IEDA UPDATE – July 17, 2020

Illinois Legislative News

In a significant development on Friday morning, the US Attorney’s Office in Chicago filed a criminal information charging ComEd, the state’s largest electric utility, with bribery. As part of a three-year deferred prosecution agreement, ComEd has agreed to pay a $200 million fine to resolve claims it bribed public officials for favorable action. Specifically, the utility admits “it arranged jobs, vendor subcontracts, and monetary payments associated with those jobs and subcontracts, for various associates of a high-level elected official for the state of Illinois, to influence and reward the official’s efforts to assist ComEd with respect to legislation concerning ComEd and its business.” According to the filing, that high-level elected official – referred to as “Public Official A” – is Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Per the statements of fact, from 2011 through 2019, ComEd engaged in these activities as the General Assembly was considering many pieces of legislation which had a substantial impact on ComEd’s business. This includes the Future Energy Jobs Act – passed in 2016 – and the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act – passed in 2011.

Friday’s developments follow an investigation into public corruption that had swirled around ComEd and Madigan’s close associates for months but had never specifically implicated the longtime House Speaker. A hearing in the case has not yet been scheduled, but additional developments are likely.

On July 15th, Governor Pritzker released a COVID-19 Mitigation plan due to the resurgence of cases both in Illinois and across the country. Among other things, the plan increases the number of reopening regions from 4 to 11, based on IDPH’s 11 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Regions. This expansion separates Chicago, Suburban Cook County, and the collar counties into their own regions to more accurately reflect regional dynamics and ensure healthcare availability. 

The governor’s plan also introduces metrics to measure the amount of COVID-19 cases that would require intervention and lays out stages of actions that will be taken. These metrics include: an increase in cases for the 7-day rolling average (7 days of an increasing positivity rate out of a 10 day period) as well as one of the following: a) 7 days of increased hospitalization for COVID-19 like illnesses or b) a reduction in ICU capacity. Alternatively, three consecutive days of an 8% positivity rate could trigger mitigation measures in a region. Although these are the benchmarks, the governor stated that rising trends in the wrong direction would also require intervention even if they are still below the posted metrics. Actions to combat a resurgence of COVID-19 at or above the criteria, ranging from least to most restrictive and varying by facility type, include: reducing or suspending operations of bars and restaurants, additional limits of meetings and other social gatherings, reducing or suspending elective surgeries, increasing emphasis on remote office work, suspending indoor and outdoor recreational activities, and suspending non-essential retail and personal care services.

During a press conference on July 15th, Governor Pritzker cited places, such as bars and youth sporting events, that have been linked to rising cases, especially among children and young adults. Wednesday saw over 1,200 new cases, bringing Illinois’ total to 156,693, and 8 additional deaths, for a total of 7,226 lost. The statewide positivity rate is currently 3.1%. Illinois also crossed the 2 million tests benchmark, with over 38,000 tests being performed daily. The age groups with the highest COVID-19 positivity rate are now 10-19 and 20-29, leading to increased concern about schools reopening in the fall.

On Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned that Chicago may move back to Phase 3 from its current Phase 4, citing rising case numbers and non-compliance with guidelines. The city’s current 7-day average for new cases is 192, with a positivity rate of 5.3%. Lightfoot stated that she would likely begin to reverse reopening at 200 average daily cases. Since June 15th, 30% of new cases in Chicago have come from 18 to 29-year-olds. Wednesday also saw Iowa and Oklahoma added to Chicago’s quarantine list, bringing the total number of states to seventeen. Governor Pritzker voiced support for the mayor’s actions but does not believe a statewide quarantine is necessary.

Late Thursday, the governor, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, and State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala filed a lawsuit against three schools that have pledged not to cooperate with the public health guidance issued for schools. Namely, these schools will not require their students and staff to wear masks. They plan to develop their own rules, as they believe Pritzker’s Executive Orders have been invalidated. The State’s case asks the judge to declare that Pritzker’s EOs and the guidance for schools are lawful and to enjoin the schools from refusing to comply.


Important Upcoming Dates  Statewide

  • July 17, 2020 – CURE Application Closes
  • 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

Why did Chicago, suburban Cook suddenly get their own COVID regions? — Crain’s Chicago Business, July 15, 2020
In April and May, the state was playing one grand game of whack-a-mole in which there were so many moles in so many places that you could hardly avoid hitting one. But now, a more selective approach is both needed and available. That’s sort of how Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration explains the governor’s big shift in position as to how the state will be divided for purposes of COVID-19 monitoring and economic reopening.

A grim forecast for Illinois' new fiscal year — The Center Square, July 15, 2020
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said that the COVID-19 shutdown this spring has had a significant impact on tax revenues that the state needs to operate. Mark Glennon, executive editor of the state budget watchdog group Wirepoints, said Illinois budgets are typically in the hole for $1 billion to $2 billion. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the deficit for the new fiscal year will be $6 billion to $8 billion, he said.

Coronavirus in Illinois updates: Growing infections among young people could force state and Chicago to pull back on reopening — Chicago Tribune, July 16, 2020
Chicago health data shows 29% of confirmed COVID-19 cases since June 15 have been among people ages 18 to 29. Those ages 30 to 39 made up the second-largest percentage of confirmed cases. That’s a stark change from May, when cases of the virus peaked in the city and overwhelmingly affected older people.

If you want to know why coronavirus is spiking in the US, compare Florida with Illinois — the Independent, July 15, 2020
Illinois' achievement is both a model and an accusation. It points a way forward for other states. It also shows that the disaster facing the country now was thoroughly preventable.

Madigan: Republican calls to ‘drain the swamp’ should start with Trump, Roger Stone and other GOP allies — Chicago Sun-Times, July 15, 2020
The Southwest Side Democrat weighed in on the presidential election and Biden’s potential pick for vice president. But the state House speaker would not say whether he would call for a return to session to work on ethics reforms or legislation to address racial inequities.

Pritzker reluctant to dial back state's reopening, but doesn't rule it out — Crain’s Chicago Business, July 14, 2020
Gov. J.B. Pritzker suggested today that he’s reluctant to dial back the state’s economic reopening, even as new COVID-19 cases show a marked increase here. But the governor conceded that he is asking himself, “When should we turn the dimmer switch?” And he hinted that, if that time arrives, indoor bars and indoor restaurant dining will be first in line for closures.

S&P: Illinois little-prepared for economic destruction of Covid — The Daily Line, July 15, 2020
Illinois is one of only six states designated with budgets of high vulnerability due to “fiscal distress,” S&P Global Ratings reported on Monday. In a mid-year report, the New York-based analyst firm showed that while most state ratings are likely to remain stable for the second half of the year, none have positive outlooks due to the extremities from the Covid-19 pandemic affecting local economies. Factors that are especially troublesome for Illinois are weaker “rainy day” reserves, elected fixed costs, and revenue volatility. All are expected to lead to “additional credit stress and a prolonged period of depressed revenues,” according to the report.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker focuses on bars as potential COVID-19 transmission hot spots when asked about a possible rollback of reopeningChicago Tribune, July 14, 2020
“I will not hesitate to reimpose some mitigations if we see our numbers moving upward,” Pritzker said at an unrelated event in Chicago. “My concern, again, is all about the health and safety of the people of the state of Illinois.” Pritzker said he and health officials are watching the Southern and Western states where the virus is surging “and wondering, where could we or should we … turn the dimmer switch, as they say, on some of these items?”

Lawmakers ask Illinois officials to give downstate municipalities ability to help local businesses — The Center Square, July 14, 2020
Businesses in the Chicago area have access to state and local channels to get federal COVID-19 relief money, but businesses elsewhere have only the state. Some Illinois lawmakers want Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office to change that. 

Republicans call for audit of unemployment claims agency following four months of turmoil — The Daily Line, July 14, 2020
Republican lawmakers on Monday are calling once again for an audit of the beleaguered Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) because of long lag times and insufficient service for the thousands of people trying to receive unemployment in the state.

Another coalition of business groups dedicated to fight Gov. JB Pritzker’s graduated income tax proposal has formed and is launching a referendum expenditure committee to advertise and organize against changing Illinois’ constitutional requirement for a flat income tax. The Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment announced what it called a “bipartisan and broad coalition” of small and large businesses, farmers and community organizers on Monday, organized to campaign against Pritzker’s signature tax proposal, already passed by lawmakers last spring and awaiting voter approval on the November ballot.

Business leaders surprisingly upbeat about COVID recovery — Crain’s Chicago Business, July 13, 2020
The latest survey of business conditions by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago shows business leaders here are surprisingly upbeat about recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, though hiring remains very weak.

Two weeks in, Illinois retailers, restaurants still struggling with Phase 4 restrictions – Center Square, July 11, 2020
A state retailers’ association said while the state gears up to dole out federal aid to local businesses, it’s not listening to things Illinois’ business owners want to be done to foster growth. With a little over two weeks into Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Phase 4 COVID-19 reopening plan where restaurants are allowed dine-in with limits and the retail industry allowed to have 50 percent capacity per the governor’s public health recommendations, they are still struggling.

Comptroller criticized for handling of late bill payments – Quad City Times, July 11, 2020
A program that helps vendors get paid even when the state is late paying its bills might be in danger, the head of one financial company said, because of the way Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza is prioritizing the bills that she does pay. The program is called the Vendor Payment Program and it allows third-party financial companies, known as “qualified purchasers,” to buy the debts owed to state vendors and then collect the late interest penalty owed whenever the state does pay the bill. The problem, said Andrew Greta, president of Illinois Financial Partners, one of the program’s participating companies, is that Mendoza’s office has put a priority on paying off the principal owed on invoices so they stop accruing interest. But she only rarely, and sporadically, makes payments on the interest that is already due.

Critical Questions Loom for Illinois' Emergency Housing Relief – Center for Illinois Politics, July 12, 2020
Illinois residents who lost jobs because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and are having trouble with payments for homes or apartments, are in for a nail-biting few weeks ahead, as public officials determine the details of government support programs that could help them. “We are very concerned,” said Bob Palmer, the policy director for Housing Action Illinois, a fair housing advocacy group. While some programs are coming online that could help financially strained Illinoisans, other programs could be winding down. “It’s good that these resources are becoming available. We anticipate that there’s going to be really high demand for them, but not everybody who needs it is going to get assistance. Not even close.” The livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents could be severely disrupted at the end of July, just three weeks from now, but they have no way of knowing for sure. Congress is waiting until the last minute to decide what its plan will be for August and everything after. The Pritzker administration, meanwhile, has only provided broad plans for state housing relief efforts that are supposed to start next month, and so far has left crucial questions unanswered.

Lightfoot threatens COVID reopening rollback — Crain’s Chicago Business, July 15, 2020
The mayor, who says we're at a "moment of reckoning" that will impact business, says she won’t hesitate to put Chicago’s reopening in reverse if cases rise above 200 daily.

‘Groundbreaking’ new contract for CPD supervisors sets city up for FOP negotiations — The Daily Line, July 16, 2020
Aldermen on Wednesday recommended approving a collective bargaining agreement between the city of Chicago and the labor union that represents police supervisors largely on the grounds that it provides a blueprint for the upcoming negotiations between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents rank-and-file officers.

Lightfoot adds Iowa to Chicago’s quarantine list, won’t rule out Wisconsin if needed — Chicago Tribune, July 14, 2020
The mayor acknowledged it’s largely an honor system proposition, but said she thinks people are adhering to the rules. And she said it helps to let people know they’re traveling to states with serious outbreaks.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and community leaders across the state have called on the Illinois congressional delegation to throw out a lifeline of federal emergency funding… — POLITICO, July 15, 2020
…to recover from the Covid-19 outbreak, its economic consequences and to prepare for a resurgence of the virus. The two-page letter obtained by Playbook expresses dire consequences if aid doesn’t come soon.

A third scourge quietly stalks Cook County — officials see doubling of ‘needless, preventable’ opioid deaths — Chicago Sun-Times, July 14, 2020
Last year the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office handled 605 opioid overdose deaths between January 1 and July 13. This year that number is 773, though that only tells part of the story, Dr. Ponni Arunkumar, the county’s medical examiner, said. “We also have 580 pending cases,” the medical examiner said. “We know that traditionally 70[%] to 80% of those cases will wind up being ruled as opioid overdose deaths. This means that there are 400 to 465 more opioid deaths thus far this year. Realistically, just six and a half months into 2020, we already have more than 1,200 opioid-related deaths.”

President Donald Trump brought out his favorite punching bag Monday: Chicago and its violence problem. — POLITICO, July 14, 2020
“You’re supposed to wait for them to call, but they don’t call,” Trump said at a roundtable discussion at the White House with a group of Americans affected by gun violence. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot isn’t going to call anytime soon. In a statement to Playbook, her office accused Trump of trying “to score cheap political points” by focusing on violence — and doing it badly, reporting the statistics incorrectly.

On 25th anniversary of Chicago heat wave, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle vows 100% renewable energy in county facilities by 2030 — Chicago Tribune, July 13, 2020
The clean energy plan will require all county facilities to run on 100% renewable electricity and achieve a 45% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 as well as be carbon neutral by 2050, Preckwinkle said at a news conference. The goals stem from a Cook County Board resolution passed in 2019 amid mounting fears about global warming.

Lightfoot gives Chicago census turnout a ’C’, urges greater participation by fall — The Daily Line, July 14, 2020
Low participation in the 2020 U.S. Census for both Cook County and Chicago has public officials pushing hard to get numbers up before the fall. In Chicago, that means bringing onboard “The Census Cowboy,” a Stetson-topped man on a white steed.

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