Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
Special Wednesday edition of the roundup as there is (you guessed it) a last-minute push for a lot to get through in Springfield before Friday’s scheduled end. See below for full details of what’s in the House Dems tax credit package announced last night (HB 1497 HA #1).
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*
Leftover COVID dollars set off a Springfield scrum
The hotels would sleep soundly with $250 million. Restaurants are presenting a bill for $125 million. The arts and entertainment industry is making its play for $300 million. And that’s just a sampling of the hands out in Springfield these days from business sectors eager to help the state get a rare pot of available extra money off its books.
Depending on who you talk to and when, there is something on the order of $800 million in federal COVID relief funds left for lawmakers to dole out before the legislative session ends Friday. But Springfield insiders say that’s not enough to fully fund all the requests from various industries across the state still battling the lingering effects of COVID-19.
“There’s been a sort of misconception in the general public that everything’s just back to normal,” said Jennifer Estlin, executive director of Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre and a board member of the Chicago Independent Venue League. “But even those of us who are open are still struggling with a very inconsistent business.”
Performing arts audiences may be starting to come back on weekends, but check our weeknight houses, venue operators say. Hotel occupancy remains way down compared to other cities and compared to 2019, says an industry spokesman.
Who will get the available money is almost certain to be decided this week, as legislators scramble to pass a budget and take care of other unfinished business before ending the legislative session Friday so they can head back home and try to get re-elected in the fall.
The elections, of course, loom large in the thinking. Senate Democrats on Friday proposed a massive return of tax dollars to constituents through a gas tax suspension, property tax checks and direct, $100-per-adult income tax refunds, among other goodies that would reach 97% of state residents. That plan of more than $1.8 billion goes beyond the $1 billion in tax relief that Gov. J.B. Pritzker was looking for in the budget he proposed in February.
However that largesse plays out, lawmakers have yet to award an estimated $800 million of the $8.1 billion in COVID relief money Illinois received from Washington last year under the federal American Rescue Plan.
There’s plenty of competition for that one-time funding source among folks still trying to bounce back from the extraordinary toll taken by the pandemic. In fact, one lobbyist said he’s been told there are some $60 billion in requests for the $800 million.
Dozens of legislators are backing the hotel industry’s pitch for grants of a quarter of a billion dollars, or $1,500 for every room in the state. “The premise of it is that it would have to be used towards payroll or benefits. It has to go to the employees,” said Michael Jacobson, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association. “It’s kind of like industry-specific, localized PPP,” referring to the federal Paycheck Protection Program dollars that went out early in the pandemic.
The industry is still down some 21,000 workers (from a pre-pandemic total of 59,000), Jacobson said, and looking to hire people back to prepare for a busier summer. “But what they found is after a terrible winter, especially after omicron, they don’t have the cash flow that they usually have to go out and start hiring and training,” he said. The Hotel Jobs Recovery Grant Program Act has bipartisan sponsorship in the House and more than 50 representatives and senators backing it, all told.
The bill seeking $125 million for Illinois restaurants was a response by state Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, to what she was hearing from workers and businesses and to further federal restaurant relief failing to make it out of Congress this year, she said. “There was a great deal of hope,” she says. “And then we saw what happened with that. And so I filed this knowing that we should try and get as much as we possibly can.” Feigenholtz, also a primary co-sponsor of the hotel relief bill, noted that such appropriations acts very rarely pass as filed but rather serve as “markers to organize around.” Still, she expressed cautious optimism that when the budget is passed, there will be relief for such industries. “I’m hoping that it’s a matter of ‘how much,’ not ‘if,’ ” she says.
Meanwhile, Arts Alliance Illinois is leading the effort to secure $300 million for its industries, to be shared among independent venues, performing arts organizations, museums, workforce development and arts education. “If we want a vibrant creative sector in Chicago, we need to invest some of those funds in it now, or it’s going to be too late,” says Jonathan VanderBrug, Arts Alliance’s deputy director.
The arts, he says, fuels other businesses like hotels and restaurants. His organization cites a January 2022 survey finding that Illinois arts groups and related businesses lost almost a third of their revenue due to COVID last year and 2 in 5 artists have lost more than half their income since coronavirus hit.
