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Fireworks Ban

Illinoisans celebrate Independence Day by taking their fireworks business to other states, despite bans and threats at home, causing the state to lose out on jobs and revenue.

Red, white and blue flags, the smell of grilled burgers and hot dogs, and most of all, the familiar boom and sparkle in the sky are sure signs of Independence Day, but in Illinois freedom is quieter thanks to one of the nation’s most-restrictive laws for fireworks.

Fireworks are a long-standing Independence Day tradition dating back to the Founding Fathers. As John Adams wrote in a letter to his wife, Independence Day “ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.” Across the United States, Adams’ vision remains alive and well: Americans in 47 states spent $2.2 billion dollars on consumer fireworks in 2021.

However, despite the Founding Father’s wish, Illinoisans do not get to partake in the patriotic practice. It is one of three states that ban all or most consumer fireworks.

In 1942 Illinois passed the Illinois’ Pyrotechnic Use Act, making it illegal to purchase and use fireworks other than novelty items such as sparklers, small noise makers and smoke bombs. Under this act the possession, transportation and use of any consumer fireworks such as firecrackers, Roman candles or bottle rockets is deemed a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by fines up to $2,500 or a year in prison.

Despite the legal consequences, Illinois license plates flood the parking lots of fireworks retailers just across the state lines on and around Independence Day each year. The fireworks ban prompts Illinoisans to take their business to neighboring states, costing Illinois both tax revenue and jobs.

Pennsylvania, which has roughly the same population as Illinois, brings in $10 million in tax revenue annually from fireworks sales. Illinois state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, who wants to repeal the fireworks ban, argues Illinois is missing out on that $10 million in sales tax revenue each year for no good reason.

Read more here.

Related:Fireworks ban a boon for neighboring states, restricts Illinoisans

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JBNH

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker addressees the New Hampshire Democratic Convention on Saturday, June 18, 2022

MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire Democrats zeroed in on abortion rights during their annual convention here Saturday, bringing in Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker to prop up the campaigns of Sen. Maggie Hassan and governor candidate Tom Sherman, who will likely ease through September’s primary but face tough races heading into November’s general election.

“The Republican Party is so afraid of the power and influence women have achieved in our society that they are seeking to shame and criminalize your very autonomy,” said Pritzker, who leads a state that has a law that codifies Roe v. Wade.

It’s a subject that generated the most applause throughout the day, including during a speech by Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor and the former mayor of Boston (Massachusetts also has codified Roe). For the record, Walsh told the crowd, he’s not running for president.

Pritzker’s name, on the other hand, has popped up repeatedly as a potential future presidential candidate, most recently when it was announced he’d be speaking Saturday in New Hampshire. But the Democratic governor’s political team says Pritzker is only focused on his reelection and on helping elect Democrats across the country who support abortion rights.

Pritzker, a self-described “Ukrainian-American, Jewish, Democratic, billionaire, businessman,” was scheduled to travel to Maine after leaving New Hampshire to campaign for Democratic Gov. Janet Mills.

By the end of his speech, Pritzker had won over a cadre of Belknap County delegates who enthusiastically told a POLITICO reporter that they’d like to see him run for higher office.

“I think he should be our next president,” Johnna Davis, co-chair of the Belknap County Democrats, said as a couple other delegates seated in her row nodded along. “He’s got great energy. He’s perfect.”

Oy. Read more of the story here.

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IDES

A state audit found the Illinois Department of Employment Security lost to fraud more than half of the $3.6 billion in federal COVID-19 dollars earmarked for out-of-work Illinoisans. The full scope of the unemployment fraud remains unknown.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security sent nearly $2 billion in unemployment benefits to crooks during the pandemic, losing more than half the federal dollars earmarked for out-of-work Illinoisans, according to a new audit.

The partial state report uncovered “unprecedented” levels of theft, showing the agency failed to “maintain accurate and complete” data on residents filing claims through the program. IDES previously admitted there were 212,000 false claims, but had refused to disclose the cost.

