Capitol Notebook: Madigan wins some, loses some

State Capitol Bureau

Play of the Week

Win some and lose some, as the adage goes.

This week, the House voted to approve a change in the state Constitution to allow voters to recall elected officials. The controversial proposal, which the sponsor said is a direct response to the state's unpopular governor, received bipartisan support and is now in the Senate.

Although House Speaker Michael Madigan voted against the proposed constitutional amendment, this could be chalked up in the win column for the Chicago Democrat because it provided ample negative press coverage for his political rival, Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

But Madigan doesn't win every fight.

On Thursday, the House voted down another proposed constitutional amendment to double the income tax for those Illinoisans who make at least $250,000 a year.

House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego accused Madigan of using this proposal to distance his party from Blagojevich on Election Day, and called it "foolish" to hand Democrats $3 billion, the expected revenue from the proposed increase, because it is likely that many of their GOP initiatives would not get funded with the Democrats still in charge.

Madigan's response to the minority party: "What are we supposed to do about that? We're not going to fall down on Election Day."

To observers, Thursday's fighting words between Madigan and Cross likely were setting the stage for another gargantuan battle over the budget and yet another protracted session.

Head Scratcher

The public is not allowed to observe the closed-door meetings of the four legislative caucuses -- House Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans. But Rep. Susana Mendoza, D-Chicago, provided a peek into a House Democratic caucus meeting when she spoke last week to rape-crisis center advocates.

Mendoza is one of the lawmakers who supports enacting a $2 tax on patrons of strip clubs. The "pole tax" proposal, meant to provide money for rape-crisis centers, has yet to come up for any kind of vote in the General Assembly.

Mendoza recalled a caucus meeting in which members discussed different revenue-generating options. "I said, 'Well, why don't we tax porn?' And then somebody goes, 'We already tax corn.' I said, 'Not corn, porn!'"

Quote of Note

"My heart is filled today and I have nothing but love in my heart for everybody and we're looking forward to getting this done," Gov. Rod Blagojevich said after a meeting with former U.S. Speaker Dennis Hastert and Southern Illinois University President Glenn Poshard on Thursday.  Poshard and Hastert are volunteering their time to help facilitate a capital plan for the state by the end of session.

Number to Know

7 -- The number of weeks the General Assembly has to pass a budget and wrap up its spring session before going into overtime. One of the weeks consists solely of two perfunctory sessions.

Coming Up

On Monday, the federal corruption trial against Tony Rezko, a top political fundraiser for Gov. Rod Blagojevich, will reconvene in Chicago after taking a three-day break.