GOVERNOR’S HIGHLIGHTS:COVID-19 Update: With new COVID cases on the decline once again, Governor Pritzker is lifting the statewide indoor mask requirement on Monday, February 28, 2022. Mask requirements will continue where federally mandated, such as on public transit and in high-risk settings including healthcare facilities and congregate care facilities like nursing homes and prisons. Masking requirements will also continue to apply in all daycare settings and in schools. Businesses and municipalities may choose to invoke their own masking requirements. Read the full announcement here. Pritzker warned that another mask mandate is not out of the question if infection rates climb again. He did not, however, identify specific metrics that would lead to another mask mandate. When pressed on why masks would continue to be mandated in schools the Governor responded by saying “Schools need a little more time for community infection rates to drop, for our youngest learners to become vaccine eligible and for more parents to get their kids vaccinated.” School masking requirements are now before a state appeals court.
Last Friday, Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow “deemed null and void” the Governor’s emergency rules governing COVID-19 mitigations for schools. In her ruling, Grischow said “The arbitrary method as to contact tracing and masking in general continue to raise fair questions as to the legality of the Executive Orders in light of violations of healthy children’s substantive due process rights. Statutory rights have attempted to be bypassed through the issuance of Executive Orders and Emergency Rules … This type of evil is exactly what the law was intended to constrain.” The lawsuit was filed on behalf of students and staff in 145 schools throughout Illinois who were opposed to the Governor’s mask mandates and weekly COVID testing for staff who are not vaccinated.
Governor Pritzker immediately asked the Illinois Attorney General’s office to appeal Judge Grischow’s decision. On Monday, the Attorney General filed motions to appeal and to stay, which if granted would prevent the judge’s order from being imposed. Capitol News has more here.
On Wednesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 4,742 new cases and 109 deaths. As of Tuesday night, 2,496 people were in the hospital with COVID-19 — the fewest since November 30. IDPH is also reporting 449 people with COVID-19 in the ICU and 243 people on ventilators. The 7-day case positivity rate is down to 4.9% — the lowest since mid-December. Statewide, 20% of ICU beds are now available.
Executive Order 2022-05 reissues several executive orders, extending the provisions through March 5, 2022.
Budget Update: Appropriations committees in both chambers are now reviewing the Governor’s proposed FY 23 budget at the agency level. Citing the fiscal progress Illinois has made to date as well as the expected progress anticipated in FY23, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza asked three bond rating agencies – Fitch Ratings, Moody’s and S&P – to consider once again upgrading the state’s credit rating. Read the full press release and letter here. A new report from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability shows that through the first seven months of FY22, overall base receipts are up $2.639 billion. Net personal income tax revenues have risen $560 million and net corporate income tax revenues have increased $818 million. Net sales tax revenues also are now up $754 million through January. All other sources are trailing last year’s levels by a combined $96 million.Overall transfers continue to outpace last year’s levels and are now up $440 million this fiscal year. Those gains reflect $332 million in gains from miscellaneous transfers, $107 million from the return of riverboat transfers, and $40 million improvement from the lottery. Those increases offset the $39 million decline in the refund fund transfer.
From the report: “In summary, despite the lingering pandemic and its effect on employment, business activity, supply-chain disruptions, and building inflation pressures, FY 2022 revenues have continued to amaze. While this torrid pace cannot continue for much longer as stimulus efforts wind down and inflationary pressures build, thus far FY 2022 revenues have certainly exceeded expectations.”
Violence Prevention Funding: The Illinois Department of Human Services announced the first of three Notice of Funding Opportunities for eligible organizations to apply for over $150 million in state funding to further violence prevention efforts. The first round of funding includes more than $50 million for violence prevention services in Chicago including street-based violence interruption work and victim services. Subsequent rounds of funding for statewide youth development and high-risk youth intervention programs will open later this month.
The initial round of more than $50 million in grants includes funding to support work in 37 eligible community areas, defined by the RPSA as the locations with the most concentrated firearm violence in Chicago. Eligible organizations include those doing street-based violence interruption work, victim services, trauma related therapy, and case management. Interested organizations can view the application online. Applications are due on March 9 and grants will be awarded in April.
ELECTION UPDATE: Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Jesse Sullivan tapped Kathleen Murphy as his running mate. Murphy is the former Director of Communications and Spokesperson for Republican Jeanne Ives’ primary race for Illinois Governor. Incumbent Representative Lindsey LaPointe is facing two challengers in the Democratic primary. Challenging LaPointe are Keith Thornton Jr, a Chicago 911 dispatcher and former Los Angeles police officer, and real estate broker Tina Wallace.
Two newly appointed legislators will square off in November. Newly appointed Republican Representative Sandy Hamilton announced she will challenge appointed Democrat Senator Doris Turner. Hamilton was appointed to replace Representative Mike Murphy when he stepped down. Turner was appointed to replace former Senator Andy Manar when he resigned to take a position in the Governor’s office.
Sales executive Republican Jennifer Sanalitro will announce today for the open 48th House District. Republican Jack Vrett will challenge incumbent Representative Mark Walker in the 53rd District in the November election.
102nd GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
The Illinois Senate convened for in-person session this week, the first time the full chamber has met since the first week of January. The House was not scheduled to be in session, but several House committees met virtually this week. The Senate focused on considering legislation at the committee level. Thursday, February 10 was the deadline to pass substantive Senate bills out of Senate Committees. Some committee deadline extensions are possible, but are expected to be on a case-by-case basis.
Legislation, SB 4000 (Hunter), to allow retired members of the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund to be re-employed as a teacher or administrator for up to 140 days on a temporary non-annual basis without his or her retirement annuity being canceled passed committee and is now before the full Senate.
SB 3856 (Bennett) requires public universities and community colleges to provide all necessary coursework materials for rental free of charge for Illinois students. The measure passed committee and is pending before the full Senate.
A Senate committee approved SB3917 (Glowiak Hilton), which attempts to increase microchip production and attract companies to invest in Illinois by creating a series of tax credits to support the semiconductor industry. The bill is now before the full Senate.
SB3683 (Joyce) seeks to maximize Illinois’ ability to capture federal funding for broadband under the federal Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act. The bill is now before the full Senate.
Stopping smash-and-grab retail crimes is at the core of a draft proposal rolled out on Monday by Attorney General Kwame Raoul and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. Highlights of what is being dubbed the Organized Retail
Crime Act include:
- targeting the largest offenders (theft for profit, as opposed to petty shoplifting)
- allowing county state’s attorneys to bring charges against the entirety of the theft ring (instead of just the portion that occurred in a given county)
- permitting the attorney general to charge suspects of organized crime via a statewide grand jury
- hampering the sales of stolen goods online by requiring that high-volume sellers on virtual marketplaces verify their identity
- creating new jobs in the attorney general’s office and in the offices of various state’s attorneys, dedicated to investigating and prosecuting retail theft
- continuing the work of the Organized Retail Crime Task Force
According to Attorney General Raoul, criminals tend to coordinate the sale of high-ticket items, with the resulting monies used to fund drug trafficking and human trafficking. The proposal has not yet been filed in the General Assembly. Senators Scott Bennett, John Connor, Rachelle Crowe, Tom Cullerton, Bill Cunningham, Suzy Glowiak Hilton, Mike Hastings, Linda Holmes, Patrick Joyce, Steve Landek, Meg Loughran Cappel, Julie Morrison, Tony Munoz, Laura Murphy, Steve Stadelman and Doris Turner joined the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council to announce a package of proposals to support and fund law enforcement officers. Legislation is expected to be filed in the coming days. The proposal includes:
- assisting departments with new grant opportunities, providing departments with additional tools to investigate crimes, and helping departments utilize resources to address inmate mental health concerns
- requiring counties to pay sheriffs at least 80% of the state’s attorney’s salary
- funding grants in support of hiring, retaining, and training law enforcement officers as well as mental health and substance abuse counseling for incarcerated and recently discharged individuals
- allowing law enforcement officers to continue using conversation recording equipment for violent crime investigations and expanding the list of serious offenses in which DNA collection is required from an individual at conviction
- expanding the state’s Expressway Camera Program to include highway camera improvements in an additional 15 counties outside Cook, including the Metro East
COMING UP: The Illinois Senate is scheduled to be in session February 15 – 17 while the Illinois House is scheduled to be in session February 15 – 18. Friday, February 18 is the deadline to pass substantive House Bills out of House committees.