Capitol Recap

CAPITOL RECAP: Language filed for graduated income tax amendment; measure clears committee

By Capitol News Illinois staff

SPRINGFIELD – Language is filed for a constitutional amendment that would allow the Illinois Legislature to enact a graduated income tax, and the measure cleared the Senate Executive Committee on party lines Wednesday, April 10.
The full text of the amendment reads: “The General Assembly shall provide by law for the rate or rates of any tax on or measured by income imposed by the state. In any such tax imposed upon corporations the highest rate shall not exceed the highest rate imposed on individuals by more than a ratio of 8 to 5”
At a news conference in his office Tuesday, April 9, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said it’s time to “let the people vote” on whether they would like to see the tax structure overhauled.
“We have a constitutional amendment process that ultimately puts this decision to the voters,” Pritzker said. “It’s time to let the people of Illinois – our taxpayers – decide.”
The measure, SJRCA 1, could be placed on the ballot as early as the 2020 presidential election, which would require approval from three-fifths of each the Illinois Senate and House. After that, it would require approval from 60 percent of those voting on the specific question or the majority of those casting votes in the election.
“This is something we’ve been working on for the better part of 10 years,” Senate sponsor Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said. “What’s different now is Gov. Pritzker, a governor brave enough to say that this is the solution for our state, and to put his considerable political capital behind this effort.”
The amendment needs 71 votes in the House and 36 in the Senate to be placed on the ballot, and those chambers have 74 and 40 Democrats in them, respectively.
While Harmon said he expects the Legislature to pass a specific proposal by the end of the legislative session, Republicans continued to question the likelihood of the rates remaining as they are in Pritzker’s proposal for any measure of time.
Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, a Bloomington Republican, opposed the amendment at committee Wednesday. He said he believed it opened up the ability to “raise taxes even further” and “play games” with the tax code by removing language which states “there may be no more than one such tax imposed by the state.”
Todd Maisch of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce said this could allow the state to add “surcharges” or assessments on separate lines of income for taxpayers.
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TAX PLAN CRITICS: Opponents of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposal for a multi-tiered income tax structure came out with a new argument Tuesday, April 9, after the governor and Democratic leaders in the General Assembly unveiled their proposed language for a constitutional amendment.
Under the proposed language, they argued, the state would actually be allowed to levy multiple income taxes, each for a different purpose, which would effectively allow the state to tax the same income multiple times.
Supporters of the proposal say that’s not true. Still, the issue likely will be the source of heated debate as the proposal is discussed in the House and Senate.
At issue is language in the Illinois Constitution which authorizes the state to levy a tax on income, “at a non-graduated rate.”
The very next sentence provides: “At any one time there may be no more than one such tax imposed by the State for State purposes on individuals and one such tax so imposed on corporations.”
That language does not appear in the proposed constitutional amendment that Pritzker and Democratic leaders unveiled Tuesday, prompting Republicans and business leaders to warn that it could lead to a system of multiple income taxes.
“Right now in the Constitution, we are protected,” said Rep. Tony McCombie, a Savanna Republican, speaking to reporters outside the governor’s office. “I and the middle class are protected by the flat tax. And we also cannot tax a dollar twice, and this amendment takes that away.”
But Sen. Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and lead sponsor of the amendment in the Senate, said that simply isn’t true, and he accused critics of the plan of grasping at straws.
“I think they’re getting more manic in their opposition,” Harmon said in a phone interview.
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TOBACCO 21: Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed legislation making Illinois the first Midwestern state to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco products Sunday, April 7, in Chicago.
The ceremony marked the end of a four-year effort to change the age from 18 to 21 to buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes, chewing tobacco and other goods containing nicotine.
The law takes effect July 1, 2019.
Surrounded by lawmakers and advocates, Pritzker said he was “proud” to endorse such a “common sense” initiative.
“All of you are heroes,” the governor said to the assembled supporters, who had worked to bring the legislation to his desk. “On behalf of our young people, thank you.”
Nearly 95 percent of adult smokers begin using cigarettes before the age of 21, according to the American Lung Association. “Tobacco 21”’ proponents say keeping nicotine products out of the hands of young people can prevent them from ever using them.
The bill’s House sponsor, Chicago Democratic Rep. Camille Lilly, said the real focus is to make sure 18-year-olds are not the suppliers of cigarettes and other tobacco products for kids aged 14 to 17.
“The 101st General Assembly is saving lives today,” she said. “It really took all of us to get this passed, and the experience was rewarding.”
Senate sponsor Julie Morrison, a Democrat from Deerfield; Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat from Chicago, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also spoke at the event. All are longtime supporters of raising the initiative.
Emanuel made reaching a tobacco-free generation in Chicago one of his administration’s priorities. It used to be “aspirational,” he said. Now, “it’s actually within reach.”
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RIGHT-TO-WORK LAWS: Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday, April 12, signed into law a bill that prohibits local governments from enacting so-called “right-to-work” laws that are aimed at weakening the power of labor unions.
The bill that Pritzker signed Friday came in response to a local ordinance adopted in the village of Lincolnshire, in northern Illinois, in 2015. It provided that workers could not be compelled to join a labor organization as a condition of employment within the village.
A U.S. District Court judge struck down that law in 2017, ruling that federal law allows only states to regulate collective bargaining. And in March 2018, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision. But other federal circuits have ruled that local governments may enact local right-to-work laws, making the issue ripe for a U.S. Supreme Court review.
Asked about that during the bill-signing, Pritzker said he is confident the new Illinois law would be upheld.
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COLLEGE ADMISSIONS: The Illinois House on Friday, April 12, rejected a bill that would have blocked public colleges and universities from asking about a prospective student’s criminal history as part of the application.
The so-called “ban-the-box” proposal – a reference to questions that appear on many job and college application forms asking people whether they have or haven’t been convicted of a serious crime – was sponsored by Rep. Mary Flowers, a Chicago Democrat who argued the question prevents many people with criminal histories from turning their lives around.
Flowers’ proposal, however, came at a time when colleges and universities throughout the country have come under criticism – and under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education – for not doing enough to respond to violent offenses on their campuses, particularly sexual violence.
