Capitol Recap: Plans moving ahead on $70M purchase of Chicago’s Thompson Center

CHICAGO – Plans are moving ahead for the sale of the James R. Thompson Center at 100 W. Randolph St. in Chicago.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced on Wednesday plans to enter into exclusive negotiations with JRTC Holdings LLC for the purposes of acquiring and redeveloping the Thompson Center that houses office space for 50 state agencies and more than 2,800 state workers.

“Today I’m proud to announce that for the first time, we’re taking a massive step forward with a plan that will result in the sale of the Thompson Center and that will save taxpayers $800 million,” Pritzker said. “I came into office with a promise to manage state government resources more efficiently and to support local governments. By returning vital real estate in downtown Chicago to private ownership, tens of millions in revenue will be generated for Chicago Public Schools and for property taxpayers.”

After a review of submitted proposals, the state will move ahead with a public-private partnership structure, which includes:

• An up-front payment of $70 million to the state for the purchase of the property.

• The selected purchaser preserving and substantially renovating the JRTC.

• The state purchasing and occupying approximately 425,000 square feet of newly renovated, Class-A office space at the JRTC.

• The state saving approximately $20 million a year for the next 30 years through operating cost reductions and lease consolidations alone.

The redevelopment of the JRTC is expected to result in thousands of new construction jobs, new tax revenues for Cook County, the city of Chicago, and its sister agencies.

The 17-story building encompasses 1.2 million square feet and has annual operating costs of $17 million. Due to prolonged deferred maintenance and delayed capital projects, the estimated cost to bring the JRTC into a state of good repair exceeds $325 million, according to data from the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.

Finalization of the purchase agreement is expected by March 2022. The closing on the property is anticipated in the summer of 2022. Renovations are expected to take two years.

JRTC Holdings is owned and controlled by real estate developer Michael W. Reschke.

UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN: The unemployment rate in Illinois fell three-tenths of a point in November to 5.7% as employers added 19,500 payroll jobs to the economy.

Preliminary data released by the Department of Employment Security and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the biggest job gains during the month were in the leisure and hospitality sector and trade, transportation and utilities, with each adding an estimated 8,200 jobs. The construction industry added 3,800 jobs.

Those gains were partially offset by job losses in professional and business services, which was down 5,500 jobs, and the category known as “other services,” which was down 200 jobs.

“Today’s report reflects the continued positive trajectory of Illinois’ economy,” Deputy Gov. Andy Manar said in a statement. “IDES remains dedicated to connecting employers and jobseekers to build a stronger workforce across the state.”

The jobless rate in Illinois was 1.5 percentage points higher than the national rate, which stood at 4.2% in November. That was down four-tenths of a point from the previous month.

Compared to a year ago, when the state’s jobless rate stood at 8.1%, employers have added back 230,200 jobs, with gains across nearly all major industries. Over the year, the leisure and hospitality industry, which was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, has added back 94,200 jobs while trade, transportation and utilities have added back 41,600 jobs.

The financial activities industry, which is down 1,100 jobs from November 2020, is the only industry sector to lose jobs over the year.

NURSING HOMES: Several Illinois lawmakers said this week they are determined to pass a bill in the spring that would overhaul the way nursing homes are paid through the state’s Medicaid program to address critical staffing shortages, but the state’s largest nursing home industry group is still pushing back against the proposed changes.

“We need to have something happen this spring, for the sake of the most vulnerable in our state,” Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, said during a committee hearing Tuesday. “And the point of these hearings is to bring that to light to bring the reality of what people are living through to light.”

Illinois has many of the most understaffed nursing homes in the nation. According to a report by the state Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Illinois consistently ranks last among states in staffing, as measured using the national Staff Time and Resource Intensity Verification, or STRIVE Project, with 47 of the 100 most understaffed facilities in the country.

Tuesday’s hearing was a joint meeting of four House committees that deal with health care issues. They are considering a proposal by DHFS to overhaul the way nursing homes are reimbursed by increasing funding and tying payments directly to staffing levels and performance measures.

DHFS Deputy Director Andy Allison said the plan calls for roughly a $400 million increase in Medicaid nursing home funding that would be tied to reaching certain staffing benchmarks, increasing wages for CNAs and achieving higher quality standards.

That would be funded through an increase in the nursing home assessment tax, which generates a pool of money that is used to draw down additional federal Medicaid reimbursements.

“For a facility that’s 100% Medicaid, we would come darn close to fully paying for the increased hiring. It was designed in that way,” he said.

But the plan is still facing stiff resistance from the state’s largest nursing home industry group, the Health Care Council of Illinois.

HCCI Executive Director Matt Pickering told the committee that if the agency’s proposed new payment system were enacted, 130 nursing facilities in Illinois would see an overall cut in revenues, with as many as 50 being pushed to the point of insolvency. Those 50 facilities, he said, serve more than 5,000 residents, mainly in rural and minority communities.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed legislation that allows for the licensure and certification of midwives, and sets standards for their qualifications and education.

MIDWIVES LICENSURE: Colleen Marotta has delivered hundreds of babies.

Marotta, 43, of Arlington Heights, became a nurse in 2001. Ten years later, she became a certified professional midwife, or CPM. When Marotta was a CPM the law barred her from delivering babies in Illinois, forcing her to drive to Wisconsin to deliver babies there.

On Tuesday, Gov. Pritzker signed a bill that allows the certification and licensure of certified professional midwives in Illinois. The new law sets qualification and educational standards for CPMs. It is effective Oct. 1, 2022.

“With the legislation I sign today, the lifesaving and life-giving work midwives perform will be legally recognized here in Illinois. It’s a victory decades in the making and one that recognizes the full worth and value of midwives in reproductive care,” Pritzker said. “Most importantly, it ensures safe home births for every mother who chooses to deliver out-of-hospital – another step forward advancing health equity in communities across our state.”

The 2020 report to the General Assembly by the Illinois Task Force on Infant and Maternal Mortality Among African Americans stated that the pregnancy-related mortality rate in Illinois is 23 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, a severe maternal morbidity rate of 51.4 per 10,000 births, and an infant mortality rate of 6.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In all of these categories, African American mothers and infants die or are injured at significantly higher rates than their white counterparts.

In addition to attending at-home births, CPMs provide supervision, prenatal and post-natal care and advice to a pregnant woman during a low-risk pregnancy, labor and post-partum, as well as providing normal newborn care.

“Although our work is far from done, this is a good step that will reduce child and maternal mortality in Illinois,” state Rep. Mary E. Flowers, D-Chicago, said. “This moment is years in the making and I look forward to continuing to work with the governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly to improve maternal health outcomes for low-income women.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has led more expecting mothers to turn to home births attended by midwives, instead of traditional hospital births, Marotta said.

“It provides autonomy, choice and support for the mother,” Marotta said. “As well as having whomever the mother, whomever they want in their labor space.”

DISASTER PROCLAMATION: In the wake of Friday, Dec. 10, storms that left six dead at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, a disaster proclamation was issued Monday for 28 counties in southern and central Illinois. The proclamation will bring personnel or equipment from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency to assist with storm recovery.

“My administration is committed to standing with Edwardsville and all of the surrounding communities affected in every aspect of the immediate recovery, as well as on the road to rebuilding,” said Gov. Pritzker, who issued the proclamation. “Yesterday, I authorized a state disaster proclamation for Madison County, as well as all storm-impacted counties, to facilitate recovery efforts, as well as the pursuit of additional federal resources. We are working directly with the White House and FEMA to ensure access to all federal resources for this community. And, as local entities work to secure federal reimbursements and recovery dollars, we will assist every step of the way.”

The National Weather Service issued a preliminary report that an EF3 tornado struck the Edwardsville area, downing trees, interrupting power service and ripping the roof of an Amazon warehouse, killing six and causing multiple injuries. Tornadoes were also confirmed in Cass, Menard, Bond, Shelby and Coles counties.

The counties included in the disaster declaration include Bond, Cass, Champaign, Coles, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Ford, Greene, Grundy, Iroquois, Jackson, Jersey, Kankakee, Lawrence, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Macoupin, Madison, Montgomery, Morgan, Moultrie, Pike, Sangamon, Shelby, Tazewell and Woodford.

Pritzker was back at the site of the 593,000-square-foot warehouse on Monday morning with Rep. Amy Elik, R-Fosterburg, and Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, to announce the disaster proclamation.

REIMAGINE PUBLIC SAFETY ACT: A state program aiming to take a “comprehensive approach to ending Illinois’ firearm violence epidemic” will be expanded under a law signed Friday, Dec. 10, by Gov. Pritzker.

The Reimagine Public Safety Act became law in June, but the expansion signed Dec. 10 clarifies guidelines in the original bill and gives the Illinois Department of Human Services and a newly created Office of Firearm Violence Prevention greater grant making authority.

The crux of the RPSA is that it creates the Office of Firearm Violence Prevention to coordinate violence prevention efforts and give grants to on-the-ground community organizations that know how and where intervention is needed in the state’s most violent communities.

Heading that office is Chris Patterson, who was appointed by Pritzker as assistant secretary for violence prevention at IDHS.

“We will work hand-in-hand, individually and collectively to address the violence on our streets and invest in addressing the underlying root causes that cause so much despair: Too much addiction, too little mental health, and too few opportunities,” Patterson said Friday at a Chicago news conference.

The contracted organizations are to focus on programs such as youth intervention services, violence interruption and trauma treatment.

Pritzker said applications are now open for groups that can help train community organizations that will deliver evidence-based violence interruption and prevention services.

Multiple tornadoes touched down Sunday night and traveled through towns in southeast Missouri, and Illinois. Areas in multiple counties suffer…

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

Buildings were flattened in areas west and east of St. Louis — from St. Charles County, Missouri to Edwardsville, Illinois — damaging houses…

Multiple weather systems raked across the central part of the state Friday, causing damage that includes a collapsed building in the Metro East. 

An EF3 tornado wiped out much of an Amazon distribution facility, killing 6, as a wave of violent weather rolled through the St. Louis metropo…

Chief Meteorologist Matt Holiner has a recap of the damage reports received so far after Friday night’s severe storms.

Chief Meteorologist Matt Holiner has a recap of the damage reports received so far after Friday night’s severe storms.

Here’s the latest on last night’s storms from McLean County officials and a Lee Enterprises meteorologist.

Friends from Edwardsville, Illinois provided water, snacks, and coffee to first responders at the Edwardsville Fire Department, on Saturday, D…

Authorities say there are six confirmed deaths at the Amazon fulfillment center near Edwardsville. A woman also died in St. Charles County.

Rachel Crnkovich and her family were having a Christmas gathering when the monstrous tornado that made its way through parts of Coles and Moul…

The power contained in the storm that swept through Mattoon on Friday night isn’t lost on Kylie Dawkins.

Disaster-aid and humanitarian groups are mobilizing to help tornado victims and setting up dedicated fund for donations to support their efforts. Here’s a look at some of the relief being provided and ways to donate.

Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford describes the emergency response and recovery efforts underway after a tornado struck an Amazon wareho…

The day after a tornado caused an Amazon facility collapse that left six people dead, Gov. J.B. Pritzker spoke about Illinoisans’ willingness …

MAYFIELD, Ky. — A monstrous tornado, carving a track that could rival the longest on record, ripped across the middle of the U.S. in a stormfront that killed dozens and tore apart a candle factory, crushed a nursing home, derailed a train and smashed an Amazon warehouse.

Authorities were uncertain Saturday evening whether anyone was still missing because workers were in the midst of a shift change when it was struck. 

At least one person is dead after severe storms and tornadoes ravaged an area along Hwy. F in St. Charles County near Defiance, Missouri, leve…

A monstrous tornado, carving a track that could rival the longest on record, ripped across the middle of the U.S. in a stormfront that killed …

MAYFIELD, Ky. — Rescuers combed through fields of wreckage after a tornado outbreak roared across the middle of the U.S., leaving dozens dead …

Coles County homes, businesses damaged by Friday storm

An EF3 tornado wiped out much of an Amazon distribution facility, killing 6, as a wave of violent weather rolled through the St. Louis metropo…

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December 19, 2021 at 10:37PM

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