Gov. J.B. Pritzker says Illinois may follow the lead of other states and hold a vaccine lottery that allows the freshly vaccinated to enter a contest to win some money. The aim is to get the state closer to herd immunity, which means 75% to 80% of the population needs to be inoculated.
“This pandemic isn’t over, and there are many, many people who have not been vaccinated yet,” the governor said today. “I talked a little bit about the fact that more than two-thirds of people in Illinois have been vaccinated, but that leaves a third and we are not at herd immunity, where we need to get to. So we’re doing everything at the state level to try to incentivize people to go get vaccinated. Many companies have offered incentives to people, to get them vaccinated. People are beginning to take us up on those. We have, as you know, tickets — free tickets, for people who want to go to Six Flags Great America. We have now a beer and a shot or a shot and a shot for the rest of us and lots of other incentives coming, including potentially a vaccine lottery.”
Pritzker made the comments in Peoria and Rockford today, where he sounded a lot like he was on the campaign stump, touting how he and his fellow Democrats in the legislature have once again proven themselves to be strong fiscal stewards, with the General Assembly’s passage of a $42 billion balanced budget.
While the budget was one of the heavy lifts during the General Assembly’s spring session, which concluded yesterday, several big-ticket issues remain on the table. As the Tribune’s Dan Petrella, Bill Ruthhart and Rick Pearson write: “(L)awmakers left Springfield without an agreement on an energy policy that would include a multimillion-dollar bailout for nuclear power plants in the state.”
After weeks of tense negotiations, the governor’s office and Exelon seemingly reached an agreement on subsidies for the company’s nuclear plants only for a wrinkle to emerge that for now has scuttled the deal. With Exelon threatening to close several plants, thousands of union jobs are at risk.
Negotiations are ongoing, the governor says.
Meantime, Mayor Lori Lightfoot isn’t ready to waive the “L” flag over the Illinois Senate’s passage last night of a fully elected 21-member Chicago Public Schools board, something she opposes. Asked about it during a news conference today, the mayor was at turns optimistic and defiant. The legislation still needs to clear the Illinois House — where it’s expected to pass — before heading to Pritzker, who has said he favors an elected school board.
And with the blessing of prosecutors, a federal judge granted former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s request for an early end to his two-year period of supervised release.
It’s the second break he’s gotten in the public corruption case that sent him to prison. Little more than a year ago, President Donald Trump commuted his 14-year sentence to time served, shaving several years off his time in federal prison. The Tribune’s Jason Meisner has the details here.
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Pritzker says state is looking at a vaccine lottery
As coronavirus vaccination numbers continue to dip, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the state continues to explore incentives — including a possible lottery — to encourage stragglers to get their COVID-19 shots.
“Lots of other incentives (are) coming, including potentially a vaccine lottery, so that people can actually win money,” Pritzker said during an unrelated event in Rockford.
The governor offered no further details on how a lottery would work or when it might start. Ohio rolled out a vaccine lottery last month, and officials said it led to an increase in vaccinations.
The Tribune’s Rick Pearson has the story here. He reminds that Illinois has offered tickets to Six Flags Great America and, in a bill passed at the end of the legislative session and signed by the governor today, opened the door for bars and restaurants to offer a free drink to those who have been vaccinated. The state legislature also authorized a lottery in the budget implementation bill that was passed this week.”
Side note: Gov. Pritzker signs 3-year cocktails-to-go extension that includes ‘shot-for-a (COVID-19) shot’ provision, the Tribune’s Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella write.
For his part, President Joe Biden announced a “month of action” to urge more Americans to get vaccinated ahead of the July 4 holiday, with incentives ranging from free beer to child care and sports tickets to persuade Americans to roll up their sleeves, The Associated Press reports.
But even as vaccination numbers slow, the governor says all the metrics show the state is on track to fully lift COVID-19 restrictions and reopen next week: “As the numbers are coming down, I just looked at them on my way here, we have declining numbers of ... cases (and) ... declining numbers of people who are going to the hospital for the first time with COVID, so my expectation is that on June 11 as projected, we will move to phase five, which is a full reopening” of the state’s economy, the governor said in Peoria.
Can Loretto Hospital rebuild trust after vaccine controversy and news of questionable business ties? My Tribune colleague Lisa Schencker has the details here.
Pritzker: Negotiators ‘still working on’ clean energy bill as fate of two reactors, thousands of union jobs hang in the balance
The Tribune’s Dan Petrella, Bill Ruthhart and Rick Pearson write: “Reaching a deal to preserve the nuclear plants — and the jobs of their thousands of union employees — was one of the most pressing issues facing lawmakers, who also sought to avoid any perception they were giving something away to a utility in light of the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal. But ComEd parent Exelon has said it will shut down two northern Illinois plants if the state didn’t provide more help this spring.”
Pritzker, who vowed in the wake of the ComEd scandal that utilities and energy companies would no longer write the state’s energy policy, declined to comment on the specifics of his offer, saying that negotiators were “still working on the bill.” Read more about that here.
