Senate Week in Review: March 31-April 4
Springfield, Ill. – As Senators approach an April 11 deadline to move Senate Bills to the Illinois House, State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said lawmakers spent much of their time in Senate Committee or voting on legislation on the Senate floor to advance the measures out of the Chamber. However, despite speculation Democrats were planning to quickly move a controversial plan through the Legislature to tackle the City of Chicago’s pension crisis, that measure stalled in the Illinois House of Representatives.
This week Republican lawmakers also unveiled a comprehensive legislative package of bills to help jump start Illinois’ economy and create jobs, and Senate GOP lawmakers took Gov. Pat Quinn to task for using a legal loophole in order to avoid Senate scrutiny of his state agency director appointees.
Quinn abusing executive privilege with appointments
Senate Republican legislators this week pointed to evidence Gov. Quinn has been abusing his executive privilege to maneuver around the Illinois Constitution. Sen. Rezin explained that when the Governor nominates an individual for a position, the Illinois Constitution sets a clock of 60 session days for action by the Senate or the person is automatically confirmed.
Recently, facing an April 4 deadline for two of his agency directors, Quinn withdrew their names from nomination on March 27. He then resubmitted their names on March 28, thereby restarting the 60-day period again, which in effect gives them another year before they have to face Senate scrutiny. Senate Republican say setting aside any concerns they may have about the appointees, they believe the Governor is abusing the integrity of the executive appointment process.
The two directors currently up for reappointment are Julie Hamos, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and Manuel Flores, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
An amendment to Senate Bill 2014 has been filed that will close the loophole and prevent the 60-day clock from restarting by simply withdrawing an appointee and reappointing them.
Senate Republicans are also sponsoring a resolution calling for the modification of Senate Rules so the 60-day clock will not be allowed to be reset. The Caucus will also be asking the Attorney General to give an opinion on the meaning of the 60-day clock, and to clarify the legal effect of any actions taken by these appointees during the time period the original appointment messages were pending.
Chicago pension bail-out halted in House
It appeared as though Democrats were quickly moving a plan through the Legislature this week to tackle the City of Chicago’s pension crisis; however, in the face of opposition from lawmakers of both parties, the General Assembly adjourned without advancing the bill.
Senate Bill 1922 is backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and would increase property taxes in the city as a way to pay down some of the city’s growing pension obligations; it would also require members of the municipal employee and laborers’ retirement systems to pay more into the pension systems and would reduce cost of living benefits.
However, Republicans argue that when taking into account the property tax reduction program proposed by the Governor during his March 26 budget address—which would be funded by all Illinois taxpayers—that proposal would more than offset the cost of the suggested increase. They pointed out that property owners in Chicago already benefit from significant property tax breaks compared to downstaters. By using Quinn’s new tax credit, which would be financed through an extension of the Democrats’ 67 percent income tax increase, downstate and suburban residents would be subsidizing the costs associated with Chicago’s pension bail-out, while also giving Chicago residents greater tax relief.
“This legislation is essentially asking all Illinois taxpayers to pay for Chicago’s mismanagement of their pension funds,” Sen. Rezin said. “Gov. Quinn announced a property tax credit as part of his budget plan last week that will more than offset the new property tax the City of Chicago is suggesting to help shore up its woefully underfunded pension system. Not only is this yet another tax increase at the hands of Illinois Democrats, this measure relies on all state taxpayers to rectify the city’s mismanagement of its pension fund. Tax hikes seem to be the Democrats’ only answer to the problems facing the state, which only highlights the dysfunctional state government we have in Illinois.”
Senate, House GOP unveil jobs plan
House and Senate Republicans came together this week to advance a comprehensive legislative package of bills to help jumpstart the Illinois economy and create jobs.
Noting that last week Democrats proposed three different tax increases as a way to generate new revenues for the state, GOP lawmakers pointed out that these proposals do nothing to help the nearly 570,000 individuals collecting unemployment in Illinois to find jobs. In response, Republicans sought input from business leaders with the goal of encouraging business development and job growth in Illinois at very little cost to taxpayers.
The lawmakers said Illinois needs to steer clear of tax hikes and focus on policies that will stimulate economic development, encouraging revenue growth through the creation of jobs. They also noted that a key component of the jobs plan would be to establish primary causation for workers’ compensation to lower costs and make Illinois’ employers more competitive with neighboring states.
Other provisions of the Illinois House and Senate Republicans Jobs Plan include:
• Make the research and development tax credit permanent.
• Authorize DCEO to establish 50 new Enterprise Zones.
• Reduce the cost of setting up an LLC in Illinois from $750 (currently) to $39. (This
proposal was approved in the Senate and is now before the House.)
• Expand the reach of science, technology, engineering, and math education
opportunities in Illinois by creating STEM academies within the confines of local
Rezin says Senate Republicans were shut out of education reform legislation
On April 2, state Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) held a press conference to introduce Senate Bill 16 – a measure to reform education funding in Illinois. Sen. Rezin expressed frustration due to the fact that no Republicans were involved with crafting the legislation or the press conference after having worked together on the Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee.
She noted that last year, Senate Republicans issued an in-depth report concerning the gross inequities in state funding for education. As a result, the bipartisan advisory committee was created to examine education funding issues with the goal of education funding reform.
“I was honored to sit on the committee and as a caucus, we were proud to have been the impetus that led to the committee creation,” Sen. Rezin said. “From our meetings over the course of the last several months, both sides have recognized that reforms are needed, but we did not agree in every area.”
She continued to say that she was unaware of the legislation introduced on April 2 and did not know of the press conference until after the press conference had concluded.
“I found that to be extremely disappointing after a year of working together on the advisory committee,” she said.
“We are still analyzing the legislation, but at first glance, there are several areas that I agree with and support and then other areas we need to continue to work on. It is my hope that we will not be shut out of the process of working on this legislation as we have been at its outset, and that we can come to some agreements to pass reform that will make education funding more equitable across the state.”
Red Cross reminds Illinois disaster survivors of available tax relief
Illinois citizens impacted in 2013 by spring flooding or fall tornadoes may qualify for tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service. After disaster declarations for individual assistance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the IRS announced that affected taxpayers in Illinois will receive tax relief.
Citizens in the path of November tornadoes this fall who reside or have a business in the counties of Champaign, Douglas, Fayette, Grundy, Jasper, La Salle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Vermillion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will and Woodford counties may qualify for tax relief. Please visit www.irs.gov or use this link to get more details.
Also, floods ravaged through Illinois last spring accompanied by straight line winds and other severe weather. Individuals who reside or have a business in Brown, Bureau, Calhoun, Clark, Cook, Crawford, DeKalb, Douglas, DuPage, Fulton, Grundy, Henderson, Henry, Kane, Kendall, Knox, Lake, LaSalle, Livingston, Marshall, Mason, McDonough, McHenry, Peoria, Pike, Putnam, Rock Island, Schuyler, Stark, Tazewell, Warren, Whiteside, Will, Winnebago and Woodford counties may qualify for tax relief. Please visit www.irs.gov or click http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Relief-in-Disaster-Situations to get more details.
Finally, in anticipation of another wet spring, please take a moment to download the American Red Cross’s latest Flood app to ensure your family or business is ready! Visit your App Store today!
Illinois Senate passes legislation in anticipation of April 11 deadline
Senate lawmakers passed more than 100 bills this week, sending them to the House of Representatives for review. House lawmakers will either approve the bills and send them to the Governor for final consideration, or they can amend the bills and send them back to Senate legislators for concurrence on those changes. Sometimes Senate bills get held in the House and do not advance at all. You can see a full list of legislation passed by the Senate and Senate committees at the Senate Republicans “Senate Action” page.
Armed Violence (SB 3101): This is an Initiative of the DuPage County State's Attorney to change the armed violence statute by adding "instrument" in the definition of a "Category III weapon." The current language is out of date and does not reference weapons that criminals actually use today. In addition, only items that do not have a "legitimate purpose" can be considered category III weapons (like a bludgeon) under the armed violence statute. Under a recent Second District court decision, a mag light type flashlight was used to fracture a victim's face and a metal studded belt was used to severely beat a child but did not qualify as Category III weapons under the statute.
The problem is that "legitimate" objects such as a baseball bat, tire tool, or iron pipe are often more dangerous than many of the outdated objects currently listed.
Marijuana and Epilepsy (SB 2636): Adds seizures (including those characteristic of epilepsy) to the list of "debilitating medical conditions" that medical marijuana may be used to treat. Requires Department of Public Health to develop rules for the issuance of a registry ID card to persons under the age of 18 who suffer from seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy.
In committee, the stated purpose of this legislation was to authorize the use of CBD Oil for children with Epilepsy or conditions that cause seizures. This legislation succeeds in that authorization, however, it contains no limits on which forms of marijuana may be prescribed to a child.
Big 10 Feasibility Study (SB 3526): Requires the Board of Higher Education to examine the possibility of another Illinois school becoming part of the Big 10 Athletic Conference
Amish Photo Exemption (SB 3302): Allows for a religious exemption to certain state licensing acts that ordinarily require a photo ID card. Anyone seeking religious exemption to the photograph requirement must furnish a copy of IRS Form 4029 and shall submit fingerprints with their applications.
LLC Lower Filing Fee (SB 2776): Reduces filing fees for Limited Liability Companies from $500 to $39; this would be the lowest initial fee in the country, but place Illinois more in line with neighboring states. Also reduces the cost to file a restated article of organization for domestic LLC's with multiple business interests from $750 to $59.
Urgent Care (SB 3506): Authorizes use of the terms “urgent” or "urgi" for facilities who provide care at a walk-in medical clinic. Current law prohibits these terms from being used in the name of the facility.
Watercraft Seizure (SB 3434): Allows for the seizure and forfeiture of a watercraft used with the knowledge and consent of the owner in the commission of specified offenses involving the operation of a boat or other watercraft under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other intoxicating compounds.
Facility Closures (SB 822): Provides that when a mental health facility closes and is sold, the Department of Human Services may use to 25% of the proceeds, if necessary, for infrastructure. From the remainder of the net proceeds, 40% must remain in the facility's geographical area. If another mental health facility closes and is sold within one year, 20% of the proceeds must be used to provide services in the geographical area of that facility. The remainder of the proceeds may be spent anywhere in the State.
Abuse of Elderly/Disabled (SB 2955): This is designed to prevent heirs who have abused an elderly or disabled person from inheriting that person’s estate. It provides that the property, benefit, or other interest of an abused or exploited elderly person or person with a disability shall be distributed as if a person who is found civilly liable for financial exploitation of the individual died before the elderly or disabled person.
Definition of Beer (SB 3103): Adds to the definition of "beer" by adding beverages that are brewed or fermented wholly or in part from malt products. This is an effort by the industry to bring the Illinois definition of beer up to the Code of Federal Regulation's definition of beer, which includes a beer as one that is "...brewed or produced from malt, wholly or in part..." There has been a significant increase in products that fall under this category and this bill would address malt based ciders.
State Fairgrounds Foundation (SB 2903): Authorizes an Illinois State Fairgrounds Foundation as a not-for-profit foundation through Dept. of Agriculture that can solicit and accept funds to support, the state’s Springfield and DuQuoin state fairgrounds. An amendment requires that projections financed by the Foundation fall under the Prevailing Wage Act.
Valet Licensing (SB 3135): Allows municipalities to license valets. Chicago is seeing a problem with counterfeit parking receipts from valets who, instead of parking cars in an off-street lot or garage, are parking vehicles in metered spaces using the counterfeit receipts. This lowers the valet’s costs, and when a ticket is written, it can be thrown away and the owners of the car later receive the fine for not paying the parking ticket.