The common theme of the 2014 Veto Session seemed to be Governor Quinn and liberal Chicago special interests attempting to cram through as much of their damaging agenda as possible before a pro-business governor takes office.
With the help of a lame-duck legislature, Quinn’s caucus managed to push through SB 172, an egregious elections bill that comes very close to codifying Chicago’s “Early and Often” tradition of election fraud.
Predictably, Madigan’s super-majority hit businesses from as many directions as possible with bills such as SB 2758, which mandates that private businesses with 25 or more employees are placed into a state retirement program. In another example, SB 2221 which eliminates the state’s 10-year statute of limitations on liability for exposure to pollutants during the construction process, drastically increasing the possibilities for lawsuits against builders, contractors and other employers in the construction industry. With SB 2774, legislators finally managed to push through ridesharing regulation.
Municipalities were hit with bills such as SB 3075, which increases the cost of grand and petit jurors pay to counties from $4-10 per day to $25 per day, and $50 for each additional day of necessary attendance.
Finally, SB 636, which establishes a State-Based Health Insurance Exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), passed out of committee. It will likely come to the floor in 2015 Spring Session.
Bills that were not called in Veto Session included legislation on EDGE Credits, the minimum wage, pension cost shift, Cook County Pension Reform and the 2011 Income Tax extension. It is likely that these initiatives will be brought to the floor in 2015 Spring Session.
But, there is hope. In SB 16, an education funding formula, we saw the legislative process at its best. SB 16 was a proposal that would have drastically changed the way in which the state funds education. As written, the bill would have stripped suburban school district of millions. Illinoisans fought back. As families and school districts heard about this legislation, they rallied against it. When the Elementary and Secondary Appropriations Committee met in November, it was under heavy scrutiny. Over 6,000 witness slips had been filed against the bill. There was no chance legislators could slip this bill into law. Taxpayers fought back against harmful legislation, and won. This is what can happen when citizens are informed and engaged.
Chicago politics at its worst.
The people of Illinois spoke clearly; they want bipartisan change, and this is Chicago politicians getting their final licks in, increasing the likelihood of electoral fraud in Cook County and statewide.
This allows Chicago ward bosses the ability to bundle “absentee” ballots.
This allows for processing of votes before Election Day.
This puts rural voters at a disadvantage.
It places additional mandates on State and local governments, with a corresponding impact of higher costs for taxpayers.
This takes critical voter registration duties out of the hands of the trained employees of the election authority and puts it in the hands of lesser trained election judges, many of which already struggle with their current duties.
And while there are good provisions in the bill that require a centralized database of voters, this takes away the critical ability of locally elected county clerks to use their judgment in using the provisional ballot tool to help maintain the integrity of the electoral process.
See how your state legislators voted.
Senate Bill 2758 establishes a new governmental entity with a new governmental function: to establish and administer a “mostly mandatory” IRA retirement savings program for private-sector workers.
SB 2758 mandates the cooperation of businesses with 25 or more employees that have no retirement program for their employees.
SB 2758 mandates that every employee of a participating employer give up 3 percent of their paycheck to an automatic payroll deduction for payment into the program, unless the employee expressly opts out.
The intent of the legislation is to promote greater retirement savings for private-sector employees.
The bill also establishes the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Fund and the Illinois Secure Choice Administrative Fund. These are separately held, non-appropriated funds held by the state treasurer.
The state treasurer’s fiscal note indicates startup cost over two years will range from $15 million to $20 million.
SB 2758 imposes financial penalties upon employers who don’t properly implement the law.
SB 2758 mandates a brand new role for state government – a role that is not truly governmental. The bill wouldn’t be necessary if it didn’t call for mandatory employer participation in a program that should be fully optional.
SB 2758 calls for the state to be deeply involved. It places fiduciary duties upon the board, its staff and its financial advisors.
SB 2758 establishes a permanent state board with a permanent program staff of state employees, which is to be financed through a non-appropriated, separately held administrative account over the long-term by a 0.75 percent administration fee.
The state treasurer, the state comptroller and the OMB director are ex officio board members. And gubernatorial appointees must be approved by the treasurer and confirmed by the state Senate.
If this is a retirement program administered by the state, do the participants have the same protection under the Illinois Constitution that members of the other public retirement systems have? The clause in question reads:
“Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”
Is this a pension or retirement system of the state? It certainly reads that way.
These types of one party bills are bad for the state, and this is little more than an attempt by the trial lawyers to expand their litigation opportunities and increase insurance costs to employers in Illinois.
Health and safety is important, and blatantly negligent environmental polluters should absolutely be held accountable, but this action is far too broad and opens the door to too many frivolous lawsuits on the construction industry.
Uncapping the length of time construction entities themselves can be sued is at best irresponsible and more likely damaging for Illinois’ economy. It perpetuates an unfriendly business environment in Illinois, discouraging job creation.
Removal of a statute of repose, as proposed in this bill, often prevents a speedy trial, greatly hampers the ability for defendants to gather evidence to defend themselves, and makes Illinois an outlier in comparison to other states.
The Illinois Legislature passed legislation regulating drivers in the emerging ridesharing industry.
SB 2774 creates statewide regulations for drivers working for ridesharing services connecting passengers with drivers who use personal vehicles to give rides.
SB 2774 includes modified insurance requirements, background checks and a zero-tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol.
The legislation is a modification of earlier ridesharing bills, as the call for an override of Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of the “Uber Bill,” passed in 2014 Spring Session, failed.
The taxi industry supported the initial bills, claiming ridesharing companies skirt regulations.
The bill sponsor agreed to work with ridesharing companies as he drafted the new legislation.
The measure now heads to the Senate.
Increases the cost of grand and petit jurors pay to counties from $4-10 per day to $25 per day and $50 for each additional day of necessary attendance.
Provides that all jury cases (instead of cases where the claim for damages is $50,000 or less) shall be tried by a jury of 6. Deletes language providing the opportunity for a party to demand a jury of 12.
Under SB 3075 if alternate jurors are requested, an additional fee established by the county shall be charged for each alternate juror requested.
Passed Out of Committee – Watch for it in 2015 Spring Session
Senate Bill 636 establishes a State-Based Health Insurance Exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
Under Obamacare, Illinois’ Medicaid rolls have swelled. One out of every four Illinoisans is now on Medicaid. Costs continue to escalate, putting a huge hole in the State’s budget.
Obamacare has done little to control health care costs and has in fact led to higher insurance premiums for many Illinois working families.
A vote for SB 636 is a vote for Obamacare.
After initial start-up costs, the Governor’s Office estimates that the Exchange will cost $50 million per year to maintain – an additional budget pressure we cannot afford.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in June 2015 on a legal challenge to the exchange language of Obamacare. There is no reason for Illinois to take action now, before the new administration has had the opportunity to review our health care policies.
Another key aspect of SB 636 is the elimination of CHIP, the high-risk health insurance pool that has been a model for successful insurance coverage. Eliminating CHIP while Obamacare is still being litigated is an unwise decision.
Not Called in 2014 Veto Session
In 2014 Spring Session, SB 346 (Cullerton/Madigan) included the Speaker’s EDGE reforms, which passed the House by a vote of 107-4-0 but stalled in the Senate.
The changes in the bill are intended to stymie the proliferation of “Special EDGE” benefits.
Highlights of SB 346 include:
- Places enhanced requirements on all future applicants wishing to claim EDGE credits against withholding taxes (“Special EDGE”).
- Requires applicants to agree to hire at least 65% of its new employees in a geographic area of high poverty or high unemployment.
- Requires a CEO affidavit saying, but for the credit, the company would not locate in Illinois.
Pension Cost Shift
Speaker Madigan will likely renew his efforts to shift the normal pension costs from the state to school districts, community colleges, and universities in 2015 Spring Session.
In FY15, it is estimated that a shift would have a $1.1 billion impact to locals and public universities.
Minimum Wage Hike
While the City of Chicago passed legislation increasing the city’s minimum wage to $13 per hour, the initiative was not taken up at the state level. There is likely be another push to increase the minimum wage for employees over the age of 18 from $8.25 an hour to $11.
The federal minimum wage rate is $7.25.
During 2014 Spring Session, there were not enough votes in the General Assembly to pass a minimum wage increase.
Instead, an advisory referendum was placed on the November ballot. The advisory referendum received approval of 67% of the voters.
Cook County continues to advocate for a pension reform bill in an effort to save the County from further credit downgrades.
Although a Cook County pension reform bill, HB 1154 (Raoul/Madigan) passed Senate by a vote of 36-16-3, it did not have enough votes to pass the House.
There will likely be another attempt to move reform legislation in 2015 Spring Session.
Tax Hike Extension
Governor Quinn and Democrat leaders continue to advance their argument for legislation to extend the 2011 Democrat temporary income tax increase, which is scheduled to partially repeal on January 1, 2015.
The current temporary individual income tax is 5% and the corporate income tax rate is 7%.
If the temporary income tax increase expires, the individual and corporate rates will fall to 3.75% and 5.25%, respectively.
Held in Committee
SB 16 (Manar/Chapa LaVia) passed the Senate by a vote of 32-19-6 on May 27th to dramatically change how the state funds elementary and secondary education. As passed the Senate, SB 16 is cost-neutral and creates a new single weighted formula that places most school grants into the formula, including transportation, special education, and bilingual education.
The formula also places weights for types of students, such as low income, ELL, gifted, and special education students. All funding in the formula is equalized based on school district’s property wealth (Available Local Resources). Over the summer, House Democrat members met with various education groups in anticipation of making changes to SB 16.
Currently about 40% of State education funding is equalized, because some grants are competitive, such as Early Childhood Education, and other programs are reimbursements on claims for prior year services, such as special education and transportation. Using the single formula under SB 16, roughly 83% of state funding will be equalized for local wealth.
On September 19th, HR 1276 (Sandack-Wheeler-McSweeney-Tryon-Ives) was introduced to urge the General Assembly to cease their efforts to pass SB16 to make certain that all aspects of the Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee report are analyzed and discussed thoroughly and publicly by all members of the General Assembly, taxpayers, parents, and the education community.