The Spin: Pritzker vs. Pritzker on income tax ballot question | Nodding to Chicago violence, Durbin questions SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett on gun rights case | Kanye West puts up first ad in long-shot presidential bid

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Lisa Donovan, Chicago Tribune
·10 min read
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Invoking Chicago’s spiking gun violence, Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin challenged U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett during today’s confirmation hearing over a court opinion she wrote last year arguing nonviolent felons shouldn’t automatically be prohibited from owning a gun.

While Barrett’s colleagues on the Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Wisconsin’s law barring felons from having firearms was constitutional, Barrett wrote a dissenting opinion that since the plaintiff had been convicted of a white-collar crime, he was not inherently dangerous.

Durbin argued that such a stance is counterproductive to stemming the flow of firearms from states such Indiana — where Barrett and her family live — to Chicago, whose homicide numbers are reaching a high not seen in 25 years.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s cousin Jennifer Pritzker has donated $500,000 to a group trying to sink his signature agenda item on the Nov. 3 ballot — a proposed state constitutional amendment to impose a graduated-rate income tax, the Tribune’s Rick Pearson writes.

Both billionaire heirs to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, the cousins sit on opposite ends of the political spectrum with Jennifer Pritzker donating some of her wealth to Republican campaigns and causes.

And Chicago rapper Kanye West has dropped the first campaign ad of his wobbly presidential bid, saying God, faith and prayer are the bedrock of making the country better but that Americans also must “be servants to each other ... help each other, to lift up each other” so “that we may all prosper together.” He also asked voters in states where he didn’t make the ballot — including his home state of Illinois — to write him in.

Welcome to The Spin.

Durbin takes his turn at nomination hearing, questions Amy Coney Barrett about gun rights, death of George Floyd

Illinois’ senior senator and the second ranking Democrat in the Senate asked Amy Coney Barrett, Republican President Donald Trump’s pick to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, about an opinion she wrote in 2019 on a Wisconsin gun rights case, known as Kanter v. Barr.

She argued in a dissenting opinion against an all-out ban on nonviolent felons owning guns.

Durbin questioned whether opening up gun ownership to nonviolent felons would mean more guns in circulation via gun shows, which he said often serve as a pipeline for gang members perpetrating gun crimes in Chicago to obtain their weapons.

Barrett responded: “Well, Senator, you referred to gang members and thugs buying guns in Indiana and taking them across the border. And certainly ... if they had felony convictions for doing the kinds of things that members of gangs and thugs do, nothing in (the appeals court’s decision in the Wisconsin case) says that the government can’t deprive them of firearms.” Likewise, “nothing” in her opinion suggests “the government can’t deprive (a nonviolent offender like the one in the case she weighed in on) of having firearms. They simply had to make a showing of dangerousness before they did so," Barrett said.

But Durbin says that’s “impractical” and that her colleagues in the appellate court agree.

The George Floyd case: Durbin also asked Coney Barrett whether she saw video footage of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed and prone George Floyd, who pleaded for air until he stopped breathing. The case touched off protests around the country and renewed calls for police reform.

Barrett, who has two Black adopted children, said she had viewed it, that it was “very, very personal” for her family and that they “wept together.”

In answering the question, Barrett made a distinction between her feelings as a person and her role as a judge, refusing to give her thoughts on systemic racism as Durbin had requested, The Associated Press notes. She said commenting on what policies should be used to combat racism would be “kind of beyond what I’m capable of doing as a judge.”

Road to November: Pritzker vs. Pritzker on income tax issue before Illinois voters

Jennifer Pritzker, a retired Army colonel, and founder and chair of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library in Chicago, donated $500,000 to the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike, a group that has received nearly $48.9 million to fight the proposed amendment, the Tribune’s Rick Pearson writes.

“There is evidence that the tax hike amendment could eventually raise taxes on the middle and working classes. With so many families and small businesses struggling to recover from the ravages of the pandemic, raising taxes is not a financial solution Illinoisans can afford to enact,” said Jennifer Pritzker, president and CEO of private wealth management firm Tawani Enterprises.

Her contribution is the second largest to the group after the $46.75 million given by Ken Griffin, the billionaire founder and CEO of the Citadel hedge fund and investment firm. “Gov. Priitzker has donated $56.5 million to the Vote Yes for Fairness group supporting voter ratification of the proposed amendment, which would replace the state’s mandated flat-rate tax with a tax with varying rates that increase with income,” Pearson writes. Read the rest of his story here.

The pandemic left Illinois election officials scrambling for judges in March. But extra pay and a law that allows younger workers has them optimistic about Nov. 3, the Tribune’s Dan Petrella and Kelli Smith write. Read the full story here.

Where does Illinois early voting and vote-by-mail stand? My Tribune colleagues Chad Yoder and Jonathon Berlin have put together the latest data here.

Wisconsin absentee ballot case may be headed to the US Supreme Court: The Associated Press has the story here.

Penny Pritzker gives Biden campaign an assist tomorrow: The former Commerce Secretary in the Obama White House and sister to Illinois’ governor, along with campaign officials, will be giving business leaders talking points on “the economic case for why Joe Biden is the right leader to rescue and rebuild our economy” and how they can mobilize their networks to get out and vote. The Wednesday virtual event gets underway at 4 p.m. Chicago time. More details here.

National, local teachers unions rally around Pritzker’s tax initiative: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten along with Chicago Teachers Union officials will hold a news conference tomorrow morning on the South Side in a show of strength in support of the top-of-the-ballot graduated tax question before voters and remind people to also support Biden for president. Pritzker says switching from a flat tax to a graduated tax is fairer to lower- and middle-income residents in the state — drawing union support.

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Illinois' COVID-19 death toll pushes past 9,000 in Illinois

The Tribune’s Jamie Munks writes: "The number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus in Illinois surpassed 9,000 on Tuesday amid a recent uptick in new cases as the state continues to struggle to contain the highly contagious virus.

“State public health officials on Tuesday reported 2,851 newly diagnosed cases and 29 additional deaths of people with COVID-19, raising the death toll to 9,026 throughout the course of the pandemic. There now have been 324,743 known cases of the coronavirus in Illinois.” Read the full story here.

Update: Illinois U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of downstate Murphysboro, who announced last week that tested he positive for the coronavirus, offered an update on his health in a video posted on Twitter. Bost said he’s only had a few minor symptoms but is “getting over it fairly quickly.” The GOP congressman is facing Democratic challenger Ray Lenzi in the November election. Watch the full video here.

Chicago adds Indiana to travel quarantine list: Starting Friday, people traveling into Chicago from Indiana will be expected to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Violators can face a fine, though the city has taken few steps to enforce the rules, the Tribune’s John Byrne writes.

Related: Pandemic leaving its mark on downtown Griffith, Indiana: 5 businesses temporarily shut down for cleaning — The Post-Tribune’s Michelle L. Quinn has the story here.

Chicago Public Schools will announce ‘very soon’ whether in-person classes will resume next quarter: The Tribune’s Hannah Leone has the details here.

New Trier High School halts in-person instruction as region sees hike in COVID-19 cases: Karen Ann Cullotta has the story in the suburban Winnetka Talk.

Pandemic opens door for Southwest Airlines to take off at O’Hare: “The pandemic reduced flights out of O’Hare, which give Southwest an opening, said Andrew Watterson, Southwest’s chief commercial officer.” The Tribune’s Lauren Zumbach has the full story here.

Abbott gets emergency FDA approval for antibody test that detects recent COVID-19 infections: The Tribune’s Lisa Schencker has the details here.

Iowa, the 4th-highest state for COVID-19 infections, surpasses 100,000 cases as Trump plans rally there this week: Read the rest of The Associated Press story here.

Other news - Amazon’s Prime Day starts today, and it may drive nearly $10 billion in sales: And that doesn’t even include rivals getting in on the action, the Tribune’s Katie Surma writes. Read more here.

Efforts are underway to remove dams across Illinois, but some communities and at least one lawmaker is pushing back

In a new piece, the Tribune’s Robert McCoppin and freelance reporter Alicia Fabbre examine how dozens of boaters, anglers, children and would-be rescuers have drowned in recent decades at “low head” dams or weirs, prompting officials to push for removal of the hazards. They also tout the benefits to the environment and fishing.

Not everyone is on board. The DuPage County Forest Preserve OK’d a plan to remove the Graue Mill Dam on Salt Creek in Oak Brook while state Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, a Republican from Elmhurst, recently filed a bill to prevent destruction of the mill and dam without approval by an oversight board. Oak Brook’s former mayor launched an online petition to save the dam.

Money matters: “This year, the state budget includes $20 million to pay for removals around the state, and more local governments are taking steps to get rid of their dams,” McCoppin and Fabbre note. Read the full story here.

Other news – Chicago aldermen reject Mayor Lightfoot’s proposed ordinance that would roll back part stricter City Hall lobbying rules: The Tribune’s John Byrne writes, “The City Council Ethics Committee voted 16-0 not to send the measure brought forward by Lightfoot months ago to the full council. It would have once again allowed elected officials from outside Chicago to lobby the mayor, aldermen and other city government agencies on behalf of private clients, as long as the public body they represent doesn’t have pending or recurring legislative or contractual matters involving the city of Chicago.” Read the full story here.

Ex-state Representative, Berrios' son-in-law plead not guilty to federal bribery charges: Jason Meisner has the Tribune story here.

Blackhawks statue outside United Center covered in graffiti and red paint on Indigenous Peoples Day: Police – The Tribune’s Jessica Villagomez has the details here.

Wisconsin officials: Foxconn can’t collect billions in tax credits until a new contract is drafted

From the Wisconsin State-Journal: Wisconsin is denying Foxconn Technology Group billions of dollars in state tax credits for a planned campus between Chicago and Milwaukee until company officials come to the table to draw up a new contract for a project President Donald Trump once touted as the “eighth wonder of the world.”

The president even participated in a groundbreaking ceremony in Wisconsin in 2018.

The technology giant was in line under a deal struck under then-GOP Gov. Scott Walker for incentives totaling $3 billion over 15 years if the company reaches the 13,000-employee bench mark and makes a $10 billion capital investment in the state.

“While originally promised as a Generation 10.5 facility that would build larger panels for TV screens, the project has downsized to Generation 6, which would manufacture small screens for mobile phones, tablets, notebooks and wearable devices,” the State-Journal reminds. For that reason, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' administration told the company it no longer was eligible for tax subsidies under the existing contract and discussions about an amended contract began more than a year ago with no result. Read the full story here.

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