Legislative News from State Rep. Tom Weber

Rep. Weber Hosts Successful Rx Collection Event

Thanks to everyone who came out for my recent prescription medication drop-off event. I partnered with the McHenry County Sherriff’s Department for the three-hour event, and together we collected nearly 100 pounds of expired or unused pharmaceuticals that constituents had sitting in their homes.

My deepest appreciation goes out to Sherriff Bill Prim, Officers Creighton and Campos-Cruz, and Sherriff’s Department volunteers Tip and Beth for helping out with the event. We had a steady stream of cars and everyone appreciated the opportunity to safely dispose of their unused or expired drugs.

Events like these take potentially deadly pharmaceuticals out of the hands of those who would intentionally or unintentionally abuse them. We filled three large boxes, and the items collected were safely incinerated, which also removed any possibility that they could find their way into the water supply via landfills or sewers.

Rep. Weber Tours Fox Waterway Agency Operations

On September 15 I had an opportunity to tour the operations of the Fox Waterway Agency, and see how silt from the bottom of Fox Lake and the channels of the Chain O’ Lakes are naturally filtered to ensure a cleaner lake. Fox Waterway Agency Executive Director Joe Keller showed me around and explained the process used to naturally pump the water through the filtration system.

The Fox Waterway Agency was created to improve and maintain the Fox River and Chain O’Lakes public waterway for recreational uses, to restore environmental quality, manage flooding, promote tourism, and enhance the quality of life along the waterway for residents and visitors. Its jurisdiction includes the 15 interconnected lakes, which comprise the Fox River Chain O’Lakes, and 30 miles of the Fox River stretching from the Wisconsin State line to the Algonquin Dam, as well as their tributaries and over 40 miles of navigable channels.

I’m shown in this photo with Joe Keller and he is showing me the location where vacuumed silt moves through retention areas to be naturally filtered before the cleaner water is pushed back into the Chain O’ Lakes. Click here to learn more about this valuable agency and the work they do in this region.

House Special Investigating Committee Meets for First Time

Upon learning that a Special Investigating Committee has been formed to look into allegations surrounding Speaker of the House Michael J. Madigan, I issued the following statement last week:

“The facts in the deferred prosecution agreement as agreed to by ComEd implicate the Speaker of the House in a massive bribery scheme that took place over almost a decade. The allegations are incredibly serious and it is our duty to investigate those claims thoroughly. This alleged pay-to-play scheme is exactly why Illinoisans have lost faith in state government. We must use every tool at our disposal to identify corrupt politicians and take appropriate disciplinary actions.”

The Special Investigating Committee includes three House Republicans and three House Democrats, and the Republican members of the committee held a press conference ahead of the first meeting. The panel met for the first time on Thursday, September 10 to discuss their responsibilities and determine a path forward. Committee members entered six exhibits into the record during the first meeting; the petition which created the Special Investigating Committee, the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), the federal subpoena issued to Madigan’s office, formal charges, and the Committee’s request to seek witnesses to voluntarily testify and provide factual information from individuals and entities to help the Investigating Committee.

The committee will gather testimony and determine whether the Speaker has acted in a manner unbecoming of a Representative or has committed a breach of public trust. This Committee does not require the proof of a crime or proving each element of every crime in order to prove conduct unbecoming. If reasonable grounds are found to exist, a 12-member Select Committee on Discipline will be formed for a formal House “trial”. If the Select Committee on Discipline makes a determination that discipline should occur, it would take 71 votes to reprimand or censure Speaker Madigan, and 79 votes to expel Speaker Madigan from the House of Representatives.

Former ComEd Vice President is Latest to Face Federal Criminal Charge

Fidel Marquez, the former utility executive, was charged with criminal conspiracy committed in the Northern District of Illinois. The charge was worded – Marquez allegedly conspired “with others known and unknown” – so as to enable federal law enforcement to continue their investigation under conditions of confidentiality. ComEd, as a corporation, has already agreed to cooperate with law enforcement in their scrutiny of ties between the electric utility and “Public Official A,” who has been widely identified as Speaker of the House Michael Madigan.  

The charge indicates that Marquez was allegedly a “fixer” for these ties, and that they could have extended to the compilation of a series of packages of jobs, contracts and money, paid for by ComEd shareholders and ratepayers. ComEd allegedly put these assets at the disposal of “Public Official A” and his senior aides.  These persons could then use these assets as fuel for a political machine. The charge against Marquez includes an allegation that, for nearly a decade, he coordinated this cooperative political arrangement on behalf of ComEd.

In July 2020, ComEd and the office of the U.S. Attorney agreed to place the company, one of Chicago’s largest business firms, in the status of “deferred prosecution.”  As part of this status, ComEd agreed to proffer $200 million and to cooperate with prosecutors.  If the terms of the deferred prosecution agreement are met, this sum of money could be converted into a fine against the company, and other elements of a possible federal prosecution of ComEd could be dropped.  In a typical deferred prosecution case, the perpetrator party offers full cooperation to investigators and prosecutors as they continue to scrutinize a third party.  

Application Window for 2nd Round of Business Interruption Grants Opens Sept. 17

Applications for the second round of Business Interruption Grants open today (Thursday, September 17). The Business Interruption Grant (BIG) program is a $636 million program to provide economic relief for small businesses hit hardest by COVID-19.

This grant program leverages federal funding provided by the CARES Act to help offset COVID-19 related losses for Illinois small businesses. Funding may be used to help businesses with working capital expenses (including payroll costs), rent, utilities, and other operational costs.

In August, an initial round of funding for BIG grants was directed to restaurants, personal care services, gyms and fitness clubs, and other businesses. The first round provided a $49 million boost for businesses at every corner of Illinois – with grant funds deployed to roughly 2,800 businesses spanning 400 towns and cities, and in 78 counties all throughout the state. Grants averaged $17,000, and the majority of funds were deployed to businesses in economically distressed communities.

For this second round of applications, a total of $220 million will be made available for small businesses, but with a particular focus on businesses downstate, in disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs), and for heavily impacted industry and regions. The second wave of funds includes the following provisions to ensure a wide distribution of funds geographically and across business type:

  • Heavily Impacted Industries – $60 million for heavily distressed industries, such as movie theatres, performing arts venues, concert venues, indoor recreation, amusement parks, and more.
  • Disproportionately Impacted Areas – $70 million set aside for DIAs, defined by zip codes identified by the General Assembly for communities that are most economically distressed and vulnerable to COVID-19.  A map of DIAs is shown below.
  • Downstate Communities – DCEO has committed to ensuring that at least half of all remaining funds, totaling more than $100 million, are reserved for businesses in downstate and rural communities of Illinois.
  • Priority Businesses– Apart from the $60 million for heavily impacted industries, applications from the following types of businesses will be prioritized for review for remaining funds:  businesses directly affected by regional mitigations implemented by the state or local governments, independently owned retail, tourism- and hospitality-related industries including accommodations, and more.
  • Agriculture – $5 million of the remainder of funds will be set aside for livestock production disruptions. Applications will be available in the coming weeks from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.
  • Grants and Loan Forgiveness for Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan recipients – As authorized by the General Assembly, DCEO will offer grants for businesses that have incurred eligible costs to offset loans received under the Illinois Small Business Emergency Loan program.  This round of loan forgiveness and grants will go to businesses that have received loans or remain on the wait list and the program will sunset going forward as DCEO and its partners focus on making BIG awards.

Businesses outside the categories listed above are also eligible to apply and receive funding under the program but may be reviewed later than priority businesses. All businesses will receive a decision on their grant application within four to six weeks of application submission. Click here for more information and to access the application.