Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs

With help from Maria Carrasco

Happy Thursday, Illinois. Lets do Clubhouse Friday at 4 p.m.! Subjects: Illinois redistricting, the 2021 legislative session, and 2022 political intrigue.


Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, photographed March 17, 2021, has filled his office with family photos, legislative mementos, and Cubs memorabilia. | Shia Kapos photo

SPRINGFIELD House Speaker Emanuel Chris Welch, whos here for a one-day in-person legislative session, has been on a public relations campaign talking about his priorities as speaker.

Its a noticeable change of approach since the House gavel was passed to him in January. Where predecessor Michael Madigan avoided reporters, Welch takes questions at least for now. Madigan didnt have a Twitter handle, while Welchs aides have told him to pull back on social media. The speakers office has also been changed to pay homage to his family, career and the Cubs (hes a lifelong fan, while Madigan sported White Sox memorabilia).

During spring break in April, the new speaker will hold a town hall to help educate constituents about the omnibus criminal justice reform package Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed late last month. Its part of an education tour by Black Caucus members to counter a misinformation campaign waged by law enforcement groups who say the law will put more criminals on the street.

When you can look to Wisconsin and see someone was accused of double-murder walking the streets because he was able to come up with millions of dollars in jail and hes accused of double murder and someone in Cook County is locked up on a low-level offense because they cant afford $500, wheres the justice in that? Welch told Playbook in a one-on-one interview, referring to the Kyle Rittenhouse case.

Welch believes Illinois law to end cash bail could become a national model once data can be shown to prove its success. The law doesnt go into effect until 2023.

And when asked whether the pushback to changing the criminal justice system suggests the country is losing momentum after a national wave of activism last summer, Welch counters. His election as speaker and the passage of the Black Agenda items didnt happen by accident,” he said. “It happened because we went from protest to progress.

Whats happening today: Welch is focused on getting new bills to the floor. Up until now, House members have been meeting remotely to go through the 4,000 bills proposed for the session. Welch assures they are on target to get every bill assigned to a committee by March 26, the guidepost to keep the legislative process on track. Weve done a pretty good job considering the volume, he said.

A Capitol surprise: House Democrats (not the Rs) will be greeted with gifts commemorating the new speaker when they return to their seats in the Capitol today.


Watch for Sen. Tammy Duckworth to make a powerful speech today when she addresses a House subcommittee hearing on discrimination and violence against Asian Americans since the Covid-19 pandemic and following the Atlanta spa shootings this week that killed eight people.

PLAYBOOK GOT A PREVIEW: Duckworth, the daughter of an American Vietnam veteran and an immigrant with Chinese-Thai heritage, calls the attacks an unthinkable tragedy after a year of unfathomable cruelty in which the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were wrongly blamed for the coronavirus.

Families have had rocks thrown at them nurses have been spit on heroes, frontline workers, hospital staff have been blamed for Covid-19 denied service treated as other-than as less-than simply because they are members of the AAPI community, according to excerpt of the speech shared early with Playbook.

Duckworth also references the killings in Atlanta. There is nothing nothing we can say today that will piece back together the shattered lives of those victims loved ones… But what we can say and say clearly… unambiguously is that blaming the AAPI community for a public health crisis is racist and wrong, she plans to say. In a very literal sense, Asian Americans helped build this country laying the railroad tracks, tilling the fields, starting the businesses and picking up the rifles necessary to develop and defend the nation we love.

TO WATCH: The Illinois senator will speak alongside Democratic Reps. Doris Matsui of California, and Judy Chu and Grace Meng of New York at the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, which will be livestreamed. The hearing is slated to start at 9 a.m. CT (10 a.m. ET).


Lightfoot decries Atlanta hate crime and says police will boost patrols, by Sun-Times Fran Spielman, Stefano Esposito, and Madeline Kenney

Bill would require Asian American unit in history classes, by Daily Heralds J.J. Bullock.

Have a tip, suggestion, birthday, anniversary, new job, or any other nugget for Playbook? Get in touch: [email protected]

A message from the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs:

PBMs work with Illinois employers and the Medicaid program to keep health care more affordable for millions of Illinoisans and are poised to save consumers and the State $39 billion over the next 10 years. Today, as Illinois faces a global pandemic and multibillion budget shortfall, now is the time for legislators to strengthen, not limit, the PBM tools that employers, consumers and the State rely on to manage costs and ensure access to medicines. Learn more.


