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Chicago Sun-Times: “Illinois Can’t Sit Back And Wait For The Federal Government To Do The Job.” CEJA Can’t Wait.

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board recently urged legislators to finally pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA, HB804, SB1718). Here are a few excerpts:

“It’s time for the Legislature to get charged up about passing a comprehensive energy bill that would help the environment, assist ratepayers, benefit communities that need jobs and help workers displaced by the shift from fossil fuels.”

“Here’s just one reason: Illinois has not only gone over the so-called “solar cliff,” but it has also crashed on the ground like Wile E. Coyote. Because CEJA was not enacted in time, payments will be yanked away for solar installations that have already been started around the state. Others won’t begin. Fossil fuels will be burned unnecessarily.”

“Here’s another reason: Illinois has missed the window to protect ratepayers from unnecessarily paying higher power bills to support fossil fuel companies. The Trump administration is the culprit, but it will take years to unwind that on the federal level. CEJA would throw ratepayers a lifeline more quickly.”

We must pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act to create equitable jobs, lower electric bills, and hold utilities accountable. Read the full editorial here and learn more at

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It’s just a bill

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

* Tim Kirsininkas at Capitol News Illinois

The Illinois House Human Services Committee advanced two bills Tuesday, one allowing special needs students to stay with a school program past their 22nd birthday and another allowing the use of certain federal nutrition benefits to purchase feminine hygiene products.

House Bill 40, introduced by Rep. Frances Hurley, D-Chicago, would allow special needs students to receive special education services through the end of the school year that they turn 22 years of age.

Under current state statute, special needs students can be removed from special education programs as soon as they hit their 22nd birthday. Hurley said the bill would be key to beginning to increase equity for special needs students that can already be left behind by a state system not properly equipped to support them.

“I don’t think they should be punished for their birthdate,” Hurley said.

* Raymon Troncoso at Capitol News Illinois

Legislation backed by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group would require farming equipment manufacturers to make software required for repairs available to consumers for purchase.

House Bill 3061, introduced as the “Digital Right to Repair Act” in February by Democratic Rep. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg, would mandate that manufacturers, by 2022, provide farmers with the same diagnostic materials available to official repair providers. It would also require the manufacturers to make parts necessary for repair, including software, available for purchase.

The legislation comes after the release of a report by the U.S. PIRG that alleges farmers are unable to sufficiently repair tractors purchased from John Deere and other manufacturers because they withhold the software necessary to do so.

“The Association of Equipment Manufacturers, of which John Deere is a prominent member, promised that by 2021, they would give farmers the necessary tools to fix their machinery. However, Deere has fallen short of that commitment, so farmers – and all Americans, who rely on them to produce food – are worse off,” U.S. PIRG Education Fund Right to Repair Advocate Kevin O’Reilly said in a release announcing the report.

* Bill becomes law, law implemented by rule

The state is no longer charging interest on late child support payments that are made through the Department of Healthcare and Family Services unless it’s ordered by a court, and all of the outstanding interest charges that those parents owed have been zeroed out.

A spokesman for the agency said in an email that the total accrued interest penalties that were eliminated amounted to just over $2.7 billion.

DHFS made that announcement Monday, saying those interest charges fell disproportionately on low-income families and people of color. […]

Illinois had been one of only 15 states that automatically charged interest on late child support payments. But, in a bill passed last May and signed by Gov. JB Pritzker into law in August, the automatic interest penalty was repealed and DHFS was given authority to adopt administrative rules to determine how, and if, it would charge and enforce interest penalties.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      

Question of the day

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

* Sun-Times

When does a town become a city? For Chicago, that was exactly 184 years ago, when the state of Illinois officially gave it the bump to city status using the exact language you’d expect from a law written in 1837: “That the district of country in the county of Cook in the state aforesaid … shall hereafter be known by the name of city.”

Similar to how this anniversary doesn’t matter much to anyone outside of Chicago today, it wasn’t a big deal across the country back then. Martin Van Buren was sworn in as the United States’ eighth president on the same day, which dominated national headlines. And unlike the Midwest metropolis it is now, the newly anointed city of Chicago had a population of just 4,500 at the time.

* The Question: Your birthday wishes for Chicago?

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      

Support The Healthy Youth Act – SB266

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

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President Obama Wants Lawmakers To Stop Gerrymandering

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Are we going to continue with political maps hammered out in backroom deals or are our lawmakers ready to strive for the ideals set out by President Obama?

“The movement for fair maps will determine the course of progress on every issue we care about for the next decade.” - August, 2019

“I think people don’t completely appreciate how much gerrymandering affects the outcome [of elections],” Obama said. “You can draw a district that almost guarantees one party is going to win instead of another because you have voter histories and you have a sense of where people are typically going to vote.” - September, 2020

“I’d love to see changes at the state level that reduce political gerrymandering.” - January, 2015

“Regardless of our party affiliations,”
he says, gerrymandering is “not good for our democracy.” - July, 2018

“We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around.” - January, 2016

Learn more at

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1,740 new confirmed and probable cases; 42 additional deaths; 1,200 hospitalized; 260 in ICU; 2.4 percent average case positivity rate; 2.9 percent average test positivity rate; 78,942 average daily doses

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 1,740 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 42 additional deaths.

    - Bureau County: 1 male 50s
    - Champaign County: 1 male 80s
    - Cook County: 2 males 50s, 2 males 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s, 2 female 80s, 3 males 80s
    - DuPage County: 1 male 50s, 1 male 60s
    - Kane County: 1 female 50s, 1 female 60s
    - Lake County: 1 female 50s, 1 male 50s, 1 male 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 female 90s
    - LaSalle County: 1 female 80s
    - Macon County: 1 male 80s
    - Madison County: 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s
    - McLean County: 1 male 70s
    - Monroe County; 1 male 80s
    - Morgan County: 1 female 70s
    - Ogle County: 1 male 80s
    - Peoria County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 70s
    - Sangamon County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 80s
    - Stephenson County: 1 female 100+
    - Will County: 1 female 30s, 1 male 50s, 1 female 60s, 2 males 60s, 1 male 70s
    - Winnebago County: 1 female 90s

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,193,260 cases, including 20,668 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 73,990 specimens for a total of 18,389,512. As of last night, 1,200 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 260 patients were in the ICU and 128 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from February 25–March 3, 2021 is 2.4%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from February 25–March 3, 2021 is 2.9%.

A total of doses of 3,563,775 vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. In addition, approximately 443,700 doses total have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities. This brings the total Illinois doses to 4,007,475. A total of 2,993,543 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight, including 330,328 for long-term care facilities. The 7-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 78,942 doses. Yesterday, 93,302 doses were administered in Illinois.

*All data are provisional and will change. In order to rapidly report COVID-19 information to the public, data are being reported in real-time. Information is constantly being entered into an electronic system and the number of cases and deaths can change as additional information is gathered. For health questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email

…Adding… As a commenter rightly points out, these are the lowest hospitalization and ICU numbers since IDPH started keeping track in mid-April.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      

Cracks develop as top Chicago union leader testifies about convention industry: “We can’t exist” with the governor’s “Phase 4 limbo”

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

* The Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association live-tweeted testimony today by Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter to the Senate Tourism and Hospitality Committee about the city’s convention business

@BobReiterJr from @chicagolabor during IL Senate Tourism Cmte. hearing: Decisions made now will impact the #travel industry for this summer and beyond. Without a roadmap, current regulations are causing events to be canceled as far out as 2022.

@BobReiterJr: Other states like Nevada & New York are moving ahead w/ changes to allow for events to reopen. We have been working w/ health experts on protocols and believe events should resume w/ 50% occupancy cap and no maximum as long as precautions are implemented.

A balancing act needs to be had that protects people’s health but also need to look at what needs to be done to get people back to work. 25-30,000 union hospitality & convention workers are out of work & are making the decisions b/w paying for healthcare, mortgage or buying food

@BobReiterJr: We can’t exist in @GovPritzker’s phase 4 limbo & just hope that regulations are going to change. We need a ramp. How do we make incremental progress as pandemic winds to a close. Help us plan a path forward that protects workers but allows them to get back to work

@BobReiterJr: @McCormick_Place is the largest convention center in the United States. The convention industry was born in Chicago. Tourism is going to come back as the cabin fever wears off.

@BobReiterJr: The conversation (on reopening the convention industry) with @GovPritzker’s office needs to be had right now.

@SenatorSara6: Since our last hearing, 2 weeks ago, Chicago has lost three giant conventions - all cancelled. Growing concern for the potential revenue loss for the state. The Colorado dial telegraphs to those convention planners that we’re on the move, getting ready.

@BobReiterJr: We need to look towards the future. Can’t focus on previous benchmarks as vaccines increase. We don’t need capacity limits. We need a percentage based occupancy cap based on the size of the space where the event is.

@SenatorSuzy: Right now, with @GovPritzker’s Restore Illinois phase 4 and 5, it’s “all or small.” We need a gradual ramp up to larger events and gatherings.

Video is here.

Also, don’t nitpick typos. Live-tweeting ain’t easy. Stick to the topic at hand.

* I asked the governor’s office for a response. Here’s Jordan Abudayyeh…

The Governor has always said as the science evolves the response to this pandemic will follow what medical experts deem appropriate. The Governor shares the eagerness to resume normal life and as vaccine becomes more readily available looks forward to the next phases of this response.

* Related…

* National Restaurant Association Show, Inspired Home Show cancel McCormick Place events

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      

Mercy Hospital may stay open after all

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021


Historic Mercy Hospital in Bronzeville, which is slated to close by May 31, is under a non-binding agreement to be sold.

That’s according to an email Mercy CEO Carol Schneider wrote to employees today and obtained by WBEZ.

Mercy’s owner, national Catholic hospital group Trinity Health, plans to sell Mercy on the Near South Side to Insight Chicago, a non-profit affiliated with a Flint, Mich.-based biomedical technology company.

“Insight Chicago will operate Mercy Hospital as a community hospital and will maintain ICU, Medical/Surgical, OB (non-high risk), Acute Mental Illness and Comprehensive Physical Rehabilitation categories of services,” Schneider wrote. “Insight Chicago will continue to operate Mercy Hospital’s ED as a basic Emergency Department.”

* Sun-Times

Mercy filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February, saying it was losing staff and experiencing “mounting financial losses” which challenged its ability to maintain a safe environment. The move came just two weeks after a state review board rejected Trinity Health’s proposal to open an urgent care and diagnostic center on the South Side. The same board unanimously rejected a plan in December to close Mercy.

Mercy — which was the site of a deadly shooting in November 2018 — was set to merge with three other South Side hospitals struggling financially, though that plan fell through due to a lack of state funding.

Until the pending deal with Insight Chicago is signed, Mercy’s overall plans for the hospital remain unchanged, the hospital said. As of now, it’s expected to cease operation May 31. If the agreement is finalized before then, Mercy will help Insight Chicago in transitioning services, according to the statement.

* Tribune

“We plan on a hospital that meets the needs of this great community, while leveraging regional expertise of our health system,” said Dr. Jawad Shah, president and CEO of Insight, in an Insight news release. “We are committed to a thoughtful community engagement process to ensure access to care for Chicago’s diverse populations while achieving financial solvency.”

…Adding… Jordan Abudayyeh…

The Governor believes that healthcare is a right, not a privilege and that’s why his administration has worked tirelessly to exhaust every legal, legislative and administrative option to preserve healthcare access on the southside. The administration is hopeful that any potential buyer would provide the necessary services underserved communities need. And we encourage any buyer to meet with community stakeholders and legislators to better assess how they can work together to achieve better health outcomes for the community Mercy hospital serves. The state of Illinois has supported safety net hospitals throughout this pandemic, and with the General Assembly’s passage of health care transformation legislation, has even more tools to help providers meet the needs of the communities they serve.

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      

Light shines on ex-governor after Florida contribution

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

* Set the Wayback Machine to 2014

After pulling strings to get his daughter into Walter Payton College Prep, Bruce Rauner, a Republican candidate for governor, became one of the elite Chicago public high school’s biggest benefactors.

The Rauner Family Foundation gave $250,000 to the Payton Prep Initiative for Education on Dec. 14, 2009 — about a year and a half after Rauner called then-Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan to overturn his daughter’s rejection for admission, records examined by the Chicago Sun-Times reveal.

Rauner’s gift was the largest the not-for-profit foundation had received up to that point. It amounts to nearly 30 percent of all the money the group has gotten during its first five years, according to records the Rauner and Payton charities have filed with the state.

Rauner’s gift to the Payton Prep Initiative came two months after his foundation gave $500,000 to the Chicago Public Schools Foundation, run by the school system’s top administrators. His foundation previously had given money to that organization.

* Now

Former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner made a $250,000 campaign contribution to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week after seniors in the uber-wealthy Florida Keys enclave where Rauner owns a home were among the first in the state to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in January.

Rauner’s connection to the favorable treatment first was reported Wednesday by the Miami Herald, which obtained a memo the management of the exclusive Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo sent to residents noting that its medical center had vaccinations for residents age 65 and over while most Floridians struggled to access the shots. DeSantis has used the state’s vaccination program to open special distribution sites in select communities while skipping state and local vaccine registration logs, various Florida news outlets have reported.

“Over the course of the last two weeks, the Medical Center has vaccinated over 1,200 homeowners who qualify under the State of Florida’s Governor’s current Order for those individuals who are 65 years of age or older,” the Ocean Reef Club’s message to residents read, according to the Herald. “We are fortunate to have received enough vaccines to ensure both the first and second for those vaccinated. At this time, however, the majority of the State has not received an allocation of first doses of vaccines for this week and beyond, and the timing of any subsequent deliveries remains unclear.”

In its report, the Herald stated that contributions to DeSantis’ political fund surged amid the disbursement of vaccines, noting the only contributions the Florida governor received from Key Largo were from Ocean Reef residents.

* And

Since DeSantis started using the state’s vaccine initiative to steer special pop-up vaccinations to select communities, his political committee has raised $2.7 million in the month of February alone, more than any other month since he first ran for governor in 2018, records show.

