It’s Thursday so that means we have a new jobs report to share and tomorrow we should receive the May overall report on jobs created. First for today, it’s been a while since we’ve reported on Covid cases. Positive cases in the United States have fallen to around 15,000 per day, part of a sharp decline in new infections as vaccination numbers increase, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said today.
The seven-day average of about 15,600 cases per day is the lowest level of new recorded cases in the U.S. since March 2020 – though comparisons to the first month of the pandemic can be tricky given that testing still lagged at that time.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 674 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 24 additional deaths. In addition, more than 67% of Illinois adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and nearly 51% of Illinois adults are fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from May 27-June 2, 2021, is 1.5%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity from May 27-June 2, 2021, is 1.7%.
Below there is more on bills passed by the Illinois general assembly at the beginning of this week such as gaming, college athletes’ ability to profit, a follow up on criminal justice, and a behind the scenes look at negotiations on budget/energy.
*Daily Coronavirus update brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital
Jobless Claims Hit Pandemic Low
The number of Americans filing for first-time jobless claims fell to a pandemic low last week, according to the Labor Department. Data released Thursday showed 385,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ended May 29, below the 390,000 that analysts surveyed by Refinitiv were anticipating. The prior week’s reading was revised down by 1,000 to 405,000.
Continuing claims for the week ended May 22, meanwhile, rose to 3.771 million, above the 3.615 million that was expected. Last week’s reading was revised lower to 3.602 million from 3.642 million.
Separately, U.S. private-sector job growth accelerated in May as the labor market continued to rebound from its COVID-19-induced slowdown, according to the ADP National Employment Report. Economists separately expect that the May employment report, set to be released Friday, will show that the economy added 671,000 jobs last month, after gaining 266,000 in April, and that the unemployment rate fell to 5.9% in May from 6.1% the prior month.
The steady decline in initial unemployment claims points to a budding economic expansion as rising vaccination rates quell Covid-19 case numbers and governments ease restrictions on businesses. “We’ve heard a lot about workers being slow to rejoin the workforce and some reluctance to take the jobs that are available, but on the other side of that, the recovery is proceeding [and] layoffs are declining,” Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist at Oxford Economics, said.
There are numerous signs that demand for workers continues to pick up as the economy further reopens. As of late May, job postings on Indeed, a job-search site, were 26% above where they were ahead of the pandemic in February 2020, after adjusting for seasonal variation. Companies from across the economy report they are struggling to find workers. A manufacturing employment index of the Institute for Supply Management fell sharply in May, signaling that fewer businesses were adding to their head counts.
There are other signs the labor market is unusually tight, even though the unemployment rate remains well above its pre-Covid levels. In March, the rate at which workers quit their jobs—a proxy for confidence in the ability to find a better one—hit previous highs of 2001 and 2019. The employment-cost index in the first quarter rose 0.9% from the previous quarter, the biggest increase since 2007.
The claims data also suggest millions of potential workers are still on the sidelines. In mid-May, some 15.4 million Americans received unemployment benefits through regular state aid and federal emergency programs put in place in response to the pandemic. The figure, which isn’t adjusted for seasonality, was down more than 4 million from the first week of March, though it was still nearly seven times the number of people collecting benefits before the pandemic’s onset.
Behind the Scenes on Negotiation
Republicans say you can thank GOP state Sen. Jason Barickman for steering the Democrats’ $42.3 billion state budget to the governor’s desk. That unusual legislative twist came about after a 3 a.m. battle on the Senate floor that had Barickman, the Senate GOP’s floor leader, debating a surprise, out-of-the-blue amendment to a Democratic redistricting bill that shifted the circuit courts in St. Clair County and Lake County — the latter of which Minority Leader Dan McConchie represents.
Sources said Republicans hadn’t received any notice about the late-night amendment and were angry they couldn’t get answers from Democrats. Later in the morning, GOP members were looking at the amendment online when they noticed a separate action: Harmon’s brick on the just-approved budget.
