Well, yesterday this update did say we were in for some interesting hours ahead of us. The Georgia elections wrapped up last night and it looks as if there are two unofficial winners that will change the balance of the Senate (actually a perfect 50/50 balance).
Hours ago, in case you haven’t seen yet, protests broke out at the U.S. Capitol with various reports of individuals on the house floor, in offices, etc. We’re not going to get into much more as surely you can see or hear from numerous news sources what has transpired over the hours.
So, with that said, below we look at some state issues with some news on Tier 2 roll back, vaccine stage changes, lame duck session, and cannabis sale records.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Despite the chain of events that struck the U.S. Capitol today, lawmakers in both parties and both chambers said they expect Congress to continue the work of certifying Joe Biden’s presidential victory later in the evening.
Before the events, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) objected to recording his home state’s Electoral College tally at a joint session of Congress, triggering a historic debate and votes in the House and Senate. After there were no objections to the tallies in Alabama and Alaska, both won by Trump, Gosar rose to object to the Electoral College vote in Arizona, where President-elect Joe Biden won by 10,457 votes.
Vice President Mike Pence, who is presiding over the joint session, asked Gosar if his objection was in writing and joined by a senator, a requirement to trigger the debate and vote. Gosar said it was and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) chimed in with his objection.
One lawmaker from each chamber must agree to object to a given state in order to trigger up to two hours of debate and a vote. The GOP is also expected to object to other state tallies as Congress records electoral votes, including Pennsylvania and Georgia. House Republicans are also pushing to object to the results from Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin, but it’s not clear yet if a senator will back a challenge to those swing states.
Georgia Runoff Races
The presumed double victory (the Associated Press and other outlets declared both had won their races although results will still need to be validated) resets the Senate’s balance of power at 50-50, securing a Democratic majority for the first time since 2014 due to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s ability to cast tie-breaking votes in the chamber once she is inaugurated. This ability will make Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) the majority leader, relegating current Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to the minority after six years in charge of the Senate.
Democrats’ twin victories in Georgia have huge implications for President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, as he will not be forced to navigate a Republican Senate during the opening years of his administration.
The results of the Senate flip could be felt almost immediately. Senators-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock campaigned vigorously on additional Covid-19 relief measures. The close divide in the Senate will still give outsize power to moderates in both parties.
Illinois Vaccine Stage Update
The next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Illinois, Phase 1B, will include “frontline essential workers” and anyone over the age of 65, representing a total of 3.2 million more Illinois residents who would be eligible to get the vaccine, Governor Pritzker said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
This mostly follows distribution recommendations provided by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, but the state lowered their minimum age limit for Phase 1B from the recommended 75 years to 65 years to account for the fact that the average age of COVID-19 deaths among people of color is significantly lower than that of white people, Pritzker said.
Tier 2 Return?
After putting a hold on the movement of health regions out of his Tier 3 mitigation measures through the holiday season, Governor Pritzker said today that the current COVID-19 metrics have made him hopeful that the state has avoided the large spike in infections he had feared would come with larger family gatherings and travel.
For this reason, come Jan. 15, he will allow any regions that are meeting the IDPH’s required metrics to move from Tier 3 to Tier 2 mitigation measures, which are less restrictive.
Last week there was a surprising announcement from the Sangamon County Department of Public Health about restaurants being able to have indoor dining at 25 percent. The health department announcement had been rumored, but caught some restaurant owners off guard with the timing of it. Even with declining metrics in the county, including its positivity rate, and with input from medical personnel, the county is defying Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines.
Although he did not agree with the move by the county health department, Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder said in a statement that he would support any restaurant which chooses to open under the guidance.
“The governor has worked every day making the difficult and terrible choices that will save the most lives,” said Jordan Abudayyeh, in a statement. “It’s time for local officials to step up and remember that being a leader doesn’t mean making the easy choice. It means doing everything you can to protect the people who trust you to serve them.”
According to county officials, the metric used to allow a restricted reopening of indoor service was achieving a seven-day rolling positivity rate of under 6.5% for seven consecutive days. They also noted that hospital bed capacity and intensive care unit bed capacity are both over the crucial 20% metric set by IDPH. But in any case, the county said that they believe that “the metric as currently reported does not accurately reflect our hospitals’ quick adaptability under standard operating procedures.”
