Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
It is business as usual at Congress reconvenes in Washington D.C. Back closer to home, legislators finally have crossed the finish line on an energy agreement. See below for a full roundup of news.
Happy National Small Business Week!
The application for the $250 million State of Illinois Back to Business (B2B) Grant Program is now open! B2B offers small businesses access to funds that can help offset losses due to COVID-19, bring back workers, and continue to rebuild from the pandemic.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital*
Senate Clears Energy Bill for Pritzker Signature
The wide-ranging energy bill that has consumed Springfield for much of the summer is on its way to Gov. J.B. Pritzker following a 37-17 vote by the state Senate. Pritzker, who made legislation to eliminate carbon emissions from the state’s power industry a top priority, said in a statement that he will sign the measure.
Passage of the bill, which at times over the past few months looked dicey despite overwhelming Democratic Party desire to act on the climate crisis, comes as a huge relief to the Rockford area especially. Chicago-based Exelon had said it would close the Byron nuclear plant near Rockford this week without a $700 million, five-year bailout package for the company’s Illinois nuclear fleet included in the bill.
State lawmakers like to use the word “historic” to describe the clean-energy bill passed by the Illinois Senate yesterday — a measure on its way to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who plans to sign it.
Though Illinois joins several other states that already have plans for carbon-free electricity by mid-century, the law in the Land of Lincoln stands out because it sets aside funding for disadvantaged and environmental justice communities.
“What we’re doing in the Midwest is unheard of. It’s not hyperbole. Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio — they aren’t doing anything like this,” Rep. Marcus Evans, an assistant House majority leader, said in explaining the significance of the legislation he helped craft.
Evans, who also chairs the House’s Labor and Commerce Committee, pointed to elements of the legislation that give preference to minorities in contracts in the solar industry, which is predominantly white, and that add jobs and clean-energy infrastructure to those communities. “Language is really important… It’s got to be written in to make sure it’s done,” he said.
Rep. Ann Williams, who worked alongside environmentalists, said the bill, “isn’t just about climate. It’s about providing equity and opportunity to communities around the state. That makes Illinois unique in terms of its true impact on communities most impacted by climate change.”
The clean-energy bill passed with bipartisan support, but that doesn’t mean the criticism of it will stop. Republicans are likely to use the measure as a talking point in the governor’s race as it allows for electricity rate hikes to fund a nearly $700 million bailout of three nuclear power plants, one of which Exelon had threatened to close Monday if state funding didn’t materialize. After the Senate vote, Exelon announced it was refueling the reactors.
National Small Business Week 2021
Did you know that September 12th – 18th is National Small Business Week? National Small Business Week recognizes the important contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. This event, hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), is all about recognizing prominent small businesses across the country. You can find small business events taking place around Illinois with the Illinois workNet Event Calendar, and throughout the U.S. on the SBA website for National Small Business Week.
Illinois workNet knows that running your own business takes time, dedication, and a lot of hard work. Every day small business owners are helping create more jobs, growing a business, and cultivating innovation; and that is why we do our best to offer as many great resources as we can to help make your job just a little bit easier. Our resources can be used by new business owners, those interested in starting their own business or growing their businesses, entrepreneurs, individuals working with small businesses, and more. Below is a list of resources Illinois workNet has put together for our Illinois Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs:
- Business Hub – With the Illinois workNet Business Hub you will be able to find qualified job candidates, train your workforce, or navigate through employment regulations and taxes.
- Employer-Based Training Programs – These programs make employee skill upgrades available to businesses to avert layoffs, remain current in new technologies and business practices, or to provide job skills to new hires.
- Virtual Job Fair – If your business is currently hiring, you can be featured on this page where qualified applicants can easily find you.
- Start a Business – Find information and resources for starting your own business or helping your business grow.
- Recruiting and Hiring – Recruiting and hiring is a major component of your business success! Find tools and resources to help you navigate your way through the recruiting and hiring process on Illinois workNet.