Says Rep. Lindsey LaPointe, D-Chicago, in a statement: “Given the slow recovery and limits of federal relief, the State of Illinois must step up with COVID relief to ensure our creative sector—and all the humans behind it—can thrive in Illinois.”
The list of aspirants to budget money does not stop there. Two more examples: The association representing private colleges and universities wants more money for student mental health, and the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police is supporting the Fund the Police Act, calling for $100 million to go toward personnel, equipment and training.
The governor’s office is, of course, part of the mix. Pritzker Press Secretary Jordan Abudayyeh says, “(w)hile the Governor’s Office continues to negotiate with the General Assembly on a final package, conversations are productive and focused on our shared priorities.”
House Democrats have their own ideas for tax cuts
It’s tax-cut time in Springfield, and the bidding is open among Democratic factions as to who’s going to end up getting what.
The latest development came this morning, when House Democratic leaders rolled out a $1.38 billion proposal to cut taxes and boost funding for public safety. That’s in between the $1 billion Gov. J.B. Pritzker offered in his proposed fiscal 2023 budget awhile ago, but considerably short of the $1.8 to $1.9 billion package Senate Democrats unveiled over the weekend.
Included in the House Democrats’ proposal is a permanent expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit that would cost the state an estimated $103.5 million. Most of the hike would come by expanding eligibility to those aged 18 to 24 and over.
Also included in the Democrats’ plan is an additional $100 million state aid to municipalities by partially restoring cuts in earlier years made the cut cities and villages automatically get of Illinois income-tax receipts. The municipalities want more—they say they’re owed $1 billion and are asking for $500 million now—but it’s the first time they’ve gotten this far in many years.
House Democrats also proposed a one-time $165 million low-income family tax rebate that would send every eligible filer $100 plus $50 per child in their household. That’s a much-truncated version of the $1 billion Senate Democrats had proposed to offer almost all taxpayers, not just low-income ones, the promised $100 check.
In both plans are a version of Gov. Pritzker’s temporary suspension of a 2-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax, as well as his proposal to double the homeowner’s rebate on the income tax.
In comments at a press event today, Governor Pritzker suggested he likes the House version better than the Senate version—in part because his number crunchers say the Senate plan would endanger his plans to stash $800 million in the state’s rainy-day cash fund and make an extra $500 million in payments into the state’s underfunded pension funds.
“I’m certainly pleased to see more ideas in the mix to cut taxes and help working-class people,” Pritzker said, declaring the earned income-tax proposal “reasonable.” His only implied criticism was about increased help for municipalities, which is said may not be affordable.
Pritzker had hedged his original, $1 billion tax cut on surprisingly strong state revenues, something he said could justify temporary cuts. Since then, the legislature’s fiscal unit, the Commission on Government Forecasting & Accountability, has boosted its revenue estimates $500 million higher.
House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Senate President Don Harmon are scheduled to meet today to talk a compromise deal. I’m not sure yet whether Pritzker will be in that session, but overall the numbers may be close enough that all sides can quickly work out a deal and get out of Springfield by the scheduled April 8 adjournment date.
In the meantime, neither side’s package has been put to vote yet. Instead, they’ve offered bargaining positions.
Also tucked in the House Democrats’ proposal is something likely to clear the Senate: more money for public safety, something that would help blunt Republican attacks that, at a time when crime rates are rising, Democrats are anti-police. Included is $124 million more for body cameras, ballistics testing and law-enforcement retention grants, $48 million to provide summer jobs and other outlets for youths who otherwise might be prone to carjacking, and $50 million for domestic violence prevention.
It’s not clear how much the Democratic-dominated Assembly will do to raise penalties on convicted criminals, though bills dealing with organized retail theft and carjacking have been introduced.
State Senate approves energy grid reliability task force; House considers lifting nuclear ban
The state Senate last week advanced a measure to create a task force to study electric grid reliability in light of the 2021 passage of the energy regulatory overhaul bill known as the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. A House committee, meanwhile, began preliminary conversations about lifting the ban on new nuclear developments in Illinois.
The unpaid, 33-member task force outlined in Senate Bill 1104 would be known as the Illinois Regional Generation Reliability Task Force. It passed 32-15 in a bipartisan vote, although several Democrats voted against the measure. It still needs approval in the House.
The task force would study the effect of state laws, including CEJA, on energy prices as well as grid reliability. It would also study ways to deploy new technologies and ways to “improve” the power supply mix, among other tasks. It wouldn’t have authority to create any new laws or regulations, but it would report to the General Assembly by Feb. 1, 2023, and each year thereafter.
Tax Amendment Update – yesterday we talked about the 8 amendments from the Senate tax cut proposal and here is further explanation:
SB 1150 – There were eight amendments filed to this bill on Friday afternoon:
- Amendment one – Will give everyone a one-time $100 income tax refund or $200 for those who filed jointly. There will be an additional $50 refund for each dependent up to three dependents.
- Amendment two – Suspension of the state collected portion of the sales tax on food. This suspension will go from July 1st to January 1st of 2023.
- Amendment three – Deals with the motor fuel tax which would freeze the motor fuel tax at the current level of 39.2 cents a gallon with the tax scheduled to go up in January 2023. With that increase they will change the way the inflationary increase is calculated.
- Amendment four – Deals with the property tax rebate/bonus. For everyone who filed an income tax return and was eligible for the property tax rebate, they would get a rebate either equal to the amount claimed on their return or up to a $300 maximum.
- Amendment five – There will be a sales tax holiday August 5th-14th for school supplies and clothing. Elimination of the 5% of the 6.25% state sales tax for that period in August. The 1.25% local portion of the tax would stay in place as would any locally imposed sales tax.
- Amendment six – Change to the earned income tax credit. This will raise the earned income credit for Illinois to 19% of the federal credit which is currently 18%. Also extends the coverage to certain people who are ineligible for the federal earned income credit. These are people who have an ITIN and not eligible for a Social Security Number. Expect a fair amount of debate on this amendment.
- Amendment seven – Teachers get an income tax credit for the cost of instructional materials and supplies. Increase this from $250 to $300 beginning in 2023.
- Amendment eight – Allows income tax credit up to $500 for those who serve in voluntary emergency workers such as volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMTs.
End of Session Bills of Note
HB 4116 – SCA Amendment 1 was postponed, and we are keeping an eye on this. HFA 3 makes it less concerning, but we are keeping an eye on this bill.
HB 5412 – Shifts the unpaid wages liability to primary contractors. HB 4600 is a trailer bill filed which makes minor changes. The Illinois Chamber is continuing to push the Virginia changes to the law where we would have a threshold of $500,000 for all contracts, under $500,000 would be exempt. There is a provision to protect the primary contractor regarding exemption and this version and would also exclude all residential construction. With those changes, the coalition would be neutral.
HB 5555, Unfortunately we don’t see this bill moving any further for this session, but it’s not done completely.
SB 3866 – CEJA trailer bill. Some say this bill is cleaning up some technical errors but also includes a rate increase by expanding base of consumers that will pay the energy transition cost. Does include some language added regarding co-pollutants.
HB 5225, Apprentice Assistance Program passed out of the Senate by a vote of 54-0-0 and has now passed both chambers. This bill creates the Apprentice Assistance and Support Services Pilot Program Act. Provides that the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (rather than the Department of Labor) shall develop the Pilot Program. Provides that the Department shall award grants to organizations to distribute subsidies to qualifying individuals. Provides that to be eligible for assistance under the Pilot Program, an individual is required to participate in a registered apprenticeship program, pre-apprenticeship program as defined by the United States Department of Labor, or work-based learning programs, such as an internship, paid work experience, transitional jobs training, on-the-job training, or incumbent worker programs administered by the Department. Provides that the assistance provided by the Pilot Program may include funds for transportation, childcare, housing-related expenses, including, but not limited to, rent and utilities, transportation, childcare, digital technology needs, education needs, mental health services, substance abuse services, income support, and work-related supplies that are not typically covered by programmatic supportive services.
HB 3220, BEP “Good Faith Effort” passed out of the House by a vote of 69-38-4. This bill amends the Business Enterprise for Minorities, Women, and Persons with Disabilities Act. Defines “good faith effort” for purposes of the Act. Provides factors for determining whether a good faith effort has been made for purposes of granting a waiver under the Act. Provides for a uniform standard of contract goals for State agencies, public institutions of higher education, and other departments. Specifies further requirements concerning the uniform standard of contract goals. Provides that the terms of every contract entered into by a State agency or public institution of higher education for purposes of the Act shall include a provision requiring vendors who fail to comply with a utilization plan to return all funds paid to that vendor with an expectation of compliance. Provides that the Business Enterprise Council may (rather than shall) grant a waiver under specified circumstances. Provides that the Secretary of the Business Enterprise Council for Minorities, Women, and Persons with Disabilities shall have the duty to establish an enforcement procedure whereby the Council may recommend to the appropriate State legal officer that the State exercise its legal remedies which shall include, among other legal remedies, the imposition of a penalty in the amount of the discrepancy between the commitment contained in a utilization plan, as such amount may be amended over the term of the contract, and the qualifying payments made to the eligible certified vendors listed in the utilization plan. Specifies further requirements concerning exemptions and requests for waivers from specified requirements under the Act.
HB 4604, Employee Health/Safety passed out of the Senate by a vote of 56-0-0. This bill amends the Occupational Safety and Health Act. In provisions concerning discrimination against employees, provides that a person may not discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee because the employee has reported potential violations of the Act to a member of management with authority to address the concerns (rather than discussed health or safety concerns with a co-worker or authorized employee representative). Amends the Equal Pay Act. In provisions concerning equal pay registration certificate requirements, provides that the term “business” means any private employer who has 100 or more employees (rather than more than 100 employees) in the State of Illinois and is required to file an Annual Employer Information Report EEO-1 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Makes the changes made to the Equal Pay Act of 2003 effective immediately.
HB 5576, Regulatory passed out of the Senate by a vote of 55-0-0 and has now passed both houses. This bill provides that the State shall not regulate a profession, occupation, industry, business or trade in a manner that will unreasonably and adversely affect either the competitive market or equitable access to quality jobs and economic opportunities (rather than the competitive market). Adds a requirement that the Office of Management and Budget’s study on the performance of regulatory agencies shall include in its report an analysis of whether the agency or program restricts a profession, occupation, business, industry or trade any more than is necessary to protect the public health, safety or welfare from significant and discernible harm or damage. Provides that the Office of Management and Budget’s study can examine the termination, modification, or continuation of a regulatory agency or program.
SB 645, Sick Leave passed out of the House 77-25-0. This bill amends the Employee Sick Leave Act. Provides that the rights afforded under the Act serve as the minimum standard in a negotiated collective bargaining agreement.
SB 2981, Design Build passed out of the House by a vote of 111-0-1. This bill creates the Innovations for Transportation Infrastructure Act. Contains a statement of legislative policy. Adds provisions governing: authorization of project delivery methods; preconditions to commencement of procurement; procurement; evaluation and selection of proposals; project records; confidentiality; public disclosure; design-build contracts; construction manager/general contractor contracts; funding and financing; minority, disadvantaged, and women-owned businesses; labor agreements; acquisition of property; federal requirements; powers of the Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority; and rulemaking gives Illinois a design-build construction option. Adds a provision requiring the implementation of a disadvantaged business enterprise program to include minority-owned and women-owned businesses and disadvantaged businesses when applicable under federal law. Adds provisions establishing a disadvantaged business enterprise liaison.
SB 2984, Youth Entrepreneur passed out of the House by a vote of 108-0-0. This bill modifies requirements concerning entrepreneurship assistance centers to include assistance to youth entrepreneurs.
SB 3032, Student Debt passed out of the House by a vote of 74-33-1. This bill creates the Student Debt Assistance Act. Prohibits an institution of higher education from refusing to provide an unofficial transcript to a current or former student on the grounds that the student owes a debt; conditioning the provision of an unofficial transcript on the payment of a debt, other than a fee charged to provide the transcript; or charging a higher fee for obtaining an unofficial transcript or providing less favorable treatment of a request for an unofficial transcript because a current or former student owes a debt. Provides that an institution of higher education (1) must provide an official transcript of a current or former student to a current or potential employer, even if the current or former student owes a debt; (2) may not condition the provision of an official transcript to a current or potential employer on the payment of a debt, other than a fee charged to provide the transcript; and (3) may not charge a higher fee for transferring an official transcript to a current or potential employer or provide less favorable treatment for such a request because a current or former student owes a debt. Beginning with the 2022-2023 school year, requires every institution of higher education to have a policy instituting a financial or physical hardship withdrawal process.
