July Legislative Update

We are beginning to see a resurgence in cases of COVID-19 in many parts of Illinois. I want to encourage you all to remain attentive to the steps that mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Please wear a mask when in public and social distancing cannot occur
  • Please practice social distancing
  • Please wash your hands frequently

Speaker Madigan Implicated in ComEd Bribery Scheme

In a bombshell announcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we now know that House Speaker Mike Madigan is “Public Official A” in the sprawling federal investigation into political corruption in Illinois. In the announcement earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney’s office tied House Speaker Mike Madigan to a ComEd scheme where patronage jobs for Madigan friends were exchanged for favorable House votes on bills that benefit the energy giant. ComEd admitted to paying out approximately $1.3 million in exchange for the passage of legislation that ultimately benefitted the company to the tune of $150 million. It is the latest in a long list of ethical missteps by high-ranking officials with ties to the Speaker. At this point, Madigan has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but the investigation is continuing.

In a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ComEd admitted that from 2011-2019 it arranged jobs, contracts and payoffs to Madigan allies, some of whom did little or no work for their compensation. ComEd did these favors in order to gain favor with the man who controls the movement, or non-movement, of bills in the Illinois House. In this case, Madigan pushed through two pieces of legislation that enriched ComEd on the backs of consumers. In response, HB3987, was filed, in order to roll back subsidies delivered to ComEd through that 2016 vote.

House Republicans Demand Action on Ethics Reform

The past 12 months have seen several significant revelations of the depth of corruption in the General Assembly. In October 2019, longtime Chicago Representative Luis Arroyo was charged with conduct that involved political bribery. In January, former Senate Transportation Committee chairperson Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to federal charges of bribery and tax fraud. Now in July, shortly after the ComEd/Mike Madigan news broke, a federal grand jury subpoena was served at the office of the Speaker, seeking all kinds of documents in an expanding investigation into the Speaker’s dealings.

The House Republican Caucus has called for a special session of the Illinois General Assembly to deal with Illinois political corruption. Together, we pointed out that Gov. Pritzker has the power to call this special session, and he should use that authority immediately.

During his January, 2020 State of the State Address, Governor Pritzker spoke out strongly against political corruption in Illinois. However, those words have a hollow ring now, since seems unwilling to reconvene the legislature to take action on ethics reforms.   The Governor has previously indicated that he believes when there’s “clear” evidence of targeting by criminal investigators, “that’s the point at which folks should step aside.”

Silence is Corruption

Mike Madigan is the longest-serving leader of any state legislative body in the history of the United States. He has served as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives for 35 of the last 37 years and has amassed enormous power in Illinois politics. As Chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and Speaker of the House of Representatives, he unilaterally controls the agenda in Springfield. His influence has kept many people silent when they should have spoken out. That needs to change.

Illinois Democrats remained silent when Speaker Madigan, year-after-year, refused to hear ethics reform legislation introduced by House Republicans. They remained silent when Speaker Madigan annually blocked legislation that would create term limits for Illinois legislators by holding it up in Rules Committee. They remained silent when bipartisan legislation to implement fair maps and eradicate gerrymandering was also deferred to the Rules committee and died without debate. And they remain silent, even now, even though Speaker Madigan is now the subject of a Federal probe.

It is past time to end the silence. Corruption costs every Illinoisan in higher taxes and reduced services. Keeping silent in the wake of corruption condones these actions. Simply put, silence is corruption. Sign the petition to demand that Governor Pritzker call a special session so lawmakers can pass real ethics reform to end the culture of corruption that has cost Illinoisans dearly.

Paycheck Protection Program Extended to August 8

The popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been extended until August 8. The program has $130 billion to lend to small businesses based on 10 weeks of payroll expenses. Companies that use the loan proceeds to keep employees on the payroll for eight weeks following disbursement are eligible to have most or all of the loan forgiven. In the first two rounds of PPP many small retail and restaurant businesses did not apply since they were completely shut down and did not have employees to pay. Those businesses should consider investigating the program and connecting with their lender. Program information and application materials here.

New COVID-19 Regions, Metrics Announced

When the Governor unveiled his “Restore Illinois” plan that included four mega-regions for phase movement, Republicans across the state immediately felt the regions were too large and ignored localized differences. For example, our region, the Northeast region, included the state’s largest urban area (Chicago), and rural counties like Kendall and Grundy. Republicans pressed the Governor to adjust the regions and suggested he use the existing EMS regions that were already in place for emergency management. Our voices, along with the voices of thousands of frustrated Illinoisans, were heard, and last week the Governor did just that.

