Update from S4: News and Politics from Illinois and around the USA

National
As was expected, the House passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bill that the Senate passed in December. Also as expected, President Obama vetoed the bill. In addition to repealing many key parts of the healthcare act, the bill would also have defunded Planned Parenthood for a year. Despite the legislation’s certain doom, Republicans viewed it as a step forward in their battle against the ACA and proof that a repeal would be possible under a Republican president. House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “We are confronting the president with the hard, honest truth: ObamaCare doesn’t work.” Speaker Ryan plans to introduce legislation to replace the ACA before the November elections, but Demcorats are skeptical. Read more on The Hill.

 

President Obama issued new executive actions to strengthen national gun control measures, including requiring some unlicensed gun dealers to acquire licenses and conduct background checks on buyers. He is also finalizing a measure that would reduce some patient privacy limits to allow the mental health records of those who have been involuntarily committed to be included in a background check. Republicans leading the House Appropriations Committee vowed to block President Obama’s actions by denying funding during the appropriations process. Read more specifics in Politico and the Washington Post.

 

The Council for American Private Education published an extensive analysis of how the new federal education act will impact private schools. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) contains several provisions that the private school and educational choice movements have championed for years, such as a higher share of funding for private school teacher professional development and a new block grant program.Read the guide here.

 

TransCanada Corporation, the company behind the Keystone XL oil pipeline proposal, filed two lawsuits against President Obama. One alleges that the president violated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by denying the Canadian company a permit, and the other claims that he violated his constitutional authority. Read more in Politico.

 

Illinois
The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget published its annual three-year budget forecast, and it isn’t pretty. By the end of fiscal year 2016, the office expects a $4.6 billion deficit and a $9 billion backlog in bills. By 2019, that backlog is forecast at $25 million.

 

A state appeals court ruled that part of a law that allows hospitals not to pay local property taxes is unconstitutional. According to the state constitution, the tax exemption is meant to apply only to property “used exclusively” for “charitable purposes,” but both of these terms have been subject to interpretation. The 2012 law in question broadly categorized hospital activities as “charitable,” but many argue that hospitals run as businesses should not qualify for tax exemptions. The case is likely to end up before the Illinois Supreme Court. Read more in the Tribune.

 

Protests against Mayor Emanuel have continued throughout Chicago and gained national press (see this Wall Street Journal article). Gov. Rauner said he is “very disappointed” in the mayor and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez over how they have been handling the recent police shooting cases. The governor also announced his support of a bill that would allow voters to recall their mayor. Read more in the Sun-Times.

 

As if recent events were not problematic enough, a senior attorney in the mayor’s administration resigned this week under accusations that he intentionally concealed evidence in the civil trial over a 2011 police shooting case. Changing his tune from earlier in the week, yesterday Mayor Emanuel expressed his support for a US Department of Justice investigation of his administration’s Law Department and a retraining program for personnel. Read more in the Tribuneand Sun-Times.

 

Donna More, one of two challengers to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, kicked off her campaign this week. More took her criticism of Alvarez beyond the recent police shooting cases, saying, “Anita Alvarez has run an appallingly lackluster office for years with delayed prosecutions, wrongful convictions and polices that favor influencers and the well-connected while justice takes a back seat to politics.” Alvarez and Kim Foxx, the other challenger, both responded with attacks on More’s position as an attorney for the Illinois Gaming Board. Read more in the Tribune and Sun-Times.

 

Rep. Mark Batinick filed a bill for a constitutional amendmentthat would make all elected state officials subject to recall. Rep. Batinick said, “Having a comprehensive recall law in place would give voters an important tool to keep their elected officials at all levels accountable at all times, not just before an election.”

 

Mayor Emanuel appointed Jaime Guzman, who previously served on the state Charter School Commission, to a vacancy on the Chicago Board of Education. Some are concerned that Guzman’s appointment could send a pro-charter and anti-union message during a time when relations with the Chicago Teachers Union are already strained. Read more in the Sun-Times.

 

A measure of Illinois’s economy known as the Flash Index shows a decline in the last half of 2015, possibly due to the state budget impasse. See the data here. And as Greg Heinz points out in Crain’s, the state is now spending over $30 million more per day than it takes in. Read the column.

 

Daily fantasy sports players can enjoy their games in Illinois while waiting for a verdict on whether the games constitute illegal gambling. Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion declaring sites like DraftKings and FanDuel illegal gambling operations, and both companies subsequently filed lawsuits against her. A trial is set for June. Read more in the Sun-Times.

 

Sen. Willie Delgado from Chicago ended his reelection campaign this week. An advisor told the press the senator is simply “really burned out” after serving in both the House and Senate. His primary opponent, Angelica Alfaro, is backed by the charter school network, while Omar Aquino, who is running now that Sen. Delgado dropped out, has the support of the Chicago Teacher’s Union.

 

Chicago Rep. Pamela Reaves-Harris also dropped out of the reelection race this week, citing the “constant politicalbattle” to protect her community.

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