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*** UPDATED x1 - Former Ald. Munoz indicted *** Chicago Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson charged

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Wow…


* From the story

The indictment alleged the first loan for $110,000 was the only one ever put on paper. Thompson allegedly made one payment on it but never paid off the rest. The other two loans, which totaled $120,000, were completely off the books, and Thompson made no effort to repay either principle or interest on them, according to the charges.

Thompson then took tax reductions on his IRS returns by claiming he was paying “mortgage interest” on the loans, the charges alleged. […]

An arraignment date for Thompson has not been set. His lawyer, Chris Gair, could not immediately be reached.

Washington Federal later collapsed in 2017, leading to federal charges against a number of the bank’s executives and former customers alleging a multiyear, $31 million embezzlement scheme that preceded the institution’s failure.

*** UPDATE *** I watched this man deteriorate before my very eyes and, sadly, this does not surprise me…


* Sun-Times

Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz once led the Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus, meant to “create a more just and equal Chicago,” the feds say.

But prosecutors allege the onetime veteran alderman used its accounts as a personal piggy bank, stealing thousands to pay for a relative’s college tuition, skydiving excursions, travel expenses, a hotel stay — and even at Lover’s Lane.

A 29-page indictment made public Thursday also indicates that Munoz’s behavior continued even after the feds’ aggressive pursuit of public corruption had blown into full view in November 2018.

Now, Munoz faces 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. His arraignment had not been scheduled as of Thursday afternoon. His attorney, Richard Kling, said he had not yet seen the indictment and wanted to read it before commentin

The indictment is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller   28 Comments      


Path To 100 Act Saves Consumers $1.2 Billion

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Study Finds Expanding Illinois’ Renewable Energy Program Will
Lower Energy Costs for All Illinois Consumers

• A study by former Illinois Power Agency (IPA) director shows that passing Path to 100 (HB 2640 / SB 1601) will lower energy costs for all ratepayers

• Consumers save more than $1.2 Billion over ten years by fully funding Illinois’ renewable energy program to 40% by 2031

• Path to 100 would create 53,000 new construction jobs

Why more renewables = lower costs:

1. Wind and solar generators have zero fuel costs, so they win wholesale energy auctions and displace more expensive power plants. These savings are passed on to all consumers.

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3. Rooftop and community solar customers receive direct savings on their bills.

Read the study and take action at www.Pathto100.net

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It’s just a bill

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Sun-Times

A bill that would create a new teacher and principal mentoring program in Illinois schools passed the state Senate Wednesday over Republican objections that it would adhere to “culturally responsive” educational standards.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford said the “culturally responsive teaching and learning standards” underlying the bill she sponsored are “about creating a learning environment in which students from all different backgrounds feel included and engaged.”

But southern Illinois Republican Sen. Darren Bailey, who’s running for governor, argued the bill is “replacing our children’s education with political indoctrination.”

Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, said, “This is about professional development and making sure we began to address the teacher shortage, the lack of supports that we give to new teachers, new principals, and so that they have the mentorship that’s needed.”

* Planned Parenthood…

Advocates for the Responsible Education for Adolescent and Children’s Health Act (REACH Act), led by Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA) and Equality Illinois (EI), worked with the coalition supporting the Illinois Healthy Youth Act to create one bill that requires age-appropriate, comprehensive, and inclusive personal health and safety education for grades K-5 and sexual health education for grades 6-12 for all Illinois public school students. The Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Bill (SB 818), sponsored by Sen. Ram Villivalam, was filed Wednesday, April 28. SB 818 retains the key elements of the REACH Act while strengthening the language in the details of the legislation.

“Combining these two pieces of legislation not only makes sense so that legislators have to vote on just one bill—it was an opportunity to refine the language to benefit Illinois public school students,” said Brigid Leahy, Senior Director of Public Policy for PPIA. “The new bill still requires age and developmentally appropriate education for grades K-12, as well as providing information that is medically accurate and inclusive. SB 818 still focuses on healthy relationships, bullying, abuse and violence prevention and empowering students to make healthy and safe decisions.”

Currently, 30 states require personal health and safety education or sexual health education, but Illinois is not one of them. The Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Bill will require that the experiences and needs of all youth in the school, including disabled students, parenting students, and survivors of interpersonal and sexual violence are addressed. This education will not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

“Illinoisans recognize the need to ensure all public schools affirm and equip students, including LGBTQ students, with the inclusive tools and information they need to build healthy relationships and lead safe and supported lives,” said Myles Brady Davis, Director of Communications at Equality Illinois, the state’s civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Illinoisans. “With the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Bill, the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives have the bold opportunity to act now to support all students, especially LGBTQ students, in all parts of the state.”

If passed, the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Bill will require the Illinois State Board of Education to adopt rigorous learning standards. Schools will start teaching according to the standards in 2023, allowing schools adequate time and resources to implement high-quality programs. School districts will maintain control by selecting their curricula and the number of teaching minutes. Parents will retain the right to remove their students from classes.

* “Protection Against Lindsay Lohan’s Dad Act”…

Bipartisan-backed legislation that tightens the legal screws on “patient brokers” targeting Illinois residents struggling with opioid addiction and other behavioral health illnesses by marketing expensive, questionable ‘treatment’ services, a measure newly dubbed “Protect Against Lindsay Lohan’s Dad Act” by proponents, has been approved by the full Illinois Senate.

The legislation, Senate Bill 2312, sponsored by State Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), among other things, bans treatment provider employee or independent consultant compensation based on “volume or value” of patient referrals, according to Illinois Association for Behavioral Health CEO Jud DeLoss, who initiated the bill idea.
DeLoss cited the recent incident involving Michael Lohan, father of actor Lindsay Lohan, who was arrested on April 23 by Palm Beach County sheriffs on five counts of patient brokering and one count of conspiracy to commit patient brokering. A Florida-based drug treatment center allegedly paid Lohan or a business with links to Lohan more than $27,000 in kickbacks.

“The patient brokering charge against Michael Lohan, regarding $27,000 in so-called ‘referral fees’ is precisely the offense that our legislation targets,” said DeLoss. “This bill squeezes out the financial incentive for employees or consultants to recruit patients, prohibiting compensation based on volume or value of treatment, and that’s why we have dubbed it the ‘Protection Against Lindsay Lohan’s Dad Act.’”

…Adding… Update from yesterday…

After being one of the strongest advocates in favor of the landmark criminal justice pillar of the Black Caucus agenda that passed in January, State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) is continuing his fight to win real safety and justice for all Illinois residents with a proposal to stop the use of deceptive interrogation practices on children.

“Kids are taught to trust adults in positions of power, and it is unconscionable to allow law enforcement to exploit that trust in order to coerce information,” Peters said. “These kids are scared and may not fully understand their rights or of how the legal process works, so it’s a lot more likely that they’ll give false information if deception is added to the mix.”

The legislation would make statements provided by minors under the age of 18 inadmissible as evidence against the minor in court if they were made during an interrogation where the law enforcement officer intentionally engaged in deception. It defines deception as knowingly providing false information about evidence or leniency.

“What message does it send when we allow law enforcement to lie to our kids in order to get them to say what they want?” Peters said. “If we want real safety and justice in our communities, we need to rebuild the trust between the people and the officers charged with protecting them.”

The Illinois Senate approved Senate Bill 2122 with bipartisan support Thursday, and it will now be sent to the House of Representatives.

- Posted by Rich Miller   13 Comments      


IDPH working on program to help people prove they’ve been vaxed

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Late March

As for a vaccination passport to prove a person has been inoculated against the coronavirus, Pritzker says a vaccination app would be useful, but should not be required to enter an event or facility.

“As long as it is your choice,” Pritzker said. “If people ask you to show that for a particular venue or private venue, they have the ability and right to do that. You don’t have to show that to them. You don’t have to be to go to that venue or be engaged in that activity.”

* Today

Officials at the Illinois Department of Public Health said the agency is working on a program that would allow residents who are vaccinated against COVID-19 to show an electronic certification from the state.

“Vaccinated individuals may want to be able to prove they have been vaccinated, especially if they misplace their CDC vaccination card,” IDPH spokeswoman Melaney Arnold said. “IDPH is working to provide this service to individuals.”

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   58 Comments      


3,394 new confirmed and probable cases; 38 additional deaths; 2,115 hospitalized; 475 in ICU; 3.5 percent average case positivity rate; 4 percent average test positivity rate; 97,434 average daily doses

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 3,394 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 38 additional deaths.

    - Cook County: 1 male 30s, 2 males 40s, 2 males 50s, 3 females 60s, 3 females 80s, 3 males 80s, 1 female 90s
    - DuPage County: 1 female 60s, 1 female 70s, 1 female 80s
    - Kane County: 1 male 80s
    - Kankakee County: 1 male 60s
    - Kendall County: 1 male 60s
    - Lake County: 1 female 80s
    - LaSalle County: 1 female 70s
    - Livingston County: 1 female 80s
    - Macon County: 1 male 50s
    - Ogle County: 1 male 90s
    - St. Clair County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 2 females 90s
    - Tazewell County: 1 male 30s, 1 female 70s, 1 male 70s
    - Will County: 1 female 70s
    - Winnebago County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 80s
    - Woodford County: 1 male 60s, 1 male 70s

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 1,331,848 cases, including 21,927 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 89,057 specimens for a total of 22,558,270. As of last night, 2,115 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 475 patients were in the ICU and 231 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from April 22-28, 2021 is 3.5%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from April 22-28, 2021 is 4.0%.

