Week in Review: Redistricting, Reimagine Illinois, ethic reform & more

Reps. Butler and Bourne Join U.S. Congressman Davis to Urge Pritzker to Keep His Word, Veto Redistricting Map Drawn By Lawmakers. U.S. Representative Rodney Davis joined State Representatives Tim Butler and Avery Bourne in a press conference Monday at the Illinois State Capitol to discuss the current status of legislative redistricting in Illinois and highlight Governor J.B. Pritzker’s pledge to veto any redistricting map that is drawn by lawmakers. Both Reps. Butler and Bourne serve on the Illinois House Redistricting Committee. Rep. Butler is the lead Republican on the Committee.

“Governor Pritzker ran on a crystal clear commitment to veto any redistricting plan that was drawn by lawmakers,” said Rep. Davis. “That is exactly the type of redistricting process we have happening right now, and the Governor has been AWOL on this issue since the public hearings on redistricting began. The Governor has an obligation to the people of Illinois to keep that pledge and veto whatever map the General Assembly sends to his desk. There’s widespread, bipartisan agreement that politicians shouldn’t be able to pick their own voters. It’s not too late for the General Assembly to establish an independent commission to draw district boundaries for both state legislative and Congressional districts. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s what the people of Illinois want.”

“Redistricting is well underway in Illinois, and Governor Pritzker has yet to speak out on the partisan process the Democrats in the majority are currently taking, even though the Governor campaigned on and made a pledge to veto a map drawn by lawmakers,” said Rep. Butler. “The Governor or a representative from the Governor’s Office must testify at one of our upcoming public hearings because the Governor has an integral role in redistricting. Under current law, the Governor must take executive action on the map that is sent to his desk. The people of Illinois deserve to know if the Governor will keep his pledge and veto the map the Democrats send him.”

“Governor Pritzker should stand by his campaign pledge to veto any legislative map that is drawn by politicians or their staff and political allies,” said Rep. Bourne. “This is our opportunity to provide a truly independent process that results in fair representation for all residents of Illinois, but it won’t happen if the Governor isn’t willing to keep his word.”

Redistricting of state legislative and Congressional district boundaries occurs after each decennial census. You can find information on redistricting and reform efforts Illinois here. State lawmakers are currently conducting public hearings on redistricting and have signaled they plan to pass a redistricting plan through the General Assembly prior to June 30.

In 2018, then-candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker was asked this redistricting question by Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller: “This requires only a simple yes or no response: Will you pledge as governor to 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? The exception, of course, would be the final official draft by LRB.”

Pritzker’s response was: “Yes, I will pledge to veto. We should amend the constitution to create an independent commission to draw legislative maps, but in the meantime, I would urge Democrats and Republicans to agree to an independent commission to handle creating a new legislative map. That designated body should reflect the gender, racial, and geographic diversity of the state and look to preserve the Voting Rights Act decisions to ensure racial and language minorities are fully represented in the electoral process.”

Since his election and inauguration, Gov. Pritzker has somewhat walked back his clear pledge to veto any map drawn by legislators. His position more recently has been that he “will veto a partisan map” or he would veto a map that he “thought was an unfair one.”

Every Democrat in Illinois’ Congressional delegation voted in favor of H.R. 1, the Democrats’ massive elections bill that grants the federal government more control over the elections process. One provision in H.R. 1 establishes independent redistricting commissions nationwide for the drawing of Congressional districts and also bans partisan gerrymandering.

Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly have proposed an independent redistricting commission that would empower the Illinois Supreme Court to appoint 16 citizen commissioners to determine the legislative district boundaries.

House Republicans call for jobs, opportunities for Illinois families. Reversing Illinois’ current population decline will require action on four priorities:
  • Encouraging investment across Illinois
  • Caring for families, including healthcare and child care
  • Establishing an apprenticeship education program
  • Eliminating overregulation and mandates
Investment, incentives, and new pathways of job training will help create new job opportunities throughout Illinois. Apprenticeship education will provide young adults with experience relevant to the job world of the 21st century. Work on specialized, credentialed jobs, with predictable hours, helps millions of American workers purchase their first homes, raise families and live the American dream.

General Assembly’s CGFA publishes FY22 capital plan analysis. Illinois annually appropriates more than $25 billion to pay for debt-financed capital infrastructure projects. Well more than thee-quarters of these dollars represent reappropriations, which are continuing authorizations to fund previously approved, multi-year projects and each annual slice of the whole is funded when the time comes. New projects are funded with new appropriations, and Gov. Pritzker’s Office of Management and Budget is asking the General Assembly to appropriate more than $4.2 billion in new Capital Plan spending in FY22, the fiscal year that will start on July 1, 2021. The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) published their FY22 Capital Plan analysis on Wednesday, April 7.

Illinois capital plan spending is largely funded by debt. Many of the bonds are sold to fund improvements in Illinois’ network of roads, highways, bridges, and mass transit. Other bonds are sold for other defined-purpose infrastructure needs. These transportation and defined-capital-purpose bonds are issued by the State of Illinois, but many of them are different from the “General Obligation” (GO) debt securities often used to borrow money for non-transportation purposes. In the case of infrastructure-related State debt, particularly bonds sold to rebuild roads and bridges, the bonds are often backed by a funding stream that is separate from general revenue. This separate funding stream creates added assurance that these debts will be serviced and repaid. By far the most significant funding source for Illinois transportation debts is the tax Illinois collects on the sale of motor fuel at gas stations. In FY21, Illinois collects a motor fuel tax of 38.7 cents per gallon on gasoline or gasohol. Corresponding taxes are charged and collected on diesel fuel, LPG gas, and other fossil fuels used to power vehicles.

One of the duties of CGFA staff is to compare Illinois’ debt burden with the burdens borne by taxpayers in other U.S. states. Illinois residents may have noticed that some of the states that border Illinois have lower debts, lower motor fuel tax rates, and charge their residents less to drive around. As of the most recently available figures (calendar year 2019), CGFA reports that Illinois was 7th among the 50 states in terms of debt per capita, with each Illinois resident bearing a burden of $2,635 in per capita debt outstanding. These are securities that must be paid with interest from taxes levied in Illinois. The national average of state debt per capita was $1,506, a burden $1,129 less than Illinois.

All Illinois residents age 16 and up are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) announced this week that there is now universal eligibility to make an appointment for vaccination. Universal access came into effect on Monday, April 12. Illinoisans no longer need to present proof of age, frontline job status, or pre-existing conditions to be vaccinated. More than 1,000 vaccination locations are now operating throughout Illinois

Several separate variants of the coronavirus are now circulating, and the most contagious variants are outrunning the slower ones. These variants, including the so-called “Brazilian variant,” are now established in Illinois. Diagnosis numbers and patient numbers show that these variants are associated with a so-called “fourth surge” of COVID-19throughout Illinois. Public health experts continue to urge all Illinoisans, including those who have been vaccinated, to continue to wear facemasks in public spaces and to maintain social distancing.

Major energy project coming to Decatur. Sen. Chapin Rose and Representative Dan Caulkins say that news of the groundbreaking zero-emission “Broadwing” facility coming to Decatur is a big deal for the local economy.

“This is huge. Decatur’s local business and civic leaders did a great job landing this clean energy production facility. This is the type of facility that brings desperately-needed, high paying jobs at a critical time for the community,” said Rose. “Earlier this year I filed legislation aimed at growing even more jobs around proven carbon-capture technology, which I hope can springboard off of the momentum from Broadwing.”

The Broadwing Clean Energy Complex will be one of the world’s first Allam-Fetvedt cycle power plants, which will combust natural gas with oxygen. The process, combined with ADM’s proven carbon capture and storage technology, will allow the plant to produce zero atmospheric emissions.

