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On second thought, Illinois’ golf courses are closed

The opening of Chicago area golf courses was short-lived.

“No recreational sports businesses, including golf courses, are considered essential businesses under the executive order.”

Read more here.

Related:Illinois golf courses are allowed to open ­­– with restrictions

How recreational weed went from illegal to essential in 3 months

Throngs of high-minded shoppers started flooding pot dispensaries when sales of recreational weed kicked off in Illinois at the start of the year.

Less than three months later, that type of mass clamoring is strictly forbidden as social distancing measures have been put in place to quell the spread of the novel coronavirus. In the uncertain age of COVID-19, when news and information travels almost as fast as the virus itself, Jan. 1 likely seems like a lifetime ago to many cannabis users.

Unlike thousands of businesses, however, pot stores have been able to keep their doors open under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s statewide stay-at-home order, which labeled all dispensaries and cultivation centers “essential businesses.” The decision to allow the high times to keep rolling amid the rising public health crisis is an acknowledgment that, for many Illinoisans, buying weed is as vital as doing laundry or grocery shopping.

“People all over the nation are running to cannabis right now,” said Margo Vesely, executive of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the country’s oldest weed advocacy group.

Read more from the Sun-Times 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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Early morning glitches delayed the opening Tuesday of two Barrington polling places and created technical issues at four others, according to a spokesman for the Cook County Clerk’s office.

The polling location at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington still had not opened as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday while the one at Barrington Village Hall opened by 9:30 a.m. Polls had been scheduled to open at 6 a.m.

James Scalzitti, the director of communications for the Cook County Clerk, said in an email that polling places at the church and Barrington Village Hall did not open as scheduled because election judges did not arrive to open the locations.

Scalzitti said replacement workers were sent to Village Hall and the church. While the Village Hall poll opened by 9:30 a.m., he said there was no hand sanitizer at Willow Creek.

More 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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Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker delivered a state budget address Wednesday acknowledging a “challenging” picture of Illinois’ finances and offering improved funding for government services if voters adopt his graduated income-tax plan.

Pritzker’s $42 billion budget proposal would provide $1.4 billion in additional funding for schools and public safety if voters in November pass the graduated-rate proposal, which would replace the state’s constitutionally mandated flat income tax.

“As important as these investments are, we cannot responsibly spend for these priorities until we know with certainty what the state’s revenue picture will be,” Pritzker said.

The proposed constitutional amendment, Pritzker’s signature initiative, would raise an estimated $3.6 billion on an annual basis. If it is adopted by voters, Pritzker has said rates previously passed by the legislature would boost the income-tax burden on the wealthiest 3 percent of taxpayers, with the other 97 percent paying at least the same or less.

Read more here.

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Just after returning to his Chicago home, Rod Blagojevich peeks from his window early Feb. 19, 2020. President Trump commuted his sentence on Tuesday. (Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune)

With 20 minutes to spare, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich landed in Chicago the same day his 14-year prison sentence was commuted by President Donald Trump, warmly welcoming other people at O’Hare International Airport who approached with hand waves and autograph requests.

Repeating the phrase, “There’s no place like home,” Blagojevich stepped off the jetway bridge and thanked Trump.

“I’m profoundly grateful to President Trump, and I will be for as long as I live,” Blagojevich told reporters. “He didn’t have to do this. He’s a Republican president. I was a Democratic governor. But he’s a man who’s not only tough and outspoken, strong, but he has a kind heart. And I’ll be forever grateful.”

The abrupt journey home began when the president announced Tuesday the notorious Chicago Democrat would be freed from federal prison following years of imploring from Blagojevich and his wife. Now 63, Blagojevich was scheduled to be released in March 2024 after being convicted of trying to sell former President Barack Obama’s Senate seat as well as shaking down the executives of a children’s hospital and the horse-racing industry for campaign contributions.

Read more here (if you can stomach more).

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Illinois’ 4th congressional district was named one of the nation’s most gerrymandered by the Washington Post in 2014. (Wikipedia/Flickr photo. Illustration by Ben Orner.)

Lawmakers want Fair Maps Amendment on November ballot

SPRINGFIELD — A bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers and advocacy groups announced an effort in both chambers Thursday to overhaul the way Illinois’ legislative districts are drawn.

Legislators from Chicago, its suburbs and downstate are backing a state constitutional amendment — twin measures in the Senate and House — shifting district mapmaking power from politicians to a 17-person commission whose members would be representative of state demographics.

In three news events across Illinois on Thursday, backers of the plan said the measure they call the “Fair Maps Amendment,” more than any of the other redistricting reform proposals, is “comprehensive,” “equitable, transparent, representative, and provides meaningful participation.”

The amendment is backed by the same group that attempted to reform the redistricting process in the past three elections, CHANGE Illinois — the Coalition for Honest and New Government Ethics.

“As a sprawling federal corruption investigation continues, we should start to end corruption by ending gerrymandering where it begins when maps are drawn,” Madeleine Doubek, the group’s executive director, said. “Politicians picking their voters clearly is the epitome of a conflict of interest.”

Read more from Capitol News Illinois here.

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