Putting a hold on the budget would have allowed Harmon to gain leverage on Pritzker in negotiating the controversial energy bill — not, as we mentioned yesterday, leverage with the House.
Republican senators realized they could force Harmon to release the budget by challenging his motion to hold it. That would have prompted an immediate vote. Harmon’s caucus would have to choose to either override his hold or send it back to the floor for another vote. Talk about a wild scenario given both Harmon and Pritzker support the budget — and Barickman doesn’t.
Before that occurred, Harmon approached Republicans. Barickman repeated what he told the Senate president: “I was just trying to free the budget from the political game by which it was being held hostage.”
Harmon then pulled the brick, and most members were none the wiser. His move, however, fuels buzz about tension between Harmon and the governor. Pritzker’s team says not so. Harmon’s team didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Some history: Harmon and Pritzker started their political careers in the early 1990s in the Democratic Leadership for the 21st Century, or DL21C. It was a political organization that served as a pipeline for up-and-coming Democrats. Fast-forward to 2017 when Pritzker ran for governor — Harmon backed former state Sen. Daniel Biss instead. Last year, Pritzker backed Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford for Senate president over Harmon. All that adds to a frayed relationship.
Neither Pritzker nor Harmon will talk about that. And those close to them say they are united on all major issues — except, apparently, the energy bill.
Lawmakers Pass Follow-up Criminal Justice Bill Addressing Police Concerns
The General Assembly this week passed legislation addressing lingering concerns from law enforcement about a massive criminal justice reform omnibus passed earlier this year.
Introduced by Chicago Democratic Sen. Elgie Sims, an amendment to House Bill 3443 would act as trailer legislation for the SAFE-T Act, a major criminal justice reform backed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus that was signed into law by Gov. JB Pritzker in February. That measure mandated body cameras and changed use-of-force guidelines for law enforcement, created a new police certification system, expanded detainee rights and ends the use of cash bail in Illinois.
Unlike the SAFE-T Act, Sims’ new legislation has the support of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois State Police and amends some controversial portions of the act that were opposed by law enforcement. In a statement posted to its website, the IACP approved of the amendment’s changes relaxing rules around body cameras, removing some use-of-force restriction language and extending deadlines for new training standards.
It passed the Senate 42-17, but in the House, Rep. Justin Slaughter, D-Chicago, who negotiated most of the major provisions in the SAFE-T Act alongside Sims, ran into opposition from fellow Chicago Democratic Rep. Curtis Tarver. Tarver called the trailer legislation a “piss-poor bill,” and rejected the idea that it was a Black Caucus amendment because Slaughter did not present it to the entire Black Caucus before he and Sims introduced the legislation.
The legislation ultimately passed 79-36, with multiple Republicans voting in favor of the measure and Tarver voting as the sole dissenting Democrat. A brief parliamentary hold was put on the bill, but as of Wednesday it had been lifted, clearing the way for it to head to the governor.
“The SAFE-T Act [is] a bold momentous transformational initiative that makes Illinois a national leader in criminal justice reform, and a model for other states to follow,” Slaughter said. “I beg of you, respect the hard work of the stakeholders that came together on a product where there are no winners or no losers on a bill, where no one gets everything that they want. As a sponsor of this bill I’m absolutely honored to work with all the stakeholders and proud of our efforts.”
A provision in the SAFE-T Act prevented officers accused of misconduct or involved in a shooting, or who have used force which resulted in bodily harm, from using footage from their body camera or recordings from other officers when writing reports of the incident.
HB 3443 keeps that provision in place, but adds language that allows an officer, with a supervisor’s approval, to file a supplementary report for which they can access body camera footage.
Deadly force provisions are also changed. The SAFE-T Act instituted limits on when an officer may use deadly force to two scenarios – when they believe deadly force is needed to prevent death or harm to themselves or another person; or when an individual who “just” committed a violent felony and cannot be caught at a later time is attempting to escape, is likely to cause great harm to another person and only deadly force can stop them.
The amendment removes the word “just”, requiring only that a violent felony was committed in general. The amendment also removes the requirement that a dangerous individual “cannot be apprehended at a later date,” leaving the restrictions that an officer must believe only deadly force is able to stop the suspect and that the suspect is likely to greatly injure another person.
As a counterbalance to the removed language, the amendment adds that the officer’s ability to use deadly force ends when the threat of “bodily harm to the officer or another” ends.
Chokeholds, which are considered deadly force under the SAFE-T Act, are defined as any direct pressure to the throat, windpipe or airway. The amendment carves out an exception for contact with an individual’s neck “that is not intended to reduce the intake of air.” An example listed is a “headlock” which can be wrapped around a suspect’s forehead or chin.
A provision on law enforcement misconduct is also changed to be more lenient under the amendment. In order for an officer to be charged with law enforcement misconduct, a Class 3 felony, the officer must have knowingly and intentionally misrepresented or withheld knowledge of the facts of a case with the intent to obstruct the prosecution or defense of an individual, under the amendment.
The IACP also noted a lack of state funding for the body camera mandate and the fact that the attorney general can issue penalties to individual officers, rather than penalties for their departments and municipalities, for civil infractions, as “major issues unaddressed” in the trailer bill.
“The Illinois Chiefs support the trailer bill. It addresses many of our serious concerns with the SAFE-T Act, and law enforcement will be much better off with these changes,” the statement from the IACP concludes. “We remain concerned about unresolved and unaddressed issues, but in recent months we have strengthened a process of negotiating honestly and in good faith with legislators about criminal justice reform.”
Sims released a statement after his amendment passed the Senate. “Public safety has always been the number one priority of the SAFE-T Act and our goal remains the same— to create safer communities. That’s why, when negotiating these changes, we again included input from advocates, law enforcement officials and various stakeholders,” he said.
Illinois Gaming Updates
A new bill passed allows Illinois college bets, but they must be made in person. The bill also prohibits local gambling taxation. An omnibus gambling bill that would allow Illinois bettors to wager on in-state college sports teams on a two-year trial basis passed the House early Tuesday morning, hours after its introduction the day prior.
Anybody wishing to make such a bet in Illinois, however, would need to do so in person at a sports book, rather than on an online application. A bet on an Illinois college team could only be a “Tier 1” wager, meaning it is “determined solely by the final score or final outcome” of a sporting event, and it must have been filed before the start of the game.
The sports betting provision would take effect immediately if the bill is passed by lawmakers when recalled and signed by the governor. The provision would run through July 1, 2023, and it would not allow wagering on an individual athlete’s performance.
Sponsored by Rep. Bob Rita, D-Blue Island, House Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 521, passed the House shortly before 1:30 a.m. by a 96-11 vote. It still needs approval in the Senate before it can head to the governor. Rita said the bill does not limit college betting to Division 1 sports, but rather allows it for all college athletics.
The bill also allows fraternal organizations, such as VFW posts and American Legions, to apply for gambling machine licenses, even if the municipality in which they reside has a local ban on them. It also allows fraternal facilities without liquor licenses to apply. Those provisions would not apply, however, to such facilities in Chicago and Cook County.
The bill caps an annual fee that non-home rule municipalities can charge on video gaming terminals at $250, up from $25. A late amendment to the bill removed a cap on the amount home rule communities can charge as a per-terminal annual fee.
The legislation also prohibits municipalities from taxing video gambling machines or bets placed on the machines – an action Rita referred to as a “push tax.” If a municipality has already levied such a tax on video gambling as of June 1, they may continue to charge it, but they may not “increase, expand, or extend the tax or tax rate on such persons participating in playing video gaming terminals,” according to the legislation.
The bill also makes changes to the horse racing industry, loosening the requirements for the “Illinois Conceived and Foaled” racing program, such as allowing stallions owned by non-Illinois breeders to bring their horses to Illinois to breed with Illinois mares.
While the bill as filed had a provision requiring “labor peace agreements” for casino licensees, Rita removed that provision in a late amendment as well. Rita said his intent was to “work with all the labor unions over the summer and try to figure out how to come up with something that is right for this industry, right for the unions.”
College Athletes Ability to Profit
College athletes in Illinois would be able to independently profit from their image or likeness under a bill passed by both houses. It’s the latest development in a decades-old debate regarding policies overseen by the NCAA, which is the governing body of most intercollegiate athletics
Senate Bill 2338, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Rep. Kam Buckner, allows college athletes in Illinois to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness, or voice while enrolled at a post-secondary education institution. It also gives college athletes the ability to obtain an agent or legal counsel. It would take effect July 1 or immediately upon the governor’s signature if it comes after that date. Buckner said the measure was personal to him as a former football player at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Buckner said he and UI athletic director Josh Whitman have partnered on passing this policy change.
The issue of allowing college athletes to be paid has been a topic of much debate in the sports world for decades as the NCAA has barred college athletes from profiting from brand endorsements on the basis of amateurism. The bill does not allow for salary payment for the college players, but rather allows college athletes to monetize their likeness, such as participating in autograph signings at local businesses or appearing in video games.
“This is really putting Illinois in the right position to be the tip of the spear and lead when it comes to making sure that our young people have autonomy over their name and likeness and image and they’re no longer subject to not having the ability to control that,” Buckner said on the House floor Saturday.
The NCAA was preparing to revise the name and likeness policy in January of this year, but indefinitely delayed the vote after recommendations from the U.S. Justice Department to hold off on making a decision. A revised policy from the NCAA could come by the end of the year, and advocates for bills like the one passed Saturday have said such measures could force nationwide action.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging the NCAA’s ban as a violation of antitrust laws. A decision in that case is still pending. Several states across the nation have moved forward with similar legislation, including California, as well as some Southeastern Conference schools such as Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Buckner said schools from the Big 10 – the conference in which the UI plays – are also coming on board with the initiative.
Buckner’s bill, SB 2338, includes some limitations on certain products student athletes are able to endorse, resolving some of the opposition that led to the failure of the bill in 2019. Buckner said there are about nine different categories prohibited by the bill, including alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, sports betting and gambling, among others.
The bill saw broad bipartisan support, passing out of the House on a 95-18 vote. But Rep. Deanne Mazzochi, R-Elmhurst, still had some lingering concerns about athlete protections despite voting in favor of the bill.
“The reason why I’m concerned about that is…the fact that we’re invoking the federal law and relating to sports agents, that doesn’t necessarily create a true fiduciary duty to protect the long-term financial needs of the student,” Mazzochi said. Mazzochi suggested adding a provision to increase legal protections for the college athletes through the creation of trust funds. “Students in this type of area are very easily financially exploited and the lawyers and the agents won’t necessarily have their best interests at heart,” she added.
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
CDC Mask Guidance
The CDC still recommends that unvaccinated people continue to take preventive measures, such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. In their latest guidance, the CDC now reports that indoor and outdoor activities pose minimal risk to fully vaccinated people and that fully vaccinated people have a reduced risk of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to unvaccinated people.
Fully vaccinated people can:
• Resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance
• Resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel or self-quarantine after travel
• Refrain from testing before leaving the United States for international travel (unless required by the destination) and refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the United States
• Refrain from testing following a known exposure, if asymptomatic, with some exceptions for specific settings
• Refrain from quarantine following a known exposure if asymptomatic
• Refrain from routine screening testing if feasible
For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:
• Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
• Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations
Governor Pritzker Mask Changes:
Finally, join us in June for our re-scheduled luncheon with Police Chief Dawn Malec and Fire Chief Greg Blaskey on Wednesday, June 16 at Harrah’s Joliet Casino & Hotel. You may make reservations here: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-member-lunch-june-16-meet-greet-with-joliet-police-fire-chiefs-6060
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry