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Analysts warn against states relying on 'unpredictable' recreational cannabis tax revenue
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square
Governor (44) , Recreational Marijuana , Taxes, sales (88)
As Illinois officials work to finalize the regulations for the state's recreational cannabis market, analysts have offered up some words of caution for budgeting revenue from the emerging industry.

The Pew Charitable Trusts released a research paper, “Forecasts Hazy for State Marijuana Revenue,” as a warning to states looking to follow in the steps of the five that have collected a year of revenue from legalized recreational cannabis.

The main message was that no one knows how much money recreational cannabis sales will bring in.

“Given how unpredictable recreational marijuana is as a revenue source, states should adopt prudent policies for budgeting collections,” it read.

In a call with reporters, Alexandria Zhang, a research officer with Pew, warned that states should not rely on marijuana revenue to fund vital projects, largely due to the extraordinary fluctuations in collections year-over-year. Rather, states should use the funds similar to other “sin taxes” and treat it as a budgetary supplement.

“Forecasting challenges and a lack of data have made legalized recreational marijuana a highly-unpredictable revenue source,” she said. “States should not assume that revenue from legalized recreational marijuana will be reliable in the long-term.”

Washington state collected $420 million in fiscal year 2018 while Alaska brought in $2 million in its first year of recreational sales.

Tourist sales, tax structures and local prohibitions on sales all contribute to the challenges in projecting recreational cannabis revenue, Zhang said.

Sponsors of the cannabis legislation in Illinois estimated that it could generate $57 million in the current fiscal year, half of which would see actual sales occurring after January. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office estimated $170 million in revenue for the same year, expecting license sales to account for some one-time revenue.

As a hedge against unexpected shortfalls, some states have not relied on the tax revenue until it was in hand, Zhang said. She noted that Nevada kept its annual revenue in an account to spend the following year.

Ten states have legalized recreational marijuana and five states have collected at least one year of revenue from recreational sales.


Friess running again for state representative
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   By Monore County Republic-Times
Candidates--Legislative (11)
David Friess announced Monday that he will once again run for state representative in the 116th district.

The 51-year-old Republican from Red Bud ran against Jerry Costello II in the 2018 election, garnering 46.5 percent of the vote to Costello’s 53.5.

If unopposed in the March primary, Friess, an attorney and Air Force veteran, hopes to challenge incumbent Nathan Reitz (D-Steeleville) in the November 2020 election. Reitz was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Costello accepted a position with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources earlier this year.

“Nathan Reitz is a hand-picked Madigan crony who voted for JB Pritzker’s progressive income tax and massive increase in spending,” Friess stated in a news release. “He is out of touch and too liberal for the 116th district and I will beat him in 2020. As state representative, I will vote for lower taxes, less spending and term limits on career politicians. I will never vote to infringe upon our Second Amendment rights and I’ll always fight to protect the unborn. I will steadfastly represent the conservative values of Southern Illinois.”

Friess is a Chester native. He and his wife, Miki, now live in Red Bud with their two children, Jeda and Thomas.

Illinois Gun Dealer License Certification proposed rules filed, but still months from full implementation
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   By Greg Bishop | The Center Square
Governor (44) , Guns and Gun Control, FOID, Concealed Carry (46) , State Police (84) Wilhour, Blaine--State House, 107

Attorney General has Monday deadline to file response to Illinois State Rifle Association lawsuit

The Illinois State Police have filed proposed rules for the Illinois Gun Dealer License Certification Act, but a mandatory 90-day review period means that gun dealers will still have to wait until all the details are finalized and the law is fully implemented before the cost of compliance is clear.

The Illinois State Rifle Association previously filed suit over the delays. The Illinois Attorney General’s office has a Monday deadline to file its response to that legal challenge.

The state licensing law Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed earlier this year requires federally licensed gun dealers in Illinois also get certification from the state. The proposed certification rules hadn't been filed when the law went into effect last month.

As news broke that more than 1,200, or more than half of Illinois’ federally licensed dealers hadn't applied for a state license, the Illinois State Rifle Association sued because the certification rules hadn't been finalized.

Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelly said those rules have now been filed.

“Anybody who has actually submitted their application, they’re still considered to be to be in compliance while the rulemaking process is going on,” Kelly said.

Illinois State Rifle Association Executive Director Richard Pearson said that’s not good enough because it could still take months before the law is fully implemented.

“We are a long way from having these in effect and the law requires that the rules be in place before the law, not the other way around, so they’re still in violation,” Pearson said.

Pearson said the delay in finalizing the rules left gun dealers in the dark. Dealers don’t know how much things like surveillance systems suitable in the proposed rules will cost, among other issues, Pearson said.

Kelly said his agency has other aspects of the law to work on while the comment period continues. After the comment period, the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules will review the proposed rules.

