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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Statehouse Insider: Quinn has been in Mexico, but don't tell anybody

  • Psst. Wanna hear a secret? Gov. Pat Quinn went to Mexico on a trade mission last week.
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  • Psst. Wanna hear a secret? Gov. Pat Quinn went to Mexico on a trade mission last week.
    Quinn's office treated the trip as very hush-hush right up until his departure on Wednesday. The office put out a press release announcing the trip about 8:30 p.m. Monday. The release noted that the information contained in it was embargoed until 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. In other words, the news media wasn't supposed to put out any stories about the trip until early Tuesday morning.
    Of course, the embargo might have been more meaningful if The Associated Press hadn't caught wind of the trip and put out a story six days before Quinn's office officially announced it.
    Moreover, it turned out that newspapers in Mexico City had stories about the trip two days before the AP.
    So much for secrecy.
    * "Water is something that brings us all together on planet Earth." Quinn explaining that water-resource issues would be part of his trade mission to Mexico.
    * Along those lines, Quinn said he'd like to pursue a sister lake relationship with Mexico. Presumably, it would be like the well-known sister cities deal that's been going on with municipalities for some time, only involving water.
    It was unclear if Quinn was thinking big picture with Lake Michigan or more down-market with Lake Springfield.
    * Sorry kids, but your dreams of not starting school until after Labor Day have been dashed.
    Sen. SAM MCANN, R-Carlinville, introduced a bill earlier this year that dealt with a number of things on teacher training, hours of classroom instruction and whatnot. Tucked away in the bill was a provision that the school year could not start earlier than the day after Labor Day.
    McCann said the idea of delaying the start of school until after Labor Day was brought to him by "constituents in the Springfield area who have businesses that are season specific. Some of those folks are perennial vendors at the state fair."
    In other words, their business falls way off after school starts, including fewer kids at the fair, so let's delay the start of school.
    McCann acknowledged that educators, among others, raised concerns about moving back the start date for school. Many school districts want to end the first semester before the Christmas break, which requires an earlier start to the school year. He also said he doesn't want to appear as taking control of the school calendar away from local districts.
    McCann said the idea was to start a conversation about when it was appropriate to start the school year, and that he might move a bill if he can negotiate a compromise that's agreeable to everyone. For now, though, the bill is on hold.
    * The Illinois Policy Institute backs House Bill 3303, which would freeze pension benefits for teachers, state employees and others at their current levels and move them into a 401(k)-style plan.
    Page 2 of 2 - A while back, a House committee held a hearing on the bill. Shortly after that, the IPI issued a press release crowing about how 259 people filed witness slips in favor of the bill and only 10 filed in opposition.
    Let's take a look at those slips, shall we? Number eight on the list is a DIANA RICKERT. She lists herself simply as "citizen" in the box where witnesses are asked to identify whom they are representing. Most of the time, these witness slips are filled out by lobbyists and they identify some association or other interest group they are representing that has a stake (pro or con) in a bill.
    Now, if you go to the IPI website, you will see a Diana Rickert listed as director of media relations for the group.
    So much for that spontaneous outpouring of support for the bill.
    Follow Doug Finke at twitter.com/DougFinkeSJR.

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