- Employer Hiring Credits – As a business, you can benefit from many different hiring incentive programs, which are designed to match you with the talent you need! These programs provide businesses with either tax credits or other incentives to hire and retain individuals from specific target groups. Many businesses miss out on these opportunities due to a lack of information; don’t let that be you, use the resources here to get started.
- Small Business Money Management – As a business owner, money management is a crucial part of your business. That’s why Illinois workNet provides guides to help you make financial decisions for your business, like recordkeeping, insurance, managing cash flow, and more.
- Hiring Articles – These articles cover resources and tools to help you start a business and to help employers recruit and hire.
- Starting a Business and Hiring Videos – These videos cover starting a business, hiring incentives, and tax credits, which can help you recruit and retain for your business.
- Employer User Guides – These guides will help you navigate through the Illinois workNet website, so you can successfully achieve your business goals using our resources and tools.
- Event Calendar – Make sure to post any job fairs or recruiting events you have on the Illinois workNet Event Calendar!
If you run a small business, Small Business Week is a great time to run discounts and promotions. This is a good way to reward customers who support small companies like your own. If you are not a small business owner, you can still celebrate small business week in a variety of ways. These include getting involved with a small business, shopping at small businesses, or simply getting the word out about some of the great small businesses located near you.
For more information on National Small Business Week, the SBA provides a useful hub. Here, you can learn more about the events taking place during the week. You can also browse news articles, videos, press releases, and other media relating to Small Business Week.
Action Returns on the Hill
The Senate returned from recess yesterday and dives headlong into a pile of high-stakes, must-pass legislation and deadlines. Wednesday is the deadline for Democrats to assemble their reconciliation package and House committees will grind through the next few days to try and hit that deadline.
AHOY! TAX HIKE AHEAD — One of the key remaining questions about the Democrats’ go-it-alone reconciliation plan was what tax changes would pay for the massive spending package. Some answers dropped Sunday night.
House Democrats want to raise the corporate rate to 26.5 percent from 21 percent and impose a 3 percentage-point surtax on people making above $5 million, according to sources familiar with the proposal. The top rate for individuals would go to 39.6 percent.
The Ways and Means Committee, led by Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.), plans to take up these and other tax increases this week. Taken together, the proposals would amount to the biggest tax increase in decades, and enough to cover most of what even progressive Democrats hope to spend on their coming “reconciliation” package — though lawmakers remain at odds over the size of the plan.
WARNING HAZARDOUS CLIFF EDGE — Congress needs to strike a deal on federal spending by Sept. 30, and the debt ceiling must be raised soon after that in order to avoid tandem calamities: a government shutdown and a default on U.S. debt, triggering economic collapse. Bleak for a Monday morning, but that’s political brinkmanship for you.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is holding firm to his commitment that his caucus won’t contribute yea votes to raise the debt limit and he’s challenged Democrats’ to do it alone. Top Democrats insist they have a plan — they just don’t want to talk about it yet.
Don Byer (D-Va.), who chairs the Joint Economic Committee: “Nobody blinks in the short run. But at the end of the day, we have to raise the debt limit. But it could be after dinner on Sept. 30.”
A continuing resolution through Dec. 10 is under discussion to avert a government shutdown. House Democrats are planning a vote next week to extend government funding. It could include disaster aid for the wildfires and floods, assistance for the Afghanistan withdrawal and the debt ceiling, according to aides.
The strategy is dependent on Republicans from areas hit hard by recent natural disasters voting yes on the aid to their communities, along with the debt ceiling and other provisions they’d oppose as standalone proposals.
House Democrats release bill raising corporate tax to 26.5 percent
The House Ways and Means Committee on Monday released legislation aimed at paying for Democrats’ $3.5 trillion in social spending priorities, including by raising the corporate tax rate to 26.5 percent.
The legislation includes a host of tax increases focused on high-income individuals and corporations. It would increase the top capital gains rate from 20 percent to 25 percent, raise the top individual tax rate from 37 percent to 39.6 percent and impose a 3-percent surtax on individuals’ income above $5 million.
House Democrats proposed top corporate tax rate of 26.5 percent is higher than the 25 percent rate desired by moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) but below the 28 percent rate Biden had floated.
