Redistricting, reopening, state fair & more
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie filed a lawsuit this week in federal court to
drawn and passed by Illinois Democrats in the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor JB Pritzker. The lawsuit is being filed against Illinois House Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch (in his official capacity), Illinois Senate President Don Harmon (in his official capacity), the offices of the Speaker of the House and the Senate President, and the Illinois State Board of Elections and its members (in their official capacities).
“Today’s filing should come as no surprise to Illinoisans. The partisan process upon which the legislative maps were drawn flies in the face of the strong recommendations made by countless advocacy groups and citizens who testified at the redistricting hearings,” Leader Durkin said. “The tone deaf Democratic Party of Illinois has robbed citizens of a fair and transparent legislative map-making process, and I plan to be a conduit for Illinois citizens who demand honesty by ensuring they also have their day in court.”
The lawsuit argues that the use of American Community Survey (ACS) estimates violates the federal law, including well established “one-person, one-vote” principles under the U.S. Constitution. More than 50 good government and community advocacy organizations and leaders implored the General Assembly to wait for the release of official census counts, which are expected by August 16, 2021. The use of ACS estimates will undercount minority, rural and growing communities and will result in a population disparity between districts that exceeds what federal law allows. Even the U.S. Census Bureau has said that ACS estimates are not appropriate for drawing legislative boundaries.
“Today we are entering court on behalf of the thousands of families, small business owners, workers, and taxpayers who said they wanted an independently drawn map, not the one handed down by political insiders desperately clinging to power,” said Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie. “We believe this is our best option to advocate for the 75 percent of voters who were refused an independent process and a map created with accurate data. More than 50 independent groups asked the legislature not to use American Community Survey sampling estimates, and instead wait for the actual Census counts to be released, but the politicians in power ignored them. ACS estimates have never before been used for redistricting in Illinois, and we plan to challenge the legitimacy of these maps to the fullest extent of the law.”
The lawsuit requests that the court declare the Democrats’ plan to be unconstitutional, invalid, and void ab initio. The lawsuit also requests that the court direct Speaker Welch and President Harmon to make their appointments to the Illinois Legislative Redistricting Commission as required by the Illinois Constitution. That commission has been used in every redistricting cycle but one since the constitution’s adoption in 1970. Leaders Durkin and McConchie will make their appointments soon and have pledged to work with those commissioners and the Democratic Leaders to adopt a transparent, bipartisan and independent process for drawing and approving a legislative map after the release of official census data in August.
State Supreme Court pauses implementation of new judicial map. In late May the General Assembly’s Democratic majority passed bills that purported to create several new maps for Illinois election purposes. The new maps are supposed to govern the way Illinoisans will vote for members of the Illinois House and the Illinois Senate. With respect to counties other than Cook County, one of the new maps – the one enacted in P.A. 102-11 – alters all of the boundary lines for the districts of appellate judges and judges of the Illinois Supreme Court.
Many questions were asked at the time about the questionable constitutional basis for the new maps. These questions include concerns about the new Illinois Supreme Court map. The Illinois Appellate Court, and the women and men who serve on it as appellate judges, have standings that are based on the state Supreme Court map, and the act of redrawing the Supreme Court map thus creates the appearance of altering the standing of an appellate judge midterm. This is an act that Illinois is constitutionally forbidden to do.
Alternatively, some say that Illinois could redraw the Supreme Court map but allow all of the existing appellate judges to choose, as individuals, to extend their bench out onto all of the counties of Downstate Illinois that their old appellate districts used to cover. Language to this effect is contained in P.A. 102-11. However, allowing different judges to hear different cases from locations within different boundary lines would create a jurisdictional muddle. Conscious of this muddle, the state Supreme Court issued an order this week. In the interests of efficient and orderly administration of the [Illinois] justice system, the order from Illinois’ highest court pauses the implementation of the new Illinois judicial map.
General Assembly to return next week to debate energy legislation, elected Chicago school board. The House and Senate are scheduled to return to Springfield for one-day sessions next week to debate key energy legislation and, in the House, legislation to enact a hybrid, elected Chicago school board.
Illinoisans have a strong interest in the maintenance of a stable, reliable supply of electric power. Despite exciting innovations in the fields of solar cells and windmill electricity, Illinois homes and workplaces need a solid supply of continuous generating capacity that exists independently of the time of day or unpredictable weather conditions. Many of Illinois’ fastest-growing job sectors, such as the data-storage “cloud centers’ now being constructed in key Northern Illinois locations, are being built based upon this promise of access to Illinois’ highly reliable 24/7 electric power system.
Discussions currently center on maintaining the operating status of four of the six large nuclear power generating facilities in central and northern Illinois. These nuclear power plants are currently operated by Exelon, the holding company that owns Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison. As the price of less-reliable power (such as wind-based power) declines, the power customers of the Midwest will become part of a computer-controlled interconnection system that will make sure that stable generating capacity is always available. The system will price and sell electricity to customers as a unified whole, with Illinois’ all-weather power costing more but its price averaged into the total mix. New legislation is required to transition into the new grid-pricing system. Debates on this legislation are scheduled to be held in a special summer session to convene in Springfield next week.
With move to Phase 5, the state of Illinois fully reopens today. Illinois will move to a full reopening, also known as Phase 5, the final phase of the Restore Illinois plan, on Friday, June 11, 2021. On Friday, the state will eliminate all capacity limits on businesses, large-scale events, conventions, amusement parks, and all other venues. Mask requirements for vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals continue to align with CDC guidelines.
