Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois

Capitol News Illinois · March 5, 2021 Week in Review

A new survey of Illinois school districts shows most are continuing to have trouble filling open teaching positions with qualified teachers and even more are having difficulty hiring substitute teachers.

It’s a problem that has existed in the state for many years and one that experts attribute to a variety of factors, such as low pay and the difficulty in attracting new teachers to work in certain parts of the state.

State Tops 3 Million Vaccines Administered; Pritzker Announces Awareness Campaign

Mar 5, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

More than 3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered statewide as of Friday, and Gov. JB Pritzker announced a new $10 million public awareness campaign aimed at encouraging residents to get vaccinated.

The announcement comes as Illinois set another single-day record for vaccines administered Friday with over 132,000 doses administered statewide.

Lawmakers Discuss $1 Monthly Copayments for Child Care Services

Mar 5, 2021
People
Blueroomstream.com

After an executive order from Gov. JB Pritzker that set monthly copayments for child care services to $1 for all families expired last month, a House Committee on Friday agreed to continue working on legislation to create a law to make the benefit permanent for low-income families.

House Bill 141, sponsored by Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, would permanently offer the $1 monthly copayment for child care services to families whose income is at or below 185 percent of the most recent federal poverty guidelines based on family size.

Extended Federal Benefits End for Some Jobless Residents

Mar 5, 2021
Graph
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Benefits for some unemployed state residents provided under an aid program targeting mostly self-employed and gig workers will be capped at 50 weeks instead of 57, the state announced Wednesday.

The shortened period for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program was triggered by a decline in the state’s unemployment rate.

Comptroller Hopeful Outdoor Events on Track for Summer, Indoor Events for Fall

Mar 4, 2021
People
Blueroomstream.com

In a Senate Tourism and Hospitality Committee hearing Thursday, State Comptroller Susana Mendoza said she is hopeful outdoor events can return as early as this summer with large indoor events such as conventions and trade shows beginning in the fall.

Mendoza said that the return to holding events would be gradual and based on a number of factors, including COVID-19 transmission and vaccination rates.

Report: Illinois’ Pension Debt Tops $300 Billion

Mar 4, 2021
Graph
Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability

A new report by the credit rating agency Moody’s says Illinois will set a new record this year when it reports a total net pension liability of more than $300 billion, the highest of any state in the nation.

As of June 30, 2020, the report stated, the total unfunded liabilities of the state’s five pension systems stood at $317 billion, a 19 percent increase from the prior year. That was largely due to historically low interest rates, which have depressed pension fund earnings throughout the country.

State Drops Most Child Support Interest Charges

Mar 4, 2021

The state is no longer charging interest on late child support payments that are made through the Department of Healthcare and Family Services unless it’s ordered by a court, and all of the outstanding interest charges that those parents owed have been zeroed out.

A spokesman for the agency said in an email that the total accrued interest penalties that were eliminated amounted to just over $2.7 billion.

U.S. Rep. Kelly Wins Tight Race for Democratic Party Chair

Mar 4, 2021
People
Democratic Party of Illinois

Illinois’ Democratic State Central Committee elected U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly as its new chair Wednesday night on a razor thin margin.

Kelly, who lives in suburban Matteson and represents the 2nd Congressional District, edged out Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris with just over 50 percent of the weighted vote of the 36 members of the Central Committee – there are two for each congressional district. The 2nd District spans from the south side of Chicago and its suburbs to south of Kankakee.

Bill Would End Restraint and Isolation of Students

Mar 4, 2021
People
Blueroomstream.com

A House committee agreed Wednesday to continue working on a bill that aims to end the use of physical restraints and isolation as a way of controlling misbehaving students in public school classrooms.

House Bill 219, sponsored by Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D-Northbrook, was introduced in response to a 2019 article by Pro Publica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune that documented the extent to which those practices are used in Illinois schools and the harmful effects they have on children.

Bill Would Allow Special Needs Students to Stay With School Program Past Age 21

Mar 4, 2021
People
Blueroomstream.com

The Illinois House Human Services Committee advanced two bills Tuesday, one allowing special needs students to stay with a school program past their 22nd birthday and another allowing the use of certain federal nutrition benefits to purchase feminine hygiene products.

House Bill 40, introduced by Rep. Frances Hurley, D-Chicago, would allow special needs students to receive special education services through the end of the school year that they turn 22 years of age.

Burge-era Police Torture Victim Sues City of Chicago, Ex-CPD Officers for $66M

Mar 3, 2021
People
Photos Provided

One of the men who was tortured into giving a false confession by officers working under late Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge is suing the city and its former police officers for more than $66 million in damages.

Robert Smith, who was wrongfully convicted for a 1987 double murder, spent more than 33 years in prison but was declared innocent in November after successfully filing a claim with the state agency tasked with investigating police torture claims committed during Burge’s tenure, the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, in 2011.

State Announces New Vaccination Sites

Mar 3, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

The state announced new mass vaccination sites in Adams and Cook counties Wednesday and added National Guard support for sites in the state’s southernmost seven counties.

That brings the number of state-supported mass vaccination sites to 18, according to the governor’s office, while there are more than 880 sites throughout the state where eligible recipients can be vaccinated. Information on where to find vaccination sites and appointments is available at coronavirus.illinois.gov, although appointments are still limited due to limited supply.

Farmers Ask for ‘Right to Repair’

Mar 3, 2021
Agriculture
Morguefile.com

Legislation backed by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group would require farming equipment manufacturers to make software required for repairs available to consumers for purchase.

House Bill 3061, introduced as the “Digital Right to Repair Act” in February by Democratic Rep. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg, would mandate that manufacturers, by 2022, provide farmers with the same diagnostic materials available to official repair providers. It would also require the manufacturers to make parts necessary for repair, including software, available for purchase.

Democrats Push Resolution ‘Condemning’ GOP Lawmaker for Attendance at Jan. 6 Rally

Mar 2, 2021
Capitol News Illinois

Nearly three dozen Democratic members of the Illinois House of Representatives signed onto a resolution Monday to “condemn” a southern Illinois Republican lawmaker for attending a Jan. 6 rally in Washington, D.C. that preceded the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol.

House Resolution 132 also references a complaint filed Monday with Illinois Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope to investigate the actions of Rep. Chris Miller, of Oakland, on Jan. 6.

Belleville News-Democrat

A new survey of Illinois school districts shows most are continuing to have trouble filling open teaching positions with qualified teachers and even more are having difficulty hiring substitute teachers.

It’s a problem that has existed in the state for many years and one that experts attribute to a variety of factors, such as low pay and the difficulty in attracting new teachers to work in certain parts of the state.

Capitol News Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker signed a criminal justice omnibus bill backed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Monday, Feb. 22, abolishing cash bail, overhauling police certification and reforming use-of-force standards among numerous other provisions.

Pritzker signed the legislation, House Bill 3653, during an event at Chicago State University alongside members of his administration and lawmakers from the Black Caucus.

Capitol News Illinois · Illinois' Teacher Shortage

Former Illinois Lawmakers Face Federal Charges

Feb 26, 2021
People
ILGA.gov

One former member of the Illinois General Assembly was indicted, along with his two sons, on charges of tax evasion this week, while a second former lawmaker pleaded not guilty in a separate case that alleged he committed federal tax fraud, among other charges.

UPDATED: Officials Announce Federal Vaccination Site at Chicago’s United Center

Feb 26, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

State and federal officials on Friday announced a new federal mass COVID-19 vaccination site will be opening March 10 at the United Center in Chicago.

The new site will prioritize access for seniors and be open to any Phase 1B-plus eligible residents throughout the state, which now includes those 16 years of age or older with underlying conditions.

State Announces Phase 1B Expansion, But Appointments Still Limited

Feb 25, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Illinois residents 16 years of age and older with underlying conditions are now able to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in the state’s latest expansion of vaccination Phase 1B.

The expansion includes people aged 16-64 with conditions such as obesity, diabetes, pulmonary diseases, smoking, heart conditions, chronic kidney disease, cancer, solid organ transplant, sickle cell disease, pregnancy and persons with a disability, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Pritzker expecting to hit 100,000 daily vaccines in mid-March

Feb 24, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday the state expects to be receiving up to 100,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine daily by mid-March, up from the approximately 60,000 it is currently receiving on average.

That’s counting only the already-approved Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines, and is not including a potential dosage spike that is expected occur if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves a Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

Hemp Production Drops Slightly in 2020

Feb 24, 2021
Capitol News Illinois photo by Peter Hancock

Industrial hemp production declined slightly in 2020, the second year of legalized production in Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that 2,392 acres of industrial hemp, or 87 percent of the acres planted, were harvested during the year. That was down from just over 2,800 acres in 2019.

Law Enforcement Groups Respond to Landmark Criminal Justice Reform

Feb 24, 2021
Blueroomstream.com

Law enforcement groups have decried the Monday signing of a massive criminal justice reform bill into law by Gov. JB Pritzker, referring to the legislation as anti-police with provisions that will lead to unintended consequences.

House Bill 3653, referred to as the “Safe-T Act,” ends the use of cash bail by 2023 and grants increased state oversight of police agencies statewide, among other provisions. Law enforcement and Republican lawmakers opposed the legislation, citing problematic language in some provisions, while maintaining support for the law’s intent.

Madigan’s Handpicked Successor Resigns After Serving Three Days

Feb 24, 2021
Blueroomstream.com

Edward Guerra Kodatt, who was appointed Sunday to replace Former Speaker Michael Madigan, resigned abruptly Wednesday after Madigan and Chicago Ald. Marty Quinn issued a statement Tuesday night urging Kodatt to step down in light of unspecified “alleged questionable conduct.”

People
Capitol News Illinois photo by Tim Kirsininkas

Gov. JB Pritzker announced a low-interest loan program Tuesday to help alleviate the unprecedented financial burden from soaring utility costs for certain Illinois municipalities and their residents.

The extreme weather that devastated Texas’ electrical grid last week has resulted in skyrocketing natural gas prices in Illinois directly linked to frozen natural gas wells in Texas and Oklahoma.

State Announces New Federal Funding to Feed Low-Income Students

Feb 23, 2021
Capitol News Illinois photo by Peter Hancock

Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday announced new federal funding to expand the state’s food assistance program for school-age children who would normally receive free or reduced-price meals.

Pritzker said the additional funds to the existing Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer Program will help feed 200,000 more children, for a total of about 1 million children who will receive assistance this school year compared to about 764,000 children who received P-EBT benefits the previous school year.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 Continue on a Steady Decline

Feb 23, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Hospitalizations and positivity rates for COVID-19 in Illinois continued on a steady decline Tuesday, decreasing for the 13th straight week.

As of Monday night, the state reported 1,488 individuals were in the hospital with COVID-19, including 361 in intensive care unit beds and 172 on ventilators.

UPDATED: Gov. Pritzker Signs Criminal Justice Reform Bill

Feb 22, 2021
Blueroomstream.com

Gov. JB Pritzker signed a criminal justice omnibus bill backed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Monday, abolishing cash bail, overhauling police certification and reforming use-of-force standards among numerous other provisions.

Pritzker signed the legislation, House Bill 3653, referred to as the “Safe-T Act,” during an event at Chicago State University alongside members of his administration and lawmakers from the Black Caucus.

Madigan Resigns as State Democratic Party Chairman

Feb 22, 2021
People
Capitol News Illinois file photo by Jerry Nowicki

Former Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan announced Monday that he is resigning as chairman of the state Democratic Party, a post he has held since 1998.

The announcement came just days after Madigan resigned his seat in the House after a 50-year career in the General Assembly.

State Prepares to Expand Phase 1B Eligibility Beginning Thursday

Feb 22, 2021
Jerry Nowicki of Capitol News Illinois

Gov. JB Pritzker said Monday that the state will move ahead with plans to expand vaccine eligibility under Phase 1B of its vaccination plan later this week.

A total of 73,181 COVID-19 vaccinations were administered statewide combined Saturday and Sunday. The state has administered over 2.2 million doses to date, with 4.4 percent of the state’s population being fully vaccinated.

Madigan Chooses House Replacement From His Chicago Ward

Feb 22, 2021
Blueroomstream.com

Former state Rep. Michael Madigan, 78, handpicked his successor on Sunday when he voted to fill the House seat he resigned from on Thursday, marking the end of his 50-year career in the state General Assembly.

Out of 10 candidates, Madigan voted for Edward Guerra Kodatt, a 26-year-old employee of Madigan’s 13th ward organization on the southwest side of Chicago, who is of Ecuadorian descent and bilingual.

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