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Afternoon roundup

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Gov. Pritzker was asked today about the lawsuit challenging a new law that folds abortion crisis centers into the state’s Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act

Pay attention to where this legislation came from. I think you heard that the Attorney General of the State of Illinois was driving into a reproductive rights center when he was essentially flagged down by people who looked like they belong to that center and when he was driving in, stopped, and they began to talk to him about oh, you know, park over here, wherever. It’s a little bit different angle than he was headed because he knew that the entrance where he was going to was in a different place, and began to ask them questions and realized that they were trying to get anybody that was headed to this. I think it was a Planned Parenthood clinic to essentially veer off and talk to people at a crisis - and I put quotes around crisis pregnancy center - and that they were lying to him about where he ought to be going. So this was just the beginning of work that he did to determine that this is happening across the state of Illinois.

Indeed, many of these centers are being put next to clinics where people are seeking to exercise their reproductive rights. And so that was the purpose of it. And that continues to be the purpose of it.

Nobody’s forcing anybody to make any particular decision here. But what we don’t want is misrepresentation, misinformation, people being deceived in the process or just seeking their basic health care rights. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not at all surprised. I think that what the right wing in Illinois has decided is they can’t win at the ballot box. They can’t win in the legislature. They didn’t win the governorship. They didn’t win the races around the state that they were trying to take in, you know, school boards and library boards and so on. And so they have only one thing that they have resorted to, and that’s take every one of these pieces of legislation and try to take it to court and get a decision they like. They typically head for courts where they think they’re going to get a judge that was elected who was one of their own in order to get an initial decision in their favor. But when you go to federal court, less likely to have that happen and you know, my reaction is this is just par for the course. We’ve seen this before.

* More bill signings today…

Governor Pritzker today signed five bills expanding protections for veterans, active-duty soldiers, and military dependents.

“The men and women of this state and this country who heed the call to serve deserve every possible support and protection during and after their time in the military,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “These bills weave together a more comprehensive safety net to protect and uplift veterans and service members dealing with the complexities of life in the military, including the many ways in which service can impact someone’s family and loved ones. To the service members recognized by our newly designed Honor and Remember flag, we thank you for your ultimate sacrifice and mourn with your families and the rest of the state.”

HB0925: House Bill 0925 creates the “Veteran Service Organization State Charter Act.” This act lays out specific requirements organizations must meet in order to be considered state-chartered veterans service organizations. This is a voluntary process that includes demonstrating that an organization must be formed by and for veterans with a majority of board members who are veterans, alongside other financial and legal qualifications.

HB3103: House Bill 3103 eases the process of obtaining a civil no contact order of protection for victims and survivors of military sexual assault. In 2022, Governor Pritzker signed into law SB257, ensuring military sexual assault victims were able to access the same rights and protections as their civilian counterparts. SB 257 allowed Military Protective Orders to be used as a basis for the issuing of criminal domestic violence orders of protection, stalking no contact orders, and gave local law enforcement the ability to enforce a military protective order. This act expands on those efforts to ensure victims and survivors of military sexual assault have access to all necessary resources for protection. The U.S. Department of Defense has cited Illinois’ work in this area as a model for national reform.

HB3295: House Bill 3295 requires the military liaison for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) to notify service members’ spouses of federal assistance programs to reimburse licensing fees when they apply to transfer a professional license to Illinois. Under federal law, military spouses may be reimbursed up to $1,000 for obtaining a professional license required when moving to a new state for military relocation. This includes exam and registration fees. Governor Pritzker has previously prioritized aiding military spouses with relocation by creating a liaison to assist eligible members and their spouses, and by expediting certain applications for review. The licensing reimbursement will be paid by the branch of the military the individual serves in.

HB2856: House Bill 2856 amends the Vital Records Act by adding that the death certificate for an individual who has history of military service may include or be amended to include whether or not a military service-related injury contributed to the cause of death. Having such a classification can expand and expedite access to benefits for the spouse or dependents of the deceased.

SB1072: Senate Bill 1072 designated the Honor and Remember flag as the specific symbol to acknowledge American service men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty. The flag was created by the father of Cpl. George ‘Tony’ Lutz II who was killed in action while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq. The bill creates a mandate on public entities that would then be required to purchase the flag, which cost $55 each. Twenty other states officially recognize this flag.

* Illinois State Board of Education…

Illinois state agencies have released and incorporated new data into the High School 2 Career dashboard tool to ensure Illinois students have the information they need to make informed decisions about their postsecondary and career options. The tool enables students, parents, and guidance counselors to review a wide range of information on Illinois public high school seniors and their actual pathways after they graduate, including postsecondary education choices by degree type and academic area of study, as well as their career and salary outcomes. The interactive online dashboard is available in both English and Spanish. Tutorial videos are also available in both English and Spanish to assist users as they navigate the dashboard.

