Quick hits: Illinois news in brief for Monday, March 2, 2020

Federal lawsuit filed over Illinois’ automatic voter registration program

After hundreds of people who said they weren’t U.S. citizens were registered to vote, and other problems from implementing the state’s Automatic Voter Registration program, a federal lawsuit has been filed against state officials.

The group called Just Democracy Illinois said the rollout of the program has been riddled with problems and is violating the National Voter Registration Act.

The Secretary of State Office has said it has fixed errors. But lawmakers have criticized several other state agencies for not fully implementing the program.

Proposal to change licensing requirement advances in Springfield

A proposed bill to allow individuals practicing barbering, cosmetology, hair braiding or nail technology without getting a state license, as long as it is publicly posted they aren’t licensed, has been filed at the statehouse. Opponents say unlicensed practitioners make the public less safe.

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn said research suggests occupational licenses don’t affect public health and safety and his bill would allow people to earn a living.

New proposal could change how schools report data to state

A new proposal in Springfield from state Rep. Jeff Keicher could change the way schools report their data to the state officials.

Keicher wants to study how data collection could be streamlined, ways to eliminate inefficiencies in the system to figure out which metrics are still needed and which might be outdated.

He said the end result of a review could lead to savings and help push down property taxes.

Public health officials announce another COVID-19 case in Illinois

A patient in Illinois is hospitalized in isolation and presumed positive to have COVID-19, according to public health officials.

A joint statement from local, county and state public health officials in Chicago said the positive test the state conducted will have to be confirmed by the CDC.

Illinois had two other cases of COVID-19, the new strain of coronavirus that originated in China in December, but those two have recovered completely.

Pritzker appoints new Illinois Department of Agriculture leader

A former downstate lawmaker who left the legislature to work in the administration of Gov. J.B. Pritzker got a promotion.

Jerry Costello II left the Illinois House last year to assist in the Department of Natural Resources. Pritzker tapped him to head the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

That top spot was left vacant after former Director John Sullivan resigned.

Sullivan revealed in January he received a controversial 2012 email about a “rape in Champaign” and ghost payroll practices, but back then didn’t forward it to authorities.

Tax amnesty program brings in $240 million

More than 63,000 taxpayers came forward and settled tax debts during Illinois’ 2019 tax amnesty program, which captured $240 million in revenue for the state.

The program allowed people who owed tax debts dating from July 2011 to June 2018 to pay their back tax bills without penalty.

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