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Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The B-52s (pre-fame) will play us out

Name ‘em today?

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Afternoon roundup

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Fitch revised the state’s rating outlook to “Positive” from “Stable” earlier this week. Click here for the analysis.

* Wirepoints is at it again, so the Illinois State Board of Education has issued another statement on proficiency standards…

Illinois has among the most rigorous proficiency standards in the nation, which State Superintendent Sanders recently outlined in ISBE’s Weekly Message newsletter. In Illinois, “proficient” means much more than just reading on grade level. Our standards cover a depth and breadth of higher order language arts skills from writing, to logic, to critical thinking and analysis. When you compare Illinois’ student performance to that of other states, it’s like comparing home runs across ballparks that all have differently sized outfields. It’s much easier to hit a home in the Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field than in the Detroit Tigers’ Comerica Park. Our rigorous standards help guide instruction, so students are truly ready for the next grade level.

Additionally, school context matters. School proficiency rates strongly correlate to the income levels of the students and families served. Schools that serve historically under-resourced communities, students in alternative schools, and high numbers of English learners have a much steeper hill to climb to reach “proficiency.” Therefore, Illinois evaluates schools based on multiple measures of performance, including growth, student attendance, climate and culture surveys, and graduation rates. Evaluating schools based on growth in addition to proficiency gives us a more holistic understanding of school quality because even if a student starts school below grade level due to living in poverty, a good school can still help that student achieve significant growth. ISBE is committed to providing every school with the support and resources they need so that every student can meet these high expectations.

* Press release…

State Senator Laura Fine has passed legislation to ensure reports of abuse or neglect in state-operated developmental centers are thoroughly investigated and addressed. The legislation intends to address allegations of abuse at Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center in Anna, Illinois, where certain staff members have been accused and charged with multiple accounts of abuse to patients.

“Vulnerable residents living in state-run facilities are entitled to the best care possible and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Fine (D-Glenview). “This initiative will ensure people who take advantage of people in our care will face consequences for their actions.”

Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center serves patients struggling with mental and behavioral health concerns and/or developmental disabilities. Some employees of Choate have been charged with and found guilty of physically or emotionally abusing patients, as well as obstructing official probes and lying to investigators about wrongdoing.

Senate Bill 855 would create repercussions for employees who do not report incidents of abuse under the Code of Silence. People who do not report cases of abuse or who actively obstructed investigative reports would be added to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s health care workers registry, letting future employers know their role in silencing survivors of abuse at their job. These additions will hold bad actors accountable and discourage employees from obstructing investigations.

“It is the responsibility of the state to protect our most vulnerable from abuse and neglect,” said Fine. “This legislation will be an important tool to deter further atrocities from taking place.”

Senate Bill 855 passed the Senate on Wednesday, March 29. It now goes to the House for further discussion.

* Center Square

Because of “unreasonably large campaign contributions” to then-candidates now sitting justices on the Illinois Supreme Court from lead defendants in the case challenging the state’s gun ban, plaintiffs are seeking recusal. […]

Caulkins’ attorney Jerry Stocks filed a motion Thursday for the justice to recuse themselves because of “unreasonably large campaign contributions” from Pritzker and Welch that “undermine public confidence” in the judiciary. […[

Stocks argues the justices campaigned on supporting a ban on semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines. The motion filed Thursday notes that “each candidate voiced their support of [gun control] organizations’ top legislative priority: banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in Illinois.”

Also from the recusal motion: “The Justices were two of the G-PAC endorsed candidates that won the 2022 General Election with the support of G-PAC and Giffords PAC. The organizations claimed that they were heavily involved in delivering victories in many contested races. To earn the endorsement of G-PAC and Giffords PAC, each candidate voiced their support of the organizations’ top legislative priority: banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in Illinois. Looking toward veto and lame duck session before the 103rd General Assembly is sworn in this coming January, the gun violence prevention movement will be forcefully advocating to pass the measure into law.”

The motion is here.

* Isabel’s roundup…

    * Tribune | Where and how to vote in mayor and City Council races on April 4: With Chicago’s mayoral race winnowed to two candidates — Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas — and only a dozen or so aldermanic races headed to runoffs, Chicagoans will head to the polls one more time, on April 4, to settle who will take over the fifth floor at City Hall as well as the direction of the City Council for the next four years.

    * AdImpact | Chicago Mayoral Runoff Deep Dive: On Tuesday, April 4th, Chicago will be voting again in a runoff to decide who will become their next mayor. Last month, the general election resulted in Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson being the top two candidates, defeating seven other candidates, including incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot, who placed third. We saw $22M spent on the general election—the most spent on a Chicago mayoral election. So far, $12.4M has been spent on the runoff election, for a combined total of $34M. This marks a 79% increase in spending from 2019’s mayoral election total of $19M, of which $16M was spent on the general election, and $3M on the runoff. The Chicago mayoral general and runoff elections are the second and third most expensive elections of 2023 thus far, trailing only Wisconsin’s Supreme Court general election.

