Happy Tuesday, Illinois. There’s a historic second impeachment coming up this week in Washington. But in these parts, it’s all eyes on Springfield.


DATELINE SPRINGFIELD: Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch was unanimously elected to run for House speaker by the 22-member Black Caucus Monday night. The vote came after Speaker Michael Madigan’s stunning announcement that he’s suspending his campaign for the job he’s held for almost 40 years — though, he said, “This is not a withdrawal.” We’ll talk about that in a minute.

First, Welch, a member of Madigan’s leadership team, joins Rep. Ann Williams, Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, and, possibly downstate Rep. Jay Hoffman, in a race to get 60 votes. Welch’s entry is a power move by the Black Caucus, putting him ahead of Williams, based on the first round of balloting (she had 18). Also, Black women who might have aligned with Williams or Kifowit now stand behind Welch. Still, 22 is far from 60.

Leave it to the Velvet Hammer to create intrigue. Madigan’s statement that he wasn’t withdrawing leaves a window open for him to return to the race if Democrats can’t throw their collective weight behind anyone else. It’s a strategic retreat in case Dems reach a stalemate and Madigan becomes the compromise candidate (!). Lawmakers would come “crawling back” to him, suggests Sun-Times’ Mark Brown.

Madigan also could be “laying the groundwork to play the role of kingmaker, shifting his support to someone else and retaining some measure of influence,” according to WBEZ’s Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold.

That’s not happening so far. Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, told Playbook Monday night that the speaker “is not taking a position” on any other candidates as of yet.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker isn’t taking sides, either, as the Daily Herald reports.

The Tribune calls Madigan’s move “politically calculated” and amounting to “a dare to any of the other 72 House Democrats to try to cobble together a coalition to oust him, a tall task given the breadth of diversity of the caucus.”

The skepticism is bipartisan. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin says Madigan’s move “appears to be another ploy or a head fake. For the sake of the institution, his caucus must demand that he be direct and honest about his intentions — in or out.”

And Rep. Deb Conroy, who heads the House Democratic women’s caucus, says Madigan is a master of chess and sees the race in playing the long game.

It takes 60 votes to become speaker, and because Democrats control the House, they hope to make the decision among themselves — but they have to do it by Wednesday, the deadline to take the leadership call to the full House, Republicans included.

Welch would be the first Black speaker of the Illinois House and Williams or Kifowit would be the first woman.

The Democratic caucus did not meet to talk about the speaker’s race Monday but is planning on making it a long night Tuesday.


Tribune’s Rick Pearson takes a deep dive on CNN about why Madigan is out


The education reform legislation that’s part of the Black Caucus’ omnibus bill passed the House and Senate on Monday and is now headed to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk.

The measure is designed to improve the quality of education for minority students in early childhood education, to create programs for students in poverty, and to find ways to keep Black college students from going out of state — plus lots in between.

The Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton says: “The goal is to try to level the playing field between schools in more affluent areas with those in less affluent communities.”

Passage was along party lines: 69 to 41 in the House, and 40 to 18 in the Senate.

“I just felt proud of the work that we’ve done,” Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford told Chalkbeat’s Samantha Smylie. Lightford called the policy “meaningful and impactful for children, Black children. for generations to come.”

The caucus’ criminal justice legislation is still being discussed. It’s unsurprisingly drawn opposition from law enforcement, which worries it could transform the way policing is conducted in Illinois. Members of the Black Caucus say, well yes, that’s the point.

The measure calls for ending cash bail, expanding police training, and prohibiting chokeholds.

Pritzker wouldn’t commit to signing any of the Black Caucus agenda items that make their way to his desk, saying, he’s worked with the caucus on getting the legislation to the floor “and coming up with ideas that I can favor in the process.”

A Sun-Times editorial details the omnibus bill’s “four pillars”: police and criminal justice reform, education reform, health care and human services reform, and expansion of economic opportunity.


The only person who had a worse day than Michael Madigan was Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Lawmakers have advanced two bills that she opposes:

CTU collective bargaining measure approved by the Senate: It could change the way the Chicago Teachers Union is able to bargain with Chicago Public Schools over plans to reopen classrooms and other issues. As WTTW’s Matt Masterson points out, Lightfoot, who has had a fraught relationship with CTU, opposed it.

Senate passes firefighter pension bill over mayor’s strenuous objections: “City Hall says the bill would saddle beleaguered Chicago taxpayers with $18 million in additional costs the first year, $30 million every year after that and $850 million by 2055,” by Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.

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The Illinois Department of Public Health on Monday reported 53 additional deaths and 4,776 new confirmed and probable cases of the coronavirus. That’s a total of 17,627 fatalities and 1,033,526 cases, The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from Jan 4 through 10 is 7.6 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 10.3 percent.


— Illinois to allow local health departments to start vaccinating those 65 and older, plus teachers and other essential workers: “Rather than waiting to use those doses, Pritzker said, those shots should be made available to the next round of 3.2 million eligible recipients in phase 1b — those 65 and older and those who are front-line essential workers,” reports Tribune’s Robert McCoppin and Dan Petrella.

— Illinois’ top doctor warns of new UK Covid strain: “We have the opportunity to use that information [from England] and make better choices around the mitigation… before this variant inevitably takes over,” she warned. NBC/5 reports. With video


— The military has a hate group problem. But it doesn’t know how bad it’s gotten: “The rise of extremism in the ranks is seen as a “crisis issue” but the military’s efforts to weed out radicals are ‘haphazard’ at best,” by POLITICO’s Bryan Bender.

— Business titans pull back from GOP after Capitol insurrection: “The split between the GOP and business is widening after some Republicans voted against Electoral College certification after last week’s riot,” by POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt, Elena Schneider, Theodoric Meyer and Zachary Warmbrodt.

— Capitol riot tests the loyalty of Chicago-area Trump supporters: “While some said the riot snapped their fidelity to the president, others insisted he was not to blame, and that they will remain in his corner even if it means splitting from the Republican Party,” report Tribune’s John Keilman and Robert McCoppin.

— Chicago police investigating whether anyone from department took part in Capitol mob attack: “The announcement of CPD’s own investigation comes at a time when the head of the department’s largest police union, John Catanzara, a vocal Trump supporter, has come under fire for downplaying the seriousness of the mob’s behavior in an interview with a Chicago radio station,” by Tribune’s Jeremy Gorner.


— Illinois Veterans’ Affairs director resigns amid criticism over Covid-19 outbreak: “A total of 36 residents at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home have died since the fall from the coronavirus disease, placing a spotlight on how the facility handled health and safety protocols. Just hours after being grilled at a state legislative hearing on the matter Monday, the agency’s director, Linda Chapa LaVia, stepped down with an announcement made in a news release from Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Administration,” by NPR Illinois’ Sean Crawford.

— Pritzker admin hires firm to verify Exelon’s nuke hardship claims: “The report’s deadline is April 1, which will give the governor and lawmakers just a few months to decide whether to subsidize Exelon’s power plants for a second time,” by Crain’s Steve Daniels.

— Looking for federal relief: More than 100 Illinois small business owners are joining 2,000 of their peers from across the country to call on Congress to pass additional federal pandemic relief. The small business Virtual Hill Day is an initiative of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices. The group will meet with their respective elected officials to address a range of issues, including health care costs for small businesses, protecting small businesses from potential Covid-related litigation, affordable child care, and simplifying the government’s Request for Proposal process.


— Back to school: District will hold employees ‘accountable’: “On Monday, the first wave of Chicago Public Schools students returned to classrooms, a day nearly 10 months in the making. While more than 6,500 students in prekindergarten and special education programs selected the learn-at-school option, CPS on Monday did not provide the number of students who ultimately showed up,” the Tribune reports in a six-byline story.

… City officials defend Lightfoot’s school reopening plan at Council hearing: “Dr. Marielle Fricchione, medical director at Chicago Department of Public Health, pointed out more than 20,000 students are already attending private schools in Chicago, with ‘many more than that’ in day care. There’s no evidence those schools and day care centers are causing community spread, she said,” by Tribune’s John Byrne.

… Chicago reopened its schools Monday. Can they stay open? “This week’s reopening is just the start. In three weeks, the district plans to open buildings to another 70,000 students — or roughly a third of those in kindergarten through eighth grade — for in-person instruction two days a week,” reports Chalkbeat Chicago’s Yana Kunichoff, Mila Koumpilova and Cassie Walker Burke.

— Notes of a North Side census taker: “In many immigrant and minority communities, though, participation in the census was down compared with 2010 — a problem that advocates blame on the coronavirus pandemic, plus the Trump administration’s unsuccessful attempt to place a citizenship question on the census form and its bid to exclude undocumented immigrants from the final count. Those factors made traditionally hard-to-count populations even harder to reach,” writes Edward McClelland for Chicago magazine.

— Chicago Tribune to exit Prudential Plaza, move newsroom to printing facility: “The Chicago Tribune and its parent company will relocate out of Prudential Plaza at the end of this month, leaving the city’s largest newspaper without a downtown office less than three years after its exit from the landmark Tribune Tower,” reports the paper’s Ryan Ori. “The Tribune newsroom will move to the Freedom Center printing facility along the Chicago River north of downtown, employees were told in a memo Monday afternoon… The Tribune’s move comes almost a year into a near shutdown of downtown Chicago offices because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also follows years of cost-cutting measures by the Chicago-based newspaper company.”

— Neighbor says ‘super spreader’ parties happen every weekend at Lan’s in Old Town: “A video posted to Reddit shows more than 60 people packed into the Old Town Chinese restaurant dancing and taking swigs from the same bottle of booze,” by Block Club’s Colin Boyle and Jake Wittich.

— Chicago to Evanston shooting victims didn’t see gunman coming: “It’s just blatant disregard for human life,” says a relative after the shooting rampage. Tribune’s Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas reports.


Evanston aldermanic candidate targeted with racist threats during Democratic Zoom forum: “Carolyn Murray, an Evanston native who is running to represent the 5th Ward on the Evanston City Council, was interviewing for the Democratic Party of Evanston’s endorsement via Zoom when someone began sending individual racist messages to others on the Zoom call, according to Murray and Eamon Kelly, Democratic committeeman of Evanston Township,” by Tribune’s Genevieve Bookwalter.


While regulated relocation for cannabis dispensaries is still being debated by state lawmakers behind closed doors, Cannabis operator Cresco Labs has announced plans to turn its current Wrigleyille Sunnyside Dispensary into the Illinois Cannabis Education Center — a free on-site training facility for social equity applicants to learn how to operate a legal dispensary. If legislation is approved, allowing current facilities to move to larger locations, the training facility would be open when Sunnyside moves down the street. Cresco says it would be open in time for the first round of social equity applicants to get some on the job training.


South Shore Line to add more double track to improve Chicago-Indiana commuter rail service: “The work extending about 17 miles between Gary and Michigan City is aimed at cutting commuting time and improving reliability,” by the AP.


— House to vote Wednesday as Pelosi gets the votes to impeach Trump, by POLITICO’s Kyle Cheney, Sarah Ferris, Heather Caygle and Melanie Zanona

— Inside Pelosi’s push to impeach Trump: This time it’s personal, by POLITICO’s Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris

— ‘Supremely self-absorbed’: Isolated Trump unlikely to mount an aggressive impeachment defense, by POLITICO’s Anita Kumar and Daniel Lippman


Sterling Bay taps Illinois Medical District CEO for life sciences division: “Suzet McKinney will be tasked with recruiting biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies to the Chicago developer’s lab space properties,” by Crian’s Danny Ecker.


MONDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to Chirayu Patel for correctly answering that former Mayor Anton Cermak is credited with Democrats taking control of the city of Chicago in 1931.

TODAY’s QUESTION: Who is the most famous Illinois resident to come from Chicago’s Clearing neighborhood? Email your answer to [email protected].


Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri, and International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150 Spokesman Ed Maher.


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