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Afternoon Roundup

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Governor Pritzker kicked off his statewide tour detailing the budget. State Journal-Register

Gov. JB Pritzker at the University of Illinois-Springfield Student Union touted the budget, now awaiting his signature, as including several line items for construction projects on campus and increases investment into the Monetary Award Program by $100 million. Fiscal year 2024, starting in July, will have $701 million in total investment into program — a 75% increase since the beginning of the Pritzker administration. […]

“With this new budget we’re making it possible for nearly every student from a low, moderate or middle-income family to go to community college tuition free,” Pritzker said, kicking off a statewide tour detailing the budget. “Getting a college or university degree shouldn’t strap you in debt for the rest of your life.”

Rep. Mike Coffey, R-Springfield, was also in attendance and expressed support for several appropriations and reappropriations heading towards UIS.

He and all other Republicans in both chambers, however, voted against the budget. Coffey’s reasons for his ‘no’ vote were namely due to another increase to state legislator pay and feeling left-out on budget negotiations with the super-majority party.

* An update of an earlier post

* Last day folks…

TODAY, May 31st is the deadline to apply for the vacancy in the 1st District of the Cook County Board of Commissioners created by the resignation of Mayor Brandon Johnson. Democratic Oak Park Township Committeeman Don Harmon released details on this process May 17th.

All registered voters residing in the district are eligible to submit an application via email at firstdistrictvacancy@gmail.com.

As a reminder, Mayor Johnson announced his resignation from the Cook County Board on May 13th, 2023 thus creating a vacancy to be filled by the elected Committee members of the Cook County Townships and Chicago Wards that comprise the 1st District. As the Committeeman with the highest number of “weighted votes,” Harmon will serve as the Chair of the proceedings.

“We welcome all applicants from the 1st District to serve the people of Cook County,” said Chair Don Harmon. “Anyone interested in applying to our committee for the appointment should submit a resume and a short cover letter signifying their interest and qualifications before the end of today,” he concluded. […]

After the application period is closed, the election committee may narrow the field of applicants and set a date and time for in-person interviews. Upon completion of interviews and deliberation, the committee will vote on the appointment of the new commissioner. A vote of the majority of the weighted votes will determine the appointee.

* Crain’s on that other budget

It looks like Illinois congressmen will be all over the map on the big debt extension bill, with a House vote now set for this afternoon.

Absolutely no one on either side of the aisle is saying they like the pact between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Perhaps that signals it’s a good deal. Whether or not you agree, passage will depend on how many votes the measure gets from the political center, with hard-right conservatives and way-left progressives peeling off. […]

Among Illinois reps who have so far expressed an opinion in an an interview, statement or online — some are still keeping mum — there is one sure “no” vote. That’s from downstate conservative Mary Miller. […]

“I have serious concerns,” particularly about but not limited to food stamps and work requirements, Ramirez said in a statement. Beyond that, reclaiming unspent COVID relief money could have a “tremendous” impact on Illinois, and changes in environmental permitting will potentially worsen pollution. Ramirez said she’ll decide after reviewing the fine print of the deal.

* Block Club Chicago

After four years of barricades, ID checks and protests, Lori Lightfoot’s neighbors have their block back.

Lightfoot’s security detail, which reportedly totaled more than 70 officers, was slashed earlier this month after Brandon Johnson was sworn in as mayor, marking the end of what some neighbors called “Fort Lori.”

The Chicago Police Department conducted a “needs assessment” of Lightfoot’s detail and “adjusted resources to meet current demands,” police spokesman Don Terry said. Terry didn’t answer further questions, including how many officers were pulled. […]

Liz said she and other neighbors were so ecstatic to be rid of the large security detail — and the restrictions that came along with it — that they had a celebratory champagne toast when the block cleared out.

* Which brings me to this Sun-Times story. No word if Mayor Johnson’s security detail were involved but his name was in the headline

A neighbor of Mayor Brandon Johnson is accused of beating and stabbing a woman so many times over the weekend that a worker for the Cook County medical examiner’s office remarked he had “never seen so many injuries on someone’s body,” prosecutors said in court Tuesday.

Arnel Smith, 64, was charged with first-degree murder and concealment of a homicide after the woman’s body was found early Saturday in an alley behind Smith’s home in the 5700 block of West Superior Street.

The 41-year-old woman, whose name hasn’t been released, was beaten with a baseball bat and stabbed with shards of broken pottery, Assistant State’s Attorney Anne McCord Rodgers said.

Smithknew the woman before crossing paths with her Friday night at a Citgo gas station near Chicago and Hamlin avenues, Rodgers said. The two went back to Smith’s home where they used drugs, she said.

* Here’s the roundup…

    * WBEZ | Chicago City Council approves $51 million in aid for migrants after racially-heated debate: Dueling boos and cheers rang out each time members of the public spoke in support of the funding Wednesday. The meeting paused shortly as shouts from the public were so loud and boisterous, they overtook the proceedings that Mayor Brandon Johnson struggled to reel in. The debate was at times racially-charged as alderpersons and residents spoke out about where the city dedicates resources.

    * Triibe | Support for asylum seekers builds despite pushback: The shuttered Wadsworth Elementary School in Woodlawn has been used as a shelter for asylum seekers since the beginning of February. As of April 25, the total number of people sheltered at Wadsworth was 496, with 428 of them being males and sixty-eight being females. This solution was not without pushback from Alds. Jeanette Taylor (20th), Michelle Harris (8th), nor many of their constituents. Taylor said she was never informed by the Lightfoot administration that it would be setting up an encampment there. Taylor said she asked for a conversation back in October, shortly after buses full of asylum seekers sent from Texas sent by Gov. Greg Abbott began arriving in Chicago, but she never received one.

    * American Independent | The dark money funding conservative anti-trans groups: The donors identified by the American Independent Foundation as major supporters of the anti-trans groups profiled in this story are among the most powerful and wealthy on the American right: Leonard Leo, the conservative judicial activist who helped former President Donald Trump pick his Supreme Court nominees and who controls a billion-dollar funding apparatus; Richard Uihlein, the GOP megadonor who has bankrolled far-right and election-denying candidates; and members of the Koch donor network of nonprofit political organizations spearheaded by the conservative billionaire Charles Koch and his late brother, David.

    * WICS | Summer months see more crime and assault in central Illinois: “With the hot weather, people tend to drink more. We have a lot of factors that go into play here where the crime rates are going to rise across the board. Especially in assaults where you have more interaction with people,” said Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell. In 2021 and 2022, Decatur saw an average of 59 aggravated assault cases per month for nine months of the year.

    * Axios | Why TikTok wants its new data privacy trial held in Illinois: The company has requested that the new lawsuits, which accuse TikTok of accessing user data through third-party websites on the app’s browser, be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. It’s the same courtroom where a judge approved a $92 million class-action settlement that sent $167 checks to users in 2022. […] “TikTok is now coming back to the Northern District to ask if these new claims are covered by the $92 million settlement.”

    * WIFR | Rockford mayor unfazed by protestors during 6th State of the City Address: Protestors delayed the start of the speech by five minutes but the mayor seemed unfazed, touting what he calls improvements made to better the Forest City. […] He cited other accomplishments during his tenure including making water safe by replacing lead pipes, bringing more businesses to the area and implementing more sidewalks and streetlights into neighborhoods.

    * Tribune | Cook County program touted as one of the ‘top eviction prevention innovations’ has drawn praise, pushback: But the innovation has brought additional challenges. Before the pandemic, it could take just a few weeks for a tenant to be evicted. Now it takes at least a couple of months. The slowdown, tenants’ attorneys argue, is necessary to ensure that everyone, including landlords, gets the help that they need. But the extra time leads to financial distress for property owners, argue landlords’ attorneys.

    * WBEZ | Outdoor dining program could become permanent: The City Council’s License Committee unanimously advanced Mayor Brandon Johnson’s plan to make permanent an al fresco dining program that helped many restaurants and bars survive during the pandemic.

    * Jen walling | What Illinois can do since Supreme Court gutted federal protection of wetlands, waterways: You may not immediately see the impacts, but they will soon be felt by all of us. Stormwater displaced by the loss of wetlands that would normally absorb excess water must go somewhere. Certainly, some will find a way into our streets, homes, and businesses. Wetlands are an invaluable natural resource. They reduce flooding, filter out pollutants from water, provide habitat for a host of endangered species, and help reduce climate-warming carbon in our atmosphere. In Illinois, more than 85% of our wetlands have already been lost to development, according to the Illinois State Water Plan. Remaining wetlands are already suffering decreased biodiversity and an influx of difficult-to-control invasive species.

    * Tribune | Former Chicago cop charged with pinning Park Ridge teen to the ground last summer to stand trial Monday: Almost a year after he was charged for wrestling a young Park Ridge teen face down on a sidewalk in Park Ridge’s Uptown area, former Chicago Police Department Sergeant Michael Vitellaro will stand trial June 5, according to court records.

    * Crain’s | Johnson looks for more legislative wins at special City Council meeting: Last week, at Johnson’s first full City Council meeting, Ald. Ray Lopez, 15th, Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, and Ald. Anthony Napolitano, 41st, used a parliamentary maneuver to block a vote on the $51 million, which is being taken from a 2021 revenue surplus and meant to fund the city’s response through June. In response, Johnson and his allies called a special meeting for Wednesday to hold the vote. The ordinance is expected to easily be approved.

    * AP | Earth is ‘really quite sick now’ and in danger zone in nearly all ecological ways, study says: The study by the international scientist group Earth Commission published in Wednesday’s journal Nature looks at climate, air pollution, phosphorus and nitrogen contamination of water from fertilizer overuse, groundwater supplies, fresh surface water, the unbuilt natural environment and the overall natural and human-built environment. Only air pollution wasn’t quite at the danger point globally.

    * Sun-Times | 11 people wounded over 3 hours in Chicago, mostly in neighborhoods that have been more violent this year: No arrests were reported in any of the attacks. Homicides and shootings across the city are down from last year, with homicides by 6% and shootings by 5%, according to police data, But most of Tuesday night’s shootings were in districts that have seen a rise in homicides or shootings or both.

    * ABC Chicago | Cook County minimum wage set for increase on July 1: The minimum wage will go up to $13.70 an hour for non-tipped workers and $8 an hour for workers who earn tips. The minimum wage increases each year according to a formula set by a county ordinance.

    * WSIL | Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch Kicks off Pride Month with a Celebration for all on June 1: The event will feature performers from Chicago’s legendary Baton Show Lounge. It’s hosted by some of Illinois’ greatest advocates for LGBTQ rights including: Associate Regional Communications Director at Sierra Club, Precious Brady-Davis; 14th District State Representative Kelly Cassidy; former House Majority Leader Greg Harris; Democratic Party of Dupage County Chair Ken Mejia-Beal; Alderman Lamont Robinson of Chicago’s 4th District; and Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois, Mike Ziri.

    * WCIA | Illinois State Fair box office opens Thursday: Regular box office hours include 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, August 5, officials reported. Tickets are also available to purchase online.

    * Crain’s | Tribune Publishing owner to pay nearly $100,000 in settlement with union: New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital has settled an unfair-labor-practice complaint, resulting in nearly $100,000 to be paid out to members of the Chicago Tribune Guild. Alden, which owns the paper’s parent, Tribune Publishing, will disperse individual payments to union members who were on Tribune medical insurance plans in 2022. That includes people no longer employed by the company, according to an email from the CT Guild.

    * Block Club | As Lori Lightfoot’s Large Security Detail Shrinks, Her Logan Square Neighbors Say ‘It Feels Like A Normal Block Again’: Liz said she and other neighbors were so ecstatic to be rid of the large security detail — and the restrictions that came along with it — that they had a celebratory champagne toast when the block cleared out.

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Roundup: Chicago City Council approves $51 million for migrant aid

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

    * Sun-Times | Divided City Council approves $51 million in migrant crisis funding: A divided City Council agreed Wednesday to slap a $51 million Band-Aid on Chicago’s burgeoning migrant crisis after a cathartic and racially-charged debate that reduced one member to tears. The 34-to-13 vote will provide enough funding to carry Chicago only through June 30.

    * Tribune | City Council approves $51 million for migrants as officials scramble for more funds, point fingers: Moore, 17th, opened the discussion by urging a “No” vote because his majority-Black ward has suffered with dilapidated field houses and seniors becoming homeless because of long public housing waitlists. He argued that during his community needs to put its oxygen “mask” on first. “The soul of Chicago is somewhat on trial today regarding this ordinance. … People keep saying there’s enough to go around,” Moore said, quoting a common theme from Johnson’s inaugural address and mayoral campaign. “I heard that over and over. So let’s pass an ordinance where we see enough.”

    * WGN | Chicago City Council approves $51M aid for migrant care: The $51 million is money the city received from opioid and vapor court settlements. One alderperson said it would only last about two months.

    * CBS Chicago | City Council approves $51 million in funding for migrant housing amid raucous debate: While the shouting between supporters and opponents of the ordinance prompted Chicago police officers to remove several people from the crowd inside City Hall, the debate among aldermen was more measured, though often still passionate. […] Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), who voted for the funding, said the anger on display at Wednesday’s meeting was the result of decades of disinvestment in Black neighborhoods across the city. “A conflict is being created at a weak point in this city, and it’s frustrating because this weak point wouldn’t exist if our city hadn’t spent decades not serving Black residents,” she said.

    * Chicago Defender | City Council Votes to Spend $51 Million for City Asylum Seekers: A popular sentiment among people who oppose providing emergency housing to these new arrivals is what the city does for existing homeless people and struggling residents. That sentiment and more were expressed during a spirited Wednesday city council meeting with people opposed to the ordinance chanting, “No justice, no peace.”

    * WBEZ | Chicago City Council approves $51 million in aid for migrants after racially-heated debate: Ald. Jeanette Taylor, 20th Ward, has been one of the most outspoken and critical council members on the city’s handling of the migrant crisis. Her ward is home to a migrant shelter in a shuttered public school, and she has repeatedly complained of a lack of coordination from the city. Still, repeating the phrase “hurt people don’t hurt people” in a floor speech Wednesday, Taylor voted to pass the funding. “If my yes vote bothers you, then so be it … because hurt people don’t hurt people,” Taylor said to shouts of “she’s a traitor” from members of the crowd.

    * ABC Chicago | Chicago City Council approves $51M for migrant housing: The council also approved a permanent outdoor dining program, allowing restaurants to expand outdoors to sidewalks and even curb lanes, and in some cases entire streets, like in River North during the pandemic.

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Florida beats out Illinois for bigger cut of EPA lead pipe replacement fund

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Chicago Tribune

When it came time to split up the first batch of $15 billion Congress set aside last year to replace toxic lead pipes, Illinois officials had plenty of reasons to expect they would get the biggest share. […]

But when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last month how it plans to share nearly $3 billion this year, Florida got the biggest cut. Another state surprisingly in the top 10: Texas.

Since then environmental lawyers have been quizzing EPA officials and state bureaucrats about a 2022 survey the agency relied upon to conclude Florida surpasses Illinois in the number of lead service lines, and that Texas has more than Michigan and Wisconsin combined. […]

Illinois and other states with the most lead service lines are getting substantially less federal money per line than those with far fewer toxic pipes. For instance, Alaska, with 1,454 lead lines, and South Dakota, with 4,141, will get $19,704 and $6,919 per line respectively during the coming year.

The federal money headed to Illinois amounts to $221 per lead service line, a review of EPA data shows. Michigan and Wisconsin are getting $241 and $238 a line.

* AP

The survey released Tuesday was the first time the agency asked about lead pipes and gave the best count yet of how many are underground. Florida, with an estimated 1.16 million pipes, was a surprise to one expert. Industrial states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania are more typically associated with extensive lead pipe issues.

Illinois ranked second in Tuesday’s survey, with 1.04 million lead pipes, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and New York. […]

Erik Olson, a health and food expert at the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, said the EPA was “trying to do the right thing” by using its survey to direct lead pipe funds to states that need it most. But he called Florida’s figure “a big surprise.” Olson said the state told his group in 2021 that it doesn’t track lead service lines. The NRDC’s estimate for the state was about 200,000.

Olson said the Florida number is puzzling because lead pipes were most frequently installed in the decades before Florida’s population rapidly grew.

“We look forward to hearing an explanation,” Olson said.

* WTVO

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency has awarded Rockford $4 million to replace 960 lead water pipes. […]

“Lead is a toxin that can accumulate in the body and cause serious illness or even death,” said Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford). “This funding protects public water supplies and helps Rockford and other cities across the state replace these aging water pipes before IEPA deadlines kick in.”

The award is Rockford’s fifth from IEPA State Revolving Fund, which provides principal forgiveness loans that don’t have to be repaid. Rockford has received $16 million to replace lead service lines since 2019, with $4 million being the program’s maximum award amount.

Since 2017, the IEPA has provided $105 million in funding for lead service line replacement statewide.