The Governor has laid out a new COVID-19 mitigation plan, metrics, and revised regions for monitoring the pandemic’s impact on Illinois. The new plan seeks to address localized spikes in coronavirus cases like have been seen in other states. Here’s what has changed:

REGIONS: Instead of four mega-regions, there are now 11 regions in which mitigation strategies will be applied. The City of Chicago is now its own region, and McHenry County is not included with anymore, which is exactly what House Republicans were advocating for when the regional approach was first announced. It appears we were correct on the science after all. Click here and navigate to Region 9, which now includes just McHenry and Lake Counties to view our metrics as they relate to this new plan.

METRICS: The following metrics will be used to determine when the spread of the virus in a region requires additional mitigations:

A sustained increase in 7-day rolling average (7 out of 10 days) in the positivity rate and one of the following severity indicators:

  • Sustained 7-day increase in hospital admissions for a COVID-19 like illness;
  • Reduction in hospital capacity threatening surge capabilities (ICU capacity or medical/surgical beds < 20%);
  • OR three consecutive days averaging ≥ 8% positivity rate

The Governor will use executive orders to apply mitigation strategies in high-risk settings, like bars and restaurants, which will be automatically applied in a region that meets resurgence criteria.

Rep. Reick to Host Document Shredding and Non-Perishable Food Drive for Local Food Pantries

I am hosting a free paper shredding event and non-perishable food/personal items drive on Saturday, August 1. The event will be held in the rear parking lot of my Legislative Office located at 1072 Lake Avenue in Woodstock from 9:30 AM until 11:30 AM. Residents from throughout the 63rd Legislative House District simply need to follow the signs that guide them through the parking lot and watch as event volunteers collect shreddables and items to be donated to local food pantries.

Due to the size of the shred truck and popularity of similar events in the region, each vehicle will be limited to two grocery-sized bags or banker box sized boxes of shreddable documents. Event volunteers will be taking proper safety precautions by wearing PPE and practicing social distancing to the fullest extent possible.

Residents don’t have to leave their cars, volunteers will lift the boxes. Volunteers will also take items to be donated to local food pantries out of peoples’ cars for them. Follow the marked pathway through the parking lot. Documents will NOT be shredded on-site, but they will be collected in sealed bins and taken to AMS Store & Shred’s facility for complete destruction. An official certificate of destruction will be provided to each vehicle upon collection.

Items collected for the food pantries will assist local families in need throughout McHenry County. It’s a pleasure to provide this free document shredding opportunity while also collecting goods for a community organizations that provide a critical service for the residents throughout McHenry County.

IDES Launches New Dial-In Only System for Unemployment Cases

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) continues to fail the people of Illinois who need unemployment benefits during this health pandemic. Earlier this month, IDES implemented a “callback only model” as a temporary solution to effectively honor the order in which callers attempt to reach the call center for assistance. This new model will be in effect for the following call centers: Claimant Services Center (800-244-5631), IllinoisJobLink.com (877-342-7533), Benefit Payment Control (800-814-0513) and Employer Hotline (800-247-4984).

In theory, rather than a caller waiting on hold for long periods of time or calling multiple times, the caller will receive a callback from IDES when he or she is next in line without losing his or her place. For those who utilize the callback system, it is important that they answer the phone when their call is returned. We are now 2 weeks into this new system, and phone calls into my office continue, as this new system is also failing unemployed Illinoisans. The bureaucracy that has been set up at IDES is broken.

We do the best we can to get answers from the Governor’s administration regarding IDES concerns. However, it heartbreaking, because they refuse to even email us back.

Cases of Unemployment Fraud Surfacing

My office is hearing from constituents who have been the subject of identity fraud by bad actors applying for unemployment benefits through other people’s names. In most cases, people are receiving fake unemployment debit cards they did not apply for. If you believe you have been a target of this new scam, do not activate or use these cards; they are fraudulent.

The Governor’s office said those who receive the cards should call the IDES toll free number, but I have heard from several constituents that the 1-800 line gives them a constant busy signal. If you have been targeted by this latest kind of fraud, your personal information is at risk. I recommend you take the following steps right away:

1.           Call your bank, credit cards and mortgage company and report an identity theft. Contact all 3 credit reporting agencies and put a freeze on your credit history.

2.           Immediately file a police report for identity theft. Get a copy of the report.

3.           Report fraud to the Illinois Department of Labor. If you are mailing the complaint, please send it registered mail to verify receipt. I suggest you send it via email as well. Ask for a confirmation response.

4.           Report Fraud to the Attorney General’s Office using this form: https://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/consum_id_0714.pdf

This Resource Guide from the Attorney General’s office gives more thorough instructions on how to handle the breach:  https://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/Identity_Theft_Resource_Guide.pdf

Please keep a hard copy of all of your correspondences, letters from the IDES office, and information regarding the debit cards to show your efforts to correct the issue. IDES is broken and I would not trust them to keep any records. Protect yourself by keeping your own records.

As always, if you have concerns or questions please reach out by email or phone.

Thank you,

Rep. Steve Reick