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*** UPDATED x5 - Senators to be sent home, no deadline change - House cancels all three session days this week *** Harmon asks SDem members to stay put while leaders figure out what to do about the coming Snowpocalypse

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Senate President Don Harmon just told his caucus members to stay put in their districts if they aren’t down in Springfield right now. The National Weather Service in Lincoln is predicting snow “in excess of 12 inches with locally higher amounts possible” for the Springfield area Tuesday night through Thursday. I’ve seen one model that predicted 27 inches. But, who really knows? Snow is difficult to predict.

Anyway, Harmon said he may have to send members back home tomorrow morning so nobody is forced to drive home in the storm.

Harmon told his members that he, Speaker Welch and Gov. Pritzker are connecting on a final plan about what to do with the budget address and the State of the State address scheduled for Wednesday. The budget address date is in state law (click here), so it’s not clear what will happen.

Because of COVID, the Senate wasn’t even invited to the House chambers to watch the address, so no big deal if they don’t show. But the House Speaker’s office hasn’t yet responded to questions about whether they expect to have a quorum in town, although several folks are already here.

This post will likely be updated.

*** UPDATE 1 *** From the House Democrats’ chief of staff…

URGENT update on scheduling

Members:

Please be advised that due to the winter storm heading toward Central Illinois, we will be canceling session this week (all three days). Staff will be following up with you shortly to ensure that everyone is notified as soon as possible.

Additional information on scheduling will be forthcoming, but virtual committees will continue as planned this week.

Stay safe, and I’ll be in touch,

Tiffany

*** UPDATE 2 *** Jordan Abudayyeh…

The governor plans to deliver a State of the State and budget address on Wednesday. Details will be forthcoming.

*** UPDATE 3 *** A tippity-top Senate Dem says the chamber will be sending members home in the morning, but will not be changing its deadline schedule. So, February 10 will remain as the Senate’s deadline for substantive bills out of committee.

*** UPDATE 4 *** Formal news media announcement…

“Difficult if not impossible” travel conditions force session cancelation

SPRINGFIELD – With the National Weather Service warning motorists that travel across the central portion of Illinois this week could be “difficult if not impossible,” the leaders of the Illinois General Assembly have canceled the House and Senate sessions scheduled this week.

The forecast calls for several inches of snow combined with icy conditions and 30 mph wind gusts in Central Illinois. Similarly treacherous conditions are expected elsewhere in the state. Weather and safety officials urge drivers not to travel, and legislative leaders opted to cancel session to keep safe the staff, lawmakers and hundreds of others who travel to the Capitol for session days.

“With the National Weather Service forecasting a winter storm for Central Illinois that could produce up to two feet of snow, it is in our best interest to cancel session for this week,” said House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch. “The winter storm warning says travel will be dangerous and we do not want to put people’s lives at risk while they’re on the road to and from Springfield.”

Senate President Harmon said the Senate would be in session at noon on Tuesday but the rest of the week is canceled.

“Across the state people are being told to avoid unnecessary travel and to not put themselves at risk. We will turn to our remote committee process to get the work of the people done and look forward to a break in the weather and a safe return to the Capitol hopefully next week,” Harmon said.

The House and Senate will continue remote committee work for the remainder of the week.

*** UPDATE 5 *** I’m told that House Republican Leader Jim Durkin plans to stay in town for the governor’s live address. Should be fun.

  20 Comments      


It’s just a bill

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

With heating bills skyrocketing across Illinois, a coalition of consumer advocates joined with key legislators on Monday to urge the Illinois General Assembly to eliminate a natural gas surcharge that has helped major utilities rapidly increase bills, plunging many families into crisis this winter.

At a news conference, AARP Illinois, the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), Illinois PIRG and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) called on the General Assembly to pass the Heating Affordability & Utility Accountability Act (House Bill 3941/Senate Bill 570). Sponsored by state Rep. Joyce Mason and state Sen. Cristina Castro, the bill would end the “Qualifying Infrastructure Plant” (QIP) surcharge on Peoples Gas, Nicor Gas and Ameren Illinois bills in 2022.

“The legislation passed in 2013 was intended to address safety issues for consumers, not to serve as a blank check for utility companies,” Rep. Mason said. “For too long, gas companies have been allowed to indiscriminately raise their prices with little to no oversight from state regulators. We need to hold these companies accountable for their actions and put an end to out-of-control heating costs.”

“The passing of the landmark Climate and Equitable Jobs Act was an important step in holding natural gas companies accountable. Now, this legislation will go even further to end unnecessary surcharges on our residents’ utility bills,” state Sen. Castro said. “We’re doubling down on our state’s commitment to protecting ratepayers and demanding transparency from natural gas companies.”

Illinois’ major utilities have launched expensive and aggressive infrastructure projects, which they fund through delivery charges on gas bills. In 2013, the General Assembly allowed them to add the QIP charge to bills. This regulatory shortcut allows utilities to recover certain costs more quickly and with less oversight from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

The utilities claim the surcharge is a necessity to pay for pipe-replacement and other work. While everyone agrees old pipes should be replaced, consumer advocates argue the utilities should do it in a responsible way that doesn’t cause hardship for their customers. Utilities are already legally obligated to replace pipes, and they did it for decades without hitting customers with a special surcharge.

On Monday, consumer advocates showed how the utilities have abused the QIP charge, using it to rake in revenue more quickly and increase bills in the most expensive winter since 2008-09.

    Peoples Gas: Supporters of the 2013 legislation claimed the QIP would only cost Peoples Gas customers about $13 a year, but they are now paying more than $13 a month, on track to pay $150 a year. Projected costs for the gas utility’s aggressive capital program have skyrocketed from about $2 billion to $11 billion, and an analysis by the Illinois Attorney General’s office estimated that gas bills could double over the next 20 years. The program has already begun to take its toll on customers: In December, 17 percent of Peoples Gas customers were behind on their bills, by a total of $77 million.

    Nicor Gas: Even though the state’s biggest gas utility has already replaced its old cast iron pipes, it continues to spend at a breakneck pace, spending over a billion dollars since it replaced its last cast iron pipe in 2018. Nicor has raised delivery rates by more than $500 million, or 77 percent, since 2018. That includes this past November, when it won a $240 million increase—the largest gas hike in Illinois history.

    Ameren Illinois: Even though Ameren has finished replacing cast iron pipes, the utility last year won a $76 million increase.

“We cannot afford these charges,” said Donna Carpenter, of Englewood, a parent leader with COFI/POWER-PAC IL. “Greedy gas companies have passed these ridiculous charges onto customers time and time again, harming low-income Black and Brown communities who either have to be cold or can’t afford to cook meals for their families because of sky-high gas prices. We need the Illinois Legislature to take action now!”

* From a publication called Politico Morning Tech

The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to mark up the Open App Markets Act, S. 2710 (117), next week, spurring a new burst of lobbying by the bill’s supporters. But the real action on app store bills is still in the states, where several legislatures are poised to move bills aimed at paring back Apple and Google’s holds over their respective app ecosystems this year.

Here are the states to watch, according to lobbyists and advocates:

— Illinois: Democratic Illinois state legislators in both chambers earlier this month introduced the Freedom to Subscribe Directly Act, legislation that would give app developers the legal right to do business directly with their customers rather than having to work through Apple and Google’s payment systems. State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, a Democrat who represents Chicago, told MT she believes the legislation could help build out Illinois’ tech sector.

Illinois is an important state for app store regulation — it’s both the home state of Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier-Hansson, one of the strongest advocates for state and federal legislation, and Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, who is a co-sponsor of the federal app store bill. Feigenholtz told MT she is in communication with Durbin and his staff, and has a meeting set up to discuss the issue next week. “My sense would be that he would love to see Illinois move forward on this and possibly be the first state to have it,” Feigenholtz said. Durbin’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

* Press release…

In an effort to support single working parents, State Senator Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) initiated a measure that will allow them to claim unpaid time off from work to support their child’s needs.

“Single parents deserve the same rights and protections as parents who have partners,” said Simmons. “When I had the opportunity to meet with a group of these parents, many of them talked about the need for time off from work to meet with their children’s teachers or tend to other well-being needs of their kids.”

Senate Bill 4040 would allow employees who are single parents to take either five days or up to 40 hours of unpaid time off to care for a child’s needs- provided that the employees give their employers a sufficient period of notice. Needs include education, child care, or any duty a single parent may reasonably be responsible for.

Additionally, the measure would prevent an employer from discriminating in any way against an employee because they happen to be a single parent.

“One out of three households in my district are headed by single parents,” said Simmons. “I feel it is critical that my legislative work this spring should address their concerns about how to balance parental responsibilities with their work.”

The measure originated from a people’s legislative council that Simmons held with a group of single parents in 2021. The measure awaits a committee hearing.

…Adding… Press release…

Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39), introduced House Bill 5300 the Insulin for All Act, on Friday, January 28th. The legislation aims to make insulin more affordable and accessible for all Illinoisans.

The Act creates an Urgent Need Program, which would allow diabetics to access an emergency 30-day supply of insulin at a minimal cost from their local pharmacy. It also requires manufacturers to create patient assistance programs that offer low-cost insulin to eligible patients. The Act will leverage the state’s bargaining power to offer a negotiated price on insulin for any person with diabetes who can’t get it cheaper elsewhere. Lastly, it lowers the insulin copay cap to $35 a month.

In 2019, Rep. Guzzardi passed a law capping copays for insulin at $100 a month. As state laws can only cover certain types of insurance, the cap only affected around 15% of Illinoisans, and $100 a month remains unaffordable for many families and individuals who need insulin on a daily basis. There is a great need to lower that copay and provide alternatives for the 85% of people who aren’t covered by the current $100 a month cap, which this bill strives to accomplish.

“The past two years have been a vivid reminder that pharmaceutical research can produce incredible results. But no matter how great they are, drugs don’t work if people can’t afford them,” said Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-39).

  5 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* ABC 7

Illinois politicians held a meeting to discuss Asian hate Sunday in Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood as rallies against Asian hate happened across the country.

Local groups in Chicago said they want to honor the legacies of victims of anti-Asian hate crimes through positive actions. […]

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Attorney General Kwame Raoul and state Rep. Theresa Mah all spoke Sunday about the importance of raising awareness of and putting an end to Asian hate.

“For Asian Americans, these two years have been a stark reminder that racism and violence against us remains an unresolved issue in our country. And it is not a new issue,” Mah said. “The idea that Asians are foreign don’t belong and cannot be incorporated as full Americans has existed since the founding of this country.”

