Insight on Illinois

Voting in Illinois will officially be underway this week, and the campaign season is in full swing. While the Presidential debates will begin next week, the most intense electoral battle in Illinois is the fight over the proposed Constitutional Amendment to do away with Illinois’ flat income tax. Both proponents and opponents of the measure are well funded, so best of luck escaping the ad blitz between now and Election Day! 

In news from Springfield, the House investigation into Speaker Madigan in connection with the Commonwealth Edison scandal continues to move forward. We are watching the Speaker’s influence on the State Legislative races. Madigan’s money and organizational prowess are a boon to legislative candidates. At the same time, being so closely tied to the Speaker is a liability in the eyes of voters almost everywhere in the State. As always, we are closely monitoring these races with an eye toward how the results will affect legislation in November’s Veto Session, and in the new General Assembly in the spring of 2021.

Here is what else we are watching now.

Illinois House Investigation into Speaker Michael Madigan Moves Forward

  • The Special Investigating Committee held their first hearing early in September but postponed further hearings to consult with US Attorney John Lausch
  • The US Attorney has allowed the committee to proceed with testimony and requesting documents, but the committee is prohibited from asking about grand jury proceedings or the witness’s interactions with prosecutors connected to the federal investigation

Governor’s Office Backtracks on Marijuana Dispensary Licensing

  • The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional regulation announced 21 dispensary license candidates that will be entered into a lottery for 75 available dispensary licenses
  • All 21 candidates who were awarded spots in the lottery received perfect scores on their applications
  • Following backlash against the transparency of the process, the Governor JB Pritzker’s office announced on Monday that unsuccessful candidates will get an opportunity to correct deficiencies in their original application

Protests Over High School COVID-19 Restrictions

  • Protests took place over the weekend in Springfield and Chicago, urging Gov. Pritzker to rethink his stance on postponing high school sports
  • The Let Us Play rallies fell short of attendance expectations, drawing less than 500 people in downtown Chicago, and 300 people in Springfield
  • Governor Pritzker has since reiterated that he does not intend to allow contact sports until at least the Spring season

Upcoming Meetings

Tuesday, September 29th, 2 p.m. – Illinois House Special Investigating Committee II

Wednesday, October 7th, 10 a.m. – Chicago City Council

News of the Week

US attorney John Lausch issues guidance for House committee investigating Speaker Michael MadiganChicago Tribune

U.S. Attorney John Lausch said in a letter Thursday that his office doesn’t have an issue with an Illinois House committee seeking testimony and documents from witnesses in its inquiry of Speaker Michael Madigan, while also offering some guidelines. Lausch’s letter provides a road map for the newly formed special investigating committee’s query into the powerful speaker, which in its short existence has already become sharply politicized.

Pritzker Administration Announces Additional Steps to Ensure Fairness in Awarding Conditional Adult-Use Cannabis Dispensary Licenses – Office of the Governor

Following a careful examination of the process to award the first round of conditional adult-use cannabis dispensary licenses after receiving feedback from community leaders and stakeholders, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) announced additional steps to ensure the process moves forward in a fair and equitable manner.

About that Illinois lottery for new pot shops — it’s ‘a big freaking mess’Chicago Sun-Times

There’s been much gnashing of teeth since the state announced that just 21 social equity applicants had qualified for regional lotteries that will award 75 cannabis dispensary store licenses. The 21 winning entities submitted well over 300 applications for those 75 licenses, which has forced a tie-breaking round.

Former Illinois State Senator Pleads Guilty To Tax EvasionWBEZ

A former Illinois state senator from the northern suburbs pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion Wednesday. Former state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, appeared remotely for his court hearing Wednesday, alongside his attorney. In describing Link’s crimes, prosecutors shared that the longtime Democratic lawmaker was spending money on personal expenses from an account controlled by his campaign committee. He pleaded guilty to underreporting his income on his 2016 tax returns by at least $93,859.

Longtime lawmaker Terry Link, who wore wire on colleague, pleads guilty in tax caseChicago Sun-Times

Former Illinois Sen. Terry Link once denied having his name on the feds’ roster of public corruption cooperators. But there’s no doubt his name is there now after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to filing a false income tax return. In an 18-page plea agreement, Link agreed to “fully and truthfully cooperate in any matter in which he is called upon” by the feds. And if he keeps good on his promise, the feds say they will recommend a sentence of probation.

Chicago Ethics Board to enforce ban that would prohibit elected officials outside the city from lobbying City Hall – Chicago Tribune

Chicago’s Ethics Board announced Tuesday it would start enforcing a ban on elected officials lobbying City Hall at the end of the month, meaning a south suburban official likely would need to either give up his elected post or stop lobbying Mayor Lori Lightfoot and aldermen on behalf of his clients to be in compliance.

Cook County Board to vote on extending Toni Preckwinkle’s expanded powers during coronavirus pandemic – Chicago Tribune

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s temporarily expanded powers during the coronavirus pandemic might be extended again, this time until the end of the year. Cook County commissioners are set to vote on a measure that stretches out the end date of her countywide disaster proclamation until Dec. 31, giving her 90 additional days of ability to make certain decisions without the Board of Commissioners’ approval when it comes to responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

Pritzker says no to high school football despite Illinois being a leader in testingState Journal-Register

Weekend rallies by supporters of fall high school sports didn’t convince Gov. JB Pritzker to change his view that contact sports should be postponed until the spring. At an appearance in Springfield to tout the state’s testing program, Pritzker said he still isn’t convinced high school football, girls volleyball, and other contact sports can safely be played at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic. He said that’s the case despite Illinois being a leader in testing for COVID-19 which is a key factor in controlling the spread of the disease.

Pritzker OKs indoor dining in Will, Kankakee counties, crediting COVID-19 improvement to ‘neighbors doing right by neighbors’ – Chicago Sun-Times

Indoor service is back on the menu at bars and restaurants across Chicago’s far south suburbs after an improved COVID-19 testing positivity rate prompted Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday to lift restrictions on Will and Kankakee counties.

Chicago behind schedule on contact tracing program as Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces plan to work with community groups to hire workersChicago Tribune

With Chicago lagging far behind on its goals for COVID-19 contact tracing efforts established nearly four months ago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday offered details on how the city plans to catch up. Lightfoot first announced a $56 million plan in May, to train hundreds of people to track the spread of the coronavirus and warn Chicagoans who’ve had contact with someone who’s carrying the disease so they can quarantine themselves before potentially spreading it further.