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State of Illinois

CAPITOL RECAP: May 21, 2022

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Capitol News Illinois
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Survey: Illinois undercounted in 2020 census

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CENSUS: The Census Bureau released new survey data Thursday, May 19, suggesting the population of Illinois may have been undercounted by nearly 2 percent in the 2020 headcount.

That was one of the findings of the Census Bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey, or PES, something the bureau does after each decennial census to assess the quality of the census data. The results do not change the official population numbers of any state, nor do they affect congressional reapportionment, but they do help guide the bureau in its planning for the next decennial census.

According to the survey, Illinois, with a 1.97 percent undercount, was among six states with “statistically significant” undercounts. There were eight states with statistically significant overcounts, while 36 states had neither an undercount nor overcount.

The other states with undercounts were all located in the South: Arkansas at 5.04 percent; Florida at 3.48 percent; Mississippi at 4.11 percent; Tennessee at 4.78 percent; and Texas at 1.92 percent.

In Illinois, the official 2020 census showed the state’s population as 12,812,508. That was a decline of 18,124, or 0.1 percent, from the 2010 census. As a result of the state’s population loss, combined with large gains in some other states, Illinois lost one of its congressional seats, leaving the state with only 17 U.S. House seats.

However, if Illinois really was undercounted by 1.97 percent, as the survey suggests, that would have meant that the population actually grew by more than 257,000, putting it at just over 13 million.

Thursday afternoon, Gov. JB Pritzker released a statement hailing the survey results as good news, but also expressing frustration that the state’s growth was not reflected in the official census.

“While it is disappointing that these numbers were not reflected in the initial count, I have already spoken to members of our congressional delegation and will work tirelessly to ensure Illinois receives its fair share of federal funding,” he said. “I look forward to celebrating this development with all Illinoisans, including those who routinely badmouth our state.”

During a media briefing on Wednesday ahead of the survey release, Census Bureau officials emphasized that no census is ever perfect, and no survey is perfect either.

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GHOST GUNS: Owners of firearms that do not have serial numbers – referred to as ghost guns – will have 180 days to take them to a federal firearm dealer to have them serialized or they will risk being charged with a misdemeanor.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed the measure containing that provision, House Bill 4383, into law Wednesday, May 18, at an event in Chicago, aiming to crack down on the growing use of unserialized ghost guns that can be obtained without a background check.

The governor called the measure “one piece of a larger strategy” in reducing gun violence, but he said ultimately the federal government must take a more sweeping approach.

The measure applies to 3D-printed guns as well as unfinished receivers, which include “any forging, casting, printing, extrusion, machined body, or similar article” that can be converted into a functional firearm. It does not apply to antique, permanently inoperable guns or those manufactured before 1968.

The owner of an unserialized firearm or unfinished frame will have 180 days from Wednesday’s signing – or until Nov. 14 – to take it to a federal firearm dealer to receive a serial number.

After that span, possession of an unserialized, unfinished firearm will become a Class A misdemeanor for a first offense, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. A subsequent violation would be a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

Sellers of those guns or frames would be guilty of a Class 4 felony, punishable by 1-3 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000, for a first violation. Subsequent violations would be a Class 2 felony punishable by 3-7 years and a fine of up to $25,000.

Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said ISP labs analyzed 62 unserialized ghost guns in 2020, 180 in 2021 and already 164 in 2022.

“Criminals are finding it easier and cheaper to buy an unfinished firearm frame than to steal a gun or find one on the streets where the serial number has been defaced. With a little work, the unfinished frame becomes a fully functioning firearm,” he said.

Kelly said ghost guns include pistols, AR-15s and extended and high-capacity magazines.

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TITLE X: Illinois has resumed participation in the federal Title X family planning program after refusing to take part for the past three years in protest over a Trump administration policy regarding abortion services.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced this week that the state has been awarded $5.4 million in federal funding for the upcoming fiscal year and will soon distribute $11.2 million in grants to agencies that operate 98 family planning clinics throughout the state.

At issue has been the Trump-era policy, recently reversed by the Biden administration, that prohibited recipients of those grant funds from counseling patients about abortion options or referring them to abortion providers.

“Now that the Biden administration has reversed Trump's gag rule, I'm proud to announce that we have rejoined the federal title 10 program and we're putting record funding toward our Illinois family planning program,” Pritzker said at a Monday news conference.

Prior to the Trump administration’s rule, which took effect in 2019, the Illinois Department of Public Health received about $4 million a year through the program.

Pritzker announced in August 2019, shortly after the policy took effect, that IDPH would no longer participate in the program while a number of other family planning service providers, including Planned Parenthood of Illinois and Aunt Martha’s Health and Wellness, said they would not comply with the new requirements.

For the rest of that fiscal year, IDPH used General Revenue Fund money to fill in what was previously paid for by the federal government. The following year, the agency expanded the program with $5.8 million to fund Planned Parenthood, which had previously gotten its Title X money on its own, and other providers that weren’t previously part of the state’s Title X program.

For the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, Illinois reapplied for the federal money and was awarded $5.4 million while the state continues to fund the program with $5.8 million in state funds, bringing the total to $11.2 million.

Speaking Monday at the Erie West Town Health Center in Chicago, one of the clinics that will receive funding, Pritzker said family planning clinics provide critical services like pregnancy tests, cancer screenings and tests for sexually transmitted diseases and that most of the patients they serve live below the federal poverty level.

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CAPITOL RENOVATIONS: The cost of renovating the north wing of the Illinois Statehouse will be more expensive than officials initially estimated.

Only one bid came in for the project, which is about to get underway. CORE Construction Services of Illinois Inc. priced the job at $243.5 million, well over the $170 million that was originally estimated.

“Despite initial interest from multiple contractors on this project, only one firm submitted a bid while the others cited the difficulties of the current construction climate,” Statehouse Architect Andrea Aggertt said in an email.

“Given the challenges this industry is facing across the nation, such as inflation, increased costs, demand issues, and labor shortages, the project has surpassed its original budget, which was established well before the economic pressures were recognized,” she added. “With that being said, the project is still within the amount that was appropriated by the state.”

State lawmakers set aside $350 million for Statehouse renovations as part of a $45 billion capital improvements package that passed in 2019.

The project is scheduled to take about two and a half years and will make the north wing the main entrance for visitors.

That will involve excavating the hill that leads up to the steps along Monroe Street, removing the circle drive on that side of the building and constructing a new entryway leading into the basement level of the building. That entryway will also be connected to a new underground parking garage, a separate project that is already underway.

Officials have said the project is intended to address a number of safety and security concerns, but also to return the historic architectural details to the interior of the building.

From the new entrance, people will pass through a single security station before entering the building. The project also involves installing new fire alarms, sprinklers and lighting as well as accessible restrooms, entryways and door hardware.

There will also be new, updated stairs to allow for emergency exits that lead directly outdoors and modernized mechanical, electrical, and heating and ventilation systems.

While the project is going on, the Senate, whose chamber is on the third floor of the north wing, will meet in a temporary chamber being set up in the auditorium of the Howlett Building, just south of the Capitol. That building also houses the secretary of state’s offices.

Senators and their staffs with offices in the north wing will be moved to other parts of the Capitol or to office space in other buildings in the Capitol area complex.

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DCFS CONTEMPT: Leah is a 13-year-old girl under Department of Children and Family Services care who lives in a psychiatric ward in a Chicago hospital.

Capitol News Illinois is using a pseudonym to protect her identity but has confirmed she’s been held for months behind locked doors despite a doctor saying she was well enough to leave the hospital and a judge ordering that she should be moved.

