CAPITOL RECAP: Johnson & Johnson vaccines on hold

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By Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD -- On advice of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois will pause distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson.

The federal agencies made that recommendation Tuesday, April 13, after reporting rare and severe blood clots in six people who had taken the vaccine. The CDC and FDA are reviewing the data regarding those cases.

In a news release, the Illinois Department of Public Health advised that the move was “out of an abundance of caution.” The CDC and FDA said such complications with the vaccine “appear to be extremely rare.”

In a news release, the CDC and FDA said Tuesday the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices had a Wednesday meeting to “further review these cases and assess their potential significance.” The committee took no action to lift the pause Wednesday.

The blood clots were reported in six women aged 18-48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination, according to the CDC. More than 6.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses have been administered across the country thus far.

Those who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should contact their health care provider, according to the CDC and FDA release.

The state also said in a news release that the “vast majority” of vaccines being administered in Illinois were developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech. Of the allocation for this week, only 17,000 doses were Johnson & Johnson. For next week, the state said it expects to receive 483,720 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine, of which 5,800 doses are expected to be Johnson & Johnson.

“In order to keep appointments, IDPH is strongly advising providers to use Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines,” IDPH said in a news release.

Gov. JB Pritzker received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine on March 24 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

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ELECTED CHICAGO SCHOOL BOARD: A bill which would implement an elected Chicago school board passed the Illinois House Thursday, while opponents of the legislation continued to push for compromise amendments.

House Bill 2908 would create elections for 21 Chicago school board members in the 2023 and 2027 consolidated primary elections. Currently, the seven sitting Chicago Board of Education members are appointed by the Mayor.

The proposed bill would divide the city into 20 electoral districts to be determined by the General Assembly, with one member to be elected at-large to serve as school board president. 

Proponents of the bill, including chief sponsor Delia Ramirez, D-Chicago, said the proposal would bring fairness and democracy to the city of Chicago, the only school district in the state without an elected school board.

The bill received no support from Republican members in the House, despite having received support from GOP lawmakers when similar bills were proposed in recent years.

Republican leader Jim Durkin and other House members, including Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, raised concerns that the mayor’s office had not been involved enough in the current version of the bill, and argued that additional guidance would be necessary. 

The Senate Executive Committee passed an elected school board bill as well Wednesday, Senate Bill 2497. According to the Sun-Times, chief senate sponsor Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, said he was open to possible amendments, while Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford suggested continued negotiations with the Mayor’s office would be necessary.

Opponents in that committee argued for a hybrid elected school board, with at least a portion of the board members being elected with the rest being appointed by the Mayor.

Lightford filed an amendment to Senate Bill 827 Wednesday establishing a hybrid of elected and appointed Chicago school board members. By 2028, that bill would transition the school board to having 11 members, eight of them appointed by the mayor and three of them elected.

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FELONY FOR KILLING POLICE DOG: Lawmakers advanced a bill Thursday to make it a felony offense if a person kills or injures a police animal while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Rep. Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, sponsored House Bill 3019, which passed with 72 votes in favor. He said it was brought to him by a state’s attorney from his district.

“We had an unfortunate circumstance of a drunk driver who hit a police safety vehicle, instantly killing a rescue canine that was within that vehicle,” Sosnowski said. “Unfortunately what came out of this was that there's actually nothing that could be charged to that particular drunk driver if nothing else had happened.”

The driver was charged with driving under the influence in that circumstance, Sosnowski said. But no charges could be brought for killing the police dog.

Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, spoke against the bill on the floor for creating a new category of felony for causing death or injury of a service animal while driving under the influence. The bill also applies to search and rescue or service animals.

“If a driver is drunk and they hit a dog, they can get charged with a DUI irrespective of the current law right – irrespective of the law you’re proposing?” Guzzardi said. “If you're drunk, you can get charged with a DUI. You're proposing an increase from like a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony, is that what you're suggesting?”

Sosnowski confirmed that is what the bill would do if the police or rescue animal is killed or injured.

