Legislative News from State Rep. Grant Wehrli

We are beginning to see a resurgence in cases of COVID-19 in many parts of Illinois, including DuPage and Will Counties. I personally know almost a dozen people who have been diagnosed with the virus. Thankfully none of them has had to be hospitalized, but they have experienced varying levels of symptoms, from mild to quite severe. I want to encourage you all to remain attentive to the steps that mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Please wear a mask
  • Please practice social distancing
  • Please wash your hands frequently

One of the best things about our community is that people look out for one another. In times of crisis, we help each other. By being respectful and mindful of ways we can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we will move through these difficult times together safely. Click here to visit the DuPage County COVID-19 dashboard.

Madigan Implicated in ComEd Scheme

In a bombshell announcement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we now know that House Speaker Mike Madigan is “Public Official A” in the sprawling federal investigation into political corruption in Illinois. In the announcement earlier this month, 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. 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’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.

When the news hit, I issued this statement:

“Mike Madigan has skirted along the edge of widespread political corruption in Illinois for decades. When is enough, enough? What will it take for rank and file House Democrats to finally withdraw their support of their Speaker and demand his resignation? When will House Democrats stop choosing blind support of a corrupt leader over reputable service to the constituents who put them in office? The smattering of ‘if it’s true’ statements from a few House Democrats over the weekend does not go nearly far enough. I’m calling on every House Democrat, especially members of the Madigan leadership team, to do the right thing for Illinois, and insist that Mike Madigan resign by close of business today from the Speakership, from his House seat, and from the Chairmanship of the Illinois Democrat Party.”

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 two pieces of legislation that enriched ComEd on the backs of consumers. One of these votes occurred before I was elected to the General Assembly, but I voted against the second questionable ComEd bill in 2016. I currently serve as a proud Chief Co-Sponsor of HB3987, which would roll back subsidies delivered to ComEd through that 2016 vote. I’m sure it comes as no surprise that HB 3987 is stuck in Speaker Madigan’s Rules Committee, and has not been allowed to advance.

House Republicans Demand Action on Ethics Reform

The past 12 months have seen several significant revelations that reveal the depth of corruption in the General Assembly. In October 2019, longtime Chicago Representative Luis Arroyo was charged with conduct that involved political bribery. In January, former Senate Transportation Committee chairperson Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to federal charges of bribery and tax fraud. Now in July, shortly after the ComEd/Mike Madigan news broke, a federal grand jury subpoena was served at the office of the Speaker, seeking all kinds of documents in an expanding investigation into the Speaker’s dealings.

In response to these events, last week I joined State Representatives Deanne Mazzochi, and Dan Ugaste for an online press conference, where we called for a special session of the Illinois General Assembly to deal with Illinois political corruption. Together, we pointed out that Gov. Pritzker has the power to call this special session, and he should use that authority immediately. Click here to listen to a portion of my remarks.

During his 2020 State of the State Address in January, Governor Pritzker came out strong against political corruption in Illinois. However, those words are ringing hollow now, since it appears he is unwilling to reconvene the legislature over the summer to take action of ethics reforms.   

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

When the Governor unveiled his “Restore Illinois” plan that included four mega-regions for phase movement, Republicans across the state immediately felt the regions were too large and ignored localized differences. For example, our region, the Northeast region, included the state’s largest urban area (Chicago), and rural counties like Kendall and Grundy. His plan lacked common sense. Republicans pressed the Governor to adjust the regions and suggested he use the existing EMS regions that were already in place for emergency management. Our voices, along with the voices of thousands of frustrated Illinoisans, were heard, and last week the Governor did just that.

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 like have been seen in other states. Here’s what has changed:

REGIONS

Instead of four mega-regions, there are now 11 regions in which mitigation strategies will be applied. The City of Chicago is now its own region, and DuPage County is now combined with Kane County in “Region 8”. Our combined DuPage-Kane 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 8 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. 

DuPage County has an excellent COVID-19 resources. Visit https://covid19-dupage.hub.arcgis.com/ to read DuPage-specific information about cases, testing sites, etc.

Rep. Wehrli to Host Free Child I.D. Event in August

Please mark your calendars for an important event I am hosting with the Naperville Police Department next month. On August 20, we will be hosting a free Child I.D. event at my Naperville office, located at 55 S. Main Street, #383. This event is limited to 90 children and is scheduled by appointment only. Parents/guardians will leave with an official I.D. that includes a photo, fingerprints and personal information about each child. Information collected is for parent/guardian use only; police do not keep a copy. Only one family will be permitted in the office at a time, and families can reserve spots between 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM by calling my office at (630) 696-4160.

IDES Launches New Dial-In Only System for Unemployment Cases

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) continues to fail the people of Illinois who need unemployment benefits during this health pandemic. Earlier this month, IDES implemented a “callback only model” as a temporary solution to effectively honor the order in which callers attempt to reach the call center for assistance. This new model will be in effect for the following call centers: Claimant Services Center (800-244-5631), IllinoisJobLink.com (877-342-7533), Benefit Payment Control (800-814-0513) and Employer Hotline (800-247-4984). In theory, rather than a caller waiting on hold for long periods of time or calling multiple times, the caller will receive a callback from IDES when they are next in line without losing their place. For those who utilize the callback system, it is important that they answer the phone when their call is returned. We are now 2 weeks into this new system, and phone calls into my office continue, as this new system is also failing unemployed Illinoisans.

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, people are receiving fake unemployment debit cards they did  not apply for. If you believe you have been a target of this new scam, do not activate or use these cards; they are fraudulent.

The Governor’s office said those who receive the cards should call the IDES toll free number, but I have heard from several constituents that the 1-800 line gives them a constant busy signal. If you have been targeted by this latest kind of fraud, your personal information is at risk. I recommend you take the following steps right away:

  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.