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With the legislature heading into its closing days in Springfield, Mayor Lori Lightfoot today described the final stretch as a real “nail-biter.” From Chicago, the mayor said she’s keeping tabs on state budget negotiations, as well as her proposal for a partially elected school board, which is facing some headwinds.
Meantime, some Democratic lawmakers were pushing for significant changes to the state’s gun licensing procedures — a renewed effort that comes as the nation reels from yet another mass shooting, this time in San Jose, California. The legislation, which has drawn pushback from critics who say it infringes upon their Second Amendment rights, stalled two years ago.
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, the state’s Democratic Party chair, said during a virtual news conference today that between a violent weekend in Chicago and the deadly shooting at a San Jose rail yard, it’s clear federal and state laws must be tightened.
“Gun violence won’t stop until we put a stop to it with common sense gun laws. Too many lives have been cut short by gun violence, especially here in Illinois.” She said that in too many instances the shootings have ended the lives of Black and Latino residents. She pointed to a recently released study showing Illinois ranked fifth in the nation — tying with Indiana — when it comes to Black homicide victims.
With the General Assembly set to adjourn on Monday, lawmakers are going public with their pleas to pass pet legislation, hoping it provides the necessary pressure to act.
And as Alice Yin reports: “A conservative media outlet and one of its white reporters sued Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday, alleging their free speech and civil rights were violated last week when she only granted interviews marking her two-year anniversary in office to reporters of color.” More on that below
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Conservative media outlet sues Mayor Lori Lightfoot for only granting two-year anniversary interviews to reporters of color
The Tribune’s Alice Yin reports that Thomas Catenacci, and the Daily Caller News Foundation for which he is a national reporter, filed a lawsuit in federal court in Illinois today, a week after Mayor Lightfoot decided to grant interviews on the occasion of her second anniversary only to journalists of color. It led to conservative backlash as well as a renewed debate about diversity in the media.
“Preventing journalists from doing our jobs in such a blatantly discriminatory way is wrong and does a disservice to our readers who come from all backgrounds,” Catenacci wrote in a statement. “I look forward to holding the mayor accountable.”
Catenacci is being represented by the Chicago-based Svenson Law Offices as well as the conservative group Judicial Watch.
Lightfoot’s Law Department spokeswoman declined to comment, saying that the city has not been served yet. But the mayor previously shrugged off criticism of her decision last week in a news conference that included white reporters.
“One day out of 365, I say that I’m going to mark the anniversary of my two years in office by giving exclusive one-on-ones to journalists of color, and the world loses its mind,” Lightfoot said. “How about we focus on doing what is necessary to step up?” Full story here.
From the Tribune’s John Byrne and Gregory Pratt: “Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday released an alternative plan to honor Jean Baptiste Point DuSable in an attempt to fend off a competing proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive for the Haitian explorer.
“The mayor’s plan calls for $40 million toward developing DuSable Park on the Near North Side, renaming the Riverwalk downtown for DuSable and creating an annual festival in his honor. Lightfoot unveiled her expanded proposal a day after two aldermen deferred a vote on whether to rename outer Lake Shore Drive in honor of DuSable, who’s credited as the area’s first nonnative settler for establishing a trading post along the river in 1779.
“It’s unclear whether Lightfoot’s rival proposal will sway members of the City Council but is the latest sign she doesn’t plan to drop her opposition to the measure led by Ald. David Moore, 17th, and Ald. Sophia King, 4th.” Full story here.
From the Tribune’s Sarah Freishtat: CTA is cutting fares on daily and some multiday passes this summer as Chicago looks to bring back events and festivals and restaurants reopen.
“Beginning Saturday, one-day passes will be $5, down from their usual $10. Three-day passes, geared toward weekend riders, will be cut to $15 from $20 and seven-day passes will be reduced to $20 from $28. The reduced fares will last through Sept. 6.” Full story here.
During the pandemic, the Chicago Transit Authority saw a million fewer daily riders on its buses and the “L,” leaving the transit agency with a projected $375 million budget shortfall this year. CTA officials baked the deficit along with some anticipated relief into its $1.64 billion operating budget this year.
