Week in Review: Reimagine Illinois, vaccine availability, jobs & more


Illinois House Republican Caucus Launches ‘Reimagine Illinois’ Platform. The Illinois House Republican caucus has launched a new comprehensive platform called Reimagine Illinois. The plan outlines House Republicans’ priorities for the 102nd General Assembly and asks Illinoisans to ‘Reimagine’ their State government if certain public policy goals are met. 
  • Imagine an Illinois where corruption isn’t making headlines and lawmakers are held accountable. Imagine an Illinois with a clean, honest, transparent State government.
  • Imagine an Illinois where leaders take their fiscal responsibility seriously, watching every penny instead of raising taxes, increasing spending, and piling up debt year-after-year.
  • Imagine an Illinois where every community has good paying jobs, access to healthcare and educational opportunities that work for all students.
  • Imagine an Illinois where all neighborhoods are free of senseless violence and our streets are safe places for our kids to grow up.
Reimagine Illinois consists of four components, each of which includes a list of introduced bills to reflect those initiatives:
  • Ending the culture of corruption
  • Responsible fiscal leadership
  • Growing jobs and opportunities for our families
  • Ensuring public safety
A multi-faceted website – ReimagineIllinois.com – includes various tools for the public to learn about the platform by downloading PDFs, watching member video summaries and signing a petition to get engaged.

House Republican Leader Jim Durkin says he is proud to lead a caucus with a bold vision and solid legislative agenda to achieve policy goals to improve Illinois.

“After the November election, I tasked a select group of members to collaborate and develop a path towards a better Illinois,” Durkin said. “Illinoisans made a strong, if not deafening, statement in November that they want real change, and the House Republicans listened. It’s time to reimagine Illinois, and make it a better place for all of us.”

State Rep. Mike Murphy says Reimagine Illinois reflects the values and concerns of working families across Illinois.

“The Reimagine Illinois platform will resonate across Illinois by addressing long standing problems that plague our state, including public safety concerns, access to critical health care needs, long-term debt and deficit issues, the highest combined taxes in the nation, and tackling public corruption,” Murphy said. “We can turn that around and restore faith in government, integrity, and strong financial leadership if we pass the ambitious legislative plan established in the Reimagine Illinois plan that will make our state the powerhouse of the Midwest it should be.” 

Last November, Illinois voters from all political spectrums sent a message to Springfield that they were done paying for the mistakes and corruption of politicians. A group of House Republican lawmakers from across the state, including Mike Murphy, Avery Bourne, Tom Bennett, Blaine Wilhour and Jeff Keicher, worked tirelessly to create a platform that reflected the House Republican principles.

State Rep. Avery Bourne says she is proud to stand with her colleagues to present a bold, detailed plan that will make Illinois a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

“The proposals we’re putting forward are realistic and common sense policies that reimagine Illinois as the best it can be for our families and businesses to grow and thrive here,” said Bourne. “Illinois can be successful if we adequately and honestly address our state’s biggest roadblocks to success. The House Republican caucus is putting forward viable solutions, and we are calling on our democratic counterparts to work with us to soundly address the systemic issues that got our state into the dire position we now face.”

Learn more about the platform at ReimagineIllinois.com.

House Republicans Demand Fiscal Accountability Amid Federal Bailout. In response to the $7.5 billion in federal aid approved for the State of Illinois and $6 billion for local governments, State Representatives Tom Demmer, Keith Wheeler, and C.D. Davidsmeyer recently discussed the dire need for transparency and accountability amid the newfound federal relief.

Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer, a member of the Legislative Budget Oversight Commission, called on Governor Pritzker to be transparent about where the new federal windfall will be spent, especially as the state budget picture for FY22 becomes clearer.

“These funds are a drop in the bucket in comparison to our outstanding liabilities and current backlog of bills,” Demmer said. “We need to keep in mind how we got into the fiscal situation we are in. These federal funds can’t be used to cover old habits of overspending, or justifying new spending: they must be directed as aid to the people of Illinois. They deserve responsible spending for the upcoming fiscal year.”

While the federal relief funds are significant, Rep. Davidsmeyer emphasized that in regards to the state’s current debt and fiscal outlook, lawmakers can’t lose sight of the reality of the state’s fiscal situation.

“Illinois voters rejected Governor Pritzker’s progressive tax in November because they want Illinois to learn to live within its means,” said Davidsmeyer. “Voters sent both Republicans and Democrats to Springfield to make tough decisions and to get Illinois back on track with a truly balanced budget. Bipartisan balanced budgets have passed the General Assembly when Republicans have been included in the negotiating process. It is time for both sides to come together to have legitimate talks on the future of our State, one of the biggest parts of which is paying our bills and passing a truly balanced budget.”

House Republicans backed significant business reform bills in 2019, including the Blue Collar Jobs Act, which Pritzker has refused to implement. For Rep. Wheeler, implementing this can make all the difference in the state’s revenue picture.

“Reinstating important business incentives will stimulate economic growth and create jobs,” said Wheeler. “This can have an immediate impact on our state revenue and budget, which we are in desperate need of. More importantly, Illinois’ working families need the opportunities provided by these high-wage construction jobs. The Governor has all the tools he needs to make this happen.”

The Blue Collar Jobs Act was part of a bipartisan package of legislation passed in 2019 that creates incentives for businesses and was scheduled to take effect January 1st, 2021.

Gov. Pritzker Announces Metrics-Based Pathway for Illinois to Fully Reopen; Expands Vaccine Eligibility to All Residents 16+ on April 12. On Thursday, March 18, Governor Pritzker and Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced a metrics-based, vaccination-informed framework for Illinois to advance to Phase 5 of the state’s Restore Illinois Plan, our new normal. In recognition of an increasing national vaccine supply and the state now averaging 100,000 vaccine administrations per day, Governor Pritzker also announced that all Illinois residents age 16+ will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 12th, with additional announcements to come about populations who will be made eligible prior to universal eligibility.

Currently, every region of the state is in Phase 4 of the five-phase Restore Illinois mitigation plan, with Phase 5 comprising a post-pandemic normalcy as detailed here. The newly announced metrics offer Illinois a bridge between the state’s current Phase 4 restrictions and the “new normal” operations of Phase 5. This “Bridge Phase” will serve as a transition period with higher capacity limits and increased business operations, without prematurely embracing a reckless reopening before the majority of Illinoisans have been vaccinated. All regions of the state will move through the Bridge Phase and ultimately to Phase 5, together. The state’s mask mandate will continue in accordance with current CDC guidance.

The bridge to Phase 5 allows for higher capacity limits at places like museums, zoos and spectator events as well as increased business operations. As with all mitigations the administration has implemented to combat the virus to date, the Bridge Phase is based on science and was developed by health experts.

To advance into the Bridge Phase, the entire state must reach a 70% first dose vaccination rate for residents 65 and over, maintain a 20% or lower ICU bed availability rate and hold steady on COVID-19 and COVID-like illness hospital admissions, mortality rate, and case rate over a 28-day monitoring period. To advance to Phase 5, the state must reach a 50% vaccination rate for residents age 16 and over and meet the same metrics and rates required to enter the transition phase, over an additional 28-day period.

To prevent a large increase in new COVID-19 cases, Illinois will revert back to an earlier phase if over the course of 10 days the state experiences an increasing trend in COVID-19 and COVID-like illness hospital admissions, a decrease in ICU bed availability, an increase in the mortality rate, and an increasing case rate.

In an update to current Phase 4 mitigations and the capacity limits of the bridge to Phase 5, individuals with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (PCR) 1-3 days prior to an event or outing do not count against capacity limits. The mitigation plan announced today also includes additional adjustments to current Phase 4 mitigations, made in coordination with business leaders and health experts, to ensure mitigations reflect the latest science and are consistent across industries.

As regulations are rolled back gradually in the weeks ahead, Illinoisans should continue practicing the public health guidelines that have kept us safe during the pandemic, including wearing face coverings and maintaining social distance.

Since the COVID-19 vaccine was first made available in Illinois last December, the state has administered over 4.3 million doses. Through partnerships with local health departments, pharmacies, community health centers and other care providers, the state is currently administering an average of 100,000 vaccines each day. So far, the state has administered the COVID-19 vaccine to more than 1 in 4 Illinois adults over the age of 16, including over 58% of Illinoisans ages 65 and over.

Thanks to an increased allocation of vaccine doses from the federal government, all Illinois residents will be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning April 12th. At that date, all state-supported mass vaccination sites, local health departments, pharmacy partners – in short, every jurisdiction that receives vaccine from the State of Illinois’ allocation – will be instructed to move to widespread eligibility.

Currently, all vaccines are administered by appointment only. While vaccine eligibility is expanding on April 12th, making an appointment to receive a shot may take time. Information regarding vaccination locations as well as details on how to book an appointment to receive the vaccine can be found at the state’s COVID website, coronavirus.illinois.gov. Residents who don’t have access to or need assistance navigating online services can call the toll-free IDPH hotline at 833-621-1284 to book an appointment. The hotline is open 7 days a week from 6am to midnight with agents available in English and Spanish.

Illinoisans who are not currently eligible to receive the vaccine cannot schedule an appointment for a future date. Residents are encouraged to be patient in the days and weeks following April 12th as vaccination appointments may be limited.

To date, the FDA has authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in 16- and 17-year-olds as well as adults. The Johnson & Johnson and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are currently FDA authorized for use in those 18 and older.

With financing in hand, Rivian plans to open New York City showroom. With planning underway for a post-pandemic economy, motor vehicle maker Rivian wants to highlight the electric-powered light truck chassis it plans to assemble at the former Diamond-Star plant in Bloomington, Illinois. The firm has signed a lease for 12,000 square feet in booming Williamsburg, a neighborhood in downtown Brooklyn. The space will serve as a consumer showroom for Rivian vehicles.

Up until now, publicity for Rivian has centered on commercial vehicles, especially the electric-powered delivery vans that the factory expects to make for Amazon. However, the Rivian chassis can also be used as a platform for the firm’s R1S sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and R1T pickup trucks. These “Launch Edition” consumer vehicles are slated to be shown to potential buyers in the showroom.

History indicates that a New York City sales presence can be a necessary element in successfully selling a new brand of motor vehicle to the public. In the 1920s, startup carmaker Walter Chrysler used this pathway to introduce a new line of passenger cars. The first Chryslers were sporty roadsters with a similar price point and more power than the Ford ‘Model T,’ which was nearing the end of its life cycle. The Chrysler showroom was so successful that the owner built a skyscraper, the 1929 Chrysler Building, on top of it.

U of I men’s basketball team wins Big Ten championship, heads to NCAA tourney as a #1 seed. After a triumphant season, the University of Illinois men’s basketball team won the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis last weekend, beating Ohio State. This came after the Fighting Illini won 14 of their last 15 season-closing games. The conference championship, when added to the U of I’s winning streak and overall standing in the regular season, led to the team’s selection as a No. 1 seed in “March Madness,” the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. In the final Associated Press (AP) Top 25 ranking of men’s basketball college teams nationwide, the Fighting Illini jumped to the nationwide No. 2 ranking.

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