It wasn’t that long ago that Illinois was in the midst of a punishing drought that had state officials worrying about crop losses, barge traffic on the state’s commercial waterways and other financial upheaval.
Last week’s rains washed much of that worry away and even became political fodder for Gov. Pat Quinn.
At an unrelated press conference in his mostly underused Capitol office, the Democrat from Chicago scoffed at a new push by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to poach businesses from Illinois.
“His state, frankly, is water-challenged, and any company thinking of going to Texas better check on their water,” Quinn said.
And then came the rains. And the flooding. And by Friday, Quinn was forced to issue a disaster declaration covering 38 water-soaked counties.
As it turns out, Quinn and Perry were roommates on a trip they took to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“He’s a big talker. I think people saw that in the presidential campaign,” Quinn said. “Companies are coming to Illinois because of ... our highly skilled, educated workforce, because of our excellent transportation and because of a government that works with companies.
“We know how to do it in Illinois we don’t need advice from Governor Perry,” Quinn said.
State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, is the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, which reviews proposed laws regarding roads and highways like higher speed limits.
Sandoval, however, has been out of commission as of late, healing from a painful accident.
No, the man who helps regulate vehicular safety in Illinois wasn’t in a car wreck.
Rather, Sandoval fell off a horse.
No border on corruption
The recent slap on the wrist handed down by the state’s inspector general on David Phelps was a good reminder that corruption in Illinois isn’t limited by the geography of the state.
While downstate residents often point to the state’s largest city as the capital of bad actors, the case against former Democratic congressman from Harrisburg alleges he was employing the same kind of favoritism that a long list of court cases have sought to stop.
Phelps, a former state lawmaker and U.S. congressman, was found to have tried to subvert hiring rules while serving as an assistant director of the Illinois Department of Transportation.
He’s not alone in the region for being accused of abusing his government job.
You might recall the former regional school superintendents in Franklin, Williamson and Jefferson counties also were cited by prosecutors and auditors for employing family members in government jobs.
GOP money check
Wilmette hedgefund maven Bruce Rauner continues to rack up some impressive fundraising totals as he “explores” a possible bid for the Republican nomination for governor.
The political newcomer has more than $1.2 million in the bank. He recently gave his campaign $249,000.
He’s left his potential rivals in the dust thus far, even though rich guys with no elected experience have never fared well in Illinois politics. Just ask Blair Hull, Andy McKenna, Ron Gidwitz and Al Hofeld if you don’t think Rauner will have an uphill battle.
State lawmakers are often blamed for being provincial in their interests, defending the taxpayers that elected them and playing to their geographic biases.
State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forysth, stepped out of that role last week when he introduced a resolution in the House honoring Margaret Thatcher, the late British prime minister of who died April 8.
The nonbinding resolution calls on the General Assembly to “pay tribute to the memory of Margaret Thatcher, one of the pillars of global leadership in the Cold War.”
Ice cream man
Freshman state Sen. Jim Oberweis employed a new tactic in trying to convince his fellow lawmakers to approve his proposal to increase the speed limit on rural interstate highways to 70 miles per hour.
With his legislation due to be heard in a committee hearing last week, the Sugar Grove Republican handed out ice cream bars from his namesake dairy to each member of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Members nursed their vanilla or chocolate treats and then treated him to a near unanimous vote of approval. Only one member, Jackie Collins, voted no. She said she was not influenced by the nuggets of frosty goodness.