Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Consumer prices rose 0.9 percent in June, according to data released Tuesday by the Labor Department, heating up from the previous month. The consumer price index (CPI), a closely watched gauge of inflation, increased to an annualized rate of 5.4 percent last month amid a summer rush of economic activity. Economists expected the CPI to rise by roughly 0.5 percent in June, according to consensus estimates, after an increase of 0.6 percent in May.
June’s monthly increase in the CPI was the largest recorded since a 1-percent increase in June 2008. The annualized rise in inflation is the highest since another 5.4-percent increase in August 2008. Energy and gas prices were way up, and food costs are increasing too.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital*
Governor Pritzker Headed to White House for Meeting with President on Bipartisan Infrastructure Plan
Governor Pritzker is one of three governors and five mayors who will join President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday for a bipartisan meeting on infrastructure. The gathering comes as President Biden continues to rally support for a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, even as questions remain about how to pay for the massive spending bill.
Governor Pritzker was scheduled to attend the 2 p.m. meeting in the Roosevelt Room at the White House along with four fellow Democrats — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Mayors Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio; Kate Gallego of Phoenix; and Michael Hancock of Denver. They will be joined by three Republicans — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and Mobile, Alabama, Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
President Biden will emphasize common ground found in $1.2 trillion deal agreed upon by a bipartisan group of senators. Proponents say the plan would stimulate the economy by pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the construction of roads, bridges and highways, while also expanding transit and providing high-speed internet access in rural areas.
“The president will underscore that infrastructure has long been a bipartisan issue, and that there’s agreement across the aisle on the need to make investments in our economy and middle class that will create millions of jobs and help us outcompete the rest of the world in the 21st century,” the White House said in a statement. “The President will talk about his economic vision, which focuses squarely on growing the economy for communities like the one he grew up in Scranton — and the ones represented by the mayors and governors joining him.”
For Illinois’ governor, the trip offers an opportunity to demonstrate strong ties to the Democratic White House ahead of an expected 2022 reelection bid. The meeting also will give Pritzker the chance to reference his own six-year, $45 billion “Rebuild Illinois” infrastructure program to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, university buildings, state facilities and other infrastructure.
Pritzker has said the state’s program, which was funded largely by an increase in the state gas tax, means Illinois will immediately have the money available to match federal funds made available through Biden’s infrastructure plan.
The chances of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure package passing the 50-50 U.S. Senate could rest largely on how the massive program is funded. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has said he might support the bipartisan deal, but that the funding mechanism cannot add to the national debt.
Wednesday’s meeting comes as the Biden administration has embarked on a public-relations campaign of sorts in support of the plan. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is expected to visit Chicago on Friday to highlight what the program could mean for the region.
Biden’s push for a massive infrastructure initiative has Illinois officials dusting off old transportation studies and writing wish lists of long-sought projects, including a $2.3 billion extension of Chicago’s Red Line south to 130th Street, more than 600,000 new water lines across Illinois and a $3 billion total remake of North DuSable Lake Shore Drive among scores of other projects.
GOV. PRITZKER ANNOUNCES $8 MILLION EXPANSION OF APPRENTICESHIP PATHWAYS IN ILLINOIS
Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced an $8 million expansion of the Apprenticeship Illinois program. Through a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), DCEO will expand innovative and high-quality apprenticeship programs to prepare Illinoisans for jobs in high-demand industries. Through the expansion, the State aims to serve an additional 750 apprentices across key industries, with plans to reach underserved populations as well as industries heavily impacted by COVID-19.
The State of Illinois will leverage $2 million in USDOL funding under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and $6 million of additional funding under the USDOL State Apprenticeship Expansion, Equity and Innovation grant program, to develop innovative new pathways in communities throughout the state while ensuring these training programs are aligned with current labor market/force needs. The State will also seek to boost capacity of existing apprenticeship pathways in all sectors which are offered in partnership with hundreds of employer-led navigator partners across the state.
“During this unprecedented time for workers and companies, the investments we are making today to grow apprenticeships will help more Illinoisans get back to work in well-paying jobs, while developing strong talent pipelines for the future,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “From day one, my administration has focused on expanding workforce training, like apprenticeships, so that residents, regardless of where they live, can enter 21st century career pathways. With these investments, hundreds of additional Illinoisans will be able to gain the skills they need for successful careers as we continue to build a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic for all of our residents.”
DCEO will expand apprenticeship opportunities geared toward restoring the creative arts and entertainment sector, while increasing training opportunities for underserved populations. Apprenticeship expansion dollars will also grow the capacity of pathways currently offered and which have been impacted during the crisis – including those ranging from healthcare to hospitality, tech to transportation, manufacturing and more.
