WELCH’s RULE WATCH — NO SMOKE-FILLED ROOM — TEACHERS ON VERGE OF STRIKE

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Good Wednesday morning, Illinois. I hope you took advantage of working from home by enjoying Tuesday’s snow. WBEZ photographer Manuel Martinez captured some of the fun.

House Speaker Chris Welch canceled the February legislative session in Springfield due to Covid-19 safety concerns — except for one day. On Feb. 10, lawmakers will meet with the single purpose of adopting House rules that will determine how business is conducted in the chamber and how concentrated power will be around the speaker position.

The state Senate has adopted a similar schedule, though its rules under state Senate President Don Harmon are in place.

Welch, who became speaker two weeks ago in a historic election that saw longtime former Speaker Michael Madigan step down, plans to keep the current rules in place that limit committee chairmanships to veteran lawmakers with three or more terms under their belts. Chairmanships are extra coveted because they come with a pay bump.

It’s a matter of consistency, Jessica Basham, chief of staff to the speaker, wrote in a memo to lawmakers that was obtained by Playbook. Welch made the decision in light of the unpredictability of the “current fiscal and logistical challenges,” Basham said. “This approach may be revisited.”

Welch will speak to individual lawmakers who have been in office three-plus terms about the committee structure and chair assignments, which are expected soon. Members in their second terms will receive “strong consideration” for vice-chair requests.

With the latest announcements and his leadership team now in place, we’re getting a glimpse at how Welch will run his speaker operation. So far, he looks to be making changes without stirring things up too much by rewarding veteran lawmakers.

Balsham’s memo adds that House Majority Leader Greg Harris “will be working with members on both sides of the aisle to gather and consider potential changes to the Rules, including the authorization of remote committees.”

Those decisions will determine to what extent Welch will control when bills come up for a vote or if and how he’ll empower committees and committee chairs. Will House chairs have greater sway and independent power over legislation? Will committees have their own budgets or will staff funding and assignments be centralized under the speaker’s office? The extent that Welch’s rules give power to members, rather than just providing more bill voting opportunities, will reveal whether real change has occurred.

RELATED

Women’s Caucus candidates reflect on speaker race, by Capitol News’ Sarah Mansur and Grace Barbic

A charade of political transparency continued Tuesday night when candidates for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Heather Steans took part in a candidate forum — along with candidates for House Rep. Kelly Cassidy’s seat, even though she hasn’t (yet) been appointed to Steans’ seat.

Two other candidates also want the Senate job, but Cassidy has the inside track, in part because she’s on the selection committee.

“This process isn’t perfect,” Cassidy says in the Sun-Times story about the forum. “But the committeepeople in the North Side have, for years, worked to go way beyond what the, I believe, intentionally vague state law on filling vacancies permits. This is not a smoke-filled room.”

Last night’s virtual forum was sponsored by Indivisible Illinois 9th, an activist group that has expressed concern that the process is a fait accompli. Yet it still gave time to potential candidates for Cassidy’s position (again, even though Cassidy hasn’t been appointed to a new seat yet).

“Yes, it’s very confusing, which is why we’re doing our best to call attention to it,” Indivisible’s Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth told Playbook. “We’re very happy for our friends who are stepping up to run for office. But that doesn’t make the process right, which is why we’re talking about it.”

This process of stepping away from your elected position so a small political committee can replace you seems pretty consistent with machine-style politics. So it’s ironic that Steans and Cassidy are enmeshed in it. They were outspoken critics of former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who was a master at such maneuvering.

Some politicos have a greater concern. They worry minorities are being shut out of elected positions. Steans and Cassidy’s seats encompass the Rogers Park community, which is majority minority. Cassidy is white.

“Representatives and senators should mirror what the demographics look like. I want it to be a free, fair and open appointment,” said House Black Caucus leader Kam Buckner, acknowledging that he was initially appointed to his own South Side seat. “I just think we need to look at numbers and make sure we’re being honest and truthful to the folks who live there.”

RELATED

How to succeed in politics without winning an election: “Two weeks into a new term, State Sen. Heather Steans is retiring, leaving political allies to pick her replacement. On the Far North Side, that’s simply how it’s done,” writes Edward McClelland for Chicago magazine.

Have a tip, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? Get in touch: skapos@politico.com

Presiding over a virtual meeting of the City Council at 10 a.m.

At the Lake County Fairgrounds at 11 a.m. to tour its vaccination site.

No official public events.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported 87 additional deaths and 3,667 new confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus. That’s 18,883 fatalities and a total of 1,108,430 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from Jan. 19 through 25 is 4.6 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 6.6 percent.

— A PROMISE FOR MORE VACCINES: During a private call with governors on Tuesday, White House officials pledged to increase doses to all 50 states starting next week — and to purchase 200 million additional doses of the two approved vaccines for a summer delivery, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office. It will allow Illinois to accelerate its ability to rebuild the economy, get kids back into school “and bring this pandemic to a close,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh told Playbook. “It is truly heartening to have a federal administration willing to listen.” Pritzker wants Congress to quickly take up the Biden American Rescue Plan to provide relief to Illinois residents and small businesses. The governor “will continue to advocate for a smart, cohesive and robust pandemic exit strategy and an equitable vaccine rollout,” she said.