Democrats are proposing to replace the current flat corporate rate of 21 percent with a graduated corporate rate structure. The first $400,000 in corporate income would be taxed at 18 percent, income between $400,000 and $5 million would be taxed at 21 percent, and income above $5 million would be taxed at 26.5 percent.
On capital gains, House Democrats’ proposed rate increase to 25 percent is a substantially smaller rate hike than Biden’s proposal to tax capital gains at the same rates as ordinary income. The Ways and Means Committee’s bill also does not propose to tax capital gains at death, an idea that is supported by Biden and some Democratic lawmakers but has drawn criticism from Democrats representing rural areas. However, the committee does propose changes to the estate tax.
The Ways and Means Committee’s proposal also includes international tax changes, increased tobacco taxes, limits on a deduction for noncorporate business income for high-income households, and changes to rules for Individual Retirement Accounts for high-income households.
Additionally, it would provide the IRS with nearly $80 billion in order for the agency to bolster tax enforcement activities and update its information technology.
The bill does not address the $10,000 cap on the state and local tax deduction created by the 2017 GOP tax law. Many lawmakers from high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey and California want to repeal the cap, but some progressives have expressed resistance.
How About that $3.5 Trillion Plan?
Democrats say getting the $3.5 trillion social spending plan through the House is going to be a tough road, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) only being able to afford three defections to get the measure passed.
While debate in the Senate has received more attention, centrists are also vocally wary of the plan in the lower chamber, while progressives aren’t interested in bending at all. Some are already privately urging President Biden to be even more involved in the negotiations on the package with Pelosi, arguing a showing of support for his own agenda will be crucial to getting the bill signed into law.
“We are going to need the White House to be all in,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has worked closely with the highest levels of the administration on the recent deliberations. “They have been transitioning to being that and have been extremely involved in the last couple of weeks.”
Most of the public scrutiny around the massive budget plan has focused on Senate tensions, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) taking a starring role by calling for a pause in work and a much smaller measure. “We don’t know where it’s going to be,” he told CNN anchor Dana Bash on Sunday. “It’s not going to be at $3.5 [trillion], I can assure you.”
Yet the House will be equally pivotal to the passage of the package, and Democrats are now warning that the process will be tougher than some may have anticipated. “There are plenty of Joe Manchins in the House that we have to deal with,” Jayapal told The Hill in an interview this week. Jayapal is in regular contact with the White House as well as Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) about preserving the slate of priorities put forth by the progressive caucus.
With a strikingly narrow majority, defections from centrists or progressives could sink the legislation. Last month, a small group of centrists sought to convince Pelosi to pass a separate infrastructure bill before the budget reconciliation package. She in turn set a deadline of Sept. 27 to vote on infrastructure, an artificial date that Manchin said on Wednesday would “be very hard to do.”
When the senator asked to press “pause” on the bill last week, Pelosi said she intended to move ahead as planned. “We’re on a good timetable, and I feel very exhilarated by it,” she told reporters. The House is not set to reconvene until early next week.
One of the most influential go-betweens for the Biden administration and Capitol Hill, House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), said that the way the chamber is structured presents inherent challenges to creating a streamlined process to get the bill passed. He argued that Democrats should pay closer attention to the conversations being had in the House.
“The House is a much more difficult area to navigate than the Senate,” Clyburn told The Hill in a Monday interview. “I don’t know if anyone knows how active or inactive the president is on this,” Clyburn said. “When you’re in these kinds of negotiations, everything you do is not necessarily in the public arena.”
Clyburn also suggested the political pressures in the House are in some ways more potent than the Senate since each representative in the lower chamber will face voters in the midterm elections in 2022.
“Every member of the House is running next year. Only one-third of the Senate is running next year. That has its complications,” Clyburn said. “The House is much more diverse than the Senate. That has its complications. That’s not just gender-wise and ethnicity, but it’s also backgrounds and experiences.”
Some are raising questions about just how much involvement Biden can actually have in the House debate. The Democratic caucus consists mostly of progressives, some of whom are well to the left of the centrist president. It is Pelosi who knows the heartbeat of the House Democratic Caucus, though it’s also clear Biden could have an influence — particularly with wavering moderates.
“If Pelosi needs Biden, she’ll call him in. Otherwise, Biden will work the Senate, and Pelosi the House,” said Robert Reich, who served as Labor secretary under former President Clinton. “They’re both political pros who together have clocked almost 80 years on the Hill.”
House Sponsor to Try Again on Ethics Bill
The House sponsor of a long-debated ethics bill that failed in the House last week said she will bring it up for another vote. House Republicans who pulled their support from the bill said it’s time to go back to the drawing board, but Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, who sponsored it, said she’s ready to give it another try with her caucus members returning to the Capitol.
“It was a longer than anticipated day, and I think people on both sides of the aisle had some commitments that they needed to get home for,” Burke said of the Tuesday session. “The motion had passed handily in the in the Senate. And, you know, it was a bill that had passed 113-5 in the spring. So, you know, it was surprising that the Republicans decided to not vote for it.”
Among other things, the bill would have prohibited legislators and constitutional officers from engaging in “compensated lobbying” of a municipality, county or township “on behalf of any lobbyist or lobbying entity that is registered to lobby” the General Assembly or the executive branch. The same would have applied to elected and appointed executive or legislative officials of county, municipal or township governments.
The bill also would have made a number of changes to financial disclosure requirements and limited the ability of lawmakers to leave office and immediately go to work as lobbyists.
Gov. Pritzker Launches Comprehensive Approach to Fighting Homelessness in Illinois
Governor JB Pritzker issued Executive Order 2021-21, launching a comprehensive and integrated approach to fighting homelessness in Illinois. The order establishes the Illinois Interagency Task Force on Homelessness and the new position of State Homelessness Chief to lead the task force. It also provides for a Community Advisory Council on Homelessness consisting of diverse stakeholders that represent the goals and population described in this executive order, including representation of people with disabilities, people with lived experience, the philanthropic sector, and local Continuums of Care. The governor was joined by Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Grace Hou, community leaders, and stakeholders as he laid out a government-wide approach to serving unhoused residents across the state.
The announcement builds on the administration’s existing policies and programs aimed at preventing homelessness and providing affordable, accessible housing for all Illinois residents. The administration provided $329 million in rental assistance in 2020 and will invest $1.5 billion in housing relief this year. This is in addition to extending the eviction moratorium to October 3, 2021.
“In another step to protect our most vulnerable residents, I’m announcing an Interagency Task Force on Homelessness, codifying the collaboration that has become second nature to our health and human service agencies in the face of the pandemic – an all the more essential mission with the eviction moratorium set to end,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “In doing so, I’m directing my state agencies to come together with leaders in the sector to strengthen safety nets, support local solutions, and provide effective help for those dealing with the housing crisis to get them back on their feet. Together, step by step, we are working to make Illinois a place all our residents can truly call home.”
The newly created interagency task force will coordinate the administration’s collaborative and comprehensive effort to decrease homelessness and reduce unnecessary institutionalization across the state.
Under the leadership of the Homelessness Chief, who will work within IDHS, the new task force will develop and implement a plan to prevent and address the effects of homelessness. With the ultimate goal of achieving functional zero homelessness, the task force will identify strategies to improve health and human services for Illinois’ homeless population, focusing on identifying local solutions and strengthening existing safety nets to address the root causes.
“Housing is a basic human right. Thanks to the Governor’s unwavering commitment and leadership, we are committed to keeping Illinoisans in their homes and fight the homelessness crisis that has impacted so many,” said IDHS Secretary Grace B. Hou. “This new task force is an opportunity to build upon the existing work and commitment of our administration to combat homelessness in our state. The COVID-19 Housing and Utility Assistance Project provides temporary and emergency housing and utility assistance to immigrants, refugees, and Limited English Proficient individuals who experienced a COVID-19 related financial hardship. IDHS is committed to instituting programs aimed at mitigating poverty in Illinois and responding to the needs of hard-hit communities including the homeless population.”
The announcement is the latest effort by the administration to rebuild Illinois’ social services and expand affordable housing. In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the administration launched what was at the time, the largest emergency housing assistance program in the country to help Illinois residents who have been negatively impacted by the virus. In 2020 alone, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) delivered $329 million in relief funding that allowed 56,000 families to remain in their homes.
In addition, this year the administration is coordinating a housing relief package that totals $1.5 billion. IHDA is utilizing $70 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for supportive housing programming, a portion of which is dedicated to support the formerly homeless population. Per the United States Department of the Treasury, Illinois is a leader in disbursing federal rental assistance throughout the state, currently ranking 3rd out of all states in the nation for getting money out as fast as possible.
For residents still in need, IDHS is currently accepting applications for rental assistance until available funding runs out. Households in need of rental assistance should contact an IDHS Service Provider Agency to ask about available assistance programs. Provider Agencies can help residents determine eligibility and apply for relief. A list of Provider Agencies, as well as organizations offering assistance with utility bills, free legal aid and additional services can be found at: https://www.illinoisrentalassistance.org.
Executive order 2021-21 is effective immediately.
Pritzker Administration Reaffirms Ongoing Commitment to Affordable Housing Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic
Illinois renters will continue to be protected through Governor JB Pritzker’s latest executive order that extended the statewide ban on residential evictions through September 18th. The order banning the enforcement of residential evictions remains effective in all Illinois counties and continues to protect tenants who meet the eligibility criteria, despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the federal eviction moratorium from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) continues to process applications for the Illinois Rental Payment Program and is on target to approve all eligible applications in September.
Landlords are strongly encouraged not to file evictions when their rental assistance application is pending and reminded that a condition of receiving this assistance is an agreement to not pursue eviction due to unpaid rent during the program coverage period. Renters and landlords should also be aware that rental assistance from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is still available through a wide network of service providers. A list of providers, as well as organizations offering assistance with utility bills, free legal aid, and additional services can be found at www.illinoisrentalassistance.org.
“While I am disappointed by the decision rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court, Illinoisans can be reassured that Governor Pritzker and his administration are doing everything possible to ensure our renters stay safe and stably housed,” said Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) Executive Director Kristin Faust. “Illinois is a leader in the nation in administering and providing emergency rental assistance to those impacted by COVID-19. IHDA will continue to process pending applications for those renters eligible for the federal emergency rental assistance program to prevent eviction. While IHDA continues processing applications, those renters who are covered by the Governor’s eviction moratorium Executive Order do not have to worry about being evicted.”
“Governor Pritzker understands the importance of keeping people in their homes, especially with the Delta variant creating new concerns for families and communities,” said Grace B. Hou, Secretary, IDHS. “Displacing children, seniors and other vulnerable people in such a critical time intensifies the threat of COVID-19 and threatens the well-being of our families and neighbors. Financial assistance is still available, so I strongly encourage eligible families and persons to apply for rental assistance today if you are behind on your rent.”
Per the United States Department of the Treasury, Illinois is a leader in disbursing federal rental assistance throughout the state. To date, the Illinois Rental Payment Program administered by IHDA has received 98,865 applications, approved 29,880 applications and paid out more than $234 million to renters experiencing hardships due to the pandemic for an average of $8,634 per household. Application approvals and payouts will continue to be announced as IHDA continues to review the pipeline of completed applications through the end of September. Additional rounds of rental and mortgage assistance will also be announced in the coming months. Applicants may check the status of their application at ILRPP.ihda.org/status. For additional information, contact the ILRPP call center at: 866-454-3571.
The Illinois Rental Assistance Program administered by IDHS has distributed $13,870,905, assisting nearly 4400 families and individuals to stay stably housed and ensuring that tenants and landlords are financially secure to prevent a tide of evictions due to COVID-19. Applications are still being accepted. Renters in need of assistance should contact an IDHS service provider agency at: www.illinoisrentalassistance.org to apply today.
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry