Illinois Legislative News

On Sunday, Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced new mitigation efforts for the Metro East region downstate that went into effect Tuesday. This particular region has seen three consecutive days of a test positivity rate of 8 percent or higher, which calls for the implementation of tighter restrictions. These restrictions are similar but less strict than the restrictions Illinois saw in the earlier days of the virus: closing of bars, restaurants, and casinos by 11 p.m., ban on party buses, and a reduction of gathering sizes to the lesser of 25 people or 25 percent of room capacity. If rates do not decrease after 14 days, tighter mitigation will occur. “If the data shows we need to go backward in our reopening, I won’t hesitate to tighten restrictions to protect our collective health,” Pritzker said in the news release. Through tightening restrictions in the Metro East areas, Pritzker and IDPH hope to decrease the ever-increasing cases in the region.

Earlier this week, Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health won a ruling against three Illinois school districts who claim they do not need to enforce the wearing of masks for in-person learning. In July, Pritzker filed a lawsuit to prevent the spread of coronavirus in school by ensuring that students wear face masks to school if classes were to be resume in person. Last month, Families of Faith Christian Academy in Channahon wrote letters in opposition to this lawsuit, citing the Illinois Supreme Court Rule in 1922 that states that the government cannot make rules “which merely have a tendency to prevent” the spread of infectious diseases. Others noted that, because there are technically no consequences for those who do not wear masks, these rules should be considered recommendations for school districts. Last week, the Hutsonville school board voted 4-3 to comply with the state health guidelines released in June that set instructions for the safe congregation in schools from kindergarten through college in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

As of the end of Wednesday, August 19, 2,295 cases of COVID-19 were reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health as well as 25 additional deaths within that day. This brings Illinois’ total coronavirus cases to 211,889 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, and 7,806 deaths. Testing has also been at an all-time high in the state. Within the past 24-hours, coronavirus testing laboratories have reported over 50,000 test subjects processed, the most tests processed in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic.

The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign has recently developed a salvia-based COVID-19 test and is now using it to expand testing on campus as students begin to return for the fall semester. Gov. JB Pritzker announced on Wednesday during a press conference that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization of this test to be used state-wide. This new test is a “real game-changer” as it provides faster and more efficient results than current tests. Additionally, these tests are more affordable: the university has brought costs per test down to approximately $10 a test. “If ongoing research continues to yield positive results, this has potentially game-changing implications,” Pritzker told reporters during the press conference.


In the News

Pritzker Says State Closely Monitoring 2 Regions for ‘Troubling Trends'NBC Chicago, August 19, 2020
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday that most of Illinois' 11 regions are seeing increases in positivity rates, but two in particular are reporting "troubling trends" as the state continues to see a rise in coronavirus metrics. Already, the state's Region 4, the Metro East region, is under stricter mitigation requirements implemented by the state after the area rose above an 8 percent positivity rate for three days in a row. As of Tuesday, the region had a positivity rate of 9.4 percent and Pritzker warned additional restrictions like the full closure of indoor dining and drinking could soon be put in place. In addition to Region 4, Pritzker said Regions 2, 3, 4, 8, 9, 10, and 11 have also seen an increase in their seven-day rolling average positivity rate. Only three regions - Regions 1, 5, and 6 - have seen slight decreases.

Legal Move Delays ComEd's First Installment of $200 Million Corruption FineIllinois News Room, August 19, 2020
Commonwealth Edison got a temporary reprieve from its due date to pay the first installment of a $200 million fine in a federal corruption case Monday. The delay came after a Chicago lawyer argued ComEd — which is supposed to pay the fine to the U.S. treasury — should instead pay back electricity-delivery customers who were victims of the power company’s long-running Springfield bribery scheme. Executives with the massive public utility had agreed to pay half of the fine within a month of announcing a deal with prosecutors on July 17, court records show.

But lawyer Joseph Stewart argued “that restitution is due to non-federal victims of ComEd’s bribery scheme” before any money goes to the U.S. government. Under what’s known as a “deferred prosecution agreement” with prosecutors in Chicago, ComEd agreed to pay the fine to end a federal investigation into what the company admits was an eight-year effort to buy influence in the Illinois Capitol. In the agreement, the benefits of the scheme for ComEd were said to exceed $150 million.

Illinois Speaker Michael Madigan says he won't quit in wake of ComEd scandalCrain’s Chicago Business, August 18, 2020
As Illinois Democrats join with their national party in hopes to formally nominate their candidate to reclaim the White House, the party’s state leader here has a message he knows you’ll want to hear: He’s staying around. Yes, in a new statement, Mike Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois House and chairman of the Democratic Party, discounts those pesky federal investigators and concludes, “I have no plans to resign.” As chairman at the time of the Democratic National Convention, Madigan is leading a party that normally would be holding big delegation meetings every day, meetings that he’d have to attend and which would give reporters a chance to question him about a rising number of calls from within his own party that he hang it up after being implicated but not charged in the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal.

Former Gov. James Thompson, a giant of Illinois politics, dead at 84 –  Chicago Sun-Times, August 15, 2020
Back when there was such a thing as a liberal Republican politician, James Thompson was the GOP’s rising star. “Big Jim” — he stood 6 feet 6 inches — was Illinois’ longest-serving governor. The native Chicagoan was elected four times and served 14 years. Though the most popular governor of the past half-century, talk of his running as a Republican candidate for president in the late 1970s was scuttled in part by his strong convictions, beliefs that he refused to abandon merely to achieve his lifelong dream. “I still believe that a reasonable pro-choice position is not only right but is a majority view of my party,” he once said. “But it’s not the majority view of the people who control my party.”