“That process is moving forward,” Kelly said. “The legislature did provide for additional headcount for personnel to deal with gun dealer licensing for the Illinois State Police but that hiring process could take many months.”

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said with gun dealers in his district closing it has made it difficult for his constituents to find gun dealers.

“[The law’s sponsors] are wanting to make it as difficult as possible to own a firearm in the state of Illinois and when you’ve got to travel a long distance in order to be able to do that it’s prohibitive,” Wilhour said.

Wilhour said the measure hurts the small businesses and the working-class people while larger corporations have the ability to absorb the added costs of the regulations.

The Attorney General’s office is expected to file a response the Illinois State Rifle Association's lawsuit Monday in Springfield. Pearson said he expects a court hearing Sept. 5.

Report: Illinois, other states, reducing number of opioid prescriptions
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   By Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square
Drugs (32)

The Workers Compensation Research Institute monitors how often workers injured on the job are given prescription opioids in 27 select states.

The organization's new report found the percentage of Illinois workers who received a prescription paid for under workers compensation and received an opioid decreased by eight percentage points, from 51 percent in 2012 to about 44 percent in 2016. The average amount of opioids prescribed decreased by 21 percent. The median amount of opioids per claim didn’t drop.

The institute used data from 2012 and 2016 and measured workers who were given opioids in the two years after injury.  

Dr. Vennela Thumula, a policy analyst with the Workers Compensation Research Institute, said Illinois was already below the majority of states the study examined, but it still had reductions. 

“Other states saw larger reductions, partly because Illinois already had a lower prescription rate,” she said. 

It’s hard to pin a reason for the decrease, Thumula said, but many states have advocated for more awareness about opioid-based pain relief. Schedule II drugs, meaning substances that “have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence” per the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, had significant declines in prescription rates, Thumula said. The drop also coincides with the government classifying hydrocodone as a Schedule II narcotic. 

“Sixty percent of the opioid prescriptions that were filled by injured Illinois workers in 2012 were for hydrocodone-acetaminophen,” Thumula said.

Illinois’ workers' compensation system allows physicians to dispense drugs to patients directly, rather than needing a pharmacy to fill the prescription. A Workers Compensation Research Institute study released in May found the state’s workers’ compensation costs were still higher than in most other states.

Tom Cullerton pleads not guilty to ghost payrolling charges from Teamsters
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Hannah Meisel
Cullerton, Thomas--State Senate, 23

State Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) leaves the Dirksen Federal Courthouse after pleading not guilty. [Hannah Meisel/The Daily Line]


Wearing a dark suit and somber expression, State Sen. Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) entered a plea of not guilty at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago, two weeks after a stunning 41-count indictment alleged the senator had been a ghost payroller for the Teamsters Joint Council 25 in his first few years after being elected to the General Assembly.


Neither Cullerton nor his attorney, prominent Chicago defense lawyer John Theis, spoke to reporters Friday after Cullerton was taken to upstairs from the brief courtroom arraignment to the U.S. Marshals’ office for processing — including fingerprints.


But a statement from Cullerton spokesperson Lissa Druss reiterated the position Cullerton and his attorney have taken since the indictment: that the Democrat is innocent and will defend himself against the charges.


“Today is another step in seeking justice for Mr. Cullerton,” Druss said. “He will continue to fight these untrue allegations in court until his name is cleared.”


Flanked by Theis and others, Cullerton quickly walked out of the courthouse after processing and got into the passenger seat of a gray sedan, which drove him to the FBI field office four miles west of Downtown, near the city’s medical district.


In the courtroom Friday morning, Cullerton only said “yes, your honor” in response to questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox, who noted Cullerton’s $10,000 unsecured bond, meaning the senator will not have to put up any money, unless he fails to show up for his next appearance in court on Aug. 29 in front of U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman.


Cullerton was told he could not leave the state of Illinois or apply for a passport while out on bond, nor use any controlled substances. Each of the 41 charges carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.


Cullerton’s subdued mood in court Friday was markedly different from the usual demeanor of the senator frequently seen on the floor of the Illinois Senate or walking the halls of the Capitol joking with colleagues. Just a few days after the indictment came down, reportedly when the senator was out of town at a family reunion, Cullerton was removed from his chairmanship of the Senate Labor Committee, but instead given the reins of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Cullerton is an Army veteran.


The decision was a joint one between the senator and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), a distant cousin and fellow member of the Chicago political dynasty. The musical chairs arrangement lets Cullerton keep his $10,000 stipend for chairing a committee, which adds to his base pay of more than $69,000 — after a slight bump in cost of living adjustments lawmakers approved this spring. Lawmakers are also eligible for per diem pay and gas mileage reimbursements.


Cullerton allegedly added to his pay as a senator by serving as an organizer for the Teamsters Joint Council 25, an umbrella labor organization that oversees 26 Teamsters chapters in Illinois and Northwest Indiana. But a federal grand jury found that Cullerton had done “little or no work” for his pay — $188,320 in salary, bonuses and cell phone and vehicle allowances from the Teamsters, in addition to $64,068 in health and pension contributions from 2013 to 2015.


