Illinois Insights: An Update from Cozen O’Connor public Strategies (2/22)

February 22, 2023

PUBLIC HEALTH 

Chicago’s COVID-19 Risk Level is Low, from the Chicago Department of Public Health.

ILLINOIS

AROUND THE STATE 

Federal judge denies bid to block Illinois assault weapons ban, Naperville gun restriction: “The decision appears to be the first from a federal judge considering whether the ban meets the standards set out last summer in a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling authored by Justice Clarence Thomas,” by the Chicago Sun-Times.

New law allows Illinoisans to change sex on birth certificate without doctor’s affirmation: “Illinoisans seeking to legally change the gender on their birth certificate will have an easier time under a new law signed by Gov. JB Pritzker last week,” by The State Journal-Register.

Cook County Awards Community-Based Service Providers $25 Million to Address Gun Violence: “In response to high levels of gun violence experienced since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois Department of Human Services Office of Firearm Violence Prevention (OFVP), together with Cook County’s Justice Advisory Council (JAC), announced today $25 million in grants to fund a diverse array of service providers focused on supporting residents at risk of experiencing gun violence in Chicago and Suburban Cook County,” from the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Mayfield reintroduces bill to remove coal ash from shuttered Waukegan coal plant: “After the bill failed to get support last year, Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan) is reintroducing a bill (HB1608) in an attempt to remove coal ash from the now-closed NRG Energy coal plant in Waukegan on the shore of Lake Michigan,” by The Daily Line.

Lawmakers toy with creating warning system to prevent tall vehicles from striking bridges: “A Senate committee gave a skeptical green light to a bill to create a warning system designed to prevent trucks from hitting short bridges, overpasses and viaducts under a program Sen. Rachel Ventura (D-Joliet) is pushing for,” by The Daily Line.

CHICAGO 

Mendoza calls out Lightfoot administration for failing to protect cops impacted by COVID-19

Mayor Lightfoot is denying allegations by Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza that she “played politics” with the police pension board after Mendoza told reporters that Lightfoot actively sought to deny her brother and other Chicago Police Department officers facing career-ending complications from COVID-19 on-duty disability payments. Mendoza said Lightfoot appointees on the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago were told to vote against a “duty disability.”

Sgt. Joaquin Mendoza contracted a severe case of COVID-19 after working 17 days straight in November 2020. He spent 72 days in the hospital, suffered kidney failure, had five strokes and lost the use of his left arm; he’s now on tri-weekly dialysis and unable to care for himself.

Instead of receiving 75% of his salary and free health benefits under “duty disability,” the pension board voted to give Mendoza “ordinary disability,” providing only 50% of his salary for five years and requiring him to pay for his own health insurance. The pension board voted 4-3 to deny Sgt. Mendoza duty disability, with three of the no votes coming from Lightfoot appointees. At least 18 other police officers have similar pending requests.

Lightfoot denied all accusations, defending the board’s stance and referencing Judge Thaddeus Wilson’s Jan. 30 ruling against Sgt. Mendoza’s challenge in Cook County Circuit court, which supported the pension board’s decision.

Comptroller Mendoza is now endorsing an amendment to the city’s pension code that would ease the way for policemen, firefighters, and emergency medical service providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to receive full disability payments. The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Jay Hoffman and State Sen. Bill Cunningham, and Lightfoot says she is likely to support it.

MORE FROM CITY HALL 

Lightfoot campaign sent 9,900 emails seeking support from CPS, City Colleges staff, documents show: “Among the emails were four to City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado — who reports to the mayor — at his work email address inviting him to a Lightfoot campaign event,” by the Chicago Sun-Times.

Aldermen to hold hearing on CPD officers in far-right groups Oath Keepers, Proud Boys: “The City Council Committee on Public Safety on Wednesday will hold an in-person hearing on Chicago Police officers who are members of the far-right anti-government organization Oath Keepers and a separate hearing on Chicago Police officer Robert Bakker who lied about his tied to Proud Boys, another far-right extremist group,” by The Daily Line.

Aldermanic spending on surveillance cameras down in 2022 as construction, supply chain issues delay installations: “Aldermanic spending on the cameras and license plate readers dropped in 2022 compared to the $4.3 million in discretionary dollars aldermen spent on cameras in 2021. But global supply chain issues and other roadblocks like construction meant nearly 17 percent of the cameras requested in 2022 will instead be installed in 2023 and billed to this year’s menu budget,” by The Daily Line.

FEDERAL 

Cozen Currents: Threading the Needle

  • With Nikki Haley announcing her bid for the presidency last week, she represents the first of what will likely be several more announcements this year. Right now, the biggest unanswered question is whether the GOP will embrace Trump or Trumpism.
  • America faces a near-term crisis of the debt ceiling and a long-term crisis of debt. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is stuck in the middle trying to find a way forward for his party (and himself).
  • President Biden is trying to have the best of both worlds when it comes to his stance toward China by promoting diplomacy while still pursuing decoupling actions, but heightened domestic political competition on the issue is constraining his foreign policy options.

Read the full Cozen Currents here.

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