Illinois gubernatorial candidates J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, state senator Daniel Biss, and Tio Hardiman during the Progressive Gubernatorial Forum on October 8 Credit: Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Welcome to the Reader‘s morning briefing for Thursday, October 19, 2017. 

  • Biss, Kennedy, and Pritzker express support for legalizing marijuana in Illinois

At a Democratic debate Tuesday night gubernatorial candidates Daniel Biss, Chris Kennedy, and J.B. Pritzker all expressed support for legalizing marijuana in Illinois. “There are reasons to legalize marijuana, and I favor legalization, but the reasons are less to do with revenue than they are with safety and criminal justice reform,” Pritzker said. Kennedy is “for full decriminalization” but would like to see studies on the drug’s safety and effects from the state’s universities. Biss believes that the punishments minorities face for marijuana possession are too harsh. “It’s not just that they wind up with harsh consequences for a few weeks or months, there is a record that follows them for the rest of their life,” the state senator said. The candidates will face off in the March 2018 Democratic primary.  [Tribune]

  • Durbin confronts Jeff Sessions on his failure to help Chicago solve its gun violence issues

Illinois senator Dick Durbin and U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions got into a heated discussion over Chicago’s sanctuary city status at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday. Durbin told Sessions that undocumented immigrants are not causing Chicago’s gun violence problems, despite Sessions’ frequent protestations. Sessions has threatened to withhold Department of Justice grants from all sanctuary cities, including Chicago. “You want to cut back these funds because you want the city of Chicago to play the role of immigration police on federal civil laws,” Durbin said. “Mr. Attorney General, you are not helping us solve the murder problem in the City of Chicago by taking away these federal funds. . . . And the superintendent says your pursuit of undocumented immigrants has little or nothing to do with gun violence in Chicago.” Sessions argued back saying, “How does that make the city of Chicago safer when you don’t remove criminals who are illegally in the country?” [Sun-Times]

  • Emanuel unveils his 2018 city budget plan

Mayor Rahm Emanuel officially unveiled his 2018 budget plan before the City Council Wednesday, saying that Chicago is “on firmer financial footing than we have been in many years.” The $8.6 billion budget plan, which is approximately $289 million more than the 2017 plan, includes an increased ride-sharing fee and a hike on cell phone taxes, but it will improve both city finances and services like 911, according to Emanuel. “The days of fiscal smoke and mirrors are behind us,” the mayor said. [DNAinfo Chicago]

  • Rauner is backing a new University of Illinois innovation center in the South Loop

The University of Illinois wants to build the Discovery Partners Institute, a “public-private facility for conducting specialized research in an array of fields, including computing and big data, food and agriculture, and health and wellness,” in the South Loop, according to the Tribune. The project has Governor Bruce Rauner’s backing and will be formally announced Thursday. Collaborating with the U. of I. at Urbana are Northwestern University and the University of Chicago on institute. “What if we formed more collaboration with those universities and created a dense network of students, faculty and research; and encouraged them to form businesses, connect them to the university, and give them the rights and ability to take their research and their technology and commercialize them, and develop products?,” Rauner said in an interview. “We thought that would be a major magnet to keeping and growing the Illinois economy.” [Tribune]

  • Bulls player Bobby Portis suspended for eight games after punching teammate

Chicago Bulls player Bobby Portis has been suspended for eight games for punching fellow player Nikola Mirotic. Mirotic was admitted to the hospital with a concussion and facial fractures. He is expected to miss at least four to six weeks of games due to the injuries, according to ESPN. “Both players owned responsibility in the incident itself,” Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said Wednesday. “But only one player threw a punch. And that punch connected and for us that is inexcusable. It’s not who we are. It disappoints us in terms of what happened, and because of that we’ve determined that we’re going to suspend Bobby for eight games.” [ESPN]

  • Art Institute of Chicago responds to Trump claims: We have the real Renoir

The Art Institute of Chicago has responded to President Donald Trump’s past claims that he owns the real version of the museum’s famous painting, Two Sisters (On the Terrace) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Art Institute spokesman Amanda Hicks said simply that the museum is “satisfied that our version is real.” Trump biographer Tim O’Brien says Trump claimed to have the original version of the painting in his private jet, and the (fake) painting was last seen hanging in his Trump Tower penthouse in late 2016. “I’m sure he’s still telling people who come into the apartment, ‘It’s an original, it’s an original,'” O’Brien told a Vanity Fair podcast. “He believes his own lies in a way that lasts for decades. He’ll tell the same stories time and time again, regardless of whether or not facts are right in front of his face.” [Tribune]