Meet our newest legislators. This week the House Republican Caucus welcomed Nicole La Ha and Brandun Schweizer to its ranks. The two new legislators were appointed to fill vacancies created with the retirements of State Representatives Michael Marron and John Egofske.
On Wednesday, Nicole La Ha took the oath of office to become State Representative of the 82nd District, which includes the communities of Willowbrook, Burr Ridge, Willow Springs, Darien, Western Springs, Homer Glen, and Lemont.
La Ha was elected to the Village of Homer Glen Board of Trustees in 2020. During her tenure, she demonstrated a strong commitment to lower property taxes and financial responsibility. La Ha is also Mrs. America 2022 and has a history of impactful advocacy for community accessibility and inclusive parks for children with disabilities. Her personal experiences as the mother of a differently abled child have fueled her commitment to inspire a more inclusive world. Learn more about Rep. Nicole La Ha.
Brandun Schweizer was sworn into office as the State Representative of the 104th District on Thursday. His District includes parts of Vermilion and Champaign counties, in east central Illinois.
Schweizer is a retired United States Marine Corps Master Sergeant. He served as an Intelligence Chief, Equal Opportunity Advisor, and Recruiter during his 21-year career. After his retirement from the USMC earlier this year, Schweizer began working for the City of Danville as a Code Enforcement Inspector. He is also a member of IBEW labor union. Schweizer and his wife, Amy, reside in Danville with their three children. Learn more about Rep. Brandun Schweizer.
Former Chicago alderman Edward M. Burke found guilty on federal corruption charges. As a half-century member of Chicago’s City Council and ward committeeman, Alderman Burke was known as a power broker. Ed Burke became chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, with veto power over the spending, the taxes, and many of the contracts entered into or ordered by Illinois’ largest city. From the days of former Mayor Harold Washington onward, Burke was a much-feared symbol of Chicago power and authority.
Corruption allegations swirled around Alderman/Ward Committeeman Burke for decades. Perhaps because of partisan party loyalties, a string of Cook County State’s Attorneys turned a blind eye to these allegations. Finally in January 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) stepped in. Burke’s indictment on numerous federal charges related to pervasive personal and office corruption was the start of a lengthy, four-year pretrial process. In late 2023, former Alderman Burke was finally put on trial. The jury found him guilty of racketeering, attempted extortion, and other public corruption charges on Thursday, December 21.
House Republican Leader Tony McCombie released the following statement after former Alderman Ed Burke, the longest-serving Chicago City Council member, was convicted on numerous criminal charges, including racketeering and extortion:
“Illinois has weak ethics laws and House Republicans have been pushing for significant reforms for years. Democrats’ complacency with the status quo continues to cheat and take advantage of Illinois families by the very government who says it is there to protect them. House Republicans have filed common sense proposals and are more than willing to have bipartisan discussions to close loopholes and enhance penalties for those who violate the public’s trust.”
Illinois State Police registration deadline nears. The registration process is mandated by the “Protect Illinois Communities Act,” enacted by a partisan, lame-duck Illinois General Assembly in January 2023.
Under this mandate, persons who owned so-called “assault weapons,” and possessed them in Illinois prior to January 10, 2023, are required to go to the State Police website and fill out a form that lists their name, address, and the weapons and firearm-related items being registered. The registration process must be completed by midnight, December 31, 2023. Unregistered items could, down the road, be subject to confiscation by law enforcement. Firearms owners are raising questions about the deadline date and the overall process, including scrutiny of the fact that even as the deadline approaches there continue to be unanswered questions as to precisely which firearms and items must be registered. Firearm owner groups assert that the State Police have not yet fully answered these questions.
Many Illinois firearm owners continue to oppose the act of mandatory registration of firearms with law enforcement, and statistical evidence indicates that many of these weapons have not yet been registered with the State Police as the December 31 deadline approaches. Furthermore, the “Protect Illinois Communities Act” forbids Illinoisans from taking new possession of banned firearms and related items if they were acquired after January 10, 2023, the effective date of the new Act. The State Police are preparing new rules to govern their oversight of these weapons on and after New Year’s Day, 2024. These controversial new rules have not yet been filed with the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State, an essential step in raising the text of the rules to the status of enforceable “administrative law.”
While the registration deadline approaches and the rules process moves forward, the “Protect Illinois Communities Act” continues to face legal scrutiny. Many Illinois gun owners believe that the Act is an unconstitutional violation of their rights under the Second Amendment. Plaintiffs have filed several lawsuits at both the state and federal level against the new Act; ultimately one of the cases is likely to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has refused to issue a preliminary injunction against the Illinois law in the federal lawsuits, and has declined to take up the state case. The refusal to issue a preliminary injunction in the federal cases does not touch the question of whether they will accept the appeal and issue a final decision on the constitutionality of the Illinois law. The appeals process continues.
DCEO makes $25 million in B2B NewBiz grant money available. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will accept NewBiz applications from small businesses that launched themselves in Illinois in 2020 and 2021. This was a period of time during which the ongoing pandemic, and shutdown orders issued by Gov. Pritzker, made starting up an Illinois private-sector enterprise very difficult. The B2B NewBiz grant program is slated to generate the kind of economic foundation for a challenged new business that would have been generated, under better circumstances, by startup cash flow.
Small business owners who are interested in this opportunity are encouraged to reach out to DCEO through community navigators, which are private-sector social networking offices that have an affiliate relationship with DCEO. These community navigators are oriented to provide grant-application and other assistances to minority-owned, rural, veteran, and woman-owned businesses. With respect to Year 2020 startups, separate-premises small businesses, and persons operating small businesses from their homes, are both eligible to apply for and receive DCEO grants. With respect to Year 2021 startups, when the pandemic was seen as easing, only separate-premise small businesses are eligible. The application window for this grant cycle opened on November 30, and the window will close on January 11, 2024. This is likely to be one of the final rounds of post-COVID-19 spending in Illinois.