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News Around Illinois – Sept. 3, 2020

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The latest news around the state, for Sept. 3, 2020.

Illinois House Panel To Investigate Long-Serving Speaker

CHICAGO (AP) — An Illinois House panel convened at the request of Republicans will investigate Speaker Michael Madigan, a long-serving Democrat who has been implicated in a federal bribery investigation, legislative leaders announced Wednesday. Republicans filed paperwork to form the bipartisan committee earlier this week, a move that comes nearly two months after federal prosecutors named the Democrat by title in a criminal investigation on ComEd. The utility company has acknowledged engaging in bribery from 2011 to 2019 in the Capitol. Such an investigative committee, which has been convened two other times since 2012, can recommend discipline, including expulsion, under the Illinois Constitution. Ousting a legislator requires 79 votes of the 118-member House. The committee will have three Republicans and three Democrats. Republicans and some Democrats want Madigan, the nation’s longest-serving House speaker, to step down. Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, has said Madigan “must resign” if the allegations are true. Madigan, who hasn’t been charged, has said he won’t resign and has done nothing wrong. He maintained Wednesday that he’s “never made a legislative decision with improper motives.” – Associated Press

Threats Made Against IDES Employees

Illinois unemployment offices have been closed to public access since the stay at home order was put in effect earlier this year. But Governor J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday there was another safety reason for keeping the doors locked. Pritzker said there have been reports of threats against the Illinois Department of Employment Security and its workforce. The agency has been under scrutiny because of people facing technical difficulties in signing up for benefits. The Governor has blamed the problem on an old system that was unable to handle unprecedented demand. Some lawmakers are saying it’s time for face to face service while the state is experiencing a double digit jobless rate. – Sean Crawford, WUIS

Papers Of Abraham Lincoln Project Makes His Life Accessible To The Public

A long-running effort to make the life of Abraham Lincoln more accessible to the public has reached a new milestone. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s “The Papers of Abraham Lincoln” project has added more than 500 documents to Lincoln’s online collection of lost documents revealing details of his life after he left Congress in 1849. The latest documents come from Lincoln’s early political days as an aspiring Whig Party member. During this time, Lincoln becomes a married man, a father, and moves from state politician to U.S. congressman. Lincoln Papers Project Director Dan Worthington said these early professional papers include the first reference to Lincoln’s famous ‘house divided’ idea that showed Lincoln’s outlook on the world during this period, including keeping the union together and abolishing slavery. – Charlie Schlenker and Darnysha Mitchell, WGLT

Fire Destroys Landmark Church In Downtown Rockford

A landmark church in downtown Rockford is nothing but smoldering remains after firefighters worked overnight to extinguish a raging fire that started Wednesday evening. The Rockford Masonic Cathedral towered over the intersection of Kishwaukee, Walnut, and First Ave. on Rockford’s near east side since 1869. City officials confirm it has been abandoned for several years and didn’t currently have electricity. Most recently, it was known as the Metro Christian Centre, which offered services to homeless people. – WNIJ

Bradley University Holds Off On Adopting U of I COVID-19 Saliva Test, For Now

Could Bradley University adopt the University of Illinois’ COVID-19 saliva test? Probably not right away, said Bradley University President Stephen Standifird. Standifird said Bradley is working closely with OSF HealthCare on its COVID-19 surveillance testing efforts on campus. For the time being, he said OSF has recommended holding off on implementing the rapid testing currently available. Standifird said he was looking further into the U of I test that received emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month. Bradley University is employing surveillance testing of employees and students each week to assess COVID-19’s prevalence on campus. As of last Friday, nine people had tested positive for the virus. Another 38 people were quarantining. – Tim Shelley, WCBU

Illinois Economy Continues To Grow, But At A Small Rate

The Illinois economy continues to contract, but at a slightly slower rate, according to the latest University of Illinois Flash Index. The monthly Flash Index pegged the Illinois economy at 94.6 for August, continuing a slow improvement after bottoming out in May at 92.8. Any number on the Flash Index less than 100 shows economic contraction. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Flash Index had posted readings above 105 for more than a year. Economist Fred Giertz says a quick return to any economic growth will probably require a coronavirus vaccine. “Short of that,” said Giertz, “I think it’s going to be a continual, one step at a time, getting better, but probably take six months to a year.” On the other hand, Giertz says the economy could go the other way, if it’s hit by a new resurgence of the coronavirus. The Flash Index provides a quick snapshot of the Illinois economy, using a weighted average of state tax receipts. But Giertz says he has to make some ad hoc changes to his formula, because of COVID-19’s impact on the economy, and the state’s schedule for tax payments. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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Jose Zepeda

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