As of yesterday, only four of the state’s 11 mitigation regions had not met the criteria Governor Pritzker’s administration provided to return to Tier 2 mitigations, from Tier 3. Those areas are Region 4, Region 5, Region 6, and Region 9. Jordan Abudayyeh, the governor’s spokesperson, said Monday that the administration is “in a pause in mitigation moves to see what impact holiday gatherings have on the data.”
The entire state came under the more restrictive Tier 3 public health measures on Nov. 20 in an effort to slow the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Under Tier 3, businesses — such as fitness centers and hotels — must follow 25 percent capacity limits, and bars and restaurants are closed to indoor service. Tier 2 mitigations also impose a ban on indoor service at bars and restaurants. In addition, Tier 3 mitigations shut down casinos, gaming terminals, theaters, performing arts centers and indoor museums and amusement centers, among other indoor recreation places.
The criteria for moving to Tier 2 requires a test positivity rate less than 12 percent for three consecutive days, greater than 20 percent intensive care unit and medical or surgical bed availability for three consecutive days, and a decline in the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital in at least 7 out of the last 10 days.
Lame Duck and 102nd General Assembly Session – Budget, Redistricting, and More
State lawmakers could face a record number of thorny political issues in the first half of 2021, including a battle over who should lead the Illinois House, decisions on billions of dollars in budget cuts and potential tax increases, and the drawing of new legislative district maps as lawmakers return to Springfield on Friday, January 8th.
It’s possible that the General Assembly’s Legislative Black Caucus could use a lame-duck session to push a package of potential bills dealing with criminal-justice reform, police accountability, education and workforce development, economic improvements and health care and human services.
It’s possible that a controversial topic such as a tax increase could be acted on during a lame-duck session, when some lawmakers who were defeated in November and won’t be returning for the spring session wouldn’t have to worry about repercussions from voters in the future.
Meeting safely during COVID-19 pandemic
A bill that would have allowed for virtual legislating failed by a single vote in the House in May, though Senate rules allow for that chamber’s committees to meet remotely and vote.
Legislation introduced by state Rep. Ann Williams and Sen. Robert Martwick would allow lawmakers to vote remotely during a pandemic without having to travel to Springfield, but it’s unclear when that proposal might be considered or take effect.
In the meantime, in-person meetings by lawmakers — with social distancing and masking — could be the norm for the time being in the Senate chamber for the Senate’s 59 members, and at the BOS Center for the House’s 118 members.
Picking a House speaker
Current House Speaker, Michael Madigan, who has been implicated but not charged in a bribery scheme, hasn’t publicly secured the 60 votes he needs to secure his 19th term as House speaker.
Choosing a speaker is the second order of business after House members take the oath of office. They aren’t allowed to just skip this step and move on to other matters. Nineteen Democrats have said they won’t support Madigan as speaker. The last time there was lack of consensus among the majority party in the House on who to select as speaker was 1974. No challenger to Madigan has a clear path to victory. The quandary over the speaker position means the House could be tied up for days or weeks before the issue is decided.
Hard choices on potential cuts, taxes
The $711 million in budget cuts that Governor Pritzker announced a few weeks ago and has begun to implement through spending under his direct control will be coupled with the need to cut up to $2 billion more or raise taxes to deal with an estimated $3.9 billion state budget shortfall this fiscal year.
The governor, who said the spending cuts are related in part to a slide in state revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, said he needs lawmakers to get involved before more cuts can take place. Those cuts, along with more budget reductions that may be necessary in fiscal 2021, which begins July 1, 2020, will be painful for both Democrats and Republicans.
The state borrowed $1.2 billion to cover expenses in the previous fiscal year that ended June 30. Pritzker has said the state will borrow another $2 billion to help cover shortfalls in the current budget.
Madigan has told members of the House Black Caucus that he could support an increase in the state’s 4.95% flat income tax after a state constitutional amendment to institute a graduated income tax failed in November. Pritzker has called for Republicans who were part of the successful campaign to defeat the graduated-tax initiative to come up with a list of cuts that should be considered.
Aides to House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Don Harmon on Monday ruled out a state income tax increase during the upcoming, lame-duck legislative session – despite GOP warnings to the contrary.
A spokeswoman for the governor confirmed Monday that the administration is not seeking a tax increase during the lame-duck session.