The Aug. 2 indictment is an extension of an investigation that ensnared John Coli, a former Teamsters boss, who pleaded guilty last month to federal extortion and tax fraud charges after he was indicted in 2017 for threatening to stop work at the Chicago Cinespace film studio, where some Teamsters work, unless he was paid off to the tune of $325,000. Coli was caught on a wire worn by the head of Cinespace.


Coli’s sentencing will be delayed because he’s pledged to cooperate in other federal investigations. Cullerton’s Friday indictment refers to Coli as “Individual A,” president of the Teamsters Joint Council 25 at the time Cullerton was allegedly being paid by the union.


In a statement from Theis released shortly after Cullerton was indicted, the attorney characterized the allegations as “the result of false claims by disgraced Teamsters boss John Coli in an apparent attempt to avoid penalties for his wrongdoing,” Theis said.

Cullerton’s statements of economic interest from 2013 to 2015 show that he reported his job as an organizer with the Teamsters, though his 2015 form shows that he’d initially written “N/A” for not applicable, but then crossed that out to disclose his Teamsters gig.


The grand jury that indicted Cullerton had subpoenaed the Illinois Senate in February, seeking Cullerton’s personnel file, in addition to attendance records for legislative session days in Springfield. It also demanded information on reimbursements for travel, lodging, meals, cell phone and vehicle allowances, and “all emails to and from” the senator between Feb. 1, 2013, and March 31, 2016, as first reported by WBEZ in April.


Cullerton’s fellow Democrats kept mum on the subject at Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair last week, with President Cullerton only reminding reporters again the indicted senator is innocent until proven guilty.


“It is what it is and he’s got to face the charges,” Senate President Cullerton said Wednesday.


The next day, Republicans sought to use Cullerton’s indictment as fuel for their message that Democrats in Illinois are fundamentally corrupt, with Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider telling the crowd Thursday that Cullerton had already been arraigned for his alleged crimes the day before. The date had actually been switched to Friday.


Related: Ghosts of Trump, Rauner present as Illinois GOP vows to rebuild from ground up


Schneider and a few others have demanded Cullerton step down from the Senate, but not even the leader of the Senate’s Republican Caucus, Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady (R-Bloomington) used the indictment to gin up the party faithful last week.

State Sen. Martin Sandoval apologizing for mock assassination of Trump at fundraiser The Chicago Democrat says he doesn’t condone violence against anyone.
Chicago Sun Times
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   By Staff Report
Sandoval, Martin--State Senate, 11

State Sen. Martin Sandoval is apologizing after some people attending his fundraiser staged an assassination of someone wearing a Mexican costume and a Donald Trump mask.


The incident was criticized from both sides of the aisle after photos of a person pointing a fake assault weapon at the Trump character were posted Saturday on Facebook.


“The incident that took place is unacceptable. I don’t condone violence toward the president or anyone else,” Sandoval, D-Chicago, said in a written statement provided to the Chicago Sun-Times.


“I apologize that something like this happened at my event.”


Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider called the episode “inexcusable.”


“The apology from Sen. Sandoval for the detestable pictures from his event depicting an assassination of President Trump is too little, too late,” Schneider said in a written statement. “Dangerous imagery like this will be condemned and seen as inappropriate by people of sound mind; however, a mentally unstable individual who wants to harm President Trump might find them as an inspiration.”


His statement continued: “It’s inexcusable for an elected official to allow the promotion of violence in any way. If the individual pictured is a staffer or volunteer, they should be terminated immediately.”



Mark Maxwell


 A political fundraiser for @SenatorSandoval simulates an assassination attempt against a mock @realDonaldTrump decked out in Mexican garb. Looks like a man pointed a fake assault weapon at the fake President to pose for a picture.


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The mock assassination at a fundraiser Friday for Sandoval was first reported by WCIA-TV in Champaign.


“As our nation grapples with the epidemic of gun violence, purposely pointing a fake gun at anyone is insensitive and wrong,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker told WCIA Saturday night. “I condemn actions like the ones displayed in the pictures because they lack the civility our politics demands.”

A Sandoval representative in the state senator’s Cicero office declined to comment and said Sandoval was in a meeting; they were uncertain when he’d return.


Taxes will ground Chicago casino, but taking a flier on airport slots could pay off, study finds
Chicago Sun Times
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Mitchell Armentrout
Gambling, Gaming

Slot machines at O’Hare and Midway could rake in nearly $37 million per year, even outpacing the terminal slots in Las Vegas.

Despite issuing a dismal financial forecast that has put a potential Chicago casino on standby, a state-hired consultant determined slot machines at O’Hare and Midway airports could take off for city coffers.