    * WCBU | Former Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman touts plan to fix what ails Peoria by attracting more executive talent: Former Caterpillar CEO and chairman Doug Oberhelman wants to attract more business executives to the Peoria area. The new “Choose Greater Peoria” talent attraction strategy is helmed by the Gilmore Foundation and Greater Peoria Leadership Council, in collaboration with marketing firm Simantel.

    * Aurora Beacon-News | Planned Aurora marijuana dispensary a hometown affair: The principals - in addition to Salesky there is Linda Wirth, the chief operating officer and an East Aurora alum, and Spencer Thomas, assistant chief officer and a West Aurora grad - were awarded a conditional adult use dispensing license by the state of Illinois as a social equity applicant.

    * NPR State Week | Key government witness on the stand in ComEd bribery trial: Fidel Marquez is a former Commonwealth Edison executive turned government informant. His testimony dominated the federal trial of four other former ComEd officials during the week. Prosecutors used Marquez in an effort to show how the utility worked to keep on the good side of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

    * Newswise | Hope for salamanders? Illinois study recalibrates climate change effects: “The older estimates were predicting almost 100% of the suitable habitat being wiped out for some of these species. But once we incorporated microclimate data at fine spatial scales for our study area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP), we found it might not be nearly that severe.

    * Shaw Local | Illinois Valley schools dismiss early with threat of severe weather: Numerous schools across the Illinois Valley either canceled sporting events and/or announced early dismissals ahead of a severe weather alert that has been moved up. Though earlier forecasts had called for a two-hour window of powerful storms Friday evening, the forecast now calls for an extended window of storms beginning at 2 p.m. through 9 p.m., with storms most likely (80% chance) at about 5 p.m. when extra-curricular activities were set to take place.

    * Post Tribune | Gary shifts to new school bus company: Like Illinois Central, First Student’s drivers would belong to a union, he said. Illinois Central drivers had been represented by Local 73 of the Service Employees International Union. The move severs the often contentious relationship with Illinois Central, which provided bus service in Gary for several years. Gary has contracted out the service since the late 1980s.

    * Telegraph | Meadowbrook fire fueled by Thursday winds: Firefighters from four departments battled a blaze in Meadowbrook Thursday evening that closed Illinois 140 for more than two hours. Medowbrook firefighters responded shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday to a commercial building on fire at the corner of Maple Drive and Illinois 140. The building was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, so they called for assistance from Bethalto, Cottage Hills and Rosewood Heights fire departments.

    * Tribune | Tollway to resume issuing fines for drivers with unpaid tolls: Drivers will have 14 days after missing a toll to pay with no fee. After 30 days, the Tollway will issue an invoice for a $3 fee for passenger vehicles, or between $5 and $15 for commercial vehicles. After 90 days the fee will rise by $5 per missed toll.

    * NYT | This Is What It Sounds Like When Plants Cry: To be clear, the sounds made by harried plants are not the same as the anxious mumbling you might utter if you have a big deadline at work. The researchers suspect the nervous, popping noise is instead a byproduct of cavitation, when tiny bubbles burst and produce mini-shock waves inside the plant’s vascular system, not unlike what happens in your joints when you crack your knuckles.

    * Sun-Times | What’s Easter without jelly beans, say Illinoisans: If you’re like a lot of Illinoisans, it’s Starburst Easter Original Jelly Beans — at least according to Instacart, the online grocery pickup and delivery folks. While that particular brand of candy was tops in the Land of Lincoln, it was edged out nationally by Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.

    * Crain’s | Signature Room property in the Hancock tower goes up for sale: A venture led by New York-based Madison Capital and Newark, N.J.-based PGIM Real Estate has hired brokers in the Chicago office of Cushman & Wakefield to sell the 26,168-square-foot restaurant space on the 95th and 96th floors of the tower at 875 N. Michigan Ave., according to marketing materials. There is no formal asking price for the property, which includes the Signature Room restaurant as well as the Signature Lounge cocktail bar above it.

    * Crain’s | Need a table for 2 tonight at a Chicago restaurant? ChatGPT can help.: With OpenTable, diners will be able to type a request into ChatGPT’s chat bubble such as: “I’m looking for a romantic table for two in River North tomorrow at 7 p.m.,” or “Where can I take my mom for brunch this Mother’s Day in Chicago?” The chatbot will then deliver recommendations and pull up available time slots for the diner to book.

    * AP | Minor leaguers ratify 1st collective bargaining agreement with MLB: ‘Historic day for these players’: Minimum salaries will rise from $4,800 to $19,800 at rookie ball, $11,000 to $26,200 at Low Class A, $11,000 to $27,300 at High Class A, $13,800 to $27,300 at Double A and $17,500 to $35,800 at Triple-A. Players will be paid in the offseason for the first time.


Lawsuit promised if crisis pregnancy center regulatory bill becomes law

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* SB1909 synopsis

Prohibits a limited services pregnancy center from engaging in unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices: (1) to interfere with or prevent an individual from seeking to gain entry or access to a provider of abortion or emergency contraception; (2) to induce an individual to enter or access the limited services pregnancy center; (3) in advertising, soliciting, or otherwise offering pregnancy-related services; or (4) in conducting, providing, or performing pregnancy-related services. Defines terms. Sets forth legislative intent. Effective immediately.

It passed the Senate today and the roll call is here.

* Press release…

State Senator Celina Villanueva’s measure to holds crisis pregnancy centers from using deceptive practices that interfere with women’s health care decisions continues the fight for equal healthcare reproductive rights for women in Illinois.

“The protection of women’s reproductive healthcare rights is something I will continue to put at the forefront of legislation,” said Villanueva D-Chicago). “Pregnancy is a life changing event in a woman’s life and brings up an array of emotions that deserve to be met with care rather than judgement and shame. “Any woman seeking guidance on what she should do when faced with pregnancy, should not be misled, bamboozled, or made to feel like they are doing something wrong for making the best medical decisions for their lives.”

Senate Bill 1909 prohibits the use of deceptive practices to interfere with an individual seeking to gain entry or access to the provider of an abortion or emergency contraceptives, induce an individual to enter a limited services pregnancy center, in advertising, soliciting, or otherwise offering pregnancy-related services, or in providing pregnancy-related services.

While crisis pregnancy centers may advertise themselves as health care clinics, many of these facilities provide very limited services, such as basic ultrasounds and counseling intended to discourage and limit access to abortion. Some centers are located near clinics that provide comprehensive reproductive health care and use names similar to these clinics in order to misdirect patients. Many provide misleading information overstating the risks associated with abortion, including conveying false claims that abortion causes cancer or infertility.

“Crisis pregnancy centers will often look like an abortion clinic, but often these professionals are not licensed and do not have licensed staff that can carry out proper medical procedures that will benefit women in need,” said Villanueva. “Deceptive practices can cause more harm than help and we need hold those who are at fault responsible for the mental, physical and emotion stress they are causing women all across the state.”

Senate Bill 1909 passed in the Senate and is headed to the House for further consideration.

Some provided audio is here.

* AG Raoul…

Attorney General Kwame Raoul applauded the Senate’s passage of his legislation to hold crisis pregnancy centers that engage in deceptive practices accountable.

Illinois law establishes the fundamental rights of individuals to make autonomous decisions about their reproductive health. There have been reports in Illinois and nationwide of limited services pregnancy centers, often referred to as “crisis pregnancy centers,” using deceptive and misleading practices to spread false information and interfere with patients’ timely access to the full range of reproductive care.

“I experienced deceptive crisis pregnancy center tactics firsthand on a visit to a Planned Parenthood health center in Illinois. People who appeared as though they might work there were outside attempting to divert us away from the health center,” Raoul said. “Patients report going to crisis pregnancy centers – sometimes even receiving exams and ultrasounds – thinking they were visiting a different clinic that offers the full range of reproductive care. This is an extreme violation of trust and patient privacy that should not occur in our state. I would like to thank members of the Senate for passing legislation to help my office hold those engaging in deceptive practices accountable.”

Senate Bill 1909, sponsored by Sen. Celina Villanueva, was approved by the Senate and will now be considered by the House.

“There is a war on people’s ability to make informed decisions about their reproductive health care,” said Sen. Villanueva. “Workers at crisis pregnancy centers should not be able to deceptively mislead women into making decisions that aren’t the best for them or their futures. When you go to the doctor and someone appears to be medical staff, you trust they are medical staff. You trust your ability to make autonomous, informed, evidence-based decisions. Reproductive health care should be no different.”

The mission of most crisis pregnancy centers is to convince pregnant people to carry to term and not have an abortion. While crisis pregnancy centers may advertise their services generally to pregnant people, many of these centers offer very limited services, such as basic ultrasounds and counseling against abortion. Many provide misleading information overstating the risks associated with abortion, including conveying false claims that abortion causes cancer or infertility.

Some are located near clinics that do provide comprehensive reproductive care and use names similar to clinics to misdirect patients from the full range of information and care that it is their right to access. Crisis pregnancy centers do not provide abortions or referrals for abortions. Many do not provide contraceptives or comprehensive prenatal care. They often do not have any medical professionals on site, and they do not necessarily disclose any of these limitations in their online or in-person materials. They also may not keep medical records and personal information private and confidential.

In addition to initiating SB 1909, Attorney General Raoul offered recommendations to patients seeking reproductive care to ensure they can access the full range of health services. Patients should check to be certain that they are entering the correct facility because crisis pregnancy centers may be located near abortion clinics and use similar names to divert women away from abortion providers. They should also make sure the facility they plan to visit offers the full range of reproductive care options if that is what they seek.

* Jennifer Welch, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action…

“We applaud the Illinois Senate for passing Senate Bill 1909. This bill holds anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) accountable for deceiving and misinforming people as they are trying to receive reproductive health care. For decades, CPCs have systematically employed deception, fraud, and false pretense to get people in their doors with the goal of denying them abortion access. Often CPCs pose as legitimate health care organizations yet do not have licensed medical staff or follow privacy laws. Thank you to State Senator Celina Villanueva for sponsoring this important legislation. We encourage the Illinois House to pass the bill. If this is signed into law, individuals can file complaints and the Illinois Attorney General will be able to bring legal action against CPCs for their harmful and deceptive practices.”

* Thomas More Society…

“Senate Bill 1909 is a radical attempt to silence and chill the speech of pro-life advocates in Illinois,” stated Peter Breen, former Illinois state legislator and the Executive Vice President and Head of Litigation for the Thomas More Society. “The bill is presented as a ‘consumer protection’ measure, but its purpose is to protect abortion clinics from competition—the supporters of this bill object to pro-life organizations’ highly successful efforts to convince abortion clinic customers to choose life for their children, instead of aborting them. By exempting pro-abortion speech and applying an opaque floating standard against pro-life speech, the bill directly and illegally targets Illinois’ pro-life organizations for civil injunctions and tens of thousands of dollars in fines. This bill is flagrantly unconstitutional, and if it becomes law, we will immediately file suit to protect pro-life organizations’ right to free speech.”


That toddlin’ town roundup

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Brandon Johnson constantly says he “managed” a multi-billion dollar budget at Cook County. It’s pretty ridic, as the Tribune points out

But Johnson’s record is complicated by the realities of serving since late 2018 as one of the junior members on a 17-person body where President Toni Preckwinkle, who has endorsed Johnson, runs a tight ship and much of the real decision-making is top-down. […]

Preckwinkle and her financial team design the county’s annual budget and drive many of the policy decisions, taking suggestions from commissioners before the board passes their plans with overwhelming support. The Cook County Board president wears the jacket for those choices, as the mayor does for the city budget.

* I am flabbergasted at Vallas’ blatant flip-flop on this, but the reweeted thread does give a progressive explanation for Johnson’s angle…

* Another surprisingly good get for Vallas…

Democratic mayoral candidate Paul Vallas is being endorsed by Chicago baseball great and World Series champion Ozzie Guillen. A local legend as a player, manager and broadcaster for the Chicago White Sox, Guillen is supportive of Vallas’ plans to make the city safer, improve public schools and grow the local economy.

Guillen released a video endorsement that is available here:

“I love Chicago, I’ve made this city my home, and I know that Paul Vallas is the right choice for Mayor,” said Guillen. “We need a Mayor who will hit the ball out of the ballpark, and Paul Vallas is the candidate to do it. He will make our city safer, improve our public schools and invest in every neighborhood. We’re getting close to the 9th inning in this election, and I’m encouraging all Chicagoans to join me in supporting Paul Vallas so he can bring home a big win for our city.”

“Ozzie Guillen is a legend in our city and I’m so excited to have his support as we head down the final stretch of this election,” said Vallas. “I grew up in Roseland as a huge Sox fan, and baseball is such an important part of our city’s culture and history. I’m running to be a Mayor for all Chicagoans, and whether you’re a Cubs fan or a Sox fan we can all agree that we need a safer, more prosperous Chicago.”

* Preaching to the choir…

* Without any real money behind it, this is also mainly just preaching to the choir [UPDATE: The campaign now says this is going up on cable TV]…

Yesterday, news broke that Donald Trump was indicted by a grand jury in New York. Shortly thereafter, audio surfaced of Paul Vallas calling Trump’s impeachment a “witch hunt” in February 2021. This morning, the Brandon for Chicago campaign released a new digital ad, “Witch Hunt?”, exposing Paul Vallas’ opposition to holding Donald Trump accountable.

VALLAS: “And, you know, I always felt that it was a witch hunt. I mean, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t make mistakes and that Trump has acted irresponsibly and I’ve certainly been a critic of what he’s done. But at some point it is time to move on”

Here are five questions Paul Vallas must answer NOW about his stance on Donald Trump:

    Why did Paul Vallas call Donald Trump’s second impeachment a “witch hunt”?

    Does Vallas believe Donald Trump incited an insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021 despite his endorsers dismissing the violence of that day?

    Does Vallas also believe the Mueller Investigation was a “witch hunt”?

    Will Vallas reject any further donations from Donald Trump donors, who so far have fueled his campaign with more than $1 million in campaign contributions?

    In 2021, Vallas described the Biden Administration as “a circus in terms of the administration’s inability to manage anything” and said, “it’s just incompetency,” and “I think they’re clueless, quite frankly.” Does Vallas stand by his own harsh criticism of the President?

The ad is here.

* The choir preaches back…

Today, the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association (CPAA) released their Mayoral Survey results, showing that Brandon Johnson was selected by 62% of principals and administrators who selected a candidate.

“Who better to chime in on which candidate should run the school system than the men and women who run each school in that system?” said Troy LaRaviere, President of CPAAA. “In a way, these survey results are more powerful than an endorsement because they represent the full breadth and depth of the mayoral preferences of Chicago’s school leaders rather than the decision of a handful of association officers.”

* Background is here if you need it…

The guy in the last pic appears to be this person. Sometimes, I think Steve Rhodes had a decent point.

* Ouch…

…Adding… Brandon Johnson release…

Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas is falsely denying his connections to former President Trump’s former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and an Illinois Super PAC that DeVos funds.

DeVos funds and controls the Illinois Federation for Children PAC which made a $59,000 independent expenditure in support of Vallas’ campaign last week. On the same day, DeVos’ American Federation for Children Action Fund, a national 527 PAC funded primarily by DeVos and her husband, made a $65,000 contribution to the Illinois Federation for Children PAC.