* Lead paint is still a health hazard in Cook County. WTTW

In suburban Cook County, officials now say as many as half a million homes have lead paint hazards that present enormous health threats for young children. One mother said her kids were poisoned several years ago — and the problems have not let up since. […]

“The most likely source of lead poisoning for children in Chicago is lead-based paint,” said Dr. Candice Robinson, medical director of the Chicago Department of Public Health. […]

The number of Chicago children with elevated lead levels has plummeted in the last 25 years. In 1996, 70% tested positive for elevated levels compared to under 2% in 2021, according to CDPH data.

But the city’s health department admits less than 50% of children are being tested regularly, a city requirement. And CDPH data finds that in many low income communities and communities of color, between 30% and 40% of all residents in older homes tested positive.

In a follow up email, a spokesperson responded, “CDPH Finds lead hazards in about 99 percent of residences built before 1978.”

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Question of the day

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* I received this text from Freshman Rep. Hoan Huynh (D-Chicago) a few moments ago…

I’m throwing out the ceremonial first pitch today at Wrigley Field around 12:30pm in honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Month and as the first Asian American to represent Wrigleyville in the Illinois General Assembly!

* Mayor Johnson threw out the first pitch before Sunday’s Cubs vs Cincinnati Reds game


* The Question: What’s your favorite baseball moment?

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It’s almost a law

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Rep. Stephanie Kifowit…


* Illinois State Dental Society

The key focus of our legislative agenda this year was dental insurance reform. ISDS was victorious in passing two pieces of legislation to begin addressing dental insurance reform in Illinois.

-The legislation addressed network leasing, a bait-and-switch tactic insurance companies use to gain more revenue.

- A second piece of dental insurance reform legislation, virtual credit cards, was passed to address the issue of insurance companies requiring dentists to pay a fee to obtain payment for the services they have rendered to patients.

ISDS passed legislation related to the upcoming e-prescription requirements and legislation clarifying Illinois Dental Practice Act provisions. Additionally, we have agreed with the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) to implement rules to clarify when orthodontics is covered under the Medicaid program.

ISDS advocated very strongly to defeat the proposed Medicaid provider tax, which would have taxed all dentists in Illinois. We are pleased to announce that this tax did not pass this legislative session.

* AARP Illinois State Director Philippe Largent

“AARP Illinois fought hard on issues important for its 1.7 million members and older adults in Illinois.

Below are the highlights of the major legislative wins that AARP Illinois advocated for on behalf of older adults across the state. […]

Prevention of generic Rx drug price gouging: HB 3957 prevents drug manufacturers and distributors from charging unfair prices for off-patent and generic drugs in Illinois. For price increases that are excessive and unreasonable for consumers, the Attorney General will have the authority to investigate the increases, seek documentation from drug manufacturers, and petition for remedy. If substantiated, there could be rebates to consumers, civil penalties up to $10,000 per violation and even a court order to lower the cost of the drug.

Access to affordable insulin: HB 2189 addresses the insulin affordability crisis for Illinoisans who need this life-saving drug. The bill lowers the $100 co-pay cap in state-regulated health plans to $35 to align with Medicare Part D. This action was critical as the price of insulin, a 100-year-old drug, has increased by 600% over the last 20 years which had made it unaffordable for many who depend on it to survive.

Saving for retirement: HB 3155 strengthens the Illinois Secure Choice Program operationally ensuring millions of Illinois workers will have access to employment-based retirement savings whether through this program or their employer. It gives workers the freedom to choose the private savings option that works best for them. The legislation makes the program more self-sustaining and stabilizes the fees charged to participants as their account balances increase. This program has become critical to workers of all ages across Illinois who want to save for retirement. Currently, Illinois Secure Choice has more than 122,000 participants who together have saved more than $117 million for retirement, and over 9,600 employers are registered for the program.

Predatory Lending Protections: AARP Illinois opposed a measure, HB 1519, that if passed, would have allowed lenders that offer private student loans, called Income Share Agreements, charge up to 20% in some cases of a student’s future annual income. AARP Illinois also opposed an effort by pawnbrokers to charge usurious rates up to 240% APR. Both of these measures, had they not been stopped, would have charged such high interest rates that borrowers would have been tied to for years, potentially decades, significantly threatening their financial security. […]

Rights of older drivers: Illinois is the only state that requires drivers 75 and older to take a physical driving test. AARP policy supports effective, evidence-based assessment models to identify at-risk drivers of all ages. As a part of a bill that was signed into law late last year, a task force will soon convene to examine the issue and will resolve at what age, if any, will still require a re-examination. As that law offered confusing language, AARP supported HB 2091 this spring, a bill meant to clarify that age to require a physical driving test cannot be lowered to younger than 75, only raised, in the future.  

AARP Illinois now encourages Gov. Pritzker to sign those important pieces of legislation that passed into law.

* Illinois Senate Dems…

“This monumental legislation makes greater investments in our children,” said Hastings (D- Frankfort). “The cost of financing higher education can be overwhelming. The expansion of this grant program will help increase accessibility for middle class families at our state’s universities and colleges.”

House Bill 301 will make the AIM HIGH Grant Pilot Program permanent, increase transparency in the program to allow more students to take advantage of it, increase access for part-time students and make changes to the matching requirements for the public universities.

Since the 2019-2020 academic year the AIM HIGH program has provided merit-based, means-tested student financial aid to first-time, full-time undergraduate students and transfer students who are Illinois residents attending any of the 12 Illinois public four-year universities. AIM HIGH-participating universities are required to provide matching funding for institutional awards for students who meet certain eligibility requirements, as well as those established by each individual university.

The initiative adopts changes to help ensure that the AIM HIGH Grant Program targets those most in need, further amplifying its impact. […]

House Bill 301 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support.

* News Channel 20

Illinois may be the first in the nation to pass a bill that requires protections for child influencers, and all of this is being spearheaded by a 16-year-old from Normal, Illinois.

What started as an independent study back in August turned into a piece of legislation that has reached national audiences.

Shreya Nallamothu thinks these protections should have happened a long time ago.

“I was like legislation takes time, I’m not expecting to change the law in five months. I’m surprised it even passed out of the Senate Labor Committee,” the 16-year-old said. […]

The new legislation makes sure children who are featured in videos receive a cut of the income their family makes through a trust fund that they can have access to when they reach the age of 18.

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Union-backed bill appears headed for rare gubernatorial veto

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Background is here if you need it. From the Iowa Supreme Court

In this appeal, we must decide whether the district court correctly ruled that qualified would-be competitors in the electric transmission market lacked standing to challenge new legislation that blocks them from bidding against existing Iowa operators on future projects. The statute at issue, Iowa Code section 478.16 (2020), grants “incumbent” Iowa [electric utilities] a right of first refusal (ROFR) that forestalls competitive bidding. […]

We are not surprised the ROFR lacked enough votes to pass without logrolling. The provision is quintessentially crony capitalism. This rent-seeking, protectionist legislation is anticompetitive. Common sense tells us that competitive bidding will lower the cost of upgrading Iowa’s electric grid and that eliminating competition will enable the incumbent to command higher prices for both construction and maintenance. Ultimately, the ROFR will impose higher costs on Iowans. The data back this up: amicus Coalition of MISO Transmission Customers offers data collected from two recent bid-based projects that indicate competition reduces costs by fifteen percent compared to MISO’s estimates. As the Coalition summarizes, “Without competition, there are fewer checks and balances on cost estimates, and no pressures or incentives to curb project costs and prevent cost overruns.”

Both Illinois chambers approved a similar bill at the 11th hour last week that would hand Ameren the right of first refusal to build regional electricity lines. You’ll recall that this “quintessentially crony capitalism” and “protectionist” legislation was fervently backed by Rep. Chris Miller (R-No Relation) during floor debate.

* This is how Ameren pitched the bill in Missouri, its home state

In states with right-of-first-refusal laws, these LRTP projects can begin as soon as they are approved by MISO, but that won’t be the case in Missouri unless HB 992 is passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by the governor. Without the Missouri First Transmission Act, these projects will be forced to go through a lengthy bid process that could take up to two years to complete — putting Missouri behind schedule when it comes to these important transmission projects.

The legislation did not pass.

* Capitol News Illinois

Critics of the proposal said that it would reduce competition, leading to higher costs for construction projects and ultimately higher costs to energy consumers. But proponents said that it will streamline the billions of dollars of construction planned for the coming years while creating union jobs for Illinoisans. […]

While it needs only a signature from Gov. JB Pritzker to become law, he vowed last week to veto the bill. Pritzker spokesperson Alex Gough said the governor opposes the bill because it “puts corporate profits over consumers.”

The legislature could override Pritzker’s potential veto, but it would require three-fifths majorities in both chambers, a margin that it earned in the Senate, but not the House. […]

The bill’s house sponsor and the House Public Utilities Committee chair, Rep. Larry Walsh, D-Elwood, said that the proposal came to him from the union. In a Friday evening committee, Walsh said it would streamline the process of expanding the grid.

“If you have an entity that controls the transmission of our electric power throughout whatever region you’re in… It’s easier for them to do this type of work, interconnecting their system,” Walsh said.

* Crain’s

Interestingly, the bill applies only to Ameren Illinois, which serves downstate Illinois, and not Commonwealth Edison. Ordinarily, the IBEW, which represents thousands of workers at both utilities, would have pushed to favor both companies.

But ComEd’s admission of an elaborate bribery scheme aimed at currying favor with former House Speaker Michael Madigan, and the recent convictions of the so-called “ComEd Four,” including former ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore, on conspiracy and bribery charges, led backers to focus only on Ameren.

Where things go from here is uncertain. Pritzker left no doubt he would veto the bill. Once that happens, Welch and Harmon will have to decide whether to try to override a fellow Democrat — a rarity during Pritzker’s five years in the governor’s mansion. […]

IBEW has pushed for bills giving incumbent utilities the “right of first refusal” on new transmission in states all over the U.S. and have been successful in more than 10. Indiana passed a similar law earlier this month, while Missouri lawmakers rejected a similar proposal.

…Adding… Sun-Times editorial

In a sneaky maneuver, the Legislature slipped through a Senate amendment that would give the downstate energy utility Ameren monopolistic control over anyone building regional power lines across its territory. Such an enormous corporate giveaway could make it harder and more expensive to decarbonize the state’s and nation’s power grid just when it is crucial to connect new renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power installations, to customers in population centers.

The regional power lines Ameren could control possibly would include those that would connect the Chicago area to new solar and wind energy. But Ameren has an apparent conflict of interest: its parent company owns fossil fuel plants that generate electricity.

We’re not saying we know what Ameren would do, but slow-walking any new regional power lines appears as though it could be in its financial interest. And, as in all situations in which a company gains monopoly power, there is a risk of customers paying unnecessarily high prices for less service.

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Illinois Supreme Court will hear consolidated pension funds case

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Background is here if you need it. Pensions & Investments

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of two new consolidated investment funds combining the assets of the state’s municipal police and firefighters’ pension funds.

The decision by the state’s Supreme Court follows the February ruling by an Illinois appellate court that the consolidated funds, the $9 billion Illinois Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund, Peoria, and the $7.2 billion Illinois Firefighters’ Pension Investment Fund, Lombard, are constitutional.

In that ruling affirming the May 2022 decision by Kane County Circuit Court Judge Robert K. Villa that the law creating the consolidated funds was not unconstitutional under the Illinois Constitution’s pension and takings clauses, the Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District in Elgin, said “while plaintiffs have a constitutional right to receive pension benefits … they have no right to the investments held by the funds; rather, they are entitled only to present or future payments from the funds.”

The February 2021 lawsuit filed in Kane County by the boards of 16 municipal police pension funds and two firefighters pension funds, along with some participants from each fund, alleged the law had violated Illinois Constitution clauses by terminating “plaintiffs’ authority to exclusively manage and control their investment expenditures and income,” according to the original court filing.

* Kane County Circuit Court Judge Robert Villa upheld the consolidated pensions law in May 2022 and an appellate court affirmed the decision earlier this year. Bond Buyer

Daniel Konicek of Konicek & Dillon represents the police funds.

“We disagree from our standpoint that our people have a vested interest in this because their life savings are involved and they feel their right to vote and control” how their hard-earned contributions are invested is a protected benefit, Konicek said of the court rulings so far.

The plaintiffs argued that benefits are damaged because the law “strips plaintiffs of their autonomy and their authority” on investment decisions. The plaintiffs argued the law violates the pension protection clause, the contract clause and the takings clause of the state constitution.

The state countered that fund management doesn’t enjoy the same status as “benefits” with
constitutional protections.

Circuit court Judge Villa, in his ruling, sided with the state, saying he could not extend the term benefits beyond the reach of prior Illinois Supreme Court cases to find the challenge legislation unconstitutional against the pension clause’s protections.

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Open thread

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* We’ve made it to Wednesday! What’s going on in your part of Illinois?…

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Isabel’s morning briefing

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Here you go…

    * WTTW | Lawmaker Raises, Car Title Changes: What’s Included in Illinois’ New $50B State Budget: The spending plan doesn’t increase taxes, but it will cost people $10 more for a new car title. That means come July, it will cost $165 for a certificate of title, with the additional funds to be used to update the Illinois secretary of state’s IT infrastructure, which an external assessment found to be very outdated. The secretary of state’s office said the increase “won’t come close” to raising the $200 million needed to overhaul the “archaic” system “to better protect personal information, increase cybersecurity and prevent outages … but is a decision the GA (General Assembly) made to help generate more for modernization.”

    * WCIA | State budget includes $85 million more for program to prevent Illinois homelessness: An additional $85 million will go towards “Home Illinois”, Governor J.B. Pritzker’s plan to address the issue. This brings the state’s total investments towards preventing and ending homelessness to more than $350 million.

    * WAND | Illinois House leaders show growing division during adjournment speeches: Meanwhile, Welch said many Republicans will go back home to their districts and brag about investments included in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget they voted against. He also celebrated Democratic plans to protect reproductive rights, hold the firearm industry accountable for gun violence, and lower the cost of prescription drugs.

    * WICS | New state budget has focus on education: Next year’s budget includes a $250 million increase for early childhood education, including the Smart Start Illinois Program, and eliminating preschool deserts. $350 million will go to the K-12 education funding formula, $45 million for the first year of a pilot program to fill teacher vacancies, and $3 million to expand access to computer science coursework.

    * Sun-Times | City’s most violent Memorial Day weekend in 7 years ‘intolerable,’ Mayor Brandon Johnson says: “It produced pain and trauma that devastated communities across Chicago, and my heart breaks for everyone affected,” Johnson said in a statement issued late Tuesday afternoon. “That’s why as mayor, I am committed to leveraging every single resource at our disposal to protect every single life in our city.”

    * Sun-Times | Mayor Johnson invokes ‘soul’ of Chicago’s ancestors at Memorial Day ceremony:“I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the fact that I would not be here representing the soul of our ancestors in the city of Chicago if it were not for the soldiers whose humanity had not been recognized. They stood for democracy,” Johnson said.

    * Tribune | After community input, search for new Chicago police superintendent enters new phase on the eve of summer: The commission has a mid-July deadline to submit three finalists for the job to new Mayor Brandon Johnson. Whomever Johnson picks will need approval from the full City Council, but he can order the search process to begin again if none of the finalists are to his liking. Until then, Johnson has handed the reins of the CPD to Fred Waller, the former chief of patrol who retired in August 2020 after more than three decades with the department. Waller, who remains popular with rank-and-file officers and supervisors, has said he did not apply for the permanent job.

    * Pensions & Investments | Illinois Supreme Court to hear case on legality of 2 consolidated pension funds: The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of two new consolidated investment funds combining the assets of the state’s municipal police and firefighters’ pension funds. The decision by the state’s Supreme Court follows the February ruling by an Illinois appellate court that the consolidated funds, the $9 billion Illinois Police Officers’ Pension Investment Fund, Peoria, and the $7.2 billion Illinois Firefighters’ Pension Investment Fund, Lombard, are constitutional.

    * Illinois Answers | Alderperson Says Migrants Are Causing TB Outbreaks at Police Stations, But It’s Not True: Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) declared migrants sleeping on floors of police stations were infecting officers with tuberculosis, but the Chicago Department of Public Health said there isn’t a single confirmed case. … When an Illinois Answers Project reporter informed Lopez there weren’t any reports of tuberculosis, he doubled down on his claim, alleging the city health department was actively concealing the number of positive tuberculosis cases.

    * Mike Hoffman | I received restorative justice from the Catholic Church after surviving clergy abuse: I am a beneficiary of my abuser’s name being listed on the website of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and there is justice and institutional accountability in that. I am also the beneficiary of restorative justice, which is the element that I feel is missing. Beyond the attorney general’s goal of justice and giving voice to survivors as an aid to healing to from the painful trauma of childhood abuse, efforts at restorative justice have helped me, and many others like me, to live a fuller and more complete life.

