Last week was a very busy news week in Illinois politics. This week’s Severin Says explores topics that are all too familiar to the citizens of Illinois. Before I get to last week’s developments, I want to take a moment to express my sadness upon learning of the death of former Governor of Illinois “Big Jim” Thompson. My condolences go out to Governor Thompson’s family, friends, and love ones everywhere.
Jim Thompson is Illinois’ longest ever serving Governor. He is credited with modernizing state government. The James R. Thompson Center that bears his name is the seat of Illinois government in Chicago. His impact on the State of Illinois will be felt and known for generations to come.
Rest in peace Governor Thompson. Thank you for your service to the state that you loved. May God Bless and comfort your family during this difficult time.
This week’s Severin Says topics:
- JCAR Rules on two major issues – masks, and Federal assistance for local governments
- Governor’s mask mandate is upheld despite serious objections from the business community
- Rep. Severin named “Champion of Free Enterprise” by Illinois Chamber of Commerce
- House and Senate Democrats finally get on board with House GOP ethics reforms
- Another Day, Another Illinois Democrat Indicted
JCAR Rules on two major issues – masks, and Federal assistance for local governments
The first meeting of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules since May was held in Springfield on Tuesday. At the end of the legislative Session, many of you reached out to my office to express your concern regarding a rule proposed by Gov. Pritzker that would have levied harsh penalties against business owners found to be out of compliance the the Governor’s rules.
Your advocacy ensured the defeat of that overreach. But, the Governor was back at it this week in JCAR. His lead counsel was on hand to answer questions, and the resulting 6-6 tie vote on the Committee means the Governor’s emergency rule is now in effect. What does it mean for business owners in Illinois?
Governor’s new rule could be used to impose heavy fines on businesses that do not enforce face-covering requirement.
The controversial new emergency rule was filed by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) on Friday, August 7, and went into effect immediately. The rule directs local health officials – police officers, health departments, and parallel offices – to send out written notices and warnings to businesses that allow employees or customers to violate the COVID-19 facial covering emergency public health orders. The written statements will issue strong advice to the recipient, and will state that failure to comply with the orders could result in the recipient being charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
If a recipient of a written notice or warning is seen by local health law enforcement as not responding to the notice, the name of the recipient place of business can be referred to the local state’s attorney for further action. A business entity found guilty of a Class A misdemeanor may be sentenced to pay a fine of up to $2,500. Furthermore, should a small business be charged with multiple violations of the facial-covering orders, multiple fines could be imposed. Many questions have been raised about the wording of the new rule and the policy behind it. Local health officials can be expected to enforce this new rule in different ways, and there is not likely to be consistent enforcement throughout the state. The Illinois Policy Institute, which disagrees with the rule, describes it as treating businesses as criminals.
The IDPH rules went before the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) for scrutiny on Tuesday, August 11. At the JCAR meeting, all three House Republican members of the committee described serious problems that they had heard from their constituents about the new rule, and appealed to their colleagues to join with them in a motion to suspend the troubled edict. The House Republicans stated they were not opposed to face coverings, but wanted the State to develop and implement a workable rule that will be widely obeyed throughout the state. Six of the eleven members present in the committee voted for the motion. However, a loophole in State law required that Rep. Reick’s motion get the “yes” votes” of a three-fifth’s supermajority of the Joint Committee, or eight members. The motion was not adopted, and the rules continued in place.
JCAR Upholds Pritzker Rule on how Federal Dollars from the CARES Act will be Spent at the Local Level
JCAR was busy on Tuesday. The Committee, made up of a bi-partisan group of 12 House and Senate Republicans and Democrats is the Committee charged with approved administrative rules.
One of their tasks this year was to decide whether to uphold Governor Pritzker and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s proposed rules for how the $250 million in Federal aid would be distributed to communities large and small throughout Illinois.
The Committee upheld DCEO’s plan for distributing funding to local government units. The Illinois Municipal League opposed the Governor’s proposal because under the Governor’s rules, badly needed funding will not make it to small businesses most devastated by the pandemic.
First Round of Business Interruption Grants (BIG) Awarded to Businesses
Grants given out during the first round of the Businesses Interruption Grant (BIG) program will help Illinois small businesses in communities hardest-hit by COVID-19 related closures.
The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) launched the first round of BIG, dedicating $60 million for businesses experiencing losses or business interruption as a result of COVID-19 related closures. BIG funding may be used to help businesses with working capital expenses, including: payroll costs; rent; utilities; and other operational costs as defined in the eligible cost list found below.
The first round of funding awards grants to over 2,600 businesses located in every region of the state, with grants ranging from $10,000-$20,000. BIG round 1 grants span a diverse geography, as well as business type – with approximately 40 percent of all awards going to minority-owned businesses. Eligible businesses for this first round funding included restaurants/bars, barbershops/salons, gyms/fitness centers, and small businesses located in severe economically distressed communities.
DCEO will release additional BIG grants for small businesses in future rounds of funding. Future rounds will give consideration to additional business sectors facing COVID-19 related closures or diminished operating capacity. As required by statute, BIG funding will continue to allocate a certain amount of funding for businesses in disproportionately impacted areas, or “DIAs,” which are areas that have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and economic stresses. Separately, an additional $270 Million of the BIG program is set aside for childcare providers.
I am happy to report that businesses in the 117th district received $200,000 in BIG grants the first time around. These $10,000 and $20,000 grants are helping businesses like salons, gyms, bars and restaurants, to help them deal with the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic.
To see the entire list of grantees, please visit https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/SmallBizAssistance/Documents/BIG-Round1Awardees_08.12.20.pdf
Rep. Severin named “Champion of Free Enterprise” by Illinois Chamber of Commerce
Benton – 117th District State Rep. Dave Severin (R-Benton) has been named a “Champion of Free Enterprise” by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
The honor is an award given by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce to legislators who have made special contributions to the defense of free enterprise, and the furtherance of economic opportunities for Illinoisans.
“Our families and small businesses continue to face tremendous challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic and economic shutdown,” Rep. Severin said. “It is an honor to receive the Champion of Free Enterprise award, which demonstrates my commitment to supporting policies that promote good-paying jobs and revitalizing our economy. There’s much more work to do, but I am confident that by working together, we can overcome these challenges and get Illinois back on track.”
The Illinois Chamber rated all members of the 101st General Assembly based on legislators’ votes on the key business legislation as determined by staff and the Illinois Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee.
The Champion of Free Enterprise Awards are given biennially to members with Illinois Chamber ratings averaging 85 percent or higher over the previous two General Assemblies who have demonstrated their commitment to legislation that frees the entrepreneurial spirit.
“Our employers need legislators who are representing them both in their district and in their votes,” said Illinois Chamber President and CEO Todd Maisch. “Dave Severin brings a refreshing change of leadership to Southern Illinois. He was a 100% guy this year – one of only three!”
Another Day, Another Illinois Democrat Indicted
Yet another Illinois Democrat has been indicted as part of an ongoing and sweeping Federal investigation into public corruption in Illinois. This week,
Sen. Terry Link was indicted on tax evasion. The charges against Link say he lied about his income on his tax returns. Link is rumored to be the State Senator at the center of a bribery scheme involving disgraced and now former State Rep. Luis Arroyo, who has admitted to bribing a state senator for the movement of legislation that would allow for the legalization sweepstakes gambling machines in Illinois.
These facts have been known since Arroyo’s arrest in 2019. Since then, State Senator Martin Sandoval was raided and pled guilty to multiple federal charges.
The most recent shoe to drop in the long and winding road that is corruption among Illinois Democrat officials, House Speaker Michael Madigan is implicated in a Federal deferred prosecution agreement involving energy giants ComEd and Exelon.
A growing probe by federal law enforcement has targeted an increasing number of members of both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly – including individuals at the very top of the legislature’s leadership. In action this week, longtime state senator Terry Link was formally charged with income tax evasion and filing a false tax return.
House Republican Joint Ethics and Lobbying Commission Members React to Democrat Ethics Reform Package, Reiterate Call for Special Session to Address Corruption
State Representatives Grant Wehrli and Patrick Windhorst, who serve on the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform, are offering their reaction to a press conference held by Illinois State Senate and House Democrats touting a “new” package of ethics reform legislation.
The legislative fixes suggested by Senate and House Democrats include multiple ideas already introduced and sponsored by House Republican Caucus members. These include legislative fixes under three categories: lobbying reform, legislative reform, and leadership reform. Specific items include:
- No legislator lobbyists
- Revolving door prohibitions
- Clearer definitions of “lobbyist”
- Fuller disclosure of outside income for legislators
- Establishing an official censure process
- Strengthening the office of the legislative inspector general
- Ending the exemption for GA Employees from State Human Rights Act
- Establishing term limits for legislative leaders
- Allowing for temporary removal of leaders from leadership positions or committee chairs if they are indicted
“Senator Manar actually said the Joint Commission on Lobbying & Ethics Reform is working hard, when in truth, we haven’t met since March 5th! We haven’t met in person and we haven’t met on Zoom. Other state committees, commissions and panels have met multiple times since early March, but the Joint Commission on Lobbying & Ethics Reform has not. We did not finalize our work and we did not finalize our report,” said Rep. Wehrli. “Today’s press conference was completely out of touch with the reality on the ground. Every House member that took part in today’s press conference voted to put Mike Madigan in the Speaker’s chair and voted to accept his Rules of his House. While I applaud those who went on the record again today saying the Speaker should resign, this is merely political theater and window dressing. Until these members demand that the Governor call a special session to address ethics legislation and take real steps to remove Mike Madigan as Speaker, this is all just political cover.”
State Rep. Patrick Windhorst says he led an effort to send a letter to Ethics Commission Co-Chairs Senator Elgie Sims and State Rep. Greg Harris, both Chicago Democrats.
“I think Rep. Wehrli and I were well ahead of our colleagues in asking for the Ethics Commission to resume its work. We haven’t met since March,” Windhorst said. “Many of the legislative fixes proposed by House and Senate Democrats today have been introduced in bill form since November 2019. I just wonder where they have been. Corruption in Springfield has been rampant, and the House Speaker is implicated in a serious scheme involving bribery for taking official action. I believe we should return to Springfield in a Special Session to address the state’s serious plague of public corruption.”
On July 24, the Republican members of the General Assembly serving on the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform issued a letter to the co-chairs of the Commission requesting to meet to finish its work and finalize its report that was due at the end of March.
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