Newsletter: New Year, New Laws And Taxes In Illinois

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “congestion fee” is an attempt to dissuade ride-share customers from taking single-passenger trips to and from downtown Chicago on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot's "congestion fee" is an attempt to dissuade ride-share customers from taking single-passenger trips to and from downtown Chicago on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., according to the Chicago Tribune. Richard Vogel / AP Photo
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s “congestion fee” is an attempt to dissuade ride-share customers from taking single-passenger trips to and from downtown Chicago on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot's "congestion fee" is an attempt to dissuade ride-share customers from taking single-passenger trips to and from downtown Chicago on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., according to the Chicago Tribune. Richard Vogel / AP Photo

Newsletter: New Year, New Laws And Taxes In Illinois

Good afternoon, it’s Tuesday! And it’s New Year’s Eve! Here’s a live look at celebrations from around the world. And here’s what you need to know. Here’s what you need to know today. (PS: You can have this delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.)

1. Hundreds of new laws take effect at midnight

And we’re not just talking about legal cannabis. One new law forbids “watching or streaming video” while driving, another ends the 10-year statute of limitations on major sex crimes and yet another mandates that many public restrooms have baby changing stations regardless of gender designation. [CBS Chicago]

New taxes and fees are coming as well, many that will affect drivers. A tax increase on parking in lots and garages will help fund Gov. JB Pritzker’s “Rebuild Illinois” infrastructure program. Meanwhile, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is raising parking meter rates downtown by $0.50 an hour and adding a $2.28 “congestion fee” to dissuade single-passenger trips with ride-sharing companies to-and-from downtown Chicago.

Expect property tax increases as well, to fund Sunday hours at city libraries and budget increases at Chicago’s park and school districts. [Chicago Tribune]

2. Protesters storm the U.S. Embassy in Iraq

Thousands of protesters and militia fighters chanted “Death to America,” threw rocks and demanded U.S. troops leave Iraq from outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad today. Some broke into the heavily guarded compound — the largest embassy in the world — and lit fires inside. They did not enter the main buildings.

The protests follow American airstrikes on Sunday that killed 24 members of an Iranian-backed militia. The U.S. says the airstrikes were a response to the death of an American contractor last week. [New York Times]

President Donald Trump blamed Iran for the death of the contractor and for orchestrating an “attack” on the embassy. [Twitter]

3. Gov. Pritzker pardons thousands with low-level cannabis convictions

Gov. Pritzker today granted more than 11,000 pardons for individuals with low-level cannabis convictions dating back decades.

WGN reports that, “in a matter of hours, anyone over 21 can purchase and possess up to 30 grams legally, thus, the expungement of previous convictions for that same amount.” State’s attorneys can also consider vacating cases involving up to 500 grams of marijuana. [WGN]

Meanwhile, the Chicago Police Department says it will monitor dispensaries on Jan. 1, with the primary goal of preventing street robberies. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. Impeachment rules still under debate

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine became the second Republican senator to question Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan to coordinate with the White House during President Trump’s impeachment trial.

“It is inappropriate, in my judgment, for senators on either side of the aisle to prejudge the evidence before they have heard what is presented to us, because each of us will take an oath, an oath that I take very seriously to render impartial justice,” Collins said in an interview with Maine Public Radio. [New York Times]

Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate, meaning they can only absorb a few defections while negotiating ground rules for the upcoming impeachment trial. Those procedural votes require a simple Senate majority, while convicting and removing the president requires 67 votes. [NPR]

5. Chicago’s murder rate falls for third straight year, CPD says

As of Monday, the Chicago Police Department has tallied 491 murders in 2019, down from 579 in 2018, 670 in 2017 and nearly 800 recorded in 2016.

“This is a milestone for us, it’s not success though,” said CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Department records indicate that arrests have been made in 101 murder cases that originated in 2019. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Metra, CTA and Pace are offering free rides tonight. [NBC Chicago]

  • President Trump said he would sign a “Phase One” trade agreement with China on Jan. 15. [USA Today]

  • Deadly wildfires caused thousands of Australians to flee to the shorelines. [CNN]

  • This was a record decade for the stock market and Wall Street. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

Last chance for year-end lists!

Here are some of the best stories of the year from WBEZ’s race, class and communities desk including WBEZ’s most-read article of 2019: The story of how a local Filipino family’s matriarch was deported this year. [WBEZ]

And here’s the best work from WBEZ’s education team, which covered not only Chicago’s long teachers strike, but also prom send-off parties, the fate of the Common Core curriculum and how hundreds of city schools experience acute teacher vacancies. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good …

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Andrew writes:

“I’m only drinking wine on the closest Sunday to the end of the month.”

Send us your resolutions for 2020 and we might share them here.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year! We’ll see you on Jan. 2.