October 22, 2021 Update

COVID-19 Update: On Thursday, Illinois health officials reported 2,146 new cases of COVID-19 and 36 deaths. As of Wednesday night, 1,309 individuals were hospitalized in Illinois with COVID-19. Of those, 330 were in the ICU. Illinois 7-day case positivity rate dropped to 1.9%. Currently, 56.4% of eligible Illinoisians are fully vaccinated. 
Increasing education about COVID-19 booster shots and supporting skilled nursing facilities in administering them are among the goals of a partnership among the state departments of Aging; Public Health; and the Emergency Management Agency. As of October 12th, only 18% of Illinois residents age 65+ had received a booster. IEMA has indicated that should nursing facilities need support, it will mobilize its community partners vaccination program. 
Two more agreements on vaccination mandates for state workers in congregate settings have been reached between the Pritzker administration and unions. This latest arrangement with the Illinois trades unions covers around 470 employees in such 24/7 facilities as Menard Corrections Center, Shapiro Developmental Center, and Quincy Veterans Home. The agreement with the Teamsters covers approximately 100 maintenance equipment operators and maintenance workers at the Illinois Department of Human Services and Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The negotiations continue with AFSCME, the state’s largest employee union.   The Illinois Department of Public Health is following the latest CDC guidance for school outbreaks. The new federal guidelines define an outbreak as either (a) three or more cases in a specific core group or (b) multiple cases affecting at least 10% of students, teachers, and staff. This is a departure from the previous approach of evaluating a school’s overall population (instead of group-based targets like a classroom or sports team). See here for more information and Frequently Asked Questions.
Cannabis Licenses: At the request of Attorney General Kwame Raoul, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered the consolidation of several lawsuits filed by cannabis dispensary license applicants in an attempt to resolve multiple claims challenging the fairness of the recreational cannabis licensing process. Raoul made the request to avoid potentially conflicting rulings in the various cases. The Chicago Tribune offers more here.
Safe2Help: Illinois is launching a new statewide school safety initiative called Safe2Help Illinois. Safe2Help Illinois is available 24/7, and at no cost to all school districts in the state. Students can use a free app, text/phone, or the website (Safe2HelpIL.com) to share school safety issues in a confidential environment. Information obtained by Safe2Help Illinois will remain confidential to ensure student privacy and to protect the integrity of the program. This program is not intended to suspend, expel or punish students; rather, the goal is to encourage students to “Seek Help Before Harm.” Read more here.
Energy Efficiency Projects: Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is offering a Low-Income Residential Energy Efficiency grant opportunity with up to $2,000,000 in funding available for energy efficiency upgrades at low-income single or multi-family residential properties. A Notice of Funding Opportunity is available on the Illinois EPA’s Office of Energy webpage. Applications for the Low-Income Residential Energy Efficiency NOFO are due by close of business (5:00 p.m.) on Wednesday, January 12, 2022. Eligibility and application information is  here. Applicants may not apply for a grant until they are pre-qualified through the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA) Grantee Portal.
ATTORNEY GENERAL UPDATE:Attorney General Kwame Raoul joined a coalition of 24 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstitute an injunction barring enforcement of Texas’ unconstitutional six-week abortion ban, Senate Bill 8. An amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court from 24 of the nation’s AGs supports the U.S. Department of Justice challenge to SB 8. The Texas abortion ban, said Raoul, “threatens the safety and well-being of women.” More info here.
The Illinois General Assembly kicked off the two-week veto session this week adjourning after just two session days and canceling Thursday’s scheduled session day. The General Assembly will reconvene on Tuesday, October 26th for what is shaping up to be a busy week. The Legislature is expected to approve new Congressional district maps next week. Watch for the General Assembly to consider changes to the Health Care Right of Conscience Act, possibly repeal the Parental Notice of Abortion Act, shore up the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and consider tax incentives for electric car makers.   
Senate Recap: The Illinois Senate approved the following bills. All now head to the House for consideration: 
·        HB359 (Kifowit/Cullerton) which creates the Veterans’ Accountability Unit.
·        HB 692 (Howard/Morrison) which requires DCFS licensing and monitoring for youth served by the Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services program.·        HB 1975 (Mussman/Bennett) which closes loopholes that allow predators in the school system to groom students. The bill also expands the offense of grooming and requires schools to develop an employee code of professional conduct policy.·        HB 3372 (Didech/Johnson) which clarifies the process for flying the American flag at half-staff.·        HB 3702 (Willis/Johnson) which broadens the requirements for County Public Works Superintendent qualifications. This is an initiative of Lake County.·        HB 3401 (Gabel/Castro) which creates the Licensed Certified Professional Midwife Practice Act. 
·        HB 3173 (Mason/Lightford) which represents a negotiated trailer bill to HB3173 which was passed earlier in the year. The trailer bill is designed to protect students who are victims of sexual or domestic violence or bullying and those who are pregnant or parenting. 
The Senate Licensed Activities Committee approved SB145 (Murphy) which, as amended, represents an agreement between IDFPR and Physician Assistants regarding documentation needed by the Department. SB 145 is pending before the full Senate.  
House Recap: Action in the House took place primarily at the committee level this week. During the week’s only significant floor action, the House approved changes to its operating rules to extend the remote participation and voting procedures through December 31, 2021.
The House Executive Committee approved legislation designed to address the recent surge of hospital closures, particularly in underserved communities —
SB1040 (Gillespie/Harris). Representative Harris said the bill will incentivize new owners to buy and reopen closed hospitals, such as Westlake, Lakeshore and Metro South, by providing enhanced Medicaid rates. SB 1040 is now pending before the full House. The House Executive Committee also gutted several bills to position them for amendments and passage during next week’s session. 
HB159 (Lilly) received a subject matter hearing before the House Executive Committee this week. HB 159 represents a trailer bill to the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus health and human services pillar, SB 158, passed earlier in the year. The trailer bill provides clarity to the Community Health Worker provisions of the original bill and extends several of the original deadlines contained in the underlying bill at the request of the Governor’s Office. A floor amendment will be offered next week that will provide for enhanced rates for inpatient psychiatric services for a Peoria hospital in Representative Gordon Booth’s district. Similar rate changes were made earlier in the year for safety net hospitals. 
Redistricting Update: The Illinois General Assembly is poised to approve new Congressional maps during next week’s veto session. Both chambers continued to discuss new district boundaries in a series of Redistricting Committee hearings this week.  
As expected, a three-judge federal panel ruled this week that the legislative maps approved during the spring session are unconstitutional. The initial maps were drawn using less reliable American Community Survey data, and according to the ruling, the population variances among districts violated the “one-person, one-vote” doctrine. The new maps, approved in August and drawn using the newly released census data, are now up for consideration by the court.
The court also invited the plaintiffs to submit their own alternative maps accompanied by statements explaining the constitutional or statutory defects in the Democrats’ revised map and an explanation of how their revisions or alternatives remedy the alleged defects. The Democrats will then be provided an opportunity to respond.
The court rejected the Republicans request to order formation of a bipartisan commission, calling that “implausible,” given the limited time remaining before the 2022 primaries. Capitol News offers more on the ruling here. Read the full opinion here.
The newly drawn legislative district maps are the subject of a new federal lawsuit filed by the East St. Louis Branch of the NAACP, the Illinois State Conference of the NAACP and the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations. The lawsuit alleges that Black voting strength in the East St. Louis-based 114th House district was diluted under the new map to help neighboring white legislative Democrats hold onto their seats.
The Illinois General Assembly will convene October 26th – 28th.  
The Senate Health Committee will hold a hearing on October 26th at 2:30 pm in Virtual Room 2 to discuss DCFS LGBTQ+ audit findings.