The Spin: Pritzker tries to clear up mask confusion | State’s eviction moratorium will be phased out by August | Giannoulias gets boost from Downstate Democrats

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Good afternoon on this tax filing deadline Monday.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced today that the state is no longer requiring fully vaccinated people in Illinois to wear face coverings in most situations. As the Tribune’s Dan Petrella notes, that puts the state in line with new, more lenient, federal guidance that caught many by surprise last week.

Last Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidance allowing fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings. Pritzker’s executive order at that point remained in place, requiring anyone over the age of 2 to wear a mask unless a medical condition prevents them from doing so.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during an unrelated news conference today that she thinks “some clarification is needed” from the CDC. The mayor also said she plans to continue wearing a mask indoors and in some outdoor situations in which she is uncertain whether folks around her have been vaccinated, the Tribune’s Gregory Pratt reports.

“It’s great to say you don’t need to wear masks if you’re fully vaccinated, but that raises a whole set of questions that I think, perhaps, they didn’t clearly anticipate,” Lightfoot said. “So I think some clarification is needed and I expect that to be coming soon.”

Pritzker also announced today that the state’s eviction ban will be phased out by August. While it helped cash-strapped renters, some landlords complained they were on the brink of losing their property over the ban.

The news came as the governor announced the launch of a federally funded rental assistance fund. Renters who ran into a financial hardship during the pandemic can apply for up to $25,000 in federal relief money sent to the state. That money is then paid directly to the landlord.

And as Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin, a reform-minded Evanston Democrat, announced he would retire from politics when his term is up, a group of Downstate Democrats gave Alexi Giannoulias’ campaign for secretary of state a boost over the weekend.

Welcome to The Spin.

Following CDC guidelines, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says Illinois will no longer require fully vaccinated people to wear masks in most situations

From the Tribune’s Dan Petrella, Jenny Whidden and Gregory Pratt: “Fully vaccinated people in Illinois will no longer be required to wear face coverings in most situations under new rules Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued Monday, putting the state in line with new federal guidance that caught many by surprise last week.

“The change to the state mask mandate that went into effect more than a year ago comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out new guidelines Thursday that said people who are two weeks past their final coronavirus vaccine dose can safely resume most of their pre-pandemic activities without wearing a mask.” Full story here.

Lightfoot, Pritzker and their mask-wearing habits: Asked this morning about his mask-wearing habits with the CDC lifting its restrictions and Illinois’ poised to follow, Gov. Pritzker said: “I think this morning it was the first time (in roughly a year) that I came out of my home, not wearing my mask immediately.”

There was nobody nearby, the governor said, “so I felt comfortable doing that.”

While fully vaccinated, Pritzker said he’s trying to be careful in crowds, and he wore one today at a news conference when he wasn’t at the lectern speaking. That said, he thinks the CDC’s guidance is based on solid science and that he’ll be following the agency’s lead.

Mayor Lightfoot, on the other hand, raised concerns about possible gaps in the federal mask guidelines when she appeared on MSNBC this morning and then spoke at an unrelated news conference later in the day.

“We’ve gotta make sure that people are continuing to follow the public health guidance that has gotten us this far and masks I think are a big and important part of that,” the mayor said on cable news. “To say, well, if you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask, that’s great, but what about all the other people that are out there that aren’t vaccinated and there’s no way to know that? So I think for the time being, most people are gonna continue to wear a mask outside, outside their homes, and I think that’s smart.”

“The virus is still here, the virus is still real, we’re still seeing deaths every day, so we can’t afford to feel like the virus is gone and suddenly we can just go back to 2019,” Lightfoot said.

Riders are trickling back to buses and trains as more people get vaccinated, the Tribune’s Sarah Freishtat reports. She writes: “Mask-wearing, still required on CTA and Metra, is mixed: During recent trips by a Tribune reporter, on some train cars and buses every rider was masked, while on others and some ‘L’ platforms handfuls of unmasked customers could be found.” Full story here, including a reminder that transit agencies are bracing for the possibility that ridership won’t return to normal for awhile.

Pritzker announces eviction moratorium aimed at helping renters during pandemic will end by August

From the Tribune’s Dan Petrella: “The statewide eviction moratorium that’s been in place for more than a year to help renters affected by the coronavirus pandemic will be phased out by August, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday

“The details on how the moratorium will be phased out over the next few months will be provided at a later date, Pritzker said.” Full story here.