Guzzardi opposed the bill on the grounds of its creation of a new felony offense, and several other Democrats joined him in voting against the measure.

The bill will head to the state Senate for further consideration.

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OTHER HOUSE ACTION: The House on Thursday, April 15, also approved a bill to require public universities and community colleges to make feminine hygiene products available free of charge in restrooms owned and operated by the institutions of higher learning. The schools must make tampons and sanitary napkins available in the bathrooms of education buildings.

That measure, House Bill 641, passed with no debate by a vote of 76-31 and will head to the Senate for further consideration.

House Bill 24, sponsored by Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, would require public schools that teach sex education for grades 6-12 to include “age-appropriate” education on the impacts of “sexting,” or sending or receiving sexually explicit images electronically.

That education would include the discussion of “the possible long-term legal, social, academic, and other consequences that may result from possessing sexual content.”

That measure passed with 115 votes in favor and none against, sending it to the Senate.

The measures were two among dozens that were approved Thursday on the House’s third day of session since returning to the Capitol this week.

Others included approval of a measure creating an elected Chicago school board, regulating trampoline parks and allowing the department of Healthcare and Family Services to reimburse providers via Medicaid for epilepsy treatments given via telehealth.

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FOID MODERNIZATION: A bipartisan group of lawmakers are backing legislation that seeks to modernize the way the Illinois State Police processes and issues Firearm Owners Identification cards and Concealed Carry Licenses, a change that supporters say would speed up the process and improve public safety.

Senate Bill 1165, and its companion, House Bill 745, would essentially turn FOID cards and Concealed Carry Licenses into a single card so when someone renews their Concealed Carry License, their FOID card would automatically renew.

It would also provide for automatic renewals for people who voluntarily agree to submit fingerprints. And it calls on ISP to develop an internet portal in which state, local and federal law enforcement agencies could access information about people whose FOID cards have been revoked or suspended.

ISP Director Brendan Kelly said the agency was inundated with new and renewal FOID card applications last year, which he attributed in part to the “social tensions caused by civil unrest and the global pandemic.” From 2017 to 2020, he said, FOID card applications grew 167 percent, from roughly 166,000 to 460,000.

The surge in applications over the last year stretched ISP’s resources, resulting in a massive backlog of applications that have not been processed within the required 30-day time frame.

Kelly said the agency has made significant progress in reducing that backlog, primarily by hiring additional staff and improving internal processes to be more efficient, but he said the entire system needs to be modernized to meet current demands.

The bill had support from at least five Republican lawmakers as cosponsors as of Wednesday afternoon.

Gun safety advocates, on the other hand, said in a statement that the bill does very little to improve public safety, mainly because it does not include provisions such as universal background checks and required fingerprint checks for all gun purchases.

Kelly, however, defended Illinois’ current FOID card system, noting that in calendar year 2020 alone, more than 15,000 FOID cards were revoked and more than 5,100 unlawful attempts to purchase firearms were stopped.

Kelly also said the agency is not requesting any change in the fee structure for either license.

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HIV CRIMINAL PENALTIES: The Illinois House passed a bill Wednesday, April 14, to decriminalize transmission of HIV, sending it to the Senate.

An amendment to House Bill 1063, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Carol Ammons, of Urbana, changes several Illinois statutes related to persons living with HIV/AIDS and its transmission.

Under current Illinois law, a person who transmits HIV to another person can be charged with “criminal transmission of HIV.”

The AIDS Confidentiality Act, meant to protect Illinoisans from having an HIV-positive status disclosed or used against them, contains exceptions allowing law enforcement officials to subpoena or petition for the HIV status of criminal defendants in order to determine whether they should be charged for potential criminal transmission.

Ammons’ legislation would repeal existing laws allowing law enforcement or state’s attorneys to access the HIV status of an individual and would remove criminal statutes for the transmission of HIV completely. She said it’s the only sexually transmitted infection penalized by law.

Witnesses testifying in support of the bill told the committee that the criminal statute has been used in 22 cases since 2012, and fewer than 10 times since 2017.

