Capitol Notebook

Compiled by GateHouse News Service State Capitol Bureau

Play of the Week

Sangamon County Circuit Judge Patrick Kelley wins points for his assessment of the ongoing turf war between Gov. Rod Blagojevich and House Speaker Michael Madigan, both Chicago Democrats.

Kelley this week dismissed a lawsuit that the governor filed against House Clerk Mark Mahoney -- who, the governor alleged, violated the Illinois Constitution by not entering the governor's budget cuts into the official House record on Sept. 4 when the House convened to vote on a mass-transit funding bill.

In dismissing the suit, Kelley referred to the "ridiculous and embarrassing Hatfield and McCoy atmosphere at the Statehouse."

Head Scratcher

Senate GOP Leader Frank Watson of Greenville and other Senate Republicans have complained for years about a lack of trust with Blagojevich. They repeatedly cited this trust deficit as justification for opposing capital construction proposals the governor put forward. Without trust, they said, they couldn't be confident Blagojevich would ever release dollars earmarked for their districts.

Some Senate Republicans said they would never support a capital plan unless it actually specified their individual earmarks. Typically, capital construction programs appropriate dollars in lump sum and it's up to the governor, in conjunction with lawmakers, to decide how to spend the money.

The Senate Republicans also have railed against Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's vision for a Chicago casino. Daley won't accept a privately owned casino, though all the state's existing casinos are privately owned. Instead, he insists that a Chicago casino be actually owned by the city.

Think patronage. A city-owned casino means Daley and his pals get to fill all the casino's jobs - from janitor to blackjack dealer to security guard - with their friends and supporters. The mayor also would control construction and other contracts. And, of course, the city would get to keep a much larger share of the revenue the casino sucks from its unfortunate patrons.

And, as the Senate Republicans have pointed out, a city-owned casino also could be a haven for corruption in a city that's renowned for, well, corruption.

This week, the Senate Republicans joined Democrats in voting unanimously for a capital plan that appropriates most of its dollars in lump sum, not by individual line item. Watson said that if Blagojevich reneges on his deal to release money to their districts, then Republicans would refuse to authorize more bonding for the program over the long term.

Watson also delivered nine GOP votes - including his own - to help Democrats win Senate passage of a bill authorizing three new casinos, including one in Chicago. The state would use the new tax revenue from additional casinos to finance the capital plan.

Lo and behold, the Chicago casino would be government-owned. It also could be land-based, unlike the state's existing - floating - casinos.

Daley got what he wanted. The Senate Republicans gave it to him. Now, the House must decide what to do.

Quotes of Note

"I don't think good public policy is made in an environment where people feel like they are pressured or there' s an emergency. "  -- State Sen. Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, speaking about the purported "doomsday" scenario facing Chicago-area commuters because the mass-transit system is financially strapped.

"No." -- Blagojevich, responding to a reporter who on Tuesday asked the Democratic governor to explain the thinking that led to the hiring of Steven Guerra, a convicted felon, as Blagojevich's deputy chief of staff for community services. When reporters continued to raise questions about Guerra, Blagojevich ignored them, turned away and headed for the glass doors leading into his State Capitol office.

Numbers to Know

78.7. That is the statewide average percentage of elementary-school students who met or exceeded standards on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test administered last year, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. The percentage for the 2006 ISAT was 77 percent.

52.6. That is the statewide average percentage of 11th grade students who met and exceeded standards on the Prairie State Achievement Exam administered this year, according to ISBE. The percentage for the 2006 PSAE was 54.3.

Coming Up

Oct. 1: The Illinois House of Representatives has set that date for a "committee of the whole" meeting to discuss the governor's vetoes of portions of the budget that lawmakers passed in August.