Metro-East News

May 29, 2014

'Only in Illinois': Referendum question on contraception coverage heading to ballot

The Illinois Legislature continued Thursday to pile advisory referendum questions onto the November ballot.

A metro-east lawmaker said the moves are part of an election-year political game.

It appears the following questions -- which will only ask voters for their opinions, because they're non-binding referendums -- will be on the ballot:

* Should Illinois' minimum wage be increased from $8.25 an hour to $10?

* Should people earning more than $1 million per year be required to pay an additional 3 percent income tax on income exceeding $1 million?

* Should health insurers be required to cover the cost of contraception?

Sen. Kyle McCarter, a Republican from Lebanon, sees a pattern in the ballot questions.

"Let me interpret this for you. The Dems are loading the ballot with referendums that mean nothing, just so they can get their traditional supporters out to the polls to vote for them, so they can protect their power, position, and pension," McCarter said. "Only in Illinois."

The Senate on Thursday approved ballot questions on birth control and the so-called millionaire tax.

Republicans pointed out that, under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, insurers already are required by law to cover contraception.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago, said the ACA is "under attack." She said "we want to be ready here in Illinois" in case the law or its contraception mandate is overturned by a court. She said the referendum would "really just reinforce our stand" on the issue.

But state law also has required contraception coverage since 2003 -- under legislation that was sponsored by Martinez.

Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, called the measure a gimmick.

"It's a stunt, it's a game, and everybody down here knows it," Murphy said. "You're talking about something that's been settled law for 10 years. You just want to gin people up over issues that really don't exist."

Murphy went on to say Democrats are creating the ballot questions because they're worried voters "might actually pay attention this year and fire some of you for the despicable record you have."

On the millionaire tax, the bill's sponsor, Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin, said the Bible teaches that "to whom much is given, much is expected."

Revenue from the tax would go to schools, according to the sponsors.

McCarter said schools also were promised money from the lottery.

"This is a game, and unfortunately, you're really messing with the wrong people here. In the name of helping the kids, you're attacking job creators in this state. Now, if we continue this, they might not even be there for you to tax by the time this gets into law," McCarter said.

All of the ballot measures would have to be approved by Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat who is up for election in November.

His challenger, Republican Bruce Rauner, has spearheaded a signature drive to have another referendum on the ballot. Rauner's proposed amendment to the state constitution would limit state legislators to eight years in office.

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