Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
State Senators and Representatives are back in Springfield for week number two of the veto session. Maps are the top of the list, but see below for a few more state items. Out in Washington, D.C. it sounds like a deal may be near (we’ve heard that before many times, right?) for finally wrapping up the large spending package. Find out more below in today’s roundup.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by Silver Cross Hospital*
Congressional Maps, the Second Try
Illinois General Assembly redistricting committees have rolled out their second proposal to remap the state’s congressional districts. If it’s approved, it would force both Democratic and Republican incumbents to compete against one another in the name of creating at least a two-seat Democratic pickup statewide and a second district for Latinos.
Under the plan, released late Saturday, the homes of GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Darin LaHood would be in the same district, as would the homes of GOP Reps. Mike Bost and Mary Miller. The state’s fifth Republican incumbent, Rodney Davis, would be given a snakelike district of his own stretching from south of Bloomington northwest to the Wisconsin and Iowa borders, as was the case in the first version of the map proposed a week ago.
The fact that Democrats would seek to force Republicans to eat the loss of one seat due to the 2020 Census and give up control of another district is not news. The news is on the Democratic side, and it’s far from clear how the new proposal will be received.
Under the proposal, the homes of Democratic incumbent Marie Newman of Chicago and DuPage County resident Sean Casten would be put into a new district from the southwest suburbs northeast into central DuPage. Former Rep. Dan Lipinski, who has talked about running again, also reportedly lives in that district.
That clears the way for creation of a second, primarily Latino district on the North Side that has no incumbent. It wouldn’t be very Hispanic, only 47% in terms of population and 44% by voting population. But it would meet the demands of some Latino leaders.
That could work to the advantage of state Sen. Omar Aquino, D-Chicago, chairman of the Senate Redistricting Committee. He told WBEZ he’s considering running in the new 3rd District, which is colored orange and runs from the Humboldt Park area in the city west past O’Hare International Airport to heavily Latino area in DuPage.
“These new proposed congressional boundaries are historic and reflect the great diversity of our state,” Rep. Lisa Hernandez, D-Cicero, chair of the House Districting Committee, said in a statement. The proposed new Latino-influence district will “enhance minority representation,” she said.
The proposal does somewhat embellish the prospects of another Democratic incumbent, Rep. Lauren Underwood, who would get a better map than under the first proposal.
On the other hand, Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s new 4th District would be just 62% Hispanic in terms of voting-age population. And of the state’s three Black members of Congress—Bobby Rush, Robin Kelly and Danny Davis—only Rush’s district would be majority black in terms of voting-age population, and just barely. Davis’ 7th District would be just 40% Black, with Kelly in between her two colleagues but given a district that stretches south of Interstate 80.
The draft map, which was released late Saturday afternoon, isn’t final. Sources close to the process say they expect a few more revisions, though the new Latino district will stand. The mapmakers said they expect a final vote later this week, when the Legislature reconvenes its fall veto session. A map requires the signature of Gov. J.B. Pritzker to become law.
Here are a couple other things to watch for in and around the Capitol
Legislators are likely to take up and tweak a bill they ran out of time for last session: SB521. That bill would have required labor peace agreements at casinos, started up a two-year pilot allowing betting on college sports, and allowed Wintrust Arena to set up shop as a sports wagering venue. But of the most interest to municipalities around the state: whether lawmakers will bar them from charging a penny-per-play tax (paid by gamblers) on video gaming terminals, known as a push tax. State Rep. Bob Rita, the go-to on gambling negotiations, says creating patchwork taxation across the state could endanger revenues meant for the state’s capital program. As the Sun-Times pointed out last year when Oak Lawn passed its own push tax to bolster revenues, video operators resisted, worried the charge would hurt their bottom line. It’s since devolved into a legal battle. Marion, Schaumburg, Hanover Park and Joliet are all moving to pass the penny tax before Springfield gets ahead of them.
Tax Institute Update
The primary concern for the tax space is the Sunset regarding local authority to impose utility taxes. We are also watching what is going to happen on electric vehicle rebates.
Earlier this year, Governor Pritzker signed a law that makes changes to the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program to make it applicable to all employers with at least 5 employees, effective January 1, 2022. The program is a state-facilitated retirement program for employees who do not have a current retirement plan.
Previously, the program only applied to employers with 25 or more employees. Other changes to the program include verification for auto-enrollment of employees into the program and automatic annual increases to contribution rates.
Click here https://www.ilsecurechoice.com/ for more information about the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program, or contact Matt Quinn with any questions.
