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JB Mask

People working or visiting inside a state-run building will have to wear masks again, even if they’re fully vaccinated, following an order issued Thursday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The edict comes days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised anyone in counties experiencing substantial or high COVID-19 exposure risk to wear masks in public indoor settings.

The governor’s order is broader and covers all facilities, regardless of the virus’ transmissibility threat in those counties, “given that the majority of the state is experiencing substantial or high COVID-19 transmission as measured by the CDC,” Pritzker said.

The move comes the same day Cook County joined DuPage, McHenry and Will counties in the Chicago area as counties with a substantial transmission risk, which is any county experiencing 50 to 99 new cases per 100,000 residents over a week’s time, according to CDC standards. High risk is 100 or more new cases per 100,000 residents.

“The safety and well-being of state employees and residents remains top priority for the state and this decision supports our efforts to provide a safe environment for our workforce and the people we serve,” said Janel L. Forde, director of the Illinois Department of Central Management Services. “Masking up is a step that we all can take to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help ensure that state facilities can continue to operate safely.”

The Cook County Department of Public Health endorsed the CDC mask recommendaton and said it will issue new guidelines Friday.

Read more here.

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Barrington School District 220 board member Katie Karam said during the board meeting July 13, 2021 she supports giving parents discretion over their children wearing masks in school. (H. Rick Bamman / Pioneer Press)

Seven-year-old Elise Corcoran stepped up before the Arlington Heights School District 25 board of education Thursday night to deliver her top five reasons why she believes students should not be required to wear masks in the classroom when the new school year begins next month.

“When it is hot in the classroom, we sweat and it sticks to our faces,” said Elise, a rising third grader at Dryden Elementary School.

“I don’t like wearing masks because they make me feel claustrophobic and that makes me feel anxious,” added Jack Mungovan, 12, a rising seventh grader at Thomas Middle School.

The pleas of Elise, Jack and the 500 parents who signed an online petition asking that masks be optional in the fall appeared to resonate with the District 25 school board, which voted unanimously Thursday night to give parents at the kindergarten through eighth grade district the choice of whether or not their children wear masks in the classroom in the fall.

Despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department’s recent recommendations that unvaccinated students and staff should continue wearing masks indoors to prevent the spread of the virus, District 25 is among a growing slate of suburban school districts that have passed policies this month that veer from the updated COVID-19 guidance for schools.

The updated recommendations arrive at a time when many families are enjoying the state’s loosened restrictions this summer, and some parents are determined that even unvaccinated children should be allowed the same liberties.

“We’re getting kids their freedom back,” said Marsha McClary, a mother of five children who attend Barrington Unit School District 220.

While the District 220 school board on Tuesday approved a plan that gives parents a choice about whether their middle and high school students wear masks in the classroom, officials are still discussing a “phased-in” approach for kids under 12, who are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.

“I understand the need to still wear masks on airplanes, which is no big deal,” McClary said. “But with our kids, we’re talking about five days a week, for more than six hours a day … you can’t see their emotions and their expressions. So much learning has been lost, and it’s going to take a long time to get that back.”

Read more of the Chicago Tribune article here.

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New Law

Gov. JB Pritzker signs a bill into law Friday requiring all public schools in Illinois to teach a unit of Asian American history, starting in the 2022-2023 school year as the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, left, and Sen. Ram Villivalam look on.

All public schools in Illinois will soon be required to teach a unit on Asian American history and culture as part of their social studies curriculum.

Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday signed a bill known as the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History, or TEAACH Act, into law, making Illinois the first state in the nation to enact such a requirement.

The bill, House Bill 376, was sponsored by two Asian American legislators, Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview, and Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago.

Under the new law, beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, all public elementary schools and high schools in Illinois will be required to teach one unit that focuses on the events of Asian American history from the 19th century to the present, including the history of Asian Americans in Illinois and the Midwest, as well as the contributions Asian Americans have made toward advancing civil rights.

The law also provides that the course work will include the contributions made by individual Asian Americans in government, art, humanities and science as well as the contributions of Asian American communities to the economic, cultural, social and political development of the U.S.

It also tasks the State Board of Education with preparing and distributing instructional materials that local districts can use as guidelines as they develop their own curriculum.

Read the full story here.

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Pay Play

College athletes in Illinois will now be able to be compensated.

At the University of Illinois on Tuesday, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed legislation that will allow athletes to profit from endorsements, sponsorships and autographs.

“Beginning July 1, Illinois collegiate student athletes, no matter the sport and no matter the division, can take control of their destiny when it comes to their name, image, likeness and voice,” Pritzker said.

