As has been the case for most of this year, government at all levels continues to be focused on handling COVID-19, both in terms of the health of our citizens and the pandemic’s effect on our economy. Aid for local governments is the issue of the day in Washington, as deliberations continue on the next round of COVID 19-related stimulus. Meanwhile, Mayor Lightfoot has laid out a comprehensive set of guidelines to begin to rebuild communities hard-hit by the virus. On the political front, the battle lines are shaping up over the fight to amend the Illinois Constitution to allow a progressive tax. While the question will be on the ballot in November, advocacy groups are already starting to hit the airwaves.
Here is what we are watching now:
COVID-19 in Illinois
- After easing up on COVID-19 related restrictions and allowing indoor dining as part of Phase 4 of reopening beginning June 26th, Illinois is now seeing an increase of their positivity rate
- Meanwhile, to keep new cases under control, the City of Chicago has implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people traveling from many harder-hit states, including Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas
- Illinois is still planning for school reopening in the fall, with multiple school districts announcing their reopening plans, despite reluctance from teachers to return to the classroom amid an ongoing pandemic
Shake-Ups at Illinois Department of Employment Security
- In light of criticism over a backlog in unemployment claims, Pritzker appointed Kristin Richards, the former Chief of Staff for Senate President Harmon, to head up the IDES
- The Auditor General released a report last week which examined IDES cybersecurity risks in past years and highlighted compliance issues which might have led to the department’s data breach earlier this year
Graduated Income Tax
- A ballot measure to switch Illinois’s current flat tax rates to graduated rates will be on the state’s Nov. 3rd ballots
- Gov. Pritzker donated $51.5 million to Vote Yes for Fairness to support his signature initiative
- The push for a graduated income tax has been met with backlash from groups springing up around the state, who argue Illinoisans are already overtaxed, and that this isn’t an appropriate time to raise taxes
Wednesday, July 22nd, 10 a.m. — Chicago City Council
Thursday, July 16th, 10 a.m. – Cook County Board of Commissioners
News of the Week
Gov. J.B. Pritzker calls for national mask mandate and COVID-19 containment strategy in congressional testimony – Chicago Tribune
Gov. J.B. Pritzker called for a national mask mandate, a national containment strategy for COVID-19, and additional federal aid for states to offset large revenue losses created by the pandemic in testimony before a Congressional committee on Wednesday. Pritzker said a national containment strategy for the highly contagious COVID-19 should involve additional testing and contact tracing.
COVID-19 positivity rate levels at 3 percent – State Journal-Register
The state’s COVID-19 test positivity rate remained at 3 percent Monday as the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 883 new confirmed cases of the virus. The 30,012 test results reported Monday followed more than 70,000 total reported the previous two days, driving Illinois to more than 2 million tests conducted since the pandemic began. Illinois became the first state in the Midwest to reach that milestone and the fifth state in the U.S., following California, New York, Florida, and Texas.
Lightfoot to do what’s needed to stop ‘uptick’ in coronavirus cases among young people – Chicago Sun-Times
Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday she’s concerned about an “uptick” in coronavirus cases among young people and she is prepared to do whatever is necessary — including a retreat from reopening — to prevent it from continuing. “I’m not gonna take anything off the table. I don’t think we’re at that point just yet. But I am deeply concerned because we’re starting to see this uptick … in the number of daily cases. … We’re not gonna hesitate to take the steps that are necessary if we continue to see a rise in that number,” she said.
Gov. Pritzker sued by Ill. bowling alleys for COVID-19 restrictions – WIFR
The Illinois State Bowling Proprietors Association filed a lawsuit asking a Lee County state court to invalidate Gov. Pritzker’s “unconstitutional and improper” exercise of authority to issue consecutive emergency declarations that improperly restrict the number of people allowed in a bowling center on Tuesday.
Parent sues School Board over face mask, temperature check mandates – Herald-Whig
A Quincy woman has filed suit against the Quincy School Board over requiring face masks and temperature checks for her child to attend school. Roni Quinn seeks an injunction barring the School Board from enforcing the mandates against her child, a fourth-grader attending Quincy Public Schools, and says the board overstepped its authority in issuing the requirements.
With 1 million-plus Illinoisans out of work, Pritzker taps new Employment Security chief: ‘These are not normal times’ – Chicago Sun-Times
Kristin Richards has spent 18 years in public service, leading nearly two dozen state agencies and working for two governors and two state Senate presidents. She’ll need to draw on all that experience in her latest job, taking over the beleaguered Illinois Department of Employment Security in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that has left more than a million Illinoisans unemployed.
Playing politics over Illinois’ big backlog of unemployment claims – Chicago Sun-Times
Months after the nation’s economy crashed and millions were (and continue to be) put out of work, a large group of Illinois House Democrats is still quite upset at the way Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration is handling unemployment insurance claims.
Illinois Auditor General finds “weakness in cybersecurity” within IDES from 2017-2019 – WSIL
The Illinois Auditor General has released a two-year compliance report for the state's Department of Employment Security. While the audit addresses issues with finances and equipment records, the biggest takeaway is weakness in cybersecurity. The report only covers issues within the department from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2019. So, it does not include the massive data breach within the IDES unemployment system discovered this May.
Fight over Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s graduated-rate income tax plan intensifies in Illinois – Chicago Tribune
The fight over Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature policy initiative, moving Illinois to a graduated-rate income tax, is intensifying with about four months to go before voters decide the issue. A coalition of Illinois organizations that represent businesses launched an effort Tuesday to beat back the proposal, a move that follows Pritzker’s recent $51.5 million contribution to the ballot initiative committee that’s backing a shift from a flat state income tax to one that would impose higher rates on the highest earners.
Rep. Arthur Turner, deputy majority leader in the House, announces retirement – State Journal-Register
State Rep. Arthur Turner, D-Chicago, announced his retirement from the Illinois House effective Friday, July 3. Turner, a deputy majority leader in the House, had served in the 9th District on the west side of Chicago since 2010. It’s a seat that was formerly held by his father, Arthur Lee Turner, who held it for about 30 years and now operates a lobbying firm in Chicago.
Ald. Carrie Austin reveals she tested positive for the coronavirus – Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago’s second-most-senior alderman has tested positive for the coronavirus — after testing negative at a different hospital on the same day. Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) tested positive last month after what sources described as a bleeding episode that initially appeared to signal complications from the surgery she had five years ago to repair a torn aorta that nearly killed her.