While renters are in line for up to $25,000 in assistance, struggling homeowners “will also be able to tap into $400 million in mortgage assistance starting later in the summer,” the Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton writes.

Despite a brightened financial picture, battle looms over Pritzker’s tax changes and federal relief money as legislators work toward a budget

Dan Petrella reports on what’s swirling as lawmakers begin to negotiate in earnest on Gov. Pritzker’s budget plan: How to close a $1.3 billion budget hole; how to spend that $8.1 billion in coronavirus relief money, knowing the infusion of coronavirus relief money can’t be used to pay for pandemic-triggered borrowing or the state’s $141 billion in pension liabilities.

Lawmakers are due to adjourn May 31, so they’re trying to hash out a budget deal for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Full story here.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris of Chicago, a lead Democratic budget negotiator, said: “The choices are really clear: We’re either going to have to find ways to cut to fill that hole, or we’re going to have to review the proposals the governor made to close corporate tax loopholes on wealthy individuals and corporations. Some mix of those will be required.”

Politics, Part I: Democrats and Republicans are smarting over Pritzker’s proposal to close corporate loopholes, viewed in some corners as a tax hike on pandemic-battered businesses.

Politics, Part II: With Democrats holding the majority in both chambers and the Governor’s Mansion, Republicans are also frustrated about not being any more involved in budget negotiations under new House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch of Hillside than they were under his predecessor, Michael Madigan, House GOP leader Jim Durkin of Western Springs said.

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Alexi Giannoulias snags Downstate county chairmen’s endorsement for secretary of state Democratic nomination

Former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias won the endorsement of more than two dozen Downstate Democratic county officials in run to replace Jesse White as secretary of state next year, the Tribune’s Rick Pearson reports.

He writes: “While southern Illinois has turned deeply Republican in recent years, the endorsement of Downstate Democratic leaders is still significant in a partisan primary contest, including the organization effort it brings to Giannoulias’ campaign.” Full story here.

Giannoulias is among five Democrats seeking to replace White, 86, who has said he will not seek reelection. They include Chicago Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd, and Ald. David Moore, 17th, as well as Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia and state Sen. Michael Hastings of Frankfort.

CPD announces new policy on search warrants after uproar over Anjanette Young raid

From the Tribune’s Annie Sweeney and Jeremy Gorner: “After drawing stinging criticism for an improper raid in 2019 in which Chicago police officers executed a search warrant at the wrong address and forced a woman to stand handcuffed and unclothed in her home, the Police Department on Friday announced an updated policy for conducting those warrants.

“The new policy, which goes into effect May 28, creates more safeguards for how officers obtain the right to search a home.” Read more about that here.

The reverberations over the raid at Young’s home, captured on police bodyworn camera, and first reported on WBBM-Ch. 2, reached the fifth floor of City Hall. Mayor Lightfoot, who faced particular criticism over her administration’s response, said in a statement Friday about the new policy: “These critical revisions to CPD’s search warrant policies and procedures come at a pivotal moment in our journey as we work to bring about true police reform. Furthermore, they are just one of many reforms that CPD has and will continue to make in order to ensure that accountability, transparency, and human dignity are the guiding principles of policing here in Chicago.”

Longtime Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin announces he won’t run for reelection

After two decades in office, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin says he will not run for reelection. The Evanston Democrat says his exit from the county also will mark the end of his political career, the Tribune’s Alice Yin reported over the weekend.

At once a self-described reformer, Suffredin also faced some criticism for his day job: Working as a lobbyist in Springfield, the Chicago City Council and Washington, D.C. He said he policed himself rigorously to avoid conflicts of interest.

Yin reminds in her piece that in 2008, he was the swing vote in a controversial move to more than double the county sales tax. In exchange for his “yes” vote, then-Board President Todd Stroger agreed to hand over control of the county’s public hospital system to an independent oversight board. The move came amid allegations that political cronies were landing jobs and concerns that a system to charge for services and collect bills — a problem that continues to this day.

He would later vote to cut that tax hike. Full story here.

What about Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s political future? First elected in 2010, she has not officially announced her reelection, Yin notes, although on a call with reporters last week, the South Side Democrat said she is “beginning to contact other elected officials and actors who I hope for their support” and that she has a “strong record to bring to the voters in the March primary.”

Folks also wonder: Will Preckwinkle run for Chicago mayor again?

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