Since 2006, federal law has capped annual interest-rates on payday loans to active-duty military members at 36 percent. The interest-rate cap was broadened in 2015 to include several more types of personal, unsecured loans. In Illinois, meanwhile, payday loan-borrowers have been subjected to average annual interest-rates of close to 300 percent.

I’ve given Governor JB Pritzker some grief for his failures during the past few months. His graduated income-tax proposal went down in flames in November. He failed to pass his top priorities during January’s lame-duck legislative session. And his candidate for Democratic Party of Illinois chair lost to US Representative Robin Kelly earlier this month.

For the first year or so of Governor JB Pritzker’s administration leading up to the beginning of the pandemic, his polling wasn’t exactly horrible, but it was still pretty darned underwhelming. But after some spectacular, crisis-induced polling-spikes last year, the governor has seemingly come back down to Earth.

When legal questions were raised about US Representative Robin Kelly’s campaign for state Democratic Party chair last week and Kelly only got stronger, that should tell you a couple of things.

Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch gave his standard reply to a question about redistricting reform last week when queried at the Chicago Economic Club, saying different people have different opinions about what a “fair map” actually is. But then the new House Speaker leaned a bit harder into the concept of protecting minority rights when redrawing the new legislative district maps than I’ve heard him do in the past.

“The 22nd District is a garden,” then-House Speaker Michael Madigan told reporters several years ago when asked about his House district. Some thought it was funny, but he was serious. And he’s most definitely the head gardener. I’ve often said that Madigan, who officially resigned from the House on February 18 after more than 50 years in office, ran the Speaker’s office like he ran his ward and district offices. The House was an even bigger garden than his home turf.

While the House Republicans made some decent points last week when arguing against the Chamber’s new rules, they all but dismissed some pretty darned historic changes. For years, decades even, the House Republicans have argued for leadership term-limits. House Speaker Michael Madigan rebuffed them at every single turn. Heck, Speaker Madigan retaliated against members of his own party who dared broach the subject.

The immediate partisan reaction to the governor’s reversal on whether legislators should be allowed to be vaccinated during Phase 1B was fairly predictable.

Just a couple of weeks into a job that most people couldn’t imagine being held by anyone other than the guy who had it for decades, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch is putting together a House that looks both familiar and different at the same time. Speaker Welch’s first week included a rollout of his new leadership team, with a Black woman as Speaker Pro Tempore and fresh faces throughout. By the third week, we’ll see committee membership rosters and vice chairs. The following week will be the new rules.

House Speaker Michael Madigan avoided calling the General Assembly back into session during the pandemic for several reasons, many of them having to do with himself. But Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch told me earlier this month that “The legislature is back in business. We're going to work in 2021.”

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