The state reaches this point as it records the lowest number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, the lowest test positivity rate, and more than 68% of Illinois residents age 18 and over who have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
On Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reported 366 new confirmed and probable cases, 764 people in the hospital with COVID-19, and a test positivity rate of 1.3%. These are some of the lowest COVID-19 statistics reported in Illinois to date. Additionally, IDPH reported 209 people with COVID-19 in the ICU and 103 people on ventilators. These are also some of the lowest counts we’ve seen since the pandemic began.
Currently, 11.9 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to Illinois residents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting more than 68% of residents age 18 and older in Illinois have received at least one dose of vaccine and 51% of adults are fully vaccinated. Additionally, more than 88% of Illinois seniors have received at least one dose of vaccine.
In accordance with guidance from the CDC, fully vaccinated people in Illinois can resume activities without wearing a mask except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
Consistent with CDC guidance, fully vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons are required to wear a face covering in certain situations including (1) on public transportation, planes, buses, trains, and in transportation hubs such as airports and train and bus stations; (2) in congregate facilities such as correctional facilities and homeless shelters; and (3) in health care settings. Individuals in schools and day cares must also continue to wear face coverings per guidance issued by the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Universal and correct use of masks should be required; and
- Physical distancing should be maximized to the greatest extent possible.
To help businesses recover from the pandemic, the Governor, in partnership with the General Assembly, announced $1.5 billion in funding next year to support business grants, tourism, workforce, affordable housing, violence prevention, capital projects and other investments throughout Illinois. This investment follows the $580 million invested last year for Business Interruption grants to aid businesses in pandemic impacted industries and childcare providers.
In bid for universal school reopening, Illinois to implement massive expansion of COVID-19 testing in schools. The COVID-19 vaccines now being given to adolescents and adults have not yet been cleared for administration to young children. Under law, every drug must go through a separate testing system before being cleared for young people. In a major push to enable universal in-person school reopening in August and September, Illinois school officials are rolling out a major expansion of COVID-19 testing platforms for school students and educators. The expansion is being rolled out under the supervision of the Illinois Department of Public Health. Federal funds are paying for the testing system and the tests.
Here in Illinois, in many settings the preferred testing method is the COVID-19 SHIELD Illinois saliva test developed by biochemists at the University of Illinois. The SHIELD technology is easier for patients and less intrusive than the nasal swab testing technology used on many adults during the early months of the pandemic.
School districts throughout Illinois have already developed a set of standardized procedures to be followed when a person tests positive for COVID-19. Although there are many tweaks between these procedure sets, they all ask a patient who tests positive for COVID-19 to self-quarantine for a period of time long enough to stop being contagious. Illinois students are already familiar with remote learning from home. In-person learning is important in a wide variety of ways and every effort will be made – including continued implementation of facemask rules – to enable Illinois children to learn in person in safe classrooms this fall.
Permit process for two new land-based casinos moves forward. Action by the Illinois Gaming Board maintains a green light for two casino development plans. The two proposals, which are backed by different firms, are located in Rockford and near Carterville in southern Illinois. The Rockford Hard Rock Casino proposal would be located adjacent to an interstate highway, and the Walker’s Bluff proposal would be located in a region known for its vineyards and Southern Illinois University campus.
Although the two proposed sites are located at opposite ends of Illinois, the General Assembly has already done its part to green-light both locations. The Gaming Board’s moves are backed by gaming legislation enacted in 2019. In both cases, Illinois lawmakers were looking at current and potential new competition from states that border Illinois. Gaming-friendly states, a group that includes Missouri and Wisconsin, can set up casinos along Illinois’ northern and southwestern borders and pull in money from gamers who live in our state. Moving forward on these two projects will create entertainment opportunities that will be closer to where these customers live, and will pre-empt this potential outward flow of jobs and tax dollars. The Gaming Board actions were taken at their monthly meeting on Wednesday, June 9.
State of Illinois warns of health hazards from heat. As Illinois begins to experience higher temperatures, the Illinois Department of Labor is warning workers to pay attention to heat and humidity, which can be deadly.
Thousands of construction workers are exposed to the elements everyday while upgrading roads, bridges and other necessary infrastructure. To prevent serious injury and death the Illinois Department of Labor and OSHA stress “Water. Rest. Shade.”
The symptoms of prolonged exposure to dangerous heat need to be recognized. The warning signs of a heat-related illness, such as heat stroke, include:
- Heavy sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Weak pulse
- High body temperature (103°F or higher)
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related ailment that can lead to death if the warning signs aren’t caught. If a worker appears to be suffering heat stroke, it should be treated as an emergency and 911 should be called. The victim should be taken to a cooler, shady place and be given a cold compress, if possible.
Employees should be trained to recognize heat-related illness and how to respond in an emergency. It is critical cool water is not only available to workers, but they are encouraged to stay hydrated. Employees should also be encouraged to protect themselves from the sun if working long hours outdoors.
For the past 10 years, the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has waged a campaign to combat heat-related illness among workers. OSHA’s training materials provide a simple and effective three-word strategy that can save lives — Water. Rest. Shade.
Illinois State Fairs set to return to Springfield, Du Quoin after year off. The renewed celebrations will be part of Illinois’ movement to “Phase 5” reopening. Our two fairgrounds, in Springfield and Du Quoin, will once again welcome people from all states to be a part of Illinois life and culture. During the summer of 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic was worsening, and no state fair activities could be held.
The fairs celebrate the culture and agricultural background of Illinois, with an emphasis on music and heritage. The Illinois State Fair, in Springfield, will be held from August 12 through August 22, 2021. The Grandstand line-up will include Toby Keith, Sammy Hagar, the “I Love the 90’s” Tour, and George Thorogood.
The Du Quoin State Fair will be held from August 27 through September 6. Grandstand acts will include REO Speedwagon, En Vogue, Ludacris, Jamey Johnson, and comedian Ron White.