COVID-19

Availability of ICU beds in Illinois. Illinois is currently in Phase 5 mitigation for COVID-19, with most public activities allowed if people wear facemasks indoors. However, the highly contagious “Delta variant” of COVID-19 is gripping Illinois and the nation, leading to increased coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations. One key variable, the number of available intensive care unit (ICU) beds, continues to show troublesome numbers. Statewide ICU bed availability has been under 20% continuously for the past two weeks, and in mid-September ICU bed availability in Southern Illinois dropped down to zero. These numbers matched the patient counts in states adjacent to Illinois, and states such as Kentucky and Missouri may be putting pressure on Illinois hospital care and infrastructure. 
A Union battery at Fort Prentiss (renamed Fort Defiance),
with guns facing the Ohio River, Cairo, Illinois. 
Out of the wreckage of the Union Army retreating in disarray from the disastrous July 1861 battle of Bull Run came the realization that the Civil War was not going to be a 90-day conflict, but a long, drawn out affair. It would be a war of attrition. The north would have to call upon its superior manpower and industrial base to save the Union. It would be helped along in no small part by the burgeoning economic powerhouse that was the state of Illinois.
ENERGY

Omnibus energy bill signed. After approval by both houses of the General Assembly, SB 2408 was signed into law on Wednesday, September 15. A key element of the energy bill and its approval was the continued operation of two nuclear power plants (Byron and Dresden). In return for electric rate guarantees contained in the bill, owner Exelon has made a binding pledge to keep these two plants open for at least five years. This pledge directly affects more than 1,530 employees of the two plants, together with the communities that are directly supported by their operations.

The late summer and fall of 1818 was a busy time in the Illinois Territory.

Spring had seen the U.S. Congress adopt legislation entitled the Illinois Enabling Act which would pave the way for statehood. It was signed by President James Monroe in April, setting Illinois on the path toward becoming the 21st state.

The act of Congress had established boundaries for the new state and authorized local leaders in the land between the Wabash and the Mississippi to get to work on establishing a state government, including the election of new leaders. There was much to do.

ENERGY

Illinois House passes omnibus energy legislation. The Illinois House of Representatives returned to session in Springfield on Thursday, September 9. On the agenda was a comprehensive energy bill dealing with various facets of Illinois’ energy and electricity supplies. The bill action followed notification to Illinois by Exelon, the operator of nuclear power plants in northern Illinois, that several of its fleet of nuclear plants were unprofitable and, without action by the General Assembly, would soon be decommissioned. This news threatened the operation of two Illinois nuclear power plants, Byron and Dresden. Exelon asked the General Assembly for state regulatory relief so that these two plants could remain open, protecting Illinois’ electric generation capacity and saving thousands of good-paying jobs.

When Jean Baptiste Point du Sable built his cabin and trading post, becoming Chicago’s first permanent resident, he saw that the location at the junction of the river and the lake had real potential.

The easy portage between the lake and the mid-continent’s river system made his new home the linchpin of a trading network that could one day cover thousands of square miles. The location was good, but the land was not all it could be. Most of it was swampland, and that was going to make it difficult to build a city.

REDISTRICTING
Democrats ram through revised partisan maps during special session. Following the release of the 2020 Census numbers in early August, the Illinois General Assembly met in special session on Tuesday, August 31 to vote on revised legislative redistricting maps.

What we have witnessed over the past week has been the continuation of a grand farce that began in the spring, when a partisan map-making process played out in a backroom behind a locked door using inaccurate and incomplete data that produced flawed maps drawn by politicians.
Vandalia State House. Photo from the Abraham Lincoln
Presidential Library & Museum. 
It didn’t take long for Illinois state government to realize it needed a new home.

With statehood in 1818, Kaskaskia became the first state capital, but its days were already numbered, as the frequent floods of the Mississippi made it difficult to build a permanent capital on its banks. Congress had not designated any particular site as a permanent state capital, and the General Assembly had only picked Kaskaskia until a better location could be found. By the time the 1st General Assembly convened in 1819, the search was already underway.
COVID-19

All Illinois residents required to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. On Thursday, Governor JB Pritzker announced a statewide indoor mask mandate for all Illinois residents, regardless of vaccination status, as COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates continue to increase. The masking requirements are effective Monday, August 30th.

Governor Pritzker also announced vaccination requirements for individuals in high risk settings. All healthcare workers, including nursing home employees, all pre-k-12 teachers and staff, as well as higher education personnel and students will now be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Employees in all of these settings and higher education students who are unable or unwilling to receive the vaccine will be required to get tested for COVID-19 at least once per week, and IDPH and ISBE may require increased testing in certain situations.  
Does Chicago owe its picturesque skyline to a birdcage?

By the late 1800s cities in the United States and around the world were running out of real estate. Some were hemmed in by waterways or other geographic obstructions and could not expand horizontally. Others had ample space but could not extend infrastructure fast enough to support an ever-growing physical space. Some just faced pressures to get as much rentable real estate as close to the central business district as possible.

To one degree or another, Chicago faced all three challenges.
REDISTRICTING
U.S. Census Bureau Counts Confirm that Democrats’ Redistricting Plan is Unconstitutional and Unlawful.
The official 2020 decennial counts released by the U.S. Census Bureau on August 12 confirm that the Democrats’ redistricting plan, HB 2777, violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law, as well as comparable provisions of the Illinois Constitution. Accordingly, no lawful redistricting plan was effective on June 30, 2021. The Illinois Constitution is clear that responsibility for the plan has shifted to the bipartisan Legislative Redistricting Commission.
Illinois is many things, but first and foremost we are an agricultural state. Agriculture built Illinois; whether it is the small family farmer, the truck driver who delivers their products, the tractor factory employee or those who work at the Chicago Board of Trade, agriculture touches every part of Illinois’ economy and remains the state’s largest industry.

Geography plays an important part in that history. Our state happens to sit atop some of the most fertile farmland in the entire world and the development of the nation’s transportation infrastructure put us right at the crossroads of the continent.
U.S. CENSUS

Illinois population numbers released, confirming that Illinois will lose one congressional seat. Actual 2020 Census numbers (rather than computer-generated statistical estimates) were released this week. While the overall U.S. population grew by 7.4% between 2010 and 2020, Illinois’ population actually fell slightly. As a result, Illinois will lose one of its 18 congressional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Slow economic growth and poor governmental policies were blamed for Illinois’ poor Census showing. Illinois sharply underperformed population growth patterns posted in neighboring states such as Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin. In contrast to Illinois, none of these four states will be required to give up congressional seats in Washington.

By the late 1880s Illinois was booming. The dark days of the early 1870s, with the Chicago Fire and a nationwide economic recession, were fading into memory as farmers produced bigger crops each year and railroads brought commerce and opportunity to cities and towns throughout the state.

This newfound prosperity and interconnectedness also provided an opportunity for recreation which had been unheard of for working class Illinoisans just a few decades earlier. With a little money in their pocket and a nearby rail connection to any point in the country, many Illinoisans were taking their first long-distance vacations during the decade of the 1880s.
COVID-19

Governor Pritzker imposes mask mandate on schools, long-term care facilities. As COVID-19 infection rates across the state continue to increase and with a number of school districts not yet adopting CDC guidance on masking, Governor JB Pritzker and IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced this week that masks will be required for students, teachers, and staff at pre-kindergarten-12th grade schools and day cares across the state. The new requirement formalizes CDC guidance released in July on universal masking for both unvaccinated and vaccinated people in schools to ensure a safe return to classrooms. 

There are a lot of things that make Illinois unique. Throughout history state leaders have sought to showcase some of the distinctive elements of Illinois by granting them official status as a state symbol.

Certain symbols are necessary for the functions of government, like the state seal for official documents. Others are so common that it is hard to imagine not having one, such as our state flag. Some of our most well-known state symbols came to receive official recognition in the early 20th century thanks to the work of citizens groups who, for example, helped designate our state tree and state bird.

It was a festive, joyous atmosphere at the Clark Street docks on the south bank of the Chicago River on the morning of July 24, 1915, as a group of employees and families from the Western Electric Company in Joliet prepared to board the steamship Eastland for an excursion across the lake to Michigan City, Indiana. A band played lively music from the dock and passengers looked forward to a day of fun and relaxation.

