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Question of the day

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here if you need it. Tribune

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday endorsed ethics legislation that aims to take on Illinois’ pervasive culture of political corruption, but used his amendatory veto power to return it to the legislature to correct what he said was a confusing “technical drafting error” that prevented him from signing it into law.

“Passing real, lasting ethics reform was a top priority of mine going into the 2020 legislative session, and I’m pleased to move forward with an ethics package that includes a number of meaningful changes,” Pritzker said of the measure. […]

But Pritzker said a small provision “confuses and interferes” with the “clear authority” of the executive inspector general’s office to conduct investigations into wrongful conduct. He rewrote the measure to delete the provision.

It will take a simple majority of lawmakers to approve of Pritzker’s change when they reconvene for the fall veto session in October. But his actions could spur greater efforts among groups opposing the package who had sought a total veto in favor of tougher legislation.

* The Question: Do you agree with the governor’s limited AV or do you think he should’ve vetoed out more provisions or vetoed the whole thing? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please…



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Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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*** UPDATED x2 - Common Cause to boycott hearing *** House, Senate reveal newly revised legislative district maps

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Click here for the House, click here for the Senate.

…Adding… Keep in mind that the chambers changed their maps after posting their initial proposals on their respective websites. We could possibly see that happen again.

…Adding… You can find the earlier versions of the House maps here and the Senate maps here.

*** UPDATE 1 *** House press release…

The Illinois House Redistricting Committee has released an updated map of legislative boundaries and encourages the public to provide feedback before the General Assembly is scheduled to vote on the proposal this week.

The updated map reflects information from the 2020 U.S. Census that was recently released, as well as suggestions gathered during public hearings. The proposed changes can be viewed at

The map is designed to comply with federal and state law and ensure the broad racial and geographic diversity of Illinois is reflected in the General Assembly. Among the proposed adjustments is an effort to keep more communities whole, a frequent request from local officials throughout Illinois. The map also reflects testimony received at the public hearings, such as keeping more of the orthodox Jewish community together in one Senate and House district, as well as keeping the airports in Bloomington and Peoria in the district with the bulk of the respective city’s population.

“The changes proposed for the legislative boundaries better reflect the data we recently received from the U.S. Census and ensure communities are represented by the people of their choice, said Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, Chairperson of the House Redistricting Committee. “These changes reflect input gathered at public hearings across the state and I’m incredibly grateful to every person who participated to make sure their voices were heard.”

Additional public hearings will take place and will include a virtual component to ensure stakeholders from across Illinois can safely participate during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    · Monday, August 30 at 6 p.m. – Joint Senate and House Hearing (Virtual)
    · Tuesday, August 31 at 10 a.m. – House Hearing (Hybrid)

Members of the public may request to provide testimony, submit electronic testimony or submit electronic witness slips in advance of the hearings via the General Assembly website or via email at

*** UPDATE 2 *** Press release…

Common Cause Illinois announced today that it is boycotting the hastily scheduled Joint Redistricting Committee hearing, scheduled for this Monday evening, in protest of yet another example of how mishandled and undemocratic the redistricting process has been in Illinois.

The organization, which has repeatedly testified at previous hearings and has mobilized its over 30,000 supporters to participate in the process, will not be engaging its network as lawmakers rush to revise maps in the shadows. The General Assembly is set to vote on revised maps on Tuesday, August 31st.

“Since the beginning, we’ve pleaded with lawmakers to keep the redistricting process open, transparent, and accessible to no avail,” said Jay Young, Executive Director of Common Cause Illinois. “This latest, last-minute hearing provides almost no notice to the public. The new maps have been released less than a day before lawmakers vote on them. It’s shameful, and our organization refuses to add any legitimacy to such an undemocratic process.”

“At each opportunity in this redistricting process, it’s as if lawmakers went out of their way to ensure the creation of these maps had as little public input as possible. Rejecting an independent bipartisan redistricting commission, politicians chose to draw maps themselves. They did so behind closed doors, with a series of hearings attempting to add a veneer of public access. Yet, these hearings were consistently hastily scheduled, poorly noticed to the general public, and sparsely attended. As a result, the maps to be voted on tomorrow will not be crafted of public input, but of pure politics.”

Common Cause Illinois will be continuing its work on the creation of an independent redistricting commission in Illinois to give residents a voice in future mapmaking.


