Politics & Government

Pritzker declares ‘Illinois is back’ after state lawmakers adjourn. Here’s what they did.

Pritzker discusses a capital bill

Gov. J.B. Pritzker discusses his desire for a capital bill. He also talks about possible funding sources.
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Gov. J.B. Pritzker discusses his desire for a capital bill. He also talks about possible funding sources.

Minutes after the Senate put the final touches on first-term Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s sweeping legislative agenda Sunday, the governor delivered a message: “Illinois is back.”

“Today, the people of Illinois can be proud that we are putting state government back on the side of working families,” Pritzker said at a news conference. “They can be proud that we are restoring fiscal responsibility after many years of crisis and deficits.”

Here are some of the key bills that were passed by the Legislature in its session that ended Sunday:

GAMBLING EXPANSION

Six new casinos, along with legalized sports betting and slot machines for horse racing tracks, re coming to Illinois after Senate lawmakers approved a massive gambling expansion bill Sunday.

Senate Bill 690, sponsored by Indian Creek Democratic Sen. Terry Link, passed that chamber on a 46-10 vote after being approved by House lawmakers the day before. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has already announced his intention to sign it into law.

Link estimated that gambling expansion along with other revenue-raising measures in the bill could net Illinois more than $12 billion in the next six years.

HOUSE PASSES BUDGET, CAPITAL PLAN

The Illinois House closed out what was perhaps the most monumental legislative sessions in recent memory Saturday after passing the final pieces of a budget for the upcoming year and a $45 billion capital improvements program that will be partially funded by expanded gambling.

Those measures, though, were only the finishing touches on a session that also saw passage of a minimum wage increase, a constitutional amendment to overhaul the state’s income tax system, legalization of recreational marijuana and a sweeping expansion of abortion rights.

ABORTION BILL

Legislation that backers and detractors agree will be the most liberal reproductive health statute in the country is headed to the governor’s desk after about 80 minutes of impassioned debate by the Illinois Senate late Friday night.

The abortion repeal-and-replace measure was a source of controversy this session. From its introduction in February, the Reproductive Health Act drew calls of support from advocates looking to the General Assembly to respond to restrictions enacted by some states across the country, and those of warning from opponents concerned about protections being struck from current law.

Illinois’ Catholic dioceses have condemned the General Assembly’s passage of an abortion repeal-and-replace measure headed for the governor’s desk.

Both chambers approved the Reproductive Health Act, which proponents and opponents agree will be the most liberal reproductive health care law in the nation, during the final days of the legislative session. Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement he will sign the bill.

BUDGET, REVENUE

The Illinois General Assembly approved a $40 billion fiscal year 2020 state operating budget Friday night pushing further action on a host of other issues to an impromptu Saturday morning session and perhaps beyond.

The legislative leaders of each chamber had several meetings with Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker throughout the day as House Republicans withheld their votes while seeking concessions from Democrats.

GRADUATED TAX AMENDMENT

A constitutional amendment that would allow the General Assembly to set higher tax rates on greater amounts of income passed its last legislative hurdle May 27 and will head to the voters for final approval about 18 months from now.

After more than three hours of debate in which all 44 House Republicans spoke on the floor, the vote cleared its constitutionally mandated three-fifths majority by two votes. All 73 representatives voting in favor were Democrats.

Conditional graduated tax rates passed the General Assembly on Friday and will head to the governor. The graduated tax rate structure will take effect in January 2021 only if voters approve a constitutional amendment on the November 2020 general election ballot. The Senate’s vote Friday was a procedural concurrence with a minor House amendment.

Per the rate structure, single filers would pay the maximum rate of 7.99 percent on all income once their taxable income tops $750,000. For joint filers, that rate takes effect on all income when it exceeds $1 million. For the rest of the brackets, each varying tax rate would apply to only one specific margin of income.

MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION

Legalized recreational marijuana is on its way to the governor’s desk, and by all indications he will sign it. In the first legislative action in the Illinois House of what had been scheduled as the last day of the session, Senate Bill 1438 passed on a 66-47 vote after more than three hours of debate Friday.

Once the Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs the bill, the goal will be to have marijuana available to consumers by Jan. 1, 2020. Per the bill, Illinois residents could possess up to 30 grams, or roughly one ounce, of marijuana flower, five grams of THC concentrate and five grams of THC in a marijuana-infused product.

CIGARETTE TAX

A pack of cigarettes will cost an extra dollar in Illinois after the Senate on Sunday approved a bill passed a day earlier by the House.

Buried on page 170 of an 800-page bill providing funds for vertical infrastructure projects is a usage tax increase on cigarettes and a new tax on e-cigarettes.

The language increases the state’s current $1.98 per-pack cigarette tax by $1, and is expected to generate about $159 million in revenue per year, according to advocates. That new money will go toward capital projects including building construction, land acquisition and utilities improvements.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

The Senate on Sunday voted to permanently legalize medical marijuana in Illinois. The House OK’d the measure the previous day. Lawmakers approved a pilot program for medical marijuana legalization in 2013 that is set to expire next year.

Rep. Bob Morgan, a Deerfield Democrat, said Senate Bill 2023 stabilizes the program, clarifies who can be certified patients, and adds a social equity component. The bill also adds 11 new qualifying conditions, including chronic pain, migraines, anorexia, and irritable bowel syndrome.

WORKPLACE HARASSMENT

All businesses in the state would need to provide workplace sexual harassment training to employees under a robust bill approved by the Senate on Sunday and the House a day earlier.

Senate Bill 75, carried by Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, requires all employees to provide workplace sexual harassment training at least once a year and advises workers on steps they can take after reporting incidents of harassment or discrimination.

FOID OVERHAUL

Rep. Kathleen Willis said she was “extremely disappointed the Senate chose not to call” her bill to increase Firearm Owner’s Identification card fees and mandate fingerprinting before the end of session.

Under Willis’ proposal, both new applications for FOID cards and five-year card renewals would cost $20, up from the current cost of $10. The fees would have gone toward law enforcement revocation efforts.

SCOTT’S LAW

Since the start of 2019, 22 Illinois State Police troopers have had their patrol vehicles struck by drivers who’ve disobeyed Scott’s Law. With Senate Bill 1862 passing both chambers, violators will now receive steeper fines. The piece cleared the Senate on Thursday evening.

Drivers who fail to reduce their speed or move over when approaching stationary vehicles on the side of the road could be fined at least $500 for a first offense. The fine and fee increases to at least $1,000 for repeat offenses. The maximum fine for any offense is $10,000. The law also increases the severity of violations that result in the death or harm to a first responder from a class 3 felony to a class 2 felony.

PROPERTY TAXES

A pair of bills aimed at addressing Illinois’ high property tax costs passed the General Assembly on Friday and will head to the governor.

One bill, Senate Bill 39, will establish a “property tax relief fund,” which would be used to pay refunds to Illinois property taxpayers, but it would be subject to the appropriations of future General Assemblies and would not take effect until January 2021.

FLOODING ASSISTANCE

With 34 counties under disaster declarations and more than 2 million sandbags already in use, the governor has deployed 200 Illinois National Guard service members along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers to assist with flood and levy monitoring.

“If there’s a river in Illinois, it’s flooded,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said during a news conference Thursday in Springfield.

There’s a multi-agency effort underway to address “a grave situation” across the state, he said.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY PROVIDERS

The Illinois House passed a bill backed by the state’s attorney general Thursday that would enact greater regulation of alternative retail energy suppliers, many of which go door-to-door using “deceptive practices” to lock consumers into contracts that ultimately lead to higher energy costs.

In a unanimous vote, the House passed Senate Bill 651, the Home Energy Affordability Transparency, or HEAT Act, sending it back to the Senate. That chamber passed the bill 43-10 on May 1, then agreed with a minor amendment to send it to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk.

DEFINING CONSENT

A bill making school districts that teach sex education give a fuller definition of sexual consent is on its way to the governor to be signed into law.

House Bill 3550 passed unanimously out of the Senate on Wednesday after being approved by House lawmakers in early April.

School districts that don’t opt out of teaching sex ed must follow a curriculum that includes abstinence, contraceptive methods and discussions of consent. Consent, however, is given no definition under the law, which says only that schools must provide a “discussion on what constitutes it.”

TEACHER SHORTAGE

A pair of bills aiming to address the state’s teacher shortage passed the Illinois Senate on Wednesday.

The first, House Bill 2078, raises the minimum wage for teachers to $40,000 by the 2023-2024 school year. The wage increase would be phased in, starting with a $32,076 minimum in the 2020-2021 school year, $34,576 the year after that, and $37,076 in 2022-2023. After 2024, the minimum wage will increase with the consumer price index each year.

WESTLAKE HOSPITAL

Hospital owners might not be able to close their facilities as quickly under legislation passed this week by the Illinois House.

Lawmakers on May 28 approved a similar but lessened version of legislation drawn initially in response to the planned closure of Westlake Hospital in Melrose Park.

COAL ASH

A bill aiming to ensure safe closure of toxic coal ash pits and financial protections for taxpayers should the pits cause environmental disaster is on its way to the governor. Senate Bill 9 passed the Illinois House on May 27, 18 days after passing the Senate.

Coal ash is the byproduct left behind when coal is burned to produce power, and it contains harmful heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic which can seep into groundwater. In many cases, coal ash is placed in unlined pits, where it remains long after the power plants are closed.

IMMIGRATION POLICY

The Illinois House on May 27 and the Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would prohibit local governments and local law enforcement agencies from entering into certain kinds of agreements with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to enforce federal immigration laws.

House Bill 1637, known as the Keep Illinois Families Together Act, would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from participating in ICE’s “287(g) program.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit news service operated by the Illinois Press Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Illinois. The mission of Capitol News Illinois is to provide credible and unbiased coverage of state government to the more than 400 daily and weekly newspapers that are members of the Illinois Press Association.
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