A data-sharing partnership among the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC), and Illinois State University (ISU), makes this newest iteration of the tool possible. It utilizes data from public school seniors representing five academic years– following their progress from high school through nine years post-gratuation to provide an unparalleled snapshot of the education requirements, compensation, and job stability a student can expect from hundreds of different occupations.

* Press release…

Governor Signs Manley-Preston Bill to Protect Against Lewd Displays in Prison

Everyone involved in corrections is entitled to be protected from lewd behavior in prisons. Rep. Natalie Manley (D-Joliet) and Sen. Willie Preston (D-Chicago) have now provided that protection. Governor Pritzker has signed their bill, HB1399, which creates an effective response to such behaviors as gassing, splashing and exposure in prisons by:

    * Addressing the underlying motivations for this conduct by providing offenders with a Mental Health Treatment Court option.
    * Punishing repeat offenses as a Class 4 felonies.
    * Requiring data collection and a 2028 sunset to be able to evaluate the law’s effectiveness.

“Protecting our correctional community, especially female officers and staff, is absolutely necessary and long overdue,” Rep. Manley said. “This bill gives them a two-pronged approach that will result in real, ongoing protection against this behavior: Treatment for what causes the behavior to keep it from recurring and punishment for those who refuse to change their behavior with that treatment. After working with representatives of law enforcement and criminal justice advocates over the past year, I am proud to be able to sponsor a meaningful solution to this dangerous situation.”

“I was honored to sponsor this important piece of legislation which will keep our corrections officers safer in their place of work,” Sen. Preston said. “Ultimately, I believe it can help deter and prevent an ongoing issue of detainee sexual harassment and I am proud to have seen it pass in both houses.”

The bill was an initiative of Safer Foundation, which worked with Rep. Manley to convene a year-long series of workshops where advocacy groups and correctional authorities from the Cook and Will County Sheriffs developed this groundbreaking approach. The resulting legislation was supported by the Illinois FOP, the Illinois Sheriff’s Association, the Kane County State’s Attorney and the Midwest Region of the Laborer’s International Union. It was co-sponsored by a bi-partisan group that included both Democratic and Republican leadership and passed both chambers unanimously.

“This is the way good legislation is made,” said Safer Foundation Public Policy Analyst Mark McCombs. “Driven by Representative Manley’s commitment to this issue, diverse interests thoughtfully crafted an approach that works. It works because it gets to the root of what causes someone to act like this. It works because it treats a mental health issue with a mental health response. And it works because it protects the entire correctional community, including the vast majority of incarcerated individuals who also don’t want to be subjected to this conduct.”

Lewd behavior in correctional facilities has become an increasingly dangerous problem for correctional authorities. Those authorities have seen a rise in incidents where incarcerated individuals subject guards, staff, volunteers – often females — and even their cellmates to indecent exposure, sexual stimulation and the throwing of bodily fluids (commonly called “splashing” or “gassing”). Retaining staff under these circumstances is challenging. The stress created on staff who remain impacts their ability to perform already difficult jobs, including protecting incarcerated individuals. Previously, Illinois law provided no effective response to this conduct.

I omitted their quotes, but outside of the governor’s email above, I think that’s the only email I’ve received specifically touting a House Democrat’s newly signed law after Friday’s mass bill-signing. And that was from the Safer Foundation. Not sure what’s up over there.

* The Cardinals owners did this and it has proved very popular. Same with the area around that minor league park on the North Side

Expansive development of the surrounding areas at major sports venues is topping the wish list of teams looking to bring new retail space, bars, restaurants and family activities closer to their home venues.

These “mini-cities” have proven to be major success stories in locales like Atlanta at the Battery connected to the Braves’ Truist Park and the ever-growing development around the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium as well as its headquarters in Frisco, Texas.

It’s the same dream the Chicago Bears are pursuing with the team’s plan to develop a $5 billion stadium and mixed-use entertainment district in the northwest suburb. Those initial plans seemed to have stalled, and the Bears are now listening to pitches on other municipalities, including Chicago itself. Mayor Brandon Johnson and any other hopeful to win the team to their side will almost certainly need to offer a site with ample space for such a development.

* My pledge to you…

* Isabel’s afternoon roundup…

  6 Comments      


Question of the day

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Rockford Register Star

Ever want to skip the line at the Illinois DMV? Now you can

Illinois department of motor vehicle offices are known for having long lines and wait times, but relief may be on the way.

Some offices are going appointment-only for certain services, and all offices will be open longer.

It’s all part of Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias’ “Skip-the-Line” program, aimed at improving customer service and reducing wait times.

There is no such thing as the “Illinois department of motor vehicle.” From 2014

And note that it is not called the DMV – the Department of Motor Vehicles, which is what people want to call the office because people watch TV, and programs are filmed in California, where they have a Department of Motor Vehicles, or DMV, and it is referred to as such by its acronym. It’s wrong.

Agree or disagree, like it or hate it, the only mention in state statute of the phrase “Department of Motor Vehicles” is a small section about out-of-state DMVs.

* A few years ago, then-Secretary of State Jesse White said he’d given in and would start referring to drivers’ services facilities as DMVs. And now even the SoS website uses the term

If they want to officially rebrand a state entity, maybe pass a law first.

* Or, I dunno. Maybe the reason I’m just so peevish about this right now is because of Elon’s shenanigans…


* The Question: Should I just let this DMV thing go? Explain.

  53 Comments      


Meanwhile… In Opposite Land

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Alabama

Alabama Republicans on Friday defied a U.S. Supreme Court order by passing a new congressional map that includes only one majority-Black district.

The GOP-controlled Legislature had called a special session to redraw an earlier map after the Supreme Court reaffirmed a federal court order to include two districts where Black voters make up voting-age majorities, “or something quite close to it.” But on Friday, state Republicans approved a new map with just one majority-Black seat and a second district that is approximately 40% Black.

The bill passed the House in a 75-28 vote after the Senate voted 24 to 6 in favor of the revised map.

The map was completed Friday afternoon — hours before the court-ordered deadline for the Legislature to draw up new boundaries — as a compromise between the House and Senate versions.

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the redistricting map into law Friday night. A federal court will hold a hearing on the map Aug. 14.

* Florida

The Florida Department of Education determined that educational materials geared toward young children and high school students created by PragerU, a nonprofit co-founded by conservative radio host Dennis Prager, was in alignment with the state’s standards on how to teach civics and government to K-12 students.

The content — some of which is narrated by conservative personalities such as Candace Owens and Tucker Carlson — features cartoons, five-minute video history lessons and story-time shows for young children and is part of a brand called PragerU Kids. And the lessons share a common message: Being pro-American means aligning oneself to mainstream conservative talking points.

“We are in the mind-changing business and few groups can say that,” Prager says in a promotional video for PragerU as a whole. He reiterated this sentiment this summer at a conference for the conservative group Moms for Liberty in Philadelphia, saying it is “fair” to say PragerU indoctrinates children.

“It’s true we bring doctrines to children,” Prager told the group. “ But what is the bad about our indoctrination?” […]

Some videos talk about the history of race relations and slavery. In one video, two kids travel back in time to meet Christopher Columbus, who tells them that he should not be judged for enslaving people because the practice was “no big deal” in his time. Columbus argued to the kids that he did not see a problem with it because “being taken as a slave is better than being killed.”

* Wisconsin, West Virginia, Iowa, Michigan

Wisconsin is just one of a growing number of states where predominantly Republican lawmakers are making quiet moves to roll back the alcohol service age, so that kids who can’t legally buy alcohol – or in Wisconsin’s case, even drive a car – would be allowed to serve hard drinks to customers at bars and restaurants. In addition to alleviating the labor shortage, lawmakers behind the bills argue letting kids serve alcohol would give them valuable work experience.

That’s left some opponents of the bills at a loss for words. “It’s bizarre. I can’t believe that we’re even having this conversation,” says Ryan Clancy, a Democratic state legislator who represents parts of Milwaukee, where he also owns an entertainment center that serves alcohol. He’s seen how drunk customers can harass workers, and “the idea that we would expose Wisconsin’s children to harassment through this is just unconscionable. It’s not only an erosion of labor, but our willingness to protect our kids.”

Until recently, every US state required a worker serving alcohol in a bar or restaurant to be at least 18 to 21. These minimums in part reflect the legacy of the movement to end child labor in the 20th century, says Betsy Wood, a historian of child labor at Bard Early College.

But according to a report published last week by the Economic Policy Institute, at least seven states have enacted laws to lower their alcohol service age since 2021, including West Virginia and Iowa, which lowered the minimum age to 16, and Michigan, which lowered it to 17. The bills are backed by restaurant lobbying groups as part of a broader effort to loosen child labor laws “to cut labor costs and deregulate employment”, the report writes – at a time when child labor violations are on the rise across the country.

* Texas

The largest school district in Texas announced its libraries will be eliminated and replaced with discipline centers in the new school year.

Houston independent school district announced earlier this summer that librarian and media-specialist positions in 28 schools will be eliminated as part of superintendent Mike Miles’s “new education system” initiative.

Teachers at these schools will soon have the option to send misbehaving students to these discipline centers, or “team centers’” – designated areas where they will continue to learn remotely.

