Hanukkah started this weekend, happy holidays to all!
Last Tuesday the Governor and four legislative leaders met for a highly anticipated meeting. After opening statements to the public, the rest of the meeting was private and lasted less than an hour. Both sides blamed the other for the current budget impasse. Governor Rauner, in another attempt to be conciliatory, further narrowed the structural changes he would like to see before raising taxes to independent map reform, term limits, and a property tax freeze coupled with local control of costs that are currently mandated by the state (i.e. giving communities the choice to keep prevailing wage or not). The meeting produced little other than an agreement to meet again this week with staff present. Meanwhile, the Comptroller was forced to delay the November pension payment and the state is careening towards an $8.5 billion anticipated bill backlog at the end of December.
Pennsylvania, the only other state in the nation that also doesn’t yet have a budget, appears close to a deal. While the specific facts of their impasse are certainly different, interestingly enough the state faces a similar governmental divide to Illinois; a Democrat Governor and a Republican statehouse.
The House passed HB1295, codifying the unemployment insurance agreement reached a few weeks ago between the Governor, labor organizations, and the business community. The agreement eliminates the Social Security Offset to provide greater security to elderly and disabled workers and strengthens the “misconduct” provisions; an individual discharged for certain misconduct is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.
The House also passed SB 2039, a bill which authorizes appropriations from various funds, including the motor fuel tax (MFT) fund, to local municipalities and state agencies. As I have mentioned before, without a budget in place, the State has not had the authority to appropriate even non General Revenue Fund (GRF) money. The House already approved a measure to appropriate the funds last month by passing a similar bill, HB 4035, but it was placed on hold by House leadership. By using a Senate bill as a vehicle for the appropriations, the Senate only needs to be in session one day, as opposed to 3. The Senate, previously not scheduled to meet until after the new year, will be in today to vote on the bill.
The largest transfers authorized will impact MFT, which is given to counties and municipalities and is spent on public safety, local road projects, and 911 centers. Other large transfers include the State Low Income Energy Assistance fund, which will be able to help keep families warm this winter, and the State Lottery Fund. The lottery has been unable to pay winners of over $600 for months and it has negatively impacted sales revenue for the State. Other notable transfers include money from the Mental Health Fund, the Local Tourism Fund, and money to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. All told, the bill authorizes the release on just over $3 billion dollars from various non-GRF funds. Additionally, SB2039 appropriates $28 million in GRF money to the Secretary of State’s office and domestic violence shelters.
Many times the House or Senate will create an expiration date for an Act, thus forcing the bodies to look at the issue again, judge the success of the law, and make any necessary changes. The passage of repeal extension bills are crucial to insure that certain Acts remain in effect. For instance, a bill I worked on, HB 500, passed the House last week so that dentistry would not become an unregulated and unlicensed profession in the State of Illinois after December 31st, 2015. HB 500 also amended the Dental Practice Act to give dentists more flexibility in their offices. It will allow dental hygienists with the requisite hours of additional training to provide cleanings, fluoride applications, and sealant placement on under-served patients in public health settings. It also expands the services that dental assistants can provide to a patient in a dental office. These changes will increase access to patients by allowing dentists more freedom in determining how best to develop and utilize staff. It will ultimately enable more efficient and effective dental care in economically distressed areas with limited staff support.
As a potential part of the solution to the state’s financial crisis several ideas, including an advertising tax, have been thrown around by the state’s leaders. I signed on to co-sponsor House Resolution 889, filed by State Rep McSweeney (R-Cary). The resolution states the House’s opposition to any additional taxes on advertising or advertising-related services. No other state in the nation has an advertising tax. Florida, which enacted an advertising tax in 1987, repealed it six months later after evidence revealed that the tax was counterproductive and public opinion soured. I also signed on to another resolution filed last week, HR890, which voices opposition to the taxation of senior retirement income.
Winter Emergency Preparedness Guide
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) has posted their annual winter guide
to Christmas, holiday, and winter safety. IEMA is especially conscious of the need for Illinois homeowners to be prepared for possible ice storms and related power outages. The Holiday Safety Tips list includes homeowner maintenance of flashlights with fresh batteries in a house and car, a battery-powered radio that can access weather alerts, and other items.
This is most likely my last newsletter of the year. As always if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact my office via email, firstname.lastname@example.org
, or phone, (815) 277-2079.
Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year,