“The governor has presented more than $700 million in budget cuts, yet Republicans have offered no solutions to the fiscal challenges facing the state,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in a statement. “It’s going to take a lot more than empty rhetoric to balance the budget and the Governor looks forward to hearing realistic ideas from Republicans, so the state can balance the budget in a bipartisan fashion.”
Illinois lawmakers have a history of passing tax increases during the lame-duck period between the November general election and when a new session of the General Assembly is sworn into office in January. In 2011, under former Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, lawmakers in a lame-duck session approved a temporary increase in the state income tax that moved rates for individuals from 3% to 5%. Rates rolled back to 3.75% in 2015 before being increased in 2017 to 4.95%, which is the current rate.
Redistricting once every 10 years
Coming up with new legislative maps for the Illinois House, Senate and U.S. House every 10 years after a Census always proves to be a contentious process for the General Assembly. This year won’t be any exception, with Democrats and Republicans wanting maps that favor their chances in future elections.
Because of Illinois’ loss of population since 2000, the state is expected to lose one or two seats in the U.S. House and an accompanying reduction in the current 18 congressional districts. Lawmakers missed a deadline this year that would have put a constitutional question on the ballot to give mapmaking authority to an independent commission that is “demographically, politically, and geographically representative” of Illinois.
House Republican Leader Durkin has said he would like to see the legislature accomplish the same objective through state law. Madigan’s spokesman said Democrats would consider “input” in the mapmaking process from any groups supporting fair maps, but wouldn’t say whether the speaker would support handing over authority to an independent group. Pritzker supported reforms to the redistricting process during his gubernatorial campaign, and he has said he would veto any map he thought was unfair.
The General Assembly must approve new maps by June 30. Otherwise, the state Constitution says the process must be turned over to a bipartisan commission that is likely to deadlock and result in one political party being given authority over mapmaking through a name drawn out of a hat. New maps will affect all members of the state House and Senate, and U.S. House candidates, beginning with elections in 2022.
Democrats, Republicans interested in ethics reform measures
The Chicago-based Better Government Association says on its website that Illinois voters can thank federal prosecutors for the latest interest in ethics reforms.
By mid-August, the BGA says, “federal prosecutors had netted a guilty plea from one state senator for accepting bribes to block legislation; charged another senator with ghost payrolling; and charged a state representative, moonlighting as a lobbyist, with trying to bribe a third senator to support legislation sought by a client. Also caught up in the probe are two Chicago aldermen, two mayors, three political consultants, two developers and the state’s largest utility, Commonwealth Edison.” The BGA adds that Illinois “has some of the weakest ethics laws in the nation.”
What specifically will be proposed is unclear, but legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle have expressed willingness to engage on the issue. Whether lawmakers will be willing to pass meaningful reforms — for example, creating searchable databases that encompass campaign contributions and economic interest statements by lawmakers and other elected officials and public employees remains to be seen.
Recreational Marijuana Overcame Expectations in 2020
Sales of recreational marijuana in Illinois reached $669 million during the first year it was legal for consumers over 21 to buy cannabis. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis sales have been stronger than expected. Illinois sales were about 49 percent higher than in Michigan, which had about $450 million in recreational marijuana sales.
Marijuana sales lurched forward throughout the year, as cultivation capacity expanded and new retail stores became available, after the industry struggled to get up to speed in the six months between when the law passed and sales began on Jan. 1, 2020. December sales rose 16 percent to $87 million, the highest monthly total so far, according to the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation. It was more than double the $39 million in marijuana sold in January.
Recreational marijuana sales are more than double the amount sold to medical patients; medical sales average about $31 million a month and are relatively flat. December results for medical marijuana have not been released. Taken together, total Illinois marijuana sales for the year are likely to top $1 billion.
“We are anticipating the month-over-month growth to increase in the late spring or early summer after more of the population has been vaccinated and COVID restrictions begin to roll back,” says Alyssa Jank, consulting services manager at Brightfield Group, a Chicago-based research firm.
Will County Health Department Survey for Vaccine Distribution
The Will County Health Department is asking all Will County residents to please fill out the survey below to get on the participation list for Covid-19 vaccination. ***The survey is meant for Will County residents only.***
This survey was designed to assist the Will County Health Department in planning for Covid-19 vaccine distribution. Questions contained in this survey were developed from limited and preliminary guidance from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) & Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Click HERE for the survey.
For more information on COVID-19 (including the survey), go to the Will County Health Department’s COVID-19 page at https://willcountyhealth.org/covid-19/covid-vaccine/
Program Notices & Reminders
SBA Loans and IRS Tax Implications for Small Businesses
Join representatives from the SBA Illinois District and the IRS for a discussion and presentation of tax treatment for COVID-19 relief programs, including the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, the Paycheck Protection Program, employer tax deferment, and Small Business/Self-Employed incentives with SBA and IRS. This is a tax information webinar and should not be considered as tax advice.
Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 1 p.m.
Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sba-loans-and-irs-tax-implications-for-small-businesses-tickets-132859788203?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
U.S. Chamber Guide to New Pandemic Relief Package
How Do These Changes Impact My Existing PPP Loan?
I Exhausted My Initial PPP Loan, How Does This Help Me?
What If I Never Received a PPP Loan?
Which Changes to Other Programs That May Help My Small Business Have Been Changed?
- Expanded Employee Retention Tax Credit
- EIDL Grants
- Grants for Shuttered Venue Operators
- SBA Loan Debt Forgiveness
Here is the link to the Monday 12/21 update that contained full information on the relief package:
SBDC at JJC Update
21 Topics in 21 Minutes for 2021 Growth
Date: Scheduled one-on-one session
In less than 30 minutes, the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Joliet Junior College will help you prioritize key 2021 business plans whether it is for your people, your product, your marketing, your sales, your money, or the impact of this crisis. In this short, one-on-one exercise, we will help you determine up to three of the biggest opportunities for growth in the year ahead. We will offer no-cost tools to develop your strategy for success in those areas. Email us at SBDC@JJC.edu and we will send you a link for registration.
Selling for Non-Salespeople
Date: 1/7/21 Time: 2pm
Is your B2B product or service really awesome – BUT – you aren’t confident in your ability to sell it? Most of us feel like introverts at times, but you can join us for a simple session to act like an extrovert. Hear tips on how to do the prospecting, presenting, and closing to help you get new customers to say YES! Join Mike Wilczynski for the no-cost webinar by registering at: https://ilsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/33822
Starting Your Business in Illinois
Date: 1/14/21 Time: 9am
Thinking about starting a business in Illinois? This informative workshop helps entrepreneurs understand many of the steps and requirements. In this no-cost overview of Starting Your Business in Illinois, we will touch on many aspects of your business plan, including legal, accounting, banking, marketing, and sales.
Advanced Business Data Research (with Shorewood Library)
January 21st at 6pm
Already familiar with Reference Solutions (formerly Reference USA)? Learn how to utilize this data even more! In this session, learn higher level search techniques, how to use the additional functionality (like the mapping, summary, and chart options), and how to combine searches within modules to get a more in-depth level of data.
Register at: https://ilsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/33678
Government Certification Process (with Rita Haake at COD)
January 28th at 9am
Certifications: Interpreting the alphabet to pursue profits! Which small business certification is the best one for you?
• Federal: 8(a), EDWOSB, HUBZone, SDB, SDVOSB, WOSB, VOSB
• State: DBE, FBE, FMBE, MBE, PBE, VBE
• Local: DBE, MBE, WBE, VBE
You will learn the details of the application process, documentation requirements, certification options, and how to market and leverage certifications for the growth of your business.
Register at: https://ilsbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/33909
Will County Residents Behind on Mortgage or Rent Can Access Funds
Funds are available to those at least one month behind on rent. utility assistance is also available for those who qualify. Renters having difficulty working with their landlords and facing eviction are encouraged to contact Prairie State Legal, another HUD CARES funded program, at (815) 727-5123.
Owners behind on their mortgages are encouraged to work with their mortgage companies on forbearance options. If those options are not available or exhausted, assistance is available for families behind on mortgage payments as well.
The local agencies helping are:
- Will County Center for Community Concerns, (815) 722-0722
- Spanish Community Center, (815) 727-3683
- Catholic Charities, (815) 774-4663
- Community Service Council, (815) 886-5000
Finally, as we move into 2021 please keep in contact and send your feedback on the issues your business faces, the aid you may need dealing with IDES or the Business Interruption Grant, and questions you may have moving forward.
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry