In the almost sixty years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, women and people of color are still deprived of wages equal to their male and white coworkers. Illinois has recently made strides to level the playing field by passing amendments to their Equal Pay Act requiring large companies to disclose demographic data on their employees and sign compliance statements regarding pay discrimination. Going forward, Chicago is considering requiring employers to post salary ranges on their job postings, while the Biden Administration has been fighting to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. The future of equal wages in America depends on the results of these crucial legislative battles.
Illinois has historically been at the forefront of gambling regulations in the United States. Chicago, on the other hand, has resisted sanctioning formalized gambling locations until recently. Following the passage of the 2019 Gaming Expansion Law, Illinois expanded gambling across the state and Chicago is planning to open its first casino by 2025. Chicago is also concurrently debating an ordinance that would allow sports gambling within the city’s stadiums and arenas.
Starting May 1, 2021, Accessory Dwelling Units (“ADUs”) will be legalized in five pilot areas around the city of Chicago. Chicago faces a declining population, a slow homebuilding pace, and an affordable housing gap of approximately 116,000 units. These ADUs are intended to increase access to affordable housing, but the ordinance isn’t expected to make a large impact on Chicago’s affordable housing gap.
The latest COVID-19 relief package passed on March 11, 2021 by Congress provides a total of $1.9 trillion in mandatory funding, program changes, and tax policies designed to address the enduring economic damage caused by the pandemic. About 15% of the total package will be allocated to states and local governments to tackle budgetary issues associated with the pandemic with very few strings attached. The State of Illinois and the city of Chicago are in the process of assessing the relief package and formulating plans as to how they will allocate the funds.
Across the United States, metropolitan areas are experiencing a net loss of about 36 million trees every year. That amounts to about 175,000 acres of lost tree cover. Meanwhile, Chicago loses more than 10,000 trees every year due to, in part, inefficient tree trimming and management. Fewer trees means less shade and worse air quality. In response, several Chicago City Council Aldermen are proposing the Urban Forestry Advisory Board (“UFAB”) in order to assess current policies and propose innovative ways to protect Chicago’s tree population.
The current franchise agreement between the City of Chicago and Commonwealth Edison (“ComEd”) was signed in 1992 by Mayor Daley and is set to expire at end of 2020. Since 1990, ComEd has generated approximately $60.7 billion in revenue in Chicago alone. In July 2020, Chicago officials announced the results of a feasibility study regarding a potential municipal takeover of ComEd’s electric utility infrastructure. In the same month, ComEd executives admitted to having orchestrated an eight-year bribery scheme where they made payments to Public Official A, later revealed as Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, in return for political favors.
In response to the rise in teenage vaping, and given the link between respiratory issues and COVID-19, the Chicago City Council (“City Council”) passed an ordinance on September 9, 2020 banning the sale of flavored vaping products. Flavored vaping products are targeted to youth and can also mislead them to believe that flavored products are safer than other tobacco products. The City Council originally proposed banning all flavored nicotine products, but after pressure from small business owners, they decided to only pursue a ban on flavored vaping products.
In the wake of mass protests across the country, many cities are grappling with how to hold their police accountable. In Chicago, the Committee on Public Safety has been debating two proposals, the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) and the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC), for the past few months. Both ordinances would supersede the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) with a fully elected board of community members. The key difference between the two proposals is that CPAC would be independent of the mayor’s office and would have complete hiring and firing control of Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers and the police superintendent, while the GAPA ordinance would only give the board power to make recommendations to the mayor and the police superintendent. The Chicago City Council will debate and vote on these ordinances in the coming months.