The law does not allow athletes to endorse things like gambling, tobacco, cannabis, alcohol, adult entertainment or any products or services that are “reasonably considered to be inconsistent with the values or mission of a post secondary educational institution.”

With no national standard on the books yet, states are scrambling to allow college endorsements for student athletes. A number of states have such laws set to take effect in coming years, and lawmakers in California are considering moving up the state date of their previously passed legislation.

In 2019, California became the first state to pass NIL – name, image and likeness – legislation, permitting college athletes to hire an agent and market themselves. California’s law was set to take effect in 2023, but Florida just passed a law with an earlier start date, July 1, 2021. Four other states followed suit: Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and New Mexico.

(Sadly) Illinois is the first state to pass a NIL law in the Midwest. University of Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said it gives the state’s college sport’s programs an advantage.

Read more here.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced Monday that expiration dates for driver’s licenses and ID cards have been extended an additional five months, from Aug. 1, 2021, to Jan. 1, 2022.

The new Jan. 1, 2022 extension also includes expiration dates that will occur between July and December of this year. As a result, expired driver’s licenses and ID cards will remain valid until Jan. 1, 2022, so customers do not need to rush into Driver Services facilities, especially during hot weather. This extension does not apply to commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and CDL learner’s permits.

“Extending expiration dates until January 1, 2022, means people with an expired driver’s license or ID card do not need to rush into a Driver Services facility immediately,” White said in a statement. “During hot weather, I would suggest residents consider delaying visits to Driver Services facilities. But if you must visit a facility, please come prepared to wait outside due to continued social distancing efforts, which limits the number of people inside a facility at one time. We are allowing more people in the facilities at one time due to relaxed protocols.”

White noted that Senate Bill 2232, which Governor Pritzker signed into law Friday and had passed the House and Senate by overwhelming margins, authorizes the Secretary of State’s office to extend driver’s license and ID card expiration dates to Jan. 1, 2022. Senate Bill 2232 was sponsored by state Sen. Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) and state Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg).

White continues to urge the public to consider using online services when possible instead of visiting a facility due to heavy customer volume. White has greatly expanded online services and encourages the public to visit his office’s website at www.cyberdriveillinois.com. Many transactions can be conducted online, including the purchase of license plate stickers, obtaining a duplicate driver’s license or ID card, and renewing driver’s licenses and ID cards, including Real IDs, for those who are eligible.

Read more here.

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Masks JBP

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced June 10 that Illinois will move to a full reopening on June 11, but mask mandates and social distancing will remain a mainstay in Illinois schools.

Pritzker said it is critical that schools and day cares use and layer prevention strategies. The two most important ones are universal and correct use of masks, and physical distancing, which he said should be maximized to the greatest extent possible.

Pritzker has enforced COVID-19 mandates by issuing 18 disaster proclamations, a practice that is now under fire from some state lawmakers.

“We are operating and moving down a dangerous path if we allow governors either today or in the future to declare emergency declarations as long as they want without input from the General Assembly,” state Rep. Dan Ugaste, R-St. Charles, said.

Ugaste has House Bill 843 that would amend the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act to require the governor to get legislative approval of consecutive disaster proclamations.

State lawmakers are also examining other COVID-19 fallout, including failings by the Illinois Department of Employment Security and their offices remaining closed, millions spent on hospital leases that were rarely or never used, and the severe backlog of Firearm Owners’ Identifications that doubled in the past 18 months.

Read more here.

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JB GerrymanderingThis decade’s redistricting process in Illinois has been marked by stumbles and self-serving partisanship.

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the Census Bureau from providing the detailed count of populations needed to accurately apportion districts of equal population, as required by the state and federal constitutions. But the Illinois General Assembly went ahead anyway, drawing predictably partisan maps.

Despite his repeated promises to veto any partisan maps, on June 4 Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed both the gerrymandered legislative and judicial maps lawmakers sent to his desk.

Legislative map

The Illinois Constitution establishes deadlines for the General Assembly to pass a plan for redistricting their own districts. Members must pass a plan by June 30, or the responsibility is delegated to a bipartisan commission made of four Democrats and four Republicans.

If that commission cannot approve a map with five votes by Aug. 10, a tie-breaking ninth member is chosen at random from the names of one Democrat and one Republican by Sept. 5. The expanded commission then has until Oct. 5 to file a redistricting plan approved by five members.

With the complete census numbers delayed until mid-to-late August and the tabulated numbers not available until the end of September, Illinois Democrats are left with a choice: draw the maps in the General Assembly without the complete census data, or let constitutional deadlines pass and send the redistricting responsibility to a bipartisan backup commission, and ultimately to a 50-50 chance of a Republican tiebreaker. The Democrats chose to use incomplete data.