In such surroundings it was hard to imagine that the assembly was just minutes away from the worst disaster in Illinois history.

COVID-19

Delta, Gamma variants spread in Illinois. The Delta and Gamma variants of the COVID-19 virus are spreading throughout Illinois. A significant tracking number, the “positivity ratio,” representing positive diagnoses as a percentage of total tests administered, is creeping back up towards 3% in Illinois as a whole. Illinois remains in Phase 5 mitigation, with residents urged to maintain social distancing and personal cleanliness in public places. More than 50% of Illinois residents are now fully vaccinated against coronavirus, with more than 13.0 million doses administered to more than 6 million Illinoisans.
Earlier this summer the nation learned of the death of the controversial former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who became the public face of the war in Iraq from 2003 until his resignation in 2006.

At that time Rumsfeld was serving his second term as Secretary of Defense, having first held the post during the 1970s (making him both the youngest and oldest Secretary of Defense in American history). He was also the White House Chief of Staff under President Gerald Ford and held positions in the Nixon and Reagan administrations as well.

Before all of that, however, Rumsfeld’s first foray into politics came here in Illinois, where he was elected to four terms in Congress in the 1960s.
ETHICS REFORM

Legislative Inspector General resigns, calls for fundamental changes. Under existing State General Assembly law, legislators are supposed to obey a series of laws and guidelines governing their work, income, and conduct. Legislative members’ compliance with these laws and guidelines is supposed to be overseen by the Legislative Inspector General, who has the power to scrutinize and refer cases for possible disciplinary action against a legislative member of the Illinois House or the Illinois Senate.

One hundred fifty years ago today the tragic story of the Lincoln family met with yet another heartbreak.

Thomas Lincoln III was born in Springfield on April 4, 1853, the fourth son of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. He was named for his grandfather who had brought the much younger Abraham Lincoln to Illinois in 1830 before settling in Coles County, where he died just two years before his namesake grandson was born.

BUDGET

CGFA reports receipts down in June 2021, up for FY21 as a whole. June 2021 marked the final month of FY21 (July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021), the fiscal year that just ended in the State of Illinois. The FY21 fiscal year was marked by a sharp upswing in unusual and one-time federal aid payments to state governments, local governments, and individual taxpayers. In some cases, Illinois households responded to these federal payments by spending more money and declaring higher personal taxable income. These trends were associated with the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic.
Babe Ruth, Al Simmons, and Earl Averill.
Photo from chicagology.com
Every July the best players in Major League Baseball meet for the annual clash between the National League and the American League in the All-Star Game. After a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic last year, next Tuesday’s game promises to be just as exciting as many of the 90 such matchups which have preceded it.

The mid-summer classic has featured some of the most memorable moments in baseball history: Reggie Jackson crushing a towering home run at Tiger Stadium, Carl Hubbell striking out five future Hall of Famers in a row at the Polo Grounds, and Pete Rose barreling into Illinois native Ray Fosse at Riverfront Stadium. Fans missed the annual gathering of baseball’s best in 2020 which has become such a part of the summer landscape – a run which goes all the way back to the first MLB All-Star game in Chicago in 1933.
A crowd gathered on the beach near Evanston to watch in horror at the unfolding tragedy just yards away.

Making its way into Chicago in the fog on September 8, 1860, the passenger ship Lady Elgin had collided with the lumber freighter Augusta just off the shore of Lake Michigan. Now the ship was going down within sight of land as hundreds of passengers and crew struggled to survive in the water.

Many of them did not make it. When it was all over, almost 300 had died in the sinking, just one of too many collisions happening on the lake near Chicago.
BUDGET

Slight upgrade to Illinois’ credit outlook. The three major New York-based bond-rating agencies agree that the State of Illinois has the lowest credit rating among the 50 states. Using the terminology published by two of the three rating agencies (Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings), Illinois has had a BBB- credit rating – the lowest level above “junk bond” territory – with a “negative outlook” for further changes. Any reduction in Illinois’ credit rating from BBB- would push the State’s general obligation (GO) debt, the bonds Illinois sells to finance a wide variety of day-to-day capital expenses, into the realm of non-investment-grade securities. 
Virginia Marmaduke (right) with the Eisenhowers at the
Illinois Pavilion during the New York World's Fair.
Photo from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. 
Right from the start of her distinguished journalism career, Virginia Marmaduke had been clear about what she wanted to do.

“I wanted to be a police reporter and cover blood, guts and sex,” she recalled. She did just that for nearly four decades, opening doors and redefining the roles women played in journalism in Illinois.

Marmaduke came along at a time when women journalists were often consigned to the entertainment beat or other similarly frivolous topics at their newspapers. But Virginia Marmaduke had no use for that: she was a hard news reporter, and that’s where she was determined to do her work.
BUDGET

Democrats change House Rules to clean up their budget mess. On Memorial Day, in the middle of the night, Illinois House Democrats voted for a new State budget that included $650 million in tax increases, legislator pay raises and a billion dollars in pork projects for Democrats’ legislative districts.

House Republicans have long argued that one of the root causes of Illinois’ fiscal chaos is the lack of transparency in the budgeting process. Budgets should be thoroughly vetted through both chambers of the General Assembly with a mandatory period for public comment. What absolutely should not happen is what we saw at the end of May, when the final amendment to a more than 3,000 page budget bill was filed just minutes before the House vote. 
When the final day of the June 1858 Illinois Republican state convention arrived the convention had already made history. But it was nothing compared to what was to come.

During the 19th century, before the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, United States Senators were chosen by state legislatures. The typical practice was for the new legislatures to be sworn in following the fall elections and then for each party or faction within the legislature to put forward its nominee for the Senate, should one of their state’s two senators’ terms have expired. The legislature would then vote on the nominees and select their senator.

Not surprisingly, the nominee of the party holding the most seats in the legislature usually won.
REDISTRICTING
Durkin, McConchie File Lawsuit to Challenge Legislative Maps. Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie filed a lawsuit this week in federal court to challenge the legislative maps 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).
William Butler Ogden seated center in a group portrait. 
Like many states west of the Appalachians in the early 19th century, most of Illinois’ early leaders were born elsewhere and then came to the western frontier to find new opportunities.

Our state’s first governor, Shadrach Bond, was born in Maryland. Our first senators, Jesse Thomas and Ninian Edwards started out in Virginia and Maryland respectively, and our first congressman, Daniel Pope Cook, was born in Kentucky.

They were not the only early Illinois leaders who made their way west in those days. Another such traveler who came to Illinois and became an early leader was the Walton, New York-born William Butler Ogden, who in 1837 became the first mayor of Chicago.
Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie filed a lawsuit today in federal court to challenge the legislative maps 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).
BUDGET

Democrats pass $42.3 billion budget full of pork, pay raises and higher taxes. Minutes before midnight on the May 31 deadline, House Democrats passed a $42.3 billion State budget for Fiscal Year 2022. Their budget adds a billion dollars in pork projects for Democrat districts, includes a nearly $1,200 pay raise for legislators, and raises taxes on Illinois businesses by more than $650 million. 
Fresh from the success of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition world’s fair, city leaders in Chicago sought a dramatic revitalization to bring their city into the new century. And they knew just who they wanted to lead the charge.

Daniel Burnham had been the Director of Works for the World’s Fair, but now he was approached by his fellow members of the Commercial Club of Chicago and presented with an even greater assignment.
When Abraham Lincoln arrived in the Illinois House of Representatives in 1835 he found himself squarely in the middle of a debate about transportation.

Lincoln was a supporter of U.S. House Speaker Henry Clay’s “American System,” a nationwide web of canals, roads and other infrastructure that would link the young and growing nation together. Lincoln had won his race for the House in part on a platform of building a canal on the Sangamon River to connect his New Salem constituents with faraway markets.
Illinois State Representatives Avery Bourne, Tim Butler, Dave Severin and Ryan Spain weigh-in on the legislative map drawing process in Illinois.


It’s amazing what you can find in your own back yard.

The Illinois astronomer George Ellery Hale became famous for developing new and better telescopes and lenses, thus opening the door to greater scientific discoveries and understanding of the universe. While he went down in history as the driving force behind such large observatories as the Yerkes Observatory just over the state line in Wisconsin, he did some of his finest work in the back yard of his family’s home in Chicago’s Kenwood neighborhood.

