Illinois Insights: An Update from Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies (2/1)

February 1, 2023

PUBLIC HEALTH 

Pritzker to end COVID-19 disaster declaration in May 

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Tuesday that Illinois’ COVID-19 disaster declaration, which has been reissued on a monthly basis since the start of the pandemic, will end on May 11, 2023. The announcement aligns with President Joe Biden’s recent decision to end the federal public health emergency on that date.

“Our state’s disaster proclamation and executive orders enabled us to use every resource at our disposal from building up testing capacity and expanding our healthcare workforce to supporting our vaccine rollout and mutual aid efforts,” Pritzker said in his statement.

Illinois’ disaster proclamation, along with the national public health emergency, allowed the state to provide a coordinated disaster response, seek federal reimbursement for pandemic expenses, activate the State Emergency Operations Center, authorize the governor to activate reservists in the National Guard, and expedite procurement.

In his statement, Pritzker additionally clarified that “COVID-19 has not disappeared. It is still a real and present danger to people with compromised immune systems—and I urge all Illinoisans to get vaccinated or get their booster shots if they have not done so already.”

ILLINOIS

House Republicans seeking revamped budgeting process amid budgeting leadership turnover

During a press conference Tuesday, Illinois House Republicans condemned the current budget practices in the state, accusing House Democrats of violating the bipartisanship agreement by developing the annual fiscal budget behind closed doors and revealing it at the last moment.

Despite FY 2022 and FY 2023’s budgets passing without Republican support, House Republican Leader Tony McCombie said it is not because Republicans want to vote against budgets. “Illinois House Republicans are here to govern. We are here to give solutions,” McCombie said.

With newly-appointed budget committees on both sides of the aisle, House Republicans are hoping it will offer more chances for them to be involved in the budget-making process. One change the House GOP is asking for is a process that establishes a reliable revenue estimate upon which to craft a spending plan.

Republicans also want the governor’s office to bring back bipartisan quarterly briefs on the state budget, which they say ended last year.

House Democrats abstained from responding to the House Republicans’ statement upon request. Gov. Pritzker is scheduled to propose his next budget to the state legislature on February 15.

AROUND THE STATE 

Report shows teacher shortage is ongoing in Illinois and requires more funding to boost the workforce: “Illinois’ teacher shortage remains persistent and requires more legislative action, according to a survey of 80 percent of the state’s school districts by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools. The annual report in its sixth year in 2022 has documented the state’s growing teacher shortage which was exacerbated by the pandemic. 2022’s survey found the shortage remains a major concern for districts throughout the state and the shortage has various effects beyond schools losing teachers to burnout,” by The Daily Line.

Financial disparities in Cook County are almost double national average, study finds: “Financial disparities that exist across race nationally are amplified in Cook County, according to a new study released Tuesday. The study by the Financial Health Network and the Chicago Community Trust found that Black and Latino residents are three to four times more likely to be financially vulnerable — unable to save and pay bills — as their white counterparts,” by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Dorothy Abreu to Step Down as Tollway Chair, from the Office of Gov. JB Pritzker.

ISBE names Dr. Tony Sanders new State Superintendent of Education, from the Office of Gov. JB Pritzker.

CHICAGO 

City Council approves ordinance to protect EMS workers

In response to a rising number of cases documenting assault on Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals while responding to 911 situations, City Council aldermen approved a proposal to increase the penalties for individuals that engage in such activity.

The ordinance (O2023-904) makes assaulting a paramedic or emergency personnel by engaging “in conduct that places a covered person in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm or physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature” a criminal offense, subject to a fine between $500 and $1,000 and jail time between 90 and 180 days.

The ongoing staffing shortage and rising police vacancies, which now total over 1,700, put EMS professionals in potentially dangerous situations with minimal to no police backup, specifically during overnight hours, O’Shea said during a City Council Committee on Public Safety meeting Monday.

The proposal also requires documentation of acts of violence against first responders and a placard to be placed inside emergency vehicles notifying people of the new penalties corresponding with assaulting EMS workers.

City Council temporarily blocks Lightfoot’s ComEd proposal

After mixed reception from aldermen during virtual briefings Monday, the Chicago City Council temporarily blocked Mayor Lightfoot’s proposed deals with Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), citing concerns that the agreement should be postponed until after the upcoming municipal elections.

