Capitol News Illinois

After Pfizer submitted its application for a COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week, Illinois public health officials have continued preparing locations to store and distribute the vaccine that could be released to frontline hospital workers in a matter of weeks.

10 Lawsuits Over COVID-19 Restrictions Merged in Sangamon County Court

Nov 18, 2020
Capitol News Illinois file photo

The Illinois Supreme Court agreed to combine 10 lawsuits challenging indoor dining bans across the state with existing cases in Sangamon County that raise the same legal questions.

The Supreme Court’s order brings a total of 19 cases involving legal challenges to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 related restrictions that are now consolidated in Sangamon County Court before Judge Raylene Grischow.

State COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 11,000

Nov 18, 2020

As the state surpassed 11,000 COVID-19-related deaths Wednesday and the disease became the third leading cause of death in the state, health officials sought to address rumors and conspiracy theories related to the virus.

Midwest Governors Urge Residents to Limit Contact Over Holidays

Nov 17, 2020
Capitol News Illinois

A bipartisan group of governors from seven Midwestern states, including Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, issued a joint plea Tuesday for residents of their states to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19 over the upcoming holiday weekend, even if that means avoiding travel and family get-togethers.

“This Thanksgiving is going to look different than others have before, and it’s because it has to,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a virtual joint news conference. “I know that instead of hosting a big, in-person Thanksgiving like I usually do, I’m going to be setting up a Zoom call with my family members.”

Capitol News Illinois file photo

Four restaurants in Sangamon County that continued to offer indoor dining in defiance of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s COVID-19 mitigation plan were ordered to shut down temporarily Tuesday.

The order from a Sangamon County judge states that the four restaurants — Charlie Parker’s Diner, D&J Cafe, Sweet Basil Cafe, and Fox Run Restaurant and Lounge — “are prohibited from selling food items,” effective immediately.

State Issues Stricter Mitigations Amid Hospitalization Surge

Nov 17, 2020
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker announced the entire state would enter Tier 3 of his mitigation plan starting Friday as he noted the best way for Illinoisans to avoid another stay-at-home order was by staying home.

“Tier 3 boils down to this: if you don’t need to do it, don’t,” Gov. JB Pritzker said of leaving the home as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to soar.

Judge finds Pritzker acted lawfully to mandate health guidance for schools

Nov 17, 2020
Capitol News Illinois file photo

A Sangamon County judge on Monday ruled Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration has power under state law and the state constitution to issue executive orders that mandate public health measures at schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision, issued by Sangamon County Judge Raylene Grischow after a roughly two-hour hearing, relates to two lawsuits — Mainer v. Illinois Department of Public Health and Pritzker v. Board of Education of Hutsonville — that arose from Pritzker’s June executive orders regarding schools.

Forecasters Project Long-Term Deficits, Growing Bill Backlog

Nov 16, 2020
Blueroomstream.com

A new report from the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget shows that without significant new revenue, spending cuts or a combination of both, the state will face a budget deficit of $3.9 billion in the current fiscal year and continuing deficits of $4 billion or more in each of the next five fiscal years.

It also projects that the state’s backlog of unpaid bills could grow to as much as $33 billion by fiscal year 2026, up from the current backlog total of about $7.8 billion, if lawmakers do not make structural changes.

COVID-19 Surges: ‘We Are In for a Rough Ride for the Next 3 Months’

Nov 16, 2020
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Illinoisans should stay home as much as possible, wear face coverings and rethink their Thanksgiving plans as hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to rise, state officials reiterated Monday.

“We are in for a rough ride for the next three months or so,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said at a COVID-19 briefing Monday. “Just how bumpy it really gets depends on each of us. Let's hang in there together and be all in for Illinois.”

The fall veto session of the Illinois General Assembly that was scheduled to begin next week has been canceled amid a worsening COVID-19 pandemic, Democratic leaders announced this week, prompting Republicans to question the motives behind that decision.

Pritzker Extends Eviction Moratorium, Secretary of State to Close Driver Facilities

Nov 13, 2020
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

As the state once again reported a one-day high for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Gov. JB Pritzker announced he would extend a temporary ban on evictions and Secretary of State Jesse White announced he would be closing driver services facilities.

At his COVID-19 briefing in Chicago Friday, Pritzker said this iteration of the eviction ban will aim at excluding “tenants who may have been taking advantage of the eviction moratorium but who are in fact able to make their monthly rent payments.”

Sangamon Co. Judge Dismisses Restraining Order Sought by Cannabis License Winners

Nov 13, 2020
Chuck Herrera/Pixabay

A Sangamon County court on Thursday denied a restraining order requested by cannabis dispensary license finalists in an attempt to stop the state from rescoring the applications of losing applicants. 

In early September, Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration revealed after months of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic that just 21 firms out of over 900 applicants qualified for the first round of 75 “social equity licenses” for marijuana dispensaries. These licenses were earmarked for dispensaries expected to improve the economic conditions of communities harmed by the war on drugs.

New Supreme Court Justice Brings Decades of Experience to Bench

Nov 13, 2020
Illinoiscourts.gov

When Justice Robert Carter, who is slated to become the newest member of the Illinois Supreme Court when he is sworn in in December, was a chief circuit judge, he would remind the nascent trial judges to be humble in their new role.

“I always told the new judges that everything you do should be done with the greatest amount of humility because you don't have all the answers. You're just trying to do the best based on the facts as you find them, and the law that applies to those facts,” Carter said in a phone interview this week with Capitol News Illinois.

Illinois Urges Residents to Stay Home for 3 Weeks

Nov 12, 2020
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Illinois residents are being urged to stay at home as much as possible for at least the next three weeks as the second wave of COVID-19 outbreaks continues to sweep across the state.

The latest advisory from the Illinois Department of Public Health does not represent a renewal of the stay-at-home order that was in effect this spring, but Gov. JB Pritzker warned Thursday that if current trends continue, stricter mitigation orders could be in store.

Lawmakers Seek Public Hearing on LaSalle Veterans’ Home Outbreak

Nov 12, 2020
Blueroomstream.com

Republicans on the Illinois House Veterans’ Affairs Committee called for a hearing this week to investigate a COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home where at least nine residents have died after testing positive for the virus.

In a letter to the House’s committee chairwoman Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego, the Republican House committee members asked to hold hearings to “quickly investigate how and why this most recent outbreak occurred and what steps are being taken by the Pritzker administration to stop the spread of COVID-19 at all state-run veterans’ homes and health care facilities.”

Illinois Records Highest COVID-19 Death Count Since May

Nov 11, 2020
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported Wednesday that 145 people in the state had died of COVID-19 over the previous 24 hours, the highest single-day death toll since the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in May, while overall hospital usage in the state reached its highest level.

Those numbers were released one day after Illinois legislative leaders announced the cancellation of the fall veto session due to public health concerns amid the worsening pandemic. The session had been scheduled to begin Tuesday, Nov. 17.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Far Higher in Most Regions Than in First Wave

Nov 10, 2020
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

With no signs of slowing, key metrics measuring the spread of COVID-19 – including hospitalizations – continue to push numbers not seen since April and May.

The 4,742 people hospitalized in Illinois due to COVID-19 as of Monday night marked the highest number since May 8, which was right around the peak of the first wave of the virus. It’s the 16th straight day of increases for hospitalizations, marking an 82 percent increase since the beginning of that 16-day period.

Proposed New Teacher Standards Spark Controversy

Nov 10, 2020
Capitol News Illinois

The Illinois State Board of Education is considering a set of new standards for teachers and administrators that are aimed at making them more sensitive to students of different cultures and backgrounds, but the proposal is sparking controversy among some religious conservatives.

Pritzker Announces Tier 2 Mitigations in Three More Regions

Nov 9, 2020
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Monday that three more regions of the state will be placed under even stricter COVID-19 restrictions starting Wednesday as the state’s rates of infections and hospitalizations continue to climb.

“The virus is winning the war right now,” Pritzker said during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Chicago.

Kane County Restaurant Loses Appeal Over COVID-19 Restrictions

Nov 9, 2020

An appeals court has handed down a favorable ruling to Gov. JB Pritzker in a legal challenge to his administration’s restrictions on bars and restaurants to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The 2nd District Appellate Court overruled a Kane County judge’s decision to temporarily block Pritzker’s indoor dining ban from taking effect at the FoxFire Restaurant in Geneva.

