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Springfield: Restricting PBM Tools Will Raise Costs for Consumers, Employers + the State

Monday, Mar 29, 2021 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Employers in Illinois provide prescription drug coverage for nearly 6.7 million Illinoisans. In order to help keep care more affordable, employers work with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), who deploy a variety of tools to reduce prescription drug costs and help improve health outcomes. In addition to helping employers, PBMs also work with the Illinois Medicaid program in the same way to help control costs. Over the last five years, PBMs have saved the state and taxpayers nearly $340 million.

Today, Illinois faces a multibillion budget shortfall as more Illinoisans are relying on Medicaid to help meet their health care coverage needs. As legislators work to address these challenges, one way to help ensure continued cost savings is by strengthening the PBM tools that the State and employers use, which are poised to save employers, consumers and the State $39 billion over the next 10 years. These are meaningful savings that will help continue to contain costs, ensure consumer access to medicines and drive savings in public health programs.

Amid a pandemic and economic challenges, now is the time to strengthen, not limit, the tools that employers, consumers and the State rely on to manage costs and ensure consumers can access the medicines they need.

Learn more

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Three Months To Make History: Time Is Running Out To Pass The Path To 100 Act

Monday, Mar 29, 2021 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

The US is surging ahead on clean energy while Illinois falls behind. The Path to 100 Act (HB 2640 / SB 1601) was introduced more than two years ago to address the crisis facing renewable energy in Illinois.

Since then:

    • Illinois Power Agency ran out of funding for renewable energy and stopped approving new projects
    • More than 3,000 solar projects have been placed on waitlists and won’t be built unless the general assembly acts
    • Illinois’ solar industry lost an estimated 3,500 jobs
    • California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Washington and Virginia all passed 100% clean energy legislation – and pulled renewable energy investment and talent away from Illinois
    • President Biden campaigned and won on a promise to decarbonize the electricity sector by 2035

If we don’t fix Illinois’ renewable energy policy this session, we will lose thousands more wind and solar jobs and be left behind as the rest of the country gets to work building to clean energy. Take action at

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Credit Unions: The People Helping People Philosophy

Monday, Mar 29, 2021 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

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A Fair Map Prioritizes Voting Rights And Public Input

Monday, Mar 29, 2021 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Representative democracy works best when people actively engage in policy discussions and elections, ensuring that communities of color, long disenfranchised, are prioritized. Historically, Illinois’ redistricting process favors incumbents and is dominated by partisan, rather than community, objectives.

In 2021, we can create a fair map for Illinoisans that puts their interests first with a process that:

    ● Invites broad, meaningful public input through at least 35 public hearings for community members
    ● Requires fairness standards that prioritize people of color through the Federal Voting Rights Act, the Illinois Voting Rights Act, and communities of interest
    ● Allows for the public to weigh in on a map proposal through a public hearing and responses to suggestions before a final vote
    ● Is transparent, with a centralized website including all remap records and discussions and a compliance report detailing how the map meets these standards

Learn more at

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Illinois Small Businesses Support - And Need - The Clean Energy Jobs Act

Monday, Mar 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

About ten years ago, a retired firefighter used his pension to start a new energy efficiency company called Verde Energy Efficiency Experts. Now, the Ravenswood-based business has 28 employees and is hoping to grow even more in the coming years. Even at the height of the pandemic, they were able to keep their employees on the payroll while supporting other small businesses through cost-saving energy efficiency improvements.

To be clear, these aren’t just jobs - they’re good jobs. Employees at Verde have long-term employment, healthcare, retirement plans, student loan assistance, and more. So how did they do it, and what can Illinois do to keep supporting small businesses like theirs? We recently interviewed Beth Holaday, Partner Relations Manager at Verde, to learn more.

As Beth said, Verde is a great company, but if the state doesn’t take action to support clean energy jobs, businesses like this one might not survive the next ten years. That’s why she is urging Governor Pritzker and the legislature to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) this spring!

