Legislative News from Rep. Avery Bourne

Madigan Implicated in ComEd Scheme

By now you have probably heard that House Speaker Mike Madigan has been named as “Public Official A” in the sprawling federal investigation into political corruption in Illinois. In a bombshell that dropped Friday morning, 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. It’s 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 and Madigan appears to be at the epicenter of it.

Shortly after the news broke, I issued this statement:

“The people of Illinois have suffered under the corruption of Speaker Madigan for too long. The news of a federal criminal investigation implicating Madigan makes it very clear- Madigan must resign. If he will not step down as Speaker, it is time that Democratic lawmakers who put him in power vote him out. If Governor Pritzker is serious about passing ethics reform, he should use his authority to call the legislature back for a special session. It is time for real ethics reform and for a vote on a new Speaker of the House.”

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 legislation that allowed ComEd to raise electric rates on consumers. I voted against this bill.

In all, 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 a disgusting, but not surprising, revelation that shows just how deep corruption goes in our state.

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, after Speaker Madigan is 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. PPP loans funds to small businesses based on 10 weeks worth 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 even 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

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.  Here’s what has changed:

REGIONS

Instead of four mega-regions, there are now 11 regions in which mitigation strategies will be applied. Our region is about half the size as it was previously in the original Restore Illinois plan. We are now region 3. Our combined metrics will determine what restrictions/mitigations will be put in place in the event of a new spike in cases. Click here and navigate to Region 3 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:

  • 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

Mitigation strategies in high-risk settings, like bars and restaurants, will be automatically applied in a region that meets resurgence criteria. 

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, the fraud involves people receiving an ‘unemployment debit card’ in the mail even though they did not apply for unemployment benefits. If you believe you have been a target of this new scam, I recommend you take the following steps:

  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 a more thorough instructions on how to handle the breach:

https://www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov/consumers/Identity_Theft_Resource_Guide.pdf

Please keep a hard copy file of all your correspondences, letters from the IDES office, and information regarding the debit cards to show your efforts to correct the issue. Please know that my office will do anything we can to assist you if have fallen prey to this scam.