Lawmakers Eye Limits on Qualified Immunity for Law Enforcement

Nov 9, 2020
Blueroomstream.com

State legislators are considering eliminating or limiting aspects of qualified immunity for law enforcement.

Qualified immunity isn’t an explicit federal statute or law but a legal doctrine established in its current form by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1982 case Harlow v. Fitzgerald which grants government officials immunity from civil suits in the course of their duties. It is most often used in cases of alleged police misconduct or brutality.

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Capitol News Illinois

Backers of a graduated income tax constitutional amendment conceded defeat Wednesday, Nov. 4, for Gov. JB Pritzker’s marquee policy proposal which was projected to bring in more than $3 billion annually to state coffers.

Illinois GOP Touts Victories in 2020 Elections

Nov 7, 2020
Blueroomstream.com

As the dust settled after Tuesday’s general election in Illinois, Republicans in the state patted themselves on the back after making gains, while high-ranking Democrats pushed back against embattled state party leader Michael Madigan.

State Releases Contact Tracing Data as One-Day COVID-19 Caseload Tops 10,000

Nov 6, 2020
Blueroomstream.com

Gov. JB Pritzker’s administration unveiled a new central location for COVID-19 contact tracing data on the Illinois Department of Public Health’s website Friday.

While the data contain outbreak and exposure information, the location of an outbreak is more difficult to identify than the location of an exposure, according to the governor’s office. New data will be released every Friday.

Senate Committees Discuss Inequity in Education, Employment

Nov 6, 2020
Blueroomstream.com

State education officials and youth employment advocates are proposing expanding job skills programs in areas with large minority student populations and high unemployment, while also removing barriers to employment that disproportionately affect minorities.

The proposals were offered during the final joint meeting of the Senate Education and Higher Education committees Thursday morning. The joint education committees have met eight times since mid-September to discuss improvements to education and workforce development, which is one of four pillars that comprise the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus’ agenda.

State Smashes One-Day COVID-19 Case Record with 9,935 as Death Toll Surpasses 10K

Nov 5, 2020
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

The state’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 10,000 Thursday as the number of new confirmed cases smashed a one-day record by more than 2,000.

The 9,935 new cases were accompanied by 97 COVID-19-related deaths reported Thursday, the most since 116 deaths were reported on June 4. The 86,015 test results reported made for a one-day positivity rate of 11.6 percent and drove the rolling seven-day average case positivity rate to 9.1 percent.

State's One-Day COVID-19 Positivity Rate is Highest Since May 22

Nov 4, 2020
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Gov. J.B. Pritzker urged residents on Wednesday to stay focused on slowing the spread of COVID-19 as the state’s one-day COVID-19 case positivity rate hit 10.5 percent– its highest rate since May 22 – and the Illinois Department of Public Health reported its second highest one-day total of new confirmed cases with 7,538.

Legislative Probe into Madigan Postponed

Nov 4, 2020
Blueroomstream.com

The chairman of a special committee investigating Democratic State House Speaker Michael Madigan’s role in a bribery scheme involving utility giant Commonwealth Edison has postponed the panel’s next meeting, which had been scheduled for Thursday.

Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, announced Wednesday that the meeting is being delayed, in part because of the worsening COVID-19 pandemic and in part because it is still waiting to receive documents from ComEd.

Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

The Illinois Department of Public Health announced another 68 COVID-19-related deaths Tuesday, the highest one-day total since June 17 as hospitalizations once again pushed second-wave highs.

The state also reported 6,516 new cases of COVID-19 among 82,435 test results reported, making for a one-day positivity rate of 7.9 percent which drove the seven-day rolling average case positivity rate to 8.2 percent.

Elections Board Warns that Races Could Be Undecided for Days

Nov 3, 2020
Illinois State Board of Elections

Although nearly 3.6 million Illinoisans had already voted by Monday morning, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections, nearly 2.3 million ballots are still to be cast if the state is to match the 70.56 percent turnout of 2016.

As of Monday, there were 586,709 mail-in ballots that Illinois voters had requested but not returned. As long as those ballots are post-marked by Tuesday, Nov. 3, they must be accepted by local election authorities if they arrive by Nov. 17 – two weeks after Election Day.

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