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The COVID-19 outbreak did not slow adult-use marijuana sales in Illinois as buyers spent more than $44.3 million in May on products, the most since legalization began in January.

Recreational marijuana sales in May set another monthly record in Illinois, with more than $44 million in transactions, state officials reported Thursday, despite limitations due to the coronavirus.

State residents spent about $34 million on cannabis, and out-of-state visitors purchased an additional $10 million, for a total of $44.3 million.

That surpassed the previous record of $39 million set in January, the first month of legal adult use recreational sales.

Nearly 1 million individual products were sold, also a record, according to figures provided by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Read more here.

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“The members of the Barrington Area Council of Governments appreciate the efforts that have gone into developing the Restore Illinois plan. Our municipal and township governments have been compliant with the Executive Orders to keep residents safe during this COVID-19 public health situation. The Executive Board and membership have concerns, however, about provisions within the Restore Illinois plan and sent the following letter to Governor Pritzker for consideration.”

A copy of the BACOG members May 15th letter to Governor JB Pritzker can be viewed and downloaded here.

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Driver services facilities operated by the Illinois secretary of state’s office will begin reopening Monday, with the first two months reserved for new drivers, people with expired driver’s licenses or ID cards and vehicle transactions.

Due to current events, more than 700,000 expired driver’s licenses or ID cards and 1.9 million expired vehicle registrations in Illinois according to Secretary of State Jesse White.

Once the offices reopen, people will have 90 days to renew expired driver’s licenses, ID cards and vehicle registrations. People now have until Oct. 1, 2021, to get REAL ID driver’s licenses.

For more information, visit cyberdriveillinois.com.

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Officials with the Fox Waterway Agency are seeking clarification after Gov. JB Pritzker restricted the number of passengers allowed on board when boating season opens Friday.

In a statement issued Monday, FWA Executive Director Joseph Keller said his agency already had proactive measures in place when the governor announced the restriction at a news briefing Saturday.

The FWA took proactive measures at its Wednesday night board meeting, when members agreed boaters could not tie together boats and other recreational equipment, and ruled that boats must stay a minimum 10 feet apart.

Boating is a popular summer activity for residents with access to the water of the Chain o’ Lakes State Park area. The park borders Grass, Marie and Nippersink Lakes, and the Fox River, which connects seven additional lakes: Bluff, Fox, Pistakee, Channel, Petite, Catherine and Redhead.

Read more here.

Editorial note: It will be interesting to see if Pritzker changes his stance on boating limits, or if ego will not allow him to admit to an error in judgment.

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Barrington Hills officials say they plan to seek reimbursement from the owners of this house on the 300 block of Old Sutton Rd for police costs related to a murder investigation.

Barrington Hills officials may seek reimbursement from a property owner, an online home rental service and others for police costs related to a fatal shooting last month during a house party they say violated village code.

Police spokesman William Walsh said no new information has surfaced regarding the killing of Sean B. Patton, 28, of Chicago, during the March 7 party on the 300 block of Old Sutton Road.

Walsh said three other men suffered gunshot wounds, but their injuries were not life-threatening.

Officials said the home was advertised for rent on multiple online marketplaces before the shooting.

Barrington Hills zoning regulations don’t allow for the use of a residential property for commercial purposes, such as short-term rentals for lodging and special events. That’s why the reimbursement of the police expenses should be sought, said Trustee Brian Cecola, who chairs the village board’s public safety committee.

Read more here.

Related: March Board of Trustee meeting recordings released

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Illinois announced 1,173 new known COVID-19 cases Monday, for a total of 22,025. An additional 74 people lost their lives, bringing the state’s death toll to 794.

While acknowledging once again this his stay-at-home order is unlikely to be entirely lifted at the end of the month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday that “it’s likely adjustments will be made” as the state starts to see slower growth in number of cases of the new coronavirus. Earlier in the afternoon, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot predicted Pritzker’s stay-at-home order will extend into May.

“I think that’s going to be difficult for us to say, April 30, everything comes up, I don’t expect that to happen,” Lightfoot said. “I think it will extend beyond that.

Editorial note: Since stay-at-home orders and statewide school closures (among other things) took effect, clearly the “tail has been wagging the dog” when it comes to Chicago versus state and suburban politics for nearly four weeks now.

Read more from the Chicago Tribune here.

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Is it a “fair tax” or a “blank check?” Those will be two of the opposing messages Illinois voters will hear between now and November over the governor’s proposal to flip the state from a flat income tax rate to a graduated one.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has already poured $5 million of his own money into a political action committee that will be advocating in favor of changing the state constitution to replace the flat income tax rate with a graduated income tax rate.

The  presidential election will be the marquee race on the ballot this November but in Illinois the most expensive and noisy campaign likely will center on the battle to overhaul the state income tax and require the rich to pay more every year.

By this fall, following what promises to be months of fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, deciding whether to change the Illinois Constitution to replace the current flat-rate income tax with a graduated levy might not seem like the highest priority.

One business group on Thursday even tried to use the pandemic as a reason to pull the measure from the ballot. Whether that effort proves successful or not remains to be seen but in the meantime the issue is expected to result in relentless TV ads, political spin and distortions that hit all of the incendiary themes that have dominated political discourse for years — greed, corruption and incompetence; taxes driving businesses and residents out of the state; the rich not paying their fair share.

The stakes are high.

Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who stressed the need for the amendment during both his budget and State of the State addresses, has put a $5 million down payment of his own money into a political action committee promoting it. Pritzker is betting the future of his first-term agenda and possible re-election on passage of the amendment, which he predicts will generate an additional $3.4 billion to $3.6 billion a year in revenue while lowering or maintaining the tax burden for 97 percent of Illinois residents.

Read more from the Better Government Association here.

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We have several concerns with the referendum that the Barrington School Board chose to place on the March 17 ballot, but for the sake of time, we’ll forego listing them all and get down to our primary objection, which happens to be our most timely one.

A few short months ago, District 220 issued the following press release:

“Barrington 220 is proud to announce it has been named one of the 2019 Top Workplaces in the Chicago area by the Chicago Tribune. The list is based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by research partner, Energage, LLC. The anonymous survey measures several aspects of workplace culture, including alignment, execution, and connection. Click here to see the full list.”

Dr. Brian Harris, Superintendent of Schools, wrote the following of 220’s top workplace distinction:

“I am very proud of our staff for making Barrington 220 a great place to work. Their dedication and passion are reflected each day in the outstanding education we provide to our students.”

In fact, District 220 is the only school district listed on the Chicago Tribune’s list of Top 150 Workplaces in the Chicago area. We think that’s admirable, but the reality sets in all too quickly for parents, students, teachers, staff and, above all, taxpayers when considering another list.

In the most recent ranking of best high schools in Illinois by U.S. News and World Report, Barrington High School ranked 35th.

Those high schools ahead of Barrington in the Chicago area were: Adlai E Stevenson HS (6), Libertyville HS (10), Hinsdale Central HS (12), John Hersey HS (13), Deerfield HS (14), New Trier Township HS Winnetka 15), Glenbrook North HS (16), Lincoln Park HS (17), Prospect HS (18), Neuqua Valley HS (19), Buffalo Grove HS (20), Glenbard West HS (21), William Fremd HS (22), Vernon Hills HS (23), Glenbrook South HS (24), Lake Forest HS (25), Highland Park HS (26), Evanston Township HS (27), Westinghouse HS (28), Metea Valley HS (29), York Community HS (30), Naperville Central HS (31), Naperville North HS (32) and St. Charles North HS (34).

When considering the two lists we’ve shared, we must ask why District 220’s board and, more specifically, Dr. Brian Harris, can be so pleased with Barrington’s lackluster rank among other high schools.

There was a time when New Trier and Barrington High Schools were the gold standards to be considered when families were relocating to the Chicago area. As one can see, New Trier is still well respected, and we challenge our Board of Education to commit to trying to improve the Barrington High School that we once enjoyed and was so widely envied.

Passing the proposed referendum will not accomplish this. Perhaps when the Board begins such initiatives, we’ll look forward to endorsing them.

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Cook County Democratic State’s Attorney candidates, from left, Bill Conway, Bob Fioretti, Donna More and incumbent Kim Foxx meet with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in early February. (Rich Hein/Sun-Times)

On March 17, Democratic primary voters in Illinois can choose between Kim Foxx, Bill Conway, Donna More and Bob Fioretti for Cook County State’s Attorney. The winner will be the Democratic Party’s nominee for the general election Nov. 3.

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues. Here are their responses:

The civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office collects judgments that return to taxpayers three times more money than the budget of the office. The Cook County state’s attorney’s civil division recovers far less money. Why is that? What would you do about it?

Bill Conway: In her first year alone, our current State’s Attorney approved nearly $80 million in property tax appeals, millions of which went to clients of her donors and allies. That money doesn’t just come out of nowhere — it’s drained from local governments. When she approved nearly $2 million in refunds to Ed Burke’s client, more than half came out of the budget for Barrington schools. I am open to evaluating the finances of our civil division, but first we need to stop funneling taxpayer dollars to the politically connected.

Read the entire Chicago Sun-Times question and answer session here.

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Pritzker’s plan would replace Illinois’ flat tax with a graduated income tax projected to increase revenue by $3.6 billion a year, chiefly by hiking tax rates on the top 3% of all earners.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s speech Wednesday was billed as his annual budget address. But it was much more than that.

The budget part of the speech held few surprises and was far less ambitious than last year’s agenda. After a first year in which Pritzker passed gambling and cannabis legislation and a $45 billion infrastructure plan, the governor is taking a breather this year, relatively speaking.

The key part of Pritzker’s address was the governor’s pitch for a constitutional amendment that would enable him to change the state’s tax structure and make wealthy people pay more.

“This budget is a bridge to the future,” Pritzker said. And from there, he went on to lay out the benefits, as he sees them, from the graduated income tax.

Read more of Friday’s Tribune op-ed here if you missed it.

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