We learned this weekend that the chances of a Springfield casino took a major hit when a House committee blocked an amendment to add the casino to an omnibus gambling expansion bill. Another step towards stopping Springfield from getting a casino.
Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, had filed an amendment to Senate Bill 7 to add a Springfield casino to the five others authorized by the bill.
However, the House Rules Committee on Sunday did not clear the amendment to be heard in the House Executive Committee on Monday when the expansion bill is scheduled for a hearing.
City Council hears final arguments, recommendations in Ward 2 recount
The Ward 2 aldermanic race might set a new record for closest election that wasn’t a tie. The first full count showed Gail Simpson leading Shawn Gregory by a single vote. Gregory challenged the result and asked for a recount. Then the race got closer. After the recount, the recommendation of the hearing officer was to declare Simpson the winner by not one vote, but 0.361 votes.
During the recount, all of the ballots were inspected again. That further inspection revealed that some of the ballots had problems. A ballot that is not filled out correctly can be disqualified. One had two colors of ink, one was damaged and had to be reconstructed, and another had two candidates marked. These ballots were resolved on an individual basis.
But there were two sets of ballots that needed further discussion. The first were ballots where the election judge marked them in the wrong place. There is a line where the judge should put their initials so the tabulators know it is a valid ballot. Three ballots, all from the same judge, had marks near, but not on, the provided line. Two of them were for Gregory. They were not counted in the hearing officer’s recommendation.
Another group of ballots came from the Mary Bryant Home. The Mary Bryant Home is a community for the blind and visually impaired. Due to their conditions, many of these voters required assistance in filling out their ballots. To protect the integrity of the vote, especially with vulnerable populations, there are affidavits that must be filled out by the voter and the assistant to make the votes valid. For thirteen ballots, this did not happen.
However, the affidavits do not match specific ballots. To ensure voter privacy, the ballot cannot be directly tied to a specific voter. When the thirteen ballots were thrown out, each candidate had a proportional reduction in their count based on how well they did in each precinct. In the end, Simpson lost 4.278 votes, but Gregory lost just 2.639 votes. That closed the margin, but did not eliminate Simpson’s lead.
The real debate hinges on how comparable council members think these two types of errors are. John Mehlick, the hearing officer for the recount, considered both errors equally disqualifying. Although he stressed that he did not want to throw out any votes, he pointed out instructions were not followed on both. During his remarks to the council, Mehlick stressed that the council should demand “excellence” from its election judges and administrators.
Not everyone agreed with that logic. Questions from several aldermen suggested that they found the initials to be a far less serious breach of protocol than those on the affidavits. Others argued that disqualifying votes due to errors from election officials was not something they wanted to do, and argued both sets of ballots should be included.
The council’s decision
There are three likely outcomes the council could decide on. If both sets of ballots are eliminated, then Simpson wins. If both sets of ballots are kept, Simpson would still win. And if the affidavits are thrown out, but the initialed ballots are kept, then Gregory wins.
The choice is unenviable. Most of the time, standards are set without knowing how it will impact an election. Today, the council knows it is not just setting a standard to follow, it is also picking winners and losers in a democratic election. The Simpson team asked Alderwoman Turner to recuse herself due to her party’s endorsement of Gregory during the campaign. Turner agreed to this request, saying that if her stepping back would help the post-decision healing process in the community, then she would do so.
The rest of the council did not come to an agreement Tuesday night. Aldermen Redpath, Fulgenzi, Proctor, DiCenso, and Hanauer moved to accept the hearing officer’s recommendation, and declare Simpson the winner. Aldermen McMenamin, Conley, and Donelan, as well as Mayor Langfelder voted against, which prevented the motion from passing. Any motion will take 6 affirmative votes to pass.
The council will reconvene Thursday night to continue their discussion of the issue and come to an acceptable agreement. You can watch their full discussion in the player above, and read all of the documents from the recount here.
Golf revenue continues to fall in Jacksonville
2018 was another bad year for the Jacksonville’s Links golf courses. Like most municipal golf courses, the Links loses money every year. It was clear as early as August that 2018 was going to be a particularly bad year for the courses. The recently released 2018 audit shows just how dire the situation is becoming for the courses.