Yesterday evening at the Sun-Times-WBEZ mayoral debate, Vallas denied having contact with DeVos, stating “I’ve never had any conversations or contact with Betsy DeVos. And our campaign has not received any money from her.”

The Vallas campaign said on Wednesday evening that “our campaign has not been in contact with this organization [Illinois Federation for Children PAC].”

In reality, Vallas and DeVos served together as hosts at an Urban League of Chicago event on September, 9 2021 in honor of the superintendent of schools of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

Moreover, the chair of the Illinois Federation for Children PAC Nathan Hoffman has been regularly attending Vallas campaign events in the last month, including Vallas’ February 28th election night party:

Hoffman was a registered contract lobbyist in Springfield for the DeVos-founded and funded 501c4 American Federation for Children until January 2023.

On June 18, 2022, Vallas appeared on a panel hosted by extremist anti-LGBTQ+ group Awake Illinois with keynote speaker Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at DeVos-founded and funded American Federation for Children.

Paul Vallas’ decades-long history of privatizing multiple school districts in the US and extensive support for transferring public funds to private schools are tightly aligned with DeVos’ ideological opposition to the existence of publicly-run, publicly-funded schools.

* Heh…

* Isabel’s roundup…


The art of the possible

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Synopsis of Sen. Rachel Ventura’s SB1653 as originally introduced

Requires the Department of Transportation, local authorities, or any responsible entity to erect and maintain hazard bars for all viaducts and underpasses with a clearance of less than 15 feet. Provides that the hazard bar shall hang at the same clearance level as the viaduct or underpass and at least 500 feet in front of the viaduct or underpass to alert motorists.

I get what she was trying to do there, but, as you might imagine, it did bring out a lot of opposition.

The Illinois Municipal League, the Township Officials, the Mid-West Truckers Association and the Illinois Trucking Association all registered in opposition to Sen. Ventura’s original bill.

Amendment 1 convinced the Illinois Municipal League to go neutral, but the others were still opposed and ABATE added its own opposition.

* So, she tried again. From Amendment 2

Low-clearance early warning device pilot program. The Department shall establish a pilot program to erect early warning devices on or near bridges or viaducts in this State. Early warning devices may include LiDAR, radar, visual signals, or additional signage. The Department may work with interested stakeholders to identify bridges and viaducts for the erection of early warning devices on roads outside of the Department’s jurisdiction. The Department may work with the University of Illinois on the pilot program. The pilot program shall include, but shall not be limited to, evaluating the effectiveness of early warning devices, developing design specifications, and projecting estimated costs. The Department may adopt administrative rules regarding the pilot program. The Department or local authority responsible for maintaining an early warning device may impose a fine on a motorist who damages an early warning device. The fine shall not exceed $1,000.

That second amendment convinced the two truckers’ groups to go neutral. Nobody else registered in opposition.

* Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) rose to speak on the bill today

I’d like to commend the sponsor as a freshman, the rest of us could all take a lesson from. When you let the committee process work, it works very well. You get a better piece of legislation. When you listen to the input from your colleagues, you get a better piece of legislation. When you take the time to amend it based upon that input, you get a better piece of legislation. This is a much better piece of legislation than it started.

I hope that we can all take a lesson from this freshman sponsor, and realize that shotgunning stuff through at the last minute really doesn’t help get anything done in the long term. So I’m very excited for this. And I thank the sponsor for actually taking the time to listen to members on both sides of the aisle who had very constructive input. … My mentor a long time ago, Rep. Bill Black, told me when you let this process work, it works very well. And this is an example of it.

Sen. Ventura’s close

I want to thank my colleagues for helping me through this very frustrating bill. But I’m happy to have it passed and maybe see less trucks jammed underneath viaducts and bridges in the future. Thank you for the ‘aye’ vote.

The bill passed 56-0.

* I bring this up because Ventura had a reputation in Will County as a progressive, rabble-rousing challenger of the status quo. Many people told me they were convinced she’d alienate her Statehouse colleagues and get nothing done.

So, needless to say, not a lot of folks probably had “Chapin Rose praising Rachel Ventura” on their 2023 legislative bingo cards back in January.

People can be wrong. People can also learn.


It’s just a bill

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Sen. Sue Rezin’s SB76 to lift Illinois’ moratorium on nuclear power plant construction passed 39-13. Capitol News Illinois

“The bill is going to come to the House with a lot of momentum,” Rezin said in an interview after the bill passed. “The unions are out and working their members to explain the importance of the bill and to just explain the technology.” […]

Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, said the bill was “still not fully baked,” adding that the question of what is done with nuclear waste still doesn’t have a solution.

“Whether it’s one pound or a thousand pounds, it’s still nuclear waste,” he said. “We can’t wait for a national strategy, in my opinion.” […]

Some of the state’s largest environmental groups, including the Illinois Environmental Council, oppose the measure. Jack Darin, the head of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club, told Capitol News Illinois earlier this month that his organization doesn’t believe nuclear energy is “clean energy,” citing concerns over the environmental impact of nuclear waste.

A similar bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Mark Walker, D-Arlington Heights. That measure, House Bill 1079, was approved in committee with a bipartisan majority, 18-3, although it hasn’t been heard by the full House.

* SJ-R

Legislation from state Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, passed with only one dissenting vote, 55-1, and would change several stipulations of supplier licenses.

Under the Sports Wagering Act (SWA), signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker in 2019, applicants owed a nonrefundable license and application fee of $150,000 dedicated to the IGB. Currently, these initial licenses last for four years before the license holder would have to pay another $150,000 annually to maintain them. […]

Senate Bill 1462 from state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, would also deal with licenses and passed in a 44-12 vote mostly along party lines. Senate Minority Leader John Curran was among the six Republicans backing the legislation.

The bill updates eligibility standards for those seeking an occupational license, specifically with regard to their criminal record. IGB would be required to consider length of time since conviction, number of convictions and the severity of the charges among other factors when reviewing an individual’s application through the legislation.


The Illinois Senate unanimously approved a plan Thursday night to help address the shortage of firefighters and EMTs.

Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) worked with Sen. Neil Anderson (R-Moline) to create an EMT training, recruitment, and retention task force.

They hope this group can address the impact this shortage is having on the state’s EMS and health care systems. The bill also requires the task force to recommend how EMT testing and certification requirements affect recruitment and retention efforts. Senate Bill 761 notes that the group should also discuss how apprenticeship programs can be utilized to help recruit and retain EMRs, EMTs, and paramedics. […]

Nine members of the task force would represent rural and ground ambulance providers while three members would bring the perspective of hospitals. The proposal also calls for members representing the State Board of Education, community colleges, and a statewide association of nursing homes.

* Sen. Martwick…

State Senator Robert Martwick has passed a measure that would prohibit companies from using personal data gathered from retirement plan participants to sell products and services that are not related to the plan.

“When an employee deposits their money in a retirement savings account, they trust the people handling their money are working in their best interest,” said Martwick (D-Chicago). “As we have seen throughout history, unfortunately, this is not always the case.”

The measure enacts a series of strict conflict of interest provisions. Included in the measure are rules regarding companies who perform contracted recordkeeping services for public employee deferred compensation plans.

Current law does not prevent the recordkeeping companies from making use of the personal data provided to them to solicit plan holders. Martwick’s measure would ensure that they could no longer act outside the plan holder’s best interest, and solicit them with services they do not need.

“Account holders’ data should be kept safe from being used for financial product marketing and predatory practices from large financial corporations,” Martwick said.

Senate Bill 1646 passed the Senate Thursday sand now goes to the House for further consideration.

* Scott Holland

When it comes to government, simple solutions are in short supply.

Consider House Bill 2500, which passed 107-0 March 24. State Rep. Harry Benton, D-Plainfield, filed the plan to waive animal shelter adoption fees for Illinois veterans, allowing one free dog or cat adoption every two years. […]

I’m not a veteran but we have two rescue mutts. Our fee covered micro-chipping, vaccines and the spay/neuter procedures at a partnering veterinarian. The rescue and its volunteers incurred expenses transporting the dogs to the suburbs and foster care, plus general website and office costs. […]

Perhaps the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Health and Welfare could certify veteran adoptions and send checks to the rescues, or the veterans could qualify for 1:1 state income tax credits. It’s easy to imagine the pushback if the state ordered county health departments to create veteran pet adoption funds, even if they could pass it along through increased rabies tag fees.

Maybe pet food and supply companies could get tax credits for donating to a fund that would cover the adoption fees, perhaps with an annual cap on expenditures. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars or other groups might consider helping such an effort, although it’s not as if those groups are presently flush with excess cash. […]

We’re not talking about huge sums, but whenever government pledges waiving a fee, it’s fair to ask who ultimately pays and if there might be a better option.

* Scott Reeder at the Illinois Times

The options for disposing of human remains in Illinois are limited. You can be buried, entombed or cremated. But a bill pending before the Illinois General Assembly would add another option: composting.

That process turns human remains into soil over the course of a few weeks. Companies that offer this service place a person’s remains in a container with wood chips, straw and other organic material and heat it to accelerate the growth of bacteria that breaks down the body.

LeNette Van Haverbeke, a representative of Illinois Cemetery and Funeral Home Association, told lawmakers that many in the field “oppose human composting as lacking the traditional dignity afforded to the dead.”

Call me a cynic, but could it be that some in the funeral home industry don’t like this idea because it limits their ability to upsell grieving loved ones on expensive caskets, vaults and burial plots?

* Sen. Mike Simmons…

To encourage cooperative housing developments, State Senator Mike Simmons advanced a measure out of the Senate on Thursday.

“Many communities across Illinois are experiencing a severe shortage of affordable housing,” said Simmons (D-Chicago). “Cooperative housing models help to fill that gap by providing lower-income individuals access to long-term permanent housing.”

Senate Bill 1484 creates the Cooperative Housing Fund, which would be used by the Illinois Housing Development Authority to award up to $5 million in grants to organizations developing cooperative housing for residents with an income less than or equal to the median income within the municipality.