“DCEO is proud to expand the Apprenticeship Illinois program, providing workers access to comprehensive training and credentials that will help them excel in the jobs and career paths our Illinois employers are looking to fill today,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “This is one of many ways that under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, the State continues to partner with Illinois businesses and communities to grow and develop our workforce and help residents compete and thrive in today’s economy.”
The State will seek to launch a new pathway to upskill workers in the creative arts & entertainment industry sector. Through this first-ever pathway, the State will supplement funds for workers in the creative, hospitality and service sectors to participate in training programs that build capacity for underrepresented populations for jobs in these industries. The program was informed by a workforce study conducted by the Arts Alliance of Illinois, which found over 60 percent of workers from arts related businesses and organizations in Illinois have either been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic.
To increase equity in the workforce, DCEO and its partners will also leverage program expansion dollars to increase apprenticeship participation by underrepresented populations – including low-income individuals, older workers, women, returning citizens, persons with disabilities, veterans, youth and more.
To reach more residents across the state, particularly in underserved communities, DCEO will utilize the DCEO navigator and intermediary partnership models first piloted last year, and as a result of the Pritzker administration’s efforts to invest an additional $4.7 million to grow the program. These apprenticeship partners will work to recruit from areas of the state which are underrepresented – including rural areas – and to prioritize diversity and inclusion within the Apprenticeship Illinois community.
The Apprenticeship Expansion Program design is centered on supporting businesses and individuals. Expanding apprenticeships helps businesses with their current and future workforce needs as well as individuals with a career pathway, which includes work-based learning. DCEO will accept proposals that expand registered apprenticeships in Illinois. A fundamental goal of this NOFO is to increase apprenticeship opportunities for minorities and targeted populations that are underrepresented in registered apprenticeship occupations in Illinois.
Funding will be provided for 10 -12 navigators and 16-20 intermediary grantees, who will develop industry aligned curriculum to train participants; and navigators who will work with employers to match residents to skills training opportunities. Applicants will be prioritized based on the quality of their proposal, demonstrated plans to serve targeted populations outlined in the Illinois WIOA Unified Plan, as well as projects to serve industries recovering from the pandemic.
In addition to expanding apprenticeship networks throughout the state, the Pritzker administration is focused on building apprenticeship capacity in a number of ways. This includes the launch of the apprenticeship tax credit program to incentivize apprenticeships at small and large sized businesses, creation of new apprenticeship networks in all ten economic development regions, and the work to stand up the Illinois Works program within DCEO, which will soon launch additional grants to expand pre-apprenticeship training programs in the trades.
The NOFO application is located on Apprenticeship Illinois website, with a deadline of September 15, at 5:00 p.m. Residents and employers seeking to join the Apprenticeship Illinois program may also visit the website ApprenticeshipIllinois.com to learn more and to find their local apprenticeship navigator.
Governor Asks Appeals Court to Lift Federal Oversight of State Hiring, Imposed to Block Political Hiring Practices
Governor Pritzker is continuing his fight to remove federal court oversight of state government hiring practices, now taking his case to Chicago’s federal appeals court. Attorneys for Pritzker, from the office of Attorney General Kwame Raoul, filed an opening brief with the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the appellate judges to end decades of oversight and let Illinois’ state government handle the process of ensuring Illinois’ government agencies aren’t violating federal law by using politics to decide who gets hired and promoted.
In the new filing, Pritzker’s lawyers argue the federal courts have overstepped their bounds in refusing to lift a court decree subjecting the state’s hiring practices to court scrutiny. The Governor’s lawyers said a federal judge erred in refusing to accept Pritzker’s assertions that the state governor has “demonstrated commitment to compliance with federal law,” which forbids political patronage hiring practices, like those for which cities, counties and state agencies in Illinois have gained notoriety through the years.
Pritzker claimed the federal court’s continued “decades-long supervision … of the day-to-day operations of state and local governments” in Illinois “exemplify” concerns that Seventh Circuit judges have expressed over federalism, a principle of U.S. government which limits the reach of the federal government into state affairs. And the governor asserted court-appointed hiring overseers – known by the title “special masters” – have yet to identify any “ongoing violations” of federal law in Illinois government hiring practices.
“Ongoing federal oversight of a state’s operations can be justified only by evidence of ongoing violations of federal law—but neither the plaintiffs, the special master, nor the district court have identified any ongoing violations …, much less the kind of systemwide violations necessary to warrant continued statewide oversight,” Pritzker’s lawyers wrote in their brief.
Pritzker’s arrival before the Seventh Circuit appeals court marks the beginning of the latest chapter in the effort by the Democratic governor to combat the so-called Shakman Decrees. The decrees date back to the early 1970s, when Chicago lawyers Michael Shakman and Paul Lurie won their first round in court against the Cook County Democratic Party in their fight against patronage. The decrees, which have been added to and expanded through the ensuing decades, have forbidden Illinois government officials from letting politics improperly control government jobs and promotions.
For government jobs which involve policymaking, the courts have agreed that political allegiances could be an appropriate consideration. A number of those jobs have been consequently exempted from court oversight. But in 2020, Pritzker argued those decrees are no longer needed, because he claimed the state had corrected the patronage hiring and employment targets targeted by those decrees.
Shakman, still serving as the lead plaintiff in the action, scoffed at such notions, and asserted the opposite is true: The state government actually needs more oversight, not less – at least until the state government can prove its own hiring review and oversight policies actually accomplish what Pritzker said they do. U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang largely sided with Shakman on the question. While he acknowledged the state has made “significant” progress on the employment practices in question, he agreed the state needed to show its plan was more than just more words.
Judge Chang said “the message is not getting across” to the managers doing the hiring. The “devil is not just in the details, but in the implementation,” Chang said in his ruling. The judge granted the request to expand the scope of the special master’s oversight of state hiring.
The ruling prompted Pritzker to appeal. In the brief, Pritzker argued Judge Chang compounded an error made by other judges who have handled the Shakman decrees, in allowing Shakman to continue pressing the case, at all. Pritzker’s lawyers asserted the decrees should be tossed, in part, because Shakman and Lurie lack standing under the law as plaintiffs in these matters.
The judges, Pritzker argued, have improperly simply replaced Shakman and his co-plaintiffs with “the proper plaintiffs – state employees,” whose First Amendment rights would be violated by allowing state agencies to hire, fire or refuse to promote workers based on their political beliefs and allegiances. And further, Pritzker argued, the plaintiffs and the special master have failed to show that the court’s continued oversight of state hiring practices is “reasonably tethered to any actual legal violations.”
Without standing and without such constitutional legal “tether,” Pritzker asserted, federal oversight of state hiring practices must end. “…It is past time to “’return’ the ‘responsibility for discharging the State’s obligations . . . to the State and its officials,’ and terminate the decree,” Pritzker’s lawyers said.
Neither Shakman nor the court-appointed special master have yet replied to Pritzker’s brief.
New Legislation to Impose Larger Penalties on Employers that Violate the Wage Payment and Collection Act
The Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) announced that employers in Illinois that don’t adhere to rules outlined in the Wage Payment and Collection Act are now subject to larger penalties. Following Governor Pritzker’s signature of HB 118, an employer found to have violated the Act is liable for not only the unpaid wages and final compensation, but also 5% of the damages of the underpayment per month, for each month during which wages or final compensation remain unpaid. Previously, employers owed 2% of the damages for underpayment.
All wage claims are encouraged to be generated online through IDOL. The claimant will be guided through the process to submit an accurate Wage Claim Application. If a worker wants assistance filling out a paper form, they can call 312-793-2808. Online claims can be filed here: Wage Claim Application.
“The Illinois Department of Labor is committed to ensuring workers are paid what they’re owed. The Department always encourages mediation between employers and workers when there’s a wage dispute, but the monthly penalty helps hold bad actor employers accountable when they break the law,” said Illinois Department of Labor Director Michael Kleinik.
These issues arise when employees file complaints about unpaid or underpaid wages and only after the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) issues a finding that the employer has violated the Act. More details about the act can be found here: Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act
Budget Blueprint for Massive Spending Package Starts to Take Shape
Senate Democrats hope to reach agreement as soon as this week on the topline spending and revenue numbers for reconciliation instructions they plan to include in their fiscal 2022 budget resolution. Budget Committee Democrats huddled late into the night Monday with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and White House aides Brian Deese, National Economic Council director, and Louisa Terrell, legislative affairs director, to discuss the budget reconciliation package they plan to use to enact most of President Joe Biden’s economic proposals.
Senators leaving the meeting just after 9 p.m. Monday said the group plans to meet again Tuesday evening as they work to finalize an agreement on the spending and revenue targets.
Once an agreement is reached on spending and revenue targets, the figures would be turned into instructions to various committees to flesh out into implementing legislation for Biden’s climate change and “care economy” plans. Those directives to the committees will be the central element in the budget resolution, which itself is nonbinding but allows the use of reconciliation, a powerful procedural tool to circumvent a Senate filibuster. That’s critical because Democrats want to pass trillions of dollars in new spending on childcare, education, paid leave and health care programs that Republicans don’t support.
Senators leaving Monday’s meeting said they made progress but have not yet reached agreement on any spending or revenue numbers. They declined to say whether they’ve moved off the $6 trillion, 10-year spending target Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., previously floated, or narrowed the gap between that and a lower ceiling centrists have posited should be somewhere between $2 trillion and $3.5 trillion.
The 11 Budget Committee Democrats — ranging from progressives like Sanders and Rhode Island’s Sheldon Whitehouse to centrists like Virginia’s Mark Warner — are looking to reach an agreement among themselves on the budget resolution and reconciliation instructions before pitching it to the entire caucus.
**Update – Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Budget Committee chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have a deal on a $3.5 trillion infrastructure bill Democrats plan to pass through reconciliation. The proposal would extend Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing; tackle climate change and bar tax hikes on those who make less than $400,000 a year.
Schumer said the Senate would vote on both the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal and the budget resolution containing instructions to set up the larger spending package before the August recess.
Congress Has a Long To-Do List This Summer
Congress begins what will be a likely busy midsummer legislative push, with action expected on a host of priorities like the evolving infrastructure package, appropriations bills and a budget resolution. And lawmakers and staff returning to the Capitol will notice one big change: No more fencing around the grounds, for the first time since the Jan. 6 attacks, after workers removed it over the weekend.
The House is not in session this week, but appropriators in that chamber will be busy marking up four big-ticket spending bills. The Senate, meanwhile, returns from a two-week recess to resume consideration of Uzra Zeya’s nomination to be an undersecretary of State.
The full House Appropriations Committee will take on the Defense and Homeland Security spending bills, the Commerce-Justice-Science and Labor-HHS-Education bills on Thursday and the Energy-Water and Transportation-HUD bills on Friday.
House appropriators are wrapping up subcommittee markups of fiscal 2022 spending bills, with four markups scheduled:
Labor-HHS-Education: The draft bill includes $253.8 billion in discretionary funding, a 28 percent bump, with sizable boosts for medical research, childcare and job training. The draft doesn’t include two longstanding riders putting restrictions on abortion.
Energy-Water: The draft bill would allocate $53.2 billion, or $1.47 billion more than the enacted spending levels for fiscal 2021. It would boost funding for federal energy research, water projects and drought prevention but leaves funding for electricity and renewable energy projects short of what the White House wanted.
Commerce-Justice-Science: The draft bill would provide $81.3 billion in discretionary funds, an increase of $10.2 billion. It would boost funding for a variety of programs meant to address police misconduct, voting rights and gun violence, according to a summary.
Transportation-HUD: The draft bill would provide $84.1 billion in discretionary spending, or $8.7 billion above fiscal 2021 enacted levels. It aims funding at programs for three of Biden’s top priorities: infrastructure, climate change and racial equity.
Even before the Senate had returned from its two-week break, Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer gave senators what’s become a familiar scheduling warning: The Senate won’t recess for its summer break without considering the budget resolution and bipartisan infrastructure bill, he said.
“Senators should be prepared for the possibility of working long nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington into the previously-scheduled August state work period,” he said in a statement Friday.
Coming up this week, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh is testifying before the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is joining a House Financial Services hearing and a Senate Banking hearing on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, the nominees to lead the Census Bureau and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
One more debt thing
Congressional leaders are still weighing how to deal with the expiring debt limit suspension. Lawmakers have not yet settled on a strategy for approving another suspension or increasing the debt limit once the current suspension expires on July 31. Unusual circumstances this year are making it hard to predict when the Treasury will run out of money.
The Bipartisan Policy Center said the “X Date,” the day on which the country could no longer meet all its financial obligations, would likely arrive in the fall, “a broader range than normal for this point in the forecasting process,” said Shai Akabas, the center’s economic policy director.
COVID-19 relief disbursements and the pace of economic recovery are hampering the organization’s usual, more specific predictions.
In a hearing last month, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen urged Congress to “raise or suspend the debt limit as soon as possible,” preferably before July 31.
Program Notices & Reminders – Expanded Information
|Special Presentation: Small Business Compliance with Department of Labor
Did you know that most employees in the U.S. are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)? As an employer, are you aware of and meeting your obligations?
The chamber recently joined with Andres Mendez, a Benefits Advisor with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division and the Employee Benefits Security Administration for an overview of the COBRA premium assistance under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, federal wage and hour laws, and how they are enforced.
Click here to view the special presentation: https://youtu.be/n5tWXm1BDyE
Connect with the Workforce Center
Visit the Workforce Center of Will County’s web page for more information about the programs, services, and activities available for Will County businesses and residents.
Small Business Tax Credit Programs
Small Disadvantaged Business Contracting Goal News
On June 1, 2021, the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Biden-Harris Administration announced new steps to help narrow the racial wealth gap and reinvest in communities that have been left behind by failed policies. Specifically, the Administration is expanding access to two key wealth-creators – small business ownership and homeownership – in communities of color and disadvantaged communities.
Federal Contracting Webinar Series
Do you need help with federal contracting? The ChallengeHER webinar series offers education and training on the federal contracting system. Below is a list of upcoming webinars.
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry