Update from S4: News and Politics from Illinois and around the USA

With just over two weeks until the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential primary vote in the country, candidates are scrambling to differentiate themselves and appeal to voters. Last night’s Republican debate was as combative as ever, with Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz dominating much of the fight. In case you missed the action, here’s a quick recap of the highlights in the New York Times. According to the Washington post and a slew of other outlets, Trump, Cruz, and Rubio ‘won’ the debate. Read the Washington Post’s winners and losers take here and a New York Times roundup of pundit opinions here

Also in the Post: Hillary Clinton is not doing nearly as well now as she was during her 2008 campaign. National polls are fickle, the reporter points out, and polls tend to change dramatically after early state primary results are out. But Clinton is not as far ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders as many expected her to be by now. Read more.


Sen. Rand Paul’s bill to subject the Federal Reserve to Government Accountability Office (GAO) auditing failed to garner enough of a majority to pass. Sen. Paul and other supporters of the bill are critical of the Fed’s control over interest rates, while opponents fear the consequences of the Fed’s losing its independence. What is interesting in politicalterms is that Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent senator making a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, is a co-sponsor of the bill. Read more in the Washington Post.


In a move that does nothing to appease the coal industry, the Obama administration announced it will pause the process of approving new leases for coal mining on public lands. The Interior Department is conducting an extensive review of the coal leasing program, specifically to determine if the current lease and royalty rates companies pay the government accurately reflect the market value. The administration plans to stop new leases until the review is complete. Read more in the New York Times.


Gov. Rauner seems to be pursuing an even more aggressive reform agenda than he was last year. He declared today that he and the large state worker union AFSCME are at a contract negotiation impasse, he refuses to fund higher education operations and grants without seeing spending reforms from universities, and he will not consider bailing out Chicago’s public schools unless Mayor Emanuel acts on the governor’s Turnaround Agenda. 

Former US Attorney Dan Webb, who has led previous investigations into Cook County corruption, will lead the investigation into Chicago’s Law Department following the recent scandals. He will examine civil rights claim proceedings, make recommendations, and refer cases of possible misconduct to the city Inspector General. Read more in the Tribune.


Meanwhile, video of another police shooting was released yesterday. This one was three years ago, and the video is not nearly as clear as the one from the Laquan McDonald case. Nonetheless, its release and the shooting itself are just as controversial. Read more in the Tribune.


Mayor Emanuel is considering a new tax on tobacco and cigars to pay for a summer school program for students considered at risk of dropping out. The tax would raise an estimated $6 million. Some question the wisdom of adding new programs to the city’s offerings when Chicago Public Schools cannot pay for its current programs. According to the Sun-Times, “the answer is part education and part political.” The mayor needs all of the political good will he can muster, and targeting education aid to inner-city youth is the administration’s latest strategy. Read more.


The mayor also proposed raising the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. The Chicago suburb of Evanston passed a local ordinance to do just that in 2014. Read more.


In the heated fight for the role of Cook County State’s Attorney, the Democratic party officially endorsed Kim Foxx over incumbent Anita Alvarez and fellow challenger Donna More. More is trying to spin the endorsement to her advantage, saying voters want someone seen as independent from established officials. Read more in the Tribune.