* Mayor Lori Lightfoot…

I am deeply upset to learn that a local synagogue, a school, and businesses were vandalized over the weekend—some with symbols of hate and anti-Semitism. These crimes are undoubtedly a part of the troubling rise in anti-Semitism that we’ve seen both in our city and across the country. Make no mistake: this attack, as well as the deep hatred and bigotry that drives other anti-Semitic acts like it, is an attack on our city’s Jewish community and social fabric. Those responsible must be held accountable. An arrest has been made and the police are working diligently to gather evidence to support charges. As Chicagoans and as Americans, it is our responsibility to call hate speech and acts out and protect our Jewish brothers and sisters who endure this hatred year after year. Without our determined and collective action, anti-Semitism will continue to thrive. That’s why we must renew our commitment to building a community built with love and purpose and excise the bigots that cause and benefit from hate

* The Question: What actions can state government take to help reduce these sorts of crimes? Explain.

  10 Comments      


Campaign notebook

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Cassandra Tanner Miller kicked off her congressional campaign with a powerful video

Miller is running as a Republican in the 11th CD, which is currently represented by Democrat Bill Foster.

* The dude will literally say anything…


* A.D. Quig

As Ken Griffin prepares to underwrite an all-out effort to unseat Illinois governor and fellow billionaire J.B. Pritzker this year, he’s finding time—and money—to extend his influence far beyond his home state.

A review of the hedge fund mogul’s campaign donations shows he’s emerged as a go-to money man for Republican candidates across the country. Griffin has ramped up his political spending sharply in recent years, doling out $170 million in federal, state and local races since 2018, and bringing his total since 2000 to a quarter of a billion dollars. Nearly all of Griffin’s recent donations went to Republican candidates and causes.

* DGA…

It’s been two weeks since Richard Irvin entered the GOP primary for governor of Illinois, and Radio Silent Richard is still running from reporters — literally.

Irvin “hasn’t taken questions since he announced his run,” wrote Politico last week.

Asked why some label him a Democrat, Irvin started “inching toward the stairs to his office,” “wrapped up the conversation,” and “turned on his heel and climbed the steps to the third floor, saying he looks forward to talking to all of us reporters when the time comes.”

In his first TV ad released last week, Irvin answered no questions but did take credit for his “great friend” Gov. J.B. Pritzker sending the National Guard to protect the city of Aurora.

“Did Irvin vote for Trump? Where does he stand on abortion? Or the Texas law greatly restricting abortion that’s now before the Supreme Court? It seems no one knows,” said former Illinois Republican Party chairman Pat Brady.

Maybe we should ask likely big donor Ken Griffin what Irvin thinks. After being slammed by his Republican opponents for flip-flopping, Irvin will have to cram to learn Griffin’s talking points before embarrassing himself in an interview. The DGA is patiently waiting for Radio Silent Richard to answer for his Rauner Reboot agenda at this new site.

“Radio Silent Richard has gone two weeks without speaking to Illinoisans,” said DGA Senior Communications Advisor Christina Amestoy. “Irvin has already proven he can’t stick to his word, let alone a platform, but he can’t run from voters forever.”

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I haven’t yet been contacted about doing an interview.

* This is a newly created open seat district that generally leans Democratic in Democratic years. But Mark Kirk and Leslie Munger both won it in 2016. Kirk won just 37 of 118 House districts that year. Munger won 57. Both ran against women of color. From WGLT

Normal Town Council member Scott Preston said Wednesday he plans to run for the Illinois House in the redrawn 91st House District.

Preston, a Republican, is one among the first candidates to announce a run in the 91st District that includes much of Bloomington-Normal and stretches west along Interstate 74 to Peoria. The seat was held by a Republican before redistricting, but it’s expected to be competitive for a Democrat now.

Former Bloomington mayor Tari Renner talked about running for the seat last summer, but has no active campaign committee. Democrat Karla Bailey-Smith and Republican Scott Preston are running.

* When they don’t even bother to tell you which party the candidate is, who they’re running against, or don’t know the back stories, you gotta figure they’re just ticking boxes

— Arin Thrower, a former producer of the Golf Channel in Florida, has launched her campaign for state representative in the 66th District, which encompasses portions of Kane and McHenry counties. […]

— Ashley Hunsaker launched her campaign for state representative in the 113th District, encompassing portions of Madison and St. Clair counties. Hunsaker is CEO of HTS Coatings LLC, a thermal spray, machining, and grinding company she has run alongside her husband since 2015.

— State Rep. Keith Wheeler announced he is running for reelection to the Illinois House’s 83rd District. Wheeler is serving his fourth term.

Thrower is the Republican Dundee Township Supervisor and is running against freshman Rep. Suzanne Ness (D-Crystal Lake). Hunsaker is also a Republican and is up against Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) in a very Democratic district. Subscribers know more, but both of those candidates were recruited by the HGOP.

* More Politico

— ENDORSEMENT: Plumbers Local Union 130 UA announced it’s endorsing Judge Elizabeth Rochford in her campaign for the Illinois Supreme Court’s 2nd District. Plumbers Local Union 130 UA has over 6,100 members in Chicago and Northeastern Illinois.

— ENDORSEMENT: Anna Valencia, who’s running for secretary of state, has added several collar county elected leaders to her “Women for Valencia” roster, including: Libertyville Mayor Donna Johnson, state Reps. Michelle Mussman, Maura Hirschauer, Janet Yang Rohr and Kathy Willis, DuPage County Board members Paula Deacon Garcia, Mary Ozog and Sheila Rutledge, and Lake County Board members Sandy Hart and Gina Roberts.

* More…

* Ken Griffin’s huge donation to the GOP: The Chicago billionaire and CEO of the giant hedge fund Citadel, “has cut a $10 million check to the Congressional Leadership Fund. Griffin wants to support female, minority and veteran candidates for the House in 2022. CLF, of course, is the House Republican super PAC, which raised $65.5 million in 2021,” reports Punchbowl.

* Springfield activist expected to join candidates seeking 13th Congressional seat

  21 Comments      


COVID, weather prompts creative rethink of petition circulation

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

I’ve been fascinated by election petition-gathering season this year because of the adjusted primary schedule, the crazy Omicron variant and the prevailing fear of crime, not to mention the awful weather.

Petition season was always during the fall. But because the primary was moved to June 28, petition circulators now have to get out there in the dead of winter, during the COVID-19 and crime surges.

As Rep. Nick Smith (D-Chicago) said recently on Rep. Mike Zalewski’s (D-Riverside) “Have All Voted Who Wish” podcast, voters have been increasingly reluctant to come to their front doors for years, long before the pandemic. And these days, it’s far more difficult to convince folks to answer when the canvassers knock.

Smith’s solution was to ask his volunteers to work their own blocks, with the expectation that each person would gather 10 signatures.

But that only works for someone with an experienced and fairly large network like Smith has. What about others?

Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) is also the 49th Ward Democratic committeeperson and threw a boozy “petition party” in mid-January, advertising it on social media. She said the event was “amazing,” netting 625 signatures in three hours for 18 different candidate petitions.

I’ve also been told of members doing things like setting up shop in their local Starbucks and collecting signatures from people while they waited for their orders.

But Rep. Dan Didech (D-Buffalo Grove) is being hailed by some of his colleagues as a “signature machine” for what one legislator calls his “house calls” program.

Didech came up with the idea of scheduling home visits with voters in his district to collect petition signatures. “Sometimes,” a fellow House Democrat said, people even “grab a few neighbors so you can get a group.”

Didech pushed back hard against some fellow House Dems who wanted to reduce the statutory signature requirements during the early January session. “But I got 1,000 signatures in 10 days, so I feel vindicated,” Didech told me. “I’m not special. Everyone can do that.” He said he finished so fast that he’s now helping others, including those who wanted to reduce the signature requirement.

He explained because of the pandemic, he had already transitioned his voter outreach away from in-person contact at the doors and toward Facebook and direct mail. “People are used to communicating with me on those channels,” he said.

Didech posted a photo of a map of his new district on Facebook and told his followers he still needed some signatures. “Please comment or send me a message if it’s ok for me to stop by your house this weekend,” he wrote in the Facebook post.

“That one post generated 150 signatures,” Didech said.

He also sent a direct mailer to his supporters and strong Democrats in his new district to ask people to email him when it would be convenient for him to stop by their homes. Didech said his email inbox “completely blew up.”

His formula worked so well for one Chicago Democrat she only half-jokingly called Didech “the master” last week.

47th Ward Democratic Committeeperson Paul Rosenfeld is using Didech’s methods “with a lot of success.” Rosenfeld said he’s collected “over 500 signatures on 14 different petitions” that way.

But maybe not everyone can replicate this effort. First-time candidates or newer members with small supporter networks can’t always just magically generate home visits. And some districts aren’t as “connected” online as they are up in Buffalo Grove or the 47th Ward.

Even so, longtime Statehouse operative Mike Cassidy told me the story of how his 13-year-old daughter Cate finally took an interest in politics in January, so he agreed to help some friends gather signatures as a way of getting her involved.

Cassidy asked Cate to text her friends the night before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, when they figured people would be home, to ask if she and her parents could come by with petitions.

“She not only went through her middle school phone book and social media contacts, but we pulled names from our Christmas card list,” Cassidy marveled. “We drove around town for about four hours collecting close to 100 signatures.”

“I have circulated petitions my entire career,” Cassidy said, which used to involve going door to door. “But unlike waiting for people to get home from work or targeting weekends, these days more people work from home due to COVID.” And he said people were “happy” to have guests who they knew and were confident were masked and vaccinated.

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Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Looks like money well spent

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Connor Wood

Just months after rolling out the Common Application as an option for all Illinois public universities, the move is already impacting school application and admission numbers.

Some state schools have seen a massive growth in applications from last year, in part due to the new system and in part due to lower-than-normal numbers last year.

At Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, applications submitted for fall 2022 are up 52% from last year, said Josh Norman, associate vice president for enrollment management. […]

The Common Application system allows students to apply to multiple colleges with a single application. It includes more than 900 schools, mostly in the U.S. but also across the globe. […]

Illinois’ fiscal year 2022 budget included $1 million in appropriations for the initiative. IBHE’s FY2023 budget recommendation, approved Jan. 10, also included a $1 million line item. The recommendation now goes to the governor and state legislature before it is approved and may be changed there.

* Helpful chart

>

  8 Comments      


Inept oppo dump

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the end of a press conference last week…

Amy Jacobson: Governor, I wanted to ask you about Jennifer Thornley. Did you or did someone else direct CMS to put her, she’s your former campaign aide, on state disability payroll after she was fired for theft?

Gov. Pritzker: No.

State disability payroll? What the heck is that? I asked the governor’s office what that was about and they had no idea.