“Any time we can bring more high-paying jobs to Decatur is a win for our community,” said Rep. Caulkins. “This power plant will be one of two pollution free power plants of its kind built in the United States. This new technology will highlight the unique position Illinois is in with carbon capture and lead to more opportunities in the future. This is another victory for Decatur, ADM and Richland Community College. I welcome Broadwing and the jobs it will bring to central Illinois.”

The facility will be a joint project between 8 Rivers Capital, ADM, and Warwick Capital. The partners estimate that the project has the potential to displace more than 1 million tons of CO2 per year released from existing generators, providing a boost toward the state’s efforts to provide 100% clean electricity. They estimate that the facility will generate more than one thousand direct and indirect jobs. Operations at the facility could begin as soon as 2025.

House Republicans discuss urgent need for reforms. Republican lawmakers on Thursday pumped up the pressure on their Democratic counterparts to pass ethics reform bills that legislators have proposed in the aftermath of recent federal indictments.

Speaking at a news conference in Springfield, Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield), Rep. Amy Elik (R-Alton) and Rep. David Welter (R-Morris) pointed to a lack of substantive action on what they viewed as significant issues, ranging from property tax reform to an ethics overhaul.

Pointing to a pledge House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside) made in January to be open and accessible and willing to “work together to solve the very serious issues in this state,” Elik noted just 45 days remain until lawmakers adjourn for the year.

“The Democrat-controlled legislature has failed to put forth any meaningful or substantive legislation dealing with fighting corruption, providing tax relief and unfortunately no plan put forth to adopt a balance budget,” Elik said.

She noted only 18 percent of the 697 bills that have been approved by House committees were sponsored by Republicans.

“It doesn’t appear that the House Democratic leadership wants to ‘work together to solve the very serious issues in this state’,” Elik said. “It appears to be the opposite. Just more of the same: Democrats pushing their own agenda, conducting their business the way [former House Speaker] Mike Madigan taught them.”

Illinois unemployment rate fell in March 2021. The Illinois unemployment rate fell to 7.1% for March 2021, a drop of 30 basis points from the 7.4% unemployment rate notched in February.

While the March 2021 numbers represented continued improvement in the employment picture of Illinois, the Prairie State continued to underperform both its near neighbor states and the U.S. economy as a whole. The nationwide preliminary unemployment rate for March 2021 was 6.09%. Furthermore, Illinois’ March 2021 unemployment rate was nearly double the number counted in March 2020, the last partially pre-pandemic month, when joblessness was 3.7% in Illinois.

Illinois saw rising employment in March 2021 in several specified fields that had been hard-hit in 2020. Nonfarm payrolls were up 32,200 jobs in March. Leisure and Hospitality gained 13,700 jobs statewide. Spurred by a booming housing sector, Construction gained 6,300 jobs in March. The Government public sector shrank by 2,600 jobs during the month.

LaSalle Veterans Home lawsuit filed against Pritzker administration. The legal action was filed by the executor of Richard John Cieski Sr., a U.S. veteran who had been a patient in a group home operated by the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. The LaSalle facility had been set up to provide multistage care for U.S. veterans, and their spouses, with multiple pre-existing chronic health conditions. Although patients in this category had already been known to be especially at risk from the COVID-19 coronavirus, the lawsuit alleges that the Illinois Veterans Home did not take sufficient care to prevent the spread of the contagious virus. When the Korean War veteran died on November 15, 2020, COVID-19-related pneumonia was listed as the cause of death.

The Cieski estate’s lawsuit is believed to be the first initiated by a plaintiff seeking recompense for alleged negligence at LaSalle, but other litigation is expected. Thirty-six U.S. veterans died at LaSalle in November and December. Other COVID-19 deaths have taken place at two of the three other veterans homes operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Forty-six death certificates, associated with State veterans’ homes in Quincy and Manteno, list the coronavirus. A joint report published in March 2021 by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, with the cooperation of two State agencies, showed that all four State veterans homes lacked implementation of standardized infection prevention practices.

Get the Week in Review emailed directly to your inbox! Sign up today to get a first-hand look at the continuing legislative and fiscal challenges facing policymakers in Springfield.