In a brief analysis tucked at the bottom of its highly anticipated 50-page feasibility report on the prospects of a city gambling house, Union Gaming Analytics estimated that installing 500 slots at Chicago’s busy transit hubs could pull in nearly $37 million from globetrotting gamblers each year.


That would out-earn the notorious slots located in terminals in Las Vegas and Reno, the only airports in the United States where travelers currently can take a spin, according to the study released Tuesday.


But potential airport winnings will be moot if Mayor Lori Lightfoot and state lawmakers don’t alter the casino’s 72% effective tax rate under Illinois’ sweeping gambling expansion, a levy the consulting firm deemed too “onerous” to draw any developers to the table. Slots placed at the airport would be run by the operator of the Chicago mega-casino and count against the 4,000 gaming positions allotted to them.


If the casino does get off the ground, that won’t be a problem, according to Union Gaming. It probably won’t need all 4,000 positions in-house “to achieve optimal revenues,” since the Chicago metro area is “is already well penetrated” with nine casinos and thousands of video gaming terminals across the suburbs and northwest Indiana, the study found.


”As such, greater total revenues and taxes would be achieved by [allocating] a few hundred slot machines to Midway and O’Hare airports,” the study said.


They would become just the third and fourth U.S. airports to host gamblers after Nevada’s two largest: McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas and the Reno-Tahoe Airport. Pennsylvania lawmakers passed legislation last year allowing for airport gaming, but no facilities in the state have yet opted into the action.


Like in Nevada, Chicago airport slots would function “namely as an option for some travelers to pass time,” the study said, but as a major international nexus, Chicago slots “should hold greater appeal” among those departing and connecting gamers because they present “a captive audience.”


Union Gaming found the revenue from the 1,475 slot machines at McCarran and 240 at Reno-Tahoe are “well below” Nevada’s statewide average of $151 taken from gamblers

daily at each machine. That’s because arriving travelers are typically coming for the full Vegas casino experience, departing gamblers have already blown most of their cash and area residents have more convenient options.


Those wouldn’t be issues at Midway or O’Hare, which was the busiest airport in the U.S. last year. Nearly 40 million commercial travelers passed through O’Hare in 2018, compared to 23.7 million at McCarran and 2 million at Reno-Tahoe, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Nearly 10.7 million people flew to or from Midway.


The consultant estimated each Chicago terminal slot could take in $200 per day, bringing annual gross revenue from a suggested 500 machines to about $36.5 million.


”Ultimately, slot machines at Chicago airports should perform notably better than those in Nevada’s airports,” Union Gaming concluded.


The existing tax structure — which Union Gaming says cripples developers with razor-thin profit margins — would rake in nearly $18.5 million of that airport slot revenue, with more than $12 million going to Chicago.


Lightfoot’s office said the mayor is focused for now on working with Springfield lawmakers to fix the tax structure, but unlike predecessor Rahm Emanuel, the new mayor has indicated she’s open to the idea of airport slots.


Lightfoot previously told the Sun-Times the city will hold a “significant amount of local control” and she has no intention of turning O’Hare or Midway into what she called a “gambling den.”


“We haven’t set the parameters yet. But there’s gonna be a very, very high hurdle reached before we see any gaming at our airports,” Lightfoot said. “We’re not gonna turn Chicago into a location that’s unrecognizable from where we are.”


City and state officials have floated airport gambling a few times since riverboat casinos were legalized in Illinois in 1991. Most recently, former Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed a 2013 gaming expansion that would’ve cleared slots for takeoff at O’Hare and Midway.


A spokeswoman for Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the Chicago Democrat “worked to help create opportunities for the city of Chicago to generate revenue” with new gaming options — and the decision on installing airport slots “will be up to the city.”


The new law holds that any Chicago airport slots would be located beyond TSA checkpoints, reserved for passengers who are at least 21 and “who are members of a private club,” not the general public.


Fancy club or not, it’s no way to market the city, said the Rev. Tom Grey, a longtime voice against Illinois gambling who’s now a senior adviser for the national group Stop Predatory Gambling.


“It would be an ugly first glimpse for anyone who comes to Chicago,” Grey said. “It’ll take the ‘City of Big Shoulders’ and make it the city of nimble fingers.”

Chicago casino’s future may depend on who’s willing to take less cash
Chicago Tribune
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Dan Petrella and Jamie Munks and John Byrne
Gambling, Gaming

After years of failed efforts, a Chicago casino seemed within reach this spring when Illinois lawmakers approved massive gambling expansion.


But after a report raised questions about whether a city casino would be profitable because of the heavy tax burden exacted by the city and state, the players may need to go back to the table.


Moving ahead, and striking a new deal if necessary, figures to be a major test for rookie Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who came into office just as casino bill negotiations were nearing a conclusion in Springfield, as well as for first-year Gov. J.B. Pritzker.


The proposal’s future could hinge on whether the city or the state — or both — is willing to take a smaller cut of tax revenue, and whether supporters can round up the votes to alter the gambling legislation that was frantically put together as the General Assembly’s spring session went into overtime.


The proposed mega-casino is supposed to generate money to help the city pay down some of its pension debt and to help the state fund building projects as part of Pritzker’s $45 billion “Rebuild Illinois” infrastructure plan.


None of that revenue would be realized if taxes are so high they scare away investors, as suggested in a study from a Las Vegas-based industry consultant.


Making changes for the city casino could be a real political feat in Springfield because the legislation that authorizes it also created licenses for new casinos in Waukegan, the south suburbs and three other locations, approved the addition of slot machines and table games at horse tracks, and legalized sports betting.


Proposed Chicago casino unattractive to investors because of ‘onerous’ taxes; South and West side sites wouldn’t draw tourists, says a state-hired consultant »

Pritzker and Lightfoot were among politicians who signaled they were open to possible changes in the gambling legislation to address issues highlighted in the consultant’s report.


Reopening negotiations on one part of the package likely would bring other gambling interests back to Springfield to push for other changes that would benefit them.


State Sen. Terry Link, a Vernon Hills Democrat and key architect of the largest gambling expansion in state history, said that it’s “a little too early” to be talking about renegotiating the package.


However, Link, a longtime advocate of a Waukegan casino, suggested it will be up to Chicago to decide whether it wants to give up some of its share of the money — a 33.3% tax on post-payout revenue earmarked for police and firefighter pensions — to attract companies interested in building a city casino. He also suggested the consultant’s wet-blanket report won’t be enough to deter investors.


“If they want to give more of their money to the developer, I don’t know why they would want to do it, but if they want to do it, fine,” Link said. “I firmly believe that if a (request for proposals) was out, you’d still see a lot of developers want to go there.”


The study from Union Gaming Analytics, released Tuesday by the Illinois Gaming Board and paid for by the city, pointed to the city’s one-third share of revenue as a major obstacle to attracting investors. Combined with the state’s cut, the tax rate would total roughly 72%. Assuming operating expenses of about 30%, that would create “an expense structure that could exceed casino revenue,” according to the study.


The consultant didn't like any of 5 proposed Chicago casino sites. Here's what we know about them. »

The city suggested five sites on the South and West sides for Union Gaming to study as potential casino locations, and the consultant found that none was feasible given the “very onerous” tax structure set up in the law. Even if the taxes were lowered, the five sites would be less than ideal because they’d fail to attract enough tourists to maximize revenue, according to the study.


Link said the city might have seen different results if Lightfoot hadn’t offered five “undesirable locations” for the study.


“The last thing I’m ever going to do is to tell the city of Chicago what to do in their location,” he said. “But I think if you were putting it in a survey — and you don’t have to specify the exact location, but if you put Navy Pier, McCormick Place, the Loop — you know, just throw some of those areas in and then did a study on it, I think you’d see different results.”

The study, however, while noting the potential merits of a site closer to downtown, says that under the proposed tax setup, a centrally located casino “would have thin profit margins at best and would likely also have a subpar, or even negative return on investment” when also taking development costs into account.


Lightfoot isn’t tipping her hand on the city’s next move. She told reporters last week that she knew the proposed tax structure wouldn’t work when the legislature passed it in the spring — and said she insisted on the Union Gaming study to prove her point.


But her administration won’t say what reductions she will seek from lawmakers to the long list of payments a Chicago casino operator would currently be required to make to the city and state.


Her reticence is understandable. After settling for a deal she said she knew was bad in the first round of casino negotiations, Lightfoot will be under a brighter spotlight and be working with less leverage as she tries to revamp the agreement to Chicago’s advantage during the the legislature’s two-week veto session this fall.


Column: A consultant disses Lightfoot’s casino sites. Now what? »

Critics are already wondering whether veteran Springfield dealmakers played the new mayor by larding the Chicago casino with such high taxes and fees.


Lightfoot publicly dismissed that idea, saying she thinks negotiators in Springfield acted in good faith and will continue to do so. But if she asks lawmakers to reopen negotiations and fails, those critical voices are certain to grow louder.


Lightfoot addressed her position as a political newcomer last week when asked whether casino negotiators in the General Assembly had underestimated her.


“I would hope that nobody underestimates me ever, but we’ll see,” she said. “I’m the new kid on the block. And look, I’m learning. Just as they are learning about me, I’m learning about them. And I think we’ll have a very good working relationship. I don’t have any doubt about that.”


After the release of the study, Pritzker said he intends to work closely with Lightfoot “to get this right for the city and the state.”


Link said he doesn’t envision changing any provisions in the law aside from those dealing with the city casino, but the measure’s House sponsor, Democratic Rep. Bob Rita of Blue Island, acknowledged the possibility.


“Anytime you do anything, it opens up areas for all different types of changes,” Rita said.


Tweaks to other parts of the law may end up being necessary to gather enough votes to support changes to make the Chicago casino more attractive to developers, Senate President John Cullerton said, because “it doesn’t do any good if nobody invests in it.”


“We have to understand this is a big state,” said the Chicago Democrat. “We’ve got casinos down in deep southern Illinois, on the Kentucky border, and now on the Wisconsin border. And so, anything we do, we need to get people to vote for. So there’s always been an issue about Chicago getting any special deal. But the point is, that’s where most of the money would be generated. So, we just have to compromise.”


Aside from lowering the city’s 33.3% share of the revenue, any changes to make a Chicago casino more financially feasible likely could mean creating a unique set of rules. Other casino towns get only 5% and in some cases have to split that with nearby localities.


In addition to city’s share, the Chicago casino operator also would have to pay a $250,000 application fee upfront, a $15 million “reconciliation” fee when the license is issued and up to $120 million in gambling position fees — which cost $30,000 each. The casino is authorized to have up to 4,000 gambling positions — such as slot machines and blackjack tables — with some slot machines possibly going to O’Hare International and Midway airports.


After three years, the casino would have to pay a fee equal to 75% of its post-payout revenue from its most lucrative 12-month period, minus the fees paid upfront per gaming position.


Similar provisions apply to all of the new casinos authorized in the law, although casino owners outside Cook County will pay only $17,500 per gaming position. Many suburban and downstate lawmakers are traditionally reluctant to give Chicago special breaks, so convincing them to support lowering fees just for the city casino would be a challenge.


One solution would be to lower or eliminate the 75% fee due after three years for everyone, said Tom Swoik, executive director of the Illinois Casino Gaming Association, which represents nine of the state’s 10existing casinos. Swoik said the retroactive payment on top of all the other fees and taxes is “just totally uncalled for."


Reducing or doing away with that one-time fee would also be a tough sell for lawmakers because that money, along with the other new revenue from gambling expansion, is earmarked

for building projects at public schools, state universities and other facilities through Pritzker’s infrastructure plan.


If lawmakers are going to reopen negotiations on gambling, Swoik said, casino owners want to see clarifications on a provision that gives short-term tax breaks to existing locations to offset increased competition and on the bidding procedures if multiple companies are interested in one of the new licenses.


“It’s just very, very confusing,” he said.


Other gambling interests aren’t interested in reopening the conversation, however.


After years of struggling through track closures and competition from out-of-state facilities that also offer casino-style gambling options, the state’s racehorse industry got nearly everything it was hoping for in the law Pritzker signed in June, said Tony Somone, executive director of the Illinois Harness Horsemen’s Association. The group represents about 2,500 members who raise and race standardbred horses.


The new law allows Illinois tracks to add slot machines and table games and requires track owners to put some of that money into the purses won in races. It also authorizes a new standardbred track in south suburban Cook County and guarantees that live races will continue, among other provisions.


Somone said his association will be on guard against potential changes that would undo any of that progress.


“We’re going to work hard to keep it exactly how it is,” he said.


As for changes to make a Chicago casino more feasible, Somone said, “whatever they do is their business, as long as it doesn’t get into the racing end of it.”

Appellate Court could settle Mautino campaign questions Streator resident said finding a precedent important for future committees
Ottawa Daily Times
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Derek Barichello

A decision is expected from the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court in Springfield on a lingering matter of former State Rep. Frank Mautino's campaign expenditures.


David Cooke, of Streator, through the representation of attorney Jeffrey Schwab at the Liberty Justice Center, argued to the court last month the Illinois Board of Elections has avoided making findings in the case.


The committee was previously fined $5,000 by the Illinois Board of Elections for failing to produce records.


The case was brought back before the Illinois Board of Elections last year after the appellate court in Springfield ruled the board had to make a further decision on whether a pair of election codes were violated.


That July 10, 2018, vote ended in a partisan tie, meaning the complaints failed. The four Republicans on the board voted the committee violated election code, while the four Democrats voted there wasn’t enough evidence to do so.


Schwab said the hope is the appellate court will settle the matter itself, noting his client is not seeking any more punishment for Mautino — now the state's auditor general — or his campaign, but he wants rulings made on the complaints in the case in order to set a precedent for future politicians.


Since Mautino's committee is dissolved and had no legal obligation to keep the records, the committee argued it had incomplete records to submit to the elections board.


Attorney Anthony Jacobs, representing Mautino's committee, told appellate judges it should be the appellant's burden to prove wrongdoing.


An appellate judge asked if this were a civil case outside of politics "what would happen to the defendant in a civil case who disposes of absolutely necessary documents to answer questions of plaintiffs?"

Jacobs reiterated there is no obligation to maintain records.


Cooke wants the appellate court to rule on the committee's practice of paying for gas and repairs on personal vehicles, saying election code states mileage reimbursement has to be paid for personal vehicles.


Cooke wants the court to rule on the committee's expenditures for gas and repairs exceeding fair market value, stating by not paying for them by mileage reimbursement that it exceeds that value. Schwab argued when expenditures are not paid by reported mileage, it stands to reason that some of the gas goes for personal use.


"You wouldn't use the whole tank of gas for exclusively campaign activities," he said.


Cooke also wants the court to rule the committee's practice of reporting the bank as the vendor for occasions when the committee used cash for trips as exceeding fair market value. Schwab said cash was taken out in round numbers, arguing not every campaign trip will have a cost at an exact round number.


Representing the board of elections, Aaron Dozeman, of the Illinois Attorney General's Office, defended the panel's deadlock as a proper response to the case, noting those who voted against further action did not have enough evidence to do so.


He said the board did what it could in issuing a fine, but the committee was dissolved, so there is no consequence.



Ultimately, Schwab concluded the way the elections board has left the matter, it would be in the benefit of a political campaign committee, in the event it needed to cover up a campaign expenditure, to fail in its reporting, and then no further action could be taken.


Schwab said he expects a ruling within the next couple of weeks.


Mautino, now the state’s auditor general, represented La Salle County in the state Legislature for nearly a quarter century, until resigning to become auditor general in December 2015. The appointment to the post, which serves as a watchdog for the state’s tax dollars, is for 10 years.

Comprehensive care for all Illinoisans must include
State Journal Register
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   John Maples
Health Care

With our world-class hospitals, med-tech incubators, and numerous research facilities, Illinois has long been a hub for health care innovation. Despite this, a significant percentage of our state’s population has not benefited from the great strides we’ve made to help improve the overall health and well-being of Illinoisans. Because of this disparity, in November, Gov. JB Pritzker formed the Healthy Children and Families Committee to identify policies to expand access to comprehensive, quality health care.


While we applaud the governor’s efforts, unfortunately the committee’s scope of work did not include one of the most critical aspects of overall health — oral health. Moving forward, we call upon Governor Pritzker and other Illinois policymakers to ensure oral health is a key component of any comprehensive health care policy recommendations.


In all phases of life, the connection between oral health and overall health is clear. Just last week the Delta Dental Institute, a national organization dedicated to putting a new spotlight on oral health, convened health care, business and policy leaders to discuss how to expand access to comprehensive care in Illinois — including oral care for all ages.


In our state, we recognize that access to quality oral health care must start early. However, nearly one-in-three children in Illinois won’t visit a dentist before the age of five. Untreated childhood oral health problems can result in challenges with eating, speaking, and learning — issues that can last long into adulthood. The good news: childhood dental disease is largely preventable through regular dental check-ups. In fact, our state passed a new law last November requiring students entering high school to show a record of a recent dental appointment.


While it is imperative children visit a dentist starting with the growth of their first tooth, we cannot forget access to oral health care remains important in adulthood. As the Mayo Clinic puts it, the mouth is a window to the rest of your body’s health. Poor oral health can exacerbate other grave health conditions, like heart disease or diabetes. In Illinois, nearly 2.5 million people live with some form of untreated tooth decay, affecting their ability to live, work, and play. And it’s not because they don’t want to treat it: 42% of Illinois adults would like to visit the dentist more often but are unable to do so due to cost or lack of providers. Health care in our state must be comprehensive, and we believe that we can work with policymakers to close the access gap.


We also can’t forget about Illinoisans in their golden years. Currently, Illinois lags behind in our dental care offerings for seniors, ranking 16th in the nation. Nearly 17% of Illinoisans 65 and older have lost teeth due to tooth decay or gum disease, both preventable oral health issues. As more Illinoisans age into Medicare, expanded access to preventive care now could reduce health care costs down the road. In fact, nine-in-ten Illinoisans say that dental benefits should be included in Medicaid. Across our state, Illinoisans agree that our policymakers need to prioritize access to dental care in the same way they do for general medical and mental health care for Illinois’ seniors.


Whatever our age, good health starts with good oral health. We thank Governor Pritzker for prioritizing access to health care for people across Illinois. But in order to help Illinoisans meet their full potential for a healthy and happy life, the governor and other Illinois lawmakers must include expanded access to quality oral health care in their policy recommendations.


John Maples is president and Chief Executive Officer of Delta Dental of Illinois. Dr. Joseph Dill is head of Dental Science at the Delta Dental Institute.

Our View: New academic year brings sense of hope
State Journal Register
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Editorial  |   Editorial Board

Your kids may be wishing today that tomorrow never comes.


They may hope that Sunday stretches on forever, and it’s a day filled only with the carefree attitude that comes with it being summer vacation. They could ride bikes for hours, only to have an endless visit to the pool, followed by a trip to the lake to fish with a promise of coming back when the sun sets — except in this vision, it never does.


Alas, Monday will come. And for many students, including those in Springfield School District 186, that means Monday will be accompanied by the first bell that signals the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. Some of their peers in nearby districts have already had that first day, while others will join them later in the week. Students at Lincoln Land Community College and the University of Illinois Springfield head back soon too.


While there may be some reluctance to bid goodbye to those summer days deliciously filled with nothing in particular to do, we bet those same kids are excited to see their friends again. There are athletic teams to try out for and extracurricular activities to join. And there

is learning to be done, lessons that will help shape them into the adults we need to create a strong community.


Back to school hasn’t snuck up on us: Those sales on pens, paper and markers have been going on for a while. New outfits have been bought so kids can start the academic year feeling confident. Organizations have generously been holding and neighbors thoughtfully donating to supply drives in order to help out those who might not otherwise be able to have the new crayons, folders and pencils needed to be successful academically.


Parents have likely been a little nostalgic in recent days as they realize their child is another year older and about to tackle a more challenging coursework once they get to school. There’s perhaps a twinge of sadness that a child no longer wants to hold mom’s or dad’s hand on the walk to school, or asks to walk to the bus stop alone. It’s both a proud moment, and a melancholy one, when a child starts to stretch his or her wings toward independence.


Teachers have been decorating classrooms and preparing lessons, thinking of the best ways to impart knowledge to the students who will soon be staring up at them, looking for wisdom and guidance. Motorists should, if they haven’t already, be preparing themselves to see school buses on the road again and be ready to stop once that red stop sign is extended.


The year is more than half over, but the first day of school holds the promise of something new and good for all. It’s a clean slate for our area’s children, another chance to thrive academically and personally as they mature and grow.


It’s potential. And it’s available to anyone who seeks it. We wish all local children a successful, engaging 2019-2020 school year, and hope each of them embrace the possibilities presented to them in the coming months.

Pritzker should get new priorities
State Journal Register
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Letter to Editor  |   Mike Forgas

Regarding Go. JB Pritzker’s statements as reported by the SJ-R regarding President Trump and his possible commutation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s prison time, and also trashing Trump for visiting the scenes of two mass shootings, only illustrates to me Pritzker’s “Never Trump” attitude and that he will endeavor to push the state into leftist lunacy, only to spite Trump.


To date, the governor has signed into law sanctuary protection for illegals; allowed for abortions into the ninth months of pregnancy, paid for by our taxes; special admission for the undocumented to our colleges; blocking federal agents from interacting with local law enforcement; requiring legitimate businesses to pay high fees for state licenses; and requiring long-time gun owners to now be fingerprinted while allowing voting in Illinois without ID.


Pritzker says Trump has more important things to do. I say Pritzker has a lot more that he should focus on, instead of hate Trump — i.e., the overwhelming pension debt in the state; crime and killing in Chicago; and corruption and abuse of power by current politicians. How many of them, now under investigation, would he pardoned?


Mike Forgas


Pritzker signs bills to help first responders
State Journal Register
Monday, August 19, 2019  |   Article  |   Doug Fink
Pritzker, J.B.

On a day that first responders were honored at the state fair, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation to help them with mental health issues and to make it easier to become a state trooper.


The governor signed the bills during a ceremony at the Illinois State Police headquarters in Springfield.


Pritzker signed House Bill 2766 that establishes a peer support program for first responders that focuses on wellness and suicide prevention. The bill also creates a task force to examine ways of preventing suicides among first responders. The task force is supposed to issue a report to lawmakers by Jan. 1.


Pritzker noted that first responders are often reluctant to seek help for emotional problems they may be experiencing.


“There is nothing weak about getting help. In fact, it is one of the most courageous things they can do,” Pritzker said.


“First responders are trained not to show weakness,” added Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago. “Unfortunately, that can have some unintended consequences. We want to remove that stigma among first responders.”


In an effort to bolster recruitment of state police officers, Pritzker signed House Bill 124 that says applicants no longer need a bachelor’s degree to join the Illinois State Police. Instead, an applicant only needs an associate’s degree or 60 credit hours from an accredited college or university.


State Police Director Brendan Kelly said the cost of getting a bachelor’s degree can put it out of reach of many potential state police candidates. He said the training that troopers receive at the police academy is key to them being successful on the job.


Pritzker also signed:



* Senate Bill 1183, which expands the scope of the Police Memorial Committee Fund. Currently the fund can only provide scholarship assistance to children of police officers killed in the line of duty. The law will allow assistance to be extended to spouses of those officers.


* Senate Bill 1411, which increases transparency to sexual assault victims on the status of processing rape kit evidence. The law creates a real-time electronic tracking system and a 24-hour help desk.


“We never want victims waiting and wondering when justice will be done,” Pritzker said.


At the same time, Pritzker signed an executive order creating a task force to examine backlogs in processing evidence in state crime labs and report on improvements that can be made.


Contact Doug Finke: doug.finke@sj-r.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.