At Harold Washington Library at noon to kick off Chicago Restaurant Week.


At the Thompson Center at 11:30 a.m. for a Covid-19 update


Where’s Toni

Presiding over a 10 a.m. virtual meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners



The Illinois Department of Public Health

on Wednesday reported 17 new deaths and 1,655 new confirmed and probable cases of coronavirus disease. Thats a total of 20,988 fatalities and 1,213,765 cases in Illinois. The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests from March 10-16 is 2.2 percent. Chicagos positivity rate

is at 2.9 percent.


Pritzker expected to expand vaccine eligibility starting April 12 to all Illinois residents 16 and older, but Chicago will still set its own rules:The governors vaccine move comes just days after Democratic President Joe Biden called on governors across the country to open eligibility to all adults

by May 1. Pritzker last week expressed confidence in the states ability to meet Bidens deadline, report Tribunes Gregory Pratt and Dan Petrella.

… Heres whos eligible next in Chicago for a vaccine, by WBEZs Kristen Schorsch and Becky Vevea.

Migrant farmworkers face vaccine eligibility woes:Many states have been slow to make migrant workers eligible, which has put 3 million people at risk for Covid, reports POLITICOs Liz Crampton.


IRS delays tax-filing deadline until May 17:A number of lawmakers and outside groups have been urging the IRS to give taxpayers and practitioners more breathing room, reports POLITICOs Bernie Becker.

GLASS HALF FULL. GLASS HALF EMPTY: In the states first redistricting hearing, legislators heard from experts explaining options available to Illinois to draw the new legislative map for 2021 without having Census figures in hand by the June 30 state deadline. None of the options are perfect, said Wendy Underhill of the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. If any of them were great, then all of the states wouldnt be so anxious to wait for the Census data. Theyd go ahead and use some other source to start with, she said during her hearing testimony. But where Democrats saw opportunity in those options using data from other research, for example, Republicans saw failure. Democrats seem hell bent to proceed with a map by June 30. In doing so, theyre doing it over the objections of the very witness that they assembled for todays hearing, Sen. Jason Barickman, of Bloomington told Playbook after the three-and-a-half hour hearing. He and fellow Republicans want a bipartisan committee to redraw legislative maps the final option if Democratic leaders miss their June 30 deadline. Capitol Illinois Peter Hancock has more from the hearing


This is not Christmas, Mendoza warns of federal relief money:Sometimes the Legislature hears that theres new money, and they already have many ideas of how theyd like to spend it. But that money is essentially spoken for. It will be put towards paying back our borrowing. The most important thing to keep in mind here is that when we talk about these new dollars coming into Illinois, were not getting all of that $7.5 billion in one hit, she tells MarketPlace.

2020 suspensions of video gaming shrink local budgets:The State takes a larger chunk of video gaming terminal income. But local governments have seen a greater impact on their budgets, depending on how they use the gaming revenue, write NPR Illinois Chase Cavanaugh.

Illinois jobs report reveals hospitality sector lost 216,500 jobs in 2020:Also, Colectivo Coffee workers will vote this month on unionization, report Eaters Naomi Waxman and Ashok Selvam.

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Clean Energy Jobs Act advances to House floor:The Illinois House Energy and Environment Committee advanced a pair of energy bills that would overhaul the states energy industry to the House floor Monday. House Bill 804, otherwise known as the Clean Energy Jobs Act, or CEJA, would put Illinois on track to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. House Bill 2640, known as the Path to 100 Act, also passed the committee Monday night. It would increase the cap on energy bills from about 2 to 4 percent to provide funding for renewable projects, avoiding what its advocates call the solar cliff, by Capitol News Grace Barbic.

Proposal would allow betting on Illinois college sports: Illinois athletic directors have opposed allowing betting on home state teams. As a potential compromise, Rep. Mike Zalewski is trying to put in a rule that says universities can petition the state to remove their teams off the sports books if they provide proof their players are being harassed, reports WCIAs Cole Henke.

House Republicans hammer out platform they pledge will reshape, re-find and reimagine Illinois:Part of the GOPs Reimagine Illinois platform, the focus is on four common sense areas: rooting out corruption in the statehouse, instituting fiscally responsible leadership, growing jobs and the states economy and ensuring public safety, by Sun-Times Rachel Hinton.

Mandatory K-12 sex education bill advances in House:Illinois currently has a law that leaves the option of teaching sex education up to the discretion of local school districts, but House Bill 1736, dubbed the Responsible Education for Adolescents and Children, or REACH Act, would make it mandatory, by Capitol News Peter Hancock.

Sen. Bennett reintroduces measure to prevent pharmacies from hiding drug prices:Under Senate Bill 1682, pharmacies would be required to post a notice informing consumers that they may request current pharmacy retail prices at the point of sale and must also provide customers directly with the retail price of a prescription drug, both in writing and electronically prior to purchase, via WAND/17.

Covid-19 housing bill aims to provide additional support to renters, homeowners:Since the outset of the pandemic, Rep. Delia Ramirez has been working to introduce legislation that would provide additional support to renters, landlords and homeowners who are unable to make rent or pay their mortgage due to financial hardship during the pandemic, reports One Illinois Tim Kirsininkas.


After lengthy debate, aldermen sign off on mayors plan to spend or reallocate $108.5M in federal relief funds:The nearly two hours of debate in the City Councils Budget Committee was clearly shaped by the recent rebellion over Lightfoots decision to spend $281.5 million from a previous round of COVID-19 relief on police payroll and benefits, by Sun-Times Fran Spielman.

Just how white is Chicagos union for cops? Here are the numbers:The investigation, which included reviews of the lodges newsletters, city contracts and annual tax filings over the years, found 108 people who have served on the unions board since 2000. Just seven of them are Black, according to CPD records, by WBEZs Chip Mitchell.

The return of Chicago baseball (and fans) brings new hope to businesses near ballparks,reports WBEZs Michael Puente.

Cook County judges and spouses offered special chance at Covid-19 vaccine at Loretto Hospital:The same hospital that wrongly vaccinated ineligible workers at Chicagos Trump Tower also provided the chance for scarce Covid-19 shots earlier this month to more than a dozen Cook County judges and to each judges spouse or a second person of their choosing, according to an email obtained by WBEZ, reports WBEZs Dan Mihalopoulos and Kristen Schorsch.

… Also getting vaccines: Ineligible employees at Chicagos Trump Tower, hospital exec says,by Tribunes Gregory Pratt and Stacy St. Clair

Ald. Sophia King wants to restrict house museums and its creating a ruckus:Theres outrage from existing or planned operators, including projects honoring Black history icons Emmett Till, Phyllis Wheatley, Lu Palmer and Muddy Waters, reports Sun-Times Maudlyne Ihejirika.

What happened to forever open, clear? Free parking ending in popular Montrose Harbor area:If the city moves forward as planned, the summer picknickers and winter sledders, the beachgoers, fishermen, birders, boaters, dog owners, soccer players and others will now have to ante up if they wish to park their car on the street near the beach or harbor, reports Sun-Times Mark Brown.

Principal survey: Students in a third of citys reopened classrooms have virtual teacher:The Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, a voluntary membership group, said 195 of the citys 415 schools participated in a survey that found 17% of classrooms in majority white schools have remote teachers, while 35% in majority Latino schools and 47% in majority Black campuses do, reports Chalkbeat Chicagos Mila Koumpilova.

Salt may be a savior for roads, but it imperils Chicago-area water and wildlife: Some communities and agencies are working to change that, reports Tribunes Leslie Bonilla.

Theres a debate about whether to hold nighttime Welles Park ball games: The Welles Park Parents Association is behind the plan to add lights to the field, allowing for night games and practices for youth baseball and softball players. But some nearby residents are worried about noise, traffic and light pollution, according to Block Clubs Alex V. Hernandez.


Chicago Police officer who teaches use of force charged in off-duty shooting:Officer Kevin Bunge is charged with aggravated battery with a firearm and aggravated discharge of a firearm for allegedly shooting at two unarmed Latino men who were sitting in a parked car on the citys North Side on Dec. 11, 2020. The two men fled the scene and then called 911 to report the shooting, by WBEZs Patrick Smith.


Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas is reporting that her office is sending checks totaling $12.5 million to homeowners who called the Black and Latino Houses Matter phone bank she hosted with ABC/7 March 11-17. Staffers from the Treasurers Office, fluent in Spanish, Polish, Chinese and English helped homeowners find refunds, apply for property tax exemptions and avoid the tax sale of delinquent taxes, Pappas office said in a statement.


With Metra ridership down 91.5%, railway adding new air purification system to restore confidence:Government stimulus funding is helping the company financially as it saw a 5.5 million fewer passenger trips during the month of January compared to pre-pandemic ridership, by Sun-Times Mari Devereaux


Ad for Underwood: The House Majority Forward has launched a $280,000 digital ad campaign

showcasing Rep. Lauren Underwood after she voted yes on the American Rescue Plan Act, a law that is broadly popular with voters. The 30-second spot, titled Road to Recovery, began airing Wednesday on cable states in her 14th Congressional District and will continue through Tuesday.

Another challenger to Kinzinger:Leona Di Amore has announced her candidacy in the 16th Congressional District in the 2022 election. Di Amore owns Holistic Health Offices in Naperville, reports MyStateline. Di Amores campaign motto, love wins


HAPPENING TODAY – PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW WITH CONGRESSMAN LEE ZELDIN: The GOP has not won a statewide election in New York in nearly two decades. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), an ally of former President Donald Trump, is one of several Republicans considering a challenge against embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Join Playbook co-authors Tara Palmeri and Ryan Lizza for a conversation with Rep. Zeldin to discuss a potential gubernatorial run and how he is working with Democrats in Congress. REGISTER HERE.


State Rep. Andre Thapedi (32nd) has officially resigned from the General Assembly, which means his seat will be filled by an appointment. Democratic party leaders with the most votes in his district are Ald. Derrick Curtis (18th) and Roderick Sawyer (6th), both of Chicago. Details on the appointment hearing to come.

Opinion: Richard Porter says new leadership would fix state. We need to rethink what government does and restructure accordingly, writes Porter, who represents Illinois on the Repubican National Committee, and is considering a run for governor.


The GOPs political nightmare: running against a recovery,by POLITICOs Michael Grunwald

Panic buttons and bulletproof vests: Fearful lawmakers stock up on protection,by POLITICOs Daniel Payne

How the bitter political fight over painkillers could derail Biden’s FDA pick,by POLITICOs Adam Cancryn

Who cares what Schumer thinks about if Cuomo should resign?Asks POLITICOs John F. Harris


Michael Merchant has been named executive director of the Illinois Commerce Commission. Merchant fills the vacancy left by Christy George, who went on to become the first assistant deputy governor for Budget & Economy at the Office of the Governor. Merchant is the first African American man to hold the role of executive director at the commission, and he will be responsible for supervising staff and overseeing management of the agencys budget. There are approximately 204 employees at the ICC.


Trump supporter replacing Limbaugh:Dan Bongino, a conservative podcaster and staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, has been tapped to replace Rush Limbaugh on WLS 890-AM, the Cumulus Media news/talk station, by media reporter Robert Feder.


WEDNESDAYs ANSWER: Congrats to former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, former city Treasurer Kurt Summers, and One Chicago Fund VP Lynn Lockwood for correctly answering that David Wilhelm was former Mayor Richard M. Daleys campaign manager before he moved to the national scene, helping Bill Clinton and eventually becoming chair of the Democratic National Committee.

TODAYs QUESTION: Who was Rod Blagojevich talking to when he infamously said Ive got this thing and its f-in’ golden? Email to [email protected]


A message from the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs:

Employers in Illinois provide prescription drug coverage for nearly 6.7 million Illinoisans. In order to help keep care more affordable, employers work with pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), who deploy a variety of tools to reduce prescription drug costs and help improve health outcomes. PBMs also work with the Illinois Medicaid program in the same way to help control costs. In fact, PBMs are poised to save consumers and the State $39 billion over the next ten years. Today, as Illinois faces a global pandemic and a multibillion budget shortfall, now is the time for legislators to strengthen, not limit, the tools that employers, consumers and the State rely on to manage costs and ensure consumers can access the medicines they need. Learn more.


State Sen. Melinda Bush, Duckworth staff assistant Genie Melamed, policy pro Allison Schraub, and PR pro Ofelia Casillas.