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

Chamber members:

Lawmakers are back in the Nation’s Capitol this week for a lame-duck session. Party leaders on both sides of the aisle are gearing up for leadership elections, even as their futures remain up in the air. Lawmakers here in Springfield are back for veto session this week as well. More on that below along with some other items of interest here in week one post-election.

You’ll see below that Governor Pritzker has some direction for the increased tax revenue. Part of that is to continue to pay down the debt to the federal government for the unemployment insurance trust fund. With that said, the federal unemployment insurance debt of $1.3B will not be paid in full by the federal deadline which will trigger a loss of the employer federal tax act credit, resulting in a $21 increase for any employee earning over $7k in the year of 2023.

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County Election Update
County Treasurer Tim Brophy and Sheriff Mike Kelley have overturned election night results after additional counts were inputted into the system yesterday. The balance of the County Board remains to likely be an 11-11 balance after the update.

All votes that were cast through election day have now been reported according to the County Clerk’s office. Provisional ballots cast on election day and all remaining vote by mail ballots that were postmarked by election day will be counted next Tuesday, the 22nd.  Final results will be made official on after canvassing on Tuesday, November 29.

Workers’ Rights Amendment Appears to Have Passed
The Workers’ Rights Amendment to the Illinois Constitution has been approved, The Associated Press has projected. AP did not give a final vote total, but a union coalition that has tracked the vote shows the measure getting support from 53% of those who cast a ballot in last week’s election. The measure needed 50% + of those voting in the election for approval.

According to the group, the amendment so far has collected 2,123,757 “yes” votes out of 4,013,509 ballots cast so far in the Nov. 8 general election. That means that 52.9% of those who participated in the election voted for passage, above the 50% margin required under law.

The measure is falling short on another legal standard, with only 58.3% of those who voted on the proposal favoring it, under the 60% required. But under state law, only one of the two standards must be met for passage, not both.

Some mail-in ballots remain to be counted but not enough to affect the outcome, according to the AP projection. Official election totals will come in a state Board of Elections proclamation in a few weeks, after all votes are counted and a canvass of results is conducted.

Balance of Control in Washington, D.C.
Control of the House remains unsettled, although Republicans appeared on track toward winning the barest of House majorities, nonpartisan analysts said. The final outcome hinges on races, mostly on the West Coast, which remain too close to call. The GOP could end up with only a couple seats more than the required 218 for a majority.

Republicans have won 217 House seats, according to AP’s count so far. Whichever party wins the magic 218 seats wins control of the lower chamber. Roughly 10 seats remained uncalled as of yesterday with Republicans projected in the lead in at least 4 of the 10.

House Republicans voted on whether House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) will be their candidate for speaker if/when they take the majority. Most recent reports indicate he’ll receive the votes needed, but it is still up in the air as anything can happen day of as 31 voted against him in nominations. He’ll need to find a path to 218 floor votes by the beginning of January.

Democrats will officially control the Senate for another two years after Arizona and Nevada were called in their favor over the weekend. What’s still up in the air in the Senate? How involved Vice President Harris will need to be. Georgia’s Senate runoff election will determine whether Democrats will control 50 or 51 seats in the upper chamber. If Republican Herschel Walker defeats incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), the Senate will be 50/50, meaning Harris will be on speed-dial for tiebreakers.

State Items of Interest as Veto Session Begins
Illinois lawmakers this week head into their final session of the year with an agenda that could include tweaks to key provisions of a controversial criminal justice law. The law, known as the Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity Today (SAFE-T) Act, generated extreme heat during the just-completed election. The bill makes several changes to the criminal justice system, including the elimination of cash bail starting Jan. 1. The measure faces a legal challenge from dozens of state’s attorneys and sheriffs from across the state.

While Democrats wrote and passed the law, party leaders including the governor and Attorney General Kwame Raoul have acknowledged that some fixes are needed. Pritzker said a priority of the session that began Tuesday will be to clarify the discretion that judges will have to detain defendants who pose a risk under the cashless bail system.

“There’s a lot of work that’s been done by the General Assembly over the last number of months and working groups and so they’re gonna bring that to the veto session and I’ll be watching carefully,” Pritzker said during an unrelated news conference. “I’ve made my thoughts clear and we’ll see if we can get something done during the veto session to address the changes that … ought to be made.”

However, as the item was the focus of intense election campaigning efforts by both parties, the outcomes of the elections in general point to changes to the SAFE-T Act now being very narrow. The changes have to be done by end of year as the act begins January 1st of 2023.

The upcoming session is not expected to address other issues that played high profile roles in the election, including additional protections for abortion access and a proposed ban on assault-style weapons. Those highly fraught topics likely will be pushed off into the new year, when the current crop of lawmakers returns to Springfield for a lame-duck session before newly elected legislators are sworn in.

After meeting for three days this week (Thursday may even be canceled), the legislature is scheduled to convene for its three final days of the year during the week after Thanksgiving. If history holds, any serious work is most likely to get done during this later period.

One of the challenges facing lawmakers in the upcoming session is that any measure that passes requires a three-fifths majority in both chambers if it is to take immediate effect. While Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers, rounding up enough votes on controversial matters to clear that hurdle isn’t always a given.

That’s a major reason why any action on hot-button issues like gun control and abortion is more likely to come after the new year, when only a simple majority would be needed.

We’ll be monitoring the following as well:

  • HB 5555 – Has passed through the House and is now in the Senate. This bill required state agencies to work together to expedite permitting and also creates a website similar to the one that the federal government used which allows one to track the status of permitting online.
  • HB 4850 expands liability for employers for gender violence in the workplace. We will continue to monitor this for any amendments.

Update on Illinois Republican House and Senate Leadership, Democrats Too
Illinois House Republicans have endorsed Rep. Tony McCombie as the new caucus chair. They were scheduled to vote Tuesday, according to a memo signed by McCombie and 22 other House Republicans and that vote came out in her favor 31-8. McCombie would become the first woman to hold the top leadership post in the House in either party (Some years ago, state Sen. Christine Radogno was the first woman to hold the minority leadership post in the Senate). House Republicans lost at least four, most likely five, net seats in this year’s general election, giving Democrats up to a 78-40 supermajority.

On the Senate side, state Sen. John Curran was angling to challenge Minority Leader Dan McConchie. The outcome of that contest was also decided yesterday in caucus. Senator Curran secured unanimous support from colleagues to take the reins of the Senate. He will preside over a Republican caucus outnumbered by Democrats at least 38-20, with one race from the Nov. 8 election still too close to call. That means the GOP will have picked up two or three seats.

Democrat leaders were also confirmed on Tuesday. House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch issued a statement saying he “secured the necessary votes” to remain speaker. Senate President Don Harmon received support Tuesday from the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus to continue in his position next year as well.

Governor Pritzker Releases Five-Year Forecast Showing Projected Long-term Budgetary Deficits Nearly Eliminated
The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget (GOMB) released the annual Illinois Economic and Fiscal Policy Report showing under Governor Pritzker’s leadership Illinois is in its best fiscal shape in decades.

“Illinois’ bills are being paid on time, we have over $1 billion in our rainy-day fund, our credit ratings are up and we are honoring our commitments to long-term financial liabilities by contributing extra to Illinois’ pension systems,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “As we celebrate the tremendous progress we’ve made with our partners in the General Assembly, we remain committed to working tirelessly for Illinois taxpayers and responsibly managing the state’s finances. We’ve closed a seemingly insurmountable structural deficit that I inherited, and together we are securing Illinois’ long term fiscal stability and providing economic opportunities to its citizens.”

The future years’ budget outlook detailed in the report benefits from strong fiscal management over recent years as the Governor worked with partners in the General Assembly, the Comptroller and the Treasurer, to balance state budgets, tackle the state’s multi-billion-dollar bill backlog, repay COVID related short-term borrowings early, make $500 million in extra-ordinary payments to the state’s pension systems and put more than $1 billion in a savings account for fiscal emergencies or economic downturns. Additionally, by rebuilding the foundation of the state’s finances during the Pritzker administration, the Governor and lawmakers were able to provide $1.8 billion in tax relief this year to the hardworking people of Illinois.

Even with troubling national economic indicators, income and sales tax collections so far this fiscal year continue to exceed budget forecasts by significant margins. Coupled with other one-time revenues, the General Funds revenue forecast for fiscal year 2023 is revised upward by $3.69 billion. GOMB is continuing to monitor the revenues closely as inflation and national/international factors beyond the state’s control may impact the economy in uncertain ways. GOMB is now projecting a nearly $1.7 billion net surplus in the general funds budget for fiscal year 2023, wiping out a forecasted fiscal year 2023 shortfall of nearly $3 billion as estimated in 2019.

The Governor intends to pursue several actions to continue Illinois’ strong path forward and put the state in the best possible fiscal position to prepare for the economic uncertainty that lies ahead. The Governor’s recommended actions include working with the Legislature to:

  • Make additional deposits of $1.3 billion into the state’s rainy-day fund, bringing it to more than $2.3 billion. While Illinois currently has its highest balance ever at $1.045 billion, Illinois is still among the smallest state rainy-day funds.
  • Set aside funds to pay off revenue bonds issued in 2010 to help the state pay bills that mounted during the Great Recession. About one-third of the $1.5 billion borrowed at the time remains outstanding.
  • Make an additional contribution toward the Unemployment Insurance Trust fund. The Trust Fund’s remaining debt to the federal government is $1.345 billion plus interest. The Governor and the General Assembly have already taken several steps to reduce the amounts owed from last year’s level of $4.5 billion.

New, improved Weber Road and interchange opened, celebrated in Will County
The Illinois Department of Transportation was joined by officials and community leaders in Romeoville, Bolingbrook and Will County to celebrate the completion of the new-and-improved Weber Road interchange, part of a $96.7 million investment to improve safety and mobility. The project furthers Gov. JB Pritzker’s commitment to invest in infrastructure and communities, creating jobs, promoting economic opportunity and enhancing quality of life throughout the Will County region and Illinois.

“After years of construction and tens of millions of dollars, I’m thrilled to announce that improvements to the Weber Road interchange have been completed,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This is a win for motorists, bikers, and pedestrians who will see added lanes and modernized traffic signals—simultaneously improving safety and efficiency. Investments, like the one along Weber Road, are what our Rebuild Illinois capital plan is all about: making sure we have good jobs and the roads to get there and building a state where opportunity is just around the corner for everyone, no matter where you’re standing.”

The project’s $75.7 million centerpiece involved widening Weber Road and reconfiguring the interchange with Interstate 55 into a diverging-diamond design. By routing vehicles to the opposite side of Weber Road and eliminating left turns across traffic, the design will help to decrease crashes and improve pedestrian and bicycle access across I-55.

“Ensuring that our transportation infrastructure is well maintained and sufficient to meet and exceed the requirements of industry, businesses and Illinois residents is a fundamental part of our economic policy,” said state Rep. Dee Avelar. “Illinoisans need and deserve a world-class transportation infrastructure to support and amplify their industriousness and ingenuity. This project, which will improve both quality of life and safety, is part of furthering that goal.”

A third lane was added in each direction to Weber Road between Rodeo Drive/Remington Boulevard and Normantown Road, reducing chronic congestion and providing faster, safer access to the expressway for the 35,000 vehicles that pass through the interchange daily. A $21 million companion project by Will County extended the Weber Road improvements south of Normantown Road to Romeo Road.

“The completed I-55 and Weber Road interchange will greatly improve access to local communities and ease congestion on our busiest highway,” said Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant. “Thank you to our state and local leadership for their commitment to this project over the years. The investment in Will County infrastructure is an investment in our future.”

The project also included modernized traffic signals at Normantown Road, Remington Boulevard/Windham Parkway, Rodeo Drive/Remington Boulevard and the interchange ramps, as well as new LED lighting, improved drainage, raised medians and landscaping on Weber Road. Sidewalks and a new multiuse path connect to other local trails.

“I’m very excited about the completion of this project. While it took a while to complete and there were challenges along the way, I’m thankful for the partnership between the Village of Bolingbrook, the Village of Romeoville and IDOT,” said Bolingbrook Mayor Mary Alexander-Basta. “The new diverging diamond will accommodate the increase in traffic and improve the safety of the interchange.”

Occasional, intermittent lane closures should continue to be anticipated as miscellaneous items on the project are completed. Drivers are urged to pay close attention to flaggers and signs in the work zones, obey the posted speed limits and be on the alert for workers and equipment.

“This was a massive project and, as such, it took a long time to complete. I think we can all agree, however, that the results were well worth the wait,” said Romeoville Mayor John Noak. “The improvement in traffic flow is astounding and I would like to thank our staff, the Illinois Department of Transportation, Will County, the Village of Bolingbrook, and all other parties who were involved in bringing this project to completion.”

Gov. Pritzker’s historic, bipartisan Rebuild Illinois has advanced several projects in Will County this year, including more than $200 million in improvements along I-55, such as the $48 million resurfacing between Interstate 80 and Weber Road and the $35 million in bridge repairs over Lemont Road and Illinois 53/Joliet Road. This summer, Gov. Pritzker helped to break ground on $93 million in I-55 improvements in Joliet and Shorewood, highlighted by a new, full-access interchange with Illinois 59.

“Under Gov. Pritzker, IDOT is partnering with communities up and down the state to deliver transformational projects just like Weber Road,” said Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “This project solves a longtime issue with safety and congestion, while helping to promote and manage economic activity and job creation in one of the state’s fastest growing areas.”

Included in IDOT’s six-year program are the $1.2 billion reconstruction of I-80 and four other I-55 interchanges: $170.1 million for Airport Road/Lockport Road and at Illinois 126 in Romeoville as well as $140.4 million for Lorenzo Road and Illinois 129 near Braidwood. Also programmed is $86.9 million for reconstruction and widening of U.S. 52 from River Road to Houbolt Road in Joliet and Shorewood.

Cass Street Bridge Reopening and Other Bridge Closures
Beginning Monday, November 14, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will reopen the Cass Street bridge to traffic during the morning. At the time of reopening the Cass Street bridge, the Jefferson Street bridge will be closed until November 21, to inspect the bridge for future repairs. Following the reopening of the Jefferson Street bridge, the McDonough Street bridge will be closed through February of 2023.

Finally, a reminder that the Will County Grant Guidelines & Program Framework details have been announced in the area of Economic Development. Will County is committed to supporting the response to and recovery from COVID-19. The County, using the allocation of over $134 million from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF), a part of the American Rescue Plan, has dedicated $10 million to both support programs addressing negative economic impacts of the pandemic (including housing, financial services, and education programs) and to provide direct aid to industries impacted by the pandemic (including businesses and non-profits).

Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant and County Board leadership announced the open application period for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to support economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. The County has dedicated $10 million of ARPA funding for an Economic Development Grant Program that addresses the negative impact of the pandemic and provides direct aid to impacted industries.

“These funds are an historic investment into our local economy, households, and businesses,” said County Executive Bertino-Tarrant. “I invite organizations, non-profits, and small businesses to apply for this grant opportunity.”

The Will County Executive Committee voted in September to establish the grant program, which is separated into two categories of programs that support impacted households and direct aid to impacted industries.

Stay well,

Mike Paone
Executive Vice President
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry
815.727.5371 main
815.727.5373 direct