With help from Maria Carrasco

Happy Wednesday, Illinois. Life looks closer to normal, whatever that was, every day. Yet, Zoom will be with us for…

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch has called his chamber back to Springfield for one day next week to tackle at least two bills that need floor action.

Lawmakers will get as much work done as possible March 18 and will continue virtual hearings for other days of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday), Jessica Basham, the speaker’s chief of staff, wrote in an email to members.

At least two time-sensitive bills will be up for discussion: HB1871 calls for allocating federal funds from the Help America Vote Act to be used for establishing ballot drop boxes around the state. And HB158, which addresses disparities in medical care and other services in Black communities. It’s being carried by Rep. Camille Lilly and is the last of the four pillars of the Black Caucus agenda, that also included criminal justice reforms.

A week is a long way away, so there could be a few more pieces of legislation up for discussion by then.

House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch looks out at the House floor during the Rules Committee hearing at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on Feb. 10, 2021.

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch looks out at the House floor during the Rules Committee hearing at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on Feb. 10, 2021. | Pool photo by Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register

State senators are already back in the state Capitol tending to legislation. There are fewer members in the Senate, making it easier to manage amid the pandemic.

Welch is monitoring virtual committee action and talking to chairs and ranking members about bill status, according to Sean Anderson, the speaker’s spokesman.

Except for a half-day meeting last month to vote on House Rules, this will be the first meeting in the state Capitol in more than a year. Representatives spent the abbreviated spring and veto sessions in the Bank of Springfield Center a mile away to allow for more social distancing, especially during the height of the pandemic in Illinois.

Now with the state’s positivity rates down and vaccines up, state reps have been looking to return to Springfield. Legislative work is easier done in person than by Zoom, they say. If one day next week is all they get for now, they’ll take it.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., speaking at a hearing on Capitol Hill in 2018, announced on Twitter that she’ll seek reelection in 2022. | AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Sen. Tammy Duckworth jumped into the 2022 campaign Tuesday with a tweet: “Folks, I am officially launching my reelection campaign for United States Senate in Illinois. We’ve made so much progress, but my work for Illinois families and veterans isn’t finished. But it won’t be easy.”

The 52-year-old senator (she turns 53 on Friday) enters the race with a huge national following thanks to President Joe Biden putting her on the shortlist for his vice-presidential pick. Duckworth also was in the running for a Cabinet seat.

Republicans have eyed a possible challenge, but so far no one has stepped forward. Behind the scenes, they say Duckworth’s polling shows she’ll be hard to beat.

Two fundraising events will mark the start of Duckworth’s campaign:

Today, high-profile senators, including Duckworth’s mentor, Sen. Dick Durbin, will join in a kickoff celebration. Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and the recently elected Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia will be on hand for that, reports Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet.

On March 30, the who’s who of Illinois Democrats will gather for another fundraiser. Gov. J.B. Pritzker will headline along with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Senate President Don Harmon, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Secretary of State Jesse White, Comptroller Susana Mendoza, state Treasurer Mike Frerichs, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, members of the congressional delegation, and the list goes on.

That event coincides with Duckworth’s memoir that’s also due out March 30.

Duckworth, who defeated Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in 2016, has a compelling backstory as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot serving in Iraq then congresswoman, after leading the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and serving in the Obama administration. She’s also the first member of the Senate to give birth while in office.

Have a tip, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? Get in touch: [email protected]

A message from Chicago Medical Society:

Doctors and hospitals are urging Governor Pritzker to veto a bill that would take millions of dollars away from patient care and put it in legal escrow for future malpractice claims. Members of the Chicago Medical Society are joined by their physician colleagues and hospitals across Illinois urging lawmakers and Pritzker to veto the bill. Now is not the time to punish doctors or take essential financial resources away from patient care in Illinois.

At City Hall at 2 p.m. to announce new business initiatives to support minority-owned and women-owned vendors in Chicago.

At Parkland College Student Union Atrium in Champaign at 3:30 p.m. for a discussion on education reform law.

At the Cook County Building at 4:15 p.m. for a ceremony honoring lives lost to Covid-19.

The Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday reported 16 additional deaths and 1,510 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease. That’s a total of 20,781 fatalities and 1,201,027 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from March 2 through 8 is 2.3 percent. Chicago’s positivity rate is at 2.7 percent.

— United Center opens as Covid-19 mass vaccination site despite early confusion: ‘We are now a live clinic’: “Even as immunizations got underway, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other officials did little during a news conference at the site to bring clarity to a situation muddled by the last-minute decision over the weekend to close appointments to residents outside Chicago and Cook County after an initial sign-up period for anyone age 65 or older,” writes Tribune’s Alice Yin, Gregory Pratt and Dan Petrella.

— Even after the Covid-19 vaccine, some with life-threatening conditions remain wary: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that fully vaccinated people can gather unmasked and indoors with other people who are also fully vaccinated, but should continue wearing masks in public. But immunocompromised people say they have to remain more careful. For them, the vaccine is an extra cushion of safety, not a free pass,” by WBEZ’s Vivian McCall.

— Nebraska, Texas moved up Chicago’s emergency travel order as 9 states bumped down to lighter restrictions, reports Tribune’s Alice Yin.

— Lightfoot ran as an outsider. Two years in, her approach hasn’t changed: “As a candidate Mayor Lori Lightfoot wore her outsider status as a badge of pride. But as she approaches the midpoint of her first term, that directness has created some challenges, most notably with the City Council,” by WBEZ’s Claudia Morell.

— Protect Our Parks takes Obama Center case to U.S. Supreme Court: The Obama Presidential Center got a positive federal review last month to build in Jackson Park. That hasn’t stopped opponents to the project. This week, the nonprofit Protect Our Parks filed a “petition for writ of certiorari” with the U.S. Supreme Court, reports WTTW’s Patty Wetli.

— Jesse Jackson tours Far South Side apartments after concerns raised about mold, water issues: “Residents of the Concordia Place Apartments are calling for the federally subsidized housing complex to be gutted to improve living conditions,” by Sun-Times’ Elvia Malagón.

— Campaign kicks off to create independent panel to redraw city’s ward boundaries: “Any map that receives at least 10 City Council votes triggers a referendum that would allow Chicago voters to choose between rival maps,” by Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.

— Bars put on notice to avoid St. Patrick’s Day crowds: “This year, Liquor Control Commissioner Shannon Trotter is leaving nothing to chance even though both parades have again been canceled. Her certified letter to thousands of liquor license holders, dated March 6, reminds them of their responsibility to enforce the indoor capacity limit of 50 percent or 50 people per room or floor, whichever is less,” writes Sun-Times’ Fran Spielman.

— One Central megaproject gets key support from Metra: “The commuter rail agency says the $20 billion development is a ‘golden opportunity’ to boost its operations,” reports Crain’s Greg Hinz.

— Cook County treasurer: ‘Nothing wrong with Target, it just doesn’t belong in Water Tower’: “The treasurer says it is crucial to keep the moneyed history of Michigan Avenue intact, for one of Chicago’s bigger attractions,” by WGN/9’s Sean Lewis.

— Dozens of health care, social justice groups demand Lightfoot deny General Iron permit: “About 500 individuals and more than 70 organizations sent the mayor a letter urging her to halt the metal shredder’s opening on the Southeast Side. A Rush doctor calls the matter a ‘textbook example of environmental racism,’” by Sun-Times’ Brett Chase.

— GOFUNDHER: Friends of Chicago political fundraiser Stacey Smith are raising funds for her this time. Smith, a senior VP at KJD Strategies, a firm that counts members of the City Council, General Assembly and national PACS as clients, suffered a traumatic brain injury and is in need of support according to a GoFundMe campaign.

— Revolving door for Cook County officials? Or just ‘transparent, good government’ in action? “Later this week, Preckwinkle and her chief of staff plan to choose, and announce, which of two finalists the board president wants to replace Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli. Campanelli was not among the finalists for the position,” by Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton.

— One year later, Preckwinkle reflects on navigating through a viral storm — weathering ‘painful loss’: “In a sit-down interview, the longtime board president reflected on the tense and tragic year, both personally and as the county’s chief executive, and talked about some of her future plans, such as speaking more about the need for universal basic income,” by Sun-Times’ Rachel Hinton.

— Des Plaines Fire Department releases investigation report from fire that killed mother, 4 children: “According to the report, video surveillance shows that the fire started several minutes before the first 911 call was logged. The first officer arrived three minutes after the incident was called in. Additional resources including 36 people were on the scene at the time the first victim was removed from the building, according to the report,” by Tribune’s Jessica Villagomez.

— Winnetka named ideal suburb: “The village was the second-most desirable community in the United States, according to a 24/7 Wall Street ranking,” via Patch’s Jonah Meadows.

— 4-cents-per-gallon fuel tax coming to Lake County this summer, by Daily Herald’s Mick Zawislak

A message from Chicago Medical Society:

Advertisement Image

POLICY SHIFT: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has ended a policy that had threatened to upend Rep. Marie Newman’s 2020 campaign against former Rep. Dan Lipinski. Consultants are no longer “blacklisted” for helping Democratic primary candidates challenging incumbents.

The policy shift made by DCCC Chair Joe Crowley is being called a win for progressives like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had withheld her dues to the DCCC in protest.

Former DCCC Chair Cheri Bustos of Illinois had set the policy to protect incumbents. Why put them through a tough primary when the attention should be focused on beating Republicans, the thinking went. In Illinois, it gave the upper hand to Lipinski, one of the most conservative lawmakers in Congress at the time. Newman, a progressive, lost four consultants within a few weeks of launching her campaign.

RELATED: The progressive takeover of a top state party could have far-reaching consequences, by Holly Otterbein

— Yasmeen Bankole, candidate for Hanover Park trustee, announced endorsements from Sen. Dick Durbin, Congressman Sean Casten, state Rep. Michelle Mussman, DuPage County Board member Greg Schwarze, Hanover Park Village Clerk and MWRD Commissioner Eira Corral Sepúlveda, and others. Bankole also received an endorsement from the North Central Illinois Labor Council, she says in a statement.

— Appellate court puts Glendale Heights candidate back on ballot: “Glendale Heights voters will have a choice of four people to be the next village president after all. The Illinois 2nd District Appellate Court ruled Monday that Chodri Khokhar should be put back on the April 6 ballot,” by Daily Herald’s Susan Sarkauskas.

— This legislation could end Illinois’ payday loan industry: “South Side state Sen. Jacqueline Collins co-sponsored the Illinois Predatory Lending Prevention Act, which would cap annual interest rates on short-term loans at 36 percent. ‘Anything above 36 percent is predatory and usury,’ Collins said. ‘So we know that high-cost payday loans and auto loans have stripped communities of billions and billions of dollars, primarily the Black and Brown communities in the state of Illinois,’” by WTTW’s Paris Schutz.

— House panel passes bill placing restrictions on pet owners: “House Bill 168 would target owners who aggressively harm animals or violate dog fighting and entertainment pet rules. They would be banned from owning an animal for a period of time determined by a judge,” by WGEM’s Ali Rasper.

— Sims dispels myths about criminal justice reform bill: “It does not defund the police. It does not remove qualified immunity for law enforcement officers. It does not change or take away collective bargaining rights,” Sims said of the law’s impact on law enforcement. “It does not mean that individuals will not be held accountable for their actions as a result of the Safe-T Act,” The Southern’s Isaac Smith reports.

— Illinois economy recovering during second half of FY21, revenue for FY22 still uncertain: “Revenue Manager Jim Muschinske says the Illinois economy should see some moderate gains with continued improvements from the historic lows seen during this pandemic. He hopes the economy will start to settle down and return to a ‘sense of normal’ during the next forecasting period. However, Muschinske said the state has to face reality,” by WGEM’s Mike Miletich.

— Sangamon County quietly changed leftover Covid vaccine policy: “The previous policy for leftover doses, outlined in a county communication from January, was to call from a list of first responders, including law enforcement, because they could get to the clinic quickly, as well as teachers and other school personnel who signed up. But [department director Gail] O’Neill said the list had grown short, and many of those the department reached out to weren’t able to get the clinic quickly enough,” reports NPR Illinois’ Mary Hansen.

— Ex-pot regulators, pols cashing in on exploding industry. A proposed crackdown won’t stop all of them: “With lawmakers and former regulators benefiting off legal cannabis, state Rep. Marty Moylan has introduced legislation that would prevent some public officials from profiting directly,” by Sun-Tims’ Tom Schuba.

— Pot pills, Metric Coffee caramel edibles and fast-acting gummies: Here are the new products hitting shelves at Illinois dispensaries: “So far this year, cultivators looking to feed Illinois’ growing need for legal weed have flooded pot shops with everything from THC-laced pills to artisanal edibles to a weed label focused on ‘high-fashion and luxury,’” writes Sun-Times’ Tom Schuba.

— St. Charles aldermen approve move of marijuana dispensary: “Since opening in 2015 as a medical marijuana dispensary, Zen Leaf has operated out of the St. Charles Commons office complex at 3714 Illinois Ave. The location attracted complaints from tenants who said a marijuana dispensary was inappropriate for the site,” reports Daily Herald’s Kevin Schmit.

— Special prosecutors opposed to appointment of Jussie Smollett’s new lead defense attorney: “Special prosecutor Dan Webb told Judge James Linn he learned that attorney Nenye Uche may have had contact with two key witnesses in the state’s case against the actor — Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo,” by Sun-Times’ Matthew Hendrickson.

— Illinois prison guard pleads guilty in prison beating death case: “Willie Hedden admitted he violated the civil rights of Larry Earvin, 65, while Earvin was handcuffed at Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mt. Sterling, Illinois. Hedden also admitted that he lied about the assault when he filed false reports,” by WBEZ’s Shannon Heffernan.

— Homeless man convicted in death of off-duty Chicago cop sentenced to 65 years in prison: “Jovan Battle, 34, was never accused of firing any shots, but prosecutors said his brief involvement made him legally culpable: He pointed two men to a car where John Rivera and three of his friends were sitting, leading the gunman to open fire. Rivera was killed, and one of his friends was wounded,” by Tribune’s Megan Crepeau.

SIGN UP: POLITICO is hosting “The Fifty: America’s Governors,” a series of back-to-back, live conversations with governors from North Carolina, Maryland, Arizona, Washington, Colorado, and Michigan. White House Reporter Natasha Korecki is a moderator. The conversations will cover how governors are confronting the multiple crises that have hit the country within the past year — from the global pandemic and ensuing economic recession, sudden shift to remote schooling, racial injustice and police brutality protests and the fallout from the tense presidential election. Thursday starting at 10 a.m. ET / 7 a.m. PT. You can register to watch live here.

March 25: Former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias hosts a fundraising event in his bid for Illinois secretary of state. The Women’s Circle forum features Black Opal Cosmetics CEO Desiree Rogers, R4 Services founder Trisha Rooney, Urbane Home owner Dee Thompson, and Kinzie Capital Partners founder Suzanne Yoon talking about the challenges women face in business. Rogers and Rooney are notable Democratic fundraisers in Chicago. Also listed on the invite is philanthropist Leslie Bluhm, founder and president of Chicago Cares Inc. and a bundler for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

— Rep. Jan Schakowsky has reintroduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act. The legislation would repeal the Helms Amendment, which Schakowsky and many Democrats see as an archaic and racist policy that bans the use of any U.S. foreign assistance funds for abortion services overseas. NPR reports

— Rep. Bobby Rush demands action for Compass Global development project: “The project that was meant to bring an estimated 10,000 jobs to Rush’s district has been stalled without approval from Gov. Pritzker,” via ABC/7.

— Biden’s ‘Morning in America’ moment sparks a furious debate, by POLITICO’s Ben White

— How Tish James holds Cuomo’s future in her hands, by POLITICO’s Anna Gronewold

— Trial of officer accused of murdering George Floyd brings a familiar sense of fear, writes Jesse Washington in The Undefeated

— Stimulus checks won’t make a difference — take it from someone who’s really been poor, writes Illinois author Stephen Lyons in the Independent

Dr. Joanne Howard has joined Conlon Public Strategies as a senior adviser. She has been a clinical assistant professor of public administration at the Illinois Institute of Technology Stuart School of Business, focusing on underrepresented students and improving nonprofits. Howard also had stints at the Office of Development at the University of Chicago and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

TUESDAY’s ANSWER: Congrats to Carl Gutierrez, speechwriter for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and state Rep. Michael J. Zalewski for correctly answering that President Ulysses S. Grant was living in Galina and was so poor he once had to sell his watch to buy Christmas gifts for his family.

TODAY’s QUESTION: Who did Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne endorse for president in 1980? Email to [email protected].

A message from Chicago Medical Society:

Doctors and hospitals are urging Governor Pritzker to veto a bill that would take millions of dollars away from patient care and put it in legal escrow for future malpractice claims. Members of the Chicago Medical Society are joined by their physician colleagues and hospitals across Illinois urging lawmakers and Pritzker to veto the bill. Now is not the time to punish doctors or take essential financial resources away from patient care in Illinois.

Rep. Blaine Wilhour, and restaurateur Manolis Alpogianis.