News of the library removals comes after the state announced it would be taking over the district, effective in the 2023-24 school year, due to poor academic performance. Miles was appointed by the the Texas Education Agency in June.

* Arkansas

Arkansas is temporarily blocked from enforcing a law that would have allowed criminal charges against librarians and booksellers for providing “harmful” materials to minors, a federal judge ruled Saturday.

U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks issued a preliminary injunction against the law, which also would have created a new process to challenge library materials and request that they be relocated to areas not accessible by kids. The measure, signed by Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier this year, was set to take effect Aug. 1.

A coalition that included the Central Arkansas Library System in Little Rock had challenged the law, saying fear of prosecution under the measure could prompt libraries and booksellers to no longer carry titles that could be challenged.

The judge also rejected a motion by the defendants, which include prosecuting attorneys for the state, seeking to dismiss the case.

* Iowa

Hundreds of books would be banned in Urbandale schools, providing the first full scope of just how many titles could be removed from schools under a new Iowa law that forbids teaching about gender identity and prohibits publications that depict sex acts.

The Des Moines Register obtained a list of 374 books that the Urbandale Community School District believes could violate Senate File 496, which, among other changes, requires teachers and administrators to review their libraries and classrooms for books that depict sex acts and prohibits them from buying them in the first place.

The law also prohibits schools from providing instruction about gender identity or sexual orientation before seventh grade, which Urbandale officials believe includes books, according to instructions provided on the list.

Teachers in the school district of about 4,000 students northwest of Des Moines have been instructed to remove those books, which include children’s picture books, titles with LGBTQ themes, and classics like “Ulysses,” “The Catcher in the Rye” and “The Color Purple.”

  34 Comments      


Pritzker says the state can reopen enrollment to undocumented healthcare program, but ‘within our budget constraints’

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Gov. Pritzker was asked again today about the paused enrollment to the program that pays medical costs for undocumented immigrants aged 42-64. Where do those folks go now?

So you may recall that there was a time when we didn’t have any program- HBIA, HBIS, those are the names of the programs - for people who were illegal, undocumented rather, here in Illinois. There was no program for them. What did they do? We have free clinics, we have hospitals and emergency rooms that they were going to. I would prefer if we had universal health care. I think that every person on the ground [applause] had access to the health care that they need. Meanwhile, there are, you know, we haven’t done that in the United States and we’re trying really hard to do that in the state of Illinois. There’s still more work to do.

So what will those folks do? We have free clinics. We have, by the way, the open program still for seniors who are undocumented immigrants. And so that program remains open, there’s thousands more slots. But as far as I’m concerned, we need to make sure that we’re also balancing our budget and providing health care. So we support many of those free clinics, the state does and will continue to do that. I think that we ought to have the program that we already have in place for undocumented immigrants cover more people. But we need to make sure that we’re doing it in a cost efficient fashion. And to me, that means running it like Medicaid, because it wasn’t being run like Medicaid. It was on a fee for service basis.

But I think we can run it efficiently and make sure that we’re reopening the program, again, within our budgetary constraints. I think you’re aware that a very deep concern of mine for the state of Illinois making sure that we balance our budgets, run surpluses so that we can afford to do the things that we think are important to protect people across the state. And so I’m going to continue to try to balance all those interests.

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A look at that Auditor General’s report

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Unsurprisingly, Hannah Meisel has the best story out there on last week’s Auditor General’s report on unemployment and PUA overpayments. A tiny excerpt

While overpayments in “regular” unemployment insurance accounted for a little over $2 billion, overpayments in the PUA program amounted to $3.2 billion, according to the audit.

“Considering gross benefits associated with regular UI claims were 2.5 times higher than gross benefits associated with PUA claims, it shows the magnitude of fraud experienced in the PUA program,” the audit said.

Identity theft accounted for nearly $511 million – roughly a quarter – of the $2 billion in overpayments within Illinois’ regular unemployment benefits system. In contrast, identity theft accounted for the majority of overpayments in the PUA system; $2.3 billion in PUA benefits were paid out in this manner.

The remainder of overpayments are due to what the audit narrowly defines as “fraud” – overpayments resulting from unemployment recipients filing knowingly false information – and “non-fraud,” which is the result of genuine mistakes. IDES has taken steps to stop or claw back these sorts of overpayments, though there are hardship waivers available.

But recovery of that money is only possible because those overpayments were sent to the true claimants of unemployment insurance, the audit notes. Illinois is out of luck on the $2.8 billion in overpayments IDES paid out to those using stolen identities.

PUA was 100 percent federally funded. The state is not on the hook for that.

* The UI fraud, however, represented over half of the state’s overall debt to the trust fund. From March of last year

Illinois lawmakers this week advanced a measure to allocate $2.7 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay down more than half of the state’s outstanding $4.5 billion Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund debt. […]

Rep. Jay Hoffman, a Swansea Democrat who is a lead House negotiator on unemployment issues, said discussions continue with business and labor interests on addressing the remaining $1.8 billion. But at least $2.5 billion was needed to keep those negotiations moving forward.

“This is an agreed bill process. Business and labor have to agree or we’re not going to move the bill,” he said of ongoing negotiations to pay down the $1.8 billion. “This was a budgetary measure in order to make it easier on the agreed bill process.”

* From November of 2022

Lawmakers on Tuesday announced a bipartisan plan to use state revenues to pay down the remaining $1.4 billion in debt taken on by the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Part of the agreement is expected to move through the General Assembly this week before lawmakers adjourn for the year. It would increase an employee’s “taxable wage base” – which is the amount of an employee’s wages for which an employer must pay unemployment taxes – by 2.4 percent for each of the next five years. It would also increase the target balance of the fund’s reserves from $1 billion to $1.75 billion.

It does not decrease the number of weeks or maximum amounts of benefits an unemployed person can receive. […]

Also as part of the agreement, the $450 million in state revenue to supplement the trust fund balance will be in the form of a no-interest loan. It is to be repaid over 10 years as a deposit in the state’s “rainy day” fund, which has its highest-ever balance over $1 billion.

  8 Comments      


Pritzker announces several reproductive care initiatives

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

Governor JB Pritzker today joined state leaders, healthcare providers, and advocates to announce several initiatives and programs targeted to lower barriers of access to reproductive care for families. These programs focus on navigating systems, reducing costs for patients, and supporting healthcare facilities, building on years of investment in and prioritization of reproductive care in the public health system.

“Unlike some other states, in the fourteen months since the Supreme Court made the archaic and destructive decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, Illinois has doubled down on our commitment to protect and expand reproductive rights for patients and providers alike,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This most recent batch of nation-leading policy expands access even further—because in the Land of Lincoln, we will not go backwards. Illinois will remain a safe haven for women — and I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure widespread, equitable access to reproductive rights.”

“Illinois continues to lead in the fight to protect women and anyone seeking reproductive care. While others attempt to roll back rights and restrict bodily autonomy, our state is forging ahead to build the groundwork for comprehensive, accessible reproductive healthcare,” said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. “By addressing barriers to seeking an abortion and supporting providers who meet patients’ needs, these cross-agency initiatives demonstrate what it means to stand on the right side of history in the fight for reproductive justice.”

The initiatives announced today include:

Partnership between IHFS, IDPH, UIC, RUSH, and the Chicago Abortion Fund to create a hospital navigation program: CARLA (Complex Abortion Regional Line for Access), launching in August, is designed to give appropriate and expeditious treatment to patients who present for abortions at clinics who need a higher level of care than can be provided at the clinics. The nurse-staffed and specially trained hotline will aid patients with complex medical needs in scheduling appointments within hospital systems, acquiring required pre-operative testing, and arranging payment, transportation, and childcare for treatment.

Request for Proposals for a public facing hotline for abortion service navigation: IDPH received $10 million for this program in the FY2024 budget. The Reproductive Health Public Navigation Hotline will aid patients, including those travelling from out of state, in finding and navigating care. Illinois has seen a massive influx in patients travelling from out of state as other states in the region and beyond have passed increasingly restrictive anti-choice legislation, necessitating increased support for those navigating these systems.

Creation of a Family Planning Program for Medicaid: The program provides comprehensive coverage for family planning services for people otherwise not eligible for Medicaid based on income threshold. This plan raises the income eligibility above threshold for the regular Medicaid program and includes services such as an annual preventive exam, family planning counseling, all Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved methods of contraception, permanent methods of birth control (tubal ligation or vasectomy), and basic infertility counseling. Additional examples of services include cervical cancer screening and treatment, screening mammograms, breast cancer gene (BRCA) genetic counseling and testing as applicable, vaccines that support reproductive health, abortion care, and transportation for family planning visits. By leveraging federal Medicaid funds in addition to the Title X grant dollars, Illinois is making family planning services more affordable and accessible for residents across the state.

Capital Grant Program: The first-of-its-kind Illinois Reproductive Health Facilities Capital Grant Program will be administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and provides $5 million in capital funding through Rebuild Illinois to support reproductive health care providers in Illinois that are experiencing increased demand for their services. The capital grants fund improvements and repairs, new construction, security upgrades, and equipment to increase capacity and enhance safety, which includes the purchase of vehicles for mobile care units.

Authorization of reproductive health reimbursement for state employees who work out of state: Approximately 1,600 female state employees or dependents live out-of-state, including some in states where access to reproductive healthcare has been seriously restricted. The Travel Reimbursement Program, modeled after an existing state program for organ donation and adoption, will cover transportation and lodging for state employees who must travel to access safe and sufficient reproductive healthcare.

