With so much going on ove the last few days, I thought it might be useful to give a brief update.
COVID-19 Update: Today, Governor Pritzker announced that on January 15th, any region that has met the metrics to move out of Tier 3 may do so. This announcement comes as individual counties throughout Illinois are nearing or reaching metrics to move out of Tier 3.
Today, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 7,569 new cases of COVID-19, including 139 additional deaths. Within the past 24 hours, labs reported 80,974 test results. As of last night, 3,928 in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 812 patients were in the ICU and 451 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators. The preliminary seven-day statewide case positivity is 8.4%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity is 9.9%.
Also, today Governor Pritzker announced that Illinois will begin the next phase of vaccine administration, Phase 1B, when Phase 1A is substantially complete. Phase 1B will include vaccination of persons age 65 and over and frontline and essential workers — which includes first responders; education workers, including teachers, support staff and childcare workers; manufacturing, distribution and agriculture workers, including grocery store workers; United States Postal Service workers; public transit employees; corrections workers and incarcerated people, and others.
Phase 1B differs slightly from the federal ACIP recommendations, with Illinois lowering the vaccination administration allocation to individuals age 65 and over. In order to reduce COVID-19 mortality and limit community spread in Black and Brown communities, Illinois reduced the age eligibility in Phase 1B by 10 years from ACIP’s recommendation. Currently, the average age of COVID-19 death is 81 for White residents, 72 for Black residents and 68 for Latino residents. More information on Phase 1B is here. Scams related to the COVID-19 vaccine could be emerging, and Illinois residents need to be vigilant about that possibility, Attorney General Kwame Raoul warned on Jan. 5. His office specifically cautioned people to protect their health and personal information by: not buying any kind of COVID-19 vaccine or treatment on the Internet; ignoring online, phone, and text offers for the vaccine; hanging up on any calls (including robocalls) asking for personal information (such as social security numbers or bank account numbers); reporting any type of vaccine-related solicitations to the office of the Attorney General; and deleting emails and texts that offer access to COVID-19 treatments.
COVID-19 At Home Rapid Testing: The FDA granted emergency use authorization for Abbott Labs rapid at-home COVID-19 test. The latest test is the result of a partnership between Abbott Labs and eMed. The rapid BinaxNOW test and NAVICA platform is another step to provide greater access to testing.
Cannabis Arrest Records Expunged: On Dec. 31, Gov. Pritzker announced the expungement of nearly 500,000 non-felony cannabis related arrests in the state. The action, taken by the Illinois State Police, comes four years in advance of the deadline set under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (CRTA) of 2019. In addition, Pritzker pardoned more than 9,200 low-level cannabis conviction records. The move made for a total of more than 20,000 pardons for cannabis convictions since CRTA’s enactment. More info here.
Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation: IDFPR issued a one pager for consumers to learn about their federal relief options when it comes to evictions, mortgages, and student loans. More information and deadlines are here.
Director of Insurance: Governor Pritzker appointed Dana Popish Severinghaus as the Director of the Illinois Department of Insurance. Popish Severinghaus formerly served as legislative and regulatory counsel at Allstate Insurance Company.
SECRETARY OF STATE:
After closing due to increased spread of COVID-19, Illinois’ Driver Services Facilities reopened statewide January 5th. Facemasks and social distancing will be required.
ILLINOIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
The Illinois General Assembly will return to session this week for the first time since May. The regularly scheduled fall veto session was canceled due to the pandemic. The Illinois House of Representatives will convene in a lame duck session beginning on Friday, January 8th. The Illinois Senate is expected to convene starting Saturday, January 9th. Members were advised to be prepared to stay through January 13th — which is the inauguration of the 102nd General Assembly — and possibly beyond. The House is likely to remain in session until a new Speaker is elected and it is unknown how long that process might take.
The House will convene at the Bank of Springfield Center and follow most of the protocols utilized during the May special session. Committee hearings are scheduled beginning on Friday. The Illinois Senate will convene in its chambers. In addition to police reforms and criminal justice reforms, legislators are expected to consider education, healthcare and economic reforms as part of the Legislative Black Caucus agenda. The General Assembly will also likely consider hospital transformation legislation and discuss how to allow for remote legislating during the remainder of the pandemic. Also watch for the Legislature to begin tackling the hole in the Fiscal Year 20 budget. The budget passed in May was predicated on additional federal stimulus money for state and local governments and the passage of the graduated income tax in November. Neither of those happened, leaving the state’s budget with a nearly $4 billion shortfall. Since then, Governor Pritzker ordered $700 million in cuts from state agencies and borrowed $2 billion from the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility to cover revenue losses the state has suffered since the start of the pandemic.
The General Assembly is expected to help the Governor address the remaining shortfall. Republicans warn that the Democrats will use the lame duck session to muscle through an income tax increase, but Democrats say they are not aware of any efforts to raise the state’s income tax. Democrats have indicated a willingness to close “corporate tax loopholes” and make other unspecified spending cuts.
Pursuant to Article IV, section 10 of the Illinois Constitution, legislation with an immediate effective date passed after January 1st requires only a simple majority to pass in both chambers. Legislation passed between June 1st and December 31st must pass by a supermajority in both chambers in order to take effect immediately.
Black Caucus Agenda Filed: Members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus filed several omnibus amendments for consideration during the lame duck session. Given the little time remaining in the 101st General Assembly, the Senate amendments to House Bills offer the quickest path to final passage. Any newly filed House Bills will require three readings in both chambers for final passage.
- Representative Lilly filed an omnibus amendment to HB 5548, which creates the Illinois Health Care and Human Service Reform Act. A summary of the House amendment is here. Senator Hunter filed companion legislation as Senate Floor Amendment 1 to HB 3840. A summary of the Senate amendment is here.
- Representative Harper filed HB 5871 which creates the Economic Equity Act which provides for programs and amends various statutory provisions for the purpose of aiding economically disadvantaged persons and groups. Senator Belt filed a companion amendment to HB 2685.
- Senator Sims filed an amendment to HB 163 which encompasses numerous criminal justice and police reforms. A summary of the amendment is here.
- Senator Lightford filed an amendment to HB 2170 which encompasses education reforms. A summary of the amendment is here.
Ahead of the lame duck session, an Illinois law enforcement coalition issued a 15-point Safe Communities and Law Enforcement Modernization Strategy. According to the coalition, the proposal is designed to build trust and stronger relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. More information is here. The proposals have not been filed as legislation at this time.
Remote Legislating Proposal: Representative Ann Williams filed HB5868, which provides that in times of pestilence or an emergency due to domestic or foreign terrorist attack, the General Assembly can participate remotely and cast votes in sessions — by joint proclamation of the Speaker and the President of the Senate. The bill also allows committees of either chamber to participate remotely, and directs the House and the Senate to adopt rules for remote participation. Representative Williams indicated that she is negotiating the language with Republican legislators.
- Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady resigned his Senate seat effective January 1st. Brady was first appointed to the Senate in 2002. He previously served in the Illinois House from 1993 to 2001. A replacement has not been named at this time.
- Senator Andy Manar is resigning his position effective January 17th. Manar was first elected to the Senate in 2012. Manar, who served as the Chief of Staff for former Senate President John Cullerton before running for the Senate, will serve as a senior advisor to the Governor. In that capacity, Manar will advise the Governor on COVID-19 recovery efforts, downstate economic revitalization, and budget matters. A replacement has not been named.
- Representative Jonathan “Yoni” Pizer resigned his legislative seat at the end of the year. Margaret Croke, who defeated PIzer in the March primary, was selected to replace Pizer representing the 12th District.
- Representative Allen Skillicorn resigned. He was defeated in November by Democrat Suzanne Ness.
- State Representative Margo McDermed also resigned. McDermed did not seek reelection in November. Republican Tim Ozinga, who won the November election to replace McDermed in the 37th District, was appointed to replace McDermed.
House Speaker: All eyes are on the House campaign for Speaker. House Speaker Michael Madigan received the endorsement of the House’s “Latinx Caucus” over the holiday break. In endorsing Madigan, the caucus indicated, “We recognize this to be a pivotal moment, with a tough budget challenge ahead, the urgent need for COVID- 19 recovery, and the demand to protect minority rights in redistricting. After careful deliberation and input from several community organizations, the majority of Latinx members determined that Speaker Madigan is in the best position to move these priorities forward in the coming term.” The caucus represents legislators of Latinx origin. Madigan previously received the endorsement of the House Black Caucus.
The House Democratic Women’s Caucus will meet with candidates for Speaker on Wednesday at 3 pm. The Caucus wants to hear each candidate’s vision for the future of the caucus. There will be no endorsement.
Nineteen House Democrats have publicly stated they will not support the reelection of Speaker Madigan, leaving Madigan short of the 60 votes necessary for reelection. Today Representative Ann Williams announced her candidacy for House Speaker, joining Representative Stephanie Kifowit in the race to lead the chamber. Representative Kathleen Willis is rumored to have expressed interest in the top spot, but has not formally announced her intentions. It is not known if the House Democratic caucus will have an internal decision prior to January 13th.
While House Democrats are expected to begin private discussions over the coming days, it is unknown when a new Speaker will be selected. With the prospect that the new General Assembly could be inaugurated without agreement on a new Speaker, Representative Bob Morgan asked Secretary of State Jesse White, who serves as the presiding officer until a Speaker is elected, for guidance on how to proceed. House Republican Leader Durkin further asked White to appoint a nonpartisan provisional parliamentarian to advise until a Speaker is elected. White has not responded to either request at this time.
Senate Republican Leadership: Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie announced the following members will serve as a part of the caucus leadership team:
- Senator Sue Rezin (Morris): Deputy Republican Leader
- Senator Jason Barickman (Bloomington): Republican Caucus Chair
- Senator Donald DeWitte (St. Charles): Assistant Republican Leader
- Senator Steve McClure (Springfield): Assistant Republican Leader
- Senator Jason Plummer (Edwardsville): Assistant Republican Leader
- Senator Chapin Rose (Mahomet): Assistant Republican Leader
- Senator Dave Syverson (Rockford): Republican Caucus Whip
- Senator Jil Tracy (Quincy): Republican Caucus Whip
McConchie also announced several members of his executive staff. State Senator Dale Righter, who did not seek reelection in November, will serve as Chief of Staff for the Republican caucus. Brian Burian will serve as Senior Advisor to the Leader and will direct the caucus’ redistricting efforts. Whitney Barnes will serve as Press Secretary and Tracy Resier-Weiters will serve as the Administrative Assistant to the Leader.