Tom Hughes, executive director of the Illinois Public Health Association, said the criminalization of HIV status poses a significant obstacle to public health by incentivizing people to not get tested or disclose their status to their partner out of fear of criminalization.

Ultimately, Republicans on the committee joined the Democratic majority to send the legislation to the House floor in a 17-0 vote.

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LEADER TERM LIMITS A bill which would implement term limits on leadership roles in the Illinois General Assembly advanced out of committee Wednesday.

House Bill 642, introduced by Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, would bar any individual from serving more than 10 consecutive years in a leadership position in the General Assembly, including speaker of the House, president of the Senate and minority leader positions in each chamber.

The bill, if signed into law, would take effect for all legislators taking office on or after the second Wednesday in January 2023.

While the Illinois House and Senate both passed term limits on party leadership in their respective chamber rules in January, DeLuca said his bill would be important to enforce the new rules via state law.

“We heard the word historic quite a bit when leadership term limits (were) approved in our House rules,” DeLuca said. “This is really taking it to an entirely new level.”

The changes in rules regarding party leadership come on the heels of former Speaker Michael Madigan’s ousting following his record 36 years as speaker of the Illinois House between 1983 and his resignation in January of this year.

DeLuca credited new Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch, of Hillside, who was selected by his House Democratic colleagues to replace Madigan in January, for helping push for term limits.

The bill passed the House Executive Committee Wednesday by a 12-0 vote.

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SEXUAL ASSAULT PROTECTIONS: House Bill 1732, introduced by Rep. Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia, expands protections for sexual assault survivors by amending the Civil No Contact Order Act. That law allows for “victims of non-consensual sexual conduct or penetration” to a receive a court order protecting that person, their family, household or someone providing them services from having contact with the perpetrator of the crime.

HB 1732 already passed committee unanimously last month, but Hirschauer brought it back with an amendment. The version that passed previously allowed for family or household members of the victim to file the petition on their behalf.

Hirschauer’s amendment to her bill, which she presented to the committee Tuesday, April 13, requires a statement verifying that the victim consented to the petition for it to be filed this way. It also advanced to the House floor in a unanimous 17-0 vote.

Senate Bill 2277, which appeared before the Illinois Senate Criminal Law Committee on Tuesday, would also make civil no contact orders filed against those convicted of criminal sexual assault permanent instead of lasting 2 years. That measure was also passed committee unanimously.

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‘ELECTRIFYING ILLINOIS’ REPORT: A national clean energy trade organization has released a report showing growth in electric transportation-related jobs in Illinois could position the state to lead the domestic supply chain.

Advanced Energy Economy, an industry association which promotes advanced energy technologies and services, released its “Electrifying Illinois” report which shows the state is on pace to reach 83 percent job growth in electric transportation-related work by 2024, regardless of legislative action. 

The report was funded by the AEE and prepared by the research group BW Research Partnership with a focus on examining economic and job opportunities as the automotive industry transitions to electric.

The anticipated growth would drive the workforce numbers up from the current 5,200 workers in Illinois to roughly 9,500 workers within the next three years, or less than three years, according to the study, which used multiple data collection methods to analyze the state’s electric vehicle supply chain.

Daniel Bloom, who leads legislative campaigns across the Midwest for AEE, said this projected growth is a “conservative estimate.”

There were roughly 27,000 total electric vehicles registered in Illinois as of March 2021, Bloom said. AEE recommends the state reach 1.2 million electric vehicles by 2030, but “policymakers can accelerate this transition by taking the right steps in legislation this spring,” Bloom said.

The report outlines a number of policy recommendations, many of which align with Gov. JB Pritzker's eight principles for a clean and renewable Illinois economy, which were released in August. AEE was a part of a working group for the governor’s office in the fall.

Some of AEE’s recommendations include establishing a tax credit for electric vehicle companies that relocate to Illinois or are located downstate, and initiating a regulatory process to emphasize building out “make-ready” charging infrastructure.