CEJA recently passed the House Energy and Environment Committee and has a growing list of 43 cosponsors in the House. Learn more at

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Monday, Mar 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

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Reader comments closed for spring break

Monday, Mar 29, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Click here to see that the US Bureau of Economic Analysis claims Illinois had the best GDP growth of the ten largest states from the end of 2019 to the end of 2020.

Didn’t expect that.

* Enjoy

They blast out the disco on the radio

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Question of the day

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I will be traveling this afternoon, so blogging will be light to perhaps nonexistent. Please check the feeds at the side of the page and the live coverage post for breaking news. As I told subscribers this morning, I’m outta here for spring break. My brain is a bit mushy from session and I’m kinda grumpy, so I’ll be relaxing for part of the time and then visiting my parents who I haven’t seen since the pandemic started. Everyone in the group will be fully vaccinated by then.

* The Question: On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most concerned, how worried are you about a virus resurgence in Illinois? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…



Three Months To Make History: Time Is Running Out To Pass The Path To 100 Act

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

The US is surging ahead on clean energy while Illinois falls behind. The Path to 100 Act (HB 2640 / SB 1601) was introduced more than two years ago to address the crisis facing renewable energy in Illinois.

Since then:

    • Illinois Power Agency ran out of funding for renewable energy and stopped approving new projects
    • More than 3,000 solar projects have been placed on waitlists and won’t be built unless the general assembly acts
    • Illinois’ solar industry lost an estimated 3,500 jobs
    • California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Washington and Virginia all passed 100% clean energy legislation – and pulled renewable energy investment and talent away from Illinois
    • President Biden campaigned and won on a promise to decarbonize the electricity sector by 2035

If we don’t fix Illinois’ renewable energy policy this session, we will lose thousands more wind and solar jobs and be left behind as the rest of the country gets to work building to clean energy. Take action at

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To address new spike, Illinois expands eligibility and vaccines in targeted areas - Ezike warns state can’t move forward “if our metrics are going backward” - 3,002 new confirmed and probable cases; 33 additional deaths; 1,302 hospitalized; 264 in ICU; 2.9 percent average test positivity rate; 3.3 percent average case positivity rate; 99,449 average daily doses

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Illinois Taking Aggressive Action to Address First Signs of Possible Resurgence

IDPH Authorizes Local Health Departments with Low Demand to Vaccinate Residents 16+ as Federal Projections Show State Expected to Receive 1 Million Doses Next Week

Rapid Response Vaccination Teams to Deploy to Areas Seeing Upticks to Accelerate Vaccine Administration

State Hasn’t Met Metrics for Bridge Phase Reopening as Hospitalizations and Cases Increase in Chicago, Cook County, and Region 1 (Rockford area)

To address a concerning possible trend in increasing COVID hospitalizations and case rates, the State of Illinois is launching Rapid Response Vaccination Teams to five counties and expanding vaccine eligibility where demand appears to have waned.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has seen vaccine demand slow in several counties throughout the state, with early signs of unfilled appointments and increased vaccine inventory. IDPH is authorizing those communities to begin vaccinating all residents 16 and older at their immediate discretion, in order to use the vaccine doses they currently have available.

“Recent increases in hospital admissions and test positivity are concerning new developments and we don’t want to go down the same path we’ve seen before and experience a resurgence in the pandemic, which is why Governor Pritzker directed us to use all our resources to halt these upticks,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. “We cannot move forward if our metrics are going backward. The vaccine will help get us to the end of the pandemic, but we need to continue to reduce spread of the virus by wearing a mask, avoiding large crowds, keeping six feet of distance, getting tested after seeing others, and getting vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Expanded Eligibility

The federal government is projecting that Illinois will receive nearly 1 million doses next week for distribution, an all-time high. Steady vaccination operations are the best tool to keep Illinois residents safe. Reductions in demand result in inventory that could be unused, and all inventory should be used as quickly as possible to protect residents.

Residents should contact their local health department to learn whether they have expanded eligibility.

“The number one goal for the state is to get as many people vaccinated, as quickly and safely as possible in order to stay ahead of variants,” Dr. Ezike said. “This shift is similar to what we saw when expanding vaccine eligibility from Phase 1B to Phase 1B+ where some parts of the state were ready to move forward, while others were not. Each county is different and local health departments know better how to vaccinate people in their communities as soon as and as equitably as possible.”

