich came on the scene in 2003.
Discussions over the state budget, a possible construction plan and other major initiatives are in gridlock. Rank-and-file lawmakers and other players at the Capitol stand helpless as the powers that be dig in their heels and lob figurative grenades. Senate President Emil Jones Jr., another Chicago Democrat, is allied with Blagojevich. Apparently, Jones has a shared desire to undercut Madigan.
By Thursday afternoon, the Department of Human Services produced a series of documents it claimed supported its firing of Rains as a legitimate policy decision - not as a political slap. It explained to CapFax that the Social Security Administration said it no longer "wanted the state to contract with masters level psychologists for the disability determinations" and that it risked losing federal funds. Only, the federal agency raised this issue with the state agency in a letter as early as February 2005.
But for 2 1/2 years, the Blagojevich administration held off on firing Rains. It waited to pull the trigger in the midst of its political war.
Senate Republican Leader Frank Watson of Greenville was asked this week about the prospects of the top legislative leaders and the governor meeting to try to hash out various issues.
Watson said he expected that would have to happen at some point, and that there is a "kind of shuttle diplomacy going on right now. There was a meeting last week in Chicago. Everyone participated, and now some are being asked to carry messages to others to try to get people to the table, back to the table, to get them thinking about certain bills, certain pieces of legislation. "
Sounds a bit like junior high school, when boys and girls -- too shy to make direct contact with the opposite sex -- would enlist their pals as emissaries to find out if a certain someone "liked" them.
Quote of Note:
"The devil is in the details of this resolution, I guess." -- Rep. Sandra Pihos, R-Glen Ellyn, as she presented House Resolution 666 on the House floor. Ironically, the same resolution identified by the number associated with the devil pertains to religious freedom. It urges the government of Turkey to cease discrimination against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, an ancient Christian enclave whose status has long been downplayed by the central government.
"Every now and again, a blind squirrel gets a nut. In this case, as much as it pains me to admit it, the governor got this one right." -- Rep. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, urging fellow House members to uphold one of Blagojevich's vetoes on legislation. The measure, House Bill 1332, would prohibit applications for state employment from including a question on whether the applicant has been convicted of a non-violent criminal offense.
Number to Know: 18. That's the number of weeks since May 31, the scheduled date for the General Assembly to adjourn its spring session. The current overtime session is a record that grows each day.
Oct. 10-12: The General Assembly's fall veto session resumes for a second week at the State Capitol.
Capitol Notebook: War of words continues at capitol
Play of the Week: