IEDA UPDATE – July 24, 2020

Illinois Legislative News

Following last Friday’s significant news that ComEd admitted to bribery and agreed to pay a $200M fine as part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement, Governor J.B. Pritzker told the press at an unrelated news conference that “The speaker has a lot to answer for—to authorities, to investigators, and most importantly to the people of Illinois.” He then added, “I am deeply troubled, and frankly I’m furious with what is being reported”, and if the allegations are true, “there is no question he will have betrayed the public trust and must resign”. House GOP leader Jim Durkin echoed the governor, adding “if the allegations are true, he needs to resign immediately”. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot had been hesitant to call for House Speaker Michael Madigan’s resignation, citing the current lack of criminal charges and stating that “If those allegations are true, obviously he should resign. But we don’t know that they are true yet.” She has rather focused on ComEd, calling for the company to explain itself, its business dealings, and the new reforms implemented to prevent future misconduct. House Energy Committee Chair Ann Williams has rejected calls from Republicans for public legislative hearings on the ComEd matter, stating that “a legislative committee is not the appropriate place to investigate a criminal matter.” Williams did state that she would introduce legislation to “hold utilities accountable and take the politics out of setting fair energy rates”, but did not provide a timeline for such legislation. Rep. Williams is also the lead sponsor of the proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would subsidize nuclear-power plants owned by Exelon. The Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates the state’s public utilities, requested ComEd appear before the Commission’s open meeting on July 29th to address recent developments; this will be followed a Chicago City Council hearing the following day.  

Governor Pritzker suspended the bipartisan energy working group that has been considering an omnibus energy package, including additional green energy requirements and other changes. The governor’s top spokeswoman said “it is imperative that any clean energy legislation in the future has the full confidence of the public.”

Speaker Madigan, the main target of the investigation who has not currently been charged with any crime, has denied any wrongdoing and pledged his full cooperation with the current federal investigation. Last Friday, his office was served with a subpoena for documents related to “possible job recommendations” among other items. Companies specifically mentioned in the subpoena include: Walgreens, AT&T, Rush University Medical Center, and the Roosevelt Group. The FBI is also paying close attention to a state-owned Chinatown parking lot and its connection to Madigan, lobbyists, and a failed 2018 bill that would have allowed the Illinois Department of Transportation to sell the land to real estate developers.

During a week of violence in Chicago, including a shooting outside of a funeral home on the South Side of Chicago that wounded 15 people, Mayor Lightfoot and President Trump have been at odds about the government sending federal agents to Chicago. Lightfoot has said, “What will certainly make our community less safe is secret, federal agents deployed to Chicago” and insisted that a Portland-like response would spell “disaster” for the city. She has instead called for the president to assist by implementing gun control to help stop the influx of illegal firearms into Illinois from neighboring states. On Wednesday, the president responded, stating “we have no choice but to get involved” and announcing the expansion of Operation Legend to Chicago. U.S. Attorney General Barr said approximately 200 agents from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will be deployed to Chicago. Lightfoot stated that she welcomes the partnership with federal officials, stressing that “these are not federal troops”, but will remain diligent and not “hesitate to take the president to court to stop any unconstitutional actions”.

On Thursday, Illinois announced 1,624 new cases of COVID-19, the highest number of new infections in almost two months, bringing the total number of positive cases in Illinois to 166,925. Thursday also saw an additional 20 deaths, rising the COVID-19 death toll to 7,367. This has led to rollbacks of some Phase 4 openings in Chicago: indoor dining is now prohibited at bars and other establishments that serve alcohol, maximum table size at restaurants is now six people, indoor fitness class size will be reduced to a maximum of 10 people, personal services requiring the removal of face coverings are no longer permitted, and guests at residential properties are now limited to five guests per unit. These restrictions go into effect this Friday, July 24th, at 12:01 a.m.


Important Upcoming Dates  Statewide

  • August 1, 2020 – CURE Fund Reimbursement Period Begins
  • 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

State reports widespread fraud in unemployment claimsCrain’s Chicago Business, July 22, 2020
Officials won't give numbers on the extent of cheating in the COVID-relief program, but similar crimes in Maryland cost more than $500 million. According to a statement from Illinois officials, IDES “uncovered and is investigating a widespread fraud scheme that is being conducted nationwide,” most of it involving improper claims for special unemployment aid of $600 a week under COVID relief legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump. The benefits can run as long as 39 weeks and cover categories of workers not normally eligible, such as the self-employed and sole proprietors.

What the FBI wanted to know about a Chinatown parking lot during one surprise 7 a.m. visit Chicago Sun-Times, July 22, 2020
There’s no indication state Rep. Theresa Mah has done anything wrong, but FBI agents had plenty of questions for her about clout players and valuable land as they investigate Mike Madigan. They asked Mah if she was familiar with a state-owned property in Chinatown currently used as a parking lot.

Key Illinois Democrat says no to ComEd hearings Crain’s Chicago Business, July 22, 2020
A key Illinois House committee chairman is rejecting calls from Springfield Republicans for public legislative hearings on whether ratepayers got bilked in the ComEd bribery scandal—and, if so, what to do about it. In a statement, House Energy Committee Chairman Ann Williams, D-Chicago, said that while she voted against the “smart grid” legislation of 2011, which raised rates and is at the core of the scandal, now is not the right time for the Legislature to respond.

Gang feud likely cause of mass shooting at South Side funeral home, sources sayChicago Sun-Times, July 20, 2020
The funeral was for Donnie Weathersby, who was killed July 14 in a gang-related drive-by shooting in Englewood, police say. They believe he was targeted in an ongoing war between two little-known gang factions. Violence-prevention activists said they warned the police about the potential for violence at the funeral. At a press conference Tuesday night, CPD First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter said the Gresham District Commander assigned a squad car to sit outside the funeral. However on Wednesday, Supt. David Brown said there were at least three police vehicles nearby. Two squad cars and a tactical team were assigned because the funeral involved a victim of a suspected gang killing.

Pritzker promises millions to expand COVID-19 contact tracing in Illinois — Chicago Sun-Times, July 22, 2020
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the state will provide tens of millions of dollars in additional funding to public health departments and community organizations to help expand COVID-19 contact tracing across the state. Programs are key to stopping the coronavirus spread. The money will go to health departments across the state and nine community groups outside Cook County.

EYE ON ILLINOIS: Filing deadline yields clearer picture of legislative election math Kane County Chronicle, July 23, 2020
With a clean sweep, Democrats would have 103 of 118 House seats. They need to hold just six to retain their majority and must keep 17 for a supermajority. If every Republican House candidate wins, the party would yield 64 seats. But with only nine guarantees they’ll need to go 51-4 in contested races to reclaim the majority. File that under technically possible but highly unlikely.

GOP legislators: Democrats should demand Springfield action to address ‘breach of trust in government’Chicago Sun-Times, July 21, 2020
Insisting that “silence is corruption,” a group of Republican legislators on Tuesday called on Democrats to convene a special legislative session to deal with ethics reform just days after ComEd was hit with a criminal case with explosive implications for state House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Pritzker preaches ‘personal responsibility’ as Illinois COVID-19 positivity rate inches upward with another 955 casesChicago Sun-Times, July 21, 2020
Illinois’ coronavirus testing positivity rate crept upward once more with the latest batch of 955 confirmed cases statewide, officials said Tuesday. The new cases were detected among 29,745 test results, raising the state’s rolling positivity rate over the last week to 3.1%, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Considered a key indicator of how fast COVID-19 is spreading through the state, the positivity rate soared close to 20% at Illinois’ height of the pandemic in mid-May. Since that number fell to 2.5% two weeks ago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has warned of a steady uptick in cases that could eventually force some regions of the state to scale back reopening.

Illinois Dems, Lightfoot ramp up pressure on MadiganCrain’s Chicago Business, July 20, 2020
The political pressure on Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan tightened another notch today as 12 members of his Democratic caucus and Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in separate settings that he should step down if it’s true he was complicit in the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal.

COVID-19 concerns: Pritzker worries ‘our numbers should be going down,’ and warns downstate Metro East could see limits returnChicago Sun-Times, July 20, 2020
Officials were “closely monitoring a rise in cases” in the Illinois towns that are part of the St. Louis, Mo., metropolitan area. The positivity rate in the Metro East area topped 7% on Monday, the seventh day of rising positivity rates.

Is ComEd's pay-to-play era really over?Crain’s Chicago Business, July 17, 2020
Commonwealth Edison execs would probably like you to think their agreement to pay $200 million in fines in order to avoid prosecution for bribery is the final chapter in a Springfield corruption saga that's ensnared the Chicago-based power giant for years. In some ways, it is. If ComEd keeps its nose clean for the next three years and significantly reforms its lobbying operations, then the U.S. attorney's office will forgo its right to prosecute the company for lobbying arrangements designed to pay associates of Michael Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois House and the longest-serving head of any legislative body in U.S. history.

Feds cast wide net on Berrios, get records on gov’s Gold Coast mansion, 118 other properties Chicago Sun-Times, July 17, 2020
Federal prosecutors have made a series of requests to the Cook County assessor’s office over the past five months for records regarding the $330,000 property tax break that Gov. J.B. Pritzker got on a Gold Coast mansion — a break he got in part because the toilets were disconnected during a stalled remodeling job.

Feds' Madigan probe moves beyond ComEd Crain’s Chicago Business, July 17, 2020
The federal probe into Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan appears to be expanding into a bigger and significant slice of the city’s corporate life. Subpoenas served on Madigan’s office today by federal agents requested records on his dealings not just with Commonwealth Edison, which earlier in the day admitted guilt in a bribery scandal involving Madigan and associates, but several other entities and individuals.

Illinois Liquor Control to Pritzker: We need more inspectors— The Daily Line, July 17, 2020
Illinois Liquor Control Commission Director Chima Enyia is asking Gov. JB Pritzker for more inspection agents in its enforcement division to ensure bars and restaurants are safe for the public during the Covid-19 pandemic. He also said Thursday he is revamping training for current employees to stay up to speed with the virus.

Trump sending federal agents to ChicagoCrain’s Chicago Business, July 22, 2020
The move is expected to help local police and not mirror the controversial strike force seen on the streets of Portland, Crain's reports. The announcement is an expansion of Operation Legend, an effort launched earlier this month in Kansas City, Missouri, in which agents from the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were ordered to help local police fight violent crime. U.S. Attorney General William Barr said that so far, 200 agents with Operation Legend have been sent to Kansas City, and that a "comparable" number will be coming to Chicago.

Lightfoot, White House signal Trump might not send Portland-style strike force to ChicagoChicago Sun-Times, July 21, 2020
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday she was told there is no “Portland-style deployment” of federal agents headed to Chicago — a signal also sent by the White House — keeping her guard up as President Donald Trump is scheduled to deliver remarks on fighting crime on Wednesday. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany hinted at the Tuesday briefing that federal agents working with Operation Legend may be sent to Chicago. Trump’s Wednesday guidance said he will be delivering remarks on Operation Legend, combating “violent crime in American cities.”

15 shot outside Gresham funeral homeChicago Sun-Times, July 21, 2020
Fifteen people were shot Tuesday evening outside a funeral home in Gresham on the South Side — the largest number of victims in a single Chicago shooting in recent memory. The shooting happened about 6:30 p.m. as people left a funeral in the 1000 block of West 79th Street, Chicago Police First Deputy Supt. Eric Carter said.

Citadel Securities pays $700,000 fine Crain’s Chicago Business, July 21, 2020
Citadel Securities, the Chicago stock-trading behemoth owned by billionaire founder Ken Griffin, agreed to pay a $700,000 fine and provide restitution to customers for rule violations that a federal regulator alleges occurred over years, with some as recently as last month.

An estimated 4,400 Chicago-area businesses have closed during the pandemic. 2,400 say they’ll never reopen. — Chicago Tribune, July 22, 2020
The data, released Wednesday, comes from crowd-sourced business review platform Yelp. Nationally, more than 132,500 businesses have permanently or temporarily closed since March, according to Yelp. Temporary business closures are decreasing nationally as some states reopen, but permanent closures are rising, accounting for 55% of all closed businesses.

Chicago rolls back some reopening rules amid COVID rise Crain’s Chicago Business, July 20, 2020
Chicago is tightening restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms and personal services this Friday "in response to a recent increase in community cases" of COVID-19, city officials announced today. The restrictions take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday. Bars without a food license will not be allowed to serve alcohol indoors. Bars that don't serve food will still be able to provide outdoor service. Restaurants will be allowed to stay open, but maximum party size and table occupancy will be reduced to six people.

Lightfoot warns Trump: Portland-style intervention in Chicago would be a ‘disasterChicago Sun-Times, July 20, 2020
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, aiming to avoid a Portland-style federal agent crackdown in Chicago this week, asked President Donald Trump for help Monday in a letter where she said she would take him at his word he wanted to help the city, despite his “incendiary rhetoric.” And while the Lightfoot letter has several conciliatory passages, her main message to the president was, “What we do not need, and what will certainly make our community less safe is secret, federal agents deployed to Chicago.”

COPA investigating more than 20 misconduct complaints related to Columbus statue standoffChicago Sun-Times, July 19, 2020
The agency tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct lodged against the Chicago Police Department announced Sunday that officials are probing more than 20 complaints related to Friday’s protest in Grant Park, where there were violent clashes with demonstrators attempting to tear down a statue of Christopher Columbus.

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