While all communities will continue to receive their baseline allocation of doses, new doses above that baseline will be allocated to high-demand areas where at-risk eligible residents face long waits for appointments.

Rapid Response Vaccination Teams

To bend the trend in a region seeing increased vulnerability and protect vulnerable residents, several teams are being deployed for rapid operations.

Mobile rapid response vaccination teams will deploy over the next two weeks in five counties in Region 1 where IDPH epidemiologists have determined there is a need to administer doses quickly to blunt increasing trends. These doses are on top of the allocation to the local health departments. These mobile teams will be providing single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to county residents. Appointments will be coordinated by the local health department.

Residents of Region 1 are also encouraged to visit the existing mass vaccination site set up in Winnebago County.

Bridge Phase Update

Since March 8, Illinois has seen 10 days of increases in the seven-day rolling average for hospital admissions. The COVID-19 test positivity on March 10 was 2.5%. Today’s reported test positivity is 3.3%. While these rates are certainly significantly lower than the peak, they represent a potential early warning sign about a possible resurgence.

Chicago has seen its daily case rate increase by nearly 50% since last week, along with six days of increases in test positivity. Suburban Cook County has seen its daily case rate increase more than 40%, along with nine days of increasing hospital bed usage. Region 1, the Northern portion of the state including Rockford and surrounding communities, has seen eight days of increasing hospital bed usage and six days of increasing test positivity.

To advance into the Bridge Phase that is the final step before the full reopening, the entire state must achieve several metrics:

    • 70% of residents 65 years and older must have received a first dose;
    • Hospitals must maintain 20% or greater ICU bed availability;
    • Hospitalizations for COVID-19, admissions for COVID-like illness and deaths must hold steady or decline over a 28-day monitoring period.

As outlined in the March 18 update to the Restore Illinois plan, IDPH will evaluate statewide performance against the metrics by looking back at the data from the preceding 28 days.

While Illinois is on pace to reach 70% first doses for residents 65 years and older in the coming days, IDPH is monitoring an increase in new hospital admissions for COVID, which will need to be appropriately addressed and resolved before moving into the Bridge Phase. IDPH epidemiologists will continue to focus on the most recent 10 days to monitor any acute trends that prevent the state from reaching the Bridge Phase.

Statewide reopening metrics can be found at

Information regarding vaccination locations as well as details on how to book an appointment to receive the vaccine can be found at the state’s COVID website, Residents who don’t have access to or need assistance navigating online services can call the toll-free IDPH hotline at 833-621-1284 to book an appointment. The hotline is open 7 days a week from 6am to midnight with agents available in English and Spanish.

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 3,002 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 33 additional deaths.

    - Cook County: 1 teen, 1 male 40s, 1 female 60s, 2 females 70s, 2 males 70s, 3 females 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 male 90s
    - Johnson County: 1 male 60s
    - Kane County: 1 male 70s
    - Lake County: 1 male 60s
    - LaSalle County: 1 male 70s
    - Lee County: 1 male 60s
    - Macoupin County: 1 female 60s
    - Madison County: 1 male 30s, 1 female 50s, 1 female 60s, 1 male 60s, 1 male 70s, 1 female 90s
    - Marshall County: 1 female 30s
    - McLean County: 1 male 90s
    - Peoria County: 1 male 60s
    - Sangamon County: 1 male 80s
    - St. Clair County: 2 males 60s, 2 females 80s
    - Will County: 1 male 70s

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,232,900 cases, including 21,203 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 76,774 specimens for a total of 19,972,391. As of last night, 1,302 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 264 patients were in the ICU and 120 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from March 19-25, 2021 is 2.9%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from March 19-25, 2021 is 3.3%.

A total of doses of 6,146,815 vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. In addition, approximately 414,900 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 6,561,715. A total of 5,281,618 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight, including 364,302 for long-term care facilities. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 99,449 doses. Yesterday, 126,710 doses were reported 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. Information for deaths previously reported has changed, therefore, today’s numbers have been adjusted. For health questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email


It’s just a bill

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Chalkbeat Chicago

A union-backed bill to establish a 21-person elected school board in Chicago is regaining momentum in Springfield. But critics including business groups and the city’s mayor remain opposed.

