Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”

Chamber members:

We are expecting a final vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in the U.S. House of Representatives this coming Monday, September 27th.  As you will recall, this bill passed the Senate earlier this summer on a vote of 69-30.  However, we expect the House vote to be far closer.

Discussions continue on the massive $3.5 trillion package, new workforce funds announced, and some news on banking changes all in today’s roundup.

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*

Senator Schumer Announces Senate-House Deal on Tax ‘Framework’ for $3.5T Package
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday morning announced that the Senate, House and White House have reached a deal on a “framework” to pay for the massive human infrastructure spending package they hope to pass this fall under budget reconciliation.

“The White House, the House and the Senate have reached an agreement on a framework that will pay for any final negotiated agreement. So the revenue side of this, we have an agreement on,” Schumer announced at a joint press conference with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Schumer briefed reporters on the details of the agreement after the press conference. “We had a meeting with Secretary Yellen and White House people. Myself, Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Neal and Chairman Wyden. And we reached an agreement on a framework, menu of options that will pay for any final negotiated agreement,” he said.

Pelosi called it “an agreement on how we can consider, go forward in a way to pay for this.” The deal does not include a top-line revenue number or a top-line spending number, said a senior Democratic aide familiar with the agreement.

The aide explained it’s an understanding between Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) about what revenue-raising proposals are on the table for the upcoming negotiations.

Wyden and Neal will use the House Ways and Means Committee’s tax proposal combined with a few “Senate ideas” that were left out of Neal’s bill, which his committee passed last week. Neal, for example, did not include a proposal favored by Wyden to increase taxes on capital gains by eliminating stepped up basis when calculating the tax obligations on inherited assets.

That menu of tax proposals will be used as the template for negotiations with moderates such Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on the reconciliation package and how to pay for it.

The announcement appeared to catch some senators by surprise as key players said Thursday morning they didn’t know what was in the framework. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a senior member of the Finance Committee, said he didn’t have “the foggiest idea” of what it included. Senate Budget Committee Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also said he wasn’t familiar with the details.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled to colleagues in both chambers that she will not put the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package on the House floor for a vote until it’s clear that it can also pass the 50-50 Senate.

The holdup: Some Democrats are calling for the House to move as soon as possible on the package, even if two key centrist votes in the Senate, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), haven’t yet signed off on it.

Pelosi doesn’t want a repeat of 2009: “Pelosi has no intention of replaying what happened in 2009, when Democrats last controlled Congress and the White House and moderate House Democrats took an extremely tough vote on sweeping climate change legislation only for the bill to never come to the Senate floor,” said a source.

President Biden Calls in Pelosi and Schumer for Progress Report
President Biden met with Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), to discuss his struggling domestic agenda.

Why the meeting is crucial, from CNN’s Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox: “It will mark the most expansive in-person engagement Biden has undertaken since he took office and underscores just how critical this moment is for his presidency. Officials say he’ll also be on the phone with Democrats regularly in the days ahead as well.”

On the docket: Keeping the government open, the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the debt ceiling and the social spending bill.

CNN’s Manu Raju tweeted that Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) would be visiting the White House as well for discussions.

Gov. Pritzker Announces $44 Million Investment in Workforce Training for Jobseekers and At-Risk Youth
Governor JB Pritzker today joined the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and community leaders to announce significant investments to expand workforce training and support Illinois’ continued economic recovery from the pandemic. The new initiatives include a $40 million workforce recovery grant program aimed to get more jobseekers back to work, while helping sectors impacted most by COVID-19. The funding will expand workforce training, job training and support services as well as covering basic expenses that are barriers to those seeking employment.

To ensure a holistic approach in creating a more equitable workforce, the administration also released $4.4 million in career training grants for at-risk youth. In addition, the Governor announced a new cross-functional Commission on Workforce Equity and Access to boost equitable access to workforce services across the state.

“I’m proud to announce a new $40 million workforce recovery grant program aimed at getting more jobseekers back to work and helping small businesses hit hardest by the pandemic,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We’re also expanding on the success of our first-ever youth career pathways program aimed at helping get more at-risk youth into rewarding careers with an additional $4.4 million — focusing in communities where it’s most needed. These are the key components of our recovery from the pandemic, and our commitment to build a better Illinois for everyone.”

