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Crotty's Claims: True, True-ish or a Bit of a Stretch?

Patch checks the facts on state Sen. Maggie Crotty's newsletter touting her record during the 2009-2010 legislative session.

Hi, folks. Welcome to The Fact Check. As this is the first one, a bit of introduction.

The Fact Check will, once a week, go line-by-line through a local political or corporate release, verifying each claim, identifying omissions and, more importantly, giving every statement context. As the old joke goes, 73 percent of all statistics are made up.

We're here to sniff those out.

So here is our take on the 2010 newsletter mailed to 19th District voters by the office of state Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest). All the category headlines are mine, but otherwise not a word has been changed or omitted from the text.

Sponsoring House Bills

In an effort to promote accountability, I sponsored and passed House Bill 16. The legislation originated from past and present allegations against the Suburban Cook County Regional Office of Education. 

OK, this is true, but it doesn't mean what you think.

To "sponsor" something in a legislative sense doesn't mean you were the first person to propose this or you somehow created it. By Senate Rule 1-22, that person is called the "principal sponsor." Either way, bills are named after the house they start in; there's no way a senator could have proposed a House Bill.

To be a sponsor, you ask to get your name on a bill and do, regardless of how involved you were in the process. Popular bills that will look good to voters and interest groups can get dozens or, in Washington, hundreds of "sponsors" signing on.

That's just for context – Crotty was definitely involved in this bill. It just wasn't in the way the newsletter makes it sound.

The Winding Path of House Bill 16

Effective July 1, 2010, the bill closes the doors to the education office and transfers its responsibilities to the three intermediate service centers located throughout Suburban Cook County. The measure was signed into law as Public Act 96-0893.

True. And not bad for a bill that started life as a rule saying 4 year olds can start kindergarten if their fifth birthday is before Dec. 1.

An amendment in the House deleted all that language and replaced it with a more complicated rule for 4 year olds, one requiring pre-kindergarten and other changes. Then it got to the Senate, where Crotty proposed the amendments that turned that bill into the one above.

A bill of this type is known as a "shell bill," a bill that passes one house just to be gutted in the other and all the language replaced with something completely irrelevant. No matter what you think of it, it's 100 percent legal and both parties have used it.

Either way, for the terms of this fact check, did Crotty put forth the legislation that led to these new regional office of education rules? Yes. That's just how she did it.

House Bill 16's entire history can be found here.

Senior Safety, Part I

To protect seniors' safety, I sponsored two measures that ensure they receive quality care in our communities. If a senior or person with disabilities goes missing, Senate Bill 27 puts into place an alert system, known as the "Silver Alert," allowing State Police to receive information about the individual more quickly.

True, both in fact and in implication.

Senate Bill 27 was Crotty's bill. She proposed it and filed all the amendments to the Senate version. Note in the bill history how many folks jumped on as sponsors in the last few days before it passed.

But, continuing the section on the two senior bills she sponsored ...

Senior Safety, Part II

I also passed Senate Bill 326 that includes a number of reforms for nursing homes. The improvements include enhancing background checks and the screening process, implementing higher standards of care and expanding home and community-based residential service options for seniors.

True-ish.

This time it was Maggie Crotty who jumped on board at the last minute, becoming a sponsor on May 7, a few hours before the bill would pass. In total, this popular act ended up with 13 Senate sponsors and 36 House sponsors.

That's not to say Crotty wasn't involved behind the scenes or in other ways that can't be confirmed or denied, but her claim in the newsletter was "I sponsored two measures." We should know what that sponsorship meant each time.

On the Veterans

Veterans' livelihood and well being continues to be an increasing concern throughout Illinois. Because of this, I became the chief co-sponsor of House Bill 5214 that allows the chief judge of a judicial circuit to create intervention programs. These programs will provide veterans and active duty members of the military, who may be struggling with unique and service related problems to get the help that they may need in this readjustment time.

True. Crotty became Senate alternate chief co-sponsor on May 20 of the bill that arrived in the Senate from the House on May 6. Particular kudos on the phrasing, which doesn't leave as much room for interpretation as the potentially misleading "I sponsored."

"Few Consequences" for Drunken Drivers

I fought for the safety of our district by advancing a measure that strengthens penalties for motorists driving under the influence. Under current law, a driver suspected of a DUI who causes injury or death and refuses to provide a blood or breath sample faces few consequences. Senate Bill 3732 strengthens the penalty by revoking their driver's license indefinitely, instead of a temporary suspension.

A bit of a stretch.

First of all, "faces few consequences" could be misconstrued. The drivers won't face few consequences for the crash itself. As many people in prison can attest, the cops keep investigating even if you don't puff a breathalyzer.

But what were the consequences for refusing the test and what are they now?

By 625 ILCS 5/6-208.1, drivers would have their licenses suspended for one year for refusing the test, compared to six months if they took the test and failed it. If it's a repeat offense, they would lose their license for three years, compared to one year if they failed the test. This is still the case if there are no injuries or deaths.

If there is an injury or a death under the new rules, the driver who refused the test would have their license revoked. But that doesn't mean they would never drive again. Under 625 ILCS 5/6-208.1 (a-1) in the new rules, the person can still apply for a new license. They just can't do it right away.

How long must they wait before they can apply for a new license? One year, the exact same amount of time their suspension would have lasted under the old rules.

The Best-Suited College

Working alongside the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), I sponsored a bill that gives students more options when deciding what college to attend. House Bill 6206 allows any institution of higher learning approved by ISAC to be eligible for the state's prepaid tuition plan. The legislation eliminates unnecessary obstacles for both parents and students by expanding the number of colleges. This will help students find the institution best suited for their needs.

True-ish. To be truly honest, she should mention that only colleges in Illinois will be eligible for this.

The bill originally allowed ISAC to approve out-of-state schools. That lasted about two weeks. Amendments changed it so that the final form takes the definition of "institution of higher learning" from the Higher Education Student Assistance Act.

And that means Illinois-only. That would be good for parents to know.

Dan Campana September 14, 2010 at 05:52 PM
Simple, but effective, form of watchdog journalism. This type of analysis shouldn't wait until someone is running for office. Accountability matters every day, not just during an election cycle.
Karen Sorensen (Editor) September 14, 2010 at 08:08 PM
This is the kind of reporting all newspapers should be doing, and why online sites such as tinleypark.patch.com are so important to a community. They fill the gap where traditional newspapers have fallen off. I'll be reading this column every week.
Rick Nagel (Editor) September 15, 2010 at 03:32 AM
This might be my favorite Patch story so far. Great detail. Extremely smart. Very Paul Dailing-ish, which means it's first rate.
Ben Feldheim (Editor) September 19, 2010 at 06:34 PM
Nail on head. Excellent job of both reporting and analyzing, and both are equally important. It's amazing that more publications don't do this. Paul, Orland Park Patch might be "borrowing" this format. Way to set the bar high.

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