That hasn’t stopped the bill from passing a key committee this week and heading to the House floor. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s opposition, which some suggest helped derail previous versions of the bill, has encouraged opponents to push for a compromise proposal, to reduce the size of the elected board or seek a hybrid model with some members appointed and others elected.

Earlier this week, at a House Ethics and Elections Committee hearing, a Lightfoot deputy hinted at an alternate proposal in the works. When asked, her spokeswoman would not provide specifics.

“We are working toward some governance changes for the district,” said Patrick Hall, the deputy director of intergovernmental affairs. (Lightfoot campaigned on an elected school board but recently told the New York Times that reopening campuses amid the COVID-19 pandemic would not have been possible without mayoral control.)

* CBS 2

A bill to stop illegal gun ownership in Illinois could be closer to becoming law. […]

“It insures we do background checks, it ensure we obtain finger prints, it ensures were are giving the Illinois State Police the ability to take the guns of folks that shouldn’t have them and it makes sure that we’re getting funding, life-saving mental health funding, to the communities that have been most impacted by gun violence ,” Sen. Ram Villivalam said. “The time to act is now.”

The senator says he has 25 co-sponsors in the state Senate and needs five more to sign on.

Those last five will obviously be the toughest.

* Center Square

The Classrooms First Act aims to free up school district administrative dollars and target the money to schools. […]

The bill would create the school District Efficiency Commission which would then make recommendations on consolidation. The recommendation would go directly to voters, allowing parents, teachers and taxpayers living within that school district to make the final decision. The goal is to reduce the total number of school districts by 25%.

The bill faces opposition from the Illinois Association of School Boards and from over 100 school administrators. According to Illinois Policy, 21 of the administrators make a salary above $200,000 a year.

In Illinois, district-level general administration costs $598 per student, which is 2.5 times the national average. In the past 4 years, both student enrollment and teacher employment at Illinois K-12 public school districts fell by 2%, while the number of administrators grew by 1.5%, according to Illinois Policy.

* Another from Center Square

Members of the Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee advanced a bill Thursday that would allow suburban Chicago counties to spend tax revenue that is protected by the state constitution’s lockbox amendment on “nonvehicular public travel, sidewalks, and bike paths.”

State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Highwood, said his bill would not require counties to use the revenue in this way, rather just give them the choice. […]

Republicans feared the expansion of the protected funds would further siphon money away from the state’s ailing roads and bridges.

“It’s probably better-served that most sidewalks, bike paths, things like that are covered by other counties, municipalities, park districts and things where people expect some of those projects to be funded from,” said Rep. Tim Ozinga, R-Mokena. “Nearly 80% of the voters made it very clear that they want their motor fuel tax and road funds to be used for their roads.”

Ozinga is the vice president of Ozinga Bros. Inc., which lays concrete and participates in projects that likely use the aforementioned tax revenues.

* ACLU Illinois…

ACLU Celebrates Approval of House Bill 1727 - The Bad Apples in Law Enforcement Accountability Act - by the Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee

“Today’s vote in Committee is significant. In response to repeated examples of egregious police misconduct – often captured on videotape for the world to see – Illinois residents are told that these horrific experiences reflect “just a few bad apples” in law enforcement. But the public is often frustrated by the reality that these supposed “bad apples” rarely are held accountable. For too long, special protections like qualified immunity create an almost insurmountable barrier to justice for people whose constitutional rights have been violated by police. HB 1727 changes that and provides the people of this state a chance to hold bad police officers accountable when they violate someone’s constitutional rights.

In polling conducted late in 2020, nearly 70% of Illinois voters supported this initiative. We thank Representative Tarver for his leadership in moving this bill forward and look forward to a vote on the floor of the House. Now is the time for the General Assembly to take action. We can’t afford to wait.”


