Government Affairs Roundup
“Your Timely Roundup of Local, State, and Federal Updates”
State lawmakers returned to Springfield today with the goal of finally wrapping up the state budget by the end of the week. They officially have until May 31 and extensions are always possible, but lawmakers in the state House and Senate say the goal is to wrap up before the long weekend. There was nothing statutory about the Friday, May 19 adjournment date scheduled months ago as the end of lawmakers’ spring legislative session. So it’s not entirely surprising that both chambers announced Friday that they’ll be back this week to finalize the details of the state’s operating budget before they can leave Springfield for the summer.
Individual item updates are below along with the latest on the debt ceiling.
*Government Affairs Roundup brought to you by CITGO & Silver Cross Hospital*
State Budget / Session Update
In Springfield, ruling Democrats sent everyone home for the weekend after talks broke down over what will be a roughly $50 billion spending plan, with lawmakers not due to return until mid-week. Though tensions are beginning to rise, especially between the Latino and Black caucuses, an agreement is within reach before the May 31 deadline. After that, a supermajority will be needed to pass a budget.
The key question is whether or not rising health care costs for undocumented migrants, now pegged by Gov. J.B. Pritzker at $1.1 billion a year, eat up funding for public schools and other programs that have their hands out, too. And how much will that leave for Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson? The new mayor would like more state help in dealing with an influx of migrants bused in from other states and for summer jobs programs.
Budget requests from other groups include raising Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals, increased pay for providers serving individuals with disabilities, increases in funding for local governments and dozens of others.
Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, who serves as the chamber’s lead budget negotiator, said Thursday he thought negotiations between Democrats were “in a very good place.”
“We haven’t made any final decisions yet. I would say everything is still on the table. We’re still negotiating,” he said.
Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, said he expected the budget to once again be filed “at the last minute” and quickly pushed through by the supermajority party, a customary process in recent years.
“There’s little to no – I would emphasize no – opportunity for debate on these issues,” he said. “I think we’re going to see it drop, and we’re gonna be expected to figure out what the gimmicks are at the last minute.”
*Last minute update: Governor Pritzker announces deal reached on state budget
Governor J.B. Pritzker, joined by State House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and State Senate President Don Harmon, announced Wednesday that a deal has been reached among General Assembly Democrats to approve the state’s budget for the 2024 fiscal year. The agreement resolves a point of contention over funding health care for undocumented residents of the state, which grew from an initial proposal of $220 million to over $1 billion.
Boasting about the state’s improved financial picture, Pritzker added that the budget achieves his goal of “restoring a compassionate state government that works to meet the needs of Illinois residents and invest in the things that build a stronger economy and a stronger future.”
Harmon said he hopes to deliver the agreed-upon budget bill to the State House by tonight and send the bill to Pritzker for final approval by Friday. The governor’s office provided a short document breaking down the highlights of the agreement.
Office of the Governor
Fiscal Year 2024 Budget
The FY 24 budget is a balanced plan with conservative revenue estimates that builds on our fiscal progress while making transformative investments in early childhood and higher education, workforce development, and efforts to fight violence and poverty.
Fiscal Responsibility – 5th balanced budget
• This budget builds on four years of historic fiscal progress with balanced budgets, eight credit rating upgrades, a Rainy-Day Fund set to surpass$2 billion, the elimination of the bill backlog, and$1 trillion in GDP
• $200 million additional pension payment beyond what’s required, bringing total pension stabilization investments to$700 million
• $450 million to pay off rail-splitter bond debt – saving the state$60 million in interest and virtually eliminating all short and medium-term debt
• Early Childhood
o Smart Start IL —$250 million to fund the first year of the Governor’s early childhood plan with funding increases to eliminate preschool deserts, stabilize the childcare workforce, expand the Early Intervention Program and Home Visiting programs, plus funding to begin the overhaul of the childcare payment management system
o $50 million for early childhood capital improvements
• K-12o $350 million for K-12 evidence-based funding formula
o $45 million for the first year of a three-year pilot to fill teacher vacancies
o $3 million to expand access to computer science coursework
o $1.6 million to launch Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library statewide
• Higher Education
o $100 million in additional MAP grant funding, ensuring everyone at or below the median income can go to community college for free
o $100 million increase for public universities ($80.5 million) and community colleges ($19.4 million) – the highest increases in more than two decades
• HOME ILLINOIS —$85 million increase, bringing state funding to over$350million, to support homelessness prevention, affordable housing, outreach, and other programs
• $20 million investment in a new Illinois Grocery Initiative to expand grocery access to underserved rural towns and urban neighborhoods
Health and Human Services
• Nearly $75 million increase for DCFS to hire 192 staff, expand training and protection, increase scholarships for youth in care, and improve facilities
• $22.8 million in funding to begin implementing the new Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative
• $18 million increase to support reproductive health initiatives
• $24 million for a rate increase for home workers who assist the elderly, increased outreach to the elderly, and an increase for Adult Day Service
• Continued funding for the$250 million Reimagine Public Safety Act to prevent gun violence and expanded funding for youth employment programs
• $53.5 million to overhaul IDPH disease monitoring IT and prepare for future public health emergencies
• Over $200 million increase to better serve Illinoisans with developmental disabilities
• $400 million to close major economic development deals and attract businesses and jobs to the state
• Expanded workforce development programs to build a pipeline in the industries of the future, like data center, EV, and clean energy
• Taking another step towards phasing out of the franchise tax
• $20 million to Rebuild Illinois Downtowns and Main Streets Capital Program
• $40 million for forgivable loans to launch more social equity cannabis businesses
• $10 million to fund a “one-stop business portal” to foster entrepreneurship
A bill that aims to implement a variety of reforms to Illinois’ burgeoning cannabis industry would change dispensary operations and restrictions on craft growers. The measure overhauls portions of the 2019 cannabis legalization law, which also sought to address the disproportionate impact of cannabis criminalization on communities of color.
The 2019 law sought to address that impact, including laying the groundwork for the expungement of 492,129 cannabis-related convictions, a lottery process to award dispensary licenses to “social equity” applicants, and the opening of the state’s first Black-owned dispensaries.
The amended Senate Bill 1559, among other things, would increase canopy space for craft growers from 5,000 square feet to 1,400 square feet. It would also allow dispensaries to operate drive-thru windows and offer curbside pick-up services, making sure they prioritize medical patients.
Business groups balked Friday after Democrats dropped a bill that would change Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, a first-of-its-kind law that allows individuals to sue companies over improper collection or storage of information such as fingerprints or facial scans.
Although BIPA passed in 2008, it wasn’t until years later that companies began to face lawsuits under the law as technology like fingerprint and retinal scanners became more widely used. Business groups have been especially worried about companies’ legal exposure after recent BIPA-related decisions from the Illinois Supreme Court. One decision ruled violations occur every time biometric data is collected without an individual’s express permission – like each time an employee clocks in and out using their fingerprints.
Friday’s amendment to House Bill 3811 stipulates that “the same biometric identifier from the same person using the same method of collection has created a single violation,” but business groups said the language was too vague. They also assailed the proposed fine increase for negligent violations from $1,000 to $1,500 and decried the addition of another type of biometric data to the law – electronic signatures – as a giveaway to trial lawyers.
A new elections bill would, among other things, establish a task force to study the feasibility of adopting a ranked-choice voting system in certain elections. That’s a method of voting in which voters can mark their ballot for multiple candidates in order of their preference.
An amendment to Senate Bill 2123 has several other elections-related provisions, including one that would allow 16-year-olds who are otherwise qualified to vote to preregister to vote, although their registration would be held in abeyance until they turn 18. It would also allow 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before the next election to circulate nominating petitions or petitions proposing a ballot question.
An amendment to House Bill 3903 filed late Friday would prohibit companies that sell automated traffic enforcement devices such as red light cameras from contributing to campaign funds if they contract with municipalities in Illinois. The measure also requires municipalities to conduct statistical analyses of the safety impact of existing systems. In recent years, executives of red-light camera companies have been named in federal investigations involving lawmaker misconduct.
That measure also prohibits state lawmakers and municipal officers or employees from “knowingly” accepting employment or compensation from a vendor that provides automated traffic law enforcement system equipment or services to municipalities. It would create a two-year prohibition of any of those lawmakers or employees from receiving such compensation after they leave office or government work.
FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN:
A measure that implements full-day kindergarten throughout Illinois is now awaiting to be sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his signature. State Rep. Mary Beth Canty, D-Arlington Heights, filed House Bill 2396. It passed the House in March. After several amendments in the Illinois Senate last week, the House voted to concur Friday.
State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said the bill better prepares the state’s youth for the future. “Full-day kindergarten has shown to boost academic gains and prepare children for the social and emotional demands of early elementary,” Lightford said. “This can provide students and their families with sufficient support and opportunities in their early education career.”
During Senate committees, state Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, asked about the potential costs on lower-income school districts. “For them, it’s just an issue of having space,” McConchie said. “They are going to have to build eight classrooms to be able to do this. That is not something they will be able to do in short order. Plus, it will be a million dollars a year to fund this, and they want to make sure they are doing it in a responsible manner.”
The measure phases the policy in over two years so schools can garner funding for the change, which is more than half the state’s schools, according to state Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Harrisburg. “If the data I have is correct, 478 out of the 851 school districts will qualify for the two-year extension,” Windhorst said.
Windhorst told the General Assembly that the legislation had received bipartisan support in the Senate. “This had a Senate vote of 52-1 if that is correct,” Windhorst asked Canty. “It also passed out of this chamber with an overwhelming majority,” Canty said.
The amendments were concurred by the House with a vote of 85-24. The bill now awaits to be sent to Pritzker for his signature before becoming law.
SOUTH SUBURBAN AIRPORT:
Hopes for an airport near Peotone in Will County got a big boost Wednesday night as the Illinois State Senate approved a bill that requires the Illinois Department of Transportation to solicit proposed designs from developers. HB 2531 passed the Senate by a 33-20 vote after clearing the House by a 72-40 margin earlier this session.
While the measure says the airport would be “for air travel and domestic and global freight cargo,” air cargo has reportedly been the main focus. State Senate sponsors Napoleon Harris, D-Harvey, Michael Hastings, D-Frankfort, and Patrick Joyce, D-Essex, will hold a press conference on Thursday morning to celebrate the bill’s passage.
Environmentalists have pushed back on the proposal. The Environmental Law & Policy Center opposes the airport, saying it would damage the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The organization says of the prairie, “This habitat is especially important for grassland birds, whose populations are rapidly decreasing across the Midwest and the country — in part because they often require large contiguous areas of habitat, and this is getting harder and harder to find.”
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, who represents the district that would be home to the airport, was also supportive of the bill’s passage, saying in a statement, “A cargo airport in the south suburbs will bring in a host of new economic activity, benefitting historically underinvested communities, creating a taxation base to fund our local schools, municipalities, and services.”
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has been less committal, though. According to The Daily Line, at an unrelated press conference in March, Pritzker said of the plans, “What you don’t want is an ‘if you build it, they will come’ — just building the thing and hoping they will show up to essentially pay for the airport having been built. You need to make sure you’re building it because you have interest (from) cargo carriers who are committing to make that a cargo airport.”
Pritzker has not said whether he’d sign the bill, but all of its sponsors are Democrats, a sign he may reluctantly approve it.
As Illinois’ spring legislative session comes to a close, representatives are busy moving bills to meet Friday’s scheduled adjournment — among them an array of environmental legislation.
The bills include funding to improve soil health, legislation advocates have dubbed the Environmental Justice Act, and a ban on Styrofoam. Here’s a roundup of what has already passed both chambers and what environmental advocates are keeping their eyes on this week.
• One bill looks to tackle soil health issues and gain long-term funding for the Partners for Conservation Fund, which supports farmers who practice conservation agriculture such as utilizing cover crops. Such practices enhance soil health by keeping soil in place, reducing nutrient loss and erosion.
Environmental advocates have cited a dust storm earlier this month that led to a chain of car crashes and eight deaths in central Illinois. It was loose soil from freshly plowed farm fields, combined with dry conditions and high winds, that created the plumes of dust and near-zero visibility that led to the crashes, weather experts said.
“That dust storm was just incredibly tragic. I think there are pieces to look at with the way we treat our soil,” Jen Walling, the executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council said. “We need to keep our soil where it’s at, and that requires some important practices like cover crops and reduced tilling. The bill would help the soil stay where it’s supposed to stay.”
The legislation, which passed both chambers Tuesday, would extend the fund to 2032. It is now in the Senate awaiting concurrence on a House amendment.
• A second environmental bill that has passed both chambers requires new drinking fountains to include a water bottle filling station. The bill would take effect only in places where the state plumbing code already calls for drinking fountains.
“Not only do all Illinoisans need and deserve clean, accessible and affordable water, but they increasingly seek more sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics that help address our plastic pollution problem and the climate crisis,” Walling said in a statement following the bill’s passage last week.
The bill will now go to the governor’s desk.
• In another move to reduce single-use plastic, the House passed a bill Tuesday to ban the use of food containers made from polystyrene foam — more commonly known as Styrofoam — at state agencies and universities. If passed in the Senate during concurrence and signed by the governor, the ban will go into effect in 2025.
“Plastic waste litters our communities, our ecosystems and now also shows up in our drinking water and our bodies. State government should set an example by reducing and ultimately eliminating plastic foam waste in our state, and today the state House took an important step toward that goal,” said Sierra Club Illinois Director Jack Darin in a statement. “We urge the Illinois Senate to send this bill to Gov. J.B. Pritzker this week and bring us one step closer to an Illinois free of plastic pollution.”
A similar but more far-reaching bill that would have prohibited all retailers from selling or distributing single-use foodware made of polystyrene foam passed the House in March but stalled in the Senate. Walling said the latter chamber wanted to have a longer discussion, and she expects the measure to come up again next year.
• Another bill that advocates dubbed the Environmental Justice Act fell short in the House Wednesday by just three votes.
The legislation would have tightened industrial air pollution permitting, requiring companies looking to build large industrial facilities to complete a cumulative community impact report as well as conduct a public meeting prior to applying for a permit. The measure would have applied specifically to potential construction that would become a “major source” of air pollution subject to the Clean Air Act Permit Program.
“There’s been a lot of opposition,” Walling said. “I think that heavy industry wants to continue to do what it’s been doing, and this is a challenge to that. They would like to see weaker rules, and that’s a problem.”
• One bill that has drawn mixed support and opposition among environmentalists would lift a 30-year moratorium on building new nuclear sites. The legislation is hanging on, having cleared the Senate in March. It now awaits action from the House, though whether it will get called for a vote before Friday’s adjournment remains to be seen.
Illinois lawmakers will have to wait for the next legislative session to address pension measures currently in the General Assembly.
Two pension-related measures await action in the legislature. House Bill 4098 would discontinue the General Assembly Retirement System, the worst funded of the state’s five systems, and the Judges’ Retirement System and would allow for future members to be offered enrollment into the existing State Employees’ Retirement System.
House Bill 4099 would adjust the pension age for individuals who provide various security duties for the state of Illinois. The measures will be worked on over the summer, according to state Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock.
“We are obviously not going to vote on it [this session], but what we are planning on doing is doing a series of subject matter hearings over the summer to kind of bring it out and discuss it,” Reick told The Center Square. “I think there are nine or 10 separate aspects to [HB4098].”
Reick said the goal of the proposals is to bring the state to conformity with the nation’s Employee Retirement Income Security Act. “What we are trying to do with this bill is basically bring Tier 2 into conformity with safe harbor provisions of ERISA,” Reick said. “Which we have been out of compliance with since 2012.”
More than a decade ago, Illinois enacted a second-tier pension with fewer benefits for state employees hired after 2011. In 2012, the total unfunded liability was around $97 billion. For 2021, an audit showed the total unfunded liability for all funds of around $140 billion. The GARS fund is only 16.9% funded.
The two measures filed in Springfield this year could be worked into one larger measure depending on how the discussions go this summer. “That will be something we will work on over the summer and have a lot of talk about it,” Reick said. “Hopefully, we will come up with a bill that we can get through the legislature and to the governor’s desk.”
Earlier this year, Gov. J.B. Pritzker introduced his budget proposal and said he plans $200 million more than the statutorily required contribution of $9.8 billion for pensions, for a total of $10 billion. Since Pritzker’s February budget was introduced, however, state revenue took a large dip in April with taxes collected $1.8 billion less than April 2022.
Democrats in the Illinois Senate last week approved a measure that would require employers to list a pay scale and expected benefits for any position listed on a job posting. It would also create a regulatory structure for the Department of Labor to investigate violations of the proposed law.
House Bill 3129 passed with a 35-19 vote. It went back to the House, which passed it 75-39 on Wednesday. The bill would require expected pay disclosures from employers with 15 or more employees in the state and would apply to things such as job board listings, newspaper ads and postings made by a third-party on behalf of an employer.
If the bill becomes law, Illinois will join a growing number of states considering ways to make compensation more transparent in the job application process. New York passed a law last year that requires all job postings include a minimum and maximum salary or wage. Colorado passed a similar law that requires disclosing pay range and a general description of benefits in 2019. Some states, such as California, Nevada, Maryland and Rhode Island, require employers to disclose pay ranges to job applicants on request.
The salary transparency bill follows similar efforts in recent years aimed at making hiring practices more equitable, including a 2019 law that made it illegal for employers to ask about an applicant’s salary history as part of the interview process.
TEMPORARY WORKER PROTECTIONS
Labor advocates had another victory with the passage of the Temp Worker Fairness and Safety Act on Friday, a bill requiring temporary workers be paid the equivalent rate of pay received by a permanent worker after 90 consecutive days of employment.
The House concurred 72-36 on two Senate amendments to House Bill 2862, which passed in the Senate 49-3 earlier last week. It now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.
Bill sponsor Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, D-Chicago, said the need for the legislation comes due to the growth of temporary workers in the state where limited protections exist. More than 855,000 temporary employees are hired each year according to the American Staffing Association.
HB 2862 enshrines a whistleblower right of action to allow worker advocates to bring enforcement actions against abusive employers. It also requires temp worker hiring agencies to inform employees of any hazards in the workplace and what training exists to mitigate those risks.
Debt Ceiling Update
In Washington, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy talked Monday over the looming debt ceiling crisis. But the game of brinksmanship is getting awful close to what U.S. Treasury officials have said is a June 1 deadline.
Freeze or cut? Reining in government spending has become the central focus of negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) under pressure from conservatives to secure deep cuts, while the White House has offered a spending freeze
Republicans are demanding that federal spending be rolled back to pre-pandemic levels as part of a debt deal. Democrats roundly object to that and are trying to, instead, put tax hikes on the wealthy and big corporations on the table.
It’s not quite time to hide under the bed. But have the pillow ready to travel, just in case. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was narrowly elected Speaker in January after 15 ballots, is coming under heavy pressure from conservatives not to agree to any debt ceiling deal that falls well short of the House-passed legislation that cut $4.8 trillion from the deficit.
So far, President Biden’s proposal to cap discretionary spending has fallen flat with McCarthy, who wants the White House to cut discretionary spending on domestic programs without cutting defense. McCarthy tried to sound optimistic about reaching a deal after meeting with Biden at the White House late Monday afternoon, telling reporters it was a “productive” session.
“I believe we can still get there,” he insisted despite the gulf of differences between the two sides on spending and policy priorities.
House Freedom Caucus members, such as Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), warn they won’t accept anything less than the House-passed bill. That leaves McCarthy with strikingly little room to maneuver.
The House bill cut discretionary spending to fiscal 2022 levels and then caps domestic discretionary spending to 1 percent growth over the next decade. It also expands work requirements for federal social aid programs and rescinds $30 billion in unspent COVID funding.
House Republicans are also pushing for energy permitting reform, measures to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and to block Biden’s plan to forgive $400 billion in student debt relief. President Biden is holding fast against many of the Republican demands, which Democrats warn would hurt American families across the nation by cutting an array of federal programs, expecting McCarthy will back down.
The president also is insisting wealthy companies and individuals contribute pay more in taxes as part of any deficit-reduction deal. “Here’s the disagreement: We have to — I think we should be looking at tax loopholes and making sure the wealthy pay their fair share. I think revenue matters as well as — as long as you’re not taxing anybody under $400,000,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office at the start of his meeting with McCarthy.
An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs poll of 1,680 adults nationwide found 6 in 10 people surveyed say an increase in the debt limit should be linked to reforms to cut the deficit, and two-thirds of respondents say they are worried about the economic impact if Congress fails to raise the debt limit by the June deadline.
Anxiety is mounting in the financial markets as more money managers are taking precautions in case of a federal default as early as June 1. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen again on Monday warned the federal government may run out of money to pay its debts as early as that date.
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Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry