Legislative News from Rep. Avery Bourne

Bourne Co-Sponsors Resolution to Remove Madigan as Speaker of the House

Since it was revealed a few weeks ago that ComEd will pay a $200 million fine for its role in a pay-to-play scheme that involved Speaker of the House Mike Madigan, dozens of House and Senate Republicans and a growing number of House and Senate Democrats have called for the Speaker’s resignation. I personally called on the Speaker to resign on July 17th, and recently added to that call by signing on as a co-sponsor of legislation that would officially strip Madigan of his role of House Speaker and calls for a new vote for Speaker of the House.

HR 885 points to the deferred prosecution agreement entered into on July 17 between ComEd and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, and states that trust in the Speaker has been misplaced for many years. The resolution goes on to state that members of the House of Representatives have no confidence that Mike Madigan can continue in the role of Speaker and is removed from the position.

The facts of the case show that between 2011-2019, ComEd arranged for jobs, contracts, payoffs, and a seat on the ComEd Board for Madigan allies, some of whom did little or no work for their compensation. ComEd did these favors in order to please Madigan, 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.

ComEd has admitted that the facts of the case are true, and has agreed to pay an exorbitant sum to make partial restitution for their role in this corrupt scheme to benefit Speaker Madigan. They admitted they paid out $1.3 million to gain favor with the Speaker so their controversial bills would get passed. Those facts are not in dispute.

Speaker Madigan has said he will not step down. Since he appears unwilling to do the right thing, I have signed on to HR 855 to strip him of the Speakership. The Illinois House should return to session immediately to elect a new Speaker of the House.

Pritzker Issues Emergency Rule to Criminalize Not Wearing a Mask in Public

At a press conference Friday morning, Governor JB Pritzker renewed his goal of providing criminal penalties for business owners who are not in compliance with his executive orders. Pritzker is pushing a new emergency rule that makes business owners guilty of a Class A misdemeanor if their businesses are not in full compliance with mask mandates. The misdemeanor carries a fine of up to $2,500.

The Governor pushed a similar emergency rule in May, when he wanted to provide criminal penalties for businesses that reopened early. Public outcry was immediate and fierce, and the Governor ultimately withdrew that rule. I would expect the public response to this new rule to be equally strong.

I oppose this new emergency rule. This is yet another example of Governor Pritzker going it alone on the state’s COVID response. As with every other element of the pandemic response, the legislature was not consulted on this issue. 

Let me be clear. I wear a mask. I think it is an easy choice to protect our most vulnerable and expedite our economic recovery. I don’t know of anyone who is advocating for no guidelines or restrictions- this is a pandemic. Of course we need a plan. However, for the Governor to continue to reach beyond his constitutional authority by imposing new restrictions and mandates is wrong. The General Assembly should reconvene to work on a comprehensive regional COVID response plan for the state.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) is scheduled to hear the rule at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 11. All Republicans on JCAR have stated their opposition to the pending rule. I would encourage you to contact the Democratic members of JCAR who have not yet expressed their position on this new rule. A list of JCAR members and their phone numbers can be found here.

Bourne Hosts Successful Traveling Office Hours in Carlinville

After suspending the program for the last five months due to the health pandemic, last week I returned to my regular schedule of traveling office hours in the 95th District. Last week I met with constituents at the Carlinville City Hall, and we discussed a variety of topics, including Governor Pritzker’s COVID-19 response, remote learning for students, new sports rules, and government ethics. It was so nice to be able to meet with constituents face-to-face. We maintained proper social distance and wore masks.

While in Carlinville I also met with officials from the city’s zoning and road/water departments, and with police officers and the mayor. I’m shown in this photo to the right with Carlinville Police Chief David Haley in front of the building that will soon be home to the police department. The former Frontier Communications building was authorized for purchase recently with a $250,000 grant received through the Rebuild Illinois program. I was pleased to be able to help coordinate this grant on their behalf. Located at 225 N. Broad Street, the new building will more than double the department’s space. It will also be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant and provide better conditions for staff, officers, and the public.

Twenty Weeks of Extended Regular State Benefits Now Available

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has announced a 20-week extension of benefits (EB) for Illinoisans who exhaust the allotted 26 weeks of regular state unemployment, and an additional 13 weeks of federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits. Illinois law provides for 20 weeks of EB during times of “high unemployment,” as defined in the law, instead of the 13 weeks of EB that was available in Illinois since May.

Currently, there are 30 states providing 13 weeks of EB, and 19 states, including Illinois, providing 20 weeks of EB. South Dakota is the only state not currently providing any number of EB weeks. Those with questions or in need of assistance with unemployment benefits at this time are encouraged to visit IDES.Illinois.gov.

IDES Problems Persist

My office continues to receive calls from constituents who cannot obtain unemployment benefits that are due to them. I was outraged to learn on Thursday that of the 78.5 million calls that were made to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) between March 1 and July 1 of this year, only 393,576 were answered. That’s less than one percent. This underscores the need for hearings and an audit into IDES. By any metric, a less than one percent call answer rate is an absolute disgrace. I recently recorded a podcast where I stressed the importance of hearings, audits and answers into the Governor’s handling of various aspects of the COVID-19 response. Click here to listen to the podcast.

Rental, Mortgage Assistance Available to Illinois Residents Impacted by COVID-19

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IDHA) is offering rental and mortgage assistance to eligible residents impacted by COVID-19.

The Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program will provide renters impacted by COVID-19 $5,000 for back rent and prepay through 2020, or until funds are exhausted. If approved, payment will be wired directly to the landlord within 10 business days; or 15-20 days if by paper check. IHDA will accept applications for rental assistance August 10 through August 21.

The Emergency Mortgage Assistance (EMA) program will provide homeowners impacted by COVID-19 up to $15,000 to reinstate their mortgage and prepay through 2020 or until funds are exhausted. If approved, payment will be sent directly to the mortgage servicer approximately 7-10 days after the homeowner signs the Promissory Note. A second payment will occur up to one month after the first payment. IHDA will accept applications for mortgage assistance August 24 through September 4.

If interested in applying for rental or mortgage assistance, please visit https://era.ihda.org/ for additional information on eligibility criteria.

Ameren to Extend Moratorium on Service Disconnections

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has announced that several of the state’s large and small regulated electric, natural gas, water and sewer utilities have voluntarily agreed to keep residential customers connected for an additional month due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. Ameren Illinois is among the utilities with extended moratoriums on service disconnections.

The original moratorium on disconnections expired on July 26, 2020, however, with the voluntary extension, disconnections for residential customers will not occur for most customers until September 2020. Several utilities have also extended similar relief to business customers and have agreed to continue waiving late fees.