WATCHING WELCH LEAD — HOPEFUL STIMULUS STATS — UNION BACKS VALENCIA

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Happy Thursday, Illinois. "Schitt’s Creek" carried me through the early days of the pandemic, so it seems right that a "Schitt’s Creek" pop-up would open up in Chicago as the end of the pandemic is sort of in sight.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Illinois Playbook will not publish Monday, Feb. 15. We’ll be back on our normal schedule Tuesday. Please continue to follow POLITICO.

We caught a glimpse Wednesday of how House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch plans to govern.

During what should have been a perfunctory meeting to approve the rules that dictate how the House operates, lawmakers engaged in polite but heated back-and-forth.

“The majority party has treated us like mushrooms: Keep us in the dark and feed us manure,” complained Republican Rep. Mark Batinick of Plainfield.

The biggest point of discussion is a change that calls for bills to move to subject committees instead of languishing in the Rules Committee the way they did under former House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The change shows Welch wants to empower members of his caucus and give authority to leaders and committee chairs. It’s going to be fun to watch which committee chairs he trusts with tough and controversial bills — and which he does not.

Republicans complained that the committee chairmen still control when bills can come up for a vote, so it’s not much different than how things operated under Madigan.

“We’re not asking that every bill of ours gets out of committee, just that we have the opportunity for an up-or-down vote on an idea,” said GOP Rep. Avery Bourne of Morrisonville.

Democrats won the debate, but Republicans’ voices weren’t completely dismissed.

Welch vowed to continue the discussions. “I’m going to keep extending my hand to you, even though you guys keep slapping it down,” Welch said during the hearing.

As far as most Democrats are concerned, Republicans are likely to complain no matter what the rules are. GOP lawmakers have for years pushed back against legislation “never seeing the light of day” in the Rules Committee, Rep. LaShawn Ford told Playbook. “It reminds me of [President] Obama letting the Republicans help write the Affordable Care Act and they still voted no.”

The back-and-forth discussion on the House floor signaled a new dawn in the post-Madigan era.

“The conversation isn’t something we’ve seen before,” Rep. Ann Williams of Chicago told Playbook. “I think people appreciate being asked for input about the process. That’s not something we’re used to seeing, especially with regard to the rules.”

Lawmakers also approved 10-year term limits for the speaker’s position and the minority party leader, and they changed the rules to allow House committees to meet virtually when there’s a health emergency.

RELATED

ComEd critics cast a wary eye toward new House speaker: “In a new Illinois House speaker, scandal-tainted Commonwealth Edison may have a powerful new friend in its pursuit of locking in a controversial and profitable method of setting electricity rates that has cost consumers billions of dollars in the past decade,” by WBEZ’s Dave McKinney

Illinois could get $7.5 billion in federal funding from the latest Covid relief bill being considered in Congress. As it’s written now, the measure could also provide $5.7 billion to Illinois municipalities, as well as separate relief checks to individuals.

“I think finally we’re looking at a package that has a good chance of passing and will deliver a lot of relief to a lot of municipalities, counties and state government,” Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Schaumburg Democrat, told Playbook.

Krishnamoorthi, Reps. Robin Kelly and Danny Davis sit on the House Oversight and Reform Committee charged with mapping out the relief package. The stimulus package allocates $350 billion in funding to states, localities, tribes and territories.

The package will be debated Friday in the House committee. There’s expected to be a long discussion with a vote that could occur later in the evening. Krishnamoorthi acknowledges he “hasn’t seen the enthusiasm” he’d like from Republicans. But that could change as lawmakers see polling that shows Americans support the relief package.

A new CBS News poll shows a large and bipartisan majority of Americans — 83 percent — would support congressional passage of a new stimulus bill to help those impacted by the pandemic, and many would prefer that it receives bipartisan support in Congress, too.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office is hopeful the funding package comes through, though “we can’t bank on it” for the state budget, said spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh.

The governor will present his budget next week and it will be based, as is required by the state Constitution, on existing forms of revenue. Any stimulus funding will have parameters and rules for what the money can be used for, added Abudayyeh. “The good news is that they’re going to give money for revenue replacement.”

