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Wednesday roundup

Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

[This post has been bumped up from last night for visibility.]

* Tribune

The Illinois House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan to consolidate nearly 650 local pension funds for suburban and downstate police officers and firefighters.

The measure, which was approved on a bipartisan vote of 96-14, now goes to the Senate. If that chamber approves the bill before adjourning Thursday, it would hand another victory to Pritzker after he accomplished nearly all of his legislative priorities in the spring. […]

The version passed by the House differs from Pritzker’s original proposal by giving active and retired police firefighters majority representation on the board that will oversee the funds. That change was key to winning the support of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, which had opposed the initial proposal.

* Gov. Pritzker’s office…

The House has taken a huge bipartisan step toward a commonsense solution for alleviating the enormous property tax burden in downstate and suburban communities that are struggling to meet their pension obligations,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Consolidating these small funds means that they could improve their investment returns by as much as $2.5 billion over the next five years. While this effort has been more than a half century the making, today’s progress would not have been possible without Rep. Jay Hoffman’s guidance in the House, and I look forward to the Senate moving forward on a measure that has earned the support of local municipalities, firefighters and police officers. I urge the Senate to swiftly pass this legislation so we can continue improving our state’s fiscal health and secure the retirements of the workers who earned them.

* Tribune

Legislation to strengthen regulation of ethylene oxide sterilization operations around a “densely populated location” like Gurnee or Waukegan was blocked Wednesday by an Illinois Senate committee.

Late last month, the Illinois House voted 60-47 to send the House Bill 3888 to the Senate. The measure would require Northfield-based Medline Industries to move an assembly plant away from Lake County neighborhoods or switch to safer alternatives for sterilizing medical equipment by the end of next year. […]

On Wednesday, a late amendment to the bill in the Senate’s Executive Committee changed the length of the phaseout period and excluded several geographic areas, among other changes.

The bill’s Senate sponsor, Sen. John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said the amendment fulfilled promises made by the House sponsor, Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, but he had not taken part in those negotiations.

* Stop EtO…

We’re disappointed and afraid for our children and families, but we’re heartened that the Senators took the issue seriously and made it clear that they expect to be voting on this again in the spring. Stop EtO will not stop fighting until our children are safe.

* Tribune

Legislation that would reduce both city and state taxes on a Chicago casino was introduced in the state Senate on Wednesday, but it remained unclear whether lawmakers will come through this week on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s request for a tax structure that would be more appealing to potential investors.

Senate President John Cullerton put forth a compromise proposal Wednesday, but Lightfoot still needs to win more support from House Democrats if a bill is going to make it out of the General Assembly before its scheduled adjournment Thursday.

Democratic Rep. Bob Rita of Blue Island, the lead negotiator on gambling issues in the House, said he’s still working to see whether there are enough votes to move forward before lawmakers leave town.

While most House Democrats want the Chicago casino to succeed, Rita said, there are concerns that it could steal business from both proposed and existing casinos in surrounding suburbs. And some Democrats have raised questions about how revenue from the casino would be allocated to building projects under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s $45 billion “Rebuild Illinois” infrastructure plan.

* ABC 7

Late in the afternoon the gaming bill sponsor, State Representative Bob Rita, was joined by members of Lightfoot’s Springfield lobbying team for a meeting in the office of House Speaker Mike Madigan.

The meeting comes after a day long effort to win enough votes in the House to pass a revised bill.

The original bill contained a 72 percent tax rate on a Chicago casino, which a consultant said was too onerous to attract investors.

Senate President John Cullerton also emerged from a meeting with Speaker Madigan Wednesday, but he declined to comment on discussions.

* Sun-Times

The clock is ticking for Mayor Lori Lightfoot to convince enough lawmakers that lowering the state tax rate on a Chicago casino would still make a winning bet for Illinois.

Changes in the language of the state’s new gambling law have mostly been agreed upon to lighten the tax burden on the big city casino to make it viable, in light of a consultant’s report that high taxes would prevent any developer from securing financing.

But sources say Lightfoot is struggling to gain support, even after deploying labor union forces to try to seal the deal in the waning hours of the fall veto session.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton had hoped to bring a negotiated compromise to the Senate floor Wednesday, but the vote was delayed as the city continues to negotiate with lawmakers. That gives Lightfoot a couple extra hours to try to work her roll calls in both chambers.

* Dave Dahl

A senator who represents a city which is getting a new casino is unhappy with the new deal. “The state’s capital plan is going to be losing $140 million a year,” said State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford). “A lot of capital projects throughout the state are not going to get done now, because we are giving Chicago a better deal” than other – struggling – casino cities will get.

To that, State Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills) told Syverson, at least Rockford’s getting a casino, but Chicago may not.

* Bond Buyer

Lightfoot said after the city council meeting that, based on her conversations with leaders, she was not ready to give up hope that consideration would have to wait for the next session in January.

“The situation is fluid but we continue to be optimistic,” she said after a city council meeting. “It’s critically important for the city because the revenues generated by a Chicago casino are designated for our police and fire pensions and it’s obviously a top priority for us to have a structural sustainable revenue solution to help address our long-term fiscal needs.”

* NBC 5

The Illinois House has approved legislation to cap the amount diabetes patients must pay for insulin to $100 a month.

The vote Wednesday to answer skyrocketing prescription insulin costs was 100-13. The Senate has approved the idea but a change in the House requires another Senate vote.

* SJ-R

State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, is once again hoping that the General Assembly passes legislation that will abolish a provision in state law that has all the voters in Sangamon County elect some officials who oversee functions of Capital Township, which generally shares boundaries with the city of Springfield.

