CAPITOL RECAP: Vice Presidet Harris visits Chicago; tax rebates coming

CAPITOL RECAP: Vice Presidet Harris visits Chicago; tax rebates coming

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS

SPRINGFIELD – Vice President Kamala Harris came to Chicago Friday, Sept. 16, to rally voters who support abortion rights and urge them to turn out in the upcoming midterm elections.

Speaking at a roundtable discussion on reproductive rights at the University of Illinois Chicago, Harris said the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade has put abortion rights at the forefront in races up and down the ballot.

Harris was joined at the event by Gov. JB Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and a number of other abortion rights supporters. They were scheduled to hold a political rally on the UIC campus later in the day.

Her appearance came just 53 days before the Nov. 8 election when control of the U.S. House and Senate will be up for grabs and when all state-level elected offices in Illinois will be on the ballot as well.

Historically, the president’s party loses congressional seats in a midterm election. Democrats currently hold a slim, nine-vote majority in the U.S. House while the U.S. Senate is evenly divided, giving Harris the tie-breaking vote on many issues.

But Democrats are hopeful that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, will energize Democratic, independent, and even some Republican voters and draw attention away from issues like rising inflation, crime and high gasoline prices.

Illinois Republicans, however, were quick to respond.

“Instead of ducking and deflecting, the Vice President needs to answer questions regarding the Biden Administration’s role in fueling the inflation crisis, and where she stands on Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot’s failure to keep our communities safe,” the Illinois Republican Party said in a statement released Friday morning.

Since the Dobbs decision, strict abortion restrictions have taken effect in many states, including all those that surround Illinois. That has made Illinois a destination for women seeking abortion who live in states where the procedure is now virtually banned or tightly regulated.

In 2019, however, Pritzker signed into law the Reproductive Health Act which, among other things, declares that access to abortion and other reproductive health care services is a “fundamental right” under Illinois law.

* * *

CHIEF JUSTICE RETIRING: Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne M. Burke announced Monday she will retire from the bench effective Nov. 30.

She has served on the state’s high court since 2006 and has been chief justice since 2019.

“The decision to retire was not an easy one,” Burke, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Burke was born in Chicago in 1944 and raised on the city’s south side. She attended DePaul University School for New Learning and majored in education. She began her career teaching physical education at the Chicago Park District.

She was 40 years old and a mother of four when she completed law school and started at a small practice serving families and as a guardian for children who could not represent themselves in litigation.

In 1987 Republican Gov. Jim Thompson appointed her the first female judge on the Illinois Court of Claims, and she was reappointed to the post by Republican Gov. Jim Edgar in 1991. In April 1994, she was appointed special counsel to the governor for child welfare services, and in 1995 she was appointed to the 1st District appellate court, being elected for a full term the following year.

The news release announcing her departure highlighted her work navigating the courts through the COVID-19 pandemic and moving statewide “listening tours” organized by the Illinois State Bar Association online.

She thanked constituents of the 1st District and her family.

“I thank, first and foremost, my family – my husband, Ed, who has been at my side through 54 years of marriage, and our children, Jennifer, Ed Jr., Emmett (deceased), Sarah, and Travis, and our nine grandchildren – for the sacrifices they have made for me and for being constant sources of love and encouragement,” she said.

Burke’s husband, Ed Burke, a longtime alderman in Chicago, was for years considered one of the body’s powerbrokers as chair of the Committee on Finance. He was seated on the council in 1969, most recently gaining reelection in 2019 despite having been charged with extortion and racketeering that year.

Prosecutors alleged that Burke attempted to use his city position to solicit business for his law firm, Klafter & Burke, although he has denied wrongdoing and remains on the council despite stepping down from the finance committee and his law firm in 2019.

* * *

NEW JUSTICE: Justice Anne M. Burke, the court’s third female justice, will be replaced by 1st District Appellate Justice Joy V. Cunningham, who will follow current Justice Lisa Holder White as the second Black woman seated on the court. Holder White was seated earlier this year. The court has constitutional authority to choose interim successors.

Cunningham, Justice Burke’s replacement, will not be the next chief justice, a rotating post that is generally given to the most tenured justice who has not yet held the title. Burke’s term as chief justice was scheduled to end Oct. 25.

The court later Monday, Sept. 12, announced Justice Mary Jane Theis, a 1st District Democrat who has been on the high court since 2010, as the next chief justice. She’ll be on 1st District ballot in November when voters choose whether to give her another 10-year term.

Cunningham has been on the appellate court since 2006 and serves on its executive committee. She received her Bachelor of Science from the City University of New York and earned her Juris Doctorate from the John Marshall Law School.

Cunningham was sworn in as an associate judge in Cook County Circuit Court in 1996 before leaving the bench in 2000 to serve as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Northwestern Memorial Healthcare. In December 2006 she was elected to the 1st District appellate court and was retained by voters in 2016.

Due to the timing of Burke’s retirement after the November election, Cunningham’s interim term will run through Dec. 2, 2024, at which time a successor will be given a 10-year term by voters in the general election the month prior.

The Supreme Court has seven judges elected in five districts. District 1, which includes Chicago and some of its surrounding areas, has three justices, while the remaining four districts each have one. All 1st District justices are Democrats, making up the biggest chunk of the court’s 4-3 Democratic majority.

In this November’s election, voters will grant a 10-year term to two justices, one in the 2nd district, which includes Chicago’s north and west suburbs, and one in the 3rd District, which runs from the state’s northern tip to south of Springfield, encompassing most of northwestern and west central Illinois.

Those contested races could affect the partisan makeup of the court.

* * *

TAX REBATES: Gov. JB Pritzker announced Monday, Sept. 12, that Illinois taxpayers will soon start receiving rebates of their income and property taxes, either in the mail or by direct bank deposits.

Pritzker said the rebates are intended to help soften the impact of rising inflation and high gasoline prices.

Those rebates, totaling about $1.2 billion, were part of a larger, $1.8 billion tax relief package that lawmakers included in the budget they passed this spring.

Individual income taxpayers who earn less than $200,000 who are not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s taxes will receive a rebate of $50. That goes up to $100 for couples filing jointly who earn less than $400,000. Tax return filers will also receive $100 rebates for each dependent they claim, up to a maximum of three dependents.

Homeowners who were able to claim the property tax credit on their 2021 tax returns will receive an additional rebate equal to the credit they claimed, up to a maximum of $300. Those rebates will go to filers who earned less than $250,000, or $500,000 for a couple filing jointly.

No further action is needed from eligible Illinoisans who filed tax returns in 2021, otherwise, more information can be found at tax.illinois.gov/rebates.

Pritzker’s office said the payments will take “at least eight weeks to be issued in total.”

In addition to those measures, the tax relief package also included a six-month pause, through Dec. 31, of the automatic inflation-based increase in the state motor fuel tax; a one-year suspension of the state’s 1 percent grocery tax; and a sales tax holiday on back-to-school merchandise that ran Aug. 5-14.

The package also included a permanent expansion of the state’s earned income tax credit, raising it from 18 percent to 20 percent of the federal credit and extending eligibility for that credit to noncitizens who file taxes using an individual taxpayer identification number instead of a Social Security number.

Republicans criticized that package as an election-year gimmick, noting that the rebate checks would show up in people’s mailboxes or bank accounts just before Election Day, while the pause on the motor fuel tax hike would disappear soon after Election Day.

Yet nearly all in the GOP voted in favor of the tax relief package, which passed 55-1 in the Senate and 110-0 in the House with four “present” votes.

* * *

TEXAS MIGRANTS: Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday, Sept. 14, that Illinois will continue to welcome migrants bused here from Texas as he blasted that state’s governor for relocating them to other cities without sharing information or providing resources.

Pritzker said Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his agencies have been providing little notice for incoming migrants and has not responded to calls from Illinois’ agency heads. That’s meant Illinois has had “between three and 24 hours to find shelter for potentially 100 or more people.”

Pritzker will deploy 75 National Guard members to aid with logistics and will issue a disaster proclamation aimed at expediting the flow of resources. The proclamation enables the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and other state agencies to work with local governments to help migrants access transportation, emergency shelter, food, health screenings, medical assessments, treatments and other care.

Pritzker said the migrants are residing in the U.S. legally through the asylum-seeking process. They’re often fleeing dangerous situations, mostly from Central and South America, and they receive facial and fingerprint scans at the U.S. border that are “cross-checked against terrorist watch lists and criminal databases.”

Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou said an 11th bus arrived early Wednesday. It brought the total number of migrants arriving in Illinois over the past two weeks to more than 500. Buses are arriving daily, Pritzker said.

Hou said when unannounced migrants arrive, Illinois officials have to “scramble” to provide for the basic needs of babies, pregnant women, children, teens, adults and older people. That includes ensuring access to housing, food, baby formula and health care.

Pritzker called on Abbott to provide better notice.

Abbott launched the program in April when he issued a memo directing the state’s Department of Emergency Management “to begin coordinating the voluntary transportation” of immigrants who had been released from federal custody.

Pritzker said once migrants arrive, city and state staff work with state-funded welcoming centers and nonprofits such as Catholic Charities and Salvation Army to “triage and determine their immediate needs, prioritizing infants, children, seniors and families.”

He and local lawmakers characterized the migrant situation as a national problem.

Pritzker said Illinois is seeking federal help and his staff has been working with Illinois’ members of Congress and the White House.

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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