Illinois OSHA Releases Updated Small Business Safety and Health Handbook to Promote Safe Workplaces
Identifying workplace hazards and how to respond to them are critical to keeping employees safe and healthy on the job. To help businesses achieve those goals, Illinois On-Site Safety and Health is promoting the recently updated Small Business Safety and Health Handbook.
The updated handbook is the result of a collaboration between federal OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The handbook highlights the benefits of implementing an effective safety and health program, which includes a self-inspection checklist for employers and reviews workplace safety and health resources for small businesses.
“Workplace safety is one of the pillars of the mission of the Illinois Department of Labor. It’s incumbent upon employers across the state to take action to protect their workers,” said Illinois Department of Labor Director Michael Kleinik.
Federal OSHA standards can be confusing and complex. The Illinois On-Site Safety and Health Consultation Program can help. This no-cost safety and health consultation program is separate from the OSHA inspection effort. Primarily targeted for smaller businesses, employers can learn about potential hazards at their workplace, improve programs that are already in place, and even qualify for a one-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections.
If you have questions about the Illinois On-Site Safety and Health Consultation Program, you can call 800-972-4216, send an email to email@example.com or click here: IL On-Site Safety and Health Consultation Program
The On-Site Consultation Cooperative Agreement is funded by a federal grant which constitutes ninety percent of the overall budget. Ten percent is financed by state funds.
The Small Business Safety and Health Handbook can be found here: Small Business Handbook
Democrats ready to put a wrap on dragged-out talks
Democrats are eager to finish talks over President Biden’s sweeping spending bill, arguing the party is gaining little by dragging out negotiations. The push to wrap things up quickly comes as months of haggling has led to pent-up frustrations that have dominated headlines and conversations around Capitol Hill. Democrats missed a self-imposed deadline of working out a framework by Friday, though talks continued into the weekend.
Even once Democrats lock in a framework, they’ll likely still have days of drafting and ironing out details. But after days of patience wearing increasingly thin, lawmakers are eager to take the first step and show that they and Biden can deliver on the massive spending package.
“It’s hurting Biden. It’s hurting the Democrats. It’s undermining the vision of all the accomplishments we will have as being highly significant. The frustration is people’s heads are blowing off. And they should be. It has to come to an end,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said during a recent interview with MSNBC. He added, “I don’t know if soap opera or a nightmare soap opera is the right wording, but we’re in big trouble right now with this extended, getting nowhere negotiation.”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) added that Democratic senators were willing to be “flexible” if it gets them to an agreement. “I desperately want a compromise here. But the time is now to get this done,” he said.
Democrats have spent weeks stuck in high-profile feuds over everything from the price tag to the policy details of the sweeping social spending bill that is at the heart of their legislative agenda heading into the 2022 midterm elections.
That’s led to worries within the party that the sweep of the still-being-drafted legislation is being lost on voters. Democrats view the bill, which is expected to touch on everything from health care to child care to education and tax reform, as the most significant measure they’ve worked on in decades, but many Americans have heard more about the price tag and potential tax increases than the policy details.
Getting a framework would let the party pivot more fully to selling their prized measure to voters ahead of the critical elections. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — who sparred privately with Sen. Manchin (D-W.Va.) — told reporters that a “vast majority” of Senate Democrats want to “act quickly.”
“Well, I think there is a growing understanding that the working families of this country want real change, that there have been quote unquote negotiations, month after month after month, and that it is now time to fish or cut bait,” Sanders said.
Senators have credited Democratic leadership, the White House and key lawmakers for working behind the scenes to make progress even as they jostled in public. “As I think I told one of you, nothing’s happened the last 10 days. I think there’s been a lot happening the last 10 days, I just wasn’t aware of it. So I think we’re point that we can move pretty well,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
After appearing to be locked in a stalemate, Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other influential members hit the gas.
Democrats say they’ve made good progress, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters Friday that they were down into the “nitty gritty details” and were “getting closer” to a deal. Biden also met with Schumer and Manchin over the weekend. But they are still working out divisions on some issues, including drug pricing negotiations, where the party ultimately comes down on expanding Medicare benefits, the climate change package and how the bill is paid for.
“More than 90 percent of everything is agreed to,” Pelosi told reporters. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that he wanted to bring both the spending bill and the infrastructure bill to the floor for a vote as soon as next week. “In the Build Back Better plan and the BIF plan, which is a bipartisan bill on the Senate side, I hope to bring both of those bills to the floor next week if they’re ready,” Hoyer said, referring to the bipartisan infrastructure framework.