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Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Illinois sending 46-member Urban Search and Rescue Team to Louisiana

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Gov. JB Pritzker announced today a 46-member Urban Search and Rescue Team, and the required mission equipment, will deploy to Louisiana to aid with water rescues caused by life threatening flash flooding and dangerous storm surges caused by Hurricane Ida. These first responders hail from the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) IL-Task Force 1 from northern Illinois and are made up of members from various fire departments throughout the state. The team will be deployed to the affected area for 16 days.

The Urban Search and Rescue teams work alongside local rescuers to conduct search, rescue, and recovery missions for humans and animals in flooded environments. In addition, the team is capable of providing on-the-spot emergency medical care, emergency transportation for medical necessities and supports helicopter rescue operations in water environments.

“Illinois is ready to help our fellow Americans, and Hurricane Ida is doing untold damage in Louisiana,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This life-threatening storm is creating extremely dangerous conditions for residents who did not evacuate and Louisiana’s first responders. Illinois’ brave first responders are well-trained and will work alongside local rescue teams in the coming days to provide essential support for affected residents.”

Requests for assistance are coordinated through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a mutual aid agreement that allows states to request assistance from other states during emergencies. Officials from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) have been in regular contact with EMAC representative and are currently reviewing the anticipated needs drafted by the state of Louisiana and neighboring states.

The MABAS team will depart Monday morning from Wheeling after receiving event identification, mission and safety briefings and mobilization assistance. This process ensures the accountability and readiness of personnel and state assets prior to departure. All costs associated with these deployments will be paid for by Louisiana.

Illinois, and its public safety agencies, stand ready to provide assistance in response to further EMAC requests as the Gulf Coast and southern states responds to the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

* Related…

* We’re Hitting the Limits of Hurricane Preparedness: While Ida was a well-predicted storm, 60 hours of warning was too short for New Orleans officials to issue a mandatory evacuation order in the days before it landed. The limits of the city’s highways mean that the city must issue an evacuation order at least 72 hours before tropical-storm winds hit land. Officials said last year that the coronavirus pandemic means they may need 82 hours of warning, to account for the increased difficulty of moving and sheltering people.


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Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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COVID-19 roundup

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Lauren Cross at the Southern Illinoisan

Two “realities” seem to co-exist in Southern Illinois these days.

One is rooted in denial and full of birthday parties, packed concerts, crowded restaurants and even large, maskless funerals. In this reality, the black-and-white ink of a loved one’s obituary dare not mention the person died from COVID-19.

In this reality, the coronavirus is not a threat.

And then there’s another, more grim reality that health care workers like Darren Ackerman, a registered nurse and day shift supervisor in the intensive care unit at SIH Memorial in Carbondale, have been living in for the last year and a half.

Nurses are mentally, physically and emotionally drained — from picking up double shifts to pleading with the community to take this pandemic more seriously.

* Also from the Southern

In a small town where sports are sacred, Anna-Jonesboro Community High School wants to use nearly half of its $1.9 million in federal COVID-19 relief dollars to install artificial turf on the football field and to resurface the track.

A significant but smaller portion of the school’s COVID-19 dollars is also going toward a social worker’s salary and benefits for three years; 30 Jet Pack wifi hotspot subscriptions for three years; and a HVAC system for the lower gym and related upgrades, documents show.

* Neil Steinberg writes about the “limp logic of anti-maskers”

The truth is, some balk at being forced to do anything new. Even in a crisis. Even to save lives A stance so selfish that some try a second approach. They wander into the realm of science, so unfamiliar to them, and cherry pick a shiny fact to decorate their infantile “I don’t wanna!” Like a bright ornament on a dead Christmas tree.

“Do the research,” demands one reader. “Find out how large the air openings are on any mask. The ‘smallest’ openings are 3 microns. Now, even Stevie Wonder could see this coming — please tell us how a 3000 nM opening can keep out a 50 nM virus?”

Tell you how? Happily, for all the good it will do. The same way a chain link fence keeps a dog’s teeth out of your ankle, even though the teeth are smaller than the fence links. Because the teeth are in the dog. The viruses are in much larger moisture droplets blasted out of your nose and mouth. Masks catch those.

This did not sway the reader one bit, of course. He immediately waved another deceptive fact. That’s why I try not to argue. What’s the use? That anyone could look at this national crisis — the extra contagious Delta variant surging across the country — and start clutching at himself and conjuring up imaginary harms, it’s just insane. “Those firemen! They’re breaking into my house! They’re pouring water on things!”

From my inbox…

Since you are using Jacobson vs. Mass to justify forced vaxxing, you should study up on the Nuremberg Code

Some folks just can’t help themselves.

* Interesting

Pop’s in Sauget is joining a growing list of venues that will require concertgoers to show proof of COVID-19 vaccinations or negative tests taken within 72 hours of show times.

The 40-year-old “dance and night club” posted its new COVID Safety Policy on Facebook last week. It took effect immediately.


“If you are opposed to this, you may have to sit out these shows until things get better. If you feel the need to attack us in the comments, we don’t check them. It may actually raise the rank of our Facebook page due to a high engagement…social media is a nightmare.

“We are just trying to stay open, keep our employees/artists safe and working. We are celebrating 40 years and would like to celebrate 50 in 2031.”

* It’s not always about deaths

CHAMPAIGN — A case of COVID-19 came and went for Kate Maurer last November, or so she thought.

It was a mild case, with a fever and cold symptoms that went away on their own, Maurer said.

Then, a few weeks after she felt better, she was hit with crushing fatigue, dizziness and insomnia, plus a frightening feeling of motion sickness and being disoriented that seemed to be triggered by driving at higher speeds on interstates.

Nearly 10 months later, Maurer said she’s about 80 percent back to her pre-COVID-19 health, but recovery has taken time.

* More…

* Mask mandate now back in effect across Illinois

* Child-Care Workers Might Not Come Back: Centers are closed, pay is low, and young kids aren’t vaccinated. Some caregivers have had enough.

* CPS reopening: Worries, excitement, busing woes mark first day as schools reopen fully

* Cook County judge rescinds order stripping unvaccinated woman of child custody rights

* Tough Road for Schools Fighting Gov. Pritzker’s Mask Mandate

* UI vaccination rates ’shock’ some, match others’ expectations

* Pritzker basing stronger mandates on science but pandemic politics also comes into play

* The Absurdity of Police Comparing Vaccine Mandates to Nazi Germany

* Are at-home covid tests accurate? What the results can and can’t tell you.

* The Wrong Way to Test Yourself for the Coronavirus

* ‘We’re doing it in the district already’: Local schools respond to governor’s vaccine mandate for teachers

* Ida slams Louisiana hospitals brimming with virus patients


The remap redo muscling continues

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller


Illinois legislators are poised to return to the state capitol for a special session Tuesday to potentially approve new legislative boundaries for themselves, even as they face repeated criticism for a closed-door process and a lawsuit that has potential to upend the mapmaking system.

The rare one-day session comes amid fiercely partisan accusations from Republicans that Democrats are attempting to gerrymander state legislative districts in an effort to retain their supermajority status in both the House and Senate. Several community groups have also voiced concerns that the districts do not adequately represent minority populations, and that their criticisms have not been taken into account. […]

The federal government released more complete census data earlier this month, prompting Democrats to restart legislative hearings and call Tuesday’s session. But community advocates are continuing their criticisms of Democrats for seeking input from the public, but not actually releasing maps for the public to consider.

I’m also hearing complaints (including from my consultant Frank Calabrese) that the Democrats’ portal which members of the public can use to submit their own map ideas isn’t working properly and is using 2010 Census numbers. Oops.

* Thread

* From the Peoria hearing

Saturday morning, both Senate and House Redistricting Committees held a joint hearing at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

The group is considering changing legislative boundaries after the 2020 Census data was released.

The current map splits Peoria between different districts. Ryan Spain, Republican State Representative for District 73 and half of the City of Peoria, said he felt the current maps will negatively affect people in Peoria.

“It’s a very curious decision, and I think one that will have very damaging and long-lasting impacts for representation here in the greater Peoria area,” said Spain.

* Related…

* Pekin lost more people than Peoria in the 2020 Census. How can the drop be reversed?


Pembroke natural gas service bill signed by Pritzker

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This was such a no-brainer bill and there was no good reason for it to be controversial except that Rep. Sonya Harper, whose family owns property in the township, tried to block it from passage. The whole thing was just so bizarre. Democratic Senator Mike Simmons said during floor debate against the bill that some of the poorest residents in Illinois had “learned to live in nature.” What? Press release

To help give the residents of Pembroke Township the ability to heat their homes more affordably, State Senator Patrick Joyce (D-Essex) championed a new law that will bring natural gas service to the area. The law was supported and advanced by a group of stakeholders including the Village of Hopkins Park, Pembroke Township, Congresswoman Robin Kelly, Senator Joyce, Representative Jackie Haas, Rainbow PUSH and Kankakee County.

“Pembroke residents have lived in a community that lacks the basic access to a natural gas service for far too long,” Joyce said. “I’m thrilled to see this transformative legislation signed into law so residents can have a reliable and affordable source of heat in their homes.”

The measure passed with bipartisan support.

“With the governor’s signature today, bringing safe, effective utilities to the people of Pembroke is now one step closer to becoming reality,” said State Representative Jackie Haas (R-Kankakee), the House sponsor of the measure. “This was a great bipartisan effort that had a lot of moving pieces but couldn’t have had a better result. I look forward to continuing to advocate for Pembroke until the job is done.” […]

“Bringing more robust infrastructure to Pembroke Township is an issue of equity for an area that has not seen enough investment,” said Congresswoman Robin Kelly. “I will continue to work to see services brought to this area that improve quality of life and attract jobs for residents.”

For residents who choose natural gas service, Joyce secured $1 million in state funding last year to enable Pembroke Township residents to take advantage of these new service lines. Through the Pembroke Township Natural Gas Investment Fund, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will distribute grants to eligible residents to help cover the cost of converting appliances to be compatible with natural gas.

House Bill 3404 was signed into law Friday and takes effect immediately.

The township supervisor who strongly opposed the pipeline lost reelection to a pipeline supporter and the Hopkins Park mayor supports the pipeline, but some folks at the Statehouse just thought they knew better. This was one of the most paternalistic displays of legislative gamesmanship I have seen in a long time.

* And don’t even get me started about the environmentalists who opposed the bill right up to the end. Check out this Illinois Environmental Council call to action email from July…

A dangerous effort is afoot in Illinois–one that promises to jeopardize human health, skyrocket harmful methane emissions and lock in higher utility rates in under-resourced communities for years to come.

We can’t let gas companies win without a fight. Click here to oppose their dirty energy and even dirtier playbook.

Oh for crying out loud.

* Kankakee Daily Journal

Samuel Payton, Pembroke Township supervisor and a Kankakee County Board member, said this current effort started three years ago, but it’s been an off-and-on effort for a couple decades.

“I’ve been a person for the last 16 years who’s been saying Pembroke needs natural gas,” Payton said. “All the communities around us — Aroma Park, Momence and St. Anne — have got natural gas. They are all thriving communities. We want natural gas.”

Payton said now he pays $750 for propane that lasts a little more than a month.

“In the winter days, I have to spend approximately three times that, so if we had natural gas, I could be on the budget. If we had natural gas, I wouldn’t have to worry about my service getting turned off.”


A valuable lesson learned

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

The week of Governor’s Day and Republican Day at the Illinois State Fair is always packed with political events. And this year was no exception. It’s impossible to attend them all, so one has to pick and choose and go with the flow.

After Governor’s Day at the fairgrounds ended on Wednesday, Aug. 17, I worked for a bit in my air-conditioned pickup truck and then headed downtown to House Republican Leader Jim Durkin’s event at a popular tavern. The ceiling fans were on full blast, it wasn’t wall-to-wall people, so I stayed for a bit and then decided I should head home to let my dog Oscar out before returning to the fairgrounds to meet friends. And since Illinois Republican Party Chair Don Tracy’s event was on my route home, I figured I’d stop by to see who was there.

Tracy has a huge, gorgeous home on a big plot of land by Lake Springfield, but it was so hot that day that his event was held indoors.

Those weren’t my first indoor State Fair events. Senate President Harmon’s caucus held a party downtown Tuesday that was both indoors and outdoors, but the party inside wasn’t crowded by the time I got there, doors were open for ventilation and at least some folks were wearing masks. I spent most of the time outside, but popped in for a few minutes to briefly chat with a couple of people for a story I was working on. I attended another event later that night inside and ended up having dinner with several (vaccinated and very pleasant) people on the premises.

Wednesday’s Republican event on the lake was mostly confined to a large room packed with people, including some (like GOP gubernatorial candidates Darren Bailey and Gary Rabine) who have publicly said they aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19. There were no ceiling fans, the doors were closed and the air conditioner was having real trouble keeping up. It was hot and close. And nobody, of course, was wearing masks.

I didn’t stay longer than 15 or 20 minutes. I talked to a few people about potential stories, said hello to others like Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, then left. I called a close friend on my way home to say that I’d probably just made a mistake. I’m fully, vaccinated, but if I was going to get one of those “breakthrough” cases, that was going to be the place.

On Friday of that week, Leader McConchie, who is also fully vaccinated, announced that he had a mild breakthrough case. I received a text message later that evening from someone else who was at the lake party at the same time as me to tell me he had been exposed to the virus. He suggested that I get tested.

I never developed symptoms beyond a mild sore throat that I often get at the state fair because of dust, pollen and various, um, activities. I took a rapid test on Saturday and it came up negative. Those tests can have high false negatives, so I got a PCR test at Walgreen’s Sunday and was told the results could take as long as 3 to 5 business days. On Tuesday, tired of waiting, I took one of those University of Illinois saliva tests.

That may sound like overkill, and at times I thought I was paranoid, especially since I’m vaxed and probably won’t get very sick even if I do catch the virus. But I wanted to make extra sure that I was not at all contagious ahead of this week’s special legislative session to deal with redistricting and possibly a major bill on energy policy. If I couldn’t go, I needed to know as soon as possible so I could make other plans.

To be clear, I don’t blame Don Tracy or anyone else for being exposed. Not even one iota. I chose to walk into every one of those indoor events. That’s on me.

The State Fair is such an integral part of our state’s political culture that I think many of us desperately wanted to latch on to some sort of normalcy last week after a year and a half of nothingness. But this clearly ain’t over — though Illinois is doing much better than the southern states — and many of us should’ve known better.

My story has a happy ending, by the way. Three tests, three negative results. Bring on the special session. But lesson learned.


New subsidies for electric vehicle industry mulled

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Greg Hinz at Crain’s

With the American auto industry now rushing toward an electric-powered future, the Pritzker administration is moving to embellish tax and other incentives in hopes of better competing in a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand a key growth industry here.

Officials have begun talking to industry leaders and some lawmakers about putting together a package that could be presented to the Illinois General Assembly as soon as its October veto session. […]

Illinois appears to be out of the running for a second American Rivian plant—the company has told officials they want to diversify their labor pool—but is making a major bid for a Samsung battery factory, along with three or four other states, reliable sources said.

The Samsung winner “likely will come down to dollars and cents,” said one well-placed insider. In other words, the state with the best incentive package is the likely winner.

The governor’s office appears to be taking this idea seriously.

* Center Square

The head of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is calling on lawmakers to get serious about the electric vehicle business.

Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the IMA, says there’s a chance right now for the state to position itself to compete in a growth industry.

“Auto manufacturers are having those discussions today, and they were having them a month ago, about where to locate and what facilities to retool,” Denzler said. “We have the opportunity to invest in some of these facilities in Illinois and be part of that movement toward electric vehicles.”

Denzler says a major hurdle in the efforts to attract the attention of auto manufacturers is the lack of tools available in the recruitment effort.

“Illinois’ incentives oftentimes lack what neighboring states do,” Denzler said. “We have the EDGE credit, which can be effective, but a number of other states provide cash up front, or land, or other types of incentives that we don’t have available in Illinois.”

He’s calling on state lawmakers to take steps during the fall veto session to remain competitive with surrounding states that might also be interested in these facilities.

“The fact is that other states have moved ahead of us and Illinois has not been doing anything to really attract them or change any incentive packages,” Denzler said. “We’re working hopefully to enhance some of the incentives, but we also have to address some of the longstanding concerns that the business community has.”


Quad Cities looking at pension obligation bond for police and fire

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* QC Times

Taxpayers in the Illinois Quad-Cities may soon be borrowing some of the nearly $330 million they owe to retirement funds for public workers.

Moline taxpayers’ liability on pension promises to retired police officers and firefighters is about 10 times more than what they pay to current emergency responders.

Last year’s wages for the Moline police and fire departments were just shy of $11 million. But Moline’s unfunded obligation to police and fire retirees is more than $120 million.

And East Moline and Rock Island are in similar straits.

All three cities on the Illinois side of the river are considering borrowing money to get caught up on what they owe to public-employee retirement funds, mostly for police and firefighters.

So, the idea is they borrow money, invest it and use the returns to make the payments. The state did the same thing during Rod Blagojevich’s tenure, but they irresponsibly front-loaded the savings to “balance” the budget and it didn’t work nearly as well as advertised (although it wasn’t the disaster some predicted).

There’s a lot more to this story, of course, so click here to read it.


Today’s quotable

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* US Supreme Court in Jacobson v. Massachusetts

But the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good. On any other basis organized society could not exist with safety to its members. Society based on the rule that each one is a law unto himself would soon be confronted with disorder and anarchy. Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.

The case was about a vaccine mandate. The decision was handed down in 1905. If you want to read a fascinating thread on the history of anti-vaxxer legal issues, click here. It’s the best I’ve seen.

…Adding… Text message…

I’ve always thought of that 1905 decision as the “your right to swing your arms stops at the other guy’s nose” rule


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Open thread

Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Me this month…

What are you thinking about?


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Monday, Aug 30, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

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