But just like when the issue arose near the end of the spring legislative session, the three members of the General Assembly — all Republicans — who live in Capital Township said Wednesday they were caught unaware of action on the issue.

“If he wants to change how Capital Township is governed, he should talk to the three members of the General Assembly who live in Capital Township,” said Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield. “This is a personal issue for us. We believe that the county does a very good job with the township in running an effective … government. Secondly, he doesn’t live here. It’s as easy as that.”

* Capitol News Illinois

Bills aimed at curbing where Illinoisans can use electronic smoking devices and with what flavorings appear halted until the spring session of the General Assembly.

One bill would loop electronic cigarettes into the Smoke Free Illinois Act. The other would ban flavored cartridges and pods used in such devices.

* Capitol News Illinois

Meanwhile, lawmakers were also still negotiating a marijuana bill Wednesday that would address some unresolved issues left behind by the massive legalization bill that passed through the General Assembly in the spring.

Sen. Heather Steans, a lead sponsor of the original bill, explained to a committee that the so-called “trailer” bill is intended to clarify several aspects of the original bill. […]

It also clarifies a “revolving door” provision of the law by saying members of the General Assembly and their families would be prohibited from having a direct financial interest in a cannabis business until two years after that lawmaker leaves public office.

It also provides that marijuana-related paraphernalia would no longer be illegal in Illinois. But it would remain illegal to operate a snowmobile or any kind of watercraft while under the influence of marijuana.

* WCIA

A plan to forgive private jet repair shops for unpaid sales tax debt and restore an expired tax exemption cleared a hurdle in the Senate Revenue Committee on Wednesday.

A 2010 sales tax exemption for private jet repair parts expired in 2014, and the industry says it was caught off guard until an audit in March flagged the issue at one Illinois facility. They quickly pushed a bill through the House during the first week of veto session to restore the exemption and forgive the tax debt.

The measure appears headed for Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk, despite his threat to veto it.

* Center Square

While the number of ethics reforms filed by Republicans in the Illinois statehouse continue to stack up, the clock is running out for anything to pass by the end of the week.

Thursday is the last day of session this year. While Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said it’s possible for some reforms to pass in one day, he wants more time to review the proposals.

“I’ve mentioned before we should have some kind of a joint committee or something at a minimum and see if we can pass any low hanging fruit, but that’s something that hasn’t been negotiated yet,” Cullerton said Wednesday.

He said something will pass this week, but didn’t elaborate.

* Illinois Gaming Board…

On August 8, 2019, the IGB approved a video gaming emergency rule that would allow for a sixth machine to be installed and connected to the central communications system without sworn IGB agents present on-site, allow for large licensed truck stops to have up to ten Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) and add language about progressive jackpots. The Gaming Board approved this rule at the first Board meeting after Governor Pritzker signed P.A. 101-0031 (the gaming expansion act) into law on June 28, 2019. The emergency rule became effective on August 13 when the IGB filed it with the Secretary of State. This rule was in effect until JCAR suspended the emergency rule at its September 17, 2019 meeting. No one from the IGB was allowed to speak at the September 17 hearing and JCAR made no inquiries to the Board about the rule. The suspension by JCAR ended the ability of the IGB to expeditiously allow for the addition of a sixth video gaming terminal at locations throughout the State because the IGB had no rules to safely and securely govern terminal handler access or any ability to monitor the integrity of these installs without an agent’s presence. That is because the IGB rules that would have allowed for safe and secure installs at locations without the presence of on-site IGB agents are the very rules JCAR suspended two months ago.

At the time of the suspension, licensed terminal operators had already begun operating under the emergency rules. Many had placed orders for the secure components, which are needed to access critical areas of a video gaming terminal so it may be powered up and connected to the central communications system. This meant that terminal operators could add a sixth machine in licensed locations without waiting for an IGB agent to oversee the installation. JCAR asserted that the suspension of the emergency rule at the September 17th meeting was based on the IGB’s lack of specific statutory authority for the emergency rule, despite the unqualified statutory authority the IGB reasonably relied upon. At the time, the IGB disagreed with this legal interpretation by JCAR Staff — but that could not have been known to JCAR as no one contacted the IGB regarding the potential delays caused by suspension of the rule. The gaming expansion law did not delete the emergency rulemaking authority granted to the Board under the Video Gaming Act; thus, the IGB reasonably referenced and relied upon that section of law granting emergency rulemaking powers to the Board.

The IGB proceeded with the regular permanent rulemaking process on this new video gaming rule. This process causes a natural delay as the rule is not in effect as it works itself through the JCAR process, which can take many months. Yesterday, November 12, JCAR delayed consideration of the regular (permanent) rule for up to an additional 45 days. Apparently, JCAR was contacted by one or more interested parties or industry trade groups before the meeting concerning the VGT surveillance provisions. JCAR staff told the IGB minutes before the hearing yesterday, outside the hearing room, that the Board must agree to the 45 day extension or receive a filing prohibition, which would erase the entire rule within 180 days. JCAR’s action will again cause further delays for gaming expansion.

Below is the status of the 6th machine:

    41 Locations with a live 6th machine approved by IGB;
    309 Total locations with a 6th machine (disabled machines as a result of the Sept 17 JCAR suspension);
    1549 Terminal Operator requests received by IGB for the 6th machine.

* IEA…

The Illinois Education Association (IEA) worked alongside several unions to pass Senate Bill 1784 (SB 1784) to help protect the privacy of public employees, affirm collective bargaining rights and to clarify dues deduction procedures. SB 1784 passed both legislative chambers and now heads to Governