When Governor JB Pritzker recently announced that state employees who work in congregate facilities would have to be vaccinated by October 4, the largest state employee union, AFSCME (or the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees), released a statement chiding the governor. “We strongly oppose any effort to define them as part of the problem,” the powerful union claimed on behalf of those workers. But Governor Pritzker also said that about 80 percent of new COVID-19 cases in those congregate facilities “have been due to infection among employees.”

This past May, Illinois House Deputy Majority Leader Jehan Gordon Booth (D-Peoria) and Governor JB Pritzker worked out a deal with some key state business groups to mandate seven days of paid-leave per year for every employee in Illinois. Workers wouldn’t have to give any reasons for the guaranteed paid leave.

Illinois Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope announced her resignation last week and will leave office by December 15. She cited several reasons, including her thwarted attempt to issue subpoenas without any checks or balances. “True ethics reform,” she said of the legislature, “is not a priority.”

As I write this, two of the three national credit-rating agencies have upgraded the State of Illinois’ rating in a week’s time. And the only remaining hold-out owes us one. Big time.

You cannot on the one hand constantly harp about decades of Illinois credit-rating downgrades and then blithely dismiss the first bit of good Illinois rating news since George Ryan was governor. It’s okay to step away from the “Illinois is awful” screaming for a moment in the wake of last week’s upgrade of Illinois’ bond rating by Moody’s Investors Service. While not the end of our problems by any means, it signals yet another important fiscal turning-point.

Last week, I asked the spokespersons for all four state legislative caucus leaders if they considered the spring session’s COVID-19 protocols in their respective chambers to be a success. I didn’t think I’d get much in the way of a newsworthy response, but I actually did.

I’d been hearing since the end of May, when the General Assembly adjourned for the summer, that there were some problems with the state budget legislation which needed to be fixed. Some effective dates apparently weren’t drafted right. But, silly me, I failed to follow my own rules and didn’t read the bill (SB2800) for myself. The scope of the problem was worse than I thought, but the most pressing issue was the House did not have nearly enough votes to correct its massive mistakes when the chamber returned to Springfield on June 16. It became a major test of rookie House Speaker Chris Welch’s influence.

On November 19, 2020, the number of Illinois House Democrats who had publicly stated they would not vote to re-elect Speaker Michael Madigan grew from 12 to 17, meaning that Madigan at that point did not have enough votes to win. By December 1, two more House Democrats, including a member of Madigan’s own leadership team, had turned against him. “The 19” became a real force in Illinois politics.

I interviewed both House Speaker Chris Welch and Governor JB Pritzker last week, so I thought I’d tell you about one of the overlaps. Speaker Welch followed a man who had been in office for decades, so comparisons are unavoidable. When former House Speaker Michael Madigan was around, we were always playing endless guessing games. What is he really up to? What does he really want? What’s he really trying to say?

When reading last week’s indictment of Tim Mapes, it’s important to remember that federal prosecutors have been trying to prove that his old boss, former House Speaker Michael Madigan, was directing the effort to allegedly “bribe” him with favors. Madigan’s long-time chief of staff was indicted May 26 for allegedly lying to a federal grand jury and attempting to obstruct the grand jury’s corruption investigation.

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