Illinois Insights: An Update from Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies (3/10)

March 10, 2023


IDPH Reports 26 Illinois Counties at an Elevated Community Level for COVID-19, from the Illinois Department of Public Health.


Illinois House panel passes COVID-19 disability bill for Chicago first responders

The House Personnel and Pensions Committee unanimously approved legislation Thursday that eases the way for Chicago police officers and firefighters disabled by COVID-19 before vaccines were available to receive full line of duty benefits.

Championed by Comptroller Susan Mendoza, the bill (HB3162) would assume that the working conditions of first responders during the pandemic directly led to their COVID-19-related disabilities. The bill would retroactively apply to any police officer or firefighter before July 2021.

The measure was inspired by Comptroller Mendoza’s brother, police Sgt. Joaquin Mendoza, who was denied full disability benefits by the Chicago police pension board after working 17 days straight in November 2020 and contracting COVID-19. Mendoza now suffers from serious, life-threatening complications and is unable to care for himself.

The bill is expected to be debated on the House floor in the coming weeks and, if passed, will move to the Senate for approval.

Pritzker announces new ICC chair, two other personnel transitions

Gov. JB Pritzker announced in a press release this morning that Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) Chairman Carrie Zalewski will step down from her position in June.  Zalewski, whose five-year term was set to expire on Jan. 15, 2024, will be replaced by former ICC Chair and former Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Doug Scott.

In her time as ICC Chair, Zalewski helped the agency maintain consumer services throughout the pandemic, implemented plans derived from the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA), and outlined a path for the state to reach its electric vehicle and renewable energy requirements.

“Chairman Zalewski served the State of Illinois diligently during a period of challenging unprecedented circumstances and clean energy transition, and her stalwart leadership was essential to the successes of that period,” Pritzker said in his announcement. “I’m so grateful for her years of service and the long-lasting impact her work will have on building a more equitable and sustainable Illinois for generations to come.”

Additionally, Pritzker announced two appointments to the five-member board of commissioners: former energy attorney Conrad Reddick, who will replace outgoing Ethan Kimbrel, and Executive Director of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance Stacey Paradis, who will fill a vacant seat.


Legislation aims to deter book bans at public libraries by withholding grants: “Legislation aimed at discouraging public libraries from banning books has been introduced in the Democratic-controlled Illinois General Assembly amid largely partisan battles around the country over what books and school curricula are suitable for children,” by the Chicago Tribune.

Cook County Sheriff’s Office initiatives on lewd acts in jails, stolen vehicles given approval by committees: “The House Judiciary- Criminal Committee unanimously approved HB1399 Thursday, which establishes a new offense to cover people who commit lewd acts in jails such as exposing themselves to others. The Senate Special Committee on Criminal Law and Public Safety also unanimously passed SB1753, which requires vehicle manufacturers to establish a hotline to help Cook County police agencies track vehicles involved in crimes,” by The Daily Line.


Biden’s proposed budget includes $350 million for CTA Red Line Extension

President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for the coming year includes a line item to provide $350 million towards the CTA Red Line Extension (RLE).

The proposed federal funding, still pending congressional approval, comes just months after Mayor Lori Lightfoot created a new tax-increment financing district set to generate $959 million of the project’s $3.6 billion total cost. The CTA is requesting federal funds to cover the other 60 percent of the RLE’s costs.

The Red Line Extension would be the first Chicago transit expansion in 30 years and would extend the Red Line route 5.6 miles south (from 95th St. to 130th St.),  create four new stations, generate 6,000 jobs and serve 13,000 people daily, and provide transportation into the Chicago-metro area for low-income neighborhoods neglected by the CTA system in the past.

“Public transit plays an integral role in the lives of millions of Chicagoans. For many, it is the best and only option to get to work, go to school, and visit family. I am glad that the Biden administration sees the importance this project has in forming equitable transit solutions,” Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley said in a statement.


Vallas, Johnson want to put brakes on Lightfoot’s ComEd franchise deal: “Both mayoral candidates are calling on the City Council to wait for the new administration and council before acting on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s proposed franchise agreement with Commonwealth Edison,” by Crain’s Chicago Business.

Donations to Vallas and Johnson since making runoff show difference in funding sources between candidates: “With the candidates allowed to rake in an unlimited amount of campaign cash from donors, Johnson has shored up his campaign coffers with funds from large labor interests. Vallas has been able to add millions to his campaign committee by drawing on support from private equity and investment firms,” by The Daily Line.

Aldermen give initial OK to allocating $20M in state funding to help asylum seekers: “Aldermen in two separate committees on Wednesday approved measures that if approved by City Council next week will allocate $20 million in state funding for asylum seekers and several other proposals to sell city-owned land,” by The Daily Line.

City of Chicago Reaches $23.8M Settlement Agreement with E-Cigarette Maker Juul Labs for Marketing and Selling Products to Underaged Youth: “The City of Chicago announced today that a $23.8M settlement has been reached with JUUL Labs, a leading e-cigarette maker, over claims that the company was engaged in harmful and deceptive business practices by marketing and selling vaping products to underage users,” from the Office of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.


Beltway Briefing Special Edition: Chicago Mayoral Election

Last Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her re-election bid by failing to garner enough votes to make a runoff race. It was a stunning fall for a candidate who in 2019 had won all 50 of Chicago wards, becoming the city’s first Black woman mayor as well as its first openly gay mayor. It was also the first time in 40 years that the city didn’t elect a sitting mayor who sought re-election. Paul Vallas, a more moderate Democrat who had won the support of the city’s police union, and Brandon Johnson, a liberal county commissioner and teachers union organizer, secured the two spots to advance to April’s runoff election.

Cozen O’Connor Public Strategies’ Chicago team members Pat Carey, John Dunn, and Sydney Holman breakdown the results of the mayoral election and the city’s shifting political dynamics, and discuss what we can expect in the runoff that will elect the 57th mayor of Chicago.

Listen to the full Beltway Briefing here.

Cozen Currents: The GOP’s Political Awokening

  • The GOP wants to say RIP to ESG as the fight against “woke capitalism” is prevalent in all corners of the Republican Party.
  • The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case regarding the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s funding structure, posing an existential threat to a core regulatory mechanism of progressive activism.
  • The House is shaping up to be an extremely close electoral battle in 2024. While much of the current attention is on the newfound power of the GOP’s Freedom Caucus, vulnerable moderate incumbents on both sides of the aisle are trying to differentiate themselves and build their own separate brand based on issues of outsized importance in the suburbs, such as taxes and crime.

Read the Cozen Currents article here.


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