Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Add Monday, August 16 to your calendars as we host our quarterly “Legislative Coffee” with U.S. Representatives Bill Foster, Lauren Underwood, and Marie Newman. We’ll cover topics such as the budget, infrastructure, taxes, the recent executive order, and more. We’ll begin at 8 am and discuss through 9:30 at the Joliet City Hall Council Chambers. We hope you can join us and thank CITGO for being our coffee series sponsor. Here is the rsvp & info link: http://jolietchamber.chambermaster.com/events/details/2021-legislative-coffee-series-august-16th-with-u-s-representatives-foster-underwood-newman-6082
Please click on the link below for an important survey regarding the current state of business in a mid-year 2021 check in. This feedback is extremely important so that we can use this in conversations going forward on what type of programs and assistance would be best as all continue to recover from the pandemic.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital*
Presidential Town Hall
This evening, President Biden plans to respond to a range of questions about the economy, his agenda and the pandemic during a CNN town hall event scheduled in Cincinnati with moderator Don Lemon.
Rebuilding Illinois: Construction begins on Houbolt Road Extension in Will County
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) yesterday joined CenterPoint Properties, Will County and City of Joliet officials to mark the start of construction of the Houbolt Road Extension, a public-private partnership that will improve safety and traffic flow along the critical Interstate 80 corridor, while expanding job growth and economic opportunity. The project includes a 1.5-mile extension of Houbolt Road, a rebuilt interchange with I-80 and a new bridge connecting to the country’s largest inland port. By leveraging an IDOT investment of $32 million to accomplish an overall improvement of nearly $200 million, this project furthers Governor JB Pritzker’s mission to overhaul one of the state’s key travel and freight corridors.
“Rebuild Illinois is about investing in our future – supporting this generation and the next by making sure we have good jobs and the roads to get there,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I’m proud that this private-public partnership will further cement our state’s leadership as a hub for national and regional travel, all while creating earning opportunities for hardworking residents across Will County.”
“Creatively using resources to improve the transportation system not just in Will County but across the entire state is a top priority of IDOT under the leadership of Gov. Pritzker,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “This project is just one of several major upgrades of I-80 in the coming years, thanks to the governor’s vision. The new bridge will link
I-80 and the intermodal facilities in Will County, alleviate traffic congestion, make travel safer along a critical national corridor and further strengthen the state’s economy.”
Under a unique agreement between the City of Joliet and IDOT, the city will oversee a $32 million state commitment will support a $33.5 million project to widen Houbolt Road. The project will also reconfigure the interchange with I-80 to a modern, high-capacity diverging-diamond design. In turn, CenterPoint will build and operate a new tolled bridge on Houbolt Road over the Des Plaines River, providing two lanes of traffic in each direction between I-80 and the company’s intermodal facilities, home to thousands of jobs and $75 billion dollars in freight activity annually.
The direct connection from the interstate will not only improve conditions on I-80, but greatly reduce the volume of trucks using Illinois 53, the location of the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Construction is anticipated to be complete in 2023.
“Infrastructure is key to Will County’s comeback from the pandemic,” said Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant.” This highly anticipated project will support the continued growth of transportation and logistics in Will County, reduce truck traffic on local roads and create hundreds of construction jobs.”
Made possible by Gov. Pritzker’s historic, bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program, the improvements coincide with plans to reconstruct and improve 16 miles of I-80, from Ridge Road in Minooka to U.S. 30 in Joliet and New Lenox, including the replacement of the Des Plaines River bridges.
Passed in 2019, Rebuild Illinois is investing $33.2 billion into the state’s aging transportation
system, creating jobs and promoting economic growth. Rebuild Illinois is not only the largest
capital program in state history but also the first one that touches all modes of Illinois
transportation: roads and bridges, transit, waterways, freight and passenger rail, aviation, and
bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. For more on the information on the Houbolt Road extension, visit www.houboltroadextension.com.
GOP Blocks Infrastructure Debate as Negotiators Near Deal
Republicans on Wednesday blocked the Senate from debating a bipartisan infrastructure proposal as negotiators say they are near finalizing their agreement. The 49-51 vote fell short of the 60 needed to advance what is effectively stand-in legislation that senators will swap the bipartisan group’s text into once it is finished. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) changed his vote late in a procedural move that allows him to bring it back up for a second vote quickly.
Wednesday’s vote comes as the bipartisan group has been meeting around the clock, including late into Tuesday night and again Wednesday, to lock down their deal after announcing at the White House late last month with President Biden that they had agreed to a $1.2-trillion, eight-year framework. But Democrats are feeling fierce pressure to start advancing President Biden’s sweeping spending bill, which they are pursuing on two tracks: the bipartisan talks and a separate $3.5 trillion plan that they will pass along party lines under reconciliation that will allow them to avoid a GOP filibuster on the second piece.
Schumer, speaking Wednesday ahead of the vote, pleaded with Republicans to let them start debate on the bipartisan track, arguing that he and Democrats didn’t view it as a hard deadline for the bipartisan talks. “This vote is only the first step in the legislative process on the Senate floor. It is merely a vote about whether the Senate is ready to begin debating a bipartisan infrastructure bill. I have also been very clear about what this vote is not: This vote is not a deadline to have every final detail worked out. It is not an attempt to jam anyone,” Schumer said.
But that message — telegraphed this week during floor speeches and press conferences — was not enough to assuage the fears of Republicans, who made it clear that they would not give Democrats the 10 votes they needed to defeat the filibuster and advance toward debate on Wednesday. “I think it’s a meaningless exercise,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the bipartisan group, told reporters shortly before Wednesday’s vote. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Schumer was “intent on calling a vote that he knows will fail.”
“These discussions have yet to conclude. There’s no outcome yet. … So, obviously, if the Democratic leader tries to force a cloture vote on a bill that does not exist, it will fail,” McConnell said.
The bipartisan group has been holding nearly daily meetings to try to finalize the agreement amid a rolling struggle over how to pay for the deal. While the agreement costs $1.2 trillion over eight years, it only includes $579 billion in new spending.
The group had initially set an end-of-the-week deadline last week to finalize its remaining issues, and Schumer announced Thursday that he was going to force a vote Wednesday to try to start a formal debate after weeks of waiting for the bipartisan group to finalize its agreement. But the group’s deadline slipped with senators leaving town last Thursday without a deal finished. Schumer’s deadline also sparked fierce GOP fury, with negotiators and members of leadership accusing Schumer of undercutting the talks.
Though the vote failed Wednesday, Republican negotiators say they will be ready to start debate early next week assuming the group can finish out its final hurdles.
GOP’S Reconciliation Strategy Takes Shape
Over the weekend, aides to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate GOP Conference Chair John Barrasso (Wyo.) and NRSC Chair Rick Scott (Fla.) huddled to devise a counterattack against Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation behemoth. Expect to hear one phrase in particular from Republicans over and over this summer: “reckless tax and spending spree.”
That’s the top line of the messaging strategy congressional Republicans are rolling out this week. Other buzzwords the GOP will hammer home as Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi whip votes on the package in the coming days: inflation. Out-of-control spending. Debt. Low wages.
There’s a realization in GOP circles that they’re powerless to stop Democrats from passing the legislation assuming they stick together. But the opposition is determined to make it as painful as possible, especially for vulnerable Democrats up for reelection in 2022. The aim is to directly link the Democrats-only legislation to the struggles of everyday Americans, especially rapidly rising prices.
Senate Republicans unveiled the strategy to GOP leadership offices Monday, including in a presentation for House Republicans, who approved of the top lines. On Tuesday, Barrasso shared the bullet points with the rest of the Senate GOP Conference.
“The Democrats seem to be determined to bankrupt America,” Barrasso said afterward, invoking the “reckless tax and spending spree.” “Democrats say, ‘Well only some rich people and some businesses will end up paying for this.’ The American people will not be deceived. They can see through this. They know they will be left holding the bill.”
Inflation is at its highest level in a dozen years, and polling shows that rising prices are a major concern among voters. Plus, Democrats will have to raise the already $28 trillion debt ceiling within the next few months, feeding into GOP talking points.
Other parts of the messaging plan: Republicans are also preparing to pounce on several provisions they’re expecting to be included in the reconciliation package, including a repeal of the state and local tax deduction that will benefit higher-income owners in cities, electric vehicle subsidies for pricey cars, and climate and immigration provisions.
During the Senate lunch, Barrasso cited internal polling from the Senate Opportunity Fund showing that nearly two-thirds of voters agreed with the statement: “Families are already paying for Democrats’ inflation from the gas pump to the grocery store. Now they want to drown the country in another tax and spending spree.” Republicans think the numbers will only continue to move in their favor as the summer messaging wars heat up.
Pritzker Campaign, Day 1: Free college and tech ambitions
A day after Governor Pritzker made his second term hopes official, the governor began campaigning: burnishing his management of the pandemic, pitching college affordability, a goal to make Illinois the nation’s second Silicon Valley and making the tax system “fairer”—eight months after his graduated income tax amendment flopped with voters.
Pritzker’s opening message to voters focuses heavily on his administration’s handling COVID-19, a fight that hasn’t disappeared, as cases rise statewide, driven by the delta variant. But the incumbent Democrat says as the pandemic battle continues, he also wants to focus on some of the “kitchen table” issues he campaigned on, especially in education.
“When I ran for governor four years ago, I said that I wanted to take on the big challenges in our state, put Springfield back on the side of working families,” Pritzker told Crain’s as part of a round of one-on-one interviews with the state’s political media.
College affordability will be key, he says. “The largest number of people who leave our state are the young people who want to go to college but can’t afford to stay in Illinois to do so, so they go somewhere else,” he said. “I think that every family that earns a median income or below—that’s about $63,000, $64,000—ought to be able to afford to go to college. In fact, it ought to be free for their kids to go to college in Illinois.”
Last year, Pritzker pushed the University of Illinois system to expand its free tuition program, known as the Illinois Commitment, to cover tuition and campus fees for state resident students with a family income of up to $67,000. Pritzker’s idea appears to be broader, covering other state colleges and universities. Beyond that, Pritzker says he’s already working on universal preschool and making childcare more affordable across the state.
Asked about recent rankings that put Illinois near dead-last for the best states to do business, the governor countered with a recent CNBC report that puts Illinois at No. 15 of all 50 states, with high marks for infrastructure—though that ranking also gave Illinois failing grades for business friendliness and the overall economy. Improving ratings with credit agencies and the coming spree of infrastructure spending will only boost the state’s business climate, he said.
Illinois is making headway in livability for working families, thanks to a hike in the minimum wage, expanded health care coverage, “getting our fiscal house in order (and) putting people to work fixing roads and bridges and schools,” he said. But the governor, a former tech funder, said he also wants to create jobs by solidifying Illinois’ position as a national capital for quantum computing and tech startups.
“I want us to be the next Silicon Valley, that will do as much for job creation and raising incomes and the economy in Illinois as anything,” he said, adding that aims to take the success of tech hub 1871 and replicate it at smaller Innovation Network hubs around the state, in addition to launching small-business centers statewide.
And despite the failure of his signature graduated income tax amendment at the polls last November, the governor says tax fairness is still on his mind. “I really believe middle and working class voters deserve a break and that wealthy people of Illinois have paid too little,” he said. The $655 million in “corporate welfare” cuts passed in the most recent budget helped balance the books and secure credit upgrades helped, but “we need to have a fairer tax system.”
As the governor kicks off what promises to be an expensive campaign that will run through November 2022, Republican opponents are already sharpening their knives. Challenger Gary Rabine said Pritzker is pushing a “radical, far-left” agenda and is responsible for a rise in violence statewide. Former state senator Paul Schimpf said in a statement yesterday Pritzker “failed to stand up to corruption, failed to protect our veterans and families and failed to help overtaxed Illinoisans.”
Delta Variant Helps Push Covid-19 Cases Higher in Every State
Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations across the U.S. are growing steadily higher as the infectious Delta variant takes hold and the pace of vaccination subsides from highs reached in April.
The country has reported an average of 32,287 new coronavirus cases each day over the past week, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data, more than double what the seven-day average was 10 days ago. The uptick in cases has touched every state and Washington, D.C., with the seven-day average of newly reported cases exceeding the 14-day average in each place for the past four days, according to the data.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations have also jumped, rising 35.8% between July 7 and July 13 compared with the previous seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Doctors and epidemiologists point to the Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, as a main cause. The variant, now dominant in the U.S., is estimated to be 40%-80% more infectious than the Alpha variant. First detected in India late last year, Delta played a significant role in a record-setting surge of infections there and has since led to increases in cases around the world. Existing Covid-19 vaccines are effective against the variant, though no vaccine is 100% effective.
While the latest U.S. Covid-19 metrics are still far lower than peaks reached early this year, they have raised concern among public-health officials, epidemiologists and investors. U.S. stocks, oil prices and bond yields all fell Monday as anxiety mounted over the spread of the Delta variant and its potential impact on the global economy—similar to trading patterns seen in the earliest days of pandemic.
Federal and state officials are pushing to get vaccines to undecided or isolated Americans, and public-health officials in parts of California and Nevada have reinstituted indoor mask recommendations. On Monday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear recommended that unvaccinated residents, residents with higher risks from pre-existing conditions and vaccinated residents working jobs with frequent public exposure wear masks in indoor public areas. The Democrat also implored Kentuckians to get vaccinated: “The hospitalization numbers, the death numbers, the ICU numbers are totally avoidable if you get vaccinated,” he said.
The upswing in cases and hospitalizations in the U.S. has been more pronounced in areas with lower rates of vaccination against Covid-19, epidemiologists say. About 48% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to the CDC, and more than 55% have received at least one dose. But vaccination rates vary by age group and region. According to a CDC report late last month, some 38% of people age 18 to 29 have received at least one vaccine dose, the lowest rate among any age group eligible to get immunized. The elderly had the highest vaccination rate, at 80%, the report found.
Over the summer, the number of Covid-19 shots being administered across the country has dropped significantly, falling from more than 3 million doses a day in the spring to an average of 270,592 a day by July 15. As the vaccination campaign has stalled, public-health officials, community organizations, churches, businesses, schools and other groups have sought to encourage hesitant or undecided Americans to get vaccinated, and to reach those in more rural communities.
That push has become more urgent in recent days. Unvaccinated Americans make up a large majority of those currently hospitalized with Covid-19 nationwide. And with a higher proportion of older populations fully vaccinated and a more transmissible variant circulating, many hospitalized patients are younger and sicker than what doctors saw previously.
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.
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry