Week in Review: Census, Crops, State Fair & more


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.
Release of Census numbers for each state, and for the counties and municipalities within a state, should serve as a launching point for the redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts that each state must perform every ten years. However, in a highly partisan move, Illinois Democrats enacted new redistricting maps in May 2021. In a move not supported by federal law or case law, the new Illinois maps used pre-Census statistical guesstimate numbers to assume where Illinoisans were living and how they should be represented. Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin is leading a multi-plaintiff lawsuit to strike down the partisan-drawn maps. If the guesstimate maps are struck down, it would be possible for a nonpartisan process to use the actual Illinois Census numbers released this week to draw a series of maps that would be fair to all Illinoisans. The true Illinois U.S. Census numbers were released on Thursday, August 12.

Equity-based lawsuit against gerrymandered map. In late May, the Illinois General Assembly passed a series of maps along partisan lines. If these maps are allowed to stand in court, Illinois voters must use them to elect their state representatives, state senators, judges, and justices of the state Supreme Court. The maps contain gerrymandered districts, which contain boundary lines that reward political insiders from the Democrat supermajorities. In addition, the maps were based upon pre-Census statistical guesses about where Illinoisans live and where their addresses are. The use of these guesses arguably violates one-person-one-vote, a principle which any electoral district map must meet. Non-one-person maps must be declared unconstitutional in federal court.

In a pair of equity-based lawsuits, Illinois Republican leaders have been joined by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). MALDEF has amended their complaint to include the names of individual plaintiffs who have been harmed by the partisan maps. While existing case law grants a wide variety of standing to the Illinois Republicans and to MALDEF in their complaints against the partisan maps, by including the names of individual voters and by asserting specific harms to individual plaintiffs, MALDEF has buttressed their standing and reinforced the justice of the overall claim to relief. The MALDEF-amended complaint sets forth the names of five individually named plaintiffs who live at addresses that subject them to malapportionment. By striking down the partisan maps, a federal court can grant relief to these individual plaintiffs and to the state of Illinois.

Delta variant infections climb. In a seven-day tabulation of Illinois COVID-19 cases, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) this week reported a case positivity ratio of 5.0% and a test positivity ratio of 5.8%. These numbers are once again rising past the 5.0% benchmark used to gauge the need for mitigation measures. A dominant number of new Illinois COVID-19 cases are connected to the newly identified Delta variant, which is more contagious than earlier variants. Illinois health care providers have so far counted more than 1.45 million cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, and almost 2% of them – 23,575 deaths definitively tied to coronavirus, and 2,500 deaths probably caused by the virus – have resulted in death.

Persons who have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 are extremely susceptible to the Delta variant. Persons who have been vaccinated are mildly susceptible to the variant. The State of Illinois has opened an online portal, “Vax Verify,” to allow State residents to access their vaccination status. As health providers are not authorized to vaccinate children under the age of 12 for COVID-19, the back-to-school weeks of 2021 are one of the most dangerous times of the pandemic for children across the U.S. With the Delta variant now dominant, Illinois hospitals are reporting an increase in the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19. Parents and children can reduce risks by always wearing facemasks indoors, especially in social settings such as school buildings.

USDA report shows continued good crop conditions across much of Illinois. Adequate June and July rainfall is credited for the current status of the two key cash crops, corn and soybeans. As of the first full week of August, Illinois corn growing conditions were rated 79% good-to-excellent, 15% fair, and 6% poor or very poor. Soybean conditions were rated 78% good-to-excellent, 16% fair, and 6% poor or very poor. Much of Illinois land, particularly sandy or poorly drained field land, is used as pastureland for cattle, horses, and other grazing animals. Pasture conditions were rated 73% good-to-excellent, 17% fair, and 10% poor or very poor. The USDA report covered Illinois crop and pastureland conditions through Sunday, August 8.

Officer Ella French killed on duty with the Chicago Police Department. The tragic shooting death of Officer French occurred on the night of Saturday, August 7 in Chicago’s West Englewood neighborhood. Surveillance video shows a standard traffic-stop incident escalating into homicide. A second officer was critically injured with a bullet in his brain. Several suspects were charged in federal court in the shooting incident, including the gunman and a person charged with procuring the firearm.

New law creates Move Over Early Warning Task Force. In bipartisan action to improve protection for state and local law enforcement, the Illinois General Assembly passed HB 3656. Signed into law this week, the bill’s legal language toughens the Vehicle Code concerning the act of approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying flashing emergency lighting. When a warning light is flashing, regardless of whatever other conditions may be present, the approaching motorist must reduce speed, maintain a safe speed for road conditions, proceed with due caution, be prepared to stop, and leave a safe distance until safely past the stationary emergency vehicle.

The new law also creates a new 14-member Move Over Early Warning Task Force. This executive commission, which will be headed by the Director of the Illinois State Police or by his or her designee, will hold hearings and report in calendar years 2022 and 2023 on ways and means to improve first-responder moving-over implementation and enforcement. The State Police has already begun enforcement and public education on highway first-responder moving over. Illinois’ move over law is named “Scott’s Law” to honor Chicago Fire Department Lieutenant Scott Gillen, who was struck and killed by a DUI driver on the Dan Ryan Expressway on December 23, 2000.

Sports wagering Illinois signups must be done in person, but this could change soon. Under the terms of the Sports Wagering Act, passed in 2019, Illinoisans who want to bet on sporting events are asked to go to a physical location and sign up. The process of physical registration as a sports bettor includes familiarization with the sports-betting rooms and physical setups operated by casinos and horse racetracks across Illinois. The casinos hope that bettors will have intense experiences and will continue to bet on sporting events in person, as is done in the sports wire rooms of Las Vegas.

However, this may soon change. State law also provides for a second wave of sports wagering licenses, including three licenses reserved for app firms that do not have to have a physical presence in Illinois. The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) has put these new licenses out for bids. An industry source believes that on the current timeline, Illinois could move to electronic-only sports wagering as soon as the first half of 2022. Two major electronic sports wagering firms, DraftKings and FanDuel, have already signed deals to affiliate themselves with casinos and horse racetracks as signup locations.

Illinois’ flagship summer festival begins. The Illinois State Fair is being held under pandemic conditions, with fairgoers urged to maintain social distancing with each other. Facemasks will be required in indoor State Fair spaces, and facemasks and proof of vaccination or negative COVID test results will be required at Grandstand shows. Print or digital copies of a vaccine card will be accepted.

Many of the Fair’s events take place outdoors in settings of social distancing, and current public health information indicates that the now-familiar coronavirus does not travel far in non-confined spaces. Tickets are available for the Fair’s entertainment headliners. After a break in 2020, the Illinois State Fair reopened on Thursday, August 12. Illinois will celebrate its State Fair through the third week of August, through Sunday, August 22.

Amazon to open an e-commerce distribution center in North Pekin. The Amazon Fulfillment Center will be adjacent to Illinois State Highway 98. Nearby is Interstate 474, the four-lane highway that also serves the Greater Peoria Regional Airport. Selected as the physical focus of the new Center was an existing 100,000-square-foot warehouse that will be renovated to serve its new purpose. The new center, which should open in mid-2022, will allow rapid distribution of goods throughout a targeted region. Similar distribution centers elsewhere in the U.S. employ between 250 and 500 people.

Spokespersons for units of local government said that neither the village of North Pekin nor Tazewell County had offered significant financial incentives to Amazon in exchange for the siting decision and job creation. Illinois’ “horizontal infrastructure,” including its road system, appeared to have been a major factor in the siting decision.