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Question of the day

Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

* The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute has published an “exit essay” by our old pal Steve Brown

How does a three-month contract become a 38-year communications project? The ultimate gig economy job?

It was May 1983. Congressman Harold Washington won the Chicago mayoral general election. My then-boss, Mayor Jane M. Byrne, lost. Just days after the inaugural, my resignation was sought and accepted. No ill will. I expressed an offer to help the City Hall administration. It was not needed.

Included photo…

Pretty certain that was an overtime session day, hence the casual attire.

* The Question: Caption?

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      

Today’s must-read: The Good Part About ‘Waning’ Immunity

Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

* Katherine J. Wu at The Atlantic

In early March, Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona, celebrated a milestone: hitting the point of full vaccination, two weeks after getting his second Pfizer shot. Since then, he’s been watching the number of coronavirus antibodies in his blood slowly but surely decline.

The drop hasn’t been precipitous, but it’s definitely happening—regular checkups have shown his antibody levels, also known as titers, ticking down, down, down, from spring through summer, now into fall. The slump fits the narrative that countless reports have been sounding the alarm on for a while now: In the months after vaccination, our antibodies peace out, a trend that’s often been described as a “waning” of immunity, and evidence that we’re all in dire need of boosters to shore our defenses back up.

It all sounds, quite frankly, like a tragedy. But as Bhattacharya and others assured me, it’s really, really not. “All we hear about is titers,” says Stephanie Langel, an immunologist at Duke University. That fixation “misses an entire nuance.” Antibodies are supposed to peter out; that’s why they always do. Still, even as our antibodies are dwindling in absolute quantity, these scrappy molecules are enhancing their quality, continuing to replace themselves with new versions that keep improving their ability to bring the virus to heel. Months after vaccination, the average antibody found in the blood simply has higher defensive oomph. “That’s why I hate the word waning,” Jennifer Gommerman, an immunologist at the University of Toronto, told me. “Antibody levels are declining, but something good is happening too: The immune response is evolving.”

The focus on antibody counts alone actually does a disservice to our understanding of immunity, experts told me. Like a block of wood being hewn into a sharper blade, vaccinated immune systems can hone their skills over time. Part of waning certainly does mean fewer. But it can also mean better. […]

All this means that a slowdown in antibody production could, in a way, be seen as comforting. It’s a sign of an immune system that’s allocating its resources wisely, rather than working itself into a constant panic. Bhattacharya, for one, hasn’t been at all fazed by what’s happening to his antibodies, which, nearly eight months out, still look pretty freaking good, despite the numerical drops—because they still seem to be walloping the virus when he tests them in his lab. Langel says that’s standard. When she sees antibodies “waning,” she shrugs. “I say, ‘Look,’” she told me, “‘that’s the immune system, doing what it does.’”

Go read it all.

- Posted by Rich Miller   10 Comments      

Illinois unemployment rate 2 points higher than national rate

Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

* Press release…

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced today that the unemployment rate fell -0.2 percentage point to 6.8 percent, while nonfarm payrolls increased by +9,300, in September, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The August monthly change in payrolls was revised from the preliminary report, from +2,500 to +7,400 jobs. The August unemployment rate was unchanged from the preliminary report, remaining at 7.0 percent.

The September payroll jobs estimate and unemployment rate reflects activity for the week including the 12th. The BLS has published FAQs for the September payroll jobs and the unemployment rate.

In September, the three industry sectors with the largest over-the-month gains in employment were: Leisure and Hospitality (+5,500), Trade, Transportation and Utilities (+3,700) and Construction (+2,500). The industry sectors that reported the largest monthly payroll declines were: Manufacturing (-2,800), Financial Activities (-1,100) and Professional and Business Services (-200).

“As we continue to work through the recovery period of the pandemic, IDES is committed to helping Illinoisans find their next job opportunity,” said Deputy Governor Andy Manar. “IDES encourages employers looking for jobseekers, and those looking to reenter the workforce, to take advantage of and search for available jobs and jobseekers in their area.”

“As seen throughout the year, Illinois continues to make progress in bringing residents back to work, and stabilizing industries which have been severely impacted by the ongoing effects of the pandemic,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “While we are proud of the progress we’ve made to increase employment levels from last year, we can’t take anything for granted. That is why, in addition to continued proactive health measures to beat the virus, our administration remains focused on investments that will support impacted businesses, expand workforce training and deploy capital investment to help gradually and safely restore our economy to pre-pandemic levels.”

The state’s unemployment rate was +2.0 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for September, which was 4.8 percent, down -0.4 percentage point from the previous month. The Illinois unemployment rate was down -3.6 percentage points from a year ago when it was at 10.4 percent.

Compared to a year ago, nonfarm payroll employment increased by +157,900 jobs, with gains across nearly all major industries. The industry groups with the largest jobs increases were: Leisure and Hospitality (+54,400), Professional and Business Services (+45,000), and Trade, Transportation and Utilities (+26,200). Financial Activities (-7,900) was the only industry group that reported jobs losses. In September, total nonfarm payrolls were up +2.8 percent over-the-year in Illinois and +4.0 percent the nation.

The number of unemployed workers was down from the prior month, a -3.3 percent decrease to 421,700, and was down -36.2 percent over the same month for one year ago. The labor force was up +0.1 percent over-the-month and was down -2.2 percent over-the-year. The unemployment rate identifies those individuals who are out of work and seeking employment. An individual who exhausts or is ineligible for benefits is still reflected in the unemployment rate if they actively seek work.

* AP

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to a new low point since the pandemic erupted, evidence that layoffs are declining as companies hold onto workers.

Unemployment claims dropped 6,000 to 290,000 last week, the third straight drop, the Labor Department said Thursday. That’s the fewest people to apply for benefits since March 14, 2020, when the pandemic intensified. Applications for jobless aid, which generally track the pace of layoffs, have fallen steadily from about 900,000 in January.

Unemployment claims are increasingly returning to normal, but many other aspects of the job market haven’t yet done so. Hiring has slowed in the past two months, even as companies and other employers have posted a near-record number of open jobs. Officials such as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell had hoped more people would find work in September as schools reopened, easing child care constraints, and enhanced unemployment aid ended nationwide.

6,999 new claims were filed in Illinois last week, up 97 from the previous week.

* Illinois was featured in a recent CBS News story about childcare

It’s one approach meant to solve a critical problem made worse by the coronavirus: Helping parents find affordable child care while helping the centers attract and keep quality workers.

“You’ve got to pay the workers properly in order to keep this industry going and it already was in crisis, now worse so, it’s hobbling the economic recovery that most of the people, many of the people that are looking for work can’t find child care,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker told CBS News.

Pritzker has given child care workers $1,000 bonuses and offered three months of free care to parents looking for work.

“If we’re not investing in our young children, we’re creating a terrible future for ourselves,” Pritzker said. “We have to stop thinking about things in one-year increments. Investing in young children means that you’re gonna get a 20, 30, 40-year return.”

* People criticized IDES for not having enough login security, but the state warned that adding security layers would make it more difficult for some people to access their accounts because they wouldn’t be able to figure it out. Well, guess what happened

Imagine logging on to get your unemployment money, and getting an error message that keeps you locked out.

A new additional security system designed to prevent unemployment fraud is causing new problems for many claimants.

If the problem was on the state end, you gotta figure there’d be lots more complaints. I suppose we’ll see.

* More…

* Seasonal hiring runs into tight labor market: The latest federal data show job openings are already plentiful, allowing job seekers to be pickier about where they work. There were 10.4 million job openings in the U.S. at the end of August and 11.1 million openings the month before, the highest on record since at least December 2000, when the government started recording that figure. At the same time, the Labor Department said that the number of people quitting their jobs jumped to 4.3 million in August, up from 4 million in July.

* Illinois Department Of Employment Security Promised Money Back To Unemployment Recipients After Overpayment Waivers, So Where Are The Refunds?

* ‘If temperatures keep rising, it’s going to be hard to grow pumpkins in southern Illinois.’ Researcher on quest for a hybrid pumpkin.

* CTA set to slash fares in bid to boost ridership

* Editorial: One Central’s transit hub needs billions from taxpayers. Do taxpayers need One Central?

* What the feds can do to give Illinois an edge in the EV race. Dick Durbin writes: We are standing at the starting line of an electric vehicle revolution. If the federal government can complement Pritzker’s commitment, Illinois is poised to win.

* Uber opens new office in Old Post Office, making Chicago the center of growth plans for its surging freight business

- Posted by Rich Miller   12 Comments      

Remap roundup

Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

* Top Democrats have been saying this publicly since the moment the new maps were released

Illinois Democratic legislative leaders said privately Wednesday that revisions can be expected in their proposed map of the state’s congressional districts amid concerns within the party that some districts as drawn up now could flip to Republicans.

Press release last Friday

“This proposal is an excellent first draft that amplifies diverse voices and gives every person in our state a say in government,” said Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, Chairperson of the House Redistricting Committee. [Emphasis added.]

* This whole exercise has looked to me like a head fake for days now. The map is obviously not the overwhelmingly Democratic monstrosity that so many predicted and continue to claim it is. Instead of 14-3, it’s more like 11-3 with maybe three potential tossups (Lauren Underwood, Sean Casten, the vacant 17th and then there’s the Newman-Kinzinger pairing)…

* And this pining for Madigan and Mapes among the old-timers in the delegation really needs to stop. Their day is done

The explanation we’ve heard that makes the most sense is that Assembly leaders, in particular new House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and the almost as new Senate president, Don Harmon, just weren’t ready for this one. After all, it’s been 10 years since the last remap, COVID has created turmoil everywhere, and delayed results from the 2020 Census forced some awkward last-minute juggling.

Put a different way, the ruling party no longer had an old pro on hand like the deposed speaker, Mike Madigan, who has been through the remap process numerous times. If nothing else, Madigan always knew how to ram a bill through and get it to stick while making most of the players—at least in his own camp—marginally happy. Though Welch and Harmon have done a pretty good job overall lately, Madigan’s absence on the remap may well have been felt.

In any event, this proposed map likely can be fixed without too much difficulty. Some other Democrats will have to sacrifice friendly territory to shore up Underwood and Newman. It all depends on people being reasonable—and on Welch and Harmon getting them to agree.

That last paragraph is absolutely spot-on. Delegation members are going to have to agree to give up some turf to help each other out and this thing gets wrapped up pretty quickly. Newman and Garcia, for instance, should finally acquiesce to a second Latino district, which will mean some sacrifices by both members, and likely by others in the delegation as well.

As I’ve been saying since the beginning, this remap proposal can be seen as a message to the delegation and to various other players. And one of those messages is the delegation needs to start cooperating with Springfield so they can help each other.

* Politico

The biggest concerns are that Rep. Marie Newman (3rd) and Rep. Lauren Underwood (14th) will remain in districts that are more conservative than they’d like. “Do they really want to spend $5 million every two years?” one source asked rhetorically.

Meh. That ain’t much of a bluff. They obviously both want to be in Congress. They’ll raise the money.

* And this nifty little list will give you an idea of how sparse Downstate is compared to Chicagoland…

Also, props to the SJ-R for correcting its story’s many mistakes. Politico offered no correction today.

* Related…

* Public speaks out on proposed congressional maps

* General Assembly holds congressional redistricting hearings

- Posted by Rich Miller   26 Comments      

Support Regulated Pet Stores And Defeat Puppy Mills

Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

[The following is a paid advertisement.]

Illinois families will soon be losing their opportunity to purchase dogs and cats from safe, highly-regulated local pet retailers, such as Petland, who offer their customers the choice of a pet that best fits their needs and provide health warranties. This change is coming because the state’s Animal Welfare Act has been updated through HB 1711 which bans the retail sales of dogs and cats obtained from licensed and regulated professional breeders.

But HB 1711 needs fixing, because while singularly blocking retail pet sales, it fails to strengthen any animal standards or protections at unregulated puppy mills across the state. Consumers looking for particular breeds will have no choice but to purchase dogs from unregulated breeders or dog auctions – thus perpetuating puppy mills. Responsible breeders and retailers will be heavily penalized while HB 1711 does nothing to address the issue of substandard breeders across the state.

Petland is dedicated to improving animal welfare and we have publicly demonstrated this commitment; in fact, we support the Humane Society’s petition effort to improve standards of care. Petland’s breeder pledge is a commitment to provide more space, more exercise, and more socialization for their pets plus numerous other improvements to standards of care.

Home - Protect Our Pets Illinois

- Posted by Advertising Department   Comments Off      

*** UPDATED x2 - Governor protected by “absolute privilege” of executive immunity - DeVore threatens lawsuit *** Pritzker calls DeVore a “grifter”

Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

* Background is here if you need it. Gov. Pritzker was asked today about attorney Tom DeVore’s handling of a lawsuit against 145 school districts over the mask mandate

Well, you know, he’s a grifter who is taking money from parents who are being taken advantage of. This is, we are trying to keep kids and parents and grandparents and teachers and everybody that’s in the community of the school safe. That’s my job as governor, that’s our job as elected officials.

And I have to say that, you know that going around and suing school districts and the governor and the Attorney General and everybody else in order to keep people less safe, that makes zero sense to me. So we’re gonna push back as hard as we can, certainly we’ll be in court.

The Attorney General, I just want to praise him and his staff. He has done an amazing job. You don’t want to spend all your time doing this, there are an awful lot of things that the Attorney General’s Office does to protect consumers out there. But the more you have to send lawyers out to fight these ridiculous lawsuits that are frankly making people less safe, that are harming our children, then you know, the less you can do to really lift up the entire state.

So I hope that the, you know, the reign of grifting and terror that he is trying to bring about in the school districts will come to and end.

*** UPDATE *** You knew this would happen

After Pritzker’s “grifter” comments, DeVore said Thursday afternoon he’s hired an attorney and will sue the governor for defamation for being called a thief.

“That’s an insult to each and every one of my clients that are trying to protect their children,” DeVore said in an interview. “Not only is it defamation against my character and my profession, it is an insult against every one of those parents who are trying to protect their children.”

Illinois Supreme Court, Blair v. Walker, 1976

We hold that the Governor is protected from actions for civil defamation by an absolute privilege when issuing statements which are legitimately related to matters committed to his responsibility. […]

We emphasize that today’s decision is not an endorsement of either the tenor or the content of the defendant’s statements concerning the plaintiffs. The Governor’s position could undoubtedly have been expressed to the people with language less calculated to injure the plaintiffs’ personal and professional reputations. While it is unfortunate that the application of executive immunity may occasionally deny relief to a deserving individual, the sacrifice is justified by the public’s need for free and unfettered action by its representatives.

- Posted by Rich Miller   77 Comments      

Illinois Supreme Court shoots down Cook County’s tax on firearms and ammo

Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

* Background

The Illinois Supreme Court this year will decide whether a Cook County tax on firearms and ammunition is unconstitutional on grounds taxes can’t be levied on items that allow people to exercise their “fundamental” rights.

The state’s high court last week heard arguments on a case where Cook County has twice been victorious in lower courts.

In 2012, the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed a $25 tax on firearms, followed a few years later by a per-cartridge tax on centerfire and rimfire ammunition.

The plaintiff in the case, “Guns Save Life”, a non-profit best known for erecting pro-gun signs on the side of highways, argues the intent of the tax was to make it more difficult for Illinoisans to purchase guns and violates their Second Amendment protections.

* The Illinois Supreme Court voted 6-0 to toss it out with Justice Anne Burke not taking part in the decision

The uniformity clause provides that, “[i]n any law classifying the subjects or objects of non-property taxes or fees, the classes shall be reasonable and the subjects and objects within each class shall be taxed uniformly. Exemptions, deductions, credits, refunds and other allowances shall be reasonable.” Ill. Const. 1970, art. IX, § 2.

Generally, to survive scrutiny, a nonproperty tax classification must (1) be based on a real and substantial difference between the people taxed and those not taxed and (2) bear some reasonable relationship to the object of the legislation or to public policy. Arangold Corp. v. Zehnder, 204 Ill. 2d 142, 147 (2003). Before this court, plaintiffs have abandoned their argument based on differences between tax classifications for centerfire and rimfire ammunition, distinctions between in- county and out-of-county purchasers, and any distinction between retail purchasers and those exempt from the tax, including law enforcement. Instead, the inquiry is primarily focused on the second prong, whether the taxing classification at issue— a special tax on the retail purchases of firearms and firearm ammunition—bears some reasonable relationship to the object of the legislation or to public policy.

This second prong is typically a narrow inquiry. While a municipality must “produce a justification” for its classification, we normally uphold a taxing classification as long as “a set of facts ‘can be reasonably conceived that would sustain it.’ ” Empress Casino Joliet Corp. v. Giannoulias, 231 Ill. 2d 62, 73 (2008) (quoting Geja’s Cafe v. Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority, 153 Ill. 2d 239, 248 (1992)). Once the municipality produces a justification, the plaintiff then has the burden to persuade the court that the explanation is insufficient as a matter of law or unsupported by the facts. Arangold, 204 Ill. 2d at 156. […]

Relying primarily on Boynton v. Kusper, 112 Ill. 2d 356 (1986), plaintiffs assert that the ordinances may not single out the exercise of a fundamental right for special taxation to raise revenue for the general welfare. Plaintiffs further argue that the firearm tax merely funds the general revenue fund and that neither the firearm nor the ammunition tax is specifically directed at gun violence prevention measures.

We agree that the ordinances impose a burden on the exercise of a fundamental right protected by the second amendment. At its core, the second amendment protects the right of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms for self-defense in the home. District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 635 (2008). In McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 778 (2010), the United States Supreme Court stated that “it is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.” See also Johnson v. Department of State Police, 2020 IL 124213, ¶ 37 (“the second amendment right recognized in Heller is a personal liberty guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the fourteenth amendment” (citing McDonald, 561 U.S. at 791)).

While the taxes do not directly burden a law-abiding citizen’s right to use a firearm for self-defense, they do directly burden a law-abiding citizen’s right to acquire a firearm and the necessary ammunition for self-defense. See Illinois Ass’n of Firearm Retailers v. City of Chicago, 961 F. Supp. 2d 928, 938 (2014) (noting that the acquisition of firearms is a fundamental prerequisite to legal gun ownership); Jackson v. City & County of San Francisco, 746 F.3d 953, 967 (9th Cir. 2014) (the right to possess a firearm for self-defense implies a corresponding right to acquire the ammunition necessary to use them for self-defense).

This court has not yet considered the analytical framework for addressing a tax classification that bears on a fundamental right in the context of a uniformity clause challenge. Thus, we look to other contexts for guidance. In Boynton, we struck down a tax imposed upon those who applied for marriage licenses as violative of the due process clause. The statute required that $10 of the fee collected for issuing a marriage license must be directed into the Domestic Violence Shelter and Service Fund (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 40, ¶¶ 2403, 2403.1). Boynton, 112 Ill. 2d at 359-60. The plaintiffs challenged that portion of the license fee as an unconstitutional tax violative of due process and the uniformity clause. Id. at 360. […]

Under the plain language of the ordinances, the revenue generated from the firearm tax is not directed to any fund or program specifically related to curbing the cost of gun violence. Additionally, nothing in the ordinance indicates that the proceeds generated from the ammunition tax must be specifically directed to initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence. Thus, we hold the tax ordinances are unconstitutional under the uniformity clause.

Since our holding disposes of this case, we need not address plaintiffs’ additional challenges to the ordinances.

…Adding… Sun-Times

In a statement, a spokesman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the county is “disappointed” in the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision.

“We intend to meet with our legal counsel and determine any next steps that may be warranted,” the spokesman said. “It is no secret that gun violence continues to be an epidemic in our region. … Addressing societal costs of gun violence in Cook County is substantial and an important governmental objective.

“We continue to maintain that the cost of a bullet should reflect, even if just a little bit, the cost of the violence that ultimately is not possible without the bullet. We are committed to protecting County residents from the plague of gun violence with or without this tax.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   31 Comments      

Open thread

Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

* Have at it.

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Thursday, Oct 21, 2021

* Follow along with ScribbleLive

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comment      

* The debate continues over the labor force participation rate
* Pritzker expands vax/test mandate to workers at licensed day care centers
* COVID-19 roundup
* Despite pleas and even threats, IDOC worker vax rate remains about the same
* Can't somebody at the state step in and help Dixmoor with its water problem?
* Giannoulias hit for accepting campaign money from his brothers, others
* Illinois: Tell Congress To Count All Copays
* Open thread
* Yesterday's stories

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