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Afternoon roundup

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Donations have been a bit on the slow side today, so please click here and help buy Christmas presents for foster kids. Thanks!

* Background is here if you need it. I asked the governor’s office for a response to the US Steel layoff announcements. Here’s Gov. JB Pritzker…

“U.S. Steel’s Granite City operation is a union shop with a long history in Illinois, and it’s alarming that company executives would announce these layoffs alongside a move to a right-to-work state where they can pay workers less and subject them to worse working conditions. The lack of responsible communication between the company, its employees and the state is potentially unlawful and the Department of Labor will work to ensure workers’ rights are protected. DCEO will continue to provide rapid response services to those affected by the layoffs to assist with finding new employment. Illinois’s top-tier workforce cannot be easily replaced—the diligence, training, and hard work of these U.S. Steel employees makes them a valuable asset to companies who care about producing a top-tier product.”

* IDOL…

The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) has issued a subpoena to the United States Steel Corporation (US Steel) to investigate its compliance with the Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN).

The Illinois WARN Act requires employers with 75 or more full-time employees to give workers and state and local government officials 60 days advance notice of a plant closing or mass layoff.

IDOL was informed Tuesday, November 28, 2023, of a mass, impending layoff at Granite City Works in Granite City. This follows layoffs that were announced in September, although US Steel characterized those as temporary at the time. More than 1,000 workers will have lost their jobs at the conclusion of the layoffs.

“Mass layoffs impact entire communities,” said IDOL Director Jane Flanagan. “At the Department of Labor, we want to ensure that workers are given the required notice under law before they are laid off. It is also our intention to make certain United States Steel Corporation has acted in compliance with the WARN Act.”

An employer that fails to provide notice as required by the Act is liable to each affected employee for back pay and benefits for the period of the violation, up to a maximum of 60 days. The employer may also be subject to a civil penalty of up to $500 for each day of the notice violation.

* WCIA

It has been more than a year since the Dobbs decision changed the course of abortion access across the country. The outcome is exactly what some experts expected.

Some states banned the procedure while others opened their borders for people seeking care. Illinois was one of them. Planned Parenthood Illinois says the numbers have gone up significantly.

Planned Parenthood reported a 54 percent increase in abortions since overturning Roe versus Wade and a 700% increase in traveling from outside of the state. […]

Since the Dobbs decision, patients traveling from 29 states now make up 85 percent of all abortion appointments, Planned Parenthood announced the first mobile abortion clinic, and vasectomy appointments went up by 97 percent.

* Isabel’s roundup…

    * Center Square | Some Illinois law enforcement say enforcing gun ban violations not a priority: During recent public hearings, the agency said prosecution of first and subsequent offenses will be up to the 102 different county state’s attorneys. “That’s going to be up to the state’s attorney and the courts,” ISP attorney Suzanne Bond said. […] “We recognize that it is the law and we respect it. We also have limited resources and have to set priorities for the office, and this will not be one of our top priorities,” [McHenry County, State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally] told The Center Square, noting that each case will have unique circumstances.

    * WAND | One Aim Illinois: Lawmakers, advocates call healing critical in gun violence prevention: “We need to have those that are at the forefront, the ones that are most impacted, the ones that are ostracized and sort of the forgotten voices,” said Monse Ayala, an organizer with Increase the Peace. “That’s a lot of our young people. We need to have agency over how we are tackling this and what they need from us and how we can do better for them.”

    * Press Release | IDNR receives grant to recognize and research African American heritage properties in southern Illinois: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has been awarded a $75,000 grant from the National Park Service to recognize significant African American heritage properties in southern Illinois. Illinois was one of 21 projects in 16 states and the District of Columbia to receive funding from the Underrepresented Community Grants (URC) program through the Historic Preservation Fund administered by the National Park Service.

    * RiverBender | Gov. Pritzker Celebrates Completion Of I-280 Over Mississippi River In Quad Cities: The Baker Bridge opened in 1973 and today carries more than 28,000 vehicles a day, almost 20% of which are trucks. The new deck is the first replacement since the bridge opened. A $49.7 million project began in 2021 with the demolition and replacement of the westbound bridge deck, followed by the eastbound bridge deck in 2022. The final stage of the project, which patched and resurfaced I-280 from the bridge to the Illinois 92 interchange, was combined with another $16 million improvement that extended the work from the Illinois 92 interchange to east of the Milan Beltway. Additional work included bridge painting and lighting upgrades at Illinois 92.

    * WCIA | Meta launches new data center in Illinois: Meta officials joined Governor J.B. Pritzker and other state leaders to celebrate the start of the data center in DeKalb. Officials say the facility will bring 200 jobs and represents a nearly $1 billion investment to Illinois’ economy. […] Meta officials chose the chose DeKalb area because it offered excellent infrastructure, access to renewable energy, and a strong talent for both constructing and operating the center. The data center is supported by 100% renewable energy, officials said.

    * RiverBender | Gov. Pritzker Celebrates Opening Of Meta’s Dekalb Data Center: Today, Governor JB Pritzker joined local elected officials, Meta leadership, and business and academic leaders to celebrate the opening of Meta’s Data Center in Dekalb. The data center is now fully operational and is supported by 100% renewable energy

    * The Crusader | Pritzker Administration, IDPH to host 2023 Illinois Minority Health Conference in Bloomington December 4 & 5: The conference at Illinois State University is designed to share knowledge on health disparities and social justice issues; build competencies among healthcare professionals; and develop collaborations with service providers and community partners aimed at more effectively serving minorities and other disadvantaged communities in Illinois.

    * Dispatch-Argus | Henry County board member announces candidancy for Illinois’ 37th State Senate District: Republican Henry County Board member Tim Yager is running for the 37th State Senate District in Illinois. […] Republican Sen. Win Stoller holds the seat. Stoller was elected in 2020 and announced in August that he would not seek reelection.

    * WGN | Kankakee County moving to encrypt public safety scanners: The Kankakee County Communication Center is beginning the project soon and starting with police channels. That is expected to take three to six months and then fire/EMS channels will be encrypted. The general public and media outlets will not be able to hear transmissions in real time. The county is citing three reasons for the move; officer safety, citizen privacy and reporting accuracy. The county said agencies will distribute information through social media when it’s “appropriate and factual.

    * Crain’s | Ford: UAW strike cut profits by $1.7B, new contract to cost $8.8B: Ford Motor Co. said Thursday its new four-and-a-half-year labor contract with the UAW is expected to raise costs by $8.8 billion, or an average of about $900 per vehicle by 2028. Ford said it lost $1.7 billion in profits from the union’s 41-day strike against the automaker. The company now expects $10 billion to $10.5 billion in adjusted earnings before interest and taxes, down from previous guidance of $11 billion to $12 billion.

    * ABC Chicago | Migrants in Chicago: City won’t use Amundsen Park fieldhouse as migrant shelter: “The city did a really terrible job at handling this,” Donald Glover, president of the Amundsen Park Advisory Council, said. “They held our community and our park hostage for almost 60 days. We couldn’t use the park. Our kids couldn’t use it, our seniors couldn’t use it and they could have been more transparent. Hopefully in the future they will include rather than the exclude people.”

    * CBS Chicago | 17 Chicago churches to take in migrants from police stations, as work begins on tent camp in Brighton Park: Dubbed the “Unity Initiative,” the mayor on Tuesday joined a group of faith leaders and philanthropic groups to announce that 17 churches will begin providing shelter and other services for migrants as soon as Wednesday. The number of churches participating in the program could expand later. John Zayas, associate pastor at Grace and Peace Church in Austin, said the goal is to start sending buses to police stations on Wednesday.

    * WBEZ | New seating protocols at Chicago’s City Council meetings draw sharp criticisms: The Rules Committee, which oversees the council’s security team, outlined the new protocols to WBEZ, but has not published them publicly. The committee clarified on Thursday that members of the public will not be turned away if the third floor is full, and will be allowed to sit on the second floor in that instance. The committee also clarified this seating protocol is for full council meetings, not committee meetings.

    * Daily Egyptian | Set up “to fail:” Air Traffic Control shortage casts clouds over SIU aviation program: Two sources close to the situation said a newly hired controller who didn’t get enough training created the hazardous conditions. The Daily Egyptian is granting these sources anonymity, but their stories corroborate each other’s. One source said, “So what happened was, there was a new tower controller who has recently…been signed off for solo operations that he could conduct without being supervised…he just lost the whole picture. He was clearing the wrong airplanes, getting people mixed-up, sending people towards each other.”

    * Pew | State Automated Retirement Programs Would Reduce Taxpayer Burden From Insufficient Savings: Today, as many as 56 million private sector workers lack access to a retirement savings plan through their jobs. The analysts who conducted the study for The Pew Charitable Trusts estimate that such limited savings could lead to a cumulative additional cost to the federal government of $964 billion between 2021 and 2040. State spending on these programs, stemming from administrative costs, required state match formulas, and supplemental state benefits, totals another $334 billion over that period. And social spending does not replace the entirety of the gap, requiring many households to reduce their standard of living in retirement. … Eleven states have already launched automated savings programs to help more private sector workers routinely put money away for retirement. This year, lawmakers in more states are introducing measures to expand those opportunities. These bills create savings options—sometimes referred to as Work & Save or Secure Choice—that allow people to set up state-sponsored individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Typically, workers at companies without employer-based benefits are enrolled automatically but can opt out. The states that already approved programs are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and Virginia.

    * Tribune | Advocates, survivors of detainees mourn 16 who died in Cook County Jail: “Every person back there is a human being, and they have loved ones like us,” Cassandra Greer Lee said, nodding across the street to one of the buildings in the jail complex on South California Avenue. Lee’s husband Nickolas was the third person to die of COVID-19 while in custody in April 2020. She stood with Vicki Willis, whose son Alteriq Pleasant died in custody last year.

    * NYT | Airlines Race Toward a Future of Powering Their Jets With Corn: “We’re on track to massively increase water usage without any real sense of how sensitive our aquifers are,” said Jeffrey Broberg, who is concerned about groundwater in Minnesota, a major corn state, where he is a water-use consultant and founder of the Minnesota Well Owners Organization. United Airlines this year signed a deal with a Nebraska ethanol company to buy enough sustainable aviation fuel, as the biofuel is known, to power 50,000 flights a year. In August, Delta announced a plan to create a sustainable fuel hub in Minnesota, a major corn state. The Biden administration could decide on its tax incentives for the industry as soon as December.

    * ABC Chicago | Illinois Holocaust survivors write letter to share powerful message: The video says, “Over 80 years ago our lives changed irrevocably. As Jewish children in Europe during the Holocaust, we experienced the destruction of our families, traditions and communities.” “When they saw the attacks on Israeli on October 7, obviously it was so traumatizing, and re-traumatizing for so may of them, they’ve said over and over again that in a moment of crisis, that’s not the time to retreat, it’s the time to lean in,” Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of the Illinois Holocaust Museum, said. “There is no justification for Hamas’s terror…The plight of civilians trapped in a war zone is one that we also know all too well,” the video says.

  2 Comments      


Supreme Court rules HIPAA workers exempt from BIPA

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From a September story by Capitol News Illinois

The Illinois Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a pair of class action suits brought by two suburban nurses, Lucille Mosby and Yana Mazya, who allege their employers violated the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, a landmark 2008 law that gives Illinois residents the ability to sue companies that misuse biometric data, such as fingerprints or facial scans.

It’s the same act that formed the basis of several high-profile lawsuits that have led to massive penalties or settlements, such as the $650 million Facebook agreed to pay its Illinois users after it was alleged to have misused biometric data.

The nurses allege that, by requiring the use of fingerprint scanners to open medicine cabinets, Northwestern Medicine, UChicago Medicine and Becton, Dickinson and Co. – the company that makes the medicine cabinets – violated BIPA.

According to court filings, the hospital systems did not collect written releases allowing them to use the fingerprint data, nor did the hospitals provide information about how the biometrics would be stored or eventually destroyed. They also failed to obtain consent to disclose the fingerprint data to third-party vendors that host it.

* The Supreme Court unanimously sided with the hospitals today. The justices said two questions were at issue

“Whether the exclusion in Section 10 of [the Biometric Information Privacy Act] for ‘information collected, used, or stored for health care treatment, payment, or operations under the federal Health [I]nsurance [P]ortability and Accountability Act of 1996’ [(HIPAA)] applies to biometric information of health care workers (as opposed to patients) collected, used or stored for health care treatment, payment or operations under HIPAA,”

and

“Does finger-scan information collected by a health care provider from its employees fall within the [Act’s] exclusion for ‘information collected, used, or stored for health care treatment, payment, or operations under [HIPAA],’ when the employee’s finger-scan information is used for purposes related to ‘health care,’ ‘treatment,’ ‘payment,’ or ‘operations’ as those terms are defined by the HIPAA statute and regulations?”

The appellate court had earlier said no to both, finding that “if the legislature intended to exclude all health care workers from the Act’s protections, it would have done so.” Hospitals freaked out, but the Illinois Supreme Court just ruled the biometric scans were excluded from the state’s infamous Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA.

* Like with the other Supreme Court case we discussed today, the plain language of the statute was at the heart of the matter…

When the statutory language is plain and unambiguous, a court may not “depart from a statute’s plain language by reading into the law exceptions, limitations, or conditions that the legislature did not express.” Schultz v. Illinois Farmers Insurance Co., 237 Ill. 2d 391, 408 (2010). “Nevertheless, in construing a statute, the court may consider the reason for the law, the problems sought to be remedied, the purposes to be achieved, and the consequences of construing the statute one way or another.” McDonald v. Symphony Bronzeville Park, LLC, 2022 IL 126511, ¶ 18.

* Yadda, yadda, yadda and after a whole lot of word parsing

Pursuant to its plain language, the Act excludes from its protections the biometric information of health care workers where that information is collected, used, or stored for health care treatment, payment, or operations, as those functions are defined by HIPAA. A health care worker’s biometric information, used to permit access to medication dispensing stations for patient care, falls under “information collected, used, or stored for health care treatment, payment, or operations under [HIPAA]” and is exempt from the Act’s protections pursuant to section 10 of the Act. […]

For the foregoing reasons, we answer the certified questions in the affirmative, reverse the judgment of the appellate court, and remand the cause to the circuit court for further proceedings.

[Hat tip: Hannah Meisel]

  1 Comment      


ISP creates online form to help Illinoisans report suspected corruption

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Press release…

To help root out public corruption in Illinois, the Illinois State Police (ISP) Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has created an online form for the public to report suspected corruption directly to ISP.