Bailey literally laughs off concerns about disabled voters

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* We’ve already talked about this WCIA report

Republican state senator Darren Bailey (R-Louisville) won praise from several of his social media followers for proposing the state transition to “paper ballots only,” with many of them voicing distrust in the security of elections. […]

Illinois already requires election officials to keep a permanent paper record of every ballot. While most voters use paper ballots, there are some exceptions where voters use technological assistance to pick their preferred candidates.

“There are some where they do use touchscreens, but that produces a paper receipt,” Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich explained. “There is a paper record for every single vote that’s cast in Illinois. Not all of them are with pen on paper, and I don’t know how that would work, because disabled people need to use screens.

“There are people who cannot write on a paper ballot,” he said. “Visually impaired people can use audio cues to guide them through a ballot on a touch screen. That wouldn’t be possible under this bill.”

* Sen. Bailey was on Tom Miller’s WJPF show yesterday and discussed the topic

Interestingly enough, Springfield Democrats come and the biggest problem that they have with this, the biggest [laughs], the biggest gripe is that disabled people will not be able to vote.

* I’ve isolated his comment and included Miller’s (no relation) harsh response

Tom is usually an even-keeled sort of guy. I’ve never heard him go off on a guest like that.

…Adding… Some folks think Tom was agreeing with Bailey. OK, upon further review I can see the point, but let’s try to stay on topic here.

* Meanwhile, from the rather weird news network OAN

Illinois state Rep. Chris Miller (R) has become the latest target of cancel culture from the left after he argued securing U.S. elections would be the best way to ensure our elected leaders are not bullying their way into office and abusing their power.

One America’s Christina Bobb has more.


Credit Unions: The People Helping People Philosophy

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

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Vast majority of state prison workers haven’t taken the vaccine

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller


As millions of Illinoisans are still waiting for their chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and even those who are eligible are scrambling for appointments, at least one group is largely giving up its place at the front of the vaccine line: people who work in Illinois prisons. […]

”I’m appalled because, of course, I think it’s pretty clear now from the science that the only way to stay safe from this deadly disease is to get vaccinated,” [Alan Mills, executive director of the Uptown People’s Law Center] said. “I’m not surprised because up until the vaccines, we also knew the best way to prevent the spread of the COVID virus was to wear masks. And what we hear from [inmates] is that the rate of mask-wearing among … guards was also abysmally low.”

The state started vaccinating most of its prison workers in mid-February and finished the first round of vaccinations at the state’s 25 correctional centers earlier this month. Only 27% of staff took the shot, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Experts say because prisons have been coronavirus hotspots, the low vaccination numbers endanger not only prison inmates and correctional officers, but also the families and communities the officers return to when they leave work. […]

Anders Lindall, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said 4% more staff had signed up to be vaccinated this week, which would bring the total number of staff to get the first shot above 30%. AFSCME is the union that represents prison workers.

Go read the rest.


Where population declined and increased in Illinois

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Interesting…

* More from Politico

Districts on the rise: Rep. Kam Buckner’s 26th District, which includes the Gold Coast and the Lakeshore East development — new since the 2010 census — has seen a 6 percent population increase. Rep. Ann Williams’ Lincoln Park-area district swelled by 10 percent. And the Andersonville neighborhood represented by House Majority Leader Greg Harris saw a population increase of 6 percent.

Republican-led districts in the Chicago metro area also saw population growth. Rep. Mark Batinick’s 97th District is up 10 percent, and Rep. Dan Ugaste’s 65th District rose 7 percent.

Districts showing declines: Democratic Reps. Maurice West’s 67th District in Rockford, Bob Rita’s 28th District on the far South Side, and Jay Hoffman’s 113th District in the Metro East area, all lost about 5 percent in population.

First-term Republican Rep. Patrick Windhorst, whose 118th District is in southern Illinois, also saw population drop 5 percent from 2010 to 2018. And so did the western Illinois area represented by Republican Rep. Noreen Hammond in the 93rd District.



Health care pillar coverage roundup

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The original bill was the only Legislative Black Caucus “Pillar” that did not pass during the January lame duck session. A big difference with this version is it subjects almost all of its new spending programs to the appropriations process. Sun-Times

A massive health care reform bill, the fourth and final “pillar” of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus agenda, passed the state Senate Thursday, the final step before heading to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his signature.

Sponsored by Chicago Democratic state Rep. Camille Lilly and state Sen. Mattie Hunter, the measure is designed to eliminate racial and other inequities in the state’s health care system, and includes provisions to expand medical services available to low-income residents and residents of color.

Specifically, the bill addresses access to health care, hospital closures, managed care organization reform, community health worker certification and reimbursement, maternal and infant mortality, mental and substance abuse treatment, and medical bias.

“For Black lives to truly matter, their right to quality health care must [not] be inhibited,” Hunter said in Senate floor debate. “It is our responsibility as elected officials to create laws that create an enriched, lasting impact on the communities we represent. This legislation does just that, and there is no better time to enact than now.”

* Tribune

Of more immediate impact, the legislation would extend a moratorium on hospital closures through the remainder of the coronavirus public health emergency.

Republicans said that while the legislation highlights many important issues, the cost to the state — which they pegged at $12 billion, based on an estimate from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services — is too high.

“We just can’t afford it, and that’s what it really comes down to,” said GOP Sen. Steve McClure of Springfield.

With the exception of a dementia training program for adult protective services workers, the programs created in the bill would have to be funded by the legislature through the normal budget process, Hunter said.

* Capitol News Illinois

Pritzker released a statement lauding the effort Thursday night.

“For too long, our healthcare system has left behind Black and brown communities creating disparities in health outcomes. But today, here in Illinois, our legislature has passed a remarkable piece of legislation to build a healthier future for all of our communities,” he said in the statement. “From standing up a process to certify and train community health workers, to funding new services like doulas and home visiting, to increasing oversight and transparency around Medicaid managed care system for its customers, this bill roots out racism from our healthcare system and state government – a cause I’m proud to advance. I want to congratulate Senator Hunter and Representative Lilly on bringing the Illinois Health Care and Human Services Reform Act to the finish line as well as Leader Lightford for her transformational leadership passing all pillars of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ agenda. I’m proud to be your partner in shaping the Illinois our residents deserve.”


*** UPDATED x1 *** Moody’s revises its Illinois outlook from “negative” to “stable”

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Yvette Shields at the Bond Buyer

Illinois moved another step back from the ratings brink Thursday afternoon, as Moody’s Investors Service revised the outlook to stable from negative on its Baa3 rating, which was affirmed.

The action gives Illinois a bit of space above speculative-grade status, though the rating itself remains at the lowest investment grade.

S&P Global Ratings on March 9 moved the outlook to stable on its BBB-minus rating; Fitch Ratings remains at BBB-minus with a negative outlook.

* From Moody’s…

Moody’s Investors Service has revised the outlook of the state of Illinois to stable from negative, while affirming the Baa3 rating on the state’s general obligation bonds. […]

Affirmation of the state’s rating and the revision of its outlook to stable reflect the state’s financial performance through the pandemic, in combination with increased levels of federal support that will moderate near-term fiscal and economic pressure. State and local government funds expected under the latest federal aid package may help the state repay deficit financing loans, support its financially pressured local governments and spur employment, income and tax revenue growth. While credit risks raised by the pandemic during the past year are receding, the longer-term challenges associated with the state’s very large unfunded post-employment liabilities remain. The state’s Baa3 rating is supported by a large, diverse economy with above-average wealth, and it benefits from powers over revenue and spending. […]


The stable outlook indicates the state’s capacity to manage near-term fiscal pressures while carrying a heavy long-term liability burden.


    - Enactment of recurring financial measures that support sustainable budget balance

    - Decisive actions to improve funding of the state’s main pension plans

    - Progress in lowering a backlog of unpaid bills that does not rely on either long-term borrowing or a significant decrease in non-operating fund liquidity


    - Fiscal measures that greatly add to the state’s near- or long-term liabilities, including reductions in pension contributions to provide fiscal relief

    - Large or persistent structural imbalance that leads to significant increase in the state’s unpaid bills or other liabilities

    - Substantial assumption of debt or pension liabilities accrued by local governments

So, if the state can really tackle that bill backlog, a ratings increase may be in the cards. Never would’ve figured that could happen when this pandemic started.

*** UPDATE *** Comptroller Mendoza…

Moody’s Investors Service has changed its outlook on Illinois bonds from “negative” to “stable.” That’s a signal to investors that Illinois’ financial stability is moving in a better direction.

It follows S&P Global Ratings’ announcement March 9 that the rating agency was changing its outlook on Illinois bonds from “negative” to “stable.”

Moody’s cited “the state’s financial performance through the pandemic, in combination with increased levels of federal support that will moderate near-term fiscal and economic pressure.”

“Illinois still has a long way to go, but these two changes in outlook signal to investors that Illinois is heading in a better direction,” Illinois State Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza said. “The ratings agencies make clear that Illinois using its funds from the American Rescue Plan to pay down debt is the most responsible path forward for the state’s finances and the best way for the state to achieve an upgrade in its ratings.”


General Assembly makes 2020 voting reforms permanent

Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sarah Mansur at Capitol News Illinois

A bill to expand the use of vote-by-mail and curbside voting in future elections passed the Illinois Senate Thursday, meaning it needs only a signature from the governor to become law.

House Bill 1871, which was approved by the House last week, would revise the state election code to make permanent some of the changes that were widely adopted across Illinois for the 2020 general election in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the bill is sent to the governor and signed quickly enough, it would take effect immediately, possibly in time for the April 6 elections.

The changes include allowing election authorities to install drop box sites where voters can submit mail-in ballots without postage during and on Election Day. The bill also permits curbside voting where people can fill out ballots outside the polling place during early voting and on Election Day.

* JJ Bullock at the Daily Herald

State Sen. Julie Morrison, a Democrat from Deerfield, brought the legislation, House Bill 1871, to the Senate floor with support from the Illinois Association of County Clerks and Recorders. The legislation passed in the Senate 48-7, with all seven no votes coming from Senate Republicans who did not give their reasons. Senate Minority Leader Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods voted present.

The legislation would allow local election authorities to establish curbside voting during early voting periods and on Election Day, with election judges from opposite parties working in pairs to collect ballots. The legislation also would establish that all ballot drop-boxes are to be locked and opened only by election authorities.

The law specifically authorizing ballot drop boxes and curbside voting for the 2020 election expired on Jan. 1. Some election authorities, including in Cook County, have continued to use drop boxes for the February primary election and the upcoming April 6 election.

Lake County Clerk Robin O’Connor supports the legislation, saying the vote-by-mail provisions are “very safe and very secure.”

* Andrew Sullender at the Sun-Times…

Due to the pandemic, the expansions were originally set up in anticipation of a surge in mail-in ballots in the 2020 vote. But the changes expired at the beginning of January.

That left many counties who wanted to use drop-boxes for municipal elections on April 6 in limbo, said Matt Dietrich, spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Elections.

“A lot of election jurisdictions that had used drop-boxes in the general election in November intended to use them again for April,” he said. “The language was no longer there to authorize [drop-boxes], but there was nothing in the existing election code that prohibited their use. So it was important that the election code be amended to have explicit permission to use drop-boxes.” […]

Another change that would be made permanent is curbside voting, which allows voters to fill out ballots from their vehicles, instead of going inside the polling places. […]

“You look around the country today, and there are states that are trying to limit one’s ability to vote. Let’s take a look at Georgia, trying to limit drop-box access and are making it a crime to give food or drinks to those waiting in line to vote,” [Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park] said. “Coming off of COVID some people still just don’t feel comfortable voting. And that’s why we should focus on expanding one’s ability to vote and the security of that vote.”


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Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Friday, Mar 26, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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* Isabel’s afternoon briefing
* Beyond the horse race
* Cannabis baron ridicules equity programs: "We’re going to give these assets to felons and people that have two heads and all this kind of stuff"
* IEPA says it won't do anything about polluting refineries
* Pritzker stands behind his messaging, claims support for candidates
* A quick Illinois history lesson
* Vallas gets out in front of attacks
* Following the money
* A massive failure
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today's edition
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