A spokesperson for the governor did not immediately respond to email and telephone messages, but, after the story was published, DeSantis spokesperson Meredith Beatrice said that the governor was not involved in selecting the Ocean Reef Club for the early vaccine distribution. She did not explain how the club obtained so many doses ahead of others. […]

By hand-selecting the communities, DeSantis allows residents to bypass state and local vaccine registration systems and go directly through their community organizations, like the Medical Center at Ocean Reef. […]

The effort has brought scrutiny from DeSantis’ critics as the state’s vaccine distribution appears to be inequitable. By the end of February, only 5.6% of those who’ve been vaccinated in the state are Black, even though Blacks account for 17% of the state’s population, state records show.

He might want to bump up his apparent standard tip. $250,000 in 2014 is equal to $279,568.31 today. /s

…Adding… React…

- Posted by Rich Miller   71 Comments      

DPI Chair Robin Kelly election coverage roundup

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

* Background is here if you need it. Tribune

Illinois Democratic leaders on Wednesday night selected U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly of Matteson as their new state party chairman and the successor to embattled former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who held the post for 23 years.

In a vote of the 36-member Democratic State Central Committee, with each member’s ballot weighted by the number of votes cast in the 2020 March primary, Kelly got 52% to 48% for Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris, 8th.

Harris’ loss was a blow to first-term Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who sought to consolidate power in the party with Madigan leaving the political scene. Pritzker backed Harris, as did U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Both are seeking reelection in 2022.

Kelly’s selection reflected a desire to decentralize party power after Madigan as well as fears that Pritzker, a multibillionaire heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, would wield control of party purse strings. Kelly had the backing of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the state’s senior senator and No. 2 ranking Democrat in the chamber.

* Sun-Times

Kelly, who is Black, garnered 51.7% of the weighted vote to become chair of the party, narrowly besting Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) during a virtual meeting of members of the state party’s leadership ranks.

Kelly and Harris, who is also Black, thanked each other and promised to work together after the evening vote.

Harris went into the meeting with more committee members publicly supporting her candidacy, but fell short with 48.3% of the total.

In a statement, Harris called Kelly “an esteemed colleague” and said “it is time to move forward and we will do that together.”

* NBC 5

She will now ascend to the role held for more than 20 years by former Illinois State Rep. Michael Madigan, who also resigned his seat in the house after stepping down as Speaker earlier this year.

Kelly is now the first Black woman to be elected to lead the party, according to her office.

The State Central Committee consists of two members from each of Illinois’ 18 U.S. House districts. Each of the 36 members received a weighted vote based on the number of votes cast in their district during the 2020 Democratic primary in the state.

Kelly had received the support of several prominent politicians, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. Harris had received support from Sen. Tammy Duckworth and Gov. J.B. Pritzker, but ultimately Kelly prevailed in the tight race.


Though Pritzker congratulated Kelly for her win on Twitter, her win was a blow to his efforts to assert more influence over the party as its largest financier.

Kelly rebutted a line of questioning from former Senate President John Cullerton who raised “a major, major problem” with her ability to raise campaign funds for the state party while serving as a sitting member of Congress.

“To be a chairman and not be able to raise money is really a limitation,” Cullerton said, warning that “the Republicans are going to have a field day with this,” and “donors are going to be investigated by the Federal Election Commission.”

“Every memo from every lawyer said I can chair the party,” Kelly responded. “I just have to follow the federal regulations, so it’s not that I can’t raise money at all. That’s simply not true.”


Cullerton suggested that Harris and Kelly split the job, with Harris raising funds for state and local races and Kelly serving as the party’s public leader.

“This is a quagmire,” Cullerton said.

Kelly rejected his offer.

- Posted by Rich Miller   60 Comments      

Open thread

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

* Heh…

Keep it Illinois-centric and polite in comments, please. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      

Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition

Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

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Thursday, Mar 4, 2021

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

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* Chicago Sun-Times: “Illinois Can’t Sit Back And Wait For The Federal Government To Do The Job.” CEJA Can’t Wait.
* It's just a bill
* Question of the day
* Support The Healthy Youth Act – SB266
* President Obama Wants Lawmakers To Stop Gerrymandering
* 1,740 new confirmed and probable cases; 42 additional deaths; 1,200 hospitalized; 260 in ICU; 2.4 percent average case positivity rate; 2.9 percent average test positivity rate; 78,942 average daily doses
* Cracks develop as top Chicago union leader testifies about convention industry: "We can't exist" with the governor's "Phase 4 limbo"
* Mercy Hospital may stay open after all
* Light shines on ex-governor after Florida contribution
* DPI Chair Robin Kelly election coverage roundup
* Open thread
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today's edition
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Yesterday's stories

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