The total number of COVID-19 vaccine doses for Illinois is 11,546,345. A total of 9,155,989 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 97,434 doses. Yesterday, 107,689 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 been changed, therefore numbers have been adjusted. For health questions about COVID-19, call the hotline at 1-800-889-3931 or email dph.sick@illinois.gov.

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Our sorry state

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Dean Olsen at the State Journal-Register

Forty percent more Black and Hispanic residents of Illinois nursing homes died from COVID-19 than would be expected, in part because they were more likely than whites to be living in three- and four-person rooms.

That statistic on preventable deaths related to overcrowding, as well as other numbers described as “tragic” and “a call to action” by advocates for nursing home residents, were presented to two Illinois House committees Wednesday by officials from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

The HFS analysis of COVID-19-related deaths between March 2020 and July 2020 — the first wave of the pandemic — provided the first in-depth look at racial and ethnic disparities surrounding the way nursing home residents are housed.

The report said Medicaid patients in nursing homes, and especially Black and Hispanic patients, were “far more likely” to live in a three- or four-person room, live in an understaffed facility and have contracted COVID-19.

Go read the rest.

- Posted by Rich Miller   27 Comments      


Question of the day

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Capitol News Illinois

State lawmakers are considering a number of changes to Illinois gambling laws, including a measure that would lift the prohibition on gambling on in-state colleges and universities.

Other measures discussed by the House Executive Committee Wednesday would legalize and regulate certain internet gambling programs, or I-gaming, and ban “sweepstakes” machines which mirror video gambling but are otherwise not regulated by the state the same way slot machines are.

Rep. Mike Zalewski, a Riverside Democrat who was one of the lead architects of the gambling expansion bill in 2019 which legalized sports betting, said the prohibition on betting on Illinois collegiate sports teams was put into the law “at the behest of the universities.” […]

[University of Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman] said it was a “major concern” that U of I athletes may be in direct contact with someone who is betting on them.

“They’re living amongst the people who are betting on them, which is strange to know that somebody who lives in the dorm room right next door might be betting on them, somebody who was involved with one of our teams as a manager, video person, might be betting on them,” he said.

* The Question: Should Illinoisans be allowed to place in-state bets on in-state college and university sports? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…


bike tracks

- Posted by Rich Miller   35 Comments      


Show Your Work

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

If lawmakers’ goal is to create a map that ensures representation for communities of color and driven by community input, then why not show the work?

Lawmakers should showcase their redistricting work so all Illinoisans, especially people of color, can see whether the maps are in their best interest.

Let’s start with more notice for public hearings, transparency for map proposals, prioritizing the Federal Voting Rights Act and Illinois Voting Rights Act, and ensuring the public can weigh in and hear back from lawmakers about the final maps before votes are cast.

A compliance report is necessary to show how map-makers used public input and met voting rights acts requirements.

These changes can ensure that constituents in communities across Illinois understand the process.

Learn more at changeil.org.

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Former top Exelon lobbyist fined by state in sexual harassment probe

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold at WBEZ

A former top Exelon lobbyist in Springfield was found to have sexually harassed a colleague multiple times in a “particularly intrusive and unsettling” manner, according to a new decision from the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission.

David Fein, a former top lobbyist for Exelon Generation, the company that manages its nuclear fleet, lost his job in 2019 when the allegations against him were first raised with his superiors and later became public in a report by Crain’s Chicago Business.

Shortly thereafter, the secretary of state inspector general opened an investigation into Fein’s conduct as a lobbyist. That probe reached its conclusion Wednesday when the state ethics panel levied $6,000 in fines against the former utility executive and suspended his lobbyist registration through the end of the year.

Fein, who was registered as an Exelon Generation lobbyist between 2012 and 2019, could not be reached for comment, and messages sent to his attorneys were not returned.

Go read the rest. Ugh.

- Posted by Rich Miller   6 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Campaign update

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


*** UPDATED x1 *** New unemployment claims down again in Illinois, nation

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Washington Post

Weekly jobless claims fell to a pandemic low for the third consecutive week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, with 553,000 Americans filing for initial unemployment benefits in the week that ended April 24.

This marks a 13,000 decrease compared to last week, putting the insured unemployment rate around 2.6 percent, the Labor Department said.

While claims remain elevated (In 2019, average weekly initial claims hovered around 218,000), the trajectory signals that growing vaccination numbers, loosening business restrictions and warmer weather are helping to heal the jobs market.

* CBS 2

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 14,997 new unemployment claims were filed during the week of April 19 in Illinois, according to the DOL’s weekly claims report released Thursday. […]

There were 15,248 new unemployment claims were filed during the week of April 12 in Illinois.

here were 18,986 new unemployment claims were filed during the week of April 5 in Illinois.

There were 16,182 new unemployment claims were filed during the week of March 29 in Illinois.

*** UPDATE *** I meant to post this here and forgot

A state representative demanded the state’s unemployment offices under Gov. J.B. Pritzker be reopened immediately.

His demand was met with applause in the House chamber on Wednesday. […]

On Wednesday on the House floor, state Rep. Joe Sosnowki, R-Rockford, said it’s time to open the offices back up immediately.

“Why are our unemployment offices in the state of Illinois still closed,” Sosnowski said. “It is now almost the month of May 2021, and our unemployment offices around the state are closed. I don’t believe this is a political issue. I know members on both sides of the aisles have the same concern.” […]

“Proof is in the pudding,” Sosnowski said as he praised Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White for having had their offices open to the public.

“They run a great office,” Sosnowski said of driver services facilities. “Their offices have been open since last May, serving thousands of people at different locations around the state. Our unemployment offices need to open today.”

Um, the some SoS offices are still closed and have Secretary White has closed others due to the virus. I’m also not aware of any threats of violence against those offices, unlike IDES.

But, he does have a point.

- Posted by Rich Miller   9 Comments      


WATCH: Legislators Press ComEd on Opposition To Ethics Measures, Ameren Refuses To Be Held Accountable

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

This week, the House Energy and Environment Committee held a hearing on utility accountability, questioning representatives from ComEd on their opposition to various ethics measures included within the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA).

Ameren refused to even show up. This comes at a time when the company is spending tens of thousands of dollars on anti-CEJA ads in an attempt to avoid accountability and raise rates on downstate customers.

“Despite admissions of criminal activity and payment of a record $200 million fine, Illinois consumers haven’t seen a penny in refunds from ComEd as a result of their wrongdoing over the past decade,” said State Representative Ann Williams. “The cost of corruption is very real, and ratepayers deserve to be remunerated for these costs.”

“And while ComEd may grab the headlines, we need to ensure that all utilities employ the highest ethical standards and adhere to best practices in terms of accountability. Clearly, we cannot move forward with a comprehensive clean energy package without a serious conversation about ethics, transparency, and accountability.” added Rep. Williams.

It’s long past time to hold all utilities accountable. Pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act today.

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

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

[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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*** UPDATED x3 *** Pritzker energy bill coverage roundup

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Tribune

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is supporting short-term subsidies for two threatened Illinois nuclear plants as part of a wide-ranging overhaul of energy policy his office says would put the state on a path to 100% clean power by 2050.

The proposal represents a balancing act for Pritzker, who is attempting to preserve high-paying union jobs at Exelon’s Byron and Dresden nuclear plants while also seeking accountability from a company whose subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison, has admitted to engaging in bribery in an effort to win support for legislation that included nuclear subsidies in 2016. […]

The governor’s plan draws in elements of a proposal from clean energy advocates that would offer no subsidies to Exelon, and one backed by a union coalition that would offer much more generous and long-lasting support for the four Exelon nuclear plants that aren’t already receiving subsidies from the 2016 law, including two Exelon hasn’t threatened to close.

“Our view is that this proposal pulls together the best of all the proposals that are currently out there into one comprehensive package, and we think it’s a good place to start final negotiations,” [Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell] said.

* Crain’s

With the new legislation, the governor seeks to take some control over a legislative process that has seen separate coalitions propose jarringly different approaches to accomplishing the same goal. A union coalition has put forward legislation that arguably would raise utility bills even more, would provide a higher subsidy to Exelon and would preserve some of ComEd’s formula-rate system. A set of environmental groups, along with the Citizens Utility Board, has pushed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would have the state assume oversight of the wholesale power market in northern Illinois with the goal of incentivizing renewable power and disincentivizing fossil fuels. And a coalition of renewable power developers has endorsed legislation, which like Pritzker’s bill, would substantially increase ratepayer charges to finance more projects.

To this point, Springfield has struggled to make choices, with House committees endorsing the various bills on lopsided votes even when they were at cross purposes. […]

The bill includes many provisions aimed at shielding low-income households from those higher costs. Most prominent among them is a call for “tiered” electricity rates, in which those below 80 percent of the median income level for the area would pay less for power than everyone else. Those above that threshold, however, would pay higher rates to make up the difference for the utilities. […]

An unusual reform target in the governor’s bill is the Citizens Utility Board, for decades the most prominent consumer advocate in the state on utility issues. The measure would subject CUB to the Freedom of Information Act and would bar the organization from accepting grants from foundations seeded with utility money. CUB has been accused of being less critical of ComEd, the original source of some of that grant money in the past, than other utilities.

* Sun-Times

The Consumers and Climate First Act addresses ethics and consumer protections as well as renewable energy and clean power. It also seeks to address how the state plans to help those who lose their jobs as Illinois shifts away from non-renewable energy sources.

Pritzker’s bill would end formula rates, a practice of utility companies being able to “spend ratepayer money with little oversight, meaning ComEd and Ameren, will no longer be able to dramatically increase their profits by loading up the rate base with little cost control,” according to a summary of the bill.

The legislation would also expand the statement of economic interest that legislators must file to include any spouse or immediate family member who is employed by a public utility in Illinois and would make the Citizens Utility Board subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act and prohibit that board from accepting funds from foundations affiliated with a public utility, according to the bill’s summary. […]

Pritzker’s legislation also seeks to help energy consumers and includes eliminating online payment fees for all utility bills and would eliminate the customer deposit requirement and late fees for low-income residential utility customers. Those with incomes that fall at or below 80% of their area median income would be able to receive tiered discount rates on their utility bills.

The legislation also looks ahead, seeking to put the state on a path toward 100% clean energy by 2050. It also entails a phasing out of coal by 2030 and natural gas by 2045, according to the summary. Along with that push, Pritzker’s legislation aims to increase the adoption of electric vehicles in the state to 1 million by 2030.

* WUIS

State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), the lead sponsor of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, says ethics reforms for powerful utility companies must be central to whatever lawmakers end up passing, and maintains that only her legislation has stringent enough language to root out corruption stemming from the companies’ relationships with Springfield.

But ComEd this week disagreed with Williams and her allies’ proposals that would include a measure of restitution for ratepayers and an outside monitor. The company’s senior vice president of regulatory and energy policy, Veronica Gomez, told a House panel Tuesday that it was “not appropriate to make a conclusion here that some additional punishment is due” to ComEd beyond the feds’ fine. […]

The union-backed Climate Jobs Illinois also introduced ethics language last week after several news outlets published stories on that issue getting pushed to the back burner. After Pritzker’s office briefed stakeholders on the governor’s plan Wednesday, Climate Jobs Illinois expressed dissatisfaction.

“We’re disappointed that this proposal does not more aggressively advocate for comprehensive labor standards so that new clean energy jobs provide a path to the middle class, especially for communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and climate change,” Climate Jobs Illinois Executive Director Joe Duffy said in a statement. “As we review this new language, we’re also concerned that it appears to overlook prioritizing solar on public schools while not doing enough to preserve the nuclear fleet, which is critical to hitting the state’s proposed emissions goals while saving tens of thousands of Illinois jobs.”

Lots more in all of those stories, so click the links. Also, click here for a brief fact sheet from the governor’s office. Subscribers have more details.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Press release…

Delivering on principles laid out last year by Gov. Pritzker and after months of working group meetings including lawmakers, advocates, and industry, the Consumers and Climate First Act was introduced in the General Assembly today by Senator Celina Villanueva and Representative Kam Buckner. The legislation provides a path for Illinois to help lead the nation’s transition to a clean energy economy. The bill serves as a starting point — a series of markers intended to help guide the energy negotiations underway in Springfield. A detailed overview of the legislation is attached.

“As we shape our economic recovery from COVID-19, it’s imperative that we do so with an eye to the future – and Illinoisans deserve a future full of good-paying jobs, clean energy, honest deals, and transparent rates, a future that guarantees clean air, clean water, affordable utilities, and serious consumer protections for all,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The Consumers and Climate First Act, a product of months’ worth of working groups inclusive of all interests, allows Illinois to fulfill that obligation to our working families. Over the coming weeks, I look forward to working with members of the General Assembly to deliver an ethical framework for Illinois to lead the United States in the clean energy transition in the years to come.”

A culmination of months of energy working group meetings, the Consumers and Climate First Act brings together the best ideas from a diverse range of stakeholders and major energy proposals. It includes dozens of proposals across eight central principles:

Ethics and accountability: Holds utility companies accountable to ratepayers by doing away with formula rates, protecting ratepayer funds from being used for charitable contributions and requiring an annual Exelon audit and immediate ComEd investigation, among other measures.

Consumer protections: Increases affordability for low-income households by bolstering cost-saving programs and eliminating draconian fees and surcharges.

Renewable energy and labor standards: Puts the state on a path toward 100% clean energy by 2050. Doubles the state’s investment in renewable energy and supports union members working on wind and solar projects by requiring project labor agreements in utility-scale wind and solar projects and prevailing wage on large distributed generation and large community solar projects.

Clean power and air: Phases out coal by 2030 and natural gas by 2045 through a carbon price, which will direct revenue to impacted communities, and provides for measured, short-term state support for two nuclear plants.

Transportation electrification: Provides incentives for electric vehicles and statewide charging infrastructure buildout to support the adoption of 1 million EVs by 2030.

Just transition and workforce development: Supports displaced workers and leverages community-based organizations to ensure members of equity focused populations have dedicated and sustained support to enter and complete the career pipeline for clean energy and related sector jobs.

Equity in the clean energy economy: Rewards equitable investments in the renewable energy sector and requires annual diversity reports from utilities and renewable energy developers.

Energy efficiency: Supports decarbonization programs and allows for greater efficiencies in buildings.

“We need to take bold action to combat the climate crisis — and we need to do so equitably and deliver real environmental justice for our communities,” said Sen. Celina Villanueva, Senate sponsor of the legislation. “This set of proposals ushers in a clean energy economy in Illinois, which will create jobs in my district and across the state. It protects consumers, supports workers and holds utility companies accountable. I’m glad that Governor Pritzker has made this a priority of his administration as we get back to work in Springfield. Our planet cannot wait. Our people cannot wait.”

“We are careening towards a fatal cliff and nothing else that we do in the General Assembly will matter if we don’t very seriously get focused on sustainable, clean energy resources like wind, solar, and energy efficiency to combat global climate change,” said Rep. Kam Buckner, Chairperson of the Illinois House Black Caucus and House sponsor of the legislation. “The time to act by passing inclusive climate change and clean energy legislation is now and not a moment later. We have a real opportunity to protect consumers, our planet and create well-paying clean energy jobs for the communities who need it the most. It is important that we intensify commitments to addressing long-standing structural racism. The movements for racial justice and for environmental sustainability are inextricably linked and we have to create policies that mirror this moment. Our economic recovery is also reliant on holding utilities accountable and breaking down barriers that have prevented communities of color from sharing in the benefits of clean energy.”

“I commend the Governor for this comprehensive energy bill that prioritizes affordability while holding utilities accountable to the state and consumers,” said Attorney General Kwame Raoul. “The Governor’s proposal will help lower consumers’ monthly bills by getting rid of costly formula rates and gas surcharges and requiring ComEd and Ameren to return hundreds of millions of excess tax payments back to consumers on a more reasonable schedule. The measure will help vulnerable households stay connected to essential utility services by expanding LIHEAP eligibility and eliminating customer deposits and late fees for low-income consumers. The proposal also dedicates resources to environmental justice communities that have long endured the greatest harms from dirty power plants. I look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to craft additional energy policies that balance between affordability and clean energy goals while bolstering a strong and diverse workforce in the energy sector.”

“For the past decade, ComEd, Exelon and other utilities have unduly influenced Illinois energy policy. Today, we applaud Governor Pritzker for taking a stand against this undue influence and putting the interests of consumers and the climate first,” said Illinois PIRG Director Abe Scarr. “It’s time to end automatic rate hikes, gas utility bill surcharges and restore meaningful utility oversight. We call on the Illinois General Assembly to support these vital reforms.”

“Bold times call for bold action. JB Pritzker is the first governor in Illinois history to propose a serious, comprehensive plan to address climate change, put Illinois on a path to 100% clean energy, and eliminate dirty fossil fuels from our power grid,” said the Clean Jobs Coalition. “While our coalition believes further discussion is needed on many specific provisions of Governor Pritzker’s energy bill, it’s clear this proposal and the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) share many goals, especially on creating equitable jobs in every part of Illinois, holding utilities accountable, and creating a just transition for places where coal companies have said they will cut and run, leaving communities to deal with property tax shortfalls and loss of good paying jobs if we fail to act. We look forward to working with the Governor’s office, legislators, and stakeholders to pass a bill before May 31 that achieves those goals.”

