* 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
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,
*** 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.
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!”
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).
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.
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.
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.
* 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.
— 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.
* 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
* 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.
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.
• 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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Heavy rainfall is possible with this midweek system before it changes to snow or a wintry mix. Since the ground is frozen, runoff will be higher than usual. This could lead to minor flooding on area rivers, especially in southeast IL. #ILwxpic.twitter.com/dwmUI0VvcC
While specific snow and ice amounts can change leading up to the event, confidence is HIGH that this system will bring significant impacts to central Illinois. Travel is expected to become extremely difficult at times! Now is the time to prepare and adjust travel plans. #ILwxpic.twitter.com/DHpWBwmQ0e
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
* 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
* 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
* 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.
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