Auditors said this resulted in the vast majority of fraudsters being successful at stealing real Illinoisans’ identities and swiping their unemployment payments. In total, the department lost more than half of the $3.6 billion in pandemic funds promised to residents between July 2020 and June 2021.

Republican state lawmakers have decried the rampant fraud and blamed Gov. J.B. Pritzker for mismanaging the program rollout, which ranked seventh worst in the nation. IDES has attempted to downplay the losses.

IDES failures during the pandemic were widespread. It was months late in implementing a system to get federal dollars to the self-employed, allowed a data breach that exposed the private data of 32,483 unemployment applicants, made applicants wait months for benefits and at one point had a call backlog of 156,000 people awaiting help with their claims.

IDES administrators said they “stopped roughly $40 billion in fraudulent payments across state and federal programs” through the end of last year and have introduced new technologies to mitigate theft moving forward.

More here.

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Property Taxation

A proposed change to the Illinois Constitution would effectively transfer power over taxpayer money to government worker unions. The trend of property tax hikes would likely grow even worse during the next four years.

It’s election season in Illinois, and politicians are running on the promise of property tax relief as usual, including every major candidate for governor.

Illinois’ property taxes are already the second-highest in the nation and a major reason taxpayers are fleeing to lower-tax states. That problem could be made worse on Nov. 8 when voters will be asked to decide the fate of Amendment 1, a tax hike disguised as a “workers rights amendment.”

The change would prevent commonsense reforms to reduce homeowners’ tax burdens while giving government union leaders virtually limitless new ways to demand higher costs from taxpayers. If it passes, Illinois’ trend of large annual property tax increases will likely grow faster than ever. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has failed to deliver on property tax relief during his term – the average family paid $1,913 more during his administration.

Amendment 1 would guarantee that family pays at least $2,149 in higher property tax bills over the next four years, no matter which politicians win this November or how well they try to follow through on their promises.

This is a conservative estimate, assuming the rapid growth of Illinois’ property tax burden holds steady. It’s likely property taxes would grow at an even faster rate, because Amendment 1 would give Illinois government unions unprecedented bargaining powers that don’t exist in any other state. Exactly how much faster is an open question.

Read on here.

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JBNH

Gov. J.B. Pritzker launches an East Coast trip Friday, ostensibly to sell Chicago as a 2024 presidential convention site and campaign for Democrats, but a stop in New Hampshire has stirred presidential speculation and criticism from his Republicans opponents.

Pritzker, at an unrelated news conference Wednesday, stopped short of eschewing any future interest in seeking the party’s presidential nomination.

“I can’t tell you anything other than I love the job that I have. It’s why I’m running for reelection as governor of our state, and I intend to continue to do a good job for the people of the state for the next four years,” a smiling Pritzker said.

Some Democrats nationally have questioned whether President Joe Biden, whose tenure has been battered by a poor economy, high inflation and Russia’s war with Ukraine, will seek another term in 2024. His vice president, Kamala Harris, also has had a rocky term and is not viewed as an automatic replacement for Biden should the president not seek reelection.

New Hampshire has historically been home to the country’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary elections after the Iowa caucuses — something that may change as Democrats look to adopt a new national presidential calendar. But its historic role in the winnowing out process of choosing presidential nominees makes any politician’s appearance in New Hampshire suspect as part of a future White House bid.

Pritzker campaign aides sought to downplay any potential presidential aspirations by the governor, saying the trip is part of an extensive effort by the governor to support Democrats nationally on one of his top issues protecting reproductive rights for women. The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to potentially overturn the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that gave women the right to seek an abortion without undue government interference.

Read more here.

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CAT

One of the state’s biggest employers is relocating their headquarters to Irving, Texas. A decade ago Caterpillar’s CEO warned state leaders of business losses unless they balanced the budget, controlled workers’ comp costs and cut taxes. He was ignored.

After nearly a century, Caterpillar is moving its corporate headquarters out of Illinois. Their office in Irving, Texas, will transition into the new base camp.

Illinois state leaders were warned a decade ago by Caterpillar’s CEO about what they needed to do to keep businesses from leaving. His warning in 2012 about balanced budgets, workers’ compensation costs and taxes were not only ignored, but the problems have grown worse.

