Insight on Illinois
It’s a time of transition, both in Washington DC and in Springfield. Nationally, the Biden Administration is filling out its Cabinet and other appointments. In Springfield, newly-minted Speaker Welch is working through new House rules and committee chair appointments for the upcoming legislative session. All of these changes will have an impact on policy, and we are tracking them all.
Here are some additional items we are watching:
State Representative Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch Becomes Illinois House Speaker
- State Representative Emanuel Chris Welch has been officially chosen to be the new Speaker of the Illinois House, ending Speaker Michael Madigan’s run as Illinois’ longest-serving House Speaker
- Speaker Welch has announced plans to keep former Speaker Madigan’s Chief of Staff through the state’s upcoming district remapping process
- A lot of items remain up in the air, including how Speaker Welch’s election will affect the General Assembly’s political agenda and whether Madigan intends to resign his seat amid rampant speculation over his political future and rapidly mounting legal bills in connection with a federal investigation
COVID Mitigations Lifted
- Illinois moved to vaccine phase 1b on January 25th, which allows residents above 65 and frontline essential workers to be vaccinated
- The city of Chicago has announced that other residents could begin receiving vaccines by the end of May
- In mid-January, Governor JB Pritzker announced that regions would be able to move from Tier 3 of statewide coronavirus mitigations, which has been in effect since November 20th
- Since that announcement, 5 regions, including Chicago, have returned to Tier 1 mitigations, which allow indoor dining at 25% capacity, and 5 regions have moved to Phase 4 of Restore Illinois, which allows gatherings of up to 50 people. Only one region remains in Tier 2
Dispute Between Mayor Lightfoot and CTU
- The Chicago Board of Education requested K-8 teachers return to work in person on Jan. 25 so the district could resume in-person classes
- The Chicago Teacher’s Union held a vote, and 71% of the voting members voted for only remote work
- Negotiations between Mayor Lightfoot and the CTU began Monday, with a projected Wednesday deadline
Tuesday, Feb. 9 – Thursday, Feb. 11 – Illinois Senate in Session
Wednesday, Feb. 10 – Illinois House in Session
Wednesday, Feb. 24, 10 a.m. – City Council Meeting
News of the Week
Hours before a General Assembly was to be inaugurated and still short the votes he needed to be elected speaker, Emanuel “Chris” Welch intensified his campaign to persuade House Democrats he should be the one to lead them after Michael Madigan’s decadeslong tenure.
House Speaker Chris Welch: “We’re going to work in 2021” – Chicago Sun-Times
House Speaker Michael Madigan avoided calling the General Assembly back into session during the pandemic for several reasons, many of them having to do with himself. But new Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch told me earlier this month that “The legislature is back in business. We’re going to work in 2021.” “We’re going to probably use the BOS Center for a little while,” Welch said of the Springfield convention center that the House has been meeting in. “But that’s a pretty costly place. So we’re also trying to explore how to safely transition back into the Capitol. There will probably be a hybrid version of remote committees and limited things at the Capitol, but we’re about to go back to work.”
It’s been quite a whirlwind for the new Illinois Speaker of the House Chris Welch, as he’s received more than one thousand text messages from all over the country as well-wishers congratulate the state legislature’s first-ever Black Speaker… Welch, who took over the speakership from Rep. Michael Madigan this week, has been a lawmaker for only eight years, but in that time was appointed to serve or lead several key committees.
During the final three months of 2020, ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan spent more than $1 million for work by a Chicago law firm specializing in white-collar criminal cases, newly filed state campaign records show. The $1.03 million the Friends of Michael J. Madigan political fund spent with Katten Muchin Rosenman represents a sharp uptick in legal spending by the Chicago Democrat and comes as a federal bribery probe intensified. During the first three quarters of last year, Madigan’s campaign committee spent about $726,000 with the firm.
Days after being deposed as Illinois House speaker, Michael Madigan has vacated his Springfield apartment, fueling speculation that he will resign the Illinois House seat he has held since 1971. Madigan’s decision to vacate his apartment at Lincoln Tower, about a block from the Illinois State Capitol, was first reported by Mark Maxwell, a television reporter in Springfield.
Starting Monday, an additional 650,000 Chicagoans and another 2.5 million Illinoisans become eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. It will take months for all the people at least 65 years old and frontline essential workers in this next group to get appointments. But there are not enough doses for everyone to line up all at once.
Chicago and suburban Cook County are officially open for indoor dining for the first time since late October under coronavirus pandemic restrictions, officials said Saturday morning. The announcement that the two regions have moved to Tier 1 means restaurants will reopen for indoor service — but at 25% capacity or 25 people per space, whichever is fewer. Bars and restaurants opening for indoor service will also be held to a raft of other restrictions.
Illinois’ coronavirus infection numbers took another step in the right direction Tuesday, including in Chicago, where Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s health team could clear the table for bars and restaurants to resume limited indoor service within a few days. City health officials also suggested the bulk of residents could start getting COVID-19 vaccinations by the end of May.
Teachers at Chicago Public Schools were slated to return to the classroom on Monday, in preparation for the return of students to the district's K-8 schools next week. But on Sunday, a majority of the Chicago Teachers Union's membership voted in favor of a resolution to continue to work remotely. The union said 71% of its voting members had voted to conduct remote work only, with 86% voter participation.
President Joe Biden on Monday waded into the Chicago Teachers Union’s standoff with City Hall over reopening schools, indicating support for teachers’ COVID-19 safety concerns after, the Sun-Times has learned, White House senior staffers were briefed about the impasse by American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten. “The teachers, I know they want to work,” Biden said when asked about the CTU by a reporter at a news conference after an event on American manufacturing. “They just want to work in a safe environment, and as safe as we can rationally make it, and we can do that.”
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