Transportation accounted for about 28.2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2018, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, making it the largest contributor of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

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VETERAN DEATH LAWSUIT: A wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a Korean War veteran who contracted COVID-19 at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home accuses the facility of negligent care that violated state law.

Richard John Cieski Sr. was one of 36 veterans who died last year during the COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle home that began in November.

Lawyers for Cieski’s estate said this legal action is the first civil lawsuit seeking to hold the state, the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the LaSalle facility responsible for a COVID-19 related death at the state-run veterans home.

His estate seeks a $2 million judgment for the alleged negligence that his lawyers argue violated state law and caused Cieski’s death.

In a statement, a spokesperson for IDVA said, “We are deeply saddened by the deaths of our residents due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and our hearts are with their families. Unfortunately, we cannot comment further due to pending litigation.”

Cieski died Nov. 15, at age 90, with COVID-19-related pneumonia listed as his cause of death, the lawsuit states. He has been living at the LaSalle facility since May 2017, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit argues that the facility was negligent in its medical care and treatment of Cieski in violation of the state Nursing Home Care Act.

It claims that the LaSalle facility did not provide health care services consistent with guidance issued by the state and federal health authorities, did not adequately supply or properly use personal protective equipment, and did not take the necessary steps to provide medical care to patients with COVID-19 or to prevent further transmission of the virus.

The lawsuit comes after a joint report issued last month from two state agencies and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that found all four of the state-run veterans homes lacked standardized infection prevention policies.

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AG NETWORK ‘COMPROMISED:’ Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced Tuesday, April 13, that his agency's office internet network was discovered to be "compromised" on Saturday, according to a news release.

“In the early hours of Saturday morning, it was discovered that the office’s network was compromised. Since then, information technology staff and investigators from the Attorney General’s office have been working closely with federal law enforcement authorities to evaluate the extent to which the network was compromised,” Raoul said in the release.

 “This investigation is ongoing, and I am committed to resolving this situation as soon as possible to ensure that the Attorney General’s office can continue to provide critical services to the people of Illinois.”

Annie Thompson, the agency spokesperson, sent Tuesday’s news release using a Gmail address instead of her state government email address.

Thompson did not comment on whether the office internet network remains “compromised,” or whether the issue has been resolved.

The release states that an “investigation into the extent to which the Attorney General’s office’s network was compromised is ongoing,” and more information will be made available at a later, undefined date.

Thompson also did not respond to questions about how the AG’s office made the discovery Saturday, how many employees and members of the Attorney General’s Office staff were affected by the breach, or the nature of the incident that led to the agency’s network being “compromised.”

The announcement about the attorney general’s office network comes about a week after the Illinois State Board of Elections revealed that its executive director was placed on leave after being the subject of an online extortion attempt.

The eight-member elections board voted April 5 to place Director Steve Sandvoss on leave.

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MEDICAID FOR NEW MOTHERS: Illinois will now provide Medicaid benefits to eligible mothers for up to 12 months postpartum, a major extension from the previous 60-day limit.

Gov. JB Pritzker made the announcement Tuesday, April 13, after a waiver submitted in 2019 by the state to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was recently approved.

According to the release, the measure was pursued specifically to address the significant health disparities in maternal mortality and morbidity between Black women and their white peer groups. The Illinois Department of Public Health developed a report in 2018 that found Black women were six times more likely to die of a pregnancy related condition, with a lack of care continuity and coordination contributing to over 90 percent of preventable pregnancy-related deaths in that demographic.

As a result, IDPH recommended the Medicaid extension, which was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Pritzker in 2019 before the state formally applied to the federal government.

Women with incomes up to 208 percent of the federal poverty level set by the federal Department of Health and Human Services will have continuous Medicaid eligibility 12 months postpartum.

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FOID, CCL EXTENSION: The Illinois State Police has given another 150-day extension to people whose Firearms Owners Identification cards or Concealed Carry Licenses have expired due to a backlog in processing renewal applications.