The construction and mining equipment giant is the second major company to leave Illinois in five weeks. Boeing aerospace also announced its headquarters was moving to Virginia.

“We believe it’s in the best strategic interest of the company to make this move, which supports Caterpillar’s strategy for profitable growth as we help our customers build a better, more sustainable world,” Caterpillar CEO Jim Umpleby said in a statement.

Most of Caterpillar’s 230 corporate employees will gradually transition to the new headquarters. Caterpillar will still employ more than 17,000 Illinoisans after the move, but there’s no guarantee those jobs will stay in Illinois.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Todd Maisch said even with employees remaining in the state, Caterpillar moving their headquarters is a bad sign.

Read more here.

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mikemad

Commonwealth Edison electricity customers would get more than $38 million in refunds tied to the federal bribery scandal that led to former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s indictment, under a proposal being considered by state regulators.

While it would be about $17 million higher than the refund ComEd proposed in December, a utility watchdog estimated a typical residential customer would save “less than $5″ in the form of a credit on bills.

The new proposed order was filed this week by an administrative law judge at the Illinois Commerce Commission, which could consider the proposal by early September.

The proposal is designed to resolve two ICC investigations — one regulators initiated and one required by a new energy law approved last year. A key part of both probes was to examine whether ComEd improperly charged ratepayers costs tied to the scandal.

Read more here.

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Early Voting

Following are early primary voting information links for all Village counties:

The 2022 General Primary election is June 28th.

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Uhaul

Cities and towns in Illinois lost more than 104,000 people in the 12 months up to July 1, 2021, according to new U.S. Census data released Thursday. Nearly half of Illinois’ losses were from Chicago.

The report for the entire country shows populations continue to shift to towns in the South and West regions of the United States.

“Arizona, Texas, Florida and Idaho all had several places among the 15 fastest-growing cities or towns,” the report said.

Of the 15 largest cities, New York lost nearly 305,500 people. Chicago lost 45,175 people, which was larger than Los Angeles’ loss of 40,537 people. Chicago is the third most populous city behind New York and L.A..

San Antonio, Texas, gained the most of the large cities, seeing an increase of 13,600. Phoenix (13,224) and Fort Worth, Texas (12,916) round out the top gainers.

The updated report also shows Illinois’ nearly 1,300 cities and towns combined lost 104,375 people from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021.

There were big winners in Illinois, but even bigger losers.

Read more here.  An entire list of Illinois city population changes can be downloaded here (Barrington Hills data can be found in line 484).

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Editorial note: With so many residents escaping Illinois, this seems so apropos….

Uhaul

Renderings for a re-imaging of a water tower on U-Haul property located in Crystal Lake near the intersection of Routes 14 and 31. The image would include alternating “U-Haul” and “Crystal Lake” signage. (U-Haul via City of Crystal Lake)

The storage and moving company U-Haul has asked to repaint a water tower in Crystal Lake to include both city signage and the company’s logo.

The Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission gave a thumbs up to plans to repaint the sign move forward at its meeting Wednesday.

“Our primary goal is obviously to clean it up,” U-Haul marketing company president Jeff Jones said. “It’s starting to look a little rusty at the bottom. We clearly haven’t done anything with it since we owned the property, and we are spending a lot of money to clean it up, so we’d like to put our advertising on it.”

The tower, located near the intersection of routes 14 and 31, is on U-Haul’s property. It was acquired in 2016, and is currently being used as part of U-Haul’s fire suppression system, Jones said.

The two U-Haul logo signs would each be 130 square feet, Jones said.

Several members of the commission said they felt the current signage – which dates back to before U-Haul purchased the site, when it was owned by Follett Books – was ugly and outdated and welcomed the idea of the city of Crystal Lake being showcased on the tower.

The advisory commission voted 5-2 in favor of the sign and recommended to the Crystal Lake City Council that a condition be set that if U-Haul leaves the property, the company would have 60 days to repaint the sign or remove the logos.

Read more here.

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