Week in Review: Ethics, Sports, Schools & More

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin Calls for Madigan’s Immediate Resignation, New Vote for Speaker of the House. Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin released the following statement regarding the call for Speaker Madigan’s immediate resignation and has filed House Resolution 885 to remove Madigan from the position of Speaker of the House:

“The federal charges outlined in the ComEd prosecution highlight a scheme solely for the benefit of Speaker Madigan. These facts are a disgrace of the highest level to the citizens of Illinois and to the institution of which we serve, the Illinois House of Representatives.
The House Rules for the 101st General Assembly provide great responsibilities and duties of the Speaker of the House. After reviewing the facts contained in the ComEd deferred prosecution agreement, it is abundantly clear that Michael J. Madigan is unable to execute his responsibilities as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives and as state representative for the 22nd House District.

I call for the immediate resignation of Speaker Madigan from the Illinois House of Representatives, and will be filing a resolution to have the House Chamber vote on a new Speaker immediately.”

Governor issues new guidance restricting youth sports. Gov. Pritzker announced new guidance this week restricting youth and adult recreational organized sports in Illinois. That includes school-based sports such as those governed by the IHSA and IESA, travel clubs, private leagues, recreational leagues and sports centers and Park District sports programs. Restrictions issued Thursday do not include professional sports leagues, or collegiate level sports. The new restrictions go into effect in mid-August.

The guidance was developed in coordination with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

The newly released guidance categorizes sports into three risk levels, low, medium, or high, based on the amount of contact between athletes and their proximity during play. The guidance sets four levels of play allowed based on current public health conditions.
  • In level 1, only no-contact practices are allowed and they must be outside. 
  • In level 2, indoor and outdoor practices and intra-team scrimmages are allowed but there can be no competitive play. 
  • In level 3 intra-conference, intra-region or intra-league play is allowed and there may be state- or league-championship games allowed for low-risk sports only. 
  • In level 4, tournaments, out-of-conference play, and out-of-state play are allowed. State championship games would also be allowed in level 4. 
Beginning Saturday, August 15th, low risk sports can be played at levels 1, 2, and 3. Medium risk sports can be played at levels 1 and 2, and high-risk sports can be played at level 1. Please see the guidance for youth and adult recreational sports document for more detailed information.

Butler, Davis, LaHood criticize Governor Pritzker’s new restrictions on youth sports. U.S. Representatives Rodney Davis (IL-13) and Darin LaHood (IL-18), and Illinois State Representative Tim Butler (HD-87) criticized Governor Pritzker’s new restrictions on youth sports, which cancel competitive fall play for football, basketball, volleyball, and other sports.

“There should not be one-size-fits-all regulations for youth sports statewide,” said Rep. Davis. “As Governor Pritzker’s rules currently stand, competitive play for sports like football and basketball is cancelled statewide for as long as the Governor wants. That’s the wrong approach. As a former youth football and baseball coach, I believe local schools, in consultation with parents, athletes, coaches, and their conferences, should get the final say. The Governor’s Office has no business determining who can and cannot play youth sports. This is yet another overreach from Governor Pritzker.”

“As a father of three boys who play sports year round, I understand the integral role athletics play in the education of our children and their mental and physical health. A one-size-fits-all structure to regulating youth sports is not the right approach in a state as regionally diverse as Illinois. This is a clear overreach by Governor Pritzker, and there will be significant health consequences for our children because of these rules,” said Rep. LaHood.

“From day one of his executive orders, the Governor has said he relies solely upon science to make his decisions,” said Butler. “Well, where is his science on these decisions today? Why are sports like lacrosse or ultimate frisbee a higher risk level than basketball and soccer? What is the science on four different levels of play? Yet again, the Governor seems to be making these decisions completely on his own, and certainly with no input from any other elected official.”

Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission. The Illinois General Assembly created the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission to provide a platform for legislative oversight of the economic and job-saving aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Governor of Illinois has issued approximately fifty executive orders affecting Illinois’ response to the pandemic. Many of these orders aim to change the behavior or economic transaction activity of Illinoisans. These executive orders (EOs) have the force of law, unless struck down by a court of law, but were not enacted by the General Assembly. They were not offered up for public discussion, debated, or moved through the legislative process.

In response to this lack of conventional legislative oversight, the General Assembly took steps in May 2020 to enact SB 2135. Among other things, this bill creates the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission, a special legislative advisory body. The Commission held its first meeting this week on Tuesday, July 28. Its co-chairs have said it will meet weekly to discuss a series of COVID-related issues. The Commission has the right to call in key personnel of the Governor’s administration to ask questions and hear briefings on the current situation. The three House Republican members of the Commission are Rep. Tom Bennett, Rep. Dan Caulkins, and Rep. Mike Murphy.

Metro-East nears 8% COVID-19 test positivity rate; officials warn of Phase 3 actions. The “positivity rate” is the percentage of total coronavirus tests that come back positive. This rate is a rough, imperfect guide to the speed with which the virus is jumping from person to person. A high positivity rate means that more people could be carrying the disease and spreading it to other people.

With Illinois’ statewide positivity rates down towards 3% in recent weeks, Illinois – as a state – has moved from Phase 3 to Phase 4. This important change in our COVID-19 status has allowed restaurants to reopen with limited indoor seating. Some offices and personal care services, such as barbershops and hair salons, have reopened on a social-distancing basis; and there are plans to reopen Illinois schools and places of higher education.

However, there has been an apparent outbreak of the coronavirus in the neighboring state of Missouri. This is significant for the “Metro-East” counties of Madison and St, Clair, because they are in a metropolitan area that is centered on the Missouri city of St. Louis. Current public health reports indicate that the positivity rate in the Metro-East counties is creeping back up toward 8%, a level where these counties may not be able to safely continue to enjoy the level of economic activity they are currently trying to carry out. An IDPH report indicates that the positivity rate reported in this two-county area on Saturday, July 25 was 7.8%, close to the 8% benchmark. Officials warned that if these numbers continue to go up, thy may have to take remedial action.

School reopenings and Governor’s executive order. On Friday, July 24, Gov. Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-47pertaining to schools being allowed to reopen under Phase 4 of Restore Illinois. Under EO 2020-47, all public and nonpublic schools in Illinois serving Pre-K through 12th grade students may open for in-person educational purposes following the completion of the regular 2019-20 school term.

All public and nonpublic schools must follow IDPH and ISBE guidance during Phase 4. This means that they are expected to take proactive measures to ensure the safety of students, staff, and visitors. These measures include: 1. No school assemblies – the number of people in one space is limited to fifty or fewer. 2. No hallway crowding – schools should ensure compliance with social distancing requirements to the greatest extent possible. 3. Screen all persons allowed inside school buildings – including symptom screenings and temperature checks, or requiring individuals to self-certify that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms, before entering school buildings. 4. Mandatory hygiene - require washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, covering coughs or sneezes, discouraging the sharing of personal items, and regularly cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces. 5. Facemasks – Requiring the use of appropriate PPE by students, staff, and visitors, including the use of face coverings by individuals who are over age two and able to medically tolerate a face covering. Schools must provide face coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain a minimum six-foot social distance at all times; and, to the extent possible, they must make face coverings available for all students.

New unemployment numbers for Illinois metro areas. Most Illinoisans are already familiar with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Illinois economy and jobs. Figures compiled by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) delve into the numbers of Illinoisans who were unemployment in June 2020 in local regions throughout the state. Because of the fast-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, this numbers may well have moved significantly in July 2020 from those compiled here.

The IDES numbers continue to show very high unemployment throughout Illinois. The June 2020 statewide unemployment number was 14.6%. While every major Illinois metro region posted double-digit jobless numbers in June, the intensity of the pandemic in the city of Chicago and its adjacent suburbs meant that the unemployment rate in greater Chicago (including suburban Cook County and adjacent DuPage County) was even higher at 16.4%.

In an unusual series of events, unemployment was actually lower that the statewide average in certain Downstate metro areas that usually have numbers that are worse than Chicago and the statewide average. Examples include Danville, which had 12.3% unemployment in June 2020, and Peoria, which posted a rate of 13.5%.

Local CURE aid program set to start up. The Local CURE program is intended to pass through COVID-19 relief funds appropriated by Congress for local governments. Under the Downstate portion of this program, at least $250 million in federal funds will be distributed to local governments if they can show the money will be spent for COVID-19 safety and relief.

The distribution of Local CURE Act money will be overseen by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Municipalities, counties, and certified local public health departments will be eligible to apply for the aid. The applicants will be required to show that they are spending the money on COVID-19 public health-related purposes.

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