A panel of state lawmakers gave approval Tuesday to that emergency rule after ISP officials assured them that the agency had made significant progress toward clearing a backlog of renewal applications.

Under the emergency rule, a FOID card or CCL that has expired since the start of the pandemic is still considered valid as long as the holder has applied for renewal, paid the required fees, and the card is not subject to revocation, meaning the person has not committed an offense that would otherwise disqualify them from holding the permit.

Yvette Loizon, ISP’s general counsel, said that in the month of March alone, the agency received 14,847 renewal applications, and it approved 67,847 applications, the largest number of approvals in a single month in more than a year.

ISP saw a huge increase in renewal applications last year, Lt. Greg Hacker, who heads the agency’s Firearms Services Bureau, said. That’s in part because FOID cards are issued on 10-year renewal cycles and the 2019-2020 period marked the end of the program’s first 10-year cycle.

But the program has been beset by funding and personnel shortages, officials have said. The application and renewal process involves extensive criminal background checks that are paid for with the fees paid by applicants. But that fee fund was often “swept” during the state’s two-year-long budget impasse, so the agency did not have enough staff to handle the flood of renewal applications that came in last year.

Hacker said ISP began 2020 with only 21 “firearms eligibility analysts,” or FEAs, who are trained to process applications. Since then, he said, the agency has hired an additional 29 FEAs and it plans to hire another five or six by July. In addition, ISP has hired another 25 contractual employees to conduct background checks for both new and renewal applications.

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HOUSING SUPPORT: Housing advocates including former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti joined state Rep. La Shawn Ford and state Sen. Karina Villa Tuesday to call for support for a measure aimed at supporting low-income renters.

House Bill 2775 and Senate Bill 2492 are a pair of identical bills which aim to create additional legal defenses for renters and protections against discrimination based on source of income, as well as preventing undue administrative burdens when applying for housing assistance.

Sanguinetti, a Republican who served with former Gov. Bruce Rauner, is now executive director for HOPE Fair Housing Center in Wheaton. She said the bills would begin to “move the needle” on fair housing and civil rights issues in the state.

“The most likely victims of source of income discrimination are single woman-led households who receive income like alimony, child support, or rent assistance. Households in which one or more persons has a disability, and receive (Supplemental Security Income) or (Social Security Disability) or rent assistance,” Sanguinetti said.

Ford, D-Chicago, who is the chief sponsor of the bill in the House, said discrimination against renters based on social security and disability income disproportionately targets communities of color.

“Social Security Disability payments or child support source income discrimination is often, we've learned, a proxy for racial discrimination with Black and Latinx households, (who are) more likely to have their income scrutinized or denied by housing providers,” Ford said. 

Proponents of the bills also said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted issues in affordable housing inequities, highlighting the need for additional action by the state to protect low-income renters.

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REDISTRICTING COMMISSION: Illinois Congressman Rodney Davis joined his Republican colleagues in the General Assembly Monday, April 12, in calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to support legislation to form an independent commission to redraw congressional and state legislative district maps.

Both the U.S. and Illinois constitutions require that district maps be redrawn every 10 years to ensure equal representation. The Illinois Constitution requires it to be done in the year following the decennial census.

The state constitution also requires that the General Assembly complete its work by June 30. After that, the process is handed over to an eight-member bipartisan commission and, if that body fails to approve new maps by Aug. 10, a ninth member is appointed by random selection to give one party or the other a 5-4 majority.

That’s the process that has been used in four of the last five redistricting efforts. Only in 2011 did the General Assembly complete the process before the June 30 deadline.

But Republicans this year have proposed legislation, Senate Bill 1325, that would authorize the Illinois Supreme Court to appoint a 16-member commission made up of seven Democrats, seven Republicans and two independents.

The plan is similar to a proposed constitutional amendment that voters petitioned to have placed on the November 2016 ballot but which the state Supreme Court rejected on technical grounds.

The idea of an independent redistricting commission has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past. In fact, Monday’s news conference featured a large poster board with a quote from then-candidate JB Pritzker, who supported an independent commission in the 2018 campaign.

In 2019, Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Lake Forest, proposed a constitutional amendment that many believe would have passed Supreme Court scrutiny. That measure had 36 cosponsors, including 17 Democrats, but it was never assigned to a substantive committee and it died at the end of the 2020 session.

Republicans argue that legislative maps have been drawn intentionally to favor Democrats, and they have alleged that Democrats have a disproportionate advantage in the General Assembly because of it.

Democrats, however, have argued that the maps also ensure that racial and ethnic minorities are fairly represented, and they have accused Republicans of trying to break up those voting groups, who traditionally vote Democratic.

Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez, D-Cicero, who chairs the House Redistricting Committee, said after a hearing Monday that she does not know whether the idea of an independent commission is dead for this year.

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TOURISM RECOVERY: Leaders from the state’s tourism and hospitality industry asked legislators for additional support and reopening guidance during a Thursday, April 8, committee hearing as the state plans next steps for its COVID-19 economic recovery.

Michael Jacobson, President and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, told the House Tourism Committee Thursday that hotels have “been among the hardest hit” segment of the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the industry may not see a full recovery until 2024 at the earliest.

Jacobson said Illinois hotels suffered a loss of $3.5 billion in revenue and that over 21,000 hotel employees were laid off as a result of the pandemic over the past year.

Jacobson told legislators that allowing events and gatherings to resume in a safe manner as soon as possible and directing federal support dollars to hotels and businesses most impacted by the pandemic would be key to revitalizing that segment of the economy, which generates billions of dollars in revenue for the state every year.

Jacobson and industry leaders also said passing limited COVID-19 liability protections for businesses would help hotels and businesses to work toward a full recovery.

Rob Karr, President and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said additional guidance from the state on reopening guidelines would be needed in order for struggling businesses to get back on their feet.

Under guidelines set forth in the state’s bridge phase, vaccinated individuals would not count against a business or venue’s capacity restrictions, but Karr questioned how businesses or local authorities would be able to enforce those restrictions.

Jacobson told the committee that a possible alternative would be to base capacity guidelines and mitigations on hospitalization utilization rather than case positivity as more of the state’s population is vaccinated.

Derek Blaida, representing the Illinois Restaurant Association, shared similar concerns, noting 20 percent of Illinois restaurants are expected to close permanently and that over 124,000 food service jobs have been lost as a result of the pandemic.

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UNEMPLOYMENT UPDATE: The statewide unemployment rate in Illinois fell three-tenths of a percentage point in March, to 7.1 percent, as the daily count of new COVID-19 cases and the case positivity rate appeared to be leveling.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security said Thursday that preliminary numbers show employers added 32,200 nonfarm jobs during the month, with the biggest gains showing up in the leisure and hospitality sector, which took the biggest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other industries posting gains included construction, and business and professional services. The information sector, which includes the media, financial activities and government employment, all posted modest job losses.

The preliminary estimates reflect activity the week of Friday, March 12. The preliminary jobs numbers for February that were released last month were revised upwards to reflect the addition of 37,300 jobs that month, although the estimated unemployment rate in February was unchanged, at 7.4 percent.

IDES also reported Thursday that first-time unemployment claims rose during the week that ended April 10 to 18,986, a 17 percent increase from the prior week. But that also reflected an 87 percent decline from the same week a year ago, when 140,787 workers filed initial claims.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported that 238,016 were receiving continuing unemployment benefits during the week that ended April 3, down 3.4 percent from the week before.

Data from the Illinois Department of Public Health showed signs that the recent surge of COVID-19 cases may be leveling.

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COVID-19 UPDATE: Nearly one quarter of the state’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data released Friday by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

With more than 3.18 million state residents fully vaccinated, the percentage of fully vaccinated Illinoisans has reached 24.95 percent as of data released Friday, April 16.

The state has administered 7,779,290 doses of the vaccine out of more than 9.7 million total doses received by state and local health officials.

