January 7, 2022 Update

Budget Update: Comptroller Susana Mendoza paid off the final $302 million payment on a $2 billion loan the state took out in 2020 to cover COVID-19 expenses. Comptroller Mendoza estimated the early pay-back of the loan will save Illinois taxpayers $82 million in interest.
COVID-19 Update: The post-holiday COVID-19 surge continues in Illinois. New COVID cases and hospitalizations are at an all-time high and ICU beds are limited in many areas of the state. Governor Pritzker this week expressed fear that holiday gatherings will lead to an even further spike in cases in the coming weeks. 
The Governor joined with the Illinois Hospital Association this week to urge Illinois hospitals to take every possible measure to maintain and expand bed capacity, including postponing non-emergency surgeries and other procedures. Hospitals are also being asked to utilize telehealth, reallocate staff resources and expand ICU capacity as needed. 
Illinois health officials reported 44,089 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday which sets a new record in single day cases. The previous peak saw 17,608 new cases. Hospitalizations also reached an all-time high as of Wednesday night, with 7,098 beds in use by COVID-19 patients, 1,119 of those were in the ICU. Another 104 deaths were reported.
Governor Pritzker is working remotely following exposure on Tuesday to a state employee who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.
The Illinois Department of Public Health adopted CDC recommendations to reduce the number of days for isolation and quarantine for the general public. More information about the new requirements is here. The Illinois Department of Public Health also adopted CDC recommendations for administering the Pfizer booster at 5 months rather than 6 months after the second shot.
The Illinois Department of Public Health Vax Verify System now includes use of the SMART Health Card which allows users to download a QR code to easily confirm their COVID-19 vaccination status at businesses, events and other locations.  
An arbitrator ruled that the State of Illinois can require vaccinations for Illinois Department of Correction guards and Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice staff. Employees subject to the decision are required to get their first vaccine shot by January 31, 2022 unless they are approved for a religious or medical exemption.
Due to an increase in COVID-19 cases statewide, in person transactions are halted at all Secretary of State departments– including Driver Services facilities – from January 3, 2022, through January 17, 2022. All departments and Driver Services facilities will reopen on Tuesday, January 18, 2022. Online transactions will remain open for all departments to conduct office services.
The Illinois Department of Public Health announced two new COVID-19 oral antivirals, Paxlovid (Pfizer) and Molnupiravir (Merck), will be available in Illinois later this month. The antivirals are for those with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk for becoming severely ill, including hospitalization or death. Both antivirals will be available by prescription only and should be taken as soon as possible after being diagnosed and within five days of the beginning of symptoms.
IDPH is working with pharmacies around the state to offer the antivirals. While these antivirals are free from the federal government, they are in limited supply. Illinois will receive a renewed allocation of antivirals every two weeks. Walgreens and Walmart stores are federal pharmacy partners and some of their stores will carry the antivirals, as will other pharmacies. IDPH will provide a list of locations providing antivirals on the IDPH website as soon as participating pharmacies are finalized. Discrimination Protections for Students: The Illinois Department of Human Rights released non-regulatory guidance on non-discrimination protections for transgender, nonbinary and gender non-conforming students under the Illinois Human Rights Act. 
The new guidance document was developed based on a recommendation from the Affirming and Inclusive Schools Task Force. School districts, students and their families will now have a resource to understand the protections afforded by the Act.
Read the new guidance here.
Former US Attorney John Milhiser is running for the Republican nomination for Secretary of State. He will face State Representative Dan Brady in the June primary. 
Representative Bobby Rush announced he is not seeking reelection. Chicago Alderman Pat Dowell, who previously announced her bid for Secretary of State, announced she will now run to replace Rush.
Freshman Republican Congresswoman Mary Miller announced she will challenge fellow veteran Republican Congressman Rodney Davis in the June primary for the 15th District. Miller, who does not currently live in the 15th District, is endorsed by Former President Donald Trump. Davis is completing his fifth term in Congress. 
Democratic State Representative Maurice West announced his re-election campaign to the 67th District in the Illinois House.Republican State Representative Tom Bennett announced his re-election campaign to the 106th District in the Illinois House.
Former Democratic State Representative Mary Edly Allen announced she will seek the Democratic nomination for state senate in the newly drawn 31st District. Democrat State Representative Sam Yingling is also running for that seat.Grayslake Trustee Laura Dias is running for the 62nd legislative district seat being vacated by Democratic State Representative Sam Yingling.
Democrat Eileen Dordek filed paperwork to run for the seat currently held by House Majority Leader Greg Harris. Dordek, a licensed clinical social worker, serves on Equality Illinois’ board and was the previous chair of Personal PAC.
The Illinois General Assembly began the 2022 spring session by convening on Wednesday, January 5th for a one-day session and concluded with both chambers adjourning until the call of the presiding officer. Both leaders canceled session for Tuesday and Thursday of this week and canceled in person session for next week. Both the House and Senate are expected to conduct committee hearings virtually for the foreseeable future. Leaders noted that, at this time, they are not anticipating extending upcoming deadlines for bill drafting and filing. 
The House approved changes to operating rulesHR595 (Harris), to extend session remote participation and voting until June 1, 2022. Similar provisions remain in effect in the Senate.
The House approved HB 3512 (Slaughter/Sims) which is a second trailer bill to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus criminal justice pillar – the SAFE-T Act. This trailer addresses provisions of the underlying bill that are scheduled to take effect January 1, 2022. Changes are made to pretrial services, body camera, detaining phone calls and recertification of officers’ provisions. HB 3512, which previously passed the Senate during veto session, heads to the Governor’s desk.  Both chambers approved HB1953 (Stuart/Morrison) which contains election code clean up and clarifications for this election cycle. HB 1953 heads to the Governor’s desk. HB3138 (Harmon/Hernandez) redraws judicial subcircuits in Cook, Kane, McHenry and Will counties. Increases the number of subcircuits in Cook County to 20 from 15. Doubles the number of subcircuits in Lake County from 5 to 12. Consolidates 4 subcircuits into 2 in the 17th Circuit which encompasses Winnebago and Boone counties. Creates subcircuits in DuPage County. Establishes a resident judge model in Champaign, Peoria and Rock Island counties. Makes similar changes for the 3rd Circuit, which includes Madison and Bond counties, and the 7th Circuit, which includes Sangamon County and five surrounding counties. View the districts here.  The proposed drawing of subcircuits will not impact the tenure of current circuit court judges. Capitol News offers more here. HB 3138 now heads to the Governor’s desk. Sandy Hamilton, a Republican real estate broker from Springfield, was appointed to replace former Representative Mike Murphy in the 99th District. 
Legislative Redistricting:  The 3-appellate judge panel upheld the Democrats’ legislative redistricting plans adopted earlier this year ruling that the approved boundaries “neither violate the Voting Rights Act nor the Constitution.” The Court was asked to rule on the claims made in three separate lawsuits, filed by Republican leaders in the General Assembly, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the East St. Louis branch of the NAACP, that the Democratic map diluted minority voters, thus depriving those groups of the voting power needed to elect candidates of their choosing. Read the full opinion here. Capitol News offers more on the ruling here.
Several committees in both the House and the Senate are scheduled to meet virtually next week. In person session for next week is canceled.
Note that the deadline to file a request for bill drafting is January 7th in the Senate and January 14th in the House.