Democrats in the General Assembly revealed their proposed maps after working behind closed doors. According to public hearings held on those maps, in lieu of complete census data Democrats used data from the 2019 American Community Survey. Those estimates are based on surveys of communities over the course of five years.

Read much more here.

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Illinois’ jobs recovery from COVID-19 is among the slowest in the nation, so common sense should tell state lawmakers to avoid policies that could make the state’s economic outlook worse.

Yet a proposed constitutional amendment would take Illinois a step backward. If enacted and passed by ballot measure, Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 11 would incorporate a ban on right-to-work laws directly in the state’s constitution. The proposed amendment passed the Illinois Senate on May 21. If approved by the Illinois House of Representatives, it will appear on the November 2022 ballot.

Instead of focusing on fixing Illinois’ economic woes, politicians are kowtowing to labor interest groups, abusing the purpose of the state constitution, cluttering it with policy preferences and placing Illinois at odds with the more pro-growth policies of the majority of states.

In areas with a right-to-work law, workers in the private sector have the right to form unions, but nonmembers cannot be required to pay fees to a union in order to keep their jobs. Right to work already exists for workers in the public sector following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME.

From a legal perspective, the state constitution is the wrong place to wage a battle over economic policy.

Constitutions exist to establish the structure of government and, importantly, to protect people from the government – not to force one particular interest group’s policy preferences on the public at large. If lawmakers move forward with this legislation, Illinois could become the only state in the nation banning right-to-work laws in its state constitution. The amendment would tie the hands of future lawmakers should subsequent events make them want to reconsider the policy.

Read more of the Illinois Policy perspective here.

Related:Unionization amendment clears Senate, would prohibit ‘right-to-work’ laws in Illinois

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Union supporters rally in Springfield against then-Gov. Bruce Rauner’s calls to change collective bargaining policies. (Associated Press/May 18, 2016)

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate on Friday passed and sent to the House a proposed constitutional amendment that would establish a fundamental right of employees to unionize and engage in collective bargaining.

Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, lead sponsor of the measure in the Senate, said the amendment is a response to the relatively stagnant wages most workers have seen since the 1970s when union membership nationally began to decline.

“The falling rate of unionization has lowered wages, not only because some workers no longer received the higher union wage, but also because there is less pressure on nonunion employers to raise wages,” he said. “The ability of unions to set labor standards has declined.”

The proposed amendment would add a section to the Illinois Constitution’s Bill of Rights stating, “Employees shall have the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work.”

It would go on to say that no laws could be passed that diminish workers’ rights to organize, including any state law or local ordinance “that prohibits the execution or application of agreements between employers and labor organizations that represent employees requiring membership in an organization as a condition of employment.”

That is a reference to so-called “right-to-work” laws that began proliferating in the post-World War II era that prohibit any agreements requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

Currently, 28 states have some form of right-to-work laws or constitutional amendments on the books, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, including the neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Read more from Capitol News Illinois here.

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Corinne Wood walks with Boone Creek Water Alliance member Carol O’Donnell in rural Woodstock during a 2002 visit to McHenry County. Wood, a Barrington native who became Illinois’ first female lieutenant governor, died Tuesday. She was 66. (Daily Herald File Photo, 2002)

Corinne Wood was a trailblazing politician whose legal background, moderate voice and ability to reach across the aisle helped her become the first female lieutenant governor in Illinois.

But she never lost sight of her suburban roots.

Wood, who served as lieutenant governor alongside Gov. George Ryan from 1999 to 2003, died Tuesday from complications related to her 15 years with metastatic breast cancer, family members said. She was 66.

Wood paved the way for later women to become lieutenant governors, including Evelyn Sanguinetti, who served with Gov. Bruce Rauner, and current Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton.

In a statement Wednesday, Stratton called Wood “a trailblazer bringing her authentic self to the office and elevating the issue of women’s health. She paved the way for women like me to serve in this role.”

Wood grew up in Barrington, where she was known as Corky Gieseke while attending Grove Avenue School and graduating from Barrington High School in 1972. Her grandparents farmed land in Arlington Heights, Palatine and Barrington, while running the long-standing Gieseke’s Farm Market.

During her first year as lieutenant governor, Wood addressed members of the Barrington Chamber of Commerce, where she reflected on her local roots. At the time, she was recovering from an auto accident in which she suffered a leg injury and her daughter lost her four front teeth.

“I’m excited to be back in my hometown,” Wood said at the time. “The values I gained from growing up in a town like Barrington have guided me in public office.”

Read more here.

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