Tim Mapes, key aide to former Speaker Madigan, convicted in federal court. The former chief of staff to the office of the Speaker was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. The charges were related to false answers that Mapes voiced to a federal grand jury when he was being questioned under oath. The false answers were closely related to a parallel criminal inquiry mounted by federal investigators against Mapes’ former boss, Chicago’s Michael J. Madigan.
Extensive testimony, over a multi-day trial held at the federal courthouse in Chicago, generated a verdict that former Chief of Staff Mapes knew he was giving false answers and did so knowingly in a manner that created criminal liability for himself. Legal commentators speculated that Mapes’s false answers were related to the alleged desire of the former aide to cover up the alleged pattern of Madigan criminal conduct that was being investigated by the grand jury.
In a related federal case, Mapes’ former boss, erstwhile Illinois House Speaker Madigan, has become the target of an initial and, then, a superseding federal criminal indictment alleging active leadership in a years-long, multi-element pattern of influence peddling and lawmaking corruption. The Madigan proceedings are in extended pretrial mode. A key element of the Madigan pretrial process is the determination of who will testify against the former head of the Illinois Democratic Party, and what testimony they will provide.
Former chief of staff Tim Mapes could face a maximum prison term of 25 years for the crimes of which he was convicted last week.
House Republican Leader Tony McCombie reacted to the verdict by renewing the Republican caucus’ call for ethics reform.
“We have had too many glaring reminders that we must eliminate bad actors, self-serving politicians, and corruption from our statehouse, and this is just another verdict to prove it,” McCombie said. “It would be appalling if Speaker Welch did not move forward legislation House Republicans have filed to address ethics and instill public trust in our government. While I strongly believe reform should start in the House, if Speaker Welch continues to stall on reforming the corrupt practices of this state, I hope President Harmon and the Senate will take the lead.”
August marks conclusion of the bill signing cycle following the 2023 spring session. Lawmakers have introduced 6,717 bills since taking their oaths of office in January 2023, with 4,129 bills filed in the House and 2,588 measures submitted to the Senate as of August 24, 2023. The vast majority of these bills were filed for consideration in the 2023 spring session.
Only a bit more than 8% of these bills have become law as of the August conclusion of the 2023 spring session signing cycle. When Gov. Pritzker concluded his 2023 summer bill-signing cycle, 561 measures had been signed as Public Acts. More than six thousand Illinois legislative measures were either rejected by the General Assembly, ignored, or folded into other bills. Some combination Public Acts contain the texts of two or more spring 2023 bills.
Some of the bills signed into law this summer went into effect immediately, while others have a “delayed effective date” that will swing into action on January 1, 2024, or some other date. Some bills are being held over for further consideration in the fall veto session and beyond. In some cases, a key stakeholder will ask that a bill be held to enable further discussion of a key issue. Persons looking for information on where any bill they may be following is in the process, or information on the effective date of a new law, can consult the Illinois General Assembly website.
Organized retail theft an increasing threat to Illinois bricks-and-mortar retailers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates the cost of Illinois retail theft at more than $4 billion per year. The initial figure of $2 billion, representing the value of the goods directly lost to theft, must be more than doubled to cover the ancillary costs of retail shrinkage. These include the higher operating costs required to pay workers to expose themselves to a high-crime environment, insurance costs related to high-theft environments, maintenance costs to operate video and other security systems, and many other related expenses.
Rob Karr of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) agrees with observers who are seeing growing ‘flash mob’ retail theft activity. Many Illinoisans are now familiar with video scenes of insta-gatherings which overwhelm a store. Karr reports that IRMA’s investigation has found that many of these thefts are organized behind the scenes by criminal gangs. The flash-mob theft not only overwhelms store personnel, but enables the gathering of a large quantity of desirable goods. The goods can be shipped by fast freight to a faraway customer who does not ask too many questions. International freight globalization is putting old-fashioned theft ‘fences’ into the shade. IRMA’s Karr spoke to WTTW-TV on Monday, August 21.
Much of Illinois enjoys relief from drought conditions; challenges continue in some subregions. Inadequate rainfall in late spring/early summer 2023 threatened Illinois agricultural production and impacting key milestones of field crop maturity. A combination of high heat and adequate-to-drenching rainfall in many sections of Illinois has improved the soil conditions reported by many farmers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Farmers report 73% of Illinois fields have “adequate” or “surplus” topsoil moisture, more than enough to enable corn and beans to move to the next level.
Farmers say that 64% of Illinois cornfields are now showing “good” or “excellent” condition, with corn dough reaching 80%. This is in line with the five-year average. For soybeans, 65% of the bean fields are “good” or “excellent,” with 86% of the crop setting pods, slightly above the five-year average.
Not all sections of Illinois are doing well right now. Precipitation reports indicate continued inadequate rainfall in some parts of northern, northwestern, and western Illinois. The USDA last week added McDonough, McHenry, and Mercer counties to the list of 35 counties where farmers may qualify for emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency with respect to cash flow situations arising from the 2023 growing season.
Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort opens near Carterville. The new casino license was granted to provide gaming and entertainment experiences to a market that will compete with casino operations in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and adjacent Show-Me State locations. The Walker’s Bluff license was granted pursuant to the gaming expansion bill enacted in June 2019 by the Illinois General Assembly. First day of operation was Friday, August 25.
The Walker’s Bluff Casino Resort will center on a 113-room hotel, 650 slot machines and electronic gaming devices, 14 table games, and a sports lounge. As a sports-betting state, Illinois allows people to watch and bet on sporting events as they are taking place. A show lounge will offer opportunities for local and regional entertainment events.
First-ever legal gambling casino in city of Chicago nears opening. The Bally’s-branded facility, which will offer slot machines and table games, is classified as a “temporary” facility pending the construction of a massive nearby hospitality complex. Operators of the temporary Chicago casino, located in the historic Medinah Temple at Wabash and Ohio Streets on Chicago’s Near North Side, say their current target is to open on Saturday, September 9.
Prior to opening, Illinois regulatory officials connected with the Illinois Gaming Board will conduct a final inspection of the much-anticipated property. The General Assembly enacted legislation in 2019 to legalize closely-regulated gambling activity in the city of Chicago, and development work commenced soon after enactment of the law. The Medinah casino floor will contain about 750 electronic gaming positions, and will offer 50 table game experiences. As the Medinah floor opens, Bally’s will turn increasing attention to its development project adjacent to the North Branch of the Chicago River. A former newspaper printing-plant industrial site will be transformed, starting in 2024. Bally’s Chicago has announced plans to redevelop the substantial site into a Las Vegas-style nightspot complex, theater cluster and mega-casino.
July 2023 unemployment figures for Illinois. The unemployment figures for July reflected overall economic recovery from the job-destroying effects of the 2020 pandemic and economic slowdown, with Illinois employers supporting more than 6,153,000 nonfarm Illinois payroll jobs. This was up 11,200 jobs from June 2023, and reflected an increase of approximately 89,700 jobs from the number supported one year earlier.
However, Illinois’ economic and job-creating performance continued to lag behind that of the U.S. as a whole. Figures compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate a nationwide unemployment rate of 3.5% in July 2023. The Illinois July 2023 figure of 4.5% was 100 basis points behind the nationwide figure. Neighboring states also posted numbers better than Illinois. The comparable jobless rate in Indiana was 3.3%; unemployment was counted at 2.7% in Iowa and in Missouri; the same number was 2.6% in Wisconsin, reflecting an economic status that was 190 basis points better in the Badger State than in Illinois.
Within Illinois, July 2023 unemployment was highest in zones oriented towards traditional manufacturing activities. The benchmark jobless rates for July were 6.6% in Danville, 6.9% in Decatur, and 6.8% in Rockford.
DU QUOIN STATE FAIR
Southern Illinois’ State Fair opened quietly on August 25; will be celebrated through Labor Day, September 4. The DuQuoin State Fair celebrates the music and fun of Southern Illinois. Opening ceremonies were severely cut back this year. In changes related to the extreme heat conditions in Illinois, the opening-day Du Quoin State Fair Parade had to be canceled. Organizers pledged to bring back the much-loved parade next year.
Other aspects of the DuQuoin State Fair were expected to go forward as planned. The DuQuoin Fair will operate five cooling centers, including the Southern Illinois Center, the Expo Hall, and the Harness Club Room on the second floor of the Grandstand, for persons looking for shelter from the heat. Triple-digit heat indexes can be highly significant for persons with a wide variety of health conditions.