Update from S4: News and Politics from Illinois and around the USA

Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich started teaming up in an attempt to keep Donald Trump from winning the GOP nomination, but the alliance quickly fell apart. Gov. Kasich and Sen. Cruz each vowed to pull out of states that the other polled highly in to try to keep anti-Trump voters united in each state, but less than a day after the announcement, Gov. Kasich told all of his supporters still to vote for him. Gov. Kasich’s Indiana campaign co-chair instructed supporters to “vote for Cruz so Trump does not win Indiana,” but the governor himself later told reporters, “They ought to vote for me. But I’m not over there campaigning and spending resources.” Read more in the Washington Post.


The Senate’s energy and water appropriations bill, which seemed very likely to pass, is now threatened by a single amendment. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton proposed an amendment that would prohibit the country from buying heavy water, a product used in nuclear reactions, from Iran. Since President Obama agreed to buy over 30 tons of heavy water from Iran last week, he would veto the bill if the amendment was attached to it. Senate Democrats do not want another vote related to Iran’s nuclear program, especially attached to an important spending bill. Sen. Cotton said he would be amenable to other procedures to arrange a vote on his legislation, whether as a standalone bill or another amendment. Read more in Morning Consult.


The House Armed Services Committee unexpectedly passed an amendment to include women in the Selective Service, the agency that keeps track of residents who can be drafted for military service. The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Duncan Hunter, is disappointed in the result because he hoped the amendment would start a discussion but ultimately fail. The amendment is now a part of the annual defense authorization bill, which will be considered by the House next month. Read more in the Washington Post.


Several representatives from the House Ways and Means Committee wrote a letter asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to gather and publish more data on Medicare beneficiaries’ mental and behavioral health. The letter points out, “CMS has not yet published [behavioral and mental health] data to the same extent as with other health conditions… Federal restrictions and regulations that prevent the accessibility of this data needs to be reformed and brought into the 21st century.” Read the letter here.


The Republican Study Committee (RSC), a large group of conservative Republicans in the House, proposed a series of policy recommendations aiming to influence House leadership. Among these polices: abolishing the Internal Revenue Services (IRS), repealing the estate tax, and lowering corporate tax rates. Read the proposal here.


The RSC also published recommendations on healthcare reform. The group supports HR 2653, the American Health Care Reform Act, which is a conservative Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement. The RSC calls for the complete repeal of the ACA, replacing it with tax credits and more “federal support for high-risk pools.”  They also advocate allowing health insurance plans to cross state lines, reforming medical liability laws, and combining Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program into one “streamlined block grant.” Read the proposal here.


The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed nine bills related to opioid use and addiction treatment this week. An amendment that would have attached more funding failed, but the group of bills targeting several facets of the opioid crisis will soon be debated on the full House floor. Read more in Morning Consult.


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to approve Charter Communications’ acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, pending a final vote from regulators in California. The FCC and the Justice Department also imposed restrictions on such deals, however, aiming to protect video streaming services and access to broadband internet for low-income residents. Once the merger is complete, Charter will be the second-largest broadband internet provider in the country and the third-largest cable television provider. Read more in the New York Times.




The state legislature passed a bill last week to allocate $600 million for higher education, postponing an impending disaster with school closures and students unable to pay their tuition. The funding will help public colleges and universities remain open, and it will also fund Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants for low-income students. Gov. Rauner signed the bill this week, despite its lack of Turnaround Agenda concessions. The Senate also passed a version of the bill that added over $400 million for social services, but the governor said he would not support it. Read more.


Late last week Senate Republicans joined Democrats in voting down a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the Lieutenant Governor’s office, saving the state over $1 million a year. The Chicago Tribune editorial board, which tends to favor the governor, lambasted the Republican legislators, “the party of so-called fiscal conservatives who advocate for smaller, more efficient government,” as they wrote, for flip-flopping on the bill. Although the current Lt. Gov., Evelyn Sanguinetti, has called for her own office to be eliminated, the governor seems to have had a change of heart, since the line of succession without the lieutenant governor would likely lead to a Democrat. Read the editorial here.


The House again passed legislation to freeze local property taxes but allow school districts to ask voters for authority to collect more money. Although Gov. Rauner has been calling for a property tax freeze for the last year, he opposes this measure, calling it not a “real” effort. Despite the governor’s opposition, Republican Rep. Ron Sandack is a co-sponsor of the bill, which passed the House with bipartisan support. The bill’s fate in the Senate uncertain. Read more.


Chicago Alderman Edward Burke advanced a measure in the Zoning Committee to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in the Loop. Currently, dispensaries are prohibited from locating in an any area designated as “downtown core,” which is easily-accessible and near several hospitals. The prohibition appears to be an oversight, since there were no objections in the committee, and the mayor’s office did not have an explanation. Read more in the Sun-Times.


New York
Mayor de Blasio announced his $82 billion city budget proposal this week. In addition to a new police precinct in Queens, the budget includes $2 billion for the floundering NYC Health + Hospitals system. Critics are concerned that the mayor’s plan to support the hospital system relies too much on “substantial State and Federal cooperation which has not yet been assured.” Read more here and here.


Mayor de Blasio is embroiled in a fundraising scandal, which he says is politically-motivated and unfounded in truth, and Gov. Cuomo has is looking for a candidate to oust him. A recently-leaked memo from the Board of Elections accused Mayor de Blasio of “willful and flagrant” violations of state law. Since the mayor’s approval ratings have also been on the decline, several potential candidates are emerging, including New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. Read more on the inquiry into themayor’s fundraising here and here, and into the governor’s search for a challenger here.


City Comptroller Scott Stringer plans to audit the Board of Elections after last week’s disappearance of over 100,000 Brooklyn Democrats from the voter registry. The loss of these voters’ data was apparently caused in part by a data-entry error, but Stringer also cites outdated state voting laws as a problem he wants to see addressed. Stringer called the system ‘broken’ and said, “We’ve got to take a sledgehammer to this. We have to stop pretending this is a democracy.” Read more in the NY Post.


New Jersey
While state legislators still work to put together a plan to save the Transportation Trust Fund, read this article that recaps the situation and possible effects on your taxes.


Legislators are still working on how to address Atlantic City’s financial woes, though some think a solution is close at hand. Rep. Chris Brown is sponsoring legislation that charge a committee made of state and city officials with creating a binding plan for the city, instead of a “non-transparent power grab” in the form of a state takeover. Rep. Brown called the takeover approach, which the Senate has already passed, “martial law being declared in Atlantic City without any oversight,” and he is confident the Assembly will not pass it. Read more.


According to PolitickerNJ, Reps. Scott Rumana and David Russo of the 40th legislative district may be on their way to judge positions, leaving their seats open in 2017. Rep. Rumana may even be a judge by this summer. Read more.


23 Ohioans die from heroin every week, and the problem of heroin use is spreading. The state has been trying to find a balance between rehabilitation and prosecution in its efforts to combat the crisis, but that balance is hard to come by. Several counties have ‘drug courts,’ which only handle drug cases and seek to help drug addicts get clean and stay out of jail. Although some do not approve of treating addicts less like criminals and more like patients, Attorney General Mike DeWine acknowledged, “We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem.” Read or watch more on 60 Minutes.


US Rep. Pat Tiberi is reportedly considering challenging US Sen. Sherrod Brown in the next election cycle. The Democratic senator plans to run for another term, but his name is also rumored to be in the ring for Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential pick. Read more in the Marion Star.