Discuss.

  1 Comment      


Rep. Marron to retire; Reps. Collins, Williams angling for Senate appointment

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

State Rep. Mike Marron (R-Fithian) announced he will not seek reelection today.

“Serving the citizens of Vermilion and Champaign Counties in the General Assembly has been a great honor. I’ve appreciated all the support from the constituents of the 104th and the partnerships we’ve built from my days as Vermilion County Board Chairman to my time in the State House. I feel lucky to have been part of a team that accomplished some good things over those years. My favorite part of the job was always helping constituents resolve some significant issues they needed help with. Those successes were largely due to my outstanding staff members who always worked as hard as possible. A special thank you to Tracie Petersak, Barb Nelson, and Marguerite Bailey for those efforts. I am announcing I will not seek reelection again for State Representative in 2024.

Thank you to everyone who was a part of my successes over the years. It really has been a humbling experience. It is time to focus on my family farm and spend more time with my wife and daughter. After all, there is so much more to life than politics.”

Marron’s retirement might give the Democrats a chance to compete, depending upon who wins the GOP primary.

…Adding… Leader McCombie…

House Republican Leader Tony McCombie released the following statement after Assistant House Republican Leader Mike Marron announced he will not be seeking reelection:

“Mike Marron is a reasonable and thoughtful voice in the General Assembly and for the residents he serves in central Illinois. He is a strong advocate for hardworking Illinoisans—and I join the many who will never forget his several-day demonstration outside the IDES offices, supporting constituents from his district and around the state through some of our hardest times. This is one of many examples of the true leadership he exemplifies. He has made his mark in our statehouse, and as my friend, I look forward to celebrating the great things he accomplishes in the years to come.”

* Meanwhile

The next appointment to the state Senate will expose the strength of Chicago progressives vs. old-school pols.

State Rep. Lakesia Collins (9th), a progressive who heads the Illinois House Black Caucus, is talking to multiple people about running for the seat and is already lining up support from progressives, including the powerful Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU 73, Healthcare and Local 1 and some trade unions, too.

State Rep. Jawaharial “Omar” Williams (10th) also wants to be appointed.

And get this: Williams is the son of Ald. and Vice Mayor Walter Burnett Jr., who in the Chicago way also sits on the Democratic committee that will appoint the new senator.

The 5th District Senate seat is opening up with the retirement of Sen. Patricia Van Pelt.

Forget conflict of interest: Burnett has the weighted vote, meaning his voice counts nearly double when the Democratic leaders gather to make the appointment. He told Playbook that “yes” he will be part of the selection process. Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) also has a strong voice on the committee.

Ald. Burnett has a quarter of the weighted vote.

…Adding… Agreed…


  3 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 *** Much ado about very little

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* NewsWeek

A new bill allowing eligible non-U.S. citizens in Illinois to become police officers was signed into law by Governor J. B. Pritzker on Friday, amid criticism from some Republican lawmakers. […]

The bill’s primary sponsor, Democratic Rep. Barbara Hernandez, defended the bill saying that the measure is a “natural progression” of the federal government’s 2021 decision to allow some undocumented immigrants to become healthcare workers and military members, as reported by CBS News.

According to the bill’s description on the Illinois General Assembly’s website, it amends the state’s Municipal Code providing that “an individual who is not a citizen but is legally authorized to work in the United States under federal law is authorized to apply for the position of police officers.”

Eligible non-U.S. citizens are subject “to all requirements and limitations, other than citizenship, to which other applicants are subject,” and must be able to obtain, carry, purchase, or otherwise possess a firearm under federal law.

So - and this is important - if they can’t obtain federal authorization to possess a firearm, they’re out of luck.

* Criticism from a couple of federal lawmakers is highlighted in the article


But the bill passed the House 100-7. It had less bipartisan support in the Senate, but still passed easily.

* The Illinois FOP is quoted in the article as being virulently opposed, but the group never officially registered a position with the General Assembly either way, so what the heck were they doing when the bill was being crafted?

On the other hand, Chicago FOP Lodge #7 was an early proponent as was the Illinois Municipal League. The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police was originally opposed, but then switched to neutral after the bill was changed. The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association slipped as neutral.

*** UPDATE *** Gov. Pritzker was asked about US Rep. Mary Miller’s claim during a press conference today and gave a full-throated response

That’s wrong. That’s false. I appreciate you asking the question, because as usual the far-right is proposing and putting out their false information. They’re saying that we’re allowing illegal, illegal immigrants is the word that they would use. You know, undocumented immigrants are not allowed to become police officers in the state of Illinois. What we have allowed is legal permanent residents and DACA recipients now to become police officers. So we have the ability for people who are legally in this country. And again, permanent residents or DACA recipients now to apply for jobs as police officers.

But I am tired of the right wing twisting these things. They put it out on Facebook, they tell lies. They attack based upon those lies. They’re perpetuating lies. So there are people out there that think that we’re just allowing anybody to become a police officer, that’s just not accurate. Two other states already have provided this. We have a US military that has 35,000 immigrants who are not US citizens who are serving in the US military today. 8,000 more sign up every year. We allow that in our US military. We allow it in a couple of other states and more states are adding on to this list of states that are allowing legal permanent residents. So I’m proud that we are doing this I think it’s the right thing. To do. It’s also good for our police departments. And oh, by the way, the Fraternal Order of Police has supported it.

Please pardon all transcription errors.

  30 Comments      


Report: Illinois cannabis among the highest priced, with least brand options

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Crain’s

The Illinois marijuana market is one of the most expensive in the nation and among the smallest as far as the number of brands – but it also offers plenty of opportunity for entrepreneurs, according to a new report from Seattle-based Headset.

Despite the size of the Illinois cannabis landscape – “one of the largest markets in the country,” the report begins – it’s surprisingly homogenous and dominated by just a handful of brands, which keeps prices artificially high compared to other states, Headset reported.

Illinois has just 118 active cannabis brands, and only 10 of those brands account for 68% of sales, Headset found, putting it “dead last” nationally as far as brand diversity. That’s almost 53% fewer brands than Arizona, which came in second for the fewest cannabis brands and is also mostly vertically integrated, similar to Illinois’ market structure.

By contrast, Washington state has more than 1,000 cannabis brands.

More facilities are coming online, so hopefully that’ll bring down prices.

* From the report

As of June 2023, Illinois has some of the highest cannabis prices in the country. Illinois’ average item price is 46% higher at $33.82 than the second highest Massachusetts and has a 36% higher price per gram ahead of Nevada. The high vertical integration coupled with the small brand selection likely contributes to a situation where prices are allowed to stay relatively high. Compare that to Washington State which has well over a thousand distinct brands versus 118 in Illinois. Additionally, Washington has some of the lowest prices in the country with an average item price that is 61% less than in Illinois. A strong contrast between mature and emerging markets.  Poor access is another factor likely contributing to expensive cannabis. This spring Illinois only had 118 operating retailers compared to several hundred in states with equal or smaller consumer bases. This number is comparable to the number of retailers in Maryland’s medical cannabis program prior to their July 1st adult-use launch.

*Equivalized quantity (EQ) price is the price per gram for inhalable products

Examining the average item price (AIP) and equivalized quantity (EQ) price in Illinois versus the rest of the US we can see that prices are falling across the board. The AIP in Illinois is currently 89% higher than the rest of the US market and EQ Price is 97% higher. In the last year, EQ price has dropped 26.8% compared to 17.3% nationally. AIP is much more stubborn, with the rate of compression being slower than the rest of the US market. Moving to value-driven formats (more THC per dollar) maybe be the cause of the rapidly falling EQ prices.

* Some interesting stats

While Millennials make up 45% of total sales, there is a higher Baby Boomer and Gen X representation in the Illinois market. Consumers over the age of 41 typically account for 36.4% of sales, however, in Illinois they capture 42.1% of total sales. There is also a slight skew towards women compared to the national market.

  34 Comments      


Better management, please

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Heather Cherone at WTTW

Chicago taxpayers spent $280 million to resolve lawsuits alleging Chicago police officers committed a wide range of misconduct — including false arrest and excessive force — from spring 2019 to spring 2023, according to an analysis of city data by WTTW News. […]

Inspector General Deborah Witzburg in September sounded the alarm about the escalating costs of police misconduct, releasing an audit that found the city does not collect enough data to “effectively manage the risk of expense to the city and harm to its residents arising out of CPD’s operations.”

That lack of detail means city officials rarely link settlements or verdicts — which can run into the millions of dollars — to specific complaints of misconduct, and do not analyze what led up to the incident in an effort to prevent similar cases by disciplining officers, retraining them or offering them counseling or other treatment, Witzburg said.

“We are writing enormous checks and leaving a tremendous opportunity for reform on the table,” Witzburg said. “It is a staggering amount of money.”

The ordinance that created the Civilian Office of Police Accountability calls for a representative of the agency, which is charged with investigating police misconduct, to be present while the City Council’s Finance Committee weighs whether to endorse recommendations from the city’s lawyers to settle a case. But they never are, Witzburg said.

That allows those discussions to “devolve into a shadow trial” about whether the officers committed misconduct, without all of the facts available to members of the committee.

  23 Comments      


How was the budget padded for the AFSCME contract? Administration only offers broad clues, no specifics

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column

Illinois Republicans have been saying ever since a state budget deal was announced by the majority Democrats that not enough money was appropriated for fiscal year 2024 to pay for the new AFSCME Council 31 employee union contract. Some have even predicted that the contract plus other spending pressures, including health care for undocumented immigrants, will eventually lead to a tax hike.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in June, weeks before the contract was finalized, that the GOP claim was “one of those false things that Republicans like to say about the budget.” In fact, he said, “We built in what we thought might be the appropriate amount of money for what we expect from that AFSCME negotiation.”

The contract ended up with a fiscal year 2024 price tag of $204 million (the Republicans had predicted costs of $200-300 million). So, where is that money in the budget, which passed a month before the negotiations ended?

I turned to Carol Knowles, who is the deputy director for communications at the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB).

“The agencies officially did not budget for COLAs in their budget submissions,” Knowles said via email of employee cost of living raises. And she said her office didn’t give the agencies any guidance about the topic, either, “as that would be not respectful of the labor negotiation process by indicating ahead of time what number the administration was willing to pay.” It also wouldn’t be smart negotiating to tip the state’s bargaining hand in advance, but she didn’t say that.

Because the cost increases weren’t submitted to the legislature, “some lawmakers may have interpreted that as ‘there is no money in the budget for the union contract,’” Knowles said.

But, Knowles continued, “There was cushion in agency budgets to assist them in managing in the new fiscal year.”

Knowles explained that GOMB, “spends most of the year building and planning for upcoming fiscal year agency budgets, and have a lot of knowledge regarding individual agency spending patterns, hiring patterns, lag time to hire and appropriation flexibilities, that sort of thing, and work with agencies to estimate when/if in a fiscal year people will be hired, how many will retire, and what the new folks will earn, etc.”

So, she said, “Early in the budget building process last fall for Fiscal Year 2024, one of the things GOMB did was work to identify what the cost of a 1% COLA for AFSCME employees might mean for each individual agency. We could scale that number when we needed to. That data would then give us a good basis/knowledge going into the spring session.”

Knowles continued that they put some “additional funding/flexibility” into the governor’s budget proposal in February beyond cost of living increases.

I had zero luck getting any actual numbers from the budget office, but Knowles did provide a hint, saying part of what they did earlier this year “was provide more flexibility than in a typical year on various assumptions we use to build the personal services budget,” to help the agencies “absorb some of the likely costs that would be associated with a new contract.”

They then shifted more salary dollars around in the final budget package, she said. And then they gave the agencies even more flexibility by allowing them to repurpose up to 8 percent of their operating budget for other uses. “So, while we didn’t know the dollar amount that would be needed, we believe we have put good tools in place to allow agencies to be able to manage much of the first year impact,” Knowles said.

Now that the contract has been ratified, Knowles said, “we will be working with the agencies to determine whether our various assumptions will work for the agencies.”

I asked for more specifics of how the “cushion” was built. “Increased appropriation authority was added to various lines,” was all Knowles replied.

OK, so the bottom line is we still don’t know where that money was stashed in order to create a “cushion” for agencies. A little extra appropriated here and there, particularly for salaries, is what it looks like.

Allowing agencies to transfer up to 8% of their appropriations between line items is also key. That money can be moved around to pay for 22 different categories of spending, including personal services, pension contributions, group health insurance, etc. So, they basically could’ve padded just about anything.

I assume the budget office refused to reveal much because it would provide keys to legislators and others to figure out how they do the voodoo they do. But this is beyond opaque.

  15 Comments      


Open thread

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* I hope y’all had a relaxing weekend and enjoyed the weather. What’s going on in your part of Illinois?…

* I made the trip downtown to ride the 4000-series cars this weekend



  5 Comments      


Isabel’s morning briefing

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Here you go…

  10 Comments      


Live coverage

Monday, Jul 31, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Follow along with ScribbleLive


  Comments Off      


PREVIOUS POSTS »
* Isabel’s afternoon roundup
* Uber Partners With Cities To Expand Urban Transportation
* Yes on operations and capital spending, No on revenues to pay for it
* Giannoulias on House floor while bill goes down
* Some budget react
* Governor rebuffs Rep. Crespo’s worries of future fiscal cliff
* Coverage roundup: House sends $53.1 billion FY25 budget to the governor
* Open thread
* Isabel’s morning briefing
* SUBSCRIBERS ONLY - Today's edition of Capitol Fax (use all CAPS in password)
* Live coverage
* Welch: 'No one's ever said the House is boring'
* House passes budget 65-45 - BIMP passes 62-46 - Grocery tax elimination sails 86-20 - Revenue omnibus put on postponed consideration - Motion to reconsider passes - But big problem and Dems will have to suspend the rules - Concurrence motion finally passes as GOP gives up
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