IEDA State Update – September 11, 2020

On Thursday, the House Special Investigative Committee convened in a primarily procedural meeting to begin its investigation of House Speaker Michael Madigan’s dealings with utility company ComEd. The charges in the petition the Republicans filed against Madigan accuse him of engaging in conduct unbecoming of a legislator and violations of the public trust in connection with the bribery allegations outlined in ComEd’s agreement with the federal government. The bipartisan committee, which was formed last week, is comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans. The committee has voted unanimously to contact U.S. Attorney’s office for further guidance as to not “interfere in any way with the federal investigation,” and will wait for a response to set a schedule beyond the first meeting. As discussed last week, for this process to move forward, a majority vote of the committee is required. Although Madigan has yet to be officially charged, evidence has come forward that implicates the speaker in a bribery scheme involving ComEd. Republican Representative Tom Demmer stated that, “We have an admission of facts from Commonwealth Edison to the federal prosecutor’s office that have laid out a series of very concerning occurrences that happened,” claiming that the facts are “uncontested” and calls upon the speaker to contest those statements if he believes they are not true.

Last Friday, federal prosecutors filed a bribery conspiracy charge against a former senior ComEd executive. The filing, a criminal information, indicates Fidel Marquez, previously senior vice president of government affairs at the utility, intends to plead guilty and is cooperating with the ongoing investigation. Among the allegations contained in the filing are that Marquez funneled a $37,500 payment to a company, a “substantial portion” of which was intended for associates of “Public Official A”, who is widely known to be the longtime House Speaker.

Nineteen unsuccessful applicants for Illinois’s marijuana retail licenses lottery joined last Friday in a federal lawsuit to prevent the state from awarding licenses to 21 “politically connected insider companies.” In January, over 700 individuals applied for a lottery awarding 75 new marijuana licenses. Of the 700 applicants, only 21 were chosen as finalists for the new marijuana licenses. Those who passed the application process included groups owned by a former superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, Illinois gaming operators, leaders in Illinois cannabis trade groups, an owner of a well-known restaurant in Gold Coast, and Democratic committeemen and lobbyists. The lawsuit claims the state’s plan to move forward with licensing politically connected groups is unconstitutional because it lacks due process to challenge the application scoring before licenses are awarded. Lawmakers have called on Gov. JB Pritzker to suspend the lottery for the 75 new licenses. Pritzker says that he is open to “tweaks” to the program, but he will not delay the process.

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

Pritzker talks vaccine, contact tracing, university spread Capitol News Illinois, September 9, 2020
The statewide COVID-19 test positivity rate hit its lowest point since July 26 on Wednesday as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,337 new cases of the virus among 48,029 test results reported over the previous 24 hours. The rolling seven-day average positivity rate was driven downward to 3.7 percent after Wednesday saw a 2.8 percent one-day positivity rate.  That came as Region 7 of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan saw its fourth straight day below an 8 percent positivity rate, the threshold at which the state increases economic restrictions in an effort to mitigate spread. The rate in Region 7, which includes Will and Kankakee Counties, was 7.4 percent as of Sunday. That was still higher than the 6.5 percent rate at which the state would start to relax some of the added mitigations, which include closing bars and restaurants to indoor service.

Open Mike: Speaker Madigan could be asked to speak up about ComEdChicago Sun-Times, September 9, 2020
Beleaguered Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan could soon be asked to publicly explain his dealings with ComEd. At least that’s what Republicans were planning Wednesday on the eve of the first meeting of a special bipartisan legislative panel convened to explore the political and legal minefield. “We have an admission of facts from Commonwealth Edison to the federal prosecutor’s office that have laid out a series of very concerning occurrences that happened,” state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said. “I think that as of right now, those facts are uncontested. We’d invite the speaker to contest those facts if he does not believe that those are accurate.”

Former state GOP Chairman Pat Brady endorses Democrat Sean Casten for reelection over Republican Jeanne IvesChicago Tribune, September 10, 2020
Two years ago, Democrat Sean Casten gained some unlikely Republican supporters in what became his successful upset of veteran GOP U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam — former Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra and former Rep. Harris Fawell. Now, as the first-term Casten faces a challenge from former Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton, the Democrat has enlisted another GOP backer — former state Republican Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles.

More than $31M Distributed by Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund WTTW, September 8, 2020 
A fund to help Illinois residents impacted by the coronavirus pandemic has distributed more than $31 million since its inception and will be winding down its operations, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Tuesday. “Even in the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, need was unfolding beyond a scale modern-day government had ever seen – and the best response would be an all-hands-on deck, private and public efforts alike, to meet it,” Pritzker said, thanking everyone who contributed to the Illinois COVID-19 Response Fund.

As nation fights systemic racism, report finds pattern of exclusion in Illinois trade unionsSun-Times, September 7, 2020
Activists called it a “No Labor Day” event, gathering with unemployed Black men and women Monday as they unveiled appalling diversity statistics in a new report that turns a spotlight on systemic racism within trade unions, specifically, those operating in Illinois. “These statistics are shocking,” said U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis, D-Ill., at the news conference with Chicago Black United Communities, the stalwart South Side organization founded by the legendary Lu Palmer. CBUC brought the issue into prominence as far back as the 1970s by shutting down construction sites. Based on U.S. Department of Labor statistics from 1999-2018, the CBUC report finds apprenticeship programs of 62 Illinois trade unions remain mostly white — five of them completely segregated; 15 with less than 20% persons of color; and 13 with 20 to 30% persons of color.

Committee investigating Madigan must honor pledge to fairness, transparencyNorthwest Herald, September 6, 2020
The members of the new committee constituted to investigate Madigan for his role as Public Official A in the deferred prosecution agreement involving Commonwealth Edison and federal investigators. The members are Reps. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, who joined the House in 2003; Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, and Deputy Minority Leader Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, who started in 2013; Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville. 2015; and Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, 2018. Madigan became a House member in January 1971, nearly 50 years ago, but the conduct the committee will investigate covers 2011 through 2019. On Wednesday House Republican Leader Jim Durkin filed a petition to create the committee, pursuant to House rules, and that was before we learned about the criminal charge against Fidel Marquez, a lobbyist and ComEd’s former senior vice president of governmental affairs.

Fall veto session looking anything but dull Lincoln Courier, September 4, 2020
It is still about three months and a presidential election away, but the veto session is shaping up to be a potentially busy time in Springfield. This considering there were (and still are to some degree) people whispering that the veto session will be canceled. The basis of that is there are literally no vetoes for lawmakers to consider and with the coronavirus pandemic continuing, it will still be difficult to convene the General Assembly in a safe manner. There are also people pushing the idea that the Democratic leaders don’t want to convene with the questions hovering over House Speaker Michael Madigan and the federal investigation into Commonwealth Edison.  Counter that, though, with the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus saying last week that they fully expect the veto session to be dominated by their efforts to pass criminal justice and social justice reform legislation. They made it clear that they intend to move while there is a national focus on those issues. Or as Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, said, “The Black agenda cannot wait.”

Billionaire Ken Griffin gives $20 million to stop graduated-rate tax amendment groupChicago Tribune, September 4, 2020
Ken Griffin, Illinois’ richest person and the founder and CEO of the Citadel investment firm, has donated $20 million to a business group fighting Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s push for voters to approve a proposed state constitutional amendment that would shift Illinois’ flat-rate income tax to a graduated-rate system. The move by Griffin, estimated by Forbes to be worth $15 billion, sets up a battle among billionaires over the fate of the proposed tax amendment with Pritzker, who Forbes says is worth $3.4 billion as an heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune. Pritzker has pumped $56.5 million into the Vote Yes for Fairness political fund, which is promoting passage of the amendment, which is before voters on the Nov. 3 ballot. Griffin — a close political and financial ally of Pritzker’s predecessor, former one-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner — contributed the $20 million to the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike Amendment on Aug. 27

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