RELATED

Biden under pressure to go nuclear to get minimum wage hike: “The president said he doesn’t think a $15-an-hour wage increase will make it into the final Covid relief bill. And it’s unlikely his VP will push the rules to make it happen,” by POLITICO’s Laura Barrón-López and Natasha Korecki.

— Progressive groups have launched a seven-figure ad campaign against four Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger, demanding they vote for a Covid relief package. The #ReliefNOW campaign, led by Tax March, says “During this pandemic, the rich got richer. And the well-to-do are doing pretty well because politicians like Adam Kinzinger reward them with tax breaks for private jets and yachts. But for the tens of thousands in Illinois out of work due to Covid, Kinzinger’s a hard no on relief.”

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

At William H. Brown School of Technology at 9 a.m. for CPS’ return to in-person learning.

At Elgin Mental Health Center at 10 a.m. to highlight an Illinois Department of Human Services vaccination site.

At South Suburban College at 12:30 p.m. to tour its Covid-19 vaccination site.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported 53 deaths and 2,825 new confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus. That’s a total of 19,739 fatalities and 1,152,995 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from Feb. 3 through 9 is 3.3 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 4.6 percent.

U.S. still falling short on basic tools to fight the virus: “Almost a year after the first recorded U.S. death linked to coronavirus, the country lacks enough testing, contact tracing and masks. Now, it’s falling far short on the genetic surveillance needed to track the highly contagious new variants as it also races to get tens of millions more Americans vaccinated,” by POLITICO’s Joanne Kenen.

Pritzker expands vaccine eligibility to include people with preexisting health conditions: “People younger than 65 who have preexisting health conditions will be eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine shot beginning Feb. 25 under the current phase of the state’s vaccination effort, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office said Wednesday. The move comes as the state continues to struggle to quickly vaccinate the roughly 3.2 million residents 65 and older and front-line essential workers who are already eligible under phase 1b of the vaccine distribution plan,” by Tribune’s Dan Petrella and Jenny Whidden.

Tweet mode: “I have been a loud and vocal critic of vax distribution. But on a positive note, tonight Governor Pritzker called me and we talked for almost an hour. It was generally positive…and I appreciate him calling – but I want my constituents to know that I have conveyed your concerns,” wrote GOP state Sen. Chapin Rose.”

Lightfoot says she’ll allow Chicago restaurants to serve more people starting today: “Ahead of Valentine’s Day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wednesday she will allow Chicago bars and restaurants to expand the number of people they serve indoors. But the city will continue to keep tighter restrictions on restaurants than the looser rules allowed elsewhere by the state,” by Tribune’s Gregory Pratt and Josh Noel.

Trump on path to acquittal despite stunning evidence: “Rand Paul engineered a strategy that put all but six GOP senators on the record saying former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial is unconstitutional,” by POLITICO’s Andrew Desiderio, Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine.

Shocking trial video opens Jan. 6 wounds for lawmakers: “The never-before-seen footage presented by the House Democratic managers sent a jolt through the Senate on the second day of Donald Trump’s trial,” by POLITICO’s Marianne LeVine, Sarah Ferris, Melanie Zanona and Andrew Desiderio.

— Day two in 180 seconds: Watch the key moments of Day 2 of the Trump impeachment trial

Northwestern reviewing Uline contract after CEO funded PAC that supported Capitol insurrection: “The University is reviewing its contract with Uline and will make a decision on “how to best move forward” after connections surfaced between the company and the Capitol invasion, a University spokesperson told the Daily Northwestern,” by Assistant Campus Editor Waverly Long.

— Kinzinger: If this isn’t impeachable, ‘then nothing is’: In an interview with the Washington Post Live, Rep. Adam Kinzinger talks about the “debate between are you supposed to do what the district wants or are you supposed to do what your conscience says. And I think it’s both. And I think especially on an issue like this, when it comes to impeachment…Look, out of 750,000 people I represent, only one has to take an oath to defend the Constitution in this capacity, and that’s me. And I think what that says intentionally is that we have a unique responsibility as members of Congress to take tough votes in a time like this. And so, I looked at what happened on the 6th and said if that’s not impeachable, then we may as well just get rid of impeachment, because then nothing is.”