There are political benefits, in Democrats’ view, to getting a framework for the bill that puts them closer to passage.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is pushing for Democrats to quickly “put points on the board” by passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which has been stuck in limbo, and letting Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D) tout the legislation as a win in the final days of his race. “If we don’t, we’ll pay the price in New Jersey and Virginia,” Warner added.
And Biden told moderates and progressives during two close-door White House meetings that he wants the climate provisions ironed out before he goes to a meeting in Scotland so that he can promote them at the event. “He said, ‘The prestige of the United States is on the line. I need this to go represent the United States overseas. I need people to see that the Democratic Party is working, that the country is working, that we can govern,’” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told CNN.
Tester, who attended the meeting of moderates, added that Biden “absolutely” talked about how having the climate package worked out would help at the internal meeting and be an “accomplishment.” “He talked about having this thing well on its way,” Tester said.
5 sticking points holding back Democrats’ spending package
Democrats say they’re in striking distance of reaching a long-sought deal on expanding social safety net programs, but still need to resolve a handful of key sticking points. Progressives and key centrist holdouts remain at odds over some top liberal priorities, such as ending America’s status as the only wealthy nation without a national paid parental leave policy and expanding Medicare coverage.
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday that “a lot of the bill is written” but that a handful of items remained unsettled and they “first have to get some kind of agreement on those.” Asked if Democrats will be able to unveil their plan before President Biden leaves for an international climate summit on Thursday, Schumer said: “That’s our goal.”
Here are five of the biggest issues Democrats would need to address between now and then:
Medicare and Medicaid expansions
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the progressive Senate Budget Committee chairman, held firm over the weekend that his proposal to expand Medicare would be part of the final package.
“The expansion of Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision is one of the most popular and important provisions in the entire reconciliation bill. It’s what the American people want. It’s not coming out,” Sanders tweeted on Saturday. But on Monday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) shut down that push and argued it wasn’t financially feasible given that Medicare’s board of trustees has warned that its hospital insurance trust fund is estimated to be depleted in 2026.
“My big concern right now is the 2026 deadline [for] Medicare insolvency and if no one’s concerned about that, I’ve got people — that’s a lifeline. Medicare and Social Security is a lifeline for people back in West Virginia, most people around the country,” Manchin said. “You’ve got to stabilize that first before you look at basically expansion.”
Manchin also expressed reservations about a proposal from Georgia Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to extend health insurance benefits to low-income people in states that didn’t expand Medicaid under the 2010 health care law. He argued it wasn’t fair for states that previously expanded Medicaid to pay more to prop up states that didn’t.
“I’m trying to understand that better,” Manchin said.
Paid family leave
Democrats’ original proposal would have ensured workers had up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave with their usual wages replaced on a sliding scale.
That’s in line with the 12 weeks of paid family leave granted to federal employees, as well as the amount of time allotted for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for certain workers. But then Biden said last week that the paid leave plan would likely be cut down to just four weeks. And now, as Democrats try to whittle down the size of their overall package, it’s possible the proposal could be axed altogether.
Manchin declined to specify his concerns about paid family leave on Monday but said broadly that he was concerned about how various programs in the package would be paid for.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) isn’t making an ironclad guarantee about paid leave making the cut. Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday if it would make the final bill, Pelosi said: “That’s our hope, yes.”
If the paid leave proposal does survive the negotiations, there’s also the question of how long it would last. Paid leave advocates argue that a temporary program that would need to be renewed by lawmakers three to five years from now is insufficient. But leaving the task of extending it to future sessions of Congress could help bring down the price tag of the overall package.
Taxes on the wealthy and corporations
Democrats appear to be coalescing around a tax plan to pay for their sweeping social spending and climate package, but Senate negotiators were still huddling Monday to hammer out the fine print. The two centrist Senate holdouts, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Manchin, have signaled they’re open to a tax targeting billionaires, which would affect about 700 of the wealthiest Americans and raise hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue.
The Senate proposal would impose an annual tax on the unrealized capital gains for people with $1 billion in assets or who earn $100 million or more for three consecutive years.
Another big tax question is whether Biden and the Democrats use the reconciliation package to lift a cap that would allow wealthier families in high-taxing states like New York and New Jersey to deduct more of their state and local taxes, or SALT. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), who met with Biden on Monday as the president touted his infrastructure and social spending packages in New Jersey, has said he’s bullish that changes to SALT will be included.