Total operating losses totaled $198,000. This is nearly triple the losses suffered in 2012. Expenses were up eight percent since ’12. The real driver is that revenue is down 24 percent, from $377,000 in ’12 to just $288,000 last year. This is why the cash infusion from the city came much earlier in the year; the Links was struggling to cover payroll expenses due to low revenue. And unlike in years past when the bailout is needed in the winter months, last year the Links needed help during the fall.
Fixing the root problems at the course will not be easy. Golf participation is declining nationally, and Jacksonville has not been spared from these trends. But the first step is admitting there is a problem. A golf advisory committee was created in February 2018 and they did provide some good recommendations for improvements. But their last meeting was more than a year ago. In full council meetings, council members are reluctant to even acknowledge that revenue is down substantially from years past.
Six-figure losses are the new normal for the Links. It is up to the council to decide if they want to continue to write these losses off, or come up with a more sustainable plan for the courses.
You can read the full audit here.
Illinois pot legalization splits both parties in House, but is poised for governor’s signature after passage
A bill to legalize cannabis for adult recreational use in Illinois is on to the governor despite there being bipartisan opposition.
Sponsors of the measure say allowing adults to legally buy from state licensed sellers and possess up to 30 grams of marijuana is not just about revenue for the state, it’s about reversing the impacts of the War on Drugs.
“I have said repeatedly, however, this is not about the money,” said state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago. “It can’t be about the money. States that have passed legalization and have gone about it as if it’s a magic ATM machine have failed doubly. They have not cut into their illicit marketplace and they’ve gotten less revenue.”
Cassidy said the tax rates have been set at the lower end of what other states tax. With all the taxes for cannabis in House Bill 1438, from the state excise tax, cultivation privilege tax and even local tax on top of the state sales tax, the most THC potent form of the product will have a 41 percent tax.
The measure found support from state Rep. David Welter, R-Morris. He said the provisions for local control over sales and the ability for businesses to do random drug testing were good provisions.
“I’m a father of three from a rural district and I’m standing before you supporting this bill because I do not believe the current policy that we have out there right now is working,” Welter said. “Prohibition doesn’t work and we see that. Putting safeguards in place, taxing, regulating it I believe provides a better market and a safer market for our state.”
Many other Republicans, however, stood in opposition to the bill, citing various statistics of increased psychosis, traffic fatalities and youth access in states that have legalized it. Supporters of the bill said correlation doesn’t mean causation, but opponents said it’s an area that should be investigated further.
House Democrats were also split on the measure.
State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, talked about the negative health effects of the drug. He brought out props to the House floor: An egg and a pan.
“This is your brain,” DeLuca said as he cracked an egg into a frying pan. “There it is folks. This is your brain on drugs. So today for my family, for my children, for your family, of your children, and especially for African American and Hispanic communities, vote no.”
State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, immediately stood in support of the measure and to “refute some of the what I call nonsense that we heard including wasting eggs that should have been used to make a souffle or something instead of making a ridiculous point that has been outdated for over 30 years.”
The House Black Caucus was split on the issue with some speaking in favor, others in oppositions.
State Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, said he at first didn’t trust the process, but now he does.
“This is so important to me,” Evans said. “I’ve seen what happens when an individual is restricted. I’ve seen the men cry when they lose their jobs because they didn’t want to put on there they had a felony conviction. I’ve seen the young folks who were rejected for financial aid because they have a background because they had possession of marijuana and I’ve seen the destruction that’s caused to a generation.”
He said he’s happy to join others in rolling back the War on Drugs.
State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, opposed the bill.
“Our community is still being used for people to make a profit and to get rich and give nothing back to the community,” Flowers said.
The measure passed 66 to 47. It passed the Senate previously and will now be sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Pritzker called the bill a historic step for the state.
“The state of Illinois just made history, legalizing adult-use cannabis with the most equity-centric approach in the nation,” the governor said in a statement Friday afternoon. “This will have a transformational impact on our state, creating opportunity in the communities that need it most and giving so many a second chance. In the interest of equity and criminal justice reform, I look forward to signing this monumental legislation.”
The governor also praised the sponsors of the bill and others who worked to get the legislation passed.
Article by Greg Bishop with The Center Square. For more TCS visit https://www.thecentersquare.com/illinois