    * Tribune | Former Robbins police chief files lawsuit against mayor, village for wrongful termination: In a federal lawsuit citing “concerning behavior,” Sheppard, who was fired by Bryant in April, alleges wrongful termination and violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act by Bryant and the village of Robbins. Sheppard said he was hired in October 2021 to improve the department, which he said he did by hiring more police officers and decreasing major crime rates. But Sheppard said Bryant displayed “abuse of power” by interfering with his job.

    * Tribune | Studies show Illinois most at risk from brain-damaging lead in water, but Florida getting bigger cut of $15 billion EPA fund to replace pipes: Another state surprisingly in the top 10: Texas. Since then environmental lawyers have been quizzing EPA officials and state bureaucrats about a 2022 survey the agency relied upon to conclude Florida surpasses Illinois in the number of lead service lines, and that Texas has more than Michigan and Wisconsin combined.

    * Sun-Times | William Brandt, influential Democrat, corporate restructuring pioneer, dies at 73: When future Illinois governor Pat Quinn was a freshman at the Oak Park school, he didn’t know anyone. Young Bill “invited me to be at his lunch table,” Quinn said, the beginning of an enduring friendship. “He was always very involved in social justice and helping people. He loved politics.’’

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Live coverage

Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


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Afternoon roundup

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

State Senator Mike Simmons (D-Chicago) and State Representative Kelly M. Cassidy (D-Chicago) issued the following joint statement after Target announced it would be removing certain Pride merchandise after employees claimed the items threatened their sense of safety following customer interactions:

“Target has sold and marketed Pride products for years, no doubt profiting well from their efforts. To pull these very products from their shelves in response to acts of bigotry, violence, and threats against the LGBTQ+ community is an act of cowardice. As the General Assembly’s only two openly LGBTQ+ legislators, we refuse to sit idly by as one of the country’s largest retailers fails to stand in solidarity for our rights.

“One of our country’s largest big-box retailers, Target, has removed certain Pride Month products from its shelves and moved others to the back of its stores citing threats, vandalism and unsafe workplace conditions due to confrontation and backlash from patrons.

“Target had an opportunity to stand in support with the LGBTQ+ community and denounce bigotry within its stores. By moving merchandise marketed to LGBTQ+ communities to the margins of their stores, it sends the wrong message to our communities and to those who are pushing hate and violence in oppressing the rights and visibility of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We will not be moved to the back of the store. We will not be hidden in the shadows. We will not be intimidated by those who threaten violence or by those who cannot accept this simple truth — all humans are equal. To our LGBTQ+ communities - as we enter into the month of June, hold your head high, be proud of who you are, and know that we have your back.”

* Orr refused to divulge the identity of this person when I followed up…

Good Government Illinois posts statement from David Orr on process for replacing Brandon Johnson on the County Board:

“Several West Side community leaders with long records of engagement and accomplishment are applying to replace Mayor Brandon Johnson on the Cook County Board. But we’re hearing rumors that a typical insider deal is being cut.

“It goes something like this: a clouted state rep who’s tired of traveling to Springfield gets the County Board seat, and politicians get to play another round of musical chairs, appointing his replacement — avoiding having voters choose their own representative.

“If enough people speak up, this deal could be quashed. Politics in this era of progressive change should be different. We’re all tired of backroom deals.”

* I think I understand his general gist, but it’s not like he hasn’t been able to introduce a drone bill of his own in the past, and the city has its own drone rules

[Rep. Curtis Tarver, D-Chicago] also noted that it took a mass shooting in a predominantly white suburb to get lawmakers moving on drones.

“We have mass shootings unfortunately in the city of Chicago very, very often. And nobody here had the political fortitude or concern for people of color to bring a bill that related to drones in some other way to monitor these events,” Tarver said. “So, it’s frustrating.”

Tarver was on the short end of an 84-7 vote in the House.

Also, legislators did propose drone bills in the past. Former Rep. John D’Amico (D-Chicago) was one of them.

* ABC News

The landscape of abortion rights has shifted dramatically in the 11 months since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending federal protections for abortion rights.

The decision left it up to states to decide how to regulate abortion services.

States in the West and Northeast have since taken steps to expand and protect abortion rights, while states across the South, Great Plains and Midwest have moved to ban or restrict abortion care.

Fifteen states have ceased nearly all abortion services.

Map

* IDOT…

The Illinois Department of Transportation announced today that a public hearing will be held Tuesday, June 13, on a proposed project to add lanes on Interstate 55 and Interstate 72 around Springfield. The estimated $802 million cost of the project includes reconstructing several interchanges.

The purpose of the hearing is to present the preferred design for the improvements and obtain feedback. The public is invited to review project plans, view exhibits, watch a video, and discuss with IDOT staff and consultants. All interested parties are encouraged to attend:

Tuesday, June 13
4-7 p.m.
Northfield Inn Suites and Conference Center
3280 Northfield Drive, Springfield, Ill.

Funding was approved through Gov. JB Pritzker’s historic, bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program for $150 million for the project’s first phase, which consists of adding capacity and making other improvements to I-55 from just north of Sangamon Avenue to the Williamsville weigh station. The improvements will connect to the wider I-55 north of Springfield, resulting in three lanes in each direction to Lincoln. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2024, starting with the bridges over the Sangamon River. A timeline for the project will be finalized in the coming months.

The remaining phases, estimated to cost more than $650 million, involve continuing with the third lane in each direction of I-55 and I-72 from just north of Sangamon Avenue to Veterans Parkway (Illinois 4), as well as reconstructing interchanges with Sixth Street/I-72, Stevenson Drive, South Grand Avenue, Clear Lake Avenue/I-72 and Sangamon Avenue. Additional work will occur on I-55 to Toronto Road to accommodate reconstruction of the Sixth Street/I-72 interchange. Funding for construction has not been identified.

“Improving I-55 and I-72 around Springfield will enhance safety, increase reliability and ease congestion,” said IDOT Region 4 Engineer Jeff Myers. “A lot of consideration and public input has gone into the design of this project. I encourage anyone interested in learning more about the future of Springfield to attend.”

* Isabel’s roundup…

    * WTTW | Bill Designed to Revamp Property Tax Sale System That Fueled ‘Urban Decay’ Headed to Governor’s Desk: Pritzker is expected to sign the bill, which was prompted by “Maps of Inequality: From Redlining to Urban Decay and the Black Exodus,” a study Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office released in July. The study was part of a concerted effort by her office to revamp the system designed to return distressed properties saddled with mountains of tax debt to productive use.

    * NBC Chicago | At Least Five Chicago Mail Carriers Are Victims of Crime Each Week in Chicago, New Data Reveals: In fact, Chicago Police Department data shows a 40% increase in crimes against postal workers, from 2021 when there were 186 reported crimes, to 261 crimes reported in 2022. (NBC 5 only counted crimes where the victim listed USPS as their occupation, meaning these numbers may be an undercount.)

    * Illinois Answers Project | CPS Faces Dwindling Enrollment, Empty Buildings, Soaring Deficits Decade After Mass Closure Of Schools: In the decade since the closures, which left dozens of empty schools throughout the city, CPS has about 81,000 fewer students and has dropped from the third largest district in the nation to the fourth, as the city continues to lose Black residents. CPS data from the 2022-2023 school year shows 61 school buildings have an occupancy rate of 30 percent or less, compared to the 17 buildings that fell into the same category when Mayor Rahm Emanuel approved the largest mass school closure in modern American history.

    * WCMY | Republican state representatives vote no on 2024 Illinois State Budget: St. Rep. Jed Davis of Yorkville says he’s not surprised with the unbalanced budget that appropriates money to Democrat pet projects instead of making sound investments in Illinois. St. Rep. Jason Bunting of Emington says he’s disappointed with the process because Republican voices aren’t being heard during budget talks.

    * The Crusader | Speed camera near DuSable Museum nets highest revenue for city at $6.4M: A breakdown of tickets from the Washington Park speed camera also revealed the device generated the highest number of tickets and revenue from drivers going between 6 to 10 miles per hour, a $35 fine. According to the ABC7 Chicago investigation, the Washington Park speed camera has given 135,131 tickets for a total of $4,720,031. About 16,590 tickets totaling $1,654,850 were given to drivers going over 11 mph, a $100 fine. That places the Washington Park speed camera as the fifth highest device that gave out tickets to drivers going 11 mph over the speed limit.

    * Daily Herald | The end is near: Demolition crews arrive at Arlington Park: The demolition is expected to cost the Bears $3.8 million, but could lead to property tax savings for the team, which closed on its $197.2 million purchase of the old racetrack in February.

    * Rockford Register Star | Rockford mayor: Illinois ’stole’ $123M from the city, and he wants it back: Mayor Tom McNamara renewed his call for Illinois to return what he called “stolen” income tax dollars to the people of Rockford. Under a 1969 agreement, 10 percent of residents’ income taxes was to return to the municipalities in which they lived, McNamara said. That changed in 2011 when the state began cutting back on how much income tax dollars paid by residents was returned to their home cities as part of what is called the Local Government Distributive Fund.

    * Treasurer Mike Frerichs | ‘Though my new home will be in Chicago, my heart always will be downstate’: When we learned about the twins, it became clear that we could not continue to shuttle back and forth with two babies in tow. We wanted to consolidate in Champaign, but doing that and maintaining her career as a successful corporate executive was not an option. It is unfortunate that Jim Dey mocks me for making this decision to support my wife and our family (“New digs for a growing family,” May 20). I do not believe he has made any effort to understand our personal situation, and it feels as though he wants to Make America Great Again by reverting to a time when women were expected to sacrifice their careers for their husbands. I’m sorry, Jim, I don’t share your worldview.

    * Crain’s | Durbin turns up heat in ethics probe over gifts to Justice Thomas: And, in a letter sent over the Memorial Day weekend, Durbin, pressed on a second front, writing not only to Thomas benefactor Harlan Crow but asking for data from corporate entities controlled by Crow that own his private jet, yacht and resort.

    * NPR | Miller says she will vote against debt limit deal: “I will vote NO on increasing the debt on our children and grandchildren by $4 trillion because this deal does not contain anywhere near the CUTS and policy changes we need in order to stop Joe Biden’s war on the American people. This deal does not repeal Biden’s “Green Bad Deal” attack on American energy or reinstate the Trump Administration energy independence policies we passed in the Limit, Save, Grow Act,” Miller said in a statement released to media.

    * Sun-Times | Mom creates garden where son was shot, hoping people will remember him, maybe help solve his killing: D’Vignon said hardly anyone noticed when her 24-year-old son, Nicolaus Cooper, a father of three, was killed in March. Now, she and her family hope that, in death, people will know him — and perhaps help solve his killing. “A lot of people are afraid to speak,” D’Vignon said. “We just want justice for him. And we just want his name to be remembered.”

    * Daily Herald | Elgin’s first LGBTQ+ Pride Parade and Festival Saturday: The parade will begin and end near Festival Park at 11 a.m., heading north up Riverside Drive and back south down Grove Avenue.

    * AP | LGBTQ+ activists call for new strategies to promote equality after Target backlash: “We need a strategy on how to deal with corporations that are experiencing enormous pressure to throw LGBTQ people under the bus,” said California state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, a member of the LGBTQ legislative caucus. “We need to send a clear message to corporate America that if you’re our ally — if you are truly our ally — you need to be our ally, not just when it’s easy but also when it’s hard,” he said.

    * Sun-Times | Merchandise Mart adjusts with the times but stays regal on the river: About a decade ago, Chicago’s Merchandise Mart became hip. It was great for the Art Deco-style property that’s one of the most familiar buildings among the city’s architectural royalty, but it wasn’t enough. There was still a matter of space that wasn’t used well and a design that could seem off-putting to casual visitors and some tenants. The building’s owner, Vornado Realty Trust, first worked to fix that in 2016 by investing $40 million toward changes that included a broad staircase that connects to the lobby.

    * Sun-Times | White Sox’ Liam Hendriks makes first appearance of season after bout with cancer: Forty-five days after his last chemotherapy treatment for stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hendriks donned a black “Southside” uniform, received a pregame kiss behind home plate from wife Kristi and became a member of the White Sox again.

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ISBE: “CPS continues to defy its legal obligations”

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Tribune

Chicago Public Schools has repeatedly violated state law over the use of physical restraints of students, “overwhelmingly failed” to train its staff properly and continued the practice despite multiple directives this school year from the Illinois State Board of Education to stop, the state agency alleged in a letter to CPS obtained by the Tribune.

“CPS’ complete disregard for the health and safety of its students and blatant violation of state law is unconscionable,” an ISBE official wrote to CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. […]

Such findings from ISBE’s monitoring of CPS prompted the state agency to open a “systemic complaint investigation” in October alleging “several violations” of state law related to staff training. At that point, ISBE “mandated that CPS stop the use of physical restraint until it could demonstrate that staff who may need to use physical restraint are trained in its safe application,” the letter to Martinez states.

ISBE contends CPS continued to report the use of physical restraints in the following weeks, despite at least two more warnings from the state education agency.

“CPS provided a wholly inappropriate response on November 9, 2022, to our third directive to halt its unlawful practice physical restraint because it had overwhelmingly failed to train its staff appropriately. CPS continues to defy its legal obligations,” ISBE wrote.

There’s lots more, so go read the rest.

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An idea whose time has come

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* It’s kinda ridiculous that the General Assembly doesn’t offer archived audio and video of floor and committee action. I found this while looking for something else on the Civic Federation’s website

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), all 50 state legislatures now livestream floor proceedings, and most legislatures, including Illinois, also livestream all or selected committee hearings. Most hearings of the Illinois legislature are streamed via video, audio or both on the Illinois General Assembly website. However, Illinois is unlike other states in that the General Assembly does not make video recordings of meetings and proceedings easily available to the public online.

NCSL reports that a growing number of state legislatures are archiving and making available on-demand recordings of floor and committee proceedings online and at no charge. Unfortunately, Illinois is one of only four states that does not archive its General Assembly videos online. The process for obtaining copies of recordings is to submit a request from the Clerk of the House of Representatives or Secretary of the Senate, each of which has different procedures. For example, the House provides video recordings of floor hearings only, and audio recordings of committee hearings. The Senate does not provide any video recordings, and only provides audio recordings of floor hearings (not committee hearings). Per the State’s Legislative Materials Act, the House Clerk and Senate Secretary may establish fees for providing recordings and transcripts. Third-party platform Blueroomstream live-streams selected hearings of the Illinois General Assembly, Illinois Supreme Court and State press conferences, and some of the videos remain online after the hearings. However, a paid subscription is required. […]

While it is positive that the Illinois General Assembly livestreams proceedings, archiving video recordings online would be an even greater step towards transparency and public access to government. Illinois’ legislative hearings are usually scheduled during the workday when many residents are not able to view them live, and frequent scheduling changes can make it difficult for the general public to keep track of those proceedings.

Requiring the General Assembly to archive videos of its proceedings would entail some investment in online storage and organization. However, since many proceedings are already livestreamed and recorded, there would likely not be significant up-front costs for equipment. An analysis by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office of a 2016 ballot initiative that required, in part, the California legislature to video record and make available online within 24 hours all open legislative proceedings, estimated the initiative would require a $1-2 million upfront investment and ongoing costs of approximately $1 million to implement.

I love BlueRoomStream.com. But not everyone can afford its high-quality streams. And not everyone needs them.

More here.

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Fun with numbers

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Crain’s

Consider state employee pension funding, the biggest source of fiscal instability in Illinois. Pensions are underfunded by $140 billion, a staggering debt that’s consuming an ever-larger share of state revenues. Annual contributions required by state law have climbed to $10 billion, or 20% of the budget. That figure is expected to reach $18 billion over the next couple of decades.

* From the legislature’s bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability’s projection of pension costs as a percentage of total General Funds

If you look closely at the original chart (page 155), you’ll see that the state is currently a few percentage points below where it had been projected to be, avoiding that little spike. We’ve been at around 20 percent for a few years.

Overall, high cost, but manageable, and, if projections stand, stable.

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Protected: SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Fundraiser list

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Question of the day

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Sun-Times

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) still can’t explain to the satisfaction of state elections authorities what happened with $165,000 he got in campaign contributions.

And state officials say they don’t have the authority to make him show what happened with the unaccounted-for money — or to require him or anyone else who runs for office in Illinois to verify what they say in their required campaign-finance reports.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported in November that Burnett had told state elections officials he’d put $375,000 from campaign contributions over the past two decades in investment accounts with various banks. But, over time and despite candidates being required to file updates with state elections officials on what they do with campaign contributions, he stopped including any mention of $300,000 of that money in his required campaign-finance reports.

Now, Burnett has told the Illinois State Board of Elections that the amount he put into investment accounts with banks actually was $400,000 — including a previously unreported $25,000 certificate of deposit.

But, even after filing amended campaign-finance reports covering six years, his filings still haven’t accounted for $165,000. […]

“It’s all self-reporting,” [Matt Dietrich, a spokesman for the state elections board] says. “We can’t go back and look at their bank records. We can’t subpoena the bank records.”

* The Question: Should the Illinois State Board of Elections be given the authority to subpoena bank records in certain cases? Explain your answer, please.

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It’s almost a law

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* WBEZ

Here’s a look at some of the highlights from the session that will affect Illinois residents if they’re signed into law by Pritzker.

All-gender bathrooms: Sets standards for all-gender, multi-occupancy restrooms should a business choose to build them. Right now, state law requires single-use restrooms to be all-gender, but parameters don’t exist for multi-occupancy. The bill does not require a business to create all-gender restrooms, nor does it require them to alter existing bathrooms. HB1286

Full-day kindergarten: School districts in Illinois would have to establish a full-day kindergarten program by the 2027-2028 school year, but they’re eligible for an extension if they fall within certain evidence-based funding parameters. Districts could also offer half-day programs as long as they offer a full-day option. HB2396

Ban on book bans: A measure spearheaded by Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias withholds state grants from school or public libraries that run afoul of the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights, which says “materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” HB2789 […]

Cracking down on “crisis pregnancy centers”: People could sue these facilities run by anti-abortion rights nonprofits if they feel they were given deceptive information about abortion care. The bill would also allow the Illinois attorney general’s office to investigate. SB1909

* WGEM

There is good news for Illinois residents who get generic and off-brand prescription medication as a bill looks to crack down on price gouging.

House Bill 3957 or the Pharmaceutical and Health Affordability: Restrictions on Manufacturers’ Amoral Behavior through Reasonable Oversight Act lays out the procedures and penalties for drug manufacturer’s who violate the state’s definition of price gouging.

The bill defines price gouging as “an increase in the price as 30% or more within the preceding year, 50% or more within the preceding 3 years, or 75% or more within the preceding 5 years.” […]

The bill has passed both chambers and awaits Governor J.B. Pritzker’s signature. If it gets signed into law, the measure would go into affect January 1, 2024.

* Center Square

A pandemic-era law to allow Illinois bars and restaurants to sell cocktails to-go may be extended.

When Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants closed after the pandemic began, owners said they needed a way to survive, and selling and delivering cocktails was one way to do so.

Andy Deloney, senior vice president and head of state public policy with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said the cocktails to-go movement was a savior for some bars and restaurants during tough times. […]

If signed by the governor, Senate Bill 89 would extend the cocktails to-go and delivery until Aug. 1, 2028. Illinois’ current law expires June 1, 2024.

* State Journal-Register

Senate Bill 90, colloquially known as the Racism-Free Schools Act, was sponsored in the Illinois House by Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, and in the Senate by Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines. The measure passed in a Senate concurrence vote unanimously on Thursday and is currently awaiting Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature to go into effect.

“Here in Illinois, we will not tolerate racism or discrimination within schools – period,” West said in a press release. “But as we continue to see a rise in incidents of hateful conduct across our country, it is clear that our actions need to match our words. That’s why the Racism-Free Schools Act is so important.”

The legislation requires school districts to create a policy on discrimination and harassment based on race, color, or national origin. It also requires the Illinois State Board of Education to create a data collection system to report on allegations of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against students. […]

The new law also states that the failure of an institution to take remedial or disciplinary action against a student or an education representative employed by the institution, if the institution knows that the student or representative committed or engaged in harassment, is a civil rights violation.

If signed by Pritzker the new law will go into effect Aug. 1, 2024.

* Capitol News Illinois

House Bill 3903 would ban automatic traffic enforcement companies or their officers from donating to candidates for public office at the state and local level. It would also prevent state and local government officials from accepting jobs or contracts with those companies while in office or for two years after leaving office, a kind of “revolving door” ban.

Sponsors praised the bill as much-needed ethics reform after several public officials in the past decade have been caught by federal investigators engaging in bribery deals and kickback schemes involving red-light camera companies. […]

“What this does is it tightens up the ethics surrounding the red-light camera corruption and scandals,” Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, said during the House debate on Thursday.

Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, called the two-year revolving door ban “a good step.”

* Anna Burgess Yang

I was elated to hear about the Illinois Freelance Worker Protection Act (HB1122). The legislation provides basic protections to freelancers, including requiring clients to pay within 30 days of the work’s completion unless otherwise stated in the contract, and it provides for damages if freelancers aren’t paid on time. Clients can’t retaliate against freelancers who pursue payment. and the Illinois Department of Labor can investigate entities that repeatedly violate the law.

When the bill passed the Illinois House and Senate, I breathed a sigh of gratitude. State Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, and state Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, D-Chicago, championed the bill because they recognized the value of freelancers and the shortcomings in state law that often leave freelancers struggling to collect payment.

The model works: New York City’s Freelance Isn’t Free Act contains similar provisions and helped freelancers collect more than $2 million in late and delinquent payments over the past few years. Cities like Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio, have recently passed their own laws. Illinois now has the chance to be the first state to enact these protections on a broader scale.

I urge Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign this bill into law, which will mean more stability for freelancers and require their clients to honor the terms of contracts. Most important, it recognizes that even though we’re not full-time employees, we’re still workers who deserve to be paid.

* The Telegraph

House Bill 2389 passed the state Senate on May 4, clearing both legislative branches. The bill, filed in February by Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, would take away the police’s ability to stop or search a car because the driver hung something off the mirror. Sen. Christopher Belt, D-East St. Louis, was the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate. […]

Under current law, it is illegal for any driver in the state to hang an item from their rearview mirror. That includes items like air fresheners, rosaries, face masks and even placards for handicap parking spots. Texas, California, Arizona and Pennsylvania all have similar laws.

The bill has picked up three other co-sponsors in the House and six in the Senate, as well as another supporter in Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias. Proponents of HB2389 said it would make driving conditions safer for both motorists and police officers, while also allowing law enforcement to focus on violent crimes. […]

“Obstructions that affect drivers’ views of their environment and other motorists or pedestrians are a form of distracted driving and put the public in danger,” Tracy said. “Officers must have the ability to better protect the public by using their professional judgment at any moment of the potential for harm resulting from blocked sightlines.”

* Chicago Tribune

Almost a year after the mass shooting in Highland Park that left seven people dead and over 30 injured, Illinois lawmakers passed a bill that would allow law enforcement to operate a surveillance drone for security purposes during special events like the Fourth of July parade where the shooting took place.

“It has been so clear to me that we need to give the police just this one additional tool to keep people safe,” said Democratic state Sen. Julie Morrison of Deerfield, whose district includes Highland Park and who was at the parade with her family when the gunman took aim from a nearby rooftop.

The legislation, passed in the final hours of the General Assembly’s spring session last week, amends the Freedom From Drone Surveillance Act by allowing law enforcement to use drones at “routed” or “special” events, which means planned gatherings like parades, walks, races, concerts and food festivals.

Under the measure, drones could be operated only by a law enforcement agency and could not be weaponized. The public would have to be notified when they were in use, and facial identity systems could be used only if necessary to prevent “imminent harm to life.”

  9 Comments      


Today’s quotable

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Did you catch Rep. Chris Miller’s (R-No Relation) floor speech?

* Please pardon all transcription errors

Rep. Miller: One of the reasons why we have the lifestyle we have is because of cheap, affordable, reliable energy. We’ve created this monster called CEJA. One of the observations that President Reagan made was the most terrifying words in the English language was ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.’

We’ve created this mess and now we’re on the fourth amendment to try to clean it up. You know, I work outside every day I work in the environment. You know, when it’s 100 degrees in the shade and 90% humidity, I don’t sit around and whine about it being hot. When it’s the wintertime and I’m out feeding the cows and it’s 20 below zero, I’m not whining about it being cold. And we’ve created a complete myth that is destroying the economy in Illinois, and eventually we destroy the economy in the United States of America if we continue down this rabbit trail. You know, before CEJA happened, myself, Representative Halbrook, Representative Caulkins, we actually went on the energy tour, and we visited the Prairie State Campus. We visited Hamilton Coal. We visited the nuclear power plant in Clinton and we visited the wind farms, we visited the solar fields and we made a decision based on information, not our emotions or how we feel.

I know one of the things that we found out in these energy producing plants that everyone was running about almost 100% capacity. And at that time, we knew that there was no way in the world we could shut down our existing power and still power our grid. And the net result of it was a war on the middle class, and people can no longer afford to pay their doggone electric bills because of bad public policy. I know one thing about it for the last 69 years we’ve had a climate crisis, and we’ve gone from one thing to the other.

When I was a kid, we had global cooling. We’re gonna have the great freeze out and and 4 billion people were gonna die. And then we went to global warming where the Earth was gonna return to turn into a frying pan. We were all gonna burn up. And now we’re on this myth we call climate change. And now we’re all going to change to death. One of the common threads that links all of these ideas together is none of it ever happened. And guess what? None of it is ever going to happen. We aren’t going to be destroyed by CO2. And I would suggest that probably most of the people in this body don’t even know what carbon dioxide is. There’s a good dose of it. [*Blows into the mic*] There’s a little carbon dioxide for ya’ and guess what? Nobody’s gonna die! One of the things that-

Rep. Jay Hoffman in Speaker’s chair: Representative [laughter] Wilhour gives you three minutes.

Rep. Miller: But anyway, does anybody know how much carbon dioxide is in the entire globe? I guess and probably nobody can answer that question. There’s four hundredths of 1% of the entire world atmosphere is made up of carbon dioxide. During the Obama administration, the EPA said if we do everything that we want to do by the year 2100 that we will increase the global temperature by two one hundredths of 1% of a degree. It doesn’t amount to jack squat.

There’s one thing that I know is in sound science, your observation dictates your conclusion. Your observation dictates your conclusion, and I know I am 69 years of observation, and I have come to the conclusion that this is a bunch of blunk and we need to throw this all in the garbage. One of the things that we, that I understand is Earth science as a farmer and there’s a great mechanism that we call photosynthesis. And it’s an incredible, it’s an incredible way that we clean up the atmosphere. Guess what we have millions of acres of green leafy plants that absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. It’s amazing. It’s incredible.

Another thing that takes us out of the atmosphere is sulfur. And guess what we’ve taken so much sulphur out of the atmosphere, now as a farmer, I have to buy sulfur to put in my fertilizer mixes so I can grow the maximum production of corn.

There’s one thing that I know is our biggest threat to civilization is not climate change. But I know a lot of times that I think that our biggest threat to civilization is the hot air that gets produced in this General Assembly by passing bad public policy. No one continues to whether or not Joe Biden not Barack Obama, not JB Pritzker, not John Kerry. They cannot change the climate. People do what they really believe. And when you see these guys flying around the world in their private jets, they live in mansions on the beach. If they actually thought the world was doomed because of climate change, they would have a different lifestyle. Part of the lie is convincing you that electricity comes from magic!!! We wave our magic word all of a sudden we produce electricity, and it’s just not true. We’re not having a climate crisis. But what we are having is we’re having a crisis of common sense. And the only way we’re on the fourth amendment to this bill and the only way to fix it is to have amendment number five in throw CEJA in the garbage and start over! Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Ironically, the bill in question will likely increase consumer prices, according to the United States Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission.

  41 Comments      


Uber And ASU Are Expanding Access To Higher Education In Illinois

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Advertising Department

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Since 2018, Uber and Arizona State University have provided 5000 qualified drivers and their families with 100% tuition coverage.

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The new state budget could be a tight squeeze

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

House and Senate Republicans claimed during budget-related floor debate last week that the super-majority Democrats had masked the true size of their plan by delaying the start of some spending until the second half of the upcoming fiscal year.

Yes and no.

Republicans pointed to the $317 million to increase Medicaid provider reimbursement rates, including for hospitals. But that new spending doesn’t begin until Jan. 1, the halfway point in the 2024 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

And so, basic arithmetic means the rate increase in Fiscal Year 2025 will be double FY24’s cost, because that 2025 spending will cover all 12 months, instead of just six. That means the state will start the following fiscal year with at least a $317 million hole.

Sometimes, it takes time to stand up new programs, so state spending can’t justifiably begin for a while. That’s the case here as well, according to the governor’s office, which says the higher reimbursement rates can’t start until the state applies for and receives permission from the federal government. And that can take a while.

Also, $317 million is only 0.6% of the $56.6 billion state spending plan. Not much in the grand scheme of things.

While that $317 million is small in context, just think about how much scrambling the Democrats had to do during the past couple of weeks of spring session to collect enough crumbs under the couch cushions to pull its appropriations bill together.

First, they blew well past their self-imposed May 19th adjournment deadline because they couldn’t agree on a spending package. And even then, it took 24 hours after the state’s top Democrats announced a budget agreement until an actual budget bill surfaced, because of even more scrambling. And the budget agreement announcement itself was delayed by about an hour because of even more scrambling over relatively small amounts of money.

The Democrats also only built a $100 million cash cushion into this plan, or about 0.2% of total spending. That doesn’t leave them any room if their revenue projections are too low by a tiny fraction, or if spending is higher than anticipated.

Some Republicans pointed to the $550 million in increased spending to cover the exploding health care costs for undocumented residents as the reason why Democrats had to get so creative elsewhere. Medicaid providers, they said, could’ve received more money if not for that.

That’s true, but only in the abstract. Yes, proponents (including legislators) and the Pritzker administration vastly underestimated what the health care program would cost and how many folks would enroll. And, yes, the governor waited until this spring to turn to the legislature for either statutory relief or the full, guaranteed legal authority via authorized emergency rules to rein in costs in a way that can survive a barrage of lawsuits. Mistakes, as they say, were made.

In the real world, you can’t just wish away problems. “If only” is a fine game for pundits and politicians. But it doesn’t do you much good when building an actual state budget, which, unlike federal spending plans, can’t rely on simply printing more dollars.

No matter how much some Democrats may have privately grumbled about those massively increased costs, they would not publicly trumpet any sort of solution that kicked thousands of people off health care coverage (“Health care is a right” is a longtime Democratic Party talking point, after all) and forced hospitals and other medical providers to go back to treating them without any reimbursements.

And even though there was definitely some resistance and bitterness about those unexpected costs, Black legislators have wisely not had an appetite to publicly inflame the current tensions in Chicago, where some local Black leaders and conservative whites are grabbing headlines by echoing angry Fox News talking points about the costs of caring for the influx of mostly Latino asylum seekers.

While some Democrats clung to the notion that Gov. J.B. Pritzker had the authority to rein in costs without their assistance, they also saw the almost daily and widespread court battles throughout the pandemic over the governor’s use of emergency rules and executive authority.

Determined lawyers on the other side tied the attorney general’s office up in knots throughout the pandemic and have so far succeeded at stymying the implementation of both the SAFE-T Act and the assault weapons ban.

Lawsuits over limiting enrollment and putting undocumented immigrants into managed care programs might still be filed, but the state will be on much firmer legal ground by specifically allowing the governor to file emergency rules.

* Meanwhile, from the Latino Caucus…

Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus members released the following statement following the passage of the Fiscal Year 2024 state budget:

“We are pleased to report our progress in passing a state budget that focuses on the people. There are historic investments in early childhood education and more resources than ever to support students from working and middle class families on their path to receive a more affordable college education with the help of MAP grants, among other accomplishments that invest in our people and the future of our state.

“Illinois will continue to be a beacon of hope for those seeking a better life. In the coming year, we will devote $25 million to Welcoming Centers, which assist in integrating immigrant and refugee communities into our state, another $38 million will be devoted to Immigrant Integration programs that help immigrants on their pathways to citizenship and over $40 million to respond to the arrival of asylum seekers. We are committed to making Illinois one of the most welcoming states to immigrants.

“We are proud of the work to make Illinois the first state in the nation to offer Medicaid-like benefits to non-citizens. Thanks to this initiative, 50,000 more people, 42+ years old, receive preventive care, contributing to healthier communities, reducing the pressure over hospital emergency rooms, and saving taxpayers money. Lives have been saved because of this program.

“The need for the healthcare coverage we fight for is because of the real people and their real needs in the communities we represent. These are communities that contribute to our state often with nothing in return. While we were not able to expand coverage this year, the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus has not given up, and we will not give up pursuing closing the age gap of coverage.

“Latino lawmakers are here in Springfield to represent the interest of the communities we represent, both in our districts and all Latino/x community members throughout the state; communities that have been historically disenfranchised and underserved, all while being taxpayers and contributing to our state in numerous ways. Our job as legislators is to fight for the resources our communities need and deserve, and to change the vicious trend of using Latino/x and immigrant communities as political pawns. We will continue to be their voice in Illinois and fight on their behalf, because that is what our communities need and deserve.”

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Protected: *** UPDATED x1 *** SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Supplement to today’s edition

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

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Open thread

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

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

  8 Comments      


Isabel’s morning briefing

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Here you go…

  4 Comments      


Live coverage

Tuesday, May 30, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


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