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Illinois Democrats on Tuesday will hold a hearing in Chicago to question how Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration handled a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease at a state-run veterans home in Quincy.
The 2015 outbreak of the water-borne illness and the administration’s response to it have been under scrutiny following a WBEZ-FM 91.5 report that found that the administration delayed telling family members about the outbreak until its later, fatal stages. More than a dozen residents have died from the disease since 2015.
The issue has the potential to be politically problematic for Rauner, who is seeking re-election this year. Tuesday’s hearing will provide a ready-made backdrop for Democrats to question the governor’s leadership.
Rauner initially had pushed back against criticism of his handling of the situation, saying the state is taking “aggressive action” to keep residents safe at the Quincy Veterans’ Home, but declining to say if he bears any moral responsibility.
Last week, Rauner checked himself into the veterans home for an extended stay to “gain a more thorough understanding” of operations there. The governor’s critics cast the move as a stunt and too little too late, but as of the eve of Tuesday’s hearing, he was still there.
Monday night marked Rauner’s sixth night at the facility, according to spokeswoman Patty Schuh. Diana Rauner joined the governor over the weekend, Schuh said.
In a statement issued late Friday, Rauner’s team said he was “eating, sleeping and visiting with our residents, learning about the culture” of the veterans home. The statement also said he was “carefully reviewing the water management plan” at the facility. (Kim Geiger)
What’s on tap
*Mayor Rahm Emanuel will break ground on artist residences in the Washington Park neighborhood.
*Gov. Rauner has no public events scheduled.
*Jesus “Chuy” Garcia will announce an endorsement at a morning news conference. He’s running to replace U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez in Congress.
*U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will visit Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia and Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont.
*A Cook County Board panel is scheduled talk about water affordability and the Tribune’s “The Water Drain” series.
*Two City Council committees will meet.
*A hearing in a challenge to assessor candidate Fritz Kaegi’s petitions is scheduled.
From the notebook
*Silverstein fight continues: A challenge to state Sen. Ira Silverstein’s re-election bid will spill into Wednesday, after a hearing officer OK’d testimony from a handwriting expert in a last-ditch effort to keep the Chicago Democrat on the ballot by reviving petitions signatures that had been deemed invalid.
Silverstein is facing four primary challengers in his re-election bid. He’s running again after a victims’ rights advocate accused him of sexual harassment as she was working with him to pass a bill.
A preliminary examination of Silverstein’s petitions raised questions about enough of the signatures to leave him about 45 short of the 1,000 needed to make the ballot.
On Wednesday, Silverstein’s lawyer presented about 130 affidavits attesting to the validity of individual signatures that had been called into question. A hearing officer was convinced by only 26 of them.
Silverstein’s lawyer, longtime election attorney James Nally, called the hearing officer’s high rate of dismissal unusual, and he asked to bring in a handwriting expert. They’re due back for a second hearing Wednesday afternoon. (Kim Geiger)
*Kaegi hearing today: Asset manager Fritz Kaegi appears to have more than enough petition signatures to continue his bid for Cook County assessor and get on the March primary ballot.
A hearing in the matter is scheduled for Tuesday, even as examiners continue to go through his petitions to verify signatures.
As of late Monday, examiners had determined that at least 12,189 signatures on Kaegi’s petitions were valid, with about 1,500 more left to review, according to the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.
That sets him up to have well in excess of the 8,236 valid signatures required to get on the ballot.
Even so, challengers could go through with the hearing on Tuesday, after they alleged that a dozen petition circulators who collected hundreds of pages of signatures did not give their proper home addresses. They want those pages thrown out. (Hal Dardick)
*Durbin, Duckworth file brief in sanctuary case: Illinois U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth joined with 43 other Democratic members of Congress to file a brief in Chicago’s ongoing sanctuary city case with the federal government.
The city brought the lawsuit in August to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions the U.S. Justice Department from blocking violence prevention grants to cities that did not adopt the Trump administration’s push to crack down on people living in the country illegally. A preliminary injunction was granted in U.S. District Court in Chicago in September and the federal government has appealed.
In the brief, the Democratic lawmakers say, “Congress neither imposed these conditions” on the grants “nor authorized the attorney general to impose them.”
“Congress designed the … program as a formula grant to ensure that states and localities would have maximum flexibility in determining how to best improve public safety in their respective jurisdictions,” the lawmakers say.
Other Illinois Democrats joining in support of the legal brief include Reps. Mike Quigley and Luis Gutierrez of Chicago, Jan Schakowsky of Evanston and Brad Schneider of Deerfield. (Rick Pearson)
*College Dems form PAC: The College Democrats of Illinois have formed a new political action committee, setting the stage for a new level of activity by the group.
Jack McNeil, the group’s president and a DePaul University student, said in a statement that “the opening of this PAC, along with a stable financial council of party activists to go along with it, will allow a real investment in our ground game in targeted races.”
McNeil said the group’s current 27 chapters at Illinois higher education institutions is expected to expand to 35 by November. (Rick Pearson)
*Pot vote put off?: A trio of state lawmakers pushing to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Illinois suggested 2018 might not be the year to ask for a vote.
State Sen. Heather Steans told the Chicago Tribune editorial board on Monday that supporters hope to unveil a new version of their legalization legislation by early February. The Chicago Democrat said backers will assess how much support they have among lawmakers, but she noted that legalizing marijuana might be a vote some want to avoid in an election year.
“We really suspect that it’s not this session we’ll take a vote, we’re really just going to have a new bill that we think is closer,” Steans said.
She made the pitch alongside Democratic Rep. Kelly Cassidy of Chicago and Republican Rep. Jason Barickman of Bloomington, saying the state should tax and regulate weed because many thousands of Illinoisans are already using it illegally.
What we’re writing
*Garry McCarthy schedules campaign fundraiser as he mulls challenging Mayor Emanuel.
*Rauner vetoes school funding cleanup bill, citing concerns about private schools being shut out.
*Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown ordered to improve public access to electronic records within 30 days.
*Chicago school closing plan violates contract, teachers union says.
*Chicago activists seek answers from Ben Carson after delay of segregation rule.
*Walgreens sees $200 million in savings from GOP tax cut.
*Obama presidential center parking garage to go underground.
What we’re reading
*Bears pick former arena league quarterback as next coach.
*A girl-power moment for Medieval Times, where a woman has the lead for the first time.
*Climate change is turning 99 percent of these baby sea turtles female.
Follow the money
*Democratic candidate for governor Chris Kennedy reported nearly $400,000 in contributions. More than $250,000 came from Kennedy himself.
*Track Illinois campaign contributions in real time here and here.
*Mueller likely to want to interview Trump.
*About 200,000 Salvadorans could face deportation.
*Romney was treated for prostate cancer.