VETERANS
Top Pritzker officials refuse to accept responsibility for COVID-19 outbreak and 36 deaths at LaSalle Veterans Home. During a nearly four-hour hearing of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Thursday, several top Pritzker administration officials refused to accept responsibility for last November’s COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans Home, which resulted in the deaths of 36 residents. 
Illinois state lawmakers respond to 5 random shapes. Can you guess what they are?
In the middle part of the 19th century as more and more of the land was settled between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains the farmers faced a number of significant challenges.

Winters were colder than they were used to in the eastern United States, and summers were much hotter. Most supplies had to be brought in by train from distant cities. Lumber for building houses, plentiful in the east, was in short supply on the plains. The soil, while fertile, could only be reached by first breaking through an almost cement-like upper layer of sod. Finally some creative settlers figured out that the sod could be cut into blocks and repurposed for building houses, solving two problems at once.
REDISTRICTING

House Democrats go behind locked door to draw new district maps. Excerpted from a WCIA report this week: Our news cameras were rolling as dozens of House Democrats filed in and out of a locked door on the Capitol Complex grounds. Inside, members of House Speaker Chris Welch’s staff showed members one-by-one where the lines of their new districts could be drawn. 

Illinois State Representatives Tony McCombie and Patrick Windhorst answer questions about the House Republican Reimagine Illinois platform.


Reported by WCIA today: 

Our news cameras were rolling as dozens of House Democrats filed in and out of a locked door on the Capitol Complex grounds. Inside, members of House Speaker Chris Welch’s staff showed members one-by-one where the lines of their new districts could be drawn. 
Radio listeners and television watchers around the world are accustomed to broadcast interruptions for breaking news events. We have all seen the “breaking news” graphic and dramatic music which suddenly interrupt programming for coverage of everything from thunderstorm warnings to Presidential press conferences to the outbreak of wars.
“Yes, I will pledge to veto,” JB Pritzker said as a candidate in 2018 when asked if he would veto “any state legislative redistricting map proposal that is in any way drafted or created by legislators, political party leaders and/or their staffs or allies.”

He couldn’t have been more clear. “Yes, I will pledge to veto.”

Just in case anyone thought it needed clarification anyway, candidate Pritzker followed up in his answer to a questionnaire in the Northwest Herald: “I support ending the gerrymandering of districts to encourage more competitive elections.”
REDISTRICTING

Pritzker flip flops on independent map pledge. Gov. J.B. Pritzker backed away Tuesday from a campaign promise to veto any new legislative map that wasn’t drawn through an independent process, now saying that he trusts state lawmakers to be fair.

At a Springfield press conference this week, Governor Pritzker was asked about his veto pledge and this was his response: “Well as I said I will veto an unfair map. I have also said that in order for us to have an independent commission, we needed to have a constitutional amendment, something that would actually
Forty years ago this week the third Illinoisan to sit in the Oval Office delivered a remarkable address to a joint session of Congress. The address was noteworthy not so much for what was said, but because it was delivered at all. The speech marked the President’s full return to work after becoming the fifth American President to be shot by an assassin’s bullet; and the only one of the five to survive the shooting. He survived in part because of the heroics and sacrifice of two other Illinoisans.
REDISTRICTING REFORM
Hollow Democrat Promises for Fair Maps Highlight State’s Ethical Failings. Despite the past documented evidence of Illinois’ Democrat leaders, including Governor JB Pritzker and new House Speaker Chris Welch, stating support for a fair, transparent and non-partisan redistricting process, they continue to press on with the current partisan process. This week, Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, Assistant Minority Leader Tim Butler and Assistant Minority Leader Ryan Spain again laid bare the hollowness of Democrat leaders’ past promises and pointed to how it further exacerbates the cloud of corruption and public mistrust in the state.
Secretary of State Jesse White is warning Illinois residents to be on alert for a pair of scams seeking to defraud Illinoisans.

In the first scam, White is warning the public of scammers who are sending unsolicited text messages, claiming to be from the Illinois Secretary of State. The text messages contain vague references to “Problems with your information” and another reference to “*IL* Secretary of State.”