This measure will promote cooperative housing, a form of housing where entities own the residential building, but its residents are shareholders of the entity. Cooperative housing provides a viable alternative to homeownership for low- to middle-income earners who may not be able to buy a home, while adding a key affordable housing option to those who need it.

* Senate Majority Leader Lightford’s SB16 passed the Senate yesterday…

Building upon her steadfast leadership to take a more holistic, trauma-informed approach in schools, Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford passed a measure to equip schools with the training and resources they need to meet the diverse trauma and mental health needs of students. […]

Schools across the state would be equipped with training and resources to meet the diverse trauma and mental health needs of students, under Lightford’s measure. The Illinois State Board of Education would create a Children’s Adversity Index, which would measure community childhood trauma exposure across the population of children 3-18 years old by May 31, 2025.

ISBE, under the bill, would create a committee to make recommendations amending education licensing requirements to include training on adverse childhood experiences, trauma, secondary traumatic stress, and creating trauma-responsive learning environments and/or communities.

* Naperville Sun

The Illinois House has approved a measure sponsored by state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, of Naperville, that would allow the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office to deny grant funding to public and school libraries if they ban books or fail to devise policies against removing titles from their stacks.

The 69-39 party-line vote in the Democratic-led House reflected the partisan divide on the book-banning issue both in the state and nationally. The bill is now being considered by the Senate. […]

Republican state Rep. Martin McLaughlin called the bill “a complete go-around and end-around on the local control and authority” of elected library boards.

“I think it’s (a) very blatant attempt to strong-arm our local communities and how they want to direct their libraries to operate and function,” said McLaughlin, of Barrington Hills. “I don’t understand why we have local elections anymore if a bill like this passes.”

Moments before the bill passed, Stava-Murray called the “local control” argument “disgusting,” saying it is “a dog whistle for allowing statewide or nationwide racist or bigoted policies to persist.”

* Sen. Ann Gillespie…

To further prevent discrimination while looking for a place to live, State Senator Ann Gillespie passed legislation out of the Senate on Thursday that prohibits the consideration of immigration status during a real estate transaction.

“Those looking to rent or purchase property in Illinois should not be treated differently because of their immigration status,” said Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights). “Putting these protections in place will promote fairness to ensure people are not unjustly denied housing.”

Senate Bill 1817 amends the Illinois Human Rights Act to provide that it is a civil rights violation to consider immigration status when renting or selling property, including a refusal to engage in a transaction, receive or transmit offers, or negotiate terms of a deal. It would also prohibit a third party loan modification service provider from refusing to engage in loan modification services or altering the terms of such services based on a person’s immigration status. Inquiry or use of immigration status would still be allowed when required by either state or federal law. […]

The measure will now move to the House for consideration.


Judge calls election fraud lawsuit “an attack on the legitimacy and security of our elections”

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here if you need it. We briefly talked about this story before, but here’s the Daily Southtown

A Will County judge dismissed an election fraud case Thursday filed by the losing candidate in the 2022 race for Will County clerk that claimed mathematic formulas showed the final vote count was fraudulent.

Republican Gretchen Fritz filed the lawsuit Dec. 28, claiming she believes “mistakes and fraud have been committed in the casting and counting of ballots” in the race because her opponent, Democratic Will County Clerk Lauren Staley Ferry, received more votes than Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

* Let’s take a look at Judge Anderson’s ruling

Specifically, the petition states that Ms. Fritz, “in good faith based upon reasonable inquiry,” “believes that mistakes and fraud have been committed in the casting and counting of ballots for the office Will County Clerk,” in such a way “that the outcome of the … election was predetermined.” Ms. Fritz bases her remarkable claims on the following: (1) the fact that Ms. Staley received 4,358 more votes in Will County than did Governor JB Pritzker; (2) the gubernatorial election entailed vastly more media coverage, spending, and superior ballot position than did the County Clerk’s race; and (3) mathematical “analyses” by Messrs. Edward Solomon and Walter Daugherity supposedly establishing that the election “does not reflect the [w]ill of the [p]eople, but the [d]emand of an [a]lgorithm,” and that the vote totals were “artificially contrived according to a predetermined plan or algorithm.”

Ms. Fritz seeks an extraordinary remedy to match her extraordinary claims. She requests (1) a finding that the election was the predetermined result of a fraudulent and manipulated voting process; (2) an order declaring the office of Will County Clerk vacant; (3) an order requiring a new election to be held; and (4) an order that votes be cast with paper ballots and physically hand counted. Equally extraordinary is the remedy Ms. Fritz does not seek: a recount and/or examination of the paper ballots that were actually cast and counted.

Emphasis added.

* I love this first graf

We do not use algorithmic, logarithmic, or statistical analyses to determine official election results. Generally speaking, we use addition.

Consequently, the “analyses” allegedly performed by Messrs. Solomon and Daugherity offer “expertise” that is no more valuable than that which a person with basic arithmetic skills could provide. Even the materials attached to Ms. Fritz’ response brief acknowledge that election forensics “do[] not produce definitive proof of fraud, only statistical anomalies. Finding proof for or explanation of the anomalies could come from in-person electoral monitoring or other social science research ….” Here, Illinois law provides a variety of tools which can actually produce definitive proof of vote counting fraud, such as recounts and in-person election monitoring-yet Ms. Fritz does not request or rely on any of that.

* Conclusion

Fritz’ lawsuit is, in sum and substance, an attack on the legitimacy and security of our elections- an attack no less disturbing than the one imagined in her petition. Abraham Lincoln once said, “elections belong to the people.” Setting aside the electorate’s voice in the County Clerk’s race based on how many votes someone else got in some other race, and based on mathematical probability analyses “would disenfranchise all voters who voted *** and who did nothing wrong in exercising their right to vote.” Accordingly, Ms. Staley’s motion to dismiss is granted; the Verified Election Contest Petition is dismissed on 2-615 grounds.

* Back to the Southtown

[Staley Ferry’s attorney Burt Odelson], who has been an election law attorney for 50 years, said in court Thursday he had “never ever” seen a case like this one, which he said was not based on facts or presented specific allegations but seemingly came from a “cosmic ray from Mars.”

Odelson said Solomon presented mathematical theories on elections that have been debunked in other election cases.

A previous analysis by Solomon is part of a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against One America News Network, after Solomon told the network the results in Fulton County, Georgia, for the 2020 presidential election “can only have been done by an algorithm.”


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Star ComEd 4 prosecution witness grilled hard by defense

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* I talked with two reporters who are covering the ComEd 4 trial and they both said yesterday’s cross-examination of Fidel Marquez by Mike McClain’s attorney Patrick Cotter was truly intense. Here’s Jon Seidel and Tina Sfondeles

Fidel Marquez made a decision four years ago that might have saved the longtime ComEd executive from dying in prison: He joined Chicago’s long list of government moles and began to secretly record his friends and colleagues for the FBI.

But Thursday, while being grilled on a federal witness stand, Marquez learned that decision can come with a price. With the eyes of his since-indicted former co-workers burning in Marquez’s direction, defense attorney Patrick Cotter pointed their way.

He demanded of Marquez, “You didn’t choose to sit over there, did you?”

“You decided to become their worker,” Cotter said, referring to the feds. “And make calls when they wanted to make calls, and go to meetings and tell lies they wanted you to tell.”

Go read the whole thing. Whew.

* Jason Meisner and Ray Long

Cotter also had harsh criticism for the deal the 61-year-old Marquez struck with investigators, in which he agreed to wire up on his colleagues and eventually pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy. Marquez could have faced the rest of his life in prison, but prosecutors will instead recommend that he get no jail time, Marquez has testified.

“So the government offered something you wanted — not to die in prison — and you offered something they wanted, your testimony,” Cotter said. “That wasn’t a bribe, was it?”

“No,” Marquez answered.

Again, there’s lots more.

* Hannah Meisel

Cotter noted that for the first year of Marquez’s cooperation with the government, he still insisted he had not done anything criminal, attempting to paint his eventual guilty plea in September 2020 as a purely opportunistic move to avoid prison time.

“You understood that if you persisted in saying you were innocent, you could be criminally charged and potentially face 30 years in prison,” Cotter said.

Marquez responded with the exact maximum prison sentence: “405 months,” which is “33 years and five months,” Marquez offered.

“You remember,” Cotter replied. “And you remember because it’s important to you.…that’s why you’re sitting where you’re sitting.”

Cotter reminded the jury that FBI agents did not record their initial two-hour conversation with Marquez.

“By the end of that two hours, you had decided, without consulting with anybody on the planet except possibly the two FBI agents, that you were going to cooperate with the government and…(wear) a recording device and (record) your friends and co-workers, right?” Cotter asked Marquez.

“Yes,” Marquez responded.

And again, click here for more.

* Steve Daniels

Likewise, the existence of voluminous emails where McClain leans on Marquez and ComEd to hire or find work for people at Madigan’s request should suggest that McClain had no criminal intent, Cotter said.

“Did Mike McClain ever say, let’s not send emails about this? Come by my office and we’ll talk?” Cotter asked Marquez.

After all, Cotter told Marquez, “You know emails never go away. The government can always find emails if they want.”

“Clearly,” Marquez said dryly, drawing laughs in the courtroom.

* Matt Masterson

He also played a recorded phone call Thursday from May 2018 between Marquez, Pramaggiore and McClain in which they discussed strategies for defeating a rate increase bill backed by Madigan’s daughter, then-Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

On the call, the trio discuss using “all of our assets” — including labor unions, vendors, customers and municipal leaders — and “pulling out all the stops” to kill the legislation. But they make no mention of involving Madigan himself.

“At any point in this conversation, does McClain say, ‘Well, I’ll just go to the speaker because he owes us and I’ll ask him to ask Lisa to change the bill or pull it?’” Cotter asked.

“No. … He never said words like that,” Marquez said.

* Isabel’s roundup…


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Open thread

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Happy Friday! What’s going on in your part of Illinois?…


Isabel’s morning briefing

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

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Live coverage

Friday, Mar 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

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* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser list
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