“The Illinois State Police Special Investigations Unit is dedicated to seeking out those who abuse their position and power to take advantage of others, betraying the public’s trust,” said ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly. “By making it easier for the public to confidentially report suspected corruption, we can begin restoring the public’s trust in government. ISP will continue to work with its partners in law enforcement to investigate misconduct and corruption.”

ISP created an online form where the public can provide information confidentially to the ISP SIU about suspected corruption. Examples of public corruption may include an elected official steering contracts to friends in exchange for a monetary kickback, overbilling a contractor and embezzling the money, personally benefiting from federal/state-funded programs, wire fraud, and money laundering.

The online form is for suspected public corruption allegations only. Individuals may be unsure to which law enforcement agency or department they should report claims of public corruption. Having allegations reported to one place will streamline the process and allow ISP to respond more quickly. ISP will triage all online submissions and determine the correct agency to handle the investigation.

Director Kelly established the Statewide SIU within the Division of Criminal Investigation in March 2020. SIU focuses on public corruption crimes and conducting investigations into criminal misconduct by elected officials and government appointees at the state, county, and local levels. SIU handles allegations of intimidation by public officials, fraud as it relates to state and local government procurement contracts, election fraud, misuse of a public official position, and acting as a source of influence to benefit from matters concerning the allocation of business enterprise, contracts, state-funded programs, kickbacks, and bribery. Since its creation, SIU has opened 82 cases, including dozens of joint cases with federal law enforcement agencies.

In one case, SIU investigated allegations of theft and official misconduct against a former township road commissioner accused of using the township credit card to make personal purchases. SIU found the purchases were made over two and a half years and totaled approximately $27,300. After SIU’s extensive investigation, the former commissioner faced 22 count of felony charges. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 18 months of probation and $27,300 restitution.
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In another case, SIU investigated allegations of theft and fraud by a former county coroner. SIU found the former coroner and his wife used taxpayer dollars to fund travel to other states for their son’s sports tournaments, forged official documents, and used a county credit card to buy gas for their personal vehicles for almost two years. SIU estimated the total thefts to be in the tens of thousands of dollars. SIU arrested both the former coroner and his wife who were charged with numerous felonies, including Theft of Government Funds, Unlawful Use of a Credit Card, Conspiracy to Commit Theft, Conspiracy to Commit Credit Card Fraud, and Official Misconduct. The coroner pled guilty and was sentenced to six months in jail, four years of probation, and ordered to repay $32,817.05.

The online form can be found on the ISP website under the Division of Criminal Investigations, Special Investigations Unit at https://isp.illinois.gov/CriminalInvestigations/SIUComplaintDisclaimerForm

I clicked through. You don’t need to include your name or address, but an email and phone number are required.

Thoughts?

…Adding… Maybe somebody could report this one

At issue is the future of the building at 320 E. Main St. in Rochester that once housed The Alibi, a bar and restaurant. The building’s most recent tenant was Ben Suerdieck, who was evicted June 13 by a Sangamon County judge for failing to pay $9,075 in rent.

The week after Ben Suerdieck was evicted, his former landlord, who sought to reopen a business in the building, had his application for a liquor license rejected. The decision was made by Village President Joe Suerdieck, who is also the municipality’s liquor commissioner and the father of Ben.

  17 Comments      


Unclear on budgetary concepts

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Center Square

Aside from the tens of millions of dollars for housing migrants, the state budget has $550 million in taxpayer subsidies for the health care of migrants over 65.

Um, no. That healthcare spending line is only for undocumented immigrants and it’s only for those who are 42 and older. Asylum-seekers are not undocumented. They’re covered under a different program that qualifies for federal matching funds.

* Meanwhile, this is from a recent Sun-Times editorial

The Johnson administration is now spending $40 million a month on the migrant emergency — which, in its defense, is not a crisis of its own making. Still, migrants have been arriving by the busload since August 2022, and every candidate for mayor surely knew his or her administration would have to deal with the growing emergency. […]

At the current spending clip, the $150 million budgeted for the entire year will evaporate in a little less than four months.

The city’s budget is also “balanced” by using one-time revenue of $786.5 million, the editorial board noted. One-time revenue is fine, as long as it’s only used for one-time expenditures.

* From a new BGA report

A proposed extension of Chicago’s collective bargaining agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 would cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars over a three-and-a-half-year period – and would include the largest set of city employee raises in Chicago’s recent history.

The potential deal, announced by Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration in late October, would update and extend the city’s contract with its rank-and-file police officers. […]

Johnson’s proposal includes a 5% salary bump for FOP-represented police in 2024 and 2025, up from the 2.5% and 2% raises for those years that were agreed upon in the Lightfoot administration’s extension. A larger raise for 2024 was not included in the roughly $2 billion appropriation for the police department passed by City Council earlier this month, meaning approval of a contract with Johnson’s proposed terms would immediately put the city approximately $27.7 million over budget for 2024.

So, he finalized the contract weeks before the budget was approved, but didn’t include the added costs into the budget?

Yes, it’s a small amount in relation to the size of the overall budget, but the city is currently scrambling like mad to find change under its couch cushions to deal with the aslym-seekers, so every single dollar matters.

Revelations like these really make me wonder what other deficits are buried in the city’s budget.

  3 Comments      


A dumb rule that needs to end

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Politico

State Rep. Kam Buckner is urging transportation officials to modernize procedures so that riders on Metra Electric trains can also use South Shore trains. “Many Chicagoans have stood on the platform of our Museum Campus, watched a South Shore train pull up, open the doors, and been told by the conductor they are not allowed to enter that train to ride,” he wrote in a letter to leaders of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) and Metra Metropolitan Rail. “I have had that exact experience. The doors close and they are left at the station, waiting for the next Metra train.”

Looking at legislation: Buckner, who is passionate about rail transportation, said he’s considering filing legislation that will require outbound trains on the South Shore Line to pick up riders at all stops. He sent similar letters to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) about his concerns.

* From Rep. Buckner’s letter

I live along the Metra Electric and I have often wished I could take advantage of the South Shore trains to catch a ride up to Millennium Station. That, however, is currently prohibited. Many Chicagoans, have stood on the platform of our Museum Campus, watched a South Shore train pull up, open the doors, and been told by the conductor they are not allowed to enter that train to ride, I have had that exact experience. The doors close and they are left at the station, waiting for the next Metra train. At a time when we are scrambling to prepare for transit’s fiscal cliff and working to earn every single rider back to transit we possibly can, intentionally restricting service to make transit more inconvenient and less attractive is malfeasance.

This is a policy created decades ago that we current policymakers have all inherited. It’s the starkest example of how we need to reimagine our services and our shared transportation assets to better serve the residents who pay to maintain them.

* This is just so ridiculous and is apparently based on an old non-compete agreement. NICTD is the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District and MED is the Metra Electric District

  6 Comments      


Question of the day: 2023 Golden Horseshoe Awards

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Yes, it’s that time of year again, when we single out the best of the best of the Statehouse world.

We generally start with the best “session” restaurants and taverns, but the area we used to call “The Sandbox” just doesn’t dominate after-hours congregating like it did pre-pandemic. Places have closed (including my formerly favorite hangout) and out-of-towners are living further away from downtown. Also, people just don’t drink alcohol like they once did. These days, you can run into Statehouse types almost anywhere after session. Heck, I met up with some folks at Island Bay Yacht Club during veto session - and that’s about as far away from 2nd and Capitol as you can get. But some of the old school hangouts are still going strong. It was tough getting a table at Maldaner’s and Saputo’s during veto, for example.

So, the award titles have been slightly changed to reflect reality…

    * Best place to gather for dinner during session weeks

    * Best place to gather for drinks, etc. during session weeks

Our rules haven’t changed, however. Submissions with no explanations will not count. Please justify your votes by telling us why your faves should win. Also, please do your very best to nominate in both categories. Enjoy!

* Also, if you haven’t yet contributed or can afford to kick in a few more bucks, click here and help Lutheran Social Services buy Christmas presents for foster kids. Thanks!

  26 Comments      


It’s just a bill

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Starting off with HB4243 from Rep. Jed Davis (R-Newark)

Amends the Illinois Clinical Laboratory and Blood Bank Act. Requires a blood bank to test or have tested donated blood for evidence of any COVID-19 vaccine and any other messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine components, and requires a blood donor to disclose during each blood donor screening process whether the blood donor has received a COVID-19 vaccine or any other mRNA vaccine during the donor’s lifetime. Requires blood or blood components to include on their labels a designation that the blood or blood components tested positive for evidence of a COVID-19 vaccine or any other mRNA vaccine component or was drawn from a blood donor who disclosed the donor have received a COVID-19 vaccine or any other mRNA vaccine during the donor’s lifetime. Provides that the Department of Public Health must adopt rules to implement the changes made by the amendatory Act.

* HB4235 was filed by Rep. Charles Meier (R-Okawville) on Monday

Amends the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act. Provides that, notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency must adopt amendments to its rules governing the administration of the Emergency Management Performance Grant program to ensure that every county emergency services and disaster agency in the State receives a base allotment of no less than $25,000 per fiscal year, with the remaining allocation of funds to be distributed to county emergency services and disaster agencies as deemed appropriate by the Director of the Agency. Provides that, in distributing the remaining allocation of funds, the Director shall consider, among other things, any limitation on a county’s tax base, the increased costs of accreditation requirements for smaller agencies, and the increase in the number of disasters that affect smaller counties in the State. Effective immediately.

* HB4239 from Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago)

Amends the Medical School Curriculum Act. Provides that, for medical students who, on or after the effective date of the amendatory Act, matriculate into a medical school that is subject to the Act, the minimum required curriculum shall also include a medical humanities course that covers, among other things, the effects of institutional racism on medical education, medical research, and medical care in the United States. Effective immediately.

* Rep. Jenn Ladisch Douglass (D-Elmhurst) filed HB4240

Amends the Downstate Forest Preserve District Act. Restores language concerning how the terms of elected commissioners are to be determined for a forest preserve district having boundaries that are coextensive with the boundaries of a county having a population of more than 800,000 but less than 3,000,000. Specifies that the changes made by the amendatory Act are to be deemed to have been in continuous effect since November 15, 2021 (the effective date of the Public Act that deleted language concerning how the terms of elected commissioners of such a district are to be determined) and are to remain in effect until lawfully repealed. Provides that all actions that were taken on or after 2021 and before the effective date of the amendatory Act by a downstate forest preserve district or any other person and that are consistent with or in reliance on the changes made by the amendatory Act are validated. Effective immediately.

* HB4245 from Rep. Bob Morgan (D-Deerfield)

Amends the Illinois Act on Aging. In provisions concerning the Community Care Program (program), removes from the list of program services clearinghouse information provided by senior citizen home owners who want to rent rooms to or share living space with other senior citizens. In a provision requiring the Department on Aging to perform certain actions to increase the effectiveness of the program, removes a requirement that the Department ensure the determination of need tool is accurate in determining program participants’ level of need. In a provision concerning pre-service certification for in-home workers who provide housekeeping or home aide services, requires employing agencies to pay wages to in-home workers for pre-service and in-service training. Provides that the Department may authorize (rather than shall delay) program services until an applicant is determined eligible for medical assistance under the Illinois Public Aid Code. Removes a provision requiring the Department to implement co-payments under the program. Requires the Department to make annual (rather than quarterly) reports on care coordination unit performance and adherence to service guidelines. Removes expired rate levels. Provides that all final administrative decisions of the Department are subject to judicial review. Makes other changes.

* Rep. Kimberly du Buclet (D-Chicago) introduced HR515 last week

Declares November 24, 2023 as Buddy Guy Day.

  19 Comments      


LSSI Holiday Drive: Let’s build on this wave of kindness

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* Rich asked me to write my first-ever pitch to help Lutheran Social Services of Illinois buy Christmas presents for foster kids. So here goes!

Yesterday, an anonymous donor matched $10,000 in contributions to help buy Christmas gifts for foster children. We raised $27,000 yesterday alone, bringing the total donations since Tuesday to more than $34,000!

Let’s try to build on this wave of kindness today.

* As Rich has already told you, we have 2,530 foster kids to help this year. Gifts average $25 each, so that’s a total need of $63,250. Thanks to your donations, 1,379 children will receive presents. But that’s only half as many presents as there are kids to help, so please, click here and contribute what you can.

What they’re saying:

* Mariah Heinz, Director of Donor Engagement at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, shared a couple of quotes that I thought you’d like to see…

LSSI Foster Parent: “My foster children have received Christmas gifts from LSSI. I never expected it! They just appeared. The kids loved them and it helped ease the stress of the holidays, which was a gift to me! I know people who give don’t witness in person what a difference their gifts make, but I can tell you they do make a difference, more than they will ever know.”

LSSI Employee: “Being able to provide our families with a gift for Christmas is impactful for both the families and the staff. Many of our families struggle every day day to meet their basic needs, so the idea of buying Christmas presents is usually a dream. Providing them with the mechanism to make their dreams possible reminds us what is truly important during this holiday season, nourishing the human spirit.”

“Lutheran Social Services of Illinois is the largest foster care provider in the state, offering traditional foster care as well as therapeutic foster care which serves children who have experienced severe trauma,” LSSI’s Heinz said. “Children in foster care often live with much uncertainty. A Christmas present brings joy and normalcy, and helps build a bond with a foster family. It lets them know that they matter.”

Extra contributions are used to meet urgent needs for the kids, Heinz said, including things like buying new boots for growing feet, providing warm coats, or supplying clothes and diapers for children who enter care unexpectedly without personal items.

How You Can Help:

Your support is crucial in ensuring that every child in foster care experiences the joy and normalcy that every child deserves, especially during the holiday season. Click here to make a contribution. Thanks!!!

  2 Comments      


Illinois Supreme Court rules people can’t legally FOIA their FOID card info

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Rich Miller

* From September

The [Illinois Supreme Court case] case stems from two people requesting public records regarding why their FOID cards, a state-issued identification required in Illinois to own or buy firearms and ammunition, were either revoked or suspended. The plaintiffs’ FOIA requests to Illinois State Police were denied. After challenges, the case made it to the Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Illinois State Police attorney Valerie Quinn said that they can’t release such personal information through FOIA and the proper way to request such information is through the Firearms Services Bureau.

“No one is trying to keep people’s personal applications and denial letters a secret from them but the Firearms Services Bureau needs to be able to verify that you are who you say you are before releasing copies of your confidential information,” Quinn said. […]

Representing the plaintiffs, attorney Thomas Maag said going through the FSB isn’t conducive.

“They don’t answer the telephone for hours at a time. They don’t answer emails for days and or weeks at a time,” Maag said. “I invite this court to go to their website and dial the telephone number and see how many hours it takes to get a person, if you even can.”

They’re not a third party seeking their own address or other personal information, Maag said.

* The Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling today, with Justice Joy Cunningham writing the opinion

The appellate court agreed with the trial court that the legislature’s use of the plural terms “names” and “people,” rather than the singular terms “name” and “person”, meant the exemption set forth in section 7.5(v) does not apply to a request for one’s own FOID card information. According to the appellate court, the term “people,” by its plain meaning, necessitates more than a single individual. To interpret section 7.5(v) as applying to a request for one’s own information, the court concluded, would render the term “people” meaningless. […]

The appellate court then rejected ISP’s argument that there is no way for it to verify that the FOIA requester is, in fact, the person whose information is being sought, finding it “unpersuasive as the individual’s written FOIA request, by necessity to identify the application and denial letter sought, should provide ISP with sufficient information to demonstrate that the requester was seeking his/her own information.” According to the appellate court, if the request is insufficient, additional verifying information could be required before release of the information. […]

ISP contends the appellate court erred in its interpretation of section 7.5(v). According to ISP, section 7.5(v) is a blanket exemption prohibiting the disclosure of all FOID card information under FOIA, and there is no exception for individuals who are seeking their own information. We agree. […]

In support of its interpretation of section 7.5(v), the appellate court emphasized that the statute uses the plural terms “names” and “people” and, therefore, must not exempt from disclosure an individual’s request for his or her own information. However, section 1.03 of the Statute on Statutes provides that “[w]ords importing the singular number may extend and be applied to several persons or things, and words importing the plural number may include the singular.” This is a well-settled principle of statutory construction. […]

Section 7(1)(b), in turn, states that “[p]rivate information” is exempt from disclosure [under FOIA] “unless disclosure is required by another provision of this Act, a State or federal law, or a court order.” Here, there is no dispute that no state or federal law or court order requires the disclosure of FOID card information. Accordingly, we conclude the appellate court erred in holding that an individual may consent to disclosure of his or her FOID card information under FOIA.

…Adding… Somebody just pointed something out to me via text…

I get it, they were FOIAing their own info. But I don’t think the FOIA law makes that distinction. Once you release something through FOIA it is a public record. I don’t think you can release it to one person and then say no to everyone else. That seems to be counter to what FOIA is about.

Yeah. Maag and the other courts seemed to have a profound misunderstanding about what FOIA is.

  19 Comments      


Open thread

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

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

  8 Comments      


Isabel’s morning briefing

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* ICYMI: Burke case judge to consider granting a mistrial, Jon Seidel at the Sun-Times writes

    - This comes after prosecutors elicited a comment from a witness Wednesday about the “Chicago way of doing business” being “very corrupt.”
    - Layers will file written briefs early today.
    -When Assistant U.S. Attorney Diane MacArthur explained that she did not expect Amtrak executive Ray Lang to make the comment at issue, Kendall quickly asked the veteran prosecutor, “What were you expecting him to say?”

* Related stories…

* …Adding…Here’s an update from Jason Meisner


* Jon Seidel


* Isabel’s top picks…

    * Sun-Times | Black utility workers in lawsuit allege they face discrimination while working at Peoples Gas: She is among 11 former and current Peoples Gas employees who filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against Peoples Gas, alleging that Black workers and customers were sexualized by non-Black workers and faced racial slurs. The lawsuit alleges that Black workers are relegated to an area that serves the South Side, and they frequently get assigned to jobs in neighborhoods without security where some have faced attacks. The workers also allege that Peoples Gas did not do enough after concerns were raised about workplace racism and hazards.

    * Tribune | Illinois grape growers prepare to take on the invasive spotted lanternfly after first sighting this fall: The black spotted insects were identified for the first time in Illinois in September. Since then, there’s been at least seven more positive sightings, according to Scott Schirmer, the nursery and northern field office section manager at the Illinois Department of Agriculture. One of them was in DuPage County, while the rest were in southern Cook County, he said.

    * WTTW | Teacher Vacancies in Illinois Disproportionately Impact Students of Color: Report: Advance Illinois breaks down in its latest report, “The State of Our Educator Pipeline 2023,” how school districts across the state are struggling to fill special education and bilingual teaching positions. The organization said that’s having a disproportionate impact on Black and Latino students. “Most tragically, students of color and students from low-income households are dramatically more likely to be in districts with high vacancy levels, more than twice the vacancy rates than the rest of state,” said Robin Steans, president of Advance Illinois.

* Here’s the rest of your morning roundup…

    * Crain’s | Opponents of Illinois’ assault-weapons ban file emergency plea at U.S. Supreme Court:
    “The 7th Circuit’s decision was manifestly erroneous,” says the emergency application filed in National Association for Gun Rights v. City of Naperville. Besides the gun rights group, the opponents include Robert C. Bevis, owner of Law Weapons & Supply in Naperville, and their challenge applies as well to a separate Naperville ordinance prohibiting assault weapons.

    * Daily Herald | Study: Illinois, other Midwestern states behind on renewable energy: Five Midwestern states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin — are lagging behind other states when it comes to renewable energy, a new study from environmental organization The Nature Conservancy reports. In Illinois, almost 20% of generated electricity comes from wind and solar as of March 2023. While that’s more than triple the amount generated a decade earlier, the state’s renewable portfolio pales in comparison to states such as Iowa, South Dakota and Oklahoma that are each generating more than 50% of their electricity from solar and wind.

    * QC Times | Henry County board member announces candidancy for Illinois’ 37th State Senate District: Republican Henry County Board member Tim Wager is running for the 37th State Senate District in Illinois. Republican Sen. Win Stoller holds the seat. Stoller was elected in 2020 and announced in August that he would not seek reelection.

    * Center Square | Illinois’ cannabis industry seeking changes to increase licensing: During the fall veto session, advocates and lawmakers discussed an amendment to a measure to make it easier for small growers and address a lack of licenses for transporters. State Rep. Norine Hammond, R-Macomb, said the amendment does three things, including cutting application fees.

    * Tribune | Biden EPA proposes requirements for utilities to remove toxic lead water pipes within a decade; Chicago likely to get more time: More than 9 million homes nationwide get their drinking water from a service line made of lead. Chicago has 400,000 of the toxic pipes, more than any other city. Illinois has more than any other state.

    * BGA | Johnson Proposes Historically Large Pay Raises for Police: Johnson’s proposal includes a 5% salary bump for FOP-represented police in 2024 and 2025, up from the 2.5% and 2% raises for those years that were agreed upon in the Lightfoot administration’s extension. A larger raise for 2024 was not included in the roughly $2 billion appropriation for the police department passed by City Council earlier this month, meaning approval of a contract with Johnson’s proposed terms would immediately put the city approximately $27.7 million over budget for 2024.

    * Tribune | Protesters in Brighton Park speak out against migrant camp as construction begins: The construction begins after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Monday that the state would take an increased role in opening the tent encampment, a location chosen by the city that appears to be the most expedient option. The state will foot the cost of operating the Brighton Park lot as part of its $160 million contribution to migrant services in Chicago.

    * Shaw Local | State Police gun violence prevention effort requires broad input: The Illinois State Police issued a news release Monday touting its updated Clear and Present Danger reporting system, through which education, medical and law enforcement professionals submit information about people believed to pose a significant threat. ISP evaluates the reports against the person’s status within the Firearm Owner’s Identification program.

    * SJ-R | ‘A capital place for giants’: Museum has village of Atlanta thinking big: “I’ll never forget it,” recalled Thomas. “It was my job to go to Atlanta’s then-mayor (Bill Martin). I sat down at his kitchen table, and I can remember looking at him across the table, saying, ‘Bill, how would you like a 19-foot-tall statue of a guy holding a hot dog right downtown?’ To his ever-lasting credit, he didn’t pause for more than three seconds, and said, ‘Sure, I think that sounds like a great idea.’”

    * Bloomberg | Chicago billionaire Byron Trott is in talks for minority stake in Miami Dolphins: Trott, the chairman and co-chief executive officer of merchant bank BDT & MSD Partners, may be taking part in the discussions with another prospective investor, according to one of the people. The negotiations are preliminary and could end with Trott deciding not to invest. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that billionaire Ken Griffin is in talks with Ross to buy a minority stake in the team, the Hard Rock Stadium and the F1 Miami Grand Prix.

    * Crain’s | McDonald’s secretive new restaurant is getting set to open in Bolingbrook: A peek at the menu reveals beverages like a S’Mores Cold Brew, a Churro Frappe and a Blueberry Ginger Boost, but more familiar McDonald’s fare such as the Egg McMuffin is also on display.

    * Sun-Times | Arthur Williams, beloved circulation desk worker at the Brookfield Library, dies at 52: Countless children will never forget getting their first library card, with Mr. Williams speaking to them like they were readers of any age about to embark on a special journey. “These touches, these small things was how he got to know the community and in return he just developed these long lasting relationships,” Coughran said.

    * WJBC | No holiday displays this season at the Illinois Capitol due to ongoing construction: Rabbi Meir Moscowitz of the group responsible for the annual menorah display, Lubavich Chabad of Illinois, does not sound as if the one-year absence has thrown him. “We’re definitely going to put up the menorah somewhere – not sure yet where. Every year we put more and more menorahs. It’s like the holiday itself: every night, you light one more candle.”

  15 Comments      


Live coverage

Thursday, Nov 30, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

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