Workforce Recovery Grants
The State of Illinois will leverage $40 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to provide workforce recovery grants focused on helping increase employment among workers and industries hit hardest by COVID-19. The workforce recovery grant program will utilize the state’s Job Training and Economic Development Program (JTED) model to boost access to education, training, and supportive services needed for vulnerable residents to successfully re-enter the labor force.

Illinois will invest in training programs that support regional and local economic development for businesses and individuals most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The program will expand access to training, job placement, support services and reduce barriers that prevent individuals from successfully re-entering the labor force. Additionally, flexible funding is available for individuals with emergency costs for basic needs that prevent them from participating in training programs or employment.  It is anticipated that 1,500 Illinois unemployed, underemployed, or underrepresented citizens in disproportionately impacted areas will receive needed services.

“DCEO is committed to investing in workforce development programs that help close the equity gap – and our latest training investments are aimed at meeting residents where they are and providing access to training for 21st century career paths,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, we are advancing timely investments in our workforce recovery that will help our Illinois communities collectively build back better and strengthen our talent pool which time and again is cited by new and existing employers as a top reason to live, work and do business in Illinois.”

A $20 million NOFO released today marks the first phase of the workforce recovery program, with a second round expected by next spring.  JTED funding will focus on hard hit sectors which have seen a labor shortage since the onset of the pandemic – such as manufacturing, healthcare, arts and entertainment, waste management, and retail.

To ensure the maximum impact of these dollars, the administration will focus on underserved populations, including those facing barriers to employment due to layoffs and those underrepresented groups from communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

“As the result of an unprecedented global pandemic, investments in workforce training have never been more important for our communities, our people and our economy,” said Illinois Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood). “I’m proud to join Gov. Pritzker in announcing the next steps to guide our continued economic recovery with investments that will put more people back to work. I look forward to heading up the work of the commission so that we can close the equity gap and level the playing field to ensure everyone has equal access to quality career opportunities.”

Youth Career Pathways
To build on the administration’s investments in youth career training programs, the Governor announced the release of $4.4 million in grants to support increased access to training for at-risk youth across the state.  These investments will support an expansion of training programs across the state with funds deployed to 20 partner organizations serving an estimated 500 youth over a one-year period.

Governor’s Commission on Workforce Equity & Access
Recognizing the need for a holistic and streamlined state workforce system with a focus on those who were disproportionally impacted by the pandemic, the Governor formed the Commission on Workforce Equity & Access. The Commission is charged with creating a vision for an equitable, accessible, and effective state workforce system grounded in an understanding of user and stakeholder experience, including how racial, social, and geographic inequities inform experience and outcomes across Illinois’ federally and state-funded workforce programs.

Among its top priorities, the Commission will find ways to strengthen and diversify existing workforce training programs to address shortages, expand access to talent and to promote equity and inclusion across all industries. The membership of the Commission includes a diverse group of workforce ecosystem stakeholders, including state agencies, workforce providers, employers, organized labor and workers’ rights advocates, local workforce innovation areas, and education leaders.

Lawmakers consider removing big roadblock for cannabis companies
The U.S. House of Representatives will vote this week on a bill that would let banks do business with cannabis companies without fear of penalty.

The so-called SAFE Banking Act, which is the least disputed reform sought by the growing industry, got picked up as part of broader legislation, and its inclusion in the National Defense Authorization Act was approved by voice vote late Tuesday. It remains to be seen whether the bill will pass the Senate, but the House action gives it a better shot.

The act would be a boon for marijuana companies, which have so far been stymied by the need to deal in cash because of federal restrictions. That has meant they have extra security costs and logistical problems, even as marijuana increasingly becomes legal. Some three dozen states now allow medical or recreational use, according to New Frontier Data, a cannabis research firm.

Representative Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democrat, who had re-introduced the bill, has said that allowing cannabis businesses to access the banking system would bring more money into the economy and offer the opportunity to create good-paying jobs. The American cannabis industry had $20.3 billion in legal sales in 2020, according New Frontier Data.

The initiative, which has been passed by the House before with bipartisan support but never advanced to the Senate, is still a far cry from the wish list of legal reforms sought by the industry, which include all-out legalization and relief from tax burdens. The U.S. Cannabis Council, a trade group, called the current rules that require marijuana firms to be all-cash a security hazard.

“Over $17 billion in legal cannabis was sold in the United States last year, overwhelmingly through cash transactions. Forcing legitimate, well-regulated cannabis businesses to conduct most of their business in cash is anachronistic and a clear threat to public safety,” the council’s chief executive officer, Steven Hawkins, said in a statement before the bill passed.

“Every step forward is a positive one for the cannabis industry,” BTIG analyst Camilo Lyon said in a research note Wednesday. He said it isn’t clear whether Senator Chuck Schumer will include the act in the Senate NDAA bill.  “Discussions with our D.C. contacts suggest it has an easier pathway of getting through the Senate, largely because no senator wants to be viewed as holding up the massive 1,700 page must-pass NDAA simply because of SAFE banking,” Lyon wrote.

Eviction Ban to Expire
The state’s eviction moratorium is set to expire on Oct. 3, more than a year and a half since it was first issued as an executive order by Gov. JB Pritzker. The extensions have come in 30-day windows, coinciding with his monthly reissuance of a disaster proclamation in response to the pandemic.

While most of the provisions in Pritzker’s latest executive order were extended through Oct. 16, the section providing for the eviction moratorium is scheduled to be rescinded just two weeks into the 30-day order which was issued Friday.

The most recent iteration of the moratorium, which will expire Oct. 3, allows for court proceedings but prevents law enforcement from carrying out an eviction. It also allows for evictions in health and safety circumstances, and for “uncovered persons,” which include those who refuse to fill out paperwork for assistance, who can’t prove loss of income from COVID-19 or who earn more than $99,000 individually or $198,000 as a joint-filing household.

In a statement, Pritzker’s office pointed out that Illinois remains one of the top states in distributing emergency rental assistance funding from the federal government. Illinois has distributed almost $330 million of $630 million allotted, placing it sixth out of all states, according to a database maintained by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“In 2020, more than $230 million was disbursed to renters through an inaugural pandemic rental assistance program, and in 2021 an additional $500 million was made available through the Illinois Rental Payment Program, more than half of which has been already distributed,” Alex Hanns, a Pritzker spokesperson, said in an email. “While the eviction moratorium has kept families suffering hardship from losing their homes during the pandemic, these programs and additional resources will ensure families have a roof over their heads while they regain their financial footing into the future.”

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday extended its order limiting judgements in certain eviction cases to Oct. 3, putting it in line with the governor’s latest executive order.

The only thing changed in the Supreme Court order was the date it is set to expire, from Sept. 18 to Oct. 3. It still prevents dispositive motions, trials on the merits or judgments in residential eviction proceedings against a “covered person.” Eviction cases can otherwise proceed as normal.

The court said the extension is aimed at allowing more renters to get aid through the court-based assistance program that received $60 million from the state’s supply of federal rental assistance funding.

Joliet officials want to end impact fee for small projects
Joliet is eyeing a reduction and possible elimination of development impact fees for projects of $50,000 or less. The city is in the process of restructuring the fees after getting complaints and determining they are skewed too high for small projects. Fees would be increased for larger projects.

Council member Larry Hug suggested eliminating the fee altogether for projects of $50,000 or less when the Economic Development Committee reviewed the fee proposal last week. Hug chairs the committee. “What are you going to build at $50,000 that’s going to impact the community?” Hug asked.

The fees are charged to commercial projects and other non-residential construction determined to have a community impact.

Staff had proposed reducing the fee on smaller projects based on a $3,100 impact fee now charged for a $25,000 project, which amounts to a rate of 12%. By comparison, a $28 million project paid a development fee of $63,000, or 0.2%.

“We said that’s not really fair,” Economic Development Director Derek Conley said. “Someone wants to go in and make some small improvement on their property. That’s kind of harsh.” Staff reviewed the fees after “getting a lot of complaints,” Conley said.

The proposed restructuring would reduce the development fee on the $25,000 project to $1,500. The fee on the $28 million project would increase to $106,000. Hug first suggested eliminating the fee on projects under $25,000, saying it generally hits small businesses with long standing in Joliet. Then, he expanded his proposal to projects under $50,000, saying such improvements will not have a community impact. “There’s nothing you can add on a building for $50,000 that’s going to bring in a hundred people a day,” Hug said.

Conley said the city had 68 projects in 2020 that were charged a development impact fee. Nineteen of those were valued at $50,000 or less.

The proposed rate restructuring will go the the council’s Land Use and Legislative Committee for review before being taken to the council for a final vote, Conley said.

Stay well,

Mike Paone
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
815.727.5371 main
815.727.5373 direct