The Lightfoot administration’s proposed companion agreements included a 15-year franchise deal between the city and ComEd, with an option to extend it for another five years and to municipalize the system after the first five years. The second part of the proposed deal would establish an “energy and equity agreement” to advance the city’s climate action plan.

In total, $520 million in mostly state and federal grants would go toward clean energy and equity initiatives, including funding 4,000 new solar rooftop projects for low-income residents, offering affordable broadband services, and hiring at least 10,000 residents to be trained at companies supporting the clean energy transition, at least 1,000 of which will be from South and West side neighborhoods.

Aldermen during Monday’s briefings expressed skepticism regarding the time frame of the deal and the recent $1.3 million bribery scandal between ComEd and indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. Aldermen additionally argued that 15 years is too long of a commitment for such a deal, that the City Council loses authority with the coordination council, and that Lightfoot’s motives are precarious, with the introduction coming just a month before the Feb. 28 Chicago Municipal Election.

MORE FROM CITY HALL 

Mayoral forum’s focus on policies for Chicago bikers a ‘sign that the conversation is changing:’ “Bike, pedestrian and transit advocacy groups say the conversation is shifting on transportation-related issues facing Chicago after all eight candidates challenging Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the Feb. 28 election gathered at the University of Illinois at Chicago last weekend to answer questions about bike and pedestrian safety and the CTA. Though the campaign season has featured a focus on the safety and reliability of the CTA, advocates for improved bike infrastructure said they were pleased about the forum’s transportation-related lens, which allowed their concerns to be spotlighted alongside issues related to the CTA and not crowded out more prominent topics like citywide crime, housing, education and economic development,” by The Daily Line.

Protesters disrupt Chicago mayoral forum as candidates exchange personal attacks: “Chicago’s mayoral hopefuls exchanged personal attacks during a contentious candidate forum Tuesday evening that was repeatedly interrupted by loud protesters,” by the Chicago Tribune.

Hundreds of United Center Concession Workers Vote to Authorize Strike: “Hundreds of workers who operate food and beverage concession stands at the United Center are preparing for the picket line after members of UNITE HERE Local 1, a labor union that represents more than 16,000 hospitality workers in the Chicago area, voted Tuesday in favor of authorizing a strike,” by NBC 5 Chicago.

O’Hare Terminal 5 gate expansion opens, making space for 120 new daily flights: “The new gates entering service mark the completion of a key piece of the revamp of the former international terminal, which has been under construction about four years. Additional work remains underway at the terminal and other major work is planned as part of a broader overhaul of the airport, including eventually tearing down Terminal 2 and replacing it with a new Global Terminal and two satellite concourses,” by the Chicago Tribune.

2023 Police District Councils Voter Guide: “Three people in each of the 22 police districts will be elected in February to serve four-year terms. They will hold monthly meetings to discuss policing issues and help develop community policing initiatives, among other responsibilities,” by Block Club Chicago.

FEDERAL 

Cozen Currents: What Makes the GOP McTick in Divided Government

  • House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will have one of the most consequential relationships in Washington, DC over the next two years as Republicans try to govern and position themselves for 2024.
  • Tight labor markets and President Biden’s advocacy of a worker’s rights agenda have fostered an environment in which states are increasingly taking action on labor policy.
  • The Biden administration is pursuing an ambitious two-pronged industrial policy to “promote” the semiconductor industry by bolstering domestic chip manufacturing and also to “protect” national security interests by restricting China’s access to advanced chips.

Read the full Cozen Currents article here.

Beltway Briefing: Divided Government Returns

Since making concessions to his holdouts and winning a protracted Speaker’s race as a result, GOP leader McCarthy has appointed several Freedom Caucus members to the powerful House Rules Committee. Their appointment to the Rules panel gives them significant influence over when legislation is brought to the floor and how it is debated in the 118th Congress.

Public Strategies’ Howard Schweitzer, Mark Alderman, Rodney Davis, Towner French, and Kaitlyn Martin break down the first three weeks of the Rules Committee work. And, now that a split Congress is upon us again, with Republicans looking to deploy their power with a fragile majority in the House and Democrats looking to advance their own policy priorities in the Senate, they discuss the status of inter-party negotiations over several must-pass bills and ponder how the new era of divided government translates into the 2024 presidential politics.

Listen to the full Beltway Briefing here.

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