On Thursday, 166,885 vaccine doses were administered, for a seven-day average of 129,664 doses.

On Friday, IDPH also announced dates and sites throughout the state that will offer vaccination appointments specifically for college and university students, in an effort to vaccinate college students in Illinois.

Mass vaccination sites in Adams, Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Lake, Madison, Sangamon, St. Clair, Winnebago and Will counties will provide appointments for college students on specific dates from April 17 to April 20.

Colleges and universities will have the links where students can register for an appointment, according to the IDPH news release.

The state announced 3,866 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 out of 93,602 test results reported over the previous 24 hours, bringing the statewide seven-day rolling positivity rate to 4.2 percent. The seven-day rolling positivity rate has held steady at 4.2 percent since Wednesday.

The state also reported a total of 2,058 individuals were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday night, an increase of 15 people from the day prior.

Of those, 468 patients were in the intensive care unit, which was unchanged from the previous day, and 205 were on ventilators, which was a 15-person increase from the previous day.

There were 21 COVID-19 related deaths reported Friday, bringing the state death toll to 21,630.

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LAWMAKER PAY LAWSUIT: Two former Illinois state senators have a “clear right” to receive portions of their legislative salaries that were withheld by Illinois Comptroller Mendoza and her predecessors, a Cook County judge decided last week.

But Mendoza said she intends to appeal the ruling, meaning this latest development is likely not the last word in the case brought by former Democratic Sens. Michael Noland, from Elgin, and James Clayborne Jr., from Belleville.

Judge Allen Walker’s decision found that Noland and Clayborne are entitled to the salaries that were withheld when the legislature passed laws to freeze cost-of-living increases and implement furlough days.

The ruling issued Thursday is a victory for Noland and Clayborne, who sued the state comptroller over unpaid wages resulting from those laws, which were passed between 2009 and 2017. Noland first sued in June 2017 and Clayborne was added to the lawsuit in May 2018.

On July 1, 2019, lawmakers’ base salaries increased to $69,464. Before that latest increase, the base salary was unchanged at $67,836 since 2008.

Noland was a member of the Senate from 2007 to January 2017, and Clayborne was a member from 1995 to January 2019. Noland is now a judge in Kane County, and Clayborne is a partner at Clayborne & Wagner LLP in Belleville.

Mendoza noted that Noland and Clayborne voted in favor of the laws to forgo pay increases prior to challenging their legality in court.  

“Now that they are out of office, these shameless grifters want the courts to reverse their votes, reaching into taxpayers’ pockets to give them those retroactive raises,” Mendoza’s statement read.

Although Walker found Noland and Clayborne can seek their withheld salary, he ruled that this finding does not apply to all members of the Illinois General Assembly whose salaries were withheld.

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PRISON VISITS: The Illinois Department of Corrections also announced Monday, April 12, that they would be opening facilities to in-person visits for the first time since March 14 last year.

The East Moline Correctional Center opened to visits Monday, as the IDOC website reported there were three inmates and two staff members currently positive for the virus at the facility.

Across the prison system, 87 staff members and 31 inmates were reported as current positive COVID-19 cases as of Monday. Since the pandemic began, 4,365 staff had tested positive, along with 10,859 inmates.

Visitations for the rest of the state’s correctional centers will begin in the coming weeks.

On April 19, visits will open at Graham, Taylorville, Jacksonville, Dixon, Centralia and Stateville correctional centers; Stateville Northern Reception Center; Elgin Treatment Center; and Fox Valley, Crossroads and North Lawndale adult transition centers.

On April 26, Pinckneyville, Sheridan, Big Muddy River, Pontiac, Shawnee, Vienna, Hill, Lawrence, Illinois River, Robinson and Vandalia correctional centers will open for visits. So will Joliet Treatment Center, Peoria Adult Transition Center, and Kewanee and Murphysboro life skills re-entry centers.

On May 3, visits will reopen at Southwestern Illinois, Decatur, Logan, Lincoln, Western Illinois, Danville and Menard correctional centers.

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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