SB 3120, Bereavement Leave passed out of the House by a vote of 114-0-0. This bill amends the Child Bereavement Leave Act. Changes the name of the Act to the Family Bereavement Leave Act. Provides that all employees shall be entitled to use a maximum of 2 weeks (10 work days) of unpaid bereavement leave to be absent from work due to (i) a miscarriage; (ii) an unsuccessful round of intrauterine insemination or of an assisted reproductive technology procedure; (iii) a failed adoption match or an adoption that is not finalized because it is contested by another party; (iv) a failed surrogacy agreement; (v) a diagnosis that negatively impacts pregnancy or fertility; or (vi) a stillbirth. Provides that the employer may not require that the employee identify which category of event the leave pertains to as a condition of exercising rights under the Act.
SB 3146, One Day Rest in Seven passed out of the House by a vote 69-44-1. This bill provides that an employee who works in excess of 7 1/2 continuous hours shall be entitled to an additional 20-minute meal period for every additional 4 1/2 continuous hours worked. Provides that every employer covered by the Act shall post and keep posted, in one or more conspicuous places on the premises of the employer where notices to employees are customarily posted, a notice, to be provided by the Director of Labor, summarizing the requirements of the Act and information pertaining to the filing of a complaint. Provides that the Director of Labor shall provide copies of summaries and rules to employers upon request without charge. Provides that an employer with employees who do not regularly report to a physical workplace, and instead work remotely or travel for work, shall also provide the notice by email to its employees or on a website, regularly used by the employer to communicate work-related information. Provides that any employer who violates specified provisions of the Act shall be subject to a civil penalty. Provides that for an employer with fewer than 25 employees, the civil penalty shall not exceed $250 per offense, payable to the Department of Labor, and damages of up to $250 per offense, payable to the employee or employees affected. Provides that for an employer with 25 or more employees, the civil penalty shall not exceed $500 per offense, payable to the Department, and damages of up to $500 per offense, payable to the employee or employees affected.
HB 3205 (SFA 0003) Creates the Fair Food and Retail Delivery Act. Prohibits a third-party delivery service from using the likeness, registered trademark, or intellectual property belonging to a merchant, and from taking or arranging for the pickup or delivery of an order from a merchant through the digital network, without first obtaining written consent from the merchant.
STATE OF ILLINOIS GRANT
- Connect Illinois Broadband Grant Program – A grant program for Businesses, nonprofits, cooperatives, school districts, and local governments. Proposals covering unserved and/or underserved areas are eligible for Connect Illinois grant funding. Deadline: Rolling through 2024 Get more information.
- USDA’S Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) – This grant assistance to create and augment high-wage jobs, accelerate the formation of new businesses, support industry clusters and maximize the use of local productive assets in eligible low-income rural areas. Deadline is April 19, 2022. Get more information
Building Blocks of Success: IDOT announces dates for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program workshops
The Illinois Department of Transportation is hosting free virtual workshops as part of its continuing Building Blocks of Success series for firms interested in participating in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, strengthening their skills and bidding on state construction projects.
The workshop dates and topics are:
April 12, 10 a.m. to noon: Scheduling Work
April 21, 10 a.m. to noon: Avoiding Pitfalls
May 4, 10 a.m. to noon: How to… IDOT Electrical Work
Workshop information is available through Eventbrite at bit.ly/DBEworkshops. Advance registration is required.
Questions can be directed to IDOT’s DBE Resource Center at (312) 939.1100.
As part of Gov. Pritzker’s historic and bipartisan Rebuild Illinois program, IDOT is helping to deliver the largest capital program in state history. IDOT strives to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the implementation of this program, including contracting and workforce participation.
Administered by IDOT, the DBE program provides minorities, women and other eligible small businesses opportunities to participate in highway, transit and airport contracts that are federally and state funded. For more information on becoming a certified DBE and learning more about IDOT resources that are available, visit www.idot.illinois.gov/dbe.
Finally, from State Senator Loughran Cappel: Have you requested a small business tour?
In an effort to promote resources available to small businesses and hear from small business owners and entrepreneurs, I am accepting applications to tour shops, restaurants and other establishments in the 49th Senate District. Learn more…
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry