GOVERNOR’S HIGHLIGHTS:RISE Grant: Bolstering local economic recovery initiatives is the goal of a new $3.5 million grant program of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). The initiative uses funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and has been christened the Research in Illinois to Spur Economic Recovery (RISE) grant program, emphasizing the creation of new regional or local plans to promote economic recovery from the pandemic. RISE targets local governments and economic development organizations, letting grantees apply for DCEO funding for specific projects included in their plans. Topping out at $150,000, the grants can be used at either the regional or community level and cover a broad array of costs: salaries, contractual fees, research, outreach, printing, and meeting space rentals, among other aspects. Grantees will be asked to involve and assemble stakeholders in the plans, as well as conduct economic research and hone plans to the region’s/community’s strengths and weaknesses. Plans that align with the goals of Governor Pritzker’s five-year Economic Plan to Revitalize the Economy are especially encouraged. The NOFO application is now open and accepting applications through May 9, 2022. Interested parties should consider watching the free overview/technical assistance March 17 webinar hosted by DCEO; register here.
COVID-19 Update: No COVID deaths were reported on Sunday or Monday – thus marking the first time since March of 2020 that no COVID deaths occurred for two days in a row. Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2022-07 which lifts the school exclusion requirements, shifting schools back to the ordinary processes for handling infectious diseases. The order also re-issues previous executive orders. Chicago Public Schools are implementing a mask optional policy for students and staff beginning Monday, March 14. The Chicago Teachers Union responded to the news by filing an unfair labor practice charge against the school district to try to force them to bargain over lifting the mask mandate.
ELECTION UPDATE: Candidate petition filing is underway and runs through Monday, March 14. Community activist and business owner Willie Preston filed petitions to run as a Democrat in the 16th Senate District, replacing Senator Jacqueline Collins who is running for Congress.
102ND GENERAL ASSEMBLY: The Illinois General Assembly met for in-person session this week. The House and Senate no longer require masks be worn in the chambers. The House made the change by amending the House Rules. Under the rule change, if there is a need to quickly reinstate COVID protocols, masking and other protocols can be implemented by the Speaker of the House in consultation with the Minority Leader. The Senate removed the masking requirement through a change in “operating policy.” The Senate galleries will open to the public at 50% capacity and while appointments to meet with members are no longer required, but they are still “encouraged.” The Senate elevators and the areas adjacent to the chambers remain locked to the public. COVID testing requirements remain in place for the Senate. A negative PCR test is required to gain entry to Senate offices, committee rooms, press boxes, and galleries. Rapid and at-home tests will not be accepted. While remote committee hearings will continue in both chambers, the House is beginning to hold some hybrid (a combination of in-person and remote participation) hearings in Room 114, which is equipped for virtual participation.The Illinois Senate approved legislation, SB 2803 (Holmes), which appropriates $2 billion in federal ARPA funds to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to help cover the $4.5 billion shortfall. Talks to address the shortfall continue with stakeholders. The sponsor characterized the bill as a “vehicle” for the final agreement. Critics of the legislation argued that passage of the bill in its current form will short change the Trust Fund and put the remaining burden on the backs of employers. SB 2803 passed by a vote of 33-15 and now heads to the House.
The Illinois Senate unanimously approved SB 1233 (Villivalam) which creates the Blue-Ribbon Commission on Transportation Infrastructure and Policy. SB 1233 heads to the House for consideration.
The Senate Pensions Committee approved HB 4292 (Morgan/Martwick) which is an extension of the $1B bonding/pension buyout law. HB 4292 is now pending before the full Senate.
Former Democratic State Representative Diane Pappas was appointed this week by local Democrats to replace Senator Tom Cullerton who resigned.
COMING UP: The Illinois House is scheduled to be in session March 15-17. The Senate is not in session next week. March 25th is the committee deadline for bills in the opposite chamber. Four weeks remain in the scheduled spring session.