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CAPITOL RECAP: Republican candidates debate

CAPITOL RECAP: Republican candidates debate

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS

SPRINGFIELD – The six Republican candidates for Illinois governor faced off Tuesday night in Chicago, albeit on two separate debate stages, hours after a shooting at a Texas elementary school that dominated a large portion of the debates.

A scheduling conflict between two TV networks – WGN and NBC 5 – had the candidates split into groups of three. NBC’s debate included Aurora Mayor Ricard Irvin, the polling and money frontrunner, along with former Waterloo state Sen. Paul Schimpf and suburban attorney Max Solomon. The WGN debate that followed included Sen. Darren Bailey, of Xenia, Petersburg venture capitalist Jesse Sullivan and suburban paving magnate Gary Rabine.

Much of the discussion revolved around a mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old barricaded himself in a fourth-grade classroom and killed at least 21 individuals, including 19 children.

Irvin noted he was mayor of Aurora in 2019 when a shooter killed six, including himself, at the Henry Pratt Company in that city. Irvin said a governor would have to “make sure that not only we heal after this, these events that seem to be happening so much throughout our country day in and day out where we’re comparing one violent act to another.”

“We need to make sure that we support our police, and we support our neighbors, and our families, and our friends, and these school children that we don’t allow weapons to get into the hands of criminals and those with mental illnesses,” Irvin added.

Irvin’s response followed Schimpf, who cited law enforcement support as well.

“We also have to be exploring mental illness and the challenge that mental illness faces, poses for our country,” Schimpf said, without giving specifics.

Solomon said all schools should have armed security guards.

Bailey said he would look to repeal the state’s Firearm Owners Identification law – a move that would require action from lawmakers – and pointed to the state of New York, where shootings occur despite “some of the most egregious gun laws that there are.”

He said he’d like to partner with and “empower” community groups and church groups to be able to “deal with mental health.”

Sullivan said “some of the root causes are getting back to fatherhood, and promoting the family in our society again.”

“I really do feel like when you remove God from our society, these are the types of things that happen,” he said.

Rabine responded that “bad people are going to get guns” regardless of policy.

“So we’ve got, we’ve got to really be better, in my opinion, raise our kids better than we are and do better things,” he said.

Schimpf also said he would look to get rid of the FOID law.

“We need to enforce the gun laws that we have,” he said.

Irvin said the FOID process – which saw an overhaul passed by state lawmakers in 2021 that strengthened Illinois State Police’s FOID enforcement abilities and directed the agency to create a searchable database with serial numbers of stolen gun – is “broken,” but he endorsed background checks.

ON CRIME, CHICAGO: Irvin, Schimpf and Solomon were asked if they would call in the National Guard – which only governors can do – to address violence in Chicago.

“If necessary, I would definitely call them in Chicago, you know, as governor,” Irvin said without answering whether it would be necessary right now. He also claimed he called the National Guard into Aurora in response to rioting in 2020.

Irvin said he’d focus on “three Cs – children, cops, community,” by “getting kids into positive programs,” putting more police officers on the beat and “empowering the community to help our police take back their streets.”

“I don’t care how many people you arrest, if you don’t give the community an opportunity to address and work and take pride and stock in their own community, it’s just going to return,” he said.

The budget that passed this year with only Democratic votes included hundreds of millions of dollars for community youth investment and violence prevention programs, money for three new classes State Police troopers, and $10 million for law enforcement recruitment and retention.

Bailey said he voted against the budget because “more money always seems to be the answer for Illinois politicians,” touting a “zero-based budget” process to “cut the fat,” although he did not identify programs he would cut. He also said more conversations are needed between lawmakers and law enforcement.

When asked how he would keep guns out of the hands of mental health patients, Bailey said he would look to partner with churches and civic groups, then launched into an attack on Chicago’s leaders.

“Let’s focus on the city of Chicago a minute, let’s just call it like it is. Let’s think about Chicago, a crime-ridden, corrupt, dysfunctional hellhole.” he said.

Bailey, who promoted a measure in the General Assembly that would make Chicago a separate state from the rest of Illinois, said as governor he would be “standing up” and “fighting for” Chicago “just as much as I will be fighting for the state of Illinois.”

Sullivan and Rabine said they’d push to create an option for voters to recall state’s attorneys, such as Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, although Illinois law does not currently allow it. Sullivan said he would “surge the National Guard.”