Illinois officials blame Walgreens, CVS for slow vax rollout at nursing homes: “CVS and Walgreens control nearly a third of Illinois’ total supply of vaccines, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. But of the half a million doses they received for nursing homes and other group settings, the companies have only administered 110,000 doses,” by Center for Illinois Politics’ Daniel C. Vock.

Foxx stunned as some public defenders arranged for vaccine at county jail ahead of her staff: “But Era Laudermilk, deputy of legislative affairs for the public defender’s office, told the Tribune that county leadership, including prosecutors, have been in discussions about administering vaccines to the jail site. And, she said, the sheriff’s office informed them some public defender employees would qualify under that umbrella,” by Tribune’s Megan Crepeau.

Chicago health department cancels vax appointments for some teachers who mistakenly signed up for slots meant for health care workers, report Tribune’s Madeline Buckley and Alice Yin

Chicago cancels in-person classes Wednesday as teachers announce walkout: “The move throws Chicago’s efforts to reopen schools to more students into disarray. If the district responds with disciplinary action against teachers, it would trigger a strike in the nation’s third largest school district, canceling school for 340,000 students,” reports Chalkbeat Chicago’s Yana Kunichoff and Mila Koumpilova.

‘Very strange and unsettling’: Chicago families weary of reopening uncertainty: “As Chicago Public Schools’ reopening plan hinges on a ticking time clock of negotiations, parents and families say they feel dragged along in the drama with the teachers union — consulted infrequently or not all. Regardless of their reopening stance, many are trying desperately to find their bearings in a month that is bringing schedule changes, classroom reassignments, confusing messaging, and upset children,” by Chalkbeat Chicago’s Cassie Walker Burke and Mila Koumpilova.

State of Illinois to purchase NW Side office building as part of long-term plan to leave Thompson Center: “The state of Illinois will pay nearly $73.3 million to purchase of the building at 555 W. Monroe St. in the West Loop Gate neighborhood from Principal Financial Group is scheduled to close Wednesday. State officials eventually expect to move more than 1,000 employees to the 17-story, 429,316-square-foot building, previously home to regional offices of PepsiCo, from the Thompson Center and leased offices in seven downtown buildings,” by Tribune’s Dan Petrella.

South Side alderman says city is in ‘state of emergency’ with uptick in carjackings: “Any time one of us, an Englewood resident, is carjacked and held at gunpoint on Christmas morning, we know that it is time for us to come together and find some solutions as it relates to public safety,” Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th) said during a virtual town hall meeting Tuesday. Sun-Times’ Sam Charles reports.

Council urged to grant Emmett Till home landmark status before Black History Month: “Representing the final hurdle before a vote by the City Council, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards on Tuesday approved an ordinance granting landmark status by February to the childhood home of Emmett Till, the teen whose 1955 lynching sparked the Civil Rights Movement,” by Sun-Times’ Maudlyne Ihejirika.

Aldermen to also consider protections for immigrants in first 2021 meeting, by WBEZ’s Claudia Morell

Cubs, Penny Pritzker take a swing at North Lawndale development: “Seven other development teams also answer the city’s call for interest in a 21-acre site at Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue,” by Sun-Times’ David Roeder.

Regulators reject plans for outpatient center that would replace Mercy Hospital: “Leaders at Trinity Health, which owns Mercy, are working to close the Bronzeville hospital and its group of clinics on the South Side by May. They say they’ve been losing patients and money for years. Instead, Trinity is proposing an outpatient center that would leave them with a foothold on the South Side – a sign that Mercy would not be completely leaving the communities and patients they serve,” by WBEZ’s Kristen Schorsch.

Plans to protect affordable housing in Pilsen, near 606 park move forward to full City Council: “With real estate development going through the roof in both parts of the city, aldermen have been trying for years to protect affordable housing for the working-class, largely Latino residents who have long lived in the areas,” by Tribune’s John Byrne.

City shuts down gallery hosting private party as indoor dining resumes: “The Drip G (5529 W. Chicago Ave.), which is licensed as an art gallery, was issued a cease and desist order after allowing 79 people to eat and drink indoors without social distancing, according a statement from the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection,” by Tribune’s Josh Noel.

As property tax refunds go unclaimed, Pappas wants funds to help preserve Black homeownership: “It’s not every day the government comes knocking in an effort to give people money. But that’s how staffers for Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas and community volunteers will be spending their days in the coming months, in the hopes of helping homeowners access unclaimed property tax refunds,” by Tribune’s Ariel Cheung.

As Elgin reopens, teachers raise questions about safety, missing data: “Union leaders raised questions at Monday’s board meeting, saying they needed more data about who attends in-person classes, how many students are in school buildings, and the number of students switching from hybrid to remote learning,” writes Chalkbeat Chicago’s Samantha Smylie.

Every Illinois police officer would be required to wear a body camera by 2025 under bill awaiting Pritzker’s signature: “But a lack of additional funding to help agencies pay for equipment and the absence of penalties for those that don’t raises questions about whether the legislation will achieve its ambitious goal,” report Tribune’s Dan Petrella and Jamie Munks.

State of Illinois to purchase NW Side office building as part of long-term plan to leave Thompson Center: “The state of Illinois will pay nearly $73.3 million to purchase of the building at 555 W. Monroe St. in the West Loop Gate neighborhood from Principal Financial Group is scheduled to close Wednesday. State officials eventually expect to move more than 1,000 employees to the 17-story, 429,316-square-foot building, previously home to regional offices of PepsiCo, from the Thompson Center and leased offices in seven downtown buildings,” by Tribune’s Dan Petrella.

All high school sports will now be played in phase 4, but no high-fives or fan chants: “Most winter ‘lower-risk’ sports like gymnastics, swimming and badminton are already practicing. The Illinois High School Sports Association is meeting on Wednesday to decide when they can begin competitions and when the only ‘higher-risk’ winter sport, basketball, can start,” reports NPR Illinois’ Peter Medlin.

Hawthorne is set to open state’s first OTB non-casino sportsbook: “Hawthorne Race Course will have the first non-casino, off-track betting site with a sportsbook in Illinois starting Wednesday when its newly remodeled Club Hawthorne opens in Crestwood with PointsBet as its operator. Hawthorne is one of two horse tracks licensed for sports betting in Illinois, along with Fairmount Park, and it currently has under construction a racino that is targeted for a December opening,” by Sports Handle’s Chris Altruda.

Pot taxes funding violence prevention, prisoner re-entry programs: A football coach and youth mentor who’s toiled in Springfield’s poverty stricken east side for years with little fanfare will take his nonprofit to the next level with an $800,000 infusion from the state, reports WCIA’s Mark Maxwell.

Following months of delays, state again moves forward with new cannabis licensing: “The Illinois Department of Agriculture issued the latest round of notices detailing specific problems that hopefuls for the upcoming craft cultivation, infusion and transportation licenses can remedy in their applications. Similar notices will also be sent ‘in the coming days’ to applicants who didn’t initially qualify for an upcoming lottery to determine the winners of the next 75 lucrative dispensary licenses, according to Charity Greene, a spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office,” reports Sun-Times’ Tom Schuba.

THE FIFTY: This week, we’re zeroing in on Boston, a city that’s only ever seen a white man as mayor. The two major candidates so far running to replace Washington-bound Mayor Marty Walsh are both women of color, writes POLITICO’s Stephanie Murray — who also pens Massachusetts Playbook. ”The free-for-all that’s likely to ensue, with a pile-on of Democratic candidates vying for one of the most coveted jobs in Massachusetts politics, means there’s no guarantee a woman or non-white candidate will win.”

More job assignments: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9) has been named to the Budget Committee. Rep. Brad Schneider (IL-10) joins the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Rep. Lauren Underwood (IL-14) has been named to serve on the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittees on Homeland Security and Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Reps. Bill Foster (IL-11) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8) have been named to the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Rep. Sean Casten (IL-10) sits on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. And Rep. Marie Newman (IL-03) has been named to serve on the Highways & Transit, and Railroads, Pipelines & Hazardous Materials subcommittees.

Ex-alderman elevated to chair Surface Transportation Board: “Former Chicago Ald. Marty Oberman has been named chairman of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. Oberman, 75, who was named to a Democratic post on the five-member board in 2019 by Donald Trump, has been vice chairman. Now he’ll have a little more clout, but STB is known as a generally harmonious agency without much partisan fighting,” by Crain’s Greg Hinz.

‘Dead on arrival’: Trump conviction unlikely after GOP votes to nix trial, by POLITICO’s Andrew Desiderio, Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine

GOP’s answer to its post-Trump blues: More Trump, by POLITICO’s David Siders

Romney calls out fellow Republicans for pushing stolen election myth, says it makes achieving unity more difficult, by Tribune’s Rick Pearson

TUESDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to state Senate President Don Harmon, Cook County Judge Bridget Hughes, and state Rep. Mike Zalewski for correctly answering that Tim McCarthy is the Mokena interim police chief who ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state and also took a bullet intended for President Ronald Reagan while serving as a Secret Service agent. That day, McCarthy wasn’t supposed to work but an agent was needed so he flipped a coin with a colleague to see who would work that day. McCarthy lost.

TODAY’s QUESTION: Who was the former Illinois official who put all payments made to state government online so they’re transparent to the public? Email to skapos@politico.com.

Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison, Aviation Department Deputy Commissioner Matt McGrath, and Loyola University Baumhart Center for Social Enterprise director Seth Green.

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January 27, 2021 at 07:15AM

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