* It became slightly more clear when ILGOP Chair Don Tracy had an op-ed published in Real Clear Politics

The more we learn about the Jenny Thornley affair, the more it appears that senior members of the Pritzker administration, including potentially the governor and his wife, may have facilitated a fraud on the state by a now-indicted former campaign aide to enrich her and then obstructed efforts to bring her to justice.

This is a tangled web, so stay with me as I set forth a timeline of events and characters, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Tangled is a word.

* I’m not gonna go through the whole Thornley thing again today. But here’s the heart of the Tracy story

However, after Thornley was fired, someone with clout in the Pritzker administration somehow granted her disability payments reserved for people that are actually state employees. These payments (amounting to some $71,000) went on for more than a year, ending days before she was indicted for theft and fraud. These extensive payments were for “injuries'’ sustained from an “assault” that Egan determined had not occurred.

I asked a GOP spokesperson over the weekend what the heck disability payments they were talking about. Workers’ compensation was the reply.

So, the Republicans are saying she apparently got workers’ comp for an alleged injury she sustained on a job she no longer had and it turned out she apparently wasn’t even injured. But look at how they phrased it: “Someone with clout in the Pritzker administration somehow granted her disability payments.”

Huh?

* Back to Tracy’s op-ed

Who effectuated Thornley’s enrollment in the disability program over the objections of the merit board — and on whose orders did that person or persons act?

Don Tracy has been a business owner in Illinois for a very long time. He surely knows what workers’ comp is and how workers - even former workers - can receive compensation over the objections of their employer. He also certainly knows that some workers have committed fraud in order to obtain WC benefits.

Now, if there were attempts by the administration to sway the Workers Compensation Commission or the appeals process or whatever, then it’s a story. But what they are peddling here so far is a bunch of inept, dressed-up oppo.

…Adding… From comments…

Very weird attack and roll-out. I almost wonder if someone influential has been obsessing on this story and Tracy stuck an op-ed in a friendly DC outlet no one really reads just to say it’s out there. Can’t imagine this string-and-corkboard stuff is in anyone’s top 5 negative messages this year.

I got the very same feeling as I was trying to obtain answers over the weekend.

…Adding… This passage in the Tracy op-ed might explain how this dressed-up oppo became a thing

The former executive director of the Illinois State Police Merit Board, Jack Garcia, discovered evidence that one of the employees under his direction, Jenny Thornley, was stealing money from the people of the state

Garcia is a well-known, skilled investigator who previously supervised the divisions of internal investigations and forensic services, before becoming the first deputy director of the Illinois State Police.

Jack Garcia is a member of Richard Irvin’s “Law Enforcement Advisory Council.”

* Also, if Pritzker did try to help her, he sure is not acting that way. From early December

The former Illinois State Police Merit Board official at the center of a politically-fraught case that began when she was accused of falsifying overtime reports is under renewed scrutiny after collecting more than $71,000 in workers’ compensation and disability benefits tied to her unsubstantiated allegations of sexual assault.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration confirmed it is working with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office to investigate benefits claims made by Jenny Thornley, who was fired last year from her $86,400-per-year job as financial officer for the merit board.

…Adding… CMS…

The Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS) takes seriously its statutory responsibility to administer the Workers’ Compensation Program for State agencies, boards, and commissions. CMS is working with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to further investigate the merits of Ms. Thornley’s claim.

The Governor’s Office has not had any involvement with this claim.

On Background:
• Ms. Thornley filed a Sexual Harassment claim in January 2020
• She contacted TriStar, the State’s third party claims administrator, to inform them the listed employer was the Governor’s Office. This action was intended to prevent the Executive Director of the State Police Merit Board from discovering the claim was against him.
• The only record CMS has of a conversation with the Governor’s Office on this case was the confirmation that Ms. Thornley was not their employee, and that CMS should proceed as it normally would.
• In February 2020, an incident report was signed by Ms. Thornley and presented to TriStar.
• The Executive Director and Ms. Thornley were both placed on administrative leave pending an independent investigation conducted by McGuireWoods.
• Illinois Workers Compensation paid Ms. Thornley 66.6% of her salary and the State Employee Retirement System paid 8.3%. Temporary Total Disability benefits were paid from July 21, 2020 to August 31, 2021.
• CMS is working with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, which is an initial step prior to presenting a fraud case to the Illinois Department of Insurance.
• Illinois Workers Comp Act

    o An employee’s employment status is independent of the status of a workers’ compensation claim
    o An employee can be terminated, laid-off, etc. from their employment while they have a pending workers’ compensation claim as long as the change in employment status is not related to retaliation
    o If the State accepted workers compensation claim and remain restricted off of work by the treating physician, claimant will continue to received Temporary Total Disability benefits under the act even if fired for cause for an unrelated incident because you are restricted from the job market based on your work related injuries

An ILGOP spokesperson claimed today that “CMS enrolled her when there was no process.” That’s odd, considering there’s an actual case file.

…Adding… From Cathy Kwiatkowski at CMS…

Rich,

Regarding your inquiry, CMS conducted an independent and unbiased investigation to make a determination regarding the claim. Temporary Disability Payments (TTD) were approved while the investigation was conducted, as failure to do so could result in potential penalties assessed by the Workers’ Compensation Commission.

  34 Comments      


Arroyo wants probation, challenges forfeiture amount

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I happen to agree with this up to a point

Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo is asking for probation in his federal corruption case, arguing that imprisoning him would be “no more effective than draining Lake Michigan with a spoon” in curbing corruption.

“Mr. Arroyo is done with politics, and is leading a life away from the spotlight. He spends his days with his family and has learned his lesson,” his lawyers argued in a sentencing memo filed Saturday.

Sending Arroyo to prison wouldn’t have any effect on other politicians’ behavior, his lawyers argued.

Arroyo pleaded guilty last fall to bribery charges that stemmed from a wide-ranging federal public corruption probe in Illinois.

The point where I drastically depart from Arroyo’s attorney is that if his client is let loose without further punishment, it will probably encourage more illegal behavior.

* Tribune

In Arroyo’s filing on Saturday, he took issue with the amount of money the federal government seeks to have him forfeit, partly because it could affect how tough his sentence could be.

He contended the figure should be no more than $7,500. Prosecutors in his plea hearing said they would seek forfeiture of as much $32,500, setting up the dispute with Arroyo. […]

In his motion, Arroyo said he and his wife, through their lobbying company, Spartacus, entered into an agreement with Weiss’ company to lobby the Chicago City Council, a move Arroyo called lawful.

But the Arroyo motion said federal officials were “left to guess” about how much he made in legitimate fees and how much was not, resulting in the officials wanting Arroyo to forfeit too much money.

To drive home his point, Arroyo cited grand jury testimony from Sen. Tony Munoz, D-Chicago; Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside; Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island; and Nicole Budzinski, a former top aide to Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker who is now running for a Downstate congressional seat.

* As noted, some of the people mentioned by Arroyo’s lawyer were merely bystanders

Moreover, the evidence the government relied upon in its version of the offense to argue that all payments made to Mr. Arroyo under the agreement were part of the charged conduct is not as strong as the government argues and the PSR credits. First, it is sparse:

    • State Sen. Munoz testified the first time Mr. Arroyo approached him was May 2019, to arrange a meeting.
    • Nicole Budzinski, a member of Gov. Pritzker’s staff in Spring 2019, testified that Mr. Arroyo was a sweepstakes advocate, but that he never obtained a meeting with the Governor to discuss his interest in the legislation. Ms. Budzinski further testified that Mr. Arroyo could have been seeking a meeting with Gov. Pritzker about “a lot of different things.”
    • State Rep. Rita testified that in Fall 2018, he and Mr. Arroyo discussed legislation, including about sweepstakes. In Spring 2019, Mr. Arroyo advocated for sweepstakes legislation in meetings among House members. Rep. Rita did not know Mr. Arroyo also had a lobbying agreement.
    • State Rep. Zalewski testified that Mr. Arroyo spoke to him once on the House floor in a “wishy washy” fashion about sweepstakes, which Rep. Zalewski thought was a “really silly” issue. More specifically, Rep. Zalewski said Mr. Arroyo “said something to the effect of either I’m interested in this issue or around this issue. So that’s sort of where we left it.” Id. He did not understand Mr. Arroyo to be lobbying.
    • Sen. Link testified that Mr. Arroyo spoke to him in May and July 2018 about sweepstakes, asking “are you okay with it.” Sen. Link did not know what Mr. Arroyo was even referring to. Id. They did not speak again about the issue until Sen. Link was a cooperating witness who arranged meetings to discuss the issue and demand payment for his efforts, which occurred in a brief period beginning in August 2019.

On the other hand, other witnesses testified in the grand jury (and in witness statements provided in proffers or to agents) that Mr. Arroyo did not discuss sweepstakes with them. Still other witnesses testified Mr. Arroyo did not discuss state-level sponsorship or support with them. For example: Sam Panayotovich, a lobbyist involved in gaming issues, testified that Mr. Arroyo lobbied City of Chicago aldermen, which would have been legal, since Mr. Arroyo was not then a city official. In another example, John Adreani, one of VSS’s owners, testified that the contract between his company and Spartacus was to lobby city representatives to keep sweepstakes legal.

Even reading the limited testimony in the government’s favor, Mr. Arroyo’s 2018 meetings alone are not illegal. McDonnell v. United States and its progeny have made it clear that “setting up a meeting, talking to another official, or organizing an event (or agreeing to do so) – without more – does not fit that definition of ‘official act.’” It is clear from the evidence that Mr. Arroyo spoke to many people about sweepstakes gaming and all its possibilities. To the extent those discussions were to arrange meetings, or to have a “wishy washy” or similar discussion about a topic on and off the legislative agenda, those conversations are acceptable and certainly not criminal. The loss amount should be $7500.

  18 Comments      


Upgrade that infrastructure, but watch those costs

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I’m all for infrastructure upgrades, and tend to err on dismissing cost critics because we’ve all seen what can happen when infrastructure is allowed to decay. But companies should undoubtedly do much better

The same state regulatory agency that granted Nicor Gas permission to bury gas deep underground in rural Livingston county decades ago also approved the company’s request for a record $240 million rate hike, despite evidence of an ongoing methane leak that has persisted for several years.

“Commissioners don’t usually say no to rate hikes,” former Illinois Commerce Commission administrative law judge John Albers explained. “I have seen the ICC be more assertive in its regulatory authority in prior years.”