— Chicago Clerk Anna Valencia has won the support of Unite Here Local 1, the union that represents hospitality workers in Chicago, in her bid to replace Illinois Secretary of state Jesse White, who is retiring. Karen Kent, the president of Unite Here Local 1, issued a statement calling Valencia a “tireless champion” for Chicago, and she gave a hat tip to Valencia’s background “as the daughter of a union painter.”

It seems early to talk about political campaigns for 2022, but the secretary of state race is expected to be competitive. So candidates are working to line up support. Former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias has already been raising money and securing his own union backing in the race. State Sen. Michael Hastings is also eyeing the seat after serving as honorary co-chair for White in the 2018 race.

Young Democrats are sponsoring “meet and greets” to showcase the candidates. Giannoulias appears tonight at 6 p.m. Valencia headlines Feb. 23. And Hastings is on for March 4.

— NRCC TARGETS ILLINOIS DEMS: The National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of House Republicans, announced Wednesday that three Illinois Democrats are on their list to oust. Reps. Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Rep. Sean Casten (IL-6), and Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL-17) are on it. Underwood and Bustos both edged out their Republican challengers in 2020 once mail-in votes were counted. But Republicans hope to reclaim seats where Trump did well. “House Republicans start the cycle just five seats short of a majority and are prepared to build on our 2020 successes to deliver a lasting Republican majority in the House,” the NRCC said in a statement announcing its targets.

‘Our schools are safe’: Lightfoot, school and health officials try to ease fears about CPS reopening plan in virtual town hall: “During a virtual town hall Wednesday evening, Mayor Lori Lightfoot stressed that teachers’ and students’ health are a top priority as some prepare to go back to school Thursday,” by Sun-Times’ Madeline Kenney.

Mercy Hospital files for bankruptcy amid plans to shut: “Mercy Hospital and Medical Center filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday amid a controversial plan by its owner to close the historic Chicago hospital. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing comes weeks after Illinois state health officials rejected plans by Mercy’s owner, Trinity Health Corp., to close the 258-bed medical center and open an outpatient center in Chicago’s South Side,” by Bloomberg.

Aldermen call for better enforcement of recycling rules for big buildings: “Chicago’s government watchdog on Wednesday highlighted failures by the city to monitor and enforce its recycling program for bigger buildings across the city. Inspector General Joseph Ferguson told a joint City Council committee that enforcement of the ordinance is spotty at best, with ward superintendents only occasionally checking that buildings follow the rules and don’t centralize the results of those investigations,” by Tribune’s John Byrne.

CPD identifies 20 ‘weaknesses’ in its response to 2020 protests, but doesn’t mention brutality allegations: “The internal review comes as a court-appointed monitor is investigating how the Chicago Police Department handled the protests and as activists sue the city for alleged misconduct and brutality by dozens of officers. In a lawsuit filed last fall, 60 activists claimed the department’s response to the protests were “brutal, violent and unconstitutional,’” by WBEZ’s Patrick Smith.

Ahead of hearing, CPD strips FOP president of pay: “First-term union president John Catanzara will face a hearing later this month over obscene and inflammatory posts he made to social media before his election. Additionally, Catanzara faces charges related to a criminal complaint he filed against former Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Cmdr. Ronald Pontecore Jr.,” by Sun-Times’ Sam Charles.

Pilsen basement turned into a warming space is a ‘blessing’ for homeless neighbors: Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez’ 25th Ward service office is being used as a warming center from 5 to 9 p.m. for neighbors experiencing homelessness. “When the spaces closes, volunteers help the men find somewhere to spend the night. They open their homes, drive them to shelters or work with other nonprofits to get them a hotel room,” writes Tribune’s Laura Rodriguez Presa.

Ald. Garza calls for delay of relocated General Iron’s permit: “The Southeast Side alderwoman notes hunger strikers as she says a federal investigation should be completed,” by Sun-Times’ Brett Chase.

Chicago-area Catholic school students exceed expectations on standardized assessments: “Of the 7,382 students who took the i-Ready exam in the fall of 2019 and fall of 2020, the majority in kindergarten through second grade, students performed on average at 105% of the expected learning growth in math, and at 130% in reading, said Jim Rigg, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic schools,” by Tribune’s Karen Ann Cullotta.

Ruling possibly today in push to increase Rittenhouse bond: “A Wisconsin judge could rule Thursday afternoon on prosecutors’ call for a higher bond for Kyle Rittenhouse over allegations he has failed to tell the courts where he’s living as he awaits trial for fatally shooting two men and wounding a third during an August protest in Kenosha,” by Tribune’s Dan Hinkel.

She was the first Black person freed by Lincoln, long before his presidency. Her grave was paved over and her story hardly known: Nance Legins-Costley’s final resting place “lies somewhere amid a muffler shop, union hall, auto garage and other commercial buildings, mostly forgotten by the march of progress, under a tombstone of asphalt,” writes Phil Luciano in Peoria’s Journal Star.

— Ironic committee assignment: GOP state Sen. Darren Bailey, who was kicked off the House floor last year for refusing to wear a mask, told WCIA’s Mark Maxwell on Monday that “he hasn’t seen conclusive evidence that masks work to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.” On Wednesday, Maxwell tweeted: “GOP Leader Dan McConchie assigned Bailey to the Senate Health Committee.”

Global accounting firm’s haul for grading pot applications jumps to $14M despite criticism over botched licensing rollout: “KPMG’s two state contracts to grade cannabis applications have nearly tripled in value amid a series of licensing delays, some of which have been directly or indirectly tied to the firm,” by Sun-Times’ Tom Schuba.

Biden confronts China’s Xi in first call, by POLITICO’s Natasha Bertrand

Trump left behind a clemency mess. The clock’s ticking for Biden to solve it, by POLITICO’s Anita Kumar

Citadel’s Griffin expected to testify at GameStop hearing, by Bloomberg

Joe Duffy has been named executive director for Climate Jobs Illinois, a statewide coalition of labor unions promoting pro-climate, pro-worker policies. Duffy steps into the role after previous executive director Nikki Budzinski took a position with the Biden Administration. Duffy earlier served as Kwame Raoul’s campaign manager for Illinois attorney general in 2018. Before that, he worked with Everytown for Gun Safety in Nevada. Duffy, a Northbrook native, has also served as executive director of the Missouri Democratic party and worked for President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Karen Lewis remembered by friends and family in virtual shiva, by Tribune’s Jessica Villagomez.

Cardinal Blase Cupich officiates funeral for 4 sisters, mom killed in fire, by Sun-Times’ Stefano Esposito.

Hustler publisher Larry Flynt dies at 78, by the AP.

— TODAY at 2 p.m.: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Rep. Robin Kelly and Chicago State University Chairwoman Andrea Zopp headline a virtual forum about the economy and CSU’s role in it. Organizers point to a recent economic impact study showing the university contributes $1.6 billion to the state’s economy each year.

— TONIGHT at 7 p.m.: Rep. Sean Casten headlines a virtual town hall with a bipartisan group of municipal leaders and mayors to talk about the impact of the pandemic on local government budgets and the relief package that Congress is considering. On the Zoom: Lake County Chairwoman Sandra Hart, DuPage County Board Finance Committee Chair Liz Chaplin, Hoffman Estates Mayor William McCleod, Palatine Mayor Jim Schwantz, and West Chicago Mayor Ruben Pineda. The town hall will stream on Facebook live.

— FRIDAY at 10:30 p.m.: WTTW Channel 11 airs “Phunny Business,” a documentary about All Jokes Aside, a Chicago comedy club known nationally for featuring Black comedians. It’s a story about comedy, race and politics. Dave Chappelle, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Steve Harvey, Mo’Nique, Cedric the Entertainer and the late Bernie Mac all played the South Loop spot before it closed.

WEDNESDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to Illinois Beer Distributors President Bob Myers, Prairie Group Consulting’s Fred Lebed and attorney and donut aficionado Chase Gruszka for correctly answering that Shelby Moore Cullom was the longest-serving Illinois senator — so far.

TODAY’s QUESTION: Who owned the land where the state Capitol is located and why did his family sell it? Email to skapos@politico.com.

Susan Garret, the former state senator who co-founded Center for Illinois Politics; D.C. insider and former Durbin adviser Mark Palmer; Small Business Advocacy Council executive director Elliot Richardson; public relations consultant Kim Shepherd; and Small Business Advocacy Council policy intern coordinator Federica Ferrari… and belated greetings to Lauren Huffman, deputy director of comms at the state Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, who celebrated Wednesday.

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February 11, 2021 at 07:13AM

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