“Governor Pritzker has set out a bold plan for climate action that holds utilities accountable and makes substantial, urgently-needed investments in our clean energy economy,” said J.C. Kibbey, Illinois Clean Energy Advocate, Natural Resources Defense Council. “We look forward to working with the Governor to make Illinois a national leader on climate change.”

“Over the past ten years, 100 percent renewable energy has gone from an aspirational dream to a serious commitment that seven states and over 140 cities have already made. If passed, the Consumers and Climate First Act would make Illinois the eighth state to commit to 100 percent clean or renewable electricity, and would protect Illinois’ climate and environment for future generations,” said Paloma Paez-Coombe, Environment Illinois Associate. “Bold, big picture goals must be paired with practical, short-term stepping stones, and we’re excited that this bill offers both. It’s time to move beyond the outdated and polluting energy sources harming our environment, and set our sights on Illinois’ clean, renewable future.”

“We applaud Governor Pritzker for fully embracing an equitable clean energy future for Illinois,” said Nakhia Crossley, central region director for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “While there will be continued negotiations on critical aspects of the legislative language, Governor Pritzker’s commitment to saving consumers money while fully building out Illinois’ renewable energy sector with strong labor and equity standards is historic. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to finalize and pass legislation this session.”

“The road to tackling climate change demands tangible action like electrifying transportation in an accessible, equitable way,” said Anne Smart, Vice President of Public Policy at ChargePoint. “The Consumers and Climate First Act will put Illinois at the forefront of electrifying transportation by helping to deploy more charging stations across the state, protecting consumers and fostering a competitive marketplace. ChargePoint applauds Governor Pritzker for his leadership and we look forward to working with our Illinois stakeholders to cultivate an accessible, consumer-focused electric vehicle network across the state.”

“EVgo applauds Governor Pritzker for his leadership on transportation electrification. By focusing on complementary policies to scale both vehicle sales and charging infrastructure through tools such as rate design, make-ready programs, and rebates, with important attention to environmental justice communities and transportation equity, Illinois will be on a path to decarbonize the transportation sector,” said EVgo CEO Cathy Zoi.

“Today, Black and Brown families in Illinois are disproportionately impacted by disconnections of essential utility service and unaffordable utility rates — a problem that existed even before the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Donna Carpenter, a parent leader with Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) POWER-PAC IL. “COFI champions the governor’s decision to include important new protections for those who struggle to afford electric, gas and water utility service in his new energy bill that will make a difference in the lives of all Illinoisans who struggle to afford life essentials each month.”

*** UPDATE 2 *** Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition…

Today, the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition released the following statement about the Consumers and Climate First Act:

“Bold times call for bold action. JB Pritzker is the first governor in Illinois history to propose a serious, comprehensive plan to address climate change, put Illinois on a path to 100% clean energy, and eliminate dirty fossil fuels from our power grid.

“While our coalition believes further discussion is needed on many specific provisions of Governor Pritzker’s energy bill, it’s clear this proposal and the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) share many goals, especially on creating equitable jobs in every part of Illinois, holding utilities accountable, and creating a just transition for places where coal companies have said they will cut and run, leaving communities to deal with property tax shortfalls and loss of good paying jobs if we fail to act.

“We look forward to working with the Governor’s office, legislators, and stakeholders to pass a bill before May 31 that achieves those goals.”

*** UPDATE 3 *** Sierra Club Illinois Director Jack Darin…

“Crisis cannot be averted with half measures, and for the first time in Illinois history Governor Pritzker has put forward a proposal to confront the climate crisis with the ambition it demands by reducing emissions, creating clean energy jobs, and holding utilities accountable. It is refreshing to see state leaders commit to a vision of 100% clean energy that strives to put the needs of Illinoisians over those of corporate utilities.

“The Governor’s proposal shares many goals with the Clean Energy Jobs Act, including a commitment to build enough clean energy to supply all of our power needs by 2050. These bold actions on climate must also include bold commitments to racial and economic justice. As Illinois moves beyond coal and gas, our climate plan must prioritize emission reductions in communities most impacted by polluters and an equitable transition for those left in an economic lurch by fossil fuel companies.

“We are excited to work together with stakeholders and elected leaders to build a policy for Illinois that puts us boldly on a path towards climate justice.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   21 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Bears move a real possibility or leverage?

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Greg Hinz

However, [Scott Hagel, the team’s senior vice president for marketing and communications] gave no such denial when asked about the team’s potential longer-range interest in Arlington Park, which recently was put up for sale by its owner, Churchill Downs Inc., best known for staging the Kentucky Derby.

“I wouldn’t be able to tell you,” said Hagel, who gave an interview a day after I first called the team asking them to comment on the Arlington rumor.

When asked directly if the team has begun talks with Churchill Downs, Hagel replied, “our priority is about Soldier Field.”

When told that such a statement left the impression that other possibilities are on the table, Hagel said, “Our focus continues to be on Soldier Field. . . .I can’t say more.”

A city spokeswoman confirmed that talks with the Bears about resuming games at Soldier Field later this year are going well. The Bears “have been a really good partner,” she replied. And Arlington? “I don’t know anything about that.”

* But

I don’t think I’m being too naive when I say that most rumors of the Bears moving out of Soldier Field (and into the empty/for-sale Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights) land a little light. As Luis put it previously, it’s simply difficult to imagine the Bears leaving Solider Field to spend their own money on a state-of-the-art complex in Arlington Heights, especially when their lease in Chicago doesn’t expire until the early 2030s. And, indeed, the only thing more difficult to envision is sourcing public money to build that stadium (especially right now).

However, the mere *existence* of those Arlington Heights rumors can serve a very useful purpose for the Bears (and the NFL). In fact, I believe that’s exactly what’s happening right now.

At this moment, the Bears are negotiating with the City of Chicago on the return of fans to the stadium when football kicks back off this fall. More specifically, the team/league is negotiating the percent of total stadium capacity that will be allowed (the Chicago Fire already has a deal in place with the city, allowing up to 25% capacity, but it’s very likely the Bears are seeking something much greater than that). […]

If the Bears can keep those rumors alive, they’ll maintain at least a little bit of additional leverage that could improve the deal from their perspective or even get something on the books sooner than expected. So perhaps there’s actual interest there or perhaps not. But so long as a “no comment” is perceived as a “yes,” in the headlines, the Bears benefit from the rumors.

*** UPDATE *** Crain’s

Asked at a news conference about yesterday’s Crain’s report that the team wasn’t denying an interest in possibly moving to the site now occupied by the Arlington track, which is for sale and likely to be demolished, Lightfoot said “a couple of data points” are of note.

One is that, as Crain’s reported, the Bears’ current Soldier Field lease with the Chicago Park District runs until 2033. “The NFL doesn’t let any teams break their leases,” she said.

However, Lightfoot went on to add that she had “a call with senior (team) leadership in the last two weeks.” I’m told that conversation involved as least one member of the team-owning McCaskey family.

“We have a good working relationship with the Bears . . . (but) there are things they’d like to see differently at Soldier Field, and we want to do whatever we can to accommodate it,” Lightfoot said.

- Posted by Rich Miller   79 Comments      


Telehealth Provides Access To Needed Care – During COVID-19 And Beyond

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

The COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges for healthcare providers, including how to safely care for patients with chronic conditions, behavioral health needs and other health concerns. Telehealth—once considered the future of healthcare—emerged as a clear solution.

Early in the pandemic, Governor Pritzker and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services temporarily lifted longstanding barriers to telehealth for commercial health plans and Medicaid. In response, healthcare providers rapidly invested in new technology, adjusted clinical workflows, and educated staff, patients and clinicians on telehealth delivery.

Last April, only 1% of Medicare fee-for-service primary care visits in Illinois were telehealth visits. By July, nearly 47% of those visits were telehealth visits. All demographics—young, diverse, rural and more—have used telehealth. Patients like the flexibility telehealth offers, which is why it’s so crucial telehealth remains a key part of the healthcare delivery system.

Action from the General Assembly is needed so Illinois residents can continue to have access to the telehealth services they have relied on during the pandemic. The Coalition to Protect Telehealth strongly supports House Bill 3498 to protect access to telehealth. Learn more at https://protectillinoistelehealth.org/.

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      


Open thread

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* As an aside, I have one of these. I bought it in Poland in 1999. I can type about 20 words a minute with practice, so it’s not exactly practical…


What’s on your mind today?

- Posted by Rich Miller   18 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today’s edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

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- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


*** LIVE COVERAGE ***

Thursday, Apr 29, 2021

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


« NEWER POSTS PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Reader comments closed for the weekend
* Campaign notebook
* Federal judge rejects lawsuit over gas pump signs touting gas tax freeze
* *** UPDATED x1 *** SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition and some campaign updates
* Ken Griffin coverage roundup
* Digging into that new poll
* *** UPDATED x3 *** Pritzker to call special session on abortion rights
* Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization react
* Roe v. Wade overturned
* New law expands sports team license plate options
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