State Capitol Notebook

Capitol Bureau

Play of the Week

Substance abuse centers, hospitals, foster care programs are all pleading for help. Advocates are calling and emailing lawmakers, even holding public protests to stress the urgency for the Legislature to come back to Springfield now and reverse some of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's $1.4 billion in state budget cuts.

But the state Senate isn't budging, even after the House voted to restore about $480 million in cuts two weeks ago. Lawmakers don't intend to come back to Springfield until November.

Senate leaders say there's no point in coming back if there's no extra money to pay for putting more spending back in the budget. The Senate approved several money-raising ideas this spring but those went nowhere in the House. Senate Democrats point the finger of blame elsewhere for leaving valuable programs and services in limbo. 

"The House is good at check kiting," Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, told reporters in Chicago last week. "Send them a big check, knowing dog-gone well the check is going to bounce. And that's where we stand right now."

Head scratcher

The numbers were startling -- new statistics from Illinois traffic stops in 2007 showed minority drivers were searched by police more often, even though searches produced drugs and other contraband more often with white drivers. Civil rights groups asked Gov. Rod Blagojevich to order the Illinois State Police to end searches where officers ask drivers for consent to inspect their vehicles, saying the results were proof of racial bias.

That left obvious questions: Would the governor end consent searches? Why or why not?

State police in a statement called such a ban a drastic step and premature. Blagojevich also issued a statement: "We recently became aware of this information and share the concerns raised by the ACLU. I oppose any unjustified differential treatment of any group. I look forward to working with the coalition to further our shared goals."

Another example of ask questions and get answers -- but not necessarily to the questions asked.

Quote of note

“Unless he (Senate President Emil Jones) calls us back, there isn't a darned thing we can do about it."

State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, on what he's telling constituents and interest groups who urge him and other senators to come back into session soon and override the governor's budget cuts. Jones insists the Senate won't be back until November.

Number to know

$1.8 million -- That's how much Gov. Rod Blagojevich raised in campaign cash in the first six months of 2008, giving him $3.6 million as of the end of June.

Coming Up

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability will conduct a public hearing at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 31, at the State Capitol on the Blagojevich administration's controversial plan to move the Illinois Department of Transportation's traffic safety division out of Springfield and into southern Illinois.

GateHouse Capitol Bureau