During a news conference yesterday, Pritzker stressed that he was taking a hard line on the matter, after years of wheeling and dealing in Springfield that have cost ratepayers millions: “Utilities did not write the bill that we have worked on. That is clear. We have done everything that we can to stand up for clean energy principles, to make sure that we’re expanding renewables in the state. I have set out the principles, I have stuck to those principles, and so my hope is that we’ll end up with a good energy bill.”
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Lightfoot will fight for changes in school board legislation approved by Senate
From team Tribune: “Legislation to create a hybrid Chicago Board of Education in 2025 that would transition to a fully elected board two years later was pushed through a committee by Senate Democrats on Tuesday evening before being passed by the full Senate.”
At an unrelated news conference today, the mayor acknowledged once again that she opposes the measure, said it wasn’t a done deal and suggested there’s room for negotiation. So far, it hasn’t been voted on by the House or signed by the governor.
“There’s more work that we will do (and) we will continue our engagement, both directly but also with a range of different community partners that have weighed in,” mayor said. Asked whether she felt lawmakers ignored her wishes for a smaller hybrid board of appointees and elected members, she said, “there were obviously a lot of different agendas that were at work, that I think led to the bill that passed, but as I said that’s one step on a larger, longer journey.”
At one point the mayor blasted Springfield lawmakers, saying they need to be held accountable for not listening to the will of the people in this case: “It’s interesting that this is supposed to be about democracy. But what happened in Springfield had nothing to do with democracy. But democracy, mark my word, will prevail.”
On the campaign trail, Lightfoot supported an elected school board — rather than members being appointed by the mayor — only to change her mind. She calls the measure approved by the Senate to create a 21-seat board too unwieldy.
Advocates for an elected school board argue residents have been left out of key educational decisions, pointing to school closures and the district’s financial woes as reasons for change.
An in-depth look into Chicago’s 2020 unrest
A team made up of Tribune reporters Todd Lighty, Gary Marx, Christy Gutowski and William Lee took an in-depth look at the unrest last summer following the murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed and handcuffed Black man. Here’s just some of their must-read reporting:
“A Tribune investigation for the first time has documented the scope of the destruction and violence that unfolded across Chicago during the spasms of chaos last spring. Drawing on government records and interviews with store owners, employees, business associations and politicians, the Tribune identified more than 2,100 businesses that were damaged or ransacked throughout Chicago from May 29 to June 4, 2020.
“The Tribune found that damage estimates to just 710 of the impacted businesses totaled more than $165 million, though the true cost is certainly much higher. Loss and damage estimates were not available for the rest of the businesses, and police reports often only listed partial estimates.
“The figure exceeds the estimated $77 million in damages in today’s dollars that occurred during the April 1968 riots sparked by the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The unrest more than 50 years ago was more geographically limited, unfolding largely on the West Side.”
The team also looks at how the Lightfoot administration handled the unrest via newly obtained emails. A snapshot of what those new emails show:
* City Hall and police brass were warned unrest over Floyd’s killing could escalate into violence and looting.
* In some parts of the city, Lightfoot aides worried about the potential for escalating violence between Blacks and Latinos.
Also: Police reports and Lightfoot administration emails show city leaders were worried about street gangs filling the vacuum in some neighborhoods where police presence was limited. Gangs provided street security in Little Village, parts of the Southwest Side and the Far Southeast Side, according to police reports.
“Lightfoot’s administration and police have come under intense criticism for fumbling the response,” my colleagues write. “They missed signals that the killing of Floyd, captured on video and played millions of times by horrified Americans, could touch off looting. And to this day, they face resentment that the city prioritized the protection of downtown at the expense of residential neighborhoods inhabited mostly by people of color.”
The mayor has repeatedly denied her administration prioritized the safety of downtown residents and businesses. Read the rest of their work here.
State lawmakers change election code to allow Roger Agpawa to be mayor of Markham despite felony conviction
The Daily Southtown’s Ted Slowik writes: “State lawmakers have cleared the way for Roger Agpawa to be mayor of Markham.
“Agpawa has invited controversy and criticism since 2017, when he ran for mayor and won his first term. At the time, he was ineligible to serve due to state law that prohibits felons from holding municipal office. Agpawa pleaded guilty in federal court to mail fraud in 1999 for his role in an insurance scheme.
“The Illinois General Assembly Monday approved changes to state election law. The changes revise qualifications to hold municipal office by amending the Illinois Election Code and await Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature to become law.”
According to present law: “A person is not eligible to take the oath of office for a municipal office if that person … has been convicted in any court located in the United States of any infamous crime, bribery, perjury, or other felony …”
Slowik notes that “(l)awmakers added language that could create opportunities for other felons to be mayors in towns throughout Illinois.” More here.
Gary airport celebrates $3.5 million federal grant — Carole Carlson with the Post-Tribune has the details here.
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