The mayor was asked about how she’s feeling as the legislature enters what’s supposed to be its final days of the session and they’re trying to wrap up a 2022 budget package, finish the once-a-decade job of redrawing legislative districts based on census numbers and hammer out a palatable plan for an elected Chicago school board.
“This is the worst week ... of the year for me because obviously this year in particular, there’s a lot of things on the plate of the legislature,” she said ticking off the remap and budget, which by themselves are heavy legislative lifts.
“I hear those conversations on budget are still ongoing and not concluded. So there’s a number of things that are clearly our priority for us as a city, not the least of which is where we land on elected school board.”
Democratic Senate President Don Harmon was talking about a compromise deal between Lightfoot’s plan, which calls for a hybrid of elected and appointed members while her political foe, Democratic state Sen. Robert Martwick, of Chicago, is pushing a plan for a fully elected school board.
While her proposal would mean the mayor retains some power of appointing board members, Martwick’s plan calls for letting the voters exclusively decide.
The mayor said more than once this week that “we haven’t been at the table” with state lawmakers to discuss what’s happening with the legislation — signaling at least that she hadn’t been involved in turn-of-the-screw negotiations.
“So yeah, these last few days are always ones that are a little bit of a nail-biter every year. And I think that’s especially true this year.”
Can a compromise be reached on Chicago’s elected school board? Senate president ‘confident’ — Here’s the latest from Chalkbeat Chicago.
The Illinois House on Thursday approved a bill that would make Juneteenth National Freedom Day the 13th official state holiday. Having already passed through the Senate, with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature June 19 would become a school holiday and a paid day off for all state employees. Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 that Union Troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to tell the last enslaved African Americans that the Civil War was over, and the institution of slavery was abolished. (Jenny Whidden)
Illinois House gives final approval to ballot initiative that would ask voters whether workers should have a ‘fundamental right’ to organize under the state constitution: It’s a “Democratic slap at departed anti-union GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner and a move that could boost labor turnout for the party in next year’s midterm elections,” the Tribune’s Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella write. Unions like it. Some in the business community fear it would hurt job creation. Full story here.
Two years ago, state lawmakers behind what they called a major gun licensing reform bill saw the initiative stall. It passed the Illinois House, but wasn’t called for a vote in the Senate. It happened again in 2020.
Today, lawmakers are at it once again as the clock is running out on this legislative session. Backers of the “Block Illegal Ownership And Fix The FOID” bill say it’s necessary to strengthen background checks for gun owners and provide more funding to enforce existing laws that bar dangerous people from possessing weapons.
Here are some highlights of the legislation:
•The bill would require Illinoisans who apply for a firearm owner’s identification, or FOID, card to get fingerprinted in order to provide the most thorough criminal background check possible. Opponents argue the measure infringes upon their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Illinois State Police would keep the prints on file, meaning they could be used in criminal investigations.
• A portion of the money from every application would be earmarked for a special task force to account for the firearms and licenses of revoked cardholders. A 2019 Tribune investigation found the state stripped more than 34,000 residents of their FOID cards over the past four years. But because of a lack of follow-up to ensure that revokees’ guns were surrendered or placed with a lawful owner, law enforcement does not know what nearly 80% of those people have done with their weapons, the Tribune found.
“What I continue to try to remind our colleagues of is — this is a specific solution,” state Sen. Ram Villivalam, a Chicago Democrat, said during a news conference today. One of the big questions he gets is: What problem does the legislation solve?
“I fully believe that the BIO (Block Illegal Ownership) bill is a specific solution for specific problems. We are trying to ensure that we obtain fingerprints, have universal background checks, ensure that Illinois State Police has the resources they need to ensure that folks who should not have a firearm don’t.”
Where it stands: After passing the House last time around, the bill has passed out of committee in the House this session and has 28 co-sponsors on the Senate version, according to the Gun Violence Prevention PAC, which hosted the virtual news conference.
Other news: Barack Obama marks one year since George Floyd’s murder with roundtable, discusses “institutional constraints” he faced as president in addressing Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown killings — My Tribune colleague Alice Yin has the story here.