On Thursday, Department of Children and Family Services Director Marc Smith received his 10th contempt of court citation for failing to comply with that judge’s order in Leah’s case. On Thursday, May 19, he received his 11th citation in an unrelated case.

Leah is a typical teen, says a close relative whose identity Capitol News Illinois is not revealing due to the sensitivity of the case.

She’s smart, sassy, has many friends, loves school and reading, and aspires to someday attend Harvard University. The relative would end her phone calls with Leah by saying “I love you,” and Leah would respond “to the moon and back.”

That’s when they could have phone calls. Leah’s access to the phone is limited now.

Leah’s case is complicated. The relative said she came into the care of child protective services in another state when she was 10 years old.

Her mom was at the end of a violent relationship and battling a growing dependence on drugs. Leah’s biological father was in prison serving a lengthy sentence. She stayed with an aunt once, then was in foster care. Another relative obtained guardianship of Leah in 2019, picking her up the day after Christmas and driving her to her new home in Chicago.

It wasn’t a happy arrangement. Three months after coming to Illinois, the guardian dropped her at Lurie Children’s Hospital. When Leah was well enough for discharge, her guardian didn’t come to get her. DCFS was called and assigned to care for her.

Leah moved from a shelter to hospitals and back to shelters. Once, the relative said, she spent the night in a DCFS office. She got depressed, the relative said, and became suicidal.

She ran away into the streets of Chicago one February night. Leah is originally from a small town in the Midwest with a population of about 5,000. She didn’t know anyone in Chicago. It was a cold night.

Leah eventually knocked on a stranger’s door and asked to use the phone to call her mom, the relative said. The next morning, Leah returned to the children’s shelter. When she got back, Leah found out that no one had been looking for her.

In February 2022, Leah was once again hospitalized. Doctors discharged her on March 21, 2022. On April 14, 2022, the court directed Smith to get her out of the hospital and into an appropriate placement within a week.

Still, Leah remained in a locked psychiatric facility. She was there Thursday when Cook County Judge Patrick Murphy found Smith in contempt for the 10th time.

Birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings have come and gone. Leah remains separated from her family.

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RETAIL CRIME: Gov. JB Pritzker signed legislation Friday, May 13, that is aimed at cracking down on high-profile “smash-and-grabs” and other organized retail theft.

Backed by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and Attorney General Kwame Raoul, the bill is in response to a recent increase in organized retail theft at malls in the suburbs and stores along the Magnificent Mile in Chicago.

It defines, for the first time, organized retail crime into law and creates stiffer penalties for the ringleaders of retail thefts. The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

A person is guilty of being a ringleader of a retail theft operation if they recruit individuals, supervise finances or direct others to commit the theft with the intent to resell merchandise that exceeds $300 in value.

Ringleaders can also be guilty if merchandise is stolen while in transit from the manufacturer to the retail establishment.

Advocates for the legislation reiterated that it will specifically target organized crime rings, rather than giving harsh penalties for those who commit “petty retail theft.”

In December 2021, Pritzker said an Organized Retail Crime Task Force overseen by Raoul’s office recovered millions of dollars in stolen merchandise from storage units at two Chicago facilities as part of a large-scale investigation into the crime rings.

Prosecutors will have the ability to consolidate charges against ringleaders in one county even if a ring of smash-and-grabs happened across multiple counties, and it allows the attorney general to convene statewide grand juries to investigate, indict and prosecute violations.

Raoul said it is a consumer protection issue because the stolen items can also be put on an online marketplace to unsuspecting consumers.

The legislation will require online, third-party sellers to verify a user’s identity with a bank account number or other information to prevent stolen goods from being sold online. Third-party sellers will be required to suspend sellers that knowingly sell items there were stolen or believed to be stolen.

It also creates a statewide intelligence-sharing tool to help retailers, police and prosecutors to communicate with each other.

The state budget also invests $5 million to allow the attorney general’s office to award grants to state’s attorneys and law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute organized retail crime.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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