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Stories about Illinois

Illinois Gov. Pritzker has contributed $56.5 million to campaign behind graduate income tax ballot measure

Through June 30, 2020, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) contributed $56.5 million to the campaign Vote Yes For Fairness. The campaign is backing a ballot measure to repeal the state’s constitutional requirement that the state personal income tax be a flat rate. It would, instead, allow the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax.
Quentin Fulks, a former campaign staffer for Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) 2018 gubernatorial campaign and the leader of the 501(c)(4) nonprofit Think Big Illinois, is chairperson of Vote Yes for Fairness. He said, “We’re grateful for the contribution [from Gov. Pritzker]… and we hope other individuals who have the means will step up and contribute to our effort to get the fair tax passed.”
Pritzker advocated for a graduated income tax during his campaign for governor in 2018. He defeated incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), giving Democrats control of the state Legislature and governor’s office in Illinois. In May 2019, legislative Democrats voted to pass the constitutional amendment. Legislative Republicans opposed the constitutional amendment. Legislators also passed a statute, which would go into effect upon voter approval of the constitutional amendment, to change the state’s income tax from a flat rate to six graduated rates beginning on January 1, 2021.
Opponents of the ballot measure have organized two PACs—Vote No On The Blank Check Amendment and the Coalition to Stop the Proposed Tax Hike. Vote No has not reported contributions, and the Coalition registered as a committee on July 14. Greg Baise, former president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the leader of the 501(c)(4) nonprofit Ideas Illinois, is the chairperson of Vote No On The Blank Check Amendment. Members of the Coalition include NFIB, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, and the Illinois Farm Bureau. Todd Maisch, president of the Illinois Chamber, said, “We don’t need to spend dollar for dollar because this is, frankly, an unpopular idea once voters figure out what’s really going on. … If the proponents were certain that they had this in the bag, would they have written a $51 million check? I don’t think so.”
In Illinois, the vote requirement for constitutional amendments is either (a) 60 percent of votes cast on the ballot measure itself or (b) a simple majority of all of those voting in the election. The income tax constitutional amendment is the only ballot measure that has been placed on this year’s statewide ballot in Illinois.


Illinois House deputy majority leader resigns

Arthur Turner II (D), formerly the Deputy Majority Leader in the Illinois House of Representatives, resigned on July 3. He had represented the 9th District in the chamber since 2011. Turner’s father, Arthur Turner, previously held the seat from 1981 until his son took office.
Turner did not file for re-election this year. Lakesia Collins won the Democratic primary in the district on March 17 with 46% of the vote. The Republican primary was canceled. Collins is running unopposed in the general election on November 3. Officials from the Democratic Party committee in Turner’s district will appoint a replacement to serve until the end of his term, which expires in January 2021.
There are nine open seats in the Illinois House of Representatives elections this year in which the incumbent did not file for re-election, including Turner’s. That’s the fewest number of any election in the chamber in the last decade. Of the incumbents who did not file for re-election, six are Republicans and three are Democrats. Two incumbents were defeated in the March primaries, both Democrats who had been appointed to their positions.
In the 2018 elections, which had the most open seats of any election since 2010, Democrats increased their seat holdings in the Illinois House from 67-51 to 74-44. The gain created a supermajority for the party in the chamber.
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Policing issues in the most recent Minneapolis and Chicago mayoral races

Two recently elected mayors of major midwestern metropolises are facing similar challenges in reaction to the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd by city police last month. Like many big American cities, large demonstrations have occurred in both Minneapolis and Chicago to protest both the death of Floyd specifically and the behavior of police in general. 

Ballotpedia’s coverage of the recent mayoral elections in Minneapolis (2017) and Chicago (2019) reveal policing policy was an important issue for candidates in both races, and in particular, the two new mayors elected: Jacob Frey in Minneapolis and Lori Lightfoot in Chicago.

Here’s a look at the campaign issues in the most recent mayoral elections in Minneapolis and Chicago.

Minneapolis 2017

In the 2017 Minneapolis race, Frey (then a city councilman) defeated incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges and 13 other candidates after securing a majority on the fifth round of tabulations in the city’s ranked-choice voting system. “Policing and public safety were top issues,” of the race because of several high-profile officer-involved shootings in the city proper and surrounding suburbs. This included the July 2016 shooting death of Philando Castile by police in nearby St. Anthony, the November 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police after they mistakenly believed he had assaulted a girlfriend, and the July 2017 shooting of Justine Damond by a Minneapolis officer after Damond called police to report a potential sexual assault.

The shooting of Damond occurred one month before candidates filed to run for mayor and helped elevate Minneapolis’ policing culture and Hodges’ policing policies to major issues during the campaign. 

Police body-worn cameras were one subject of debate in the campaign. Following her 2013 election, Mayor Hodges had implemented a camera system. But, while the officers responding to Justine Damond’s call had been wearing body cameras, neither of them had their cameras switched on when the shooting occurred.

After the Damond shooting, Hodges requested and received the resignation of Police Chief Janeé Harteau. Hodges nominated then-Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo to become the city’s first African American police chief. Whether or not to ratify Hodges’ judgment by keeping Arradondo in the position was also a campaign issue. 

Another issue was Hodges’ handling of the Jamar Clark shooting, which prompted criticism from different directions. 

The police union chief said Hodges and then-Police Chief Harteau did not support the officers involved in the Clark shooting: “Someone has to stand up for the officer.” 

But some believed Hodges had been too lenient. The local NAACP president, Nekima Levy-Pounds, led protests over the city’s handling of the Clark shooting, stating that, “Everybody who stood with Mayor Hodges is not part of the solution. They’re part of the problem!” Levy-Pounds was one of 14 candidates who ran against Hodges for mayor in 2017. 

The five most successful candidates in the opening round of Minneapolis’s ranked-choice voting system, and the policing policies they campaigned on, were as follows:

  • Jacob Frey (D), the eventual winner, advocated improving the training and mental screening of officers and strengthening body camera requirements. Frey did not commit to retaining Arradondo as police chief but did so after winning the election. (Arradondo is the current police chief navigating the controversy and criticism of his department over the death of George Floyd).
  • State Rep. Raymond Dehn (D) proposed partial defunding of the city’s police, the “full-scale demilitarization of the Minneapolis Police Department,” and the “rethinking whether every officer needs to always carry a gun.” Dehn also did not commit to whether he would retain Arradondo as the police chief.
  • Incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges (D) ran on her record of policing issues which she said included implementing police body cameras, enhancing bias training of officers, improving the tracking of complaints against police, and increasing diversity on the force.
  • Candidate Tom Hoch (D), a non-profit executive, proposed a “top to bottom review” of the police department that included giving subpoena power to civilian review panels, and changing officer licensing standards to include “a more detailed and transparent tracking system for all infractions, including information on plea agreements.” His police agenda also included several general statements such as the “adoption of best practices in law enforcement.” Hoch also did not commit to retaining the police chief.
  • Nekima Levy-Pounds (D) advocated improvement in community-police relations, reducing racial profiling, and reducing recidivism by improving prisoner reentry programs. She supported retaining the new police chief, Arradondo, saying he had “earned the trust of a great number of people who typically do not trust police.”

Chicago 2019

Crime and policing in Chicago influenced the 2019 mayoral race in two ways. 

First, the city endured a spike in violent crime during the final years of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration with 762 murders occurring in 2016, the largest number of homicides in nearly 20 years. As part of his response, Emanuel launched a plan to add 1,000 officers to the police department. (Emanuel announced in September 2018 that he would not seek re-election).

Second, beginning in December 2015 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) began an investigation of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) that resulted in a 2017 report stating officers had engaged “in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, that is unreasonable.” This report recommended the city agree to a consent decree—a plan supervised by a federal judge. The decree began in March 2019, during Emanuel’s final months in office.  

The nonpartisan general election for mayor on February 26, 2019, included 14 candidates. The top two vote-getters advanced to a runoff election: Lori Lightfoot (D), a recent president of the Chicago Police Board and co-chair of the city’s Police Accountability Task Force, received 17.5 percent of the initial vote; and Toni Preckwinkle (D), president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, received 16 percent. In the April 2, 2019, runoff election between the two women, Lightfoot won with 73.7 percent.

The two top candidates had similar platforms on policing issues. 

Both touted the necessity of the consent decree, their eagerness to implement it, and each claimed to have superior professional experience for getting that job done:

  • Lightfoot’s campaign said her work as president of the Chicago Police Board was “the underpinning of the Obama-era Department of Justice report and the consent decree, which will be the basis for police reform and accountability.”
  • Preckwinkle pledged to make sure the CPD “fully complies with the mandates of the consent decree” and predicted it would bring about “better supervision and more appropriate, consistent training, both of which are necessary to create effective, constitutional policing.”

Each of their platforms implied a recognition of the need for police:

  • Preckwinkle said she wanted the police department to become the “most effective police department in the country, by improving training, supervision, promotion, collaboration and crime-solving capacity within the department and demanding real improvement in homicide clearance and overall crime reduction.” 
  • Lightfoot also pledged to improve the homicide clearance rate, and to address illegal gun possession and violence through “a proactive, coordinated response led by federal law enforcement officials, strengthening state and federal gun laws, creating a centralized department within CPD responsible for tracking illegal guns throughout the city, and strategically deploying police cameras in neighborhoods.”

The Ballotpedia account provides no evidence that either candidate opposed Emanuel’s effort to hire 1,000 additional officers, or that they proposed reducing the number of officers or police department funding.

Ballotpedia is providing coverage of every major mayoral election occurring during the 2020 election, as well as all other major federal and state races. Click the “learn more” button for more information on 2020 mayoral elections.



Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker to self-quarantine after staff member tests positive for coronavirus

On May, 11, 2020, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced that he and members of his office would self-quarantine after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 last week. All senior members of Pritzker’s staff have tested negative for the virus. Pritzker received a test Sunday, May 10, which also came back negative.
Ballotpedia tracks politicians and government officials who have been diagnosed or tested for coronavirus, or become quarantined.
As of May 11, we have tracked:
• Six federal officials diagnosed with coronavirus, and 38 federal officials quarantined
• Thirty state officials diagnosed with coronavirus, and 67 state officials quarantined


Illinois Supreme Court rules fantasy sports a game of skill, not chance

In April 2016, Illinois residents Colin Dew-Becker and Andrew Wu competed in a fantasy sports contest hosted by the website FanDuel. They each paid a total of $109: a $100 wager and a $9 fee to the company. Wu defeated Dew-Becker, and three days later Dew-Becker invoked an 1819 law called The Loss Recovery Act in order to recover his bet.

The Loss Recovery Act provides an avenue for the losing party of an illegal wager to recover the funds lost. Dew-Becker’s invocation of the Loss Recovery Act presupposes that FanDuel fantasy sports contests are gambling venues and therefore illegal. The Illinois Supreme Court took up the case to determine the legality of fantasy sports websites as online gambling venues.

On April 16, 2020, the state supreme court ruled that fantasy sports is a “game of skill” as opposed to a “game of chance” and therefore venues like FanDuel do not fall under the umbrella of illegal online gambling venues, nor do wagers placed on fantasy sports match-ups qualify as online gambling. Chief Justice Anne Burke wrote the majority opinion. Justice Lloyd Karmeier was the lone dissenter.

In the majority opinion, Justice Burke wrote “Because the outcomes of head-to-head DFS contests are predominately skill-based, we conclude that (Dew-Becker) was not engaged in ‘gambling’ with (Wu) as required… We determine here only that the DFS contest at issue in this case does not fall under the current legal definition of gambling.”

In his dissent, Justice Karmeier wrote, “Throughout the history of antigambling laws, courts have recognized the effort and ingenuity man has exerted to circumvent the law by disguising activities as legal or contests of skill although the intended appeal is to chance… The ingenuity exerted in head-to-head DFS contests duped the majority into believing it is a game of skill when truly it is a game of chance.”

Although the court upheld the legality of fantasy sports betting hosted by companies such as FanDuel, the five majority justices provided that state lawmakers are able to alter current regulations to manage daily fantasy sports contests.

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