IEDA State Update – August 7, 2020

On Wednesday, ComEd pleaded not guilty to bribery, despite it admitting it took part in a scheme that allegedly sent $1.3 million to allies of House Speaker Michael Madigan while simultaneously attempting to gain the speaker’s support for favorable legislation. Although lawyers had previously claimed that no plea would be necessary, U.S. District Judge John Kness insisted on a formal plea during ComEd’s arraignment. Additionally during the Wednesday hearing, Kness agreed to delay the case against ComEd for another three years. Part of the deal also calls for ComEd to pay a $200 million fine, the largest criminal fine in Chicago’s federal court to this date. ComEd is able to split this payment by paying half of the fine this month and the other half by October.  The details of the scheme outlined in the court filings implicate the involvement of several other individuals, most notably Michael Madigan, but no one else has been charged at this point.

Seeing 1,759 new cases and 30 deaths within 24 hours this Wednesday, Illinois’ coronavirus cases have consistently been increasing throughout the state as the different regions begin to see an uptick in new cases. Two weeks ago, 10 out of the 11 regions had a positivity rate below 5%. Now, only four out of the eleven are below 5%. Pritzker called upon local officials to identify the causes of local outbreaks and to take any measures needed in order to cease the spread of the virus. Pritzker warned that without preventing outbreaks at the local level, the state will impose stricter regulation in order to reduce the spread of the virus. Pritzker said that “it’ll only be a matter of time before [the state] will be forced to step in on a regional basis and impose resurgence mitigation measure,” such as re-closing public dining and bars.

On Friday morning, Governor Pritzker announced a new emergency rule that would fine businesses that fail to enforce the state’s mask mandate. The Illinois Department of Public Health emergency rule would subject businesses and organizations – not individuals – to a Class A Misdemeanor if they still refuse to comply after two warnings. Friday’s proposal comes months after a similar proposal invited public backlash and was withdrawn before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JACR) likely would have blocked it. The next JCAR meeting is Tuesday where the current rule may face similar opposition. 

Despite having previously decided to have some in-person learning, on Wednesday CPS officials announced that Chicago’s public schools will begin their school year September 8th completely remote due to COVID-19. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a press conference that this decision was made based on the “evolving public health situation and feedback that we’ve received, notably from parents and faculty.” In recent weeks, there has been growing pushback from teachers, parents, students, and community members worried exposing children to the virus in the classroom as the cases begin to increase in Illinois.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned on Wednesday that the state faces “extraordinarily painful” budget cuts over the rest of the fiscal year if Congress does not pass an economic relief package that includes financial aid to states that will help make up the revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 efforts. Illinois’ budget effective July 1st is heavily dependent on federal aid in order to pay back the nearly $5 billion of borrowed money to cover the budget deficit under a special program through the Federal Reserve. Additionally, there has been a revenue deficit this year due to the extended income tax deadline which was moved to July 15. Currently, the US House has passed a relief package that has budgeted $500 billion to help states, but the Senate has not included that in their own package. Without federal aid, however, Pritzker claims that there will be significant cuts and jobless in not only government jobs, but in all jobs in Illinois and throughout the country.

Important Upcoming Dates  Statewide

  • November 3, 2020 – Election Day
  • November 17-19, 2020 – First week of Veto Session
  • December 1-3, 2020 – Second week of Veto Session
  • December 15, 2020 – Final Day for Local Government to Submit Reimbursement Requests to DCEO


In the News

Illinois Reports 1,759 New Coronavirus Cases, 30 Deaths WednesdayNBC Chicago, August 5, 2020
Health officials in Illinois reported more than 1,700 new cases of coronavirus Wednesday, along with 30 additional deaths attributed to the virus. According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, the 1,759 new cases bring the total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to 186,471. Wednesday's 30 additional fatalities bring the state’s death toll to 7,573, according to IDPH.

Pritzker: Illinois Cooperating With Feds On Curbing Unemployment Insurance Fraud CBS Chicago, August 5, 2020
Widespread fraud with unemployment benefits in Illinois and throughout the country is being investigated, both on the state and national level. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program “was passed by Congress in the spring, and provides benefits to independent contractors and 1099 workers,” Pritzker said. “This is a brand new program that the federal government rushed to develop, and then left each state to create its own separate system. As a result, there were massive holes for illegal fraudsters to steal federal dollars from taxpayers.”

ComEd pleads not guilty to bribery scheme despite admissions made in government dealChicago Suntimes, August 5, 2020
Despite last month admitting its role in a scheme that allegedly sent $1.3 million to allies of House Speaker Michael Madigan while it tried to land Madigan’s support for favorable legislation, ComEd on Wednesday pleaded not guilty through an attorney to criminal conduct. U.S. District Judge John Kness insisted on the formal plea during ComEd’s arraignment by telephone on one count of bribery.

Vote with your face? Masks one more thing voters will get to decide on Election DayChicago Suntimes, August 5, 2020
Chicago election officials plan to “strongly encourage” but will not require voters to wear face masks to their polling places this fall. They say their decision was made in accordance with current COVID-19 guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Illinois Department of Public Health — neither of which mandate the use of face coverings for voting. Election officials in suburban Cook, DuPage and Lake counties told me they are awaiting updated guidance from the state before finalizing their own face mask policies.

How much longer can Pritzker sidestep the Madigan problem?Crain’s Chicago Business, August 5, 2020
Little by little, Gov. J.B. Pritzker is being nudged in the direction of a possibly epic confrontation with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan—one the governor has been trying to avoid for years. Pritzker resisted the calls for Madigan to step down as House speaker and Democratic Party of Illinois chairman during the House's 2018 sexual harassment crisis. He's been similarly reluctant for the past year, amid the Commonwealth Edison fallout, and then for the past few weeks since ComEd's admission that it bribed lawmakers to get what it wanted out of Springfield. And it's pretty obvious why: Pritzker still wants to get things done with the General Assembly.

Going South: Pritzker says southern Illinois coronavirus surge ‘worse than in Chicago’ Chicago Sun-Times, August 4, 2020
Some southern Illinois politicians have spent months hammering Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 measures for bringing the downstate economy to a halt to solve what they have called a Chicago-area problem. Now, southern Illinois is the problem, the Democratic governor said Tuesday. “I’m here today because the COVID-19 pandemic, which once seemed tame in Carbondale and throughout the entire region, is surging here,” Pritzker said at Southern Illinois University. “It’s worse than in Chicago.

Pritzker, Fowler announce $40 million for Cairo port projectThe Southern, August 4, 2020
Pritzker and State Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, said there were real dollars coming with Tuesdays announcement. Fowler remarked that the port project is a real line item in the state’s recently-passed capitol bill, which allots funds for various development and improvement projects throughout the state. Immediately, the state will give $4 million in grants for the project, but a total of $40 million has been allocated to fund the design and development of a river port that has been in the works for nearly a decade. This is about $35 million short of the $75 million that was hoped for, but, as previously reported by The Southern, the rest will be leveraged by private investors.

Former high-ranking state rep handcuffed, arrested in warrant snafu: ‘I said, “You have got to be kidding.”’Chicago Sun-Times, August 4, 2020
A lieutenant recognized former Deputy House Majority Leader Arthur Turner Sr. and told him the warrant was for a man with the same name — but who had tattoos on both arms and is 36 years younger and several inches taller than Turner. “‘This warrant doesn’t fit you at all.’” Turner recalled him saying.

Illinois launches $5 million mask awareness campaign, Pritzker opens door to fines for those who disregard rulesChicago Tribune, August 3, 2020
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday unveiled a $5 million multimedia campaign to push the use of face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, and said he is open to considering fines for those who flout mask regulations. The ad campaign will carry the tagline “It only works if you wear it” and will focus on cities and counties in the state that “have the most work to do,” Pritzker said. The effort was launched in Springfield, days after Sangamon County was one of 11 counties in the state flagged by the Illinois Department of Public Health as at a “warning level” based on COVID-19 metrics.

Is Campaign Money From Speaker Michael Madigan ‘Dirty’?WTTW, August 3, 2020
It’s not uncommon, and it’s certainly not illegal, but Republicans say it’s hypocritical that Democratic candidates for the Illinois House are making promises to “clean up Springfield” when their campaigns are dependent on funding from the Democratic Party of Illinois, which is run by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Commission to restore Illinois in wake of COVID-19 set to meet for second timeThe Center Square, August 3, 2020
A commission of state lawmakers designed to help rebuild Illinois' economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic met for the first time last week. It has another meeting set for Tuesday, but it will be closed to the public. Instead of passing laws codifying or challenging Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s executive orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19, state legislators in May passed a law to create the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission. The commission has more Democrats than Republicans.The commission met for the first time last week, after the group’s first monthly report was issued. Another meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

Pritzker loses another court challenge, state must take prisoners from countiesThe Center Square, August 3, 2020 
A Logan County Circuit Court judge handed Gov. J.B. Pritzker his latest loss in a challenge to the governor's executive authority. Judge Jonathan C. Wright ruled Monday morning that Pritzker’s order that temporarily halted county jails from moving prisoners to state-run facilities ran afoul of state law. The Illinois Department of Corrections must accept an inmate within 14 days of a transfer, but Pritzker’s order struck that language for the duration of his emergency orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic. There are about 36,000 inmates housed in IDOC facilities.

TROUBLE AHEAD The Daily Line, August 4, 2020
Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza on Monday published an open letter to Illinois residents, warning that “big challenges lie ahead” for their state. The letter, posted to Medium, emphasized the financial hit the state is taking from the Covid-19 pandemic and said that “without question” Illinois “will need financial support from the federal government to bring much-needed stability back to state and local government.” 

One of the most-watched political races in Illinois pits a well-connected Republican against Democratic newcomer backed by House Speaker Michael Madigan. Both have big money backing their campaigns and in any other election year, this race would see volunteers blanketing the district in door-to-door campaigns. Republican Rep. Bradley Stephens, who also serves as Rosemont mayor, is defending the 20th District seat he was appointed to last year after Mike McAuliffe resigned. Stephens’ challenger is Michelle Darbro, an EMT and firefighter. 

Illinois’ new COVID-19 plan: How the state will manage any outbreaks, in 3 chartsChicago Tribune, August 2, 2020
The new approach is more surgical, dividing the state into 11 regions — Illinois’ existing Emergency Medical Services regions — and tightening the metrics officials will watch to determine if any action is warranted. The plan also includes mitigation steps unique to different categories, like restaurants and bars, offices or salons, that could be used to specifically respond to a type of outbreak in a specific part of the state. Read more on Pritzker’s plan here. Here is a breakdown of the plan.

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