“This bill, as it stands, would put convicted felons in cohabitational dorms with 17- and 18-year-old youngsters leaving home for the first time,” said Rep. Jeff Keicher, a Sycamore Republican. “While I understand the need to forgive past misdeeds, I need the sponsor to know that situations will come up that warrant additional flexibility in the admissions process as it pertains to violent felons.”
The House took up the bill on the final day for both chambers of the General Assembly to pass substantive bills and send them to the other chamber.
The House rejected the bill by a vote of 40-60. It wasn’t immediately clear whether that would kill the legislation for the 2019 session, however, because lawmakers have a number of procedural moves they can use to resurrect bills later.
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SCOTT’S LAW: In light of an increase in accidents and deaths to Illinois State Police troopers, the state Senate on Friday, April 12, passed a measure to increase awareness of “Scott’s Law,” which requires drivers to slow down and switch lanes when they see flashing emergency lights.
Senate Bill 947, sponsored by Republican Chapin Rose of Mahomet, passed the Senate unanimously. The bill provides that renewal notices from the secretary of state’s office will advise drivers of how to properly approach a stopped emergency vehicle.
The bill also requires the driver’s license test to include a question concerning safe driving when approaching authorized emergency vehicles.
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POTHOLE DATABASE: Sen. Dan McConchie’s Senate Bill 958, which passed the Senate on Friday, April 12, would create a statewide database for reporting potholes.
McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods, said Chicago has had such a site for several years and it has been successful in helping the city repair troublesome portions of road.
The bill instructs the Department of Transportation to create a website on which motorists may report potholes, roadway maintenance issues, and other roadway dangers.
The reports would be forwarded to the appropriate department district or unit of local government. The bill passed unanimously.
McConchie also unanimously passed Senate Bill 1090, which requires the attorney general to compile data concerning Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility violations. The information would be posted to the AG’s website.
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RACIAL IMPACT NOTE: State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, passed Senate Bill 1485 on Friday, April 12, to create the “Racial Impact Note Act” on legislation, similar to existing notes such as those for financial impact.
The bill provides that every bill “which has or could have a disparate impact on racial and ethnic minorities,” can have a racial impact note filed by request of a member.
The note will be a “brief explanatory statement or note that shall include a reliable estimate of the anticipated impact on those racial and ethnic minorities likely to be impacted by the bill.”
The bill also prohibits racial discrimination and harassment by state officers and employees, and provides that each state officer and employee shall annually complete a racial bias, discrimination and harassment training program approved by the appropriate jurisdictional authority.
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FALLEN OFFICER HONORED: Lawmakers took time out from their session Thursday, April 11, at the Capitol to honor the service of McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner, who was shot and killed March 7 while police served an arrest warrant at a Rockford hotel.
“Your family has grown immensely, because every law enforcement officer, every first responder, is not part of it,” a teary-eyed Rep. John Cabello (R-Machesney Park) said to Keltner’s family on the House floor. “We here on the floor are a family, and we are now a part of your family, and here for anything you need.”
Keltner’s wife, Becki, their two young boys Carson and Caleb, and his mother, father and father-in-law met with lawmakers in the House gallery. They also mourned privately with Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday.
Cabello joined Reps. David McSweeney (R-Barrington Hills), Steven Reick (R-Woodstock), Allen Skillicorn (R-East Dundee) and Tom Weber (R-Lake Villa) in sponsoring a house resolution honoring Keltner. It was adopted shortly after Keltner’s death and read Thursday morning as the House’s first order of business.
While introducing the resolution, McSweeney called Keltner a “hero” who was “killed in the line of duty protecting us.”
Reick addressed comments to the family’s two young boys, saying “what we’re doing today is a sign of respect for who your father was and what he did.”
“Nothing will bring your father back to you,” Reick said, “but you must know, and will learn, that in this world there are bad things and bad people, and we hire people like your father to stand between us and them. And sometimes they don’t come home.”
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CRIME VICTIMS RALLY: Two of the state’s top prosecutors joined a rally at the Capitol on Thursday, April 11, with dozens of crime victims and survivors from across Illinois, calling on lawmakers to support programs to help them recover from their trauma.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx told the crowd that state lawmakers need to do more to those support programs, and that the victims and survivors themselves deserve a seat at the table when policy decisions are being made.
“These survivors reflect the diversity of our state and voices that often have not been brought to the table on policy discussions,” Foxx said. “I say this as someone who comes from public housing and knows that the wealth of information and insight we bring to these discussions is often left behind.”
The rally, organized by the group Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, was similar to ones being held in state capitols throughout the country. It included people who have been direct victims of violent crime as well as surviving family members of murder victims, many of whom held photos of the children and other loved ones they had lost.
The state of Illinois operates a number of programs for crime victims, most notably the Crime Victims Compensation Program which, since 1973, has provided cash assistance to victims to help them defray costs such as medical bills stemming from violent crimes.
And in 1993, Illinois voters approved a constitutional amendment known as the Crime Victims Bill of Rights, which includes the right to be notified of court proceedings and the right to be protected from the accused throughout the criminal justice process.
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CANDIDATES’ TAX RETURNS: Illinois is one step closer to requiring presidential or vice-presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the state’s election ballots – if such a measure is even constitutional.
State Sen. Tony Munoz’s Senate Bill 145 passed the Senate by a 36-19 vote Thursday, April 11. It would require the release of tax returns for those running for the nation’s executive branch, but not for U.S. senators or representatives or any statewide elected officials such as the governor.
“Why aren’t any of those people in this?” state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, asked.
Munoz, a Chicago Democrat, said he is open to expanding the elected officials included in the bill upon negotiation in the House.
Righter called the bill “an embarrassing waste of the Senate’s time,” citing two U.S. Supreme Court cases which say the Constitution lays out ballot qualifications and states cannot make them more strict.
Munoz said the bill does not add qualifications, but simply requires release of another document.
“They’re doing this in 25 states whether you agree with it or not,” Munoz said, adding “If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t worry about anything.”
The bill would require the release of five years of tax returns to the secretary of state, whose office would redact sensitive information.
It will now move to the House for further consideration.
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ALCOHOL DELIVERY: A bill which passed the Illinois Senate on Thursday, April 11, would set a statewide standard for alcohol delivery from retailers such as grocery stores.
“More and more people are ordering their groceries online,” state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said. “We want to keep up with this modern way of shopping and make sure that any retailers who want to provide this service to their customers are confident that they will be able to deliver anywhere in the state.”
Senate Bill 54 would allow for home delivery of alcohol from grocery stores and other licensed retailers if certain conditions, including age verification and training, are met.
The bill passed the Senate without opposition and heads to the House, where Harmon said he is continuing to meet with working groups to finalize the legislation.
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SCHOOL BUS STOPS: Drivers who don’t stop for school buses could see a doubling in ticket fines under a proposed state law that passed the House on Thursday, April 11.
House Bill 1873, sponsored by GOP Rep. Darren Bailey of Xenia, doubles the fine for first offenses to $300 from $150, and for second offenses to $1,000 from $500.
It passed the House by a vote of 74-16, with 12 representatives voting present after extended and heated debate.
Bailey called the bill a matter of “public safety, to protect school children as they load and unload off buses.”
Critics said increasing penalties don’t deter people from violating the law, and provide only extra hardship for those who already have the least ability to pay them.
Chicago Democrat Melissa Conyears-Ervin was the first to voice opposition, saying she could not support the bill if the public is not educated about it simultaneously.
“Residents that can’t pay it may lose their license, may in turn not be able to go to work, and may in turn not be able to put food on the table for their children.
“There are people that will have no clue of this legislation, and all the bill will do is put them in a deeper hole,” Conyears-Ervin said.
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TEACHER SALARIES: More than 60 percent of Illinois public school districts have a starting annual salary for teachers of less than $40,000.
That could change as both chambers of the General Assembly consider bills that would set $40,000 as the minimum salary for a teacher.
Advocates say House Bill 2078, sponsored by Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville) and approved Tuesday, April 9, by the House, would help remedy the state’s growing teacher shortage.
“There’s not just one issue why we don’t have teachers, but the pay certainly is a big part of it” Stuart said in floor debate Tuesday.
In a March survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents, 85 percent of responding school districts had major or minor problems with teacher shortages.
The problems were pronounced in central and southern Illinois, where about 90 percent of responding districts said they had trouble finding qualified teachers to fill positions.
While opponents of Stuart’s bill recognize the shortage, they argue that many school districts would have to lay off employees, cut programs, or increase classroom sizes to accommodate a salary increase.
HB 2078 passed by a vote of 79-31, and is now headed to the Senate for consideration.
The Senate, however, has its own bill raising the minimum teaching salary in the state to $40,000. Senate Bill 10, sponsored by Bunker Hill Democrat Andy Manar, was approved Thursday, April 11. It was approved with an amendment the House version did not have, which directs a state review panel to figure out how Illinois’ most underfunded school districts can get extra state aid to comply with the minimum salary law.
Manar said the state’s school funding formula must be “slightly adjusted” to make up the difference for the cost of the bill, so that underfunded school districts could pay the minimum salaries.
He said initial estimates are that “just under” $20 million would have to be added to the funding formula to help the neediest school districts comply with the law.
Both teacher salaries bills are headed to the opposite chamber for consideration.
Manar said he talks daily with Stuart, the House bill’s sponsor, about the legislation.
“I think they both have a very good chance of passing,” he said. “We’re going to get a bill to the governor’s desk, I’m confident in that, and it will be one he can sign into law.”
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LIGHTFOOT VISITS HOUSE: Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot issued a call for statewide unity Wednesday, April 10, in a speech on the floor of the Illinois House of Representatives.
“We are all Illinoisans, and we all have the best interests of our constituents at heart,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot was elected mayor of the state’s largest city, and the nation’s third-largest city, in a landslide on April 2. She won majorities in all 50 of the city’s wards over Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board and chairwoman of the Cook County Democratic Party.
But she was speaking Wednesday before a chamber where the city of Chicago often generates resentment among some “downstate” lawmakers because of the political power it holds, the amount of influence it exerts and the amount of state resources that go to Chicago.
One example of that is a resolution introduced this year by a group of downstate Republicans that would urge Congress to declare Chicago a separate state.
While that resolution is unlikely to receive serious consideration, Lightfoot tried to address the sentiment behind it by emphasizing that Chicago is still part of Illinois.
“I-80 is just a stretch of pavement. It is not a border,” she said, referring to the Interstate highway that, for many, marks the dividing line between northern and downstate Illinois. “We are all one state. And Illinoisans, wherever we live, all want the same thing for themselves and their families. The list is a long one: safe communities; access to good schools; stable and well-paying jobs; affordable homes; quality health care; and a government that is ethical and acts as a responsible steward of our tax dollars.”
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LIGHTFOOT VISITS SENATE: In her second consecutive day of addressing lawmakers at the Capitol on Thursday, April 11, Chicago Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot once again called for statewide unity and told the Illinois Senate “bold action” will be necessary to “bring real change” to the state.
“My charge is clear: bring change by creating real opportunity in every neighborhood so that people have the luxury to dream big and to thrive,” she said. “This is only possible if we, as leaders and public servants, create governments that are ethical.”
One of those necessary changes, she said, was a graduated income tax touted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker – a measure that advanced out of the Senate Executive Committee on Wednesday.
“As elected officials, we must measure ourselves by the simple yardstick: Are we empowering people to make a better life for themselves and their families?” she said. “I commend this body for taking a step in that direction. I understand that recently you have taken the initial steps to move forward with the governor’s plan to institute a fair tax that ensures everyone pays their fair share but frees the more modest earners from aggressive taxation that has kept them from getting ahead.”
Lightfoot called the plan the “type of bold change” that she looks forward to working with Springfield to accomplish. The measure is a constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to impose higher income tax rates on larger margins of income.
She also gave her support to protecting pensions, calling them a “promise,” and put a focus on ending an “epidemic of violence.”
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HOSPITAL CLOSURES: Gov. J.B. Pritzker could soon have authority to decide whether Illinois hospitals must stay open.
Legislation passed Wednesday, April 10, in the House on a 69-35 vote that would give the governor that ability. House Bill 123, sponsored by Addison Democrat Kathleen Willis, is in response to the announced closure of Westlake Hospital in the western Chicago suburb of Melrose Park.
Supporters of Willis’ bill argue its passage is necessary as a signal to the new owner of Westlake that the “lies,” “cheating,” and “fraud” will not be tolerated.
Critics say it gives the governor far too much power for an issue that is already being resolved by the courts and the state board dedicated to resolving health facilities issues.
Two weeks after Pipeline Health’s purchase of the hospital became official in January 2019, Westlake’s new owners declared the hospital would be shutting down within months. The state’s health facilities board is set to approve or deny Pipeline’s application for closure April 30.
Willis said her bill is specific to keeping Westlake open. It does this by allowing the governor to reverse any of the state board’s rulings on hospital closures.
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PRIVATE DETENTION FACILITIES: The Illinois House passed a bill Wednesday, April 10, that would prohibit private, for-profit companies from operating civil detention facilities in Illinois, a measure that would effectively block a project currently being proposed in the village of Dwight, about 75 miles southwest of Chicago.
Illinois already prohibits private prisons from operating in the state, and Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the bill, said it is meant to accomplish the same goals.
“This is an industry that has been plagued by concerns about the health and safety, not only of the people that are held there, but the people that work there,” she said. “Given that we were so forward-thinking as to create this ban in the first place, I believe that it’s proper for us to complete that circle.”
The Dwight Village Board in March approved an agreement with a Virginia-based firm, Immigration Centers of America, which hopes to build a detention facility that it would operate on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
That thrust the village of about 4,000 people into the center of a larger debate over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, including the policy of separating children from their parents if they cross the U.S. border illegally.
The bill, House Bill 2040, passed the House by a vote of 85-26. It now moves to the Senate.
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DOUBLE-DIPPING: Local elected officials and county board members may soon be barred from simultaneously drawing both a salary and pension benefits from the same post.
The Illinois Senate on Wednesday, April 10, approved legislation to prevent representatives from double-dipping. For example, a county board member who has served long enough to earn a pension would have to wait until leaving office to begin collecting the benefit.
Sponsor Terry Link, a Democrat from Vernon Hills, said local officials in his home district of Lake County are “abusing” the opportunity. When the measure was in committee, he learned other units of local government were experiencing the same issue.
“Right now, you have a number of elected officials on the county board serving as county board members and receiving a pension plus their salary at the same time,” he said.
Link added that he is currently qualified to receive his pension from the state as a legislator, but has not chosen to do so.
“If I were to say, ‘OK, I do not want to contribute to the pension anymore but I want to collect my pension and still serve in the General Assembly,’ I think that people would be a little upset because it would basically be doubling my salary,” he said.
Republican Sen. Paul Schimpf, from Waterloo, said he understood what Link was trying to accomplish with the bill, but heard concerns from his constituents.
“This just strikes me that we’re changing the rules kind of mid-stream,” he said. “I think some of my constituents are going to feel like they’re being punished for their service.”
The legislation is Senate Bill 1236. It succeeded in the chamber by a vote of 45 to 6, and arrived in the House on Wednesday night.
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DHS BUDGET: A Senate budget committee on Tuesday, April 9, began weighing Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s request for a $358 million, or 9 percent increase in general revenue funding for the Department of Human Services, the agency that manages most of the state’s social welfare programs.
DHS Secretary-designate Grace Hou, who served as assistant secretary for DHS during former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration, told the panel the additional money is needed to make up for several years of underfunding in social services.
“Staffing shortages, technical challenges, budget cuts, leadership gaps have created bad outcomes for our agency, for those we serve, for our community partners, and for those who are employed by DHS as well,” Hou told the committee.
“It’s clear that these last several years have eroded our system and impacted those who we are charged to serve,” she added. “I came back to DHS because, like you, I want to be part of the solution and to make sure the essential services we provide are of high quality, accessible and equitable.”
DHS is one of the largest agencies in Illinois state government. It operates on a budget of $3.8 billion in general revenue funds and employs nearly 13,000 people, according to state budget documents. Pritzker’s proposed budget would increase its general revenue funding to just under $4.2 billion.
Hou said much of the additional funding being requested, about $107 million, is needed for salary increases associated with the recent increase in the state’s minimum wage.
It also includes money to fund pay raises, retroactive to April 1 of this year, for the roughly 28,000 home service care givers and 14,000 child care providers – raises that lawmakers authorized last year, but which former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration refused to pay.
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PAYMENTS SUSPENDED: Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza announced Monday, April 8, that her office has suspended more than $5.7 million in payments to a company that designed a web portal that manages state employee benefits.
Mendoza made that announcement following the release of an audit in late March that outlined numerous problems with the state’s MyBenefits Marketplace system, which was designed and built by a Toronto-based company, Morneau Shepell.
The system serves an estimated 450,000 state employees and retirees to use when they sign up for health insurance, flexible spending accounts and other employee benefits. Launched in 2016, it replaced a system in which those benefits were administered by the Department of Central Management Services and staff in all of the various state agencies.
From the outset, though, the MyBenefits system was plagued with problems that directly affected employees and retirees, according to the audit. Those have included payroll errors, difficulty for people accessing their flexible spending accounts, people being charged incorrect amounts, and people having their insurance benefits incorrectly canceled.
“At a time when our state could least afford it, MyBenefits was an unnecessary fiasco,” Mendoza said in a news release. “Former Governor Bruce Rauner replaced a system that had functioned for decades with a broken one.”
The audit came about after the Illinois House passed a resolution in 2017 calling for a probe into how the Morneau Shepell contract was awarded and how it had been administered.
The audit puts much of the responsibility on the Rauner administration for rushing through the purchasing process in a way that resulted in only one company, Morneau Sheppel, submitting a proposal. The company was awarded a five-year contract, with an option for another five-year renewal, with a total 10-year cost to the state of $94 million.

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House RECAP: House passes bill calling for teaching work ethics in schools

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS

SPRINGFIELD – Public school students in Illinois might have to start learning about work ethics as early as the sixth grade under a bill that passed the state House on Friday.

Rep. Camille Lilly, a Chicago Democrat, sponsored the bill, which says that beginning in grade 6, “students should be introduced to the importance of developing and applying a work ethic in a variety of contexts.” That includes such concepts as professionalism, trustworthiness, integrity, initiative and respecting authority and arriving on time, according to the bill.

A number of Republicans opposed the bill, arguing that it would be an unfunded mandate on schools and teachers, and that most teachers were already providing that kind of instruction.

The legislation, House Bill 2263, passed by a vote of 69- 39. It now moves to the Senate.

Here’s a look at other bills that passed the House late this week:

HB 3462: Allows school districts to offer courses on hunting safety, based on possible guidelines developed by the State Board of Education. Vote: 114-0

HB 2847: States that employers cannot retaliate against an employee for requesting leave to donate blood, organs, or bone marrow. Vote: 114-0

HB 3302: Updates the state’s law to allow two years for someone to file complaints concerning delays and denials of special education services. Timeline contingent on the creation of the State Board of Education’s “student-specific corrective action plan.” Vote: 114-0

HB 2121: Removes the lifetime ban on becoming a school bus driver for those convicted of a cannabis misdemeanor in the past 20 years. Vote: 108-0

HB 2259: Requires the Department of Heathcare and Family Services to create a list of preferred medical drugs in collaboration with the state’s Medicaid managed care organizations. Vote: 112-0

HB 2: Creates a list of 21 rights for women in pregnancy and childbirth, for which the Department of Public Health must create rules to protect. Aimed at addressing disparate rates of infant and mother mortality and health care for minorities. Vote: 67-35

HB 190: Requires school districts to connect “at-risk” students with academic support programs, and to notify parents of such support programs, both within the school and the community. Vote: 91-22

HB 2540: Allows for the creation and regulation of blockchain companies in Illinois. Also tasks the state with producing a blockchain study and report, both for the regulation of it and for how it relates to the banking sector. Vote: 113-0

HB 2766: Requires one mental health specialist for every 1,000 people employed by sheriff offices, police departments, and firefighter stations. Creates the First Responders Suicide Prevention Act. Vote: 113-0

HB 1690: Defines rules for when a court may expunge or seal someone’s record for a DUI. Provides five conditions under which it could happen, among them a first offense causing no death or injury to others. Vote: 69-36

HB 331: Paves the way for more cameras to be placed along Cook County expressways. Allows use of images for investigations and roadway hazards, but not for the enforcement of petty offenses. Money for the cameras to come out of the Road Fund. Vote: 109-0

HB 3503: Requires insurers to offer coverage of hearing instruments for people 65 or over. Vote: 111-0

HB 3424: Creates the Veterans’ Disability Compensation Task Force to improve the rate that veterans’ disability claims are approved by the federal government, and to align Illinois’ veterans compensation with those of other states. Vote: 114-0

HB 471: Says the state’s Department of Insurance must approve the rates of individual and small group accident and health policies written in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. If the rate increases are found to be “unreasonable,” they will be disapproved. Vote: 73-41

HB 1613: Requires the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority provide a report every three years based on traffic stop data in the state. Estimated cost of $504,000 over next three years for a consultant to assist the study. The Illinois Department of Transportation will no longer be the office to contract out the study and data analysis, as it has in the past. Vote: 75-30

HB 2165: In order to get a high school diploma, at least one year of a student’s required three years of mathematics must be Algebra I, and one year must include geometry content. Vote: 115-0

HB 359: Allows college and university Boards of Trustees to sell surplus real estate, and use the proceeds for deferred maintenance and emergency repairs. Vote: 114-0

HB 124: Requires police officers must be at least 21 years old, or 20 if they have completed a certain number of college credit hours. Vote: 115-0

HB 2625: Says the General Assembly must redraw the subcircuit boundaries of the circuit court of Cook County after the 2020 census. Vote: 98-12, 3 present

HB 907: Requires the Department of Public Health create an online database for mental health resources geared toward school counselors, parents, teachers, school social workers, and school support personnel. Specifically in regard to school shootings and bullying. Vote: 114-0

HB 254: Requires school boards to report number of actively employed teachers, pupil-teacher ratios, class instructors, and class sections to the State Board of Education, which will then post a publicly-available report on that information in 2021. School boards must annually give information to SBOE thereafter for continuing reports. Vote: 84-30

HB 840: Requires the Illinois Commerce Commission create a biannual report, beginning in April 2020, concerning the decommissioning of nuclear power plants in the state. Vote: 73-40

HB 1587: Allows that when a court is imposing sentences for offenses that require mandatory minimum imprisonments, it may instead sentence an offender to probation, conditional discharge, or a lesser term of imprisonment on three conditions: if the offense involves the use or possession of drugs, retail theft, or driving on a revoked license due to unpaid financial obligations; if the defendant does not pose a risk to public safety; and if the “interest of justice” requires the alternative sentences. Vote: 61-48

HB 938: Allows non-home rule municipalities to use the proceeds of the non-home rule municipal retailers’ occupation tax for municipal operations, expenditures on public infrastructure, or property tax relief. Vote: 98-13

HB 2562: Creates a Public Defender Quality Defense Task Force to study public defenders’ caseloads and quality of legal services throughout the state. Vote: 111-2

HB 94: Allows inmates who were sentenced before June 19, 1998, to receive sentence credits on the completion of programs determined by the Illinois Department of Corrections. Vote: 61-47

HB 2244: Says those on parole or mandatory supervised release may not frequent “places where controlled substances are illegally sold, used, distributed, or administered.” Adds they may not knowingly associate with other persons on parole or mandatory supervised released without permission of the parole agent. Lastly, adds they may not knowingly associate with organized gang members. Vote: 62-51

HB 1115: Defines rules for the electronic monitoring of sex offenders on parole or mandatory supervised release. Vote: 62-49

HB 465: Provides various rules on the disclosure and listing of “maximum allowable costs” of prescription drugs in contracts between health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers. Vote: 113-0

HB 122: Creates the Office of the Ombudsman for Behavioral Health Access to Care within the Department of Human Services to help Illinoisans access behavioral health care, including for mental health conditions and substance use disorders. The new office would be subject to appropriated funds from the General Assembly. Vote: 79-33

HB 1440: Tasks the Illinois State Police with creating a sexual assault evidence tracking system based on the recommendations made by the Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking and Reporting Commission in its June 26, 2018 report. Vote: 112-0

HB 2247: Subject to funds from the General Assembly, the Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health should develop and implement a slew of community-based pilot programs for counseling and mental health services to underserved communities. Includes social media campaigns. Vote: 113-0

HB 3606: Adds rules for the publishing of online information about K-12 students. Creates the Student Data Protection Oversight Committee, which must give recommendations on legislation and policy revisions. Adds parental consent to publishing some types of student data in directories, for example. Vote: 71-40, 2 present

HB 2028: Says the Illinois Department of State Police shall pay or reimburse up to $20,000 (an increase from the current level of $10,000) for the burial expenses of state officers killed on duty. Provides an identical monetary change for the burial benefit paid to the surviving spouse or estate of an officer or fireman killed on duty. Vote: 112-0

HB 3390: Requires dog and cat boarding kennels to have at least one fire alarm system or fire sprinkler system in every building that houses animals, if the kennel is not staffed at all times. Vote: 95-16

HB 2670: Reduces the restrictions on opening a business for those with past criminal offenses. Defines terms and provides flexibility to various state departments, including the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, in reviewing the circumstances around past offenses. Vote: 69-42

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Senate RECAP: Presidential tax return measure heads to Illinois House

Republican calls measure “embarrassing waste of the Senate’s time.”

By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
Jnowicki@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois is one step closer to requiring presidential or vice-presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the state’s election ballots – if such a measure is even constitutional.

State Sen. Tony Munoz’s Senate Bill 145 passed the Senate by a 36-19 vote Thursday. It would require the release of tax returns for those running for the nation’s executive branch, but not for U.S. senators or representatives or any statewide elected officials such as the governor.

“Why aren’t any of those people in this?” state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, asked.

Munoz, a Chicago Democrat, said he is open to expanding the elected officials included in the bill upon negotiation in the House.

Righter called the bill “an embarrassing waste of the Senate’s time,” citing two U.S. Supreme Court cases which say the Constitution lays out ballot qualifications and states cannot make them more strict.

Munoz said the bill does not add qualifications, but simply requires release of another document.

“They’re doing this in 25 states whether you agree with it or not,” Munoz said, adding “If you have nothing to hide, you shouldn’t worry about anything.”

The bill would require the release of five years of tax returns to the secretary of state, whose office would redact sensitive information.

It will now move to the House for further consideration.
Alcohol delivery standards set in bill passed by Senate

SPRINGFIELD – A bill which passed the Illinois Senate on Thursday would set a statewide standard for alcohol delivery from retailers such as grocery stores.

“More and more people are ordering their groceries online,” state Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said. “We want to keep up with this modern way of shopping and make sure that any retailers who want to provide this service to their customers are confident that they will be able to deliver anywhere in the state.”

Senate Bill 54 would allow for home delivery of alcohol from grocery stores and other licensed retailers if certain conditions, including age verification and training, are met.

The bill passed the Senate without opposition and heads to the House, where Harmon said he is continuing to meet with working groups to finalize the legislation.

In other action Thursday, the Senate also passed the following bills to the House for further action:

Senate Bill 75: Requires hotels, motels and casinos to provide employees working in isolated spaces safety devices for use if they are sexually assaulted. It also requires such businesses to adopt sexual harassment policies. Vote: 51-3

Senate Bill 24: Requires freight trains and rail carriers to have an operating crew of at least two individuals. Gives the Illinois Commerce Commission the power to conduct hearings and issue and enforce orders such as sanctions, with respect to crew size. Vote: 35-19

Senate Bill 161: Gives the Illinois Attorney General’s office statutory authority to enforce violations of wage theft and workplace rights violations. The bill is similar to previous bills carried by now-Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who was previously a state senator. Vote: 57-0

Senate Bill 222: An initiative of the Illinois State Treasurer’s office, making it illegal to offer consumers a rebate in the form of a card which charges dormancy fees or other post-issuance fees. A similar bill passed in a previous General Assembly and was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Vote: 40-17

Senate Bill 455: Allows a school nurse or administrator to administer or supervise self-administration of medical cannabis-infused products to a student who is a registered patient of the medical cannabis pilot program. The bill outlines requirements for product storage and parental notification. The bill will be further negotiated in the House. Vote: 52-0

Senate Bill 516: Allows all existing riverboat casinos to move to land-based facilities. The bill provides that an application for an owner’s license shall include an additional fee of $100,000 to the Illinois Gaming Board, and that a fee for renewal of an owner’s license is $100,000. The bill will not interfere with future gambling legislation. Vote: 44-5

Senate Bill 637: Requires the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to reimburse a patient for custom prosthetic and orthotic devices at the Medicaid rate minus 6 percent. It also prohibits HFS and managed care organizations from providing less favorable coverage than applies to all medical and surgical benefits provided under the fee-for-service medical assistance program or the Medicaid managed care plan. Vote: 42-4-2

Senate Bill 946: Allows the Department of Human Services to issue pediatric cancer awareness decals for license plates. Provides fees for the decals will go to the Pediatric Cancer Awareness Fund to go to the University of Illinois Cancer Center for pediatric cancer treatment and research. Vote: 56-0

Senate Bill 1226: Abolishes the Illinois State Charter School Commission, removing the ability of any state entity to overturn a local school board’s decision to deny a charter school application. Creates a charter school application process where only local school boards and communities can decide if a charter school will be allowed. Places existing charter schools under authority of the Illinois State Board of Education. Vote: 40-11-1

Senate Bill 1255: Allows Illinois veterans education grants to be transferred to qualifying dependents between the ages of 18 and 26. Vote: 55-0

Senate Bill 1473: Allows the secretary of state to remove the suspension of an individual’s driver’s license that was revoked for nonpayment of child support if the individual has arranged for payment in a manner satisfactory to the court or the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Vote: 44-10

Senate Bill 1828: Aims to combat the opioid epidemic in Illinois and provides that the Department of Human Services’ report on drug overdose trends statewide shall provide information on the current substance use disorder treatment capacity within the state. Increases access to drug safety testing and clean needles. Vote: 46-3

Senate Bill 1829: Omnibus, compromise package which strengthens sexual harassment and discrimination laws and gives more protections to private-sector workers who experience sexual harassment and discrimination. Vote: 56-0

Senate Bill 1909: Calls on the state to improve health care for pregnant and postpartum individuals. Requires certain group health insurance policies and other specified policies to provide coverage of medically necessary treatment for postpartum complications as determined by the woman’s treating physician. Extends post-pregnancy Medicaid coverage to 12 months from 60 days. Vote: 55-1

Senate Bill 2075: Lowers the compulsory school age from 6 to 5 beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. Requires each district to establish kindergarten for 5-year-old children. Vote: 39-16

Senate Bill 1536: Provides that term limits enacted by referendum, ordinance or otherwise must be prospective and shall not prohibit a person otherwise eligible from running for or holding elective office in that municipality. Provides that imposition of term limits shall apply only to terms for the same office. For example, a person hitting aldermanic term limits could still run for mayor. Initial Vote failed: 29-19; it was voted on again hours later on postponed consideration, passing 31-19.


Senate RECAP Scott’s Law awareness measure advances

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS

SPRINGFIELD – In light of an increase in accidents and deaths to Illinois State Police troopers, the state Senate on Friday passed a measure to increase awareness of “Scott’s Law,” which requires drivers to slow down and switch lanes when they see flashing emergency lights.

Senate Bill 947, sponsored by Republican Chapin Rose of Mahomet, passed the Senate unanimously. The bill provides that renewal notices from the secretary of state’s office will advise drivers of how to properly approach a stopped emergency vehicle.

The bill also requires the driver’s license test to include a question concerning safe driving when approaching authorized emergency vehicles.

Here’s a look at other legislation passed by the Senate on Friday:

SEXUAL PHOTOS: State Sen. Melinda Bush passed Senate Bill 1507, which would give greater protections to people harmed by having sexual images of them disseminated without their consent. It also applies to the threatened dissemination of those images.

The bill gives victims a cause of action under specified circumstances. The bill also allows a victim to use a pseudonym or redacted name in court.

Under the bill, an action for a nonconsensual dissemination may not be brought after four years from the date the dissemination was discovered.

The bill passed 55-0.

POTHOLE DATABASE: Sen. Dan McConchie’s Senate Bill 958, which passed the Senate, would create a statewide database for reporting potholes.

McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods, said Chicago has had such a site for several years and it has been successful in helping the city repair troublesome portions of road.

The bill instructs the Department of Transportation to create a website on which motorists may report potholes, roadway maintenance issues, and other roadway dangers.

The reports would be forwarded to the appropriate department district or unit of local government. The bill passed unanimously.

McConchie also unanimously passed Senate Bill 1090, which requires the attorney general to compile data concerning Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility violations. The information would be posted to the AG’s website.

FIRST RESPONDER SUICIDE PREVENTION: State Sen. Terry Link’s Senate Bill 730 would create the First Responders Suicide Prevention Act. The bill requires training programs for police to recognize signs of work-related cumulative stress and other related issues that might lead to suicide, and offer appropriate solutions for intervention.

The bill would also provide that emergency services personnel may refer any person to an employee assistance program or peer support counselor if those services are not available within the agency.

The bill also provides that minimum in-service training requirements, which a police officer must satisfactorily complete every three years, shall include officer wellness.

Link said the bill would see further amendments in the House, and it passed 52-0.

SCHOOL SAFETY: State Sen. Tony Munoz, a Chicago Democrat, advanced Senate Bill 1658, allowing the State Board of Education to award grants to school districts to support school safety and security, subject to appropriations or private donations.

These grant funds could be used for school security improvements, including professional development, safety-related upgrades to school buildings, equipment, including metal detectors and x-ray machines, and facilities, including school-based health centers.

The bill also requires ISBE to prioritize the distribution of grants to school districts designated as Tier 1 or Tier 2 under the evidence-based funding formula – or districts that are further from funding adequacy. The bill passed unanimously.

PROPERTY TAX ABATEMENT: State Sen. Chuck Weaver’s Senate Bill 1042 passed the Senate, allowing home-rule municipalities to abate property taxes for a newly remodeled home located in a blighted area. It passed unanimously.

OUT-OF-TOWN COMMISSIONER: State Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, passed Senate Bill 756, allowing a township board of trustees with populations less than 500 to appoint a non-resident highway commissioner or to contract with a neighboring township if the district is within a township with no incorporated town and no qualified candidate living in the township steps forward.

RACIAL IMPACT NOTE: State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, a Maywood Democrat, passed Senate Bill 1485 to create the “Racial Impact Note Act” on legislation, similar to existing notes such as those for financial impact.

The bill provides that every bill “which has or could have a disparate impact on racial and ethnic minorities,” can have a racial impact note filed by request of a member.

The note will be a “brief explanatory statement or note that shall include a reliable estimate of the anticipated impact on those racial and ethnic minorities likely to be impacted by the bill.”

The bill also prohibits racial discrimination and harassment by state officers and employees, and provides that each state officer and employee shall annually complete a racial bias, discrimination and harassment training program approved by the appropriate jurisdictional authority.

 

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