Schimpf, a U.S. Marine who was an American adviser in the trial of Saddam Hussein, was more measured in his response.

“Well, the National Guard is not a solution that you can just say I’m going to call in the National Guard as a governor and that’s going to solve all the problems,” he said, noting he’d be a more supportive governor of law enforcement.

Solomon said he would have called in the National Guard “yesterday,” and he would accept federal aid no matter who is president.

* * *

The Census Bureau released new survey data Thursday, May 19, suggesting the population of Illinois may have been undercounted by nearly 2 percent in the 2020 headcount.

That was one of the findings of the Census Bureau’s Post-Enumeration Survey, or PES, something the bureau does after each decennial census to assess the quality of the census data. The results do not change the official population numbers of any state, nor do they affect congressional reapportionment, but they do help guide the bureau in its planning for the next decennial census.

According to the survey, Illinois, with a 1.97 percent undercount, was among six states with “statistically significant” undercounts. There were eight states with statistically significant overcounts, while 36 states had neither an undercount nor overcount.

The other states with undercounts were all located in the South: Arkansas at 5.04 percent; Florida at 3.48 percent; Mississippi at 4.11 percent; Tennessee at 4.78 percent; and Texas at 1.92 percent.

In Illinois, the official 2020 census showed the state’s population as 12,812,508. That was a decline of 18,124, or 0.1 percent, from the 2010 census. As a result of the state’s population loss, combined with large gains in some other states, Illinois lost one of its congressional seats, leaving the state with only 17 U.S. House seats.

However, if Illinois really was undercounted by 1.97 percent, as the survey suggests, that would have meant that the population actually grew by more than 257,000, putting it at just over 13 million.

Thursday afternoon, Gov. JB Pritzker released a statement hailing the survey results as good news, but also expressing frustration that the state’s growth was not reflected in the official census.

“While it is disappointing that these numbers were not reflected in the initial count, I have already spoken to members of our congressional delegation and will work tirelessly to ensure Illinois receives its fair share of federal funding,” he said. “I look forward to celebrating this development with all Illinoisans, including those who routinely badmouth our state.”

During a media briefing on Wednesday ahead of the survey release, Census Bureau officials emphasized that no census is ever perfect, and no survey is perfect either.

* * *

COMPELLED SPEECH: The Illinois Fuel and Retail Association is suing the state in an effort to halt a requirement that gas stations post a notice that the state will not increase the motor fuel tax for the next six months.

The notice reads: “As of July 1, 2022, the State of Illinois has suspended the inflation adjustment to the motor fuel tax through December 31, 2022. The price on this pump should reflect the suspension of the tax increase.”

The language essentially alerts drivers that the state’s motor fuel tax won’t increase by a little over two cents per gallon for the next six months as previously scheduled under law.

But it won’t decrease either, instead remaining at 39.2 cents through the end of this year.

The annual increase became law in 2019, when the state doubled the motor fuel tax from 19 cents to 38 cents per gallon and indexed it to inflation each year to fund a bipartisan $45 billion long-term plan for road and bridge upkeep.

No signage was required to mark the legislature’s action at that time.

The language requiring the signage was written into the Fiscal Year 2023 revenue bill, Senate Bill 157, which made up one prong of the state’s operating budget that was signed into law on April 19.

That measure also pushed the 2022 increase into January 2023, to be followed by another increase six months later.

No signage will be required after either of those increases.

But fuel retailers who fail to “post or maintain” the signage announcing the tax hike suspension on every pump for the next six months could be fined up to $500 daily.

That didn’t sit well with the Illinois Fuel and Retail Association, which filed a lawsuit Thursday in Sangamon County alleging that the signage requirement violates their rights under the First Amendment and 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, Section 4 of the Illinois Constitution.

The Pritzker administration has pointed to the language being nearly identical to a provision signed by Republican Gov. George Ryan in 2000, which required signs stating Illinois had “eliminated the state’s share of sales tax on motor fuel.”

This year’s amendment doesn’t eliminate the sales tax on motor fuel – consumers will still pay the 6.25 percent rate on top of the 39.2-cent motor fuel tax.

But Pritzker spokesperson Jordan Abudayyeh said the 2000 language still sets the precedent for the new signage requirement.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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