Child tax credit
Manchin successfully pressured the White House and fellow Democrats to whittle down expanded child tax credits to just a one-year extension. Now the fiscally conservative West Virginian is trying to require means testing and work requirements to further cut costs.
Manchin’s demands are infuriating Sanders and his liberal allies on the Hill given that they originally wanted to make the child tax credit permanent, with few restrictions, to help defray the high costs of raising children and help reduce child poverty.
A Democratic aide predicted Manchin would not get his way on mandating work requirements, as it would spark “massive opposition” from progressive lawmakers. But tweaking means testing for the tax credit is a real possibility. Means testing is already in place for the tax credits that were expanded through Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package earlier this year. The full child tax credit is available to couples who make $150,000 or less a year or individuals who make $112,500 or less.
Manchin has proposed limiting the child tax credit extension to families making under $60,000, something The Washington Post pointed out would cause tens of thousands of West Virginia households to be dropped from the program.
Biden’s upcoming climate summit is helping inject urgency into the negotiations that have dragged for months. But Democrats are still struggling to finalize the specific climate change mitigation proposals that Biden can tout in Scotland.
Manchin last week dealt a blow to a $150 billion clean electricity program that was meant to be a centerpiece of Biden’s climate agenda. Democrats are now looking for other ways to still deliver on their campaign promises to address climate change.
A spokesperson for Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) pushed back on a Reuters report on Monday that a proposal to tax oil and gas producers for methane emissions likely wouldn’t make it into the final bill.
Carper “is working to get robust as possible climate provisions in the reconciliation bill and is in active negotiations trying to ensure that the bill meaningfully reduces greenhouse gas emissions, including with a methane fee,” the spokesperson said.
Gov. Pritzker Orders Vaccination Or Testing For Day Care Workers
Expanding on previous executive orders that require health care workers, school personnel and state employees in congregate facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing for the virus, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday the requirement would be extended to staff at licensed day care centers.
According to the governor’s office, the new executive order will apply to more than 55,000 workers at the 2,872 daycare centers licensed by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to provide child care outside of homes for groups of children up to age 12.
Pritzker said in a statement announcing the policy that vaccinations make communities safer for children too young to receive a coronavirus vaccine.
“By extending vaccine-or-test requirements to those who work at licensed day care centers, we are adding another level of protection for our youngest residents and preventing outbreaks in daycare centers as more and more parents return to work,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker first announced a vaccination requirement for certain state employees on Aug. 4, following that up with the order covering teachers and health care workers on Aug. 26.
His Sept. 3 executive order laying out the policy for health care workers, school personnel, higher education students and staff at facilities operated by the Departments of Veterans’ Affairs, Human Services, Corrections and Juvenile Justice called for the state to “negotiate effectuating this Executive Order with the relevant labor unions, and to bargain these provisions as appropriate under the law.”
Since then, the Pritzker administration has reached an agreement with five unions, most recently a deal with the Teamsters on Wednesday that brought the total of state workers covered under union agreements requiring vaccines to nearly 2,100, according to the governor’s office.
State employees will receive an additional personal day to encourage vaccinations. Employees may be compensated at regular pay if they are unable to receive a vaccination during their regular shift, and vaccinated employees will receive paid “COVID time” if they contract a breakthrough case of the coronavirus. The paid time off will not use up additional benefit time.
As negotiations have continued, Pritzker has postponed the effective date of the earlier executive order.
As of Friday, there was a deadline of Tuesday for state employees and contractors in applicable positions to get the first of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson jab. Second doses of two-dose vaccines must be administered by Nov. 30, according to Pritzker’s Oct. 15 executive order.
Daycare workers will have until Dec. 3 to get their first dose, with the second dose due Jan. 3. Any worker who is not yet fully vaccinated by Dec. 3 must take tests every week, at a minimum.
“Parents and families across Illinois trust daycare staff with the health and safety of their young children every day,” DCFS Director Marc Smith said in a statement announcing the new executive order. “Vaccinated daycare workers offer another level of protections and an increased level of comfort for parents and caregivers whose infants and toddlers are not yet eligible for the vaccine.”
Among state agencies, records show Illinois Veterans Affairs facilities have the highest rate of vaccination, while at IDOC, less than half of the state’s over 13,000 prison staff have reported they at fully vaccinated, WLS- TV reported.
Grace Hou, secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, said the vaccination requirement will help daycare workers put their health first and better protect the children in their care.
“Our goals are simple,” Hou said in a statement. “We want to keep our youth protected from COVID-19 in every way possible.”
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry