* It’s a holiday and comments will likely be slow today, so I decided to combine several topics into one roundup post…
* Gov. J.B. Pritzker vowed to ‘think big’ as a candidate, but is his agenda too big? Lawmakers will decide this week: Heading into the weekend, an optimistic Pritzker told reporters that many of his proposals were lined up and ready for a final vote. “There’s a lot of support for them and I’m looking forward to seeing some success over the next week,” he said. In that very first “think big” campaign ad for Pritzker from May 2017, it ended with an announcer saying of the Democrat: “Getting things done.” The next week may decide the veracity of that claim.
* Suburban Democrats key to pot legalization passage but some are breaking ranks: The Daily Herald reached out to 24 suburban Democrats. Twelve responded, and of those, eight or 67% were uncommitted or disagreed with the current version of the legalization policy. “I have concerns regarding the expungement language, and I don’t support allowing homegrown plants,” said Assistant Majority Leader Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates. “Additionally, I’m also concerned about how difficult it would be for law enforcement to determine if someone is driving under the influence.” Illinoisans cultivating their own weed also was a deal-breaker for Sen. Laura Murphy of Des Plaines.
* Task force to study ways to reduce property taxes in Illinois as House prepares for progressive tax vote: “I think it’s the intent of the caucuses to try to work toward a summer task force to deal with property tax relief,” Zalewski said. Pritzker’s proposal includes property tax credits, but with local governments reporting more of their share of property tax revenue going into pensions, state Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, said the only way to address property taxes is to deal with the state’s pension crisis.
* Negotiations continue on gambling expansion bill: [Rep. Bob Rita] also said sports betting by itself may not have enough support to pass the legislature. “People want casinos in their regions,” he said. “If we go forward with just sports betting, where does that leave what we’ve been working on all these years? We’re looking for money. This is a way of putting additional money to the state.”
* Will latest changes make sports betting bill — and casinos — a winning wager?: New language regarding the sports betting measure was distributed on Thursday, and Zalewski, D-Riverside, on Friday said he doesn’t believe the matter is dead. The changes — which have not yet been filed in an amendment — would allow riverboats to operate a sportsbook immediately and would allow them to operate online betting 18 months after the bill is signed. It would do the same for horseracing tracks. “It’s also not as much as prohibiting, but just simply again, we’re going to give Illinois casinos a leg up before we go to an online platform,” said Zalewski, who is also the chair of the House Revenue and Finance Committee. Within that 18-month period, those wanting to make a bet on sports would have to physically enter a casino, instead of what they can currently do as FanDuel and DraftKings customers: take out their phone and make a bet. It would also allow sports facilities with seating over 20,000 to be able to apply for a license to operate a sports book at the facility within a five-block radius.
* Craft Brewers Fighting Construction Tax: The proposal would increase the state beer tax by 4.6 cents per gallon. Brewers claim that could cost them $70 million a year. Danielle D’Alessandro, executive director of the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, said more than half of what customers pay for their six-pack or pint already goes to the government. That includes federal, state and local taxes. “Many may not realize it, but taxes are the most expensive ingredient in beer,” she said. “Not hops or barley or water. Taxes.”
* Illinois lawmakers have 5 days left, 5 big issues to settle: Critics fear that while revenue would be enough for “horizontal” road and bridge work, proposed sources for “vertical” projects including schools, recreational facilities and sewer plants are insufficient. And the unpopularity of the taxes, such as on ride-share trips and cable, satellite and video streaming services, make approval dicey. A key Senate Republican advises reviving a proposal to expand casino gambling to shore up financing.
* Durkin: State budget should take priority in discussions: Our votes mean something, particularly when it comes to some of these big ticket items. We’d like to be part of the budget, but if they don’t need us, if they don’t want our participation or our recommendations, then they’re free to do it on their own. But when it comes to issues that are of other, higher importance, at least these big ticket items, I don’t think that they want to do this strictly on their own and that became very clear yesterday on capital that they need Republican votes. We do have value in this process. We’re in the minority but our votes count. We’ll be willing participants in every proposal as long as we believe we’re given a fair shot and we’re being treated equally, but we’re not going to be undermined. This has got to be a two-way street.
* Child Welfare Caseworkers Ask For ‘Emergency Funding’: Child welfare workers are calling on Illinois lawmakers to better fund private services. That comes after Governor J.B. Pritzker announced plans to overhaul the Department of Children and Family Services’ Intact Family Services unit, which supports families after they’ve been investigated for abuse or neglect. The private organizations that provide those services are asking for $30.7 million in “emergency funding” to address what they call a workforce crisis. Andrea Durbin, CEO of the Illinois Collaboration on Youth, said nearly half of private caseworkers leave the industry due to low pay and high demand.