The four members of the Illinois Commerce Commission who voted to approve the utility company’s third rate hike in four years — three of them appointed by Governor J.B. Pritzker — shrugged off concerns about “extraordinary spending” raised by the Attorney General’s office. In state records filed with the ICC, the Attorney General’s office said Nicor “failed to explain” why the company “regularly and substantially [exceeded] its budget” with $50.6 million in “cost over-runs” on costly projects “at ratepayer expense.”

Nicor argued it “can face unexpected physical and natural conditions at any and every phase of a project,” and “that some individual projects will incur costs higher or lower than estimated based on the presence or absence of various field conditions.”

After a Target 3 investigation revealed an ongoing methane leak at Nicor’s largest gas storage field in rural Ancona, Nicor spokeswoman Jennifer Golz outlined a number of recent infrastructure upgrades at the company’s oldest gas storage site in Illinois.

* From Crain’s a few weeks ago

Commonwealth Edison is budgeting substantially more than the historically high, capital spending levels it laid out last year, now that parent Exelon is dividing its regulated utilities, like ComEd, from unregulated power plants, like Exelon’s nuclear stations in Illinois.

In an extensive investor presentation today, ComEd boosted its previous capital spending outlook from 2022 until 2024 by $300 million, to $7.6 billion from $7.3 billion. In 2024, the year after the utility’s controversial formula rate-making authority expires, ComEd’s capital spending budget is 10% higher than what it forecasted last February. […]

The average annual capital spending budget for ComEd from 2022 through 2025 is $2.56 billion. That’s 20% higher than the average $2.13 billion ComEd spend each year from 2017 until 2021, according to Securities & Exchange Commission filings.

It’s also well above the $2.38 billion average for the four highest-spending years during the smart-grid project, in which ComEd installed smart meters in every home and business and invested heavily in making the grid more reliable.

  7 Comments      


House Black Caucus Chair endorses Rep. Yingling for Senate over contrast with Dem opponent’s voting record

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Illinois Black Caucus House Chair State Rep. Kam Buckner Announces Support for State Rep. Sam Yingling’s campaign for Illinois State Senate District 31

Sam Yingling currently represents the 62nd State House District and is running to represent the 31st Illinois State Senate District. State Representative Kam Buckner, House Chair of the Illinois Black Caucus, is announcing his endorsement of Yingling for Illinois State Senate.

“Our colleague and friend Representative Sam Yingling is running for the State Senate in Lake County, Senate District 31. Sam is an unwavering ally of the Black Caucus legislative agenda, working to advance the Black Caucus Pillars, minimum wage, and other issues critical to the social and economic equity for our community.”

“In sharp contrast, his opponent in the Democratic Primary, former defeated Representative Mary Edly-Allen, has opposed our legislative priorities including: voting against minimum wage which had support from our friends in labor, and fleeing the House floor so she could refuse to support the Black Caucus’ historic SAFT-E Act. The Act’s narrow passage succeeded because Representative Yingling stood with us and was a clear and strong advocate. We need him in the Illinois State Senate.”

“As we enter an election season when our basic rights are on the ballot throughout the country, we stand with Rep. Yingling against forces who seek to marginalize our community and hinder our legislative advancement,” said Representative Kam Buckner.

State Representative Sam Yingling is a strong supporter of the Black Caucus Pillars which are 1) Criminal Justice Reform, 2) Education and Workforce Development, 3) Economic Access, Equity, and Opportunity, and 4): Health Care and Human Services.

Yingling was also a strong supporter and a YES vote to increase the state’s minimum wage. Yingling’s opponent in the Democratic Primary, Mary Edly-Allen, lost her seat as a State Representative in 2020 after outspending her opponent more than 3 to 1. Edly-Allen voted NO on the minimum wage bill and opposed the opportunity for workers in Illinois to be fairly compensated for their labor.

Thoughts?

  36 Comments      


*** UPDATED x3 - Irvin campaign responds - Advocates urge expanding EITC *** Pritzker to propose almost $1 billion in one-year tax cuts

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* AP

The Illinois governor plans to tackle inflation by sparing consumers nearly $1 billion in taxes in the coming year, including freezing taxes on groceries and gasoline and offering a rebate to homeowners.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker will include the plan in his budget proposal set for Wednesday.

The Democratic governor’s plan was outlined by Deputy Gov. Andy Manar in an interview with The Associated Press.

With inflation at 7%, it would suspend for a year the 1% sales tax on groceries, freeze the motor fuel tax on gasoline at 39 cents per gallon and provide a property tax rebate of up to $300.

You’ll remember these ideas from the poll questions I recently shared.

* Sun-Times

The relief includes a suspension of the 1% state tax on groceries during the fiscal year starting July 1, which would save residents an estimated $360 million, Deputy Gov. Andy Manar said Friday.

Grocery tax revenue is earmarked for local municipalities, which will still be “made whole” by other state revenue, Manar said.

Pritzker’s proposal would also suspend a 2-cent-per-gallon increase to the gas tax that was scheduled to kick in this summer, keeping about $135 million in residents’ pockets.

The gas tax hike was a key funding component of Pritzker’s signature $45 billion capital infrastructure improvement plan that was implemented in 2019. Manar said the one-year freeze “will not have an impact on the overall program” and won’t interrupt work already underway on many of the state’s aging roads and bridges.

* WBEZ

And the property tax rebate component would apply to individuals making $250,000 annually or less or to couples making $500,000 or less. That provision would be the priciest of Pritzker’s proposed tax cuts, coming in at $475 million.

Rebates would be capped at $300. The governor’s office did not make clear whether payments would go out in the form of paper checks or direct deposits or whether they would be received ahead of the Nov. 8 general election date.

“In total, this is nearly $1 billion in relief to Illinois families,” Manar said. “And the governor believes at this moment – because we have the ability to do this with our budget stabilized and our state finances are in good shape – that we should focus on the cost of groceries, the cost of gasoline and the cost of property taxes and bring relief to families across the state.”

The state’s financial picture has been on an upswing under Pritzker with state income and sales taxes surging ahead of projections. In November, in a presentation to bond investors, Pritzker’s administration disclosed year-to-date state revenues were $1.3 billion ahead of previous-year levels.

* Tribune

In a combined budget speech and State of the State address, Pritzker will face a dual task: outlining his spending plan to kick off negotiations in the Democratic-controlled legislature, and making the case to voters that his handling of the state’s chronically shaky finances, his pandemic public health policies and his efforts to reach out to long-neglected minority communities have earned him another four years in office. […]

And even with Democrats in full control of the legislature, there’s no guarantee of full support for everything Pritzker proposes.

In an interview last week on Illinois Public Media’s “The 21st Show,” Senate President Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, was asked about the possibility of providing some relief to taxpayers, such as suspending the sales tax on groceries, as Pritzker will propose.

“We could do it, but we wouldn’t provide a lot of relief for struggling families. … We don’t want to do something that is flashy showbiz but doesn’t provide real relief to people” Harmon said.

A transcript of that interview is here.

* Crain’s

Pritzker has plenty of company in cutting taxes now. Not only Republicans in states such as Indiana but newly installed New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, have proposed reductions in their levies, too.

*** UPDATE 1 *** Press release…

Legislators, advocates and community members urged Gov. Pritzker to offer a tax cut for low-income Illinoisans in the State’s FY2022 budget, ahead of his Feb. 2 budget address. Advocates urged the inclusion of a bill (SB3774 Aquino/ HB4920 Ammons) that would expand Earned Income Credit (EIC) eligibility, include a new state Child Tax Credit, and increase the amount of credit available to each low-income filer.

“I am proud to be the chief sponsor of HB4290, a bill that would expand the Earned Income Credit and lift millions of Illinoisans out of poverty by providing low-income people with much-needed tax relief. Illinois’ current tax system is one of the most regressive in the country, blocking over a million of our neighbors from their basic needs in favor of the wealthy few,” said Representative Carol Ammons (D-Urbana). “As Gov. Pritzker prepares the annual budget address, I urge him to put Illinois on the path toward a more equitable tax system by expanding the Earned Income Credit.”

The bill to expand Illinois’ Earned Income Credit (EIC) would offer 4.5 million low-income Illinoisans a tax break. The bill uses the popular and effective tax credit as a vehicle to get more dollars directly into households around the state. For most families, it would mean, on average, $600 in a refund at tax time. The bill proposes expanding eligibility to nearly one million low-income residents who are currently barred from the credit, and then increasing the available credit amount for all recipients.

Similar to the federal EITC, the current state EIC offers income tax relief to most workers earning less than $56,000 per year and would total up to $1,200 in a tax return. The newly filed state bill would expand Illinois’ Earned Income Credit to include groups currently ineligible for the refund—namely, childless workers aged 18-24 and over 65 and immigrants who file taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). It would also create a statewide Child Tax Credit of at least $600 for parents or legal guardians of children under 17. Finally, over three years, it would increase the credit amount from the current 18% match of the federal EITC to 25%, offering hundreds of dollars more each year to families who need it.

Gov. Pritzker released a statement on Friday praising current state and federal Earned Income Tax Credits and calling on taxpayers to take advantage of existing programs. The Pritzker administration has also spent recent years promoting a joint outreach initiative with the Ilinois Department of Revenue to increase taxpayer participation in the state credit. In 2021, 74,800 Illinoisans claimed a federal EITC credit but did not claim the state EIC, leaving $29.8 million on the table.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is a huge benefit and puts thousands of dollars in the pockets of low to moderate income families each year,” Gov. JB Pritzker said in the statement Friday. “Even if an individual does not owe any taxes, they may still be eligible for the credit and receive critical funding that can be used for bills and necessities.”

Advocates for SB3774/HB4920 are hopeful that Pritzker signaling support of the existing EITC will translate to him including support for the tax credit’s expansion in next week’s budget address.

“An expanded Earned Income Credit would provide a lot of help for my family, especially as the pandemic has surged again. At this moment, we really don’t have economic security. Food, rent, and utility costs have gone way up this year, and it’s harder to support our children,” said Susana Salgado, a Chicago parent of three and a community leader with Community Organizing and Family Issues’ POWER-PAC. “The governor should make our tax system more fair, particularly for undocumented and mixed status families who are excluded from many government programs. An extra few hundred dollars at tax time would help us to get out of a hole of debt and alleviate our stress.”

The Coalition to Make EIC Work, a project of the Illinois Cost-Of-Living Refund Coalition, is leading the advocacy effort. The coalition includes more than 30 nonprofit, labor, consumer advocate, immigrant rights, and grassroots, community-based organizations across the state.

This bill comes at a time when the state is seeking ways to support communities most impacted by COVID-19. An expansion of the EIC to immigrant families, seniors, and childless young workers would help to strengthen the safety net for the groups left out of federal coronavirus relief programs.

To learn more about the bill, visit the fact sheet at bit.ly/expandEIC22.

Expanding EITC was included in that aforementioned poll.

*** UPDATE 2 *** Press release…

As JB Pritzker will surely try to rewrite history in this week’s State of the State and Budget Address and announce election-year gimmicks to cover up his record of out-of-control crime and higher taxes, here is a quick reminder of the sad and scary reality of his Administration over the last three years and why he simply can’t be trusted:

    • Pritzker spent $58 million in an attempt to enact the largest tax hike in Illinois history on families, small businesses and farmers. This tax plan would have given politicians in Springfield unlimited power to raise taxes at their discretion on every family in Illinois. Despite his failure, he is committed to pursuing this endeavor again.

    • Pritzker signed into law new policies that prohibit the police from doing their jobs and will put more criminals onto the street with cashless bail.

    • Pritzker has let some of society’s worst criminals back onto the streets early, including multiple convicted murderers. They include a woman who shot her 21-month-old child and a man who beat his baby to death.

    • Pritzker continuously attempts to abolish the tax credit scholarship program that provides low income families better educational opportunities for their children.

    • Pritzker punished Illinoisans for the failure of his massive tax hike by raising taxes on Illinois businesses.

“Governor Pritzker’s actions over the last three years have proven that he simply can’t be trusted to lead our state,” Richard Irvin campaign spokesperson Eleni Demertzis said. “Election year gimmicks aren’t going to take back our state from out-of-control crime, higher taxes and corruption. To do that, we need a new governor.”

*** UPDATE 3 *** While not identical to the governor’s proposal, the SGOPS appear to be dancing to the same sort of tune. Or, perhaps more likely, they’ve come up with an excuse to not vote for the governor’s plan…

Illinois Senate Republicans are seeking to deliver Illinois families much-needed tax relief through their recently announced package of tax reform proposals. They say these measures will provide the citizens of Illinois with permanent, substantive relief, instead of the temporary relief that is expected to be proposed by Gov. JB Pritzker during his upcoming Budget Address.

“It’s encouraging to hear that the Governor has finally recognized the need to provide tax relief for struggling Illinois families, but they need more than just one-time, election year gimmicks. What they need is true, long-lasting tax relief that gets our state on the right track,” said Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods). “People continue to be taxed out of this state. Short-term solutions will not fix that.”

As part of the proposed tax relief package, Senate Republicans are calling for reforms that help address the growing concerns of inflation and skyrocketing consumer prices. These changes include the elimination of the state’s one percent sales tax on food and prescription drugs.

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans have experienced the largest 12-month increase in inflation since June 1982,” said State Sen. Donald DeWitte (R-St Charles). “This includes a 6.3 percent increase in total food prices, and a staggering 16 percent increase in just meat prices. There are far too many Illinoisans worried about how they will be able to put food on their tables and pay for their family’s medicine for the state legislature to sit idly by and do nothing.”

Another section of the Senate Republicans’ tax proposal is aimed at addressing the climbing price of gas. They support a proposal that lowers the overall amount consumers pay at the pump, but also ensure that critical funding necessary for road improvements remains the same. This proposal includes lowering the 6.25 percent sales tax on gas/gasohol to 5.25 percent, while also increasing the Road Fund disbursement from 32 percent to 53 percent.

“This plan will not only provide relief for Illinoisans filling up their gas tanks, but will also ensure that we continue to fund construction projects desperately needed throughout the state,” said State Sen. Win Stoller (R-Germantown Hills). “In fact, our proposal will increase the state’s road fund by $80 million. This is a common-sense approach to alleviating the burden that our constituents are currently experiencing while at the gas pump.”

Additionally, the tax relief package being put forward would further help Illinois senior citizens by increasing the income tax exemption that they can receive on their Illinois income tax from $1,000 to $2,000.

“While there have been some state officials who have suggested the idea of placing additional taxes on our seniors, we are advancing ideas that actually save them even more of their hard-earned money,” said State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). “It is our goal to make Illinois a friendly tax state for both our seniors and retirees.”

Finally, Senate Republicans seek to take on the issue of property taxes that has plagued the state for far too long, by calling for an increase in the state’s property tax income tax credit. Under this initiative, the tax credit would rise from 5 percent to 10 percent. The plan also allows voters who are subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), the ability to go to referendum to lower their property taxes.

“It is no secret to anyone that property taxes have been a serious, long-standing issue that many Illinoisans continue to face,” said State Sen. Craig Wilcox (R-McHenry). “For years, Illinois politicians have promised to provide property tax relief, and we intend to keep that promise.”
You can view the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus’ entire tax relief package here.

  81 Comments      


*** UPDATED x2 *** Open thread

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Session weather…


How’s your Monday?

*** UPDATE 1 *** Yikes…


*** UPDATE 2 *** National Weather Service

Peoria-Woodford-Fulton-Tazewell-McLean-Schuyler-Mason-Logan-
De Witt-Piatt-Champaign-Vermilion-Cass-Menard-Scott-Morgan-
Sangamon-Christian-Macon-Moultrie-Douglas-
Including the cities of Peoria, Eureka, Canton, Pekin,
Bloomington, Normal, Rushville, Havana, Lincoln, Clinton,
Monticello, Champaign, Urbana, Danville, Beardstown, Petersburg,
Winchester, Jacksonville, Springfield, Taylorville, Decatur,
Sullivan, and Tuscola
318 PM CST Mon Jan 31 2022

…WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 9 PM TUESDAY TO 6 PM CST
THURSDAY…

* WHAT…Significant snow likely with a brief period of mixed
precipitation. Total snow accumulations in excess of 12 inches
with locally higher amounts possible. Ice accumulations up to one
tenth of an inch. Winds gusting as high as 30 mph will create
blowing and drifting snow Wednesday night into Thursday.

* WHERE…Portions of central, east central and west central
Illinois.

* WHEN…From 9 PM Tuesday to 6 PM CST Thursday.

* IMPACTS…Travel will be very difficult to impossible. The
hazardous conditions will impact the morning or evening
commute.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…A Winter Storm Warning for heavy snow means
severe winter weather conditions are expected. Significant
amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

If you must travel, keep an extra flashlight, food, and water in
your vehicle in case of an emergency.

The latest road conditions for Illinois can be obtained on the
Internet at www.gettingaroundillinois.com

  35 Comments      


Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

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

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

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*** LIVE COVERAGE ***

Monday, Jan 31, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


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Reader comments closed for the weekend

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Cowboy Junkies will play us out. Turn it up

It’s only castles burning

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Richard Duchossois

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From Thom Serafin…

Richard L. Duchossois, a native of Chicago, a decorated war hero, renowned businessman and horseracing icon, passed away peacefully at his home in Barrington Hills, Illinois on January 28, 2022.

Duchossois was known for his top-down management style, his exacting business principles, his customer service-oriented philosophies and his commitment to quality as evidenced in every workplace with his oft-repeated admonition, “Don’t expect what you didn’t inspect.” His meticulous attention to detail was applied with military precision across all aspects of his life, down to his double-breasted suits and pocket scarves. Sightings of an impeccably dressed “Mr. D,” as he was affectionately called, walking the halls of his businesses were a common occurrence.

Duchossois was the embodiment of perseverance. Of the many organizations in Duchossois’ business portfolio over the period of his professional career, many would come to associate him most with Arlington Park, the thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. After an electrical fire destroyed the entire facility in 1985, the rebuild Duchossois championed set Arlington apart from other racetracks globally, with its striking cantilevered roof, world-class facilities and international stakes races. While a typical response to the complete devastation of the fire would have been to walk away, in a tour-de-force, Duchossois galvanized his employees to hold the famed Arlington Million race just days after the fire. This feat would go down in horseracing legends as the “Miracle Million” and it marked the first time a racetrack was ever awarded racing’s highest honor, the Eclipse Special Award.

Born Oct. 7, 1921, to Ernestine and Alphonse Duchossois in the south Chicago neighborhood of Beverly, Richard Louis Duchossois was destined to lead a life that personified what Americans define as “The Greatest Generation.” In his 100 years of life, Duchossois left an indelible impression on the world as a veteran, entrepreneur, philanthropist, husband, father, uncle, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend.

The second of four siblings, Duchossois attended Morgan Park Military Academy during his formative years.

“I learned (at Morgan Park) discipline of the mind and that you have to try to win,” Duchossois explained in a family business retrospective book, Riding the Rails, published in 2016. “We had a professor of military science and tactics. He always said if we’re going to get ahead, we must be second to none.”

Duchossois credited this philosophy, combined with the leadership, honor and integrity that he learned in his year and a half at Washington and Lee University, as having laid the foundation for his ability to not only survive, but thrive under pressure. These moments would be far from few in his century-long life.

Duchossois was just 20 years old when he was called to service with the U.S. Army following the United States’ entry into World War II. He was assigned to the 610th Tank Destroyer Battalion and served as commander of a Tank Destroyer Company throughout five European campaigns under General George S. Patton.

Although once feared for dead from a gunshot wound, Duchossois survived, recovered and returned to the front, leading his company through famed operations such as The Battle of the Bulge. Duchossois was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his sacrifice and, decades later, continued to garner recognition for his service. He received the Order of St. Maurice medallion, an honor that acknowledges both wartime distinction and ongoing character standards and accomplishments, as well as the distinction of the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest award, presented to him by the French government in Normandy on the 70th anniversary of D-Day in 2014. As a trustee, Duchossois participated in several oral history projects for the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

In July of 1943, Duchossois married his sweetheart Beverly (nee Thrall), who gave birth to their first son Craig in 1944 while Duchossois was on the frontline in Europe. The couple went on to have three more children, Dayle, Bruce, and Kimberly. They settled in Flossmoor, a southwest suburb of Chicago.

Upon his return home from the war, Duchossois was invited to join Beverly’s family’s business, Thrall Car Manufacturing Company - a modest railcar parts and repair company with 35 employees, and a rudimentary yard, based in Chicago Heights, Ill. Despite lacking in business experience, it was at Thrall Car that Duchossois honed his intuitive business instincts: He relentlessly strived for growth and improvement.

By 2001, when it was acquired by Trinity Rail Group, Thrall Car Manufacturing Company had a production capacity of 16,000 rail cars per year and 3,000 employees. Duchossois diversified his company over the years with the purchase of Chamberlain Manufacturing Group, broadcast outlets, Arlington Park and a number of other businesses.

Duchossois lost his wife Beverly to cancer in 1980. Her care and treatment received at The University of Chicago served as the catalyst for Duchossois’ first major philanthropic gift to UCMC in 1978. This gift supported world-renowned experts in lymphoma, Dr. John Ultmann as the first director of the cancer research center at the University of Chicago. The establishment of The Duchossois Family Foundation soon followed. Beverly’s death became the vehicle for the family to support cancer research in partnership with the University of Chicago, as well as initiatives such as Patient Navigation Services with the American Cancer Society, among others.

During his tenure in horseracing, Duchossois brought the 2002 Breeders Cup to Arlington Park, owned one of the leading breeding farms in Illinois, and actively worked to influence and shape the racing industry and its legislation. In 2019, Duchossois was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. In 2000, Arlington Park merged with Churchill Downs Incorporated.

“Dick sets a personal standard to which we should all aspire,” said Washington and Lee President Will Dudley in 2018. “His leadership, humility, generosity and dedication to the service of others are an inspiration to all those who know him. We are indebted to him for his ongoing commitment to W&L.”

Among his survivors is wife Mary Judith (nee McKeage) of Barrington, Ill., who he married in 2000 and who has lovingly stood by his side for all business, philanthropic and family endeavors. He is also survived by his son Craig J. Duchossois (Janet) of Chicago, daughter Dayle Duchossois-Fortino (Ed) of Chicago, daughter Kimberly Duchossois of Barrington, Ill., and step-sons Steve Marchi (Sherrie) of Palatine, Ill., and Paul Marchi (Judy) of Palatine, Ill. Duchossois had seven grandchildren (and spouses), two step-grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren. Duchossois’ first wife, Beverly, and their beloved son, R. Bruce Duchossois, predeceased him in 1980 and 2014, respectively.

Up to his final days, Duchossois could be found at his desk planning his next venture, legal pad and pen in hand. To use the Miracle Million team’s motto - which Duchossois loved and had printed on post-cards - “Quit? Hell No!”

No doubt Duchossois is marching on to his next tour. We salute you, soldier.

As a result of COVID-19, to ensure the health and safety of others, there will be no visitation. The funeral and burial services will be immediate family only. In memory of Dick, and in lieu of flowers, you may want to consider a donation to a favorite organization of your choice, the National WWII Museum, 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA 70130 (https://www.nationalww2museum.org/give), or Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, 450 West Highway 22, Barrington, IL 60010 (https://advocategiving.org/).

…Adding… Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association…

On behalf of Illinois thoroughbred owners and trainers, we extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dick Duchossois.

Mr. D served our nation with distinction and thereafter brought his enduring tenacity and exceptional work ethic to the helm of Arlington Park — a track he worked to build into a world-class destination for thoroughbred horse racing.

As we mourn his loss, we are reminded of his immense contributions to thoroughbred racing in North America, most especially here in Illinois. His imprint on the sport and industry was vast and will not be forgotten.

…Adding… Leader McConchie…

State Senator Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) released the following statement following the death of Richard L. Duchossois:

“My thoughts and condolences are with the Duchossois family. Richard lived his 100 years of life to the fullest and will be remembered for his many accomplishments. The 26th Senate District was fortunate to have Richard as a constituent. His dedication to his country and community should forever be honored.”

  18 Comments      


It’s just a bill

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Kelsey Landis at the BND

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Illinois lawmakers will consider whether there should be statewide standards for warehouses following a tornado that killed six people at an Amazon facility in Edwardsville. […]

The General Assembly plans to hold hearings to explore what can be done in the upcoming session, said state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea. He said he has discussed the issue with state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, and state Sen. Rachelle Crowe, D-Glen Carbon.

“It was actually in their districts, not mine, but it doesn’t matter. We have warehouses throughout Illinois and throughout the metro-east,” Hoffman said. “We need to figure out whether the codes were followed and if the codes were followed, are the codes strong enough?” […]

“It would seem to me there should have been more safe zones for the workers that were actually safe zones,” Hoffman said.

* WCIA

An Illinois Lawmaker wants to empower judges to remove guns from the hands of those accused of domestic violence.

“I believe this bill, specifically, this part of the bill will have an impact and remove firearms from many volatile situations, preventing intimate partner homicide,” Representative Denyse Wang Stoneback (D-Skokie) said.

When a domestic abuse victim asks for an order of protection, there is a two week period before the hearing. A judge will often issue an emergency order of protection during that time. Right now, courts often wait to suspend a suspect’s FOID card after that emergency order is over. But Stoneback’s bill would allow judges to suspend FOID cards during the emergency order of protection period as well.

According to Stoneback, Some have the power to suspend somebody’s FOID Card along with issuing the emergency order of protection. Stoneback’s bill would ensure that the judge’s understand they have that power in law.

“Judges in Illinois have interpreted sometimes a lot in both directions,” Stoneback said. “Sometimes they have removed firearms, with ex parte hearings due to imminent dangerous or volatile situations, and in light of the fact that the respondent will have notice of hearing at a later date, and other other judges have chosen not to remove firearms during this period.”

* Press release…

With a focus on protecting victims of violent crime and their families, Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) introduced legislation on Thursday to overhaul Illinois’ Prisoner Review Board (PRB) and provide greater weight to the interests of victims of violent crime, rather than criminals.

“Today, I am here to give hope to the forgotten voices in our present criminal justice system, the victims of crime. The despair and anguish felt by crime victims and the futility they experience seeking closure for the tragic and brutal loss of a family member, loved one, or friend cannot be discounted,” said Durkin. “That pain and torment is only fueled by the decisions of Governor Pritzker’s Prisoner Review Board.”

According to Durkin, there are a number of recent examples of violent offenders being released by Pritzker’s PRB over the objections of victims, their families, law enforcement, and judges.

Paul Bryant has a long history of violent crimes, including numerous convictions for murder, rape, home invasion, burglary and more. Bryant was convicted of killing a 59-year-old woman whose throat he slashed during a robbery in 1976 and the murder of a 19-year-old woman who he raped, beat, strangled and set on fire in 1977. Another woman was held at knifepoint, robbed, and raped in her home.

Ultimately, Bryant was caught after breaking into a woman’s home, robbing and raping her, and returning several days later to rape her again. The repeat victim was able to identify Bryant as the man who repeatedly violated her. The judge who sentenced Bryant to 500 to 1,500 years for just one of the murders he committed said at the time he wanted to send a message to future parole boards that Bryant should never be released. On July 14, 2020, Pritzker’s PRB voted to release him.

Ray Larsen, a man convicted of murdering a child and deviant sexual behavior, made headlines last year when, just days after being released, he absconded from the state, violating the terms of his parole and becoming a fugitive. It wasn’t the first time that Larsen had proven himself a risk.

In May of 1972, while on a 3-day furlough, Larson entered the home of an older woman sexually assaulted and robbed her. Following the assault, he went to Schiller Woods Forrest Preserve “Looking for something to shoot” when he came across 16-year-old Frank Casolari, who was fishing. Larson shot the boy 23 times and left his naked body in the woods. He was caught the next day in a stolen vehicle with an underage girl who had been missing overnight.

Ultimately, Larson was released by Pritzker’s PRB on May 13, 2021, over the objection of Attorney General Kwame Raoul, whose office tried to delay the decision for 90 days so Larson could be evaluated as a possible sexually violent person. Ultimately, the PRB was forced to rescind Larson’s parole.

In July of 1970, Chicago Police Sergeant James Severin and Officer Anthony Rizzato volunteered for the “walk and talk” community outreach program, which aimed to reduce crime. On July 17, Severin and Rizzato were murdered in cold blood while crossing a baseball field as part of a coordinated sniper attack planned and executed by a local gang. Johnny Veal was an integral part of planning and carrying out this attack on law enforcement and bragged about his involvement to rival gang members.

Testifying before the PRB, Sgt. Severin’s nephew said he remembered his uncle saying how much he loved working with the kids at the local baseball field the week before he was brutally murdered on the same baseball field. Even Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx voiced opposition to Veal’s parole, calling the officer’s murders a “cold blooded execution,” while also pointing out that Veal bragged about the crimes. Nevertheless, Pritzker’s PRB voted to release Veal on February 21, 2021.

Durkin’s legislation, House Bill 5126, makes a number of reforms aimed at protecting victims of violent crime and ensuring dangerous offenders remain behind bars.

Under Durkin’s proposal, victim-focused reforms would be instituted to the Prisoner Review Board. Durkin’s legislation does the following:
· Codifies the mission statement of the PRB:

    o The PRB is to protect the rights of victims of crime, their families, and the citizens of Illinois by ensuring that the rule of law is upheld and justice is carried out. The Board has the responsibility to give voice to the victims, their family members, and public safety officials when an inmate’s situation is being reviewed.

· Requires five members of the board to have experience as a law enforcement officer or prosecutors.
· Increases transparency by:

    o Making En Banc hearings available for viewing via live stream.
    o Making clemency recommendations from the board to the Governor available to the public with appropriate redactions to protect the victim’s identity.

· Requires a higher 2/3 vote threshold for parole of people convicted of 1st-degree murder.
· Outlines those who may present testimony at the parole hearing:

    o One representative of the person under consideration for parole.
    o One representative of law enforcement from the county of conviction.
    o One family member of each victim.

· The Governor has to grant or deny the decisions of PRB to release an inmate on parole or to revoke their parole or aftercare release in cases of 1st degree murder. These decisions are subject to FOIA.
· In regards to clemency hearings, the legislation:

    o Requires the board to give victims registered with the Board written notice of the application for clemency within seven days of the filing of the application.
    o If the victim does not file a witness statement 30 days prior to the clemency hearing date, the board shall send a second written notice to the victim.
    o The victim can ask for an extension of 45 days to submit their victim’s statement. If an extension is requested, the board cannot proceed with a hearing until after the extension has expired.

“The state of Illinois must change. This administration is placing criminals above victims, and are disregarding the voice of victims across the state, said Durkin. “There is no reason that cold blooded murderers are released back into society against the wishes of the people they hurt so profoundly. Governor Pritzker gave Veal, Larson and Bryant got the second chance that their victims and loved ones will never get.”

  9 Comments      


COVID-19 roundup

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Hospitalizations are down 25.12 percent in the past week. Good stuff. The lagging indicators will eventually catch up. Press release

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 123,812 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including an increase of 843 deaths since January 21, 2022.

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 2,897,174 cases, including 30,688 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years. Since January 21, 2022, laboratories have reported 1,310,730 specimens for a total of 50,798,837. As of last night, 4,533 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 800 patients were in the ICU and 460 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from January 21 – 27, 2022 is 9.4%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from January 21 – 27, 2022 is 12.0%.

A total of 20,423,100 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of last midnight. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 36,787 doses. Since January 21, 2022, 257,512 doses were reported administered in Illinois. Of Illinois’ total population, more than 75% has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, 66% of Illinois’ total population is fully vaccinated, and more than 46% boosted according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All data are provisional and will change. Additional information and COVID-19 data can be found at https://dph.illinois.gov/covid19.html.

Vaccination is the key to ending this pandemic. To find a COVID-19 vaccination location near you, go to www.vaccines.gov.

* More on the stealth omicron subvariant

Why is it called stealth omicron? You cannot identify the type of variant through a PCR test like you can with omicron. Genomic sequencing has to be conducted in a specialized lab to identify the variant, which takes longer.

In Denmark, where stealth omicron cases are rapidly increasing, it went from 20% of cases in December, to 45% of cases two weeks ago, and now it’s about 65% of cases. […]

Early studies in Denmark indicate stealth omicron doesn’t create a higher risk of hospitalization compared with omicron.

Denmark recently found that stealth omicron is as much as 1.5 times more transmissible than omicron.

* The federal government really needs to step up, and not just for restaurants. Omicron has been devastating. Just because there are no government shutdowns does not mean there haven’t been business problems. Wall Street may have done well, but this president has repeatedly said he was more concerned with Main Street. Well, it’s bad

In Illinois, 4,524 restaurants received federal grants totaling more than $1.4 billion. But 15,674 applied for nearly $3.5 billion, meaning more than 71% of Illinois restaurants did not receive funds, according to SBA data. […]

The Independent Restaurant Coalition, a grassroots group that sprung up as the pandemic took its toll on the industry, found 42% of businesses that did not receive a restaurant grant are in or on the verge of bankruptcy, according to a nationwide survey conducted this month. […]

The coalition has been pushing for Congress to replenish the restaurant fund. Such a measure was not included in President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Act, which was approved by the House in November but stalled in the Senate. Several other stand-alone proposals, however, are gaining traction.

The clear front-runner is the $48 billion Cardin-Wicker bill, Polmar said. The bipartisan proposal, introduced in the Senate in August, would provide funding to the nearly 180,000 applicants that did not receive grants during the initial Restaurant Revitalization Fund awards last year.

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is announcing the availability of 225,000 free, rapid COVID-19 self-administered test kits through Project Access Covid Tests (Project ACT) to residents in certain zip codes in 14 Illinois counties. Project ACT is a new direct-to-consumer mail order program in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, health care technology company CareEvolation, test manufacture iHealth Labs, Inc., and logistics provider and distribution leader Amazon.com.

IDPH encourages eligible residents in vulnerable communities in 14 counties to order these free COVID-19 tests. Counties include Cook, DuPage, Henry, Jackson, Jefferson, Kankakee, Lake, Macon, Madison, Marion, Peoria, St. Clair, Will, and Winnebago counties. Residents living in specific zip codes [click here] can go to AccessCovidTests.org to sign up for a free home delivery. These tests are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Each household will receive five tests within one to two weeks after ordering. In this initial phase, there is a limit of one kit per household and each kit will include five tests. The tests and shipping are free to eligible residents.

* From The Atlantic

Though many clergy are pro-vaccine, they often feel paralyzed or confused talking with congregants about their own stances, according to Curtis Chang, a consulting professor at Duke Divinity School. Chang also runs Christians and the Vaccine, a project dedicated to helping pastors use biblical principles to encourage congregants to get their COVID shots. While about 90 percent of evangelical faith leaders say they would encourage others to get inoculated, less than half of evangelical congregants are in favor of it. “What’s happening is that the base is actually taking their cues on social and political issues not from their pastors primarily,” Chang told me, “but from Fox News.” He believes that as some conservative politicians continue to push the idea that vaccine mandates strip the populace of its civil liberties, faith leaders are losing their influence over their congregation.

* Daily Herald

On Thursday, 37,652 more COVID-19 shots were administered. The seven-day average is 36,787.

The state’s positivity rate for COVID-19 cases is 9.4% based on a seven-day average.

So far, 8,357,859 people have been fully vaccinated or 66% of Illinois’ 12.7 million population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The CDC defines fully vaccinated as two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s.

Of those people who are fully vaccinated, 46.5% have received a booster shot.

* House media rules for next week were just distributed. No real surprises. But it was mentioned that Senators will not be allowed onto the House floor for what is usually a joint session. They can watch from the gallery or elsewhere. House members are being allowed to watch from their offices and there will be no committee of escorts.

…Adding… Meant to post this and forgot

Centenarian Holocaust survivor Margot Friedlaender urged the young generation on Thursday to always remember the Nazi genocide and denounced the use by some anti-COVID vaccination protesters of the yellow star Jews were forced to wear.

“Today, I see the memory of what happened being abused for political reasons, sometimes even derided and trampled all over,” she told EU lawmakers in Brussels at a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

“Incredulous, I had to watch at the age of 100 years how symbols of our exclusion by the Nazis, such as the so-called ‘Judenstern’, are shamelessly used on the open street by the new enemies of democracy, to present themselves - whilst living in the middle of a democracy - as victims,” Friedlaender added.

She was referring to some demonstrators at anti-vaccination protests who have pinned yellow star badges to their clothes, reminiscent of the cloth badges the Nazis forced Jews to wear to mark them as outsiders.

People who do such things are beneath contempt.

  6 Comments      


Pause for the cause

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I am in dire need of a haircut and I made an appointment for lunchtime. But, when I did, I forgot that Sangamon County Judge Reylene Grischow could issue an order or decision today on the Tom DeVore case(s). Too late to back out now, so if something breaks while I’m gone, you can use this post to discuss. Keep a close eye on the live coverage post. Otherwise, it’s just another open thread.

…Adding… MD 2020 is called “Mad Dog” for good reason. Stay away from that stuff…

  26 Comments      


Campaign notebook

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Greg Hinz

He’s in.

Chicago businessman Jonathan Jackson has filed federal paperwork to run for the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Chicago, almost certainly a sign that the son of civil rights leader, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and the brother of former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. will enter the race. […]

An official announcement is expected next week.

Several other candidates already are in the race, including Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd; state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago; and county workforce development official Karin Norington-Reaves.

* Press release about the same district…

Pat Dowell, Alderman and Committeeman of Chicago’s Third Ward, and candidate for Democratic Nomination for Congress in the First District of Illinois, this week announced endorsements from major political players supporting her campaign.

“I am very humbled by the growing support for our campaign. There is a lot of work to be done on this campaign and in Congress. I am so grateful to have the help of so many folks,” said Pat Dowell.

Dowell announced endorsements from:

    Former Ambassador and Senator Carol Moseley Braun
    State Senator and Committeeperson Mattie Hunter
    State Representative and Committeeperson Bob Rita
    State Representative Lamont Robinson
    State Representative Kam Buckner
    Cook County Commissioner Bill Lowry
    Alderman and Committeeperson Howard Brookins
    Alderman Carrie Austin
    Alderman and Committeeperson Sue Sadlowski Garza
    Alderman Maria Hadden
    Alderman Brian Hopkins
    Alderman Michele Smith
    Alderman and Committeeperson Tom Tunney
    Alderman and Committeeperson Scott Waguespack

* Fundraising appeal…

Friend,

I have a big announcement to share.

I’ve mentioned before that Illinois Policy plans to take on government union bosses this year. And we’ve finalized our strategy, the Full Slate Strategy.

What does the Full Slate Strategy look like?

Recruit pro-free-market candidates who will fight for taxpayers.
Illinois Policy will identify and support candidates who care about their neighbors and community, not special interests and government union bosses.

    Give voters real choices.
    Voters deserve candidates who aren’t tied in with the corrupt establishment. On average over 50% of house seats are uncontested. Incumbents run unopposed and voters’ voices go unheard. We’ll give voters options in 2022.

The 2022 elections are pivotal - Inflation is the highest it’s been in 30 years, emergency powers are slowing economic progress, and government union bosses continue to fight parents on public education.

In order to successfully launch the Full Slate Strategy, I’ve set a goal to raise $625,000. I am personally asking for your support to take on government union bosses and the special interests.

Will you donate $25, $50, $100, or any generous amount to recruit pro-free-market candidates? Click here to donate >>>

We are recruiting, thoroughly vetting, and training pro-free-market candidates to run for office where the current incumbent lawmaker faced no opponent in 2020.

To date, our team has interviewed and vetted qualified candidates to run in 37 of these districts.

Once completed, we are then asking potential candidates to sign a commitment form.

This shows that they are steadfast in ending “business as usual” in Springfield and Chicago.

Donate $25 >>>
Donate $50 >>>
Donate $100 >>>
Donate $250 >>>
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Donate $1,000 >>>
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Donate Any Amount>>>

In less than a year, Illinoisans have seen two tremendous victories that many believed were politically impossible:

The decisive defeat of the progressive tax.
The long-awaited end to Mike Madigan’s tenure as the nation’s longest-serving legislative leader.

These are major wins, but this is only the beginning. With your continued support, we will recruit better legislators and local leaders who will continue Illinois’ comeback story.

Thank you,

Matt Paprocki
President
Illinois Policy

* Politico

Democratic Rep. Marie Newman, who’s also running in the IL-06 congressional primary, has been endorsed by the Cook County College Teachers Union Local 1600, an AFT/IFT local. Newman also won the support of the National Organization for Women PAC, Feminist Majority, and the National Women’s Political Caucus.

* More…

* Kaegi botched COVID tax relief: The Cook County assessor cut values based on jobs he thought neighborhoods would lose due to the pandemic. It was a wild miscalculation that worked out well for some, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot, not so well for residents of a poor South Side neighborhood

* ADDED: Kaegi responds

…Adding… Press release…

Today, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council have endorsed Sam Kukadia for Cook County Board in the 9th District. Mr. Kukadia is a business owner and member of IUOE Local 150 seeking the Democratic Party nomination for the Cook County Board. These endorsements, coupled with Mr. Kukadia’s raising more than $50,000 in one week, shows he is gaining early momentum in a race that could get crowded in the coming weeks.

“Brother Kukadia as a member and Local 150 contractor, not just talks the talk but walks the walk when it comes to protecting working families. He understands workers deserve fair wages and benefits for an honest day’s work. He will ensure that the men and women in Organized Labor have a seat at the table while serving as a Cook County Board Member,” said President Business Manager James Sweeney of IUOE Local 150.

  14 Comments      


State wants judge to review TRO on judicial redistricting law: “Respondents never sought this relief”

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Post-Dispatch earlier this week

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine filed a lawsuit Friday in an attempt to block what he called a “dubious” new Illinois law that requires judicial elections to be decided by voters in new sub-circuits rather than countywide.

Illinois GOP leaders have called the new law a judicial “power grab” in the Metro East county where much of the nation’s lucrative asbestos litigation is filed but voters have lurched to the right in recent elections.

* Also from earlier this week

Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine announced today that a Sangamon County judge has granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) halting the implementation of the recently-enacted legislation creating new judicial subcircuits in Madison County.

The TRO was in response to a lawsuit Haine filed on January 21 on behalf of Madison County which challenges the constitutionality of the subcircuit legislation. Judge Ryan Cadagin of Illinois’ Seventh Judicial Circuit issued the ruling on January 24, 2022 after an in-person hearing in Springfield, and the text of the order was released today, January 25.

The four-page TRO prevents the Governor, the State Board of Elections, and the Clerk of the Supreme Court “from taking any steps to enforce or institute the Judicial Circuits Districting Act of 2022.” Specifically it orders the Clerk of Supreme Court to “recertify the original vacancies of the Honorable David Dugan and the Honorable Richard Tognarelli, as they were before the passing of the Act.” The order also mandates that “Any petitions collected on or between January 22 and January 24 for a sub-circuit election [for the above vacancies] shall be accepted by the State Board of Elections for the reinstated county wide residency election.” And it states that it “shall continue in full force and effect until the court conducts a hearing on Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction.”

The preliminary injunction hearing is set for February 15.

* From the state’s petition for review today

First, the circuit court did not preserve the status quo of a duly enacted law taking effect but rather upended the status quo.

Second, the circuit court committed an error of law and abused its discretion when it entered an overly broad TRO that invalidates the Act not just in Madison County, where respondents sought the injunctive relief based on section 2f-13, but statewide. Respondents never sought this relief.

Third, the TRO improperly orders the Illinois Supreme Court Clerk to recertify two judicial vacancies in Madison County, which currently are allocated to a new judicial subcircuit created under the Act. But the Clerk has no such authority. Only the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court may make such certifications.

And it goes on. More here.

  9 Comments      


Today’s number: <1 percent

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Bloomberg

At the end of 2020, Illinois risked a downgrade to junk-bond status after taking emergency loans from the Federal Reserve to allay revenue losses from the pandemic. The state had almost no rainy day fund, paid an ever-higher penalty to borrow in the $4 trillion municipal bond market and Pritzker’s plan to collect more taxes from the wealthy was rejected by voters.

“The state has done a lot in recent years to right its fiscal ship,” said Amanda Kass, associate director of the Government Finance Research Center at the University of Illinois in Chicago. “Is that a blip in a long-term trend or is this the start of an upward trajectory in the state’s finances?”

The state has a history of financial missteps. Its unfunded pension liability had ballooned because it didn’t contribute enough for decades, leading it to take on billions in debt. An impasse between former Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican, and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly resulted in the state having no budget from 2015 to 2017, sending unpaid bills soaring and creating more debt. […]

The penalty Illinois pays compared to benchmark 10-year municipal securities has remained under 1 percentage point for the last nine months, after reaching more than four percentage points in May 2020, but it’s still the highest among peers.

Yeah, well, I’ll take it.

  13 Comments      


Study: Rape crisis centers proved resilient during the Rauner impasse

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority commissioned a study on the effect the 2015-17 Rauner impasse had on rape crisis centers (RCCs) in Illinois. It wasn’t as bad as I might’ve expected, but that’s not to say that we should ever let this happen again

Study findings showed RCCs’ service delivery was negatively affected by the budget impasse, with criminal justice advocacy and individual counseling significantly decreasing after 24 months of the budget impasse. Aggregate telephone counseling hours rose sharply at first but resumed a normal pattern after 12 months of the budget impasse. This suggests a direct relationship between state funding and service delivery.

Rural RCC services were more affected by the budget impasse than those of their urban counterparts. Rural centers saw a statistically significant reduction in group counseling hours at 12 and 24 months. Medical advocacy hours also significantly decreased at 24 months. However, telephone counseling showed significant increases at six, 12, and 24 months into the budget impasse. It is not surprising that rural RCCs, to which clients face perennial transportation barriers, would increase their telephone counseling hours while decreasing in-person counseling.

Overall, RCCs were negatively affected by the budget impasse with decreases in service hours for some categories yet no centers closed their doors during this time. This survival is a testament to the hard work and resilience of Illinois RCCs amid a period of fiscal uncertainty and instability. More research is needed to assess the qualitative and long-term effects of the impasse and should take into account any new funding made available in state fiscal year 2018, including increased VOCA funds. Long-term financial sustainability is not easy to accomplish with few sources of unrestricted funds. This study suggests RCCs are good at planning for financial uncertainty and coming up with solutions when finances are tight.

  7 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** OEIG: IDOC used inmate labor for staff fundraising events “such as car washes and shoe shining”

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From the OEIG…

An OEIG investigation relating to the administration of Employee Benefit Funds (EBFs) at the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) was recently released. EBFs exist at all of the IDOC Correctional Centers and at its central administrative office in Springfield. Although EBFs serve a purpose in boosting employee morale, the EBFs at each facility operated independently, with little to no oversight, whether through audits, implementation of clear policies and procedures, training, or otherwise.

The investigation revealed that although IDOC’s Administrative Directives limited the primary source of the EBFs’ revenues to profits from vending machines and employee commissaries, most of the EBFs had expanded their revenue streams by generating large sums of money from fundraising. These expansive fundraising efforts, in turn, led to various problematic practices, such as soliciting donations from local businesses without ensuring that they were not State vendors, improperly holding raffles, selling merchandise in a way that evaded statutory and IDOC limitations, and devoting large amounts of State time to EBF activities. In addition, the investigation discovered that the EBFs spent much of the funds they raised on employee entertainment; in some cases they spent their funds in ways that benefitted only a select few employees. The EBFs also improperly used inmate labor for their fundraisers.

In response to the report, and at the direction of the prior and current gubernatorial administrations, IDOC undertook an extensive review and overhaul of EBF procedures. A senior IDOC employee was also suspended for 15 days. A copy of the report, In re: John Baldwin and Edwin Bowen (OEIG Case #17- 01266), is available on the OEIG website.

* From that report

The investigation also revealed that many EBFs use inmate labor for fundraising events such as car washes and shoe shining events [contrary to state law.] […]

IDOC [Identifying Information Redacted] [IDOC Senior Staff Employee] told investigators that previously, the EBFs kept all profits from the fundraisers they held that used inmate labor, but 12 to 18 months ago there was a policy decision with IDOC Chief of Staff Edwin Bowen that required the EBFs to split the profits from such fundraisers equally with the Inmate Benefit Fund and the institution’s 523 fund. Nevertheless, [IDOC Senior Staff Employee 1] said he felt that using inmate labor to raise funds for the EBFs is “bad optics,” “bad ethically,” and “bad morally.” He added: “It’s really hard for me to just honestly stomach the idea that … employees benefit from offender labor.”

Sheesh. Using inmates for a shoe-shining event to pay for staff parties and gifts. That goes beyond “optics.” What is this, Mississippi?

*** UPDATE *** The governor’s office insists that doing things like using inmates to raise money is no longer happening under their watch. Gov. Rauner’s administration agreed to implement the OEIG’s recommendations.

* Meanwhile

An Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) employee has pleaded guilty to two of the charges against him.

Michael S. Williams, 52, of Auburn, was facing 25 counts of custodial sexual misconduct and eight counts of official misconduct.

Williams served as an IDOC Correctional Food Service Manager before he was charged in 2019.

Allegations first came to light in April 2019. He was arrested by Illinois State Police in September of 2019 at the Decatur Correctional Center.

* On to WICS

In Illinois, 34 prisons are on lockdown because of COVID-19 outbreaks.

These lockdowns come just two weeks after the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) stopped taking inmates from county jails due to outbreaks.

This has impacted Sangamon County Jail.

The number of inmates Sangamon County Jail has to transfer to Department of Corrections has doubled in just two weeks.

* Capitol News Illinois

In mid-January, 3,300 incarcerated people and nearly 1,100 staff members at Illinois prisons were infected with the disease. While hospitalizations have been rare during the latest wave, according to the state, one person in custody and two staff members have died.

With the pandemic fast approaching its third year, state prison officials are facing difficulties containing the virus once again because of the lagging vaccine rate of prison staff, the main conduit of COVID-19 into the prisons.

In August, Gov. JB Pritzker ordered all guards to be vaccinated, but their union protested the mandate and took it to arbitration. The governor prevailed in late December. Now, all prison workers must have their first shot by the end of January.

By the end of December, 65% of prison staff had been vaccinated, according to department officials who nevertheless remain confident that nearly all staff will meet the January deadline, citing markedly improving vaccination rates since the end of October, when only 49% were vaccinated.

But the slow rollout means very few of them — only 12% — have had booster shots, which are administered six months after the first round of vaccines but are crucial to warding off the omicron variant. By comparison, 44% of Illinois prisoners had received boosters by the end of the 2021.

  29 Comments      


Pritzker touts solar investment

Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Mike Miletich

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker was recognized Tuesday during a national summit discussing solar energy. Pritzker and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee talked about efforts in both states to get closer to 100% clean energy.

The Chicago Democrat noted that the massive clean energy law passed and signed last year gave a boost to the Solar for All allocation for low-income communities. Pritzker also said $20 million will go directly to low-income community solar pilot projects.

“My vision for community solar is that it works as designed by supporting low-income communities who want to participate in growing clean energy and our clean energy economy and that it continues to expand,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker says states need additional funding from the federal government to help support community solar programs. He explained renewable energy procurements are funded by customers. Pritzker believes the more federal funding Illinois receives, the less ratepayers with have to pay upfront.

Inslee and Pritzker also talked about the importance of equity in the goals to address the climate crisis. Pritzker said 5% of the Solar for All funds are directed to community-based groups and other qualifying organizations that can help with general education and outreach efforts.

He attended virtually.

* The governor won’t be attending the in-person NGA confab this weekend…

he National Governors Association (NGA) will host the nation’s Governors in person for the first time in two years, as the leaders of states and territories discuss best practices and bipartisan collaboration on leading policy issues including infrastructure, computer science education and cybersecurity, as well as the importance of bipartisan leadership.

NGA’s 114th annual Winter Meeting is scheduled for this weekend, Jan. 28-31 in Washington, D.C.

Governors will join Cabinet secretaries and leaders from business, academia and philanthropy for solutions-driven conversations around the top issues in states and territories, including those raised or underscored during the public-health challenge that began in early 2020.

A Pritzker spokesperson says the governor is still working on his budget address and busy with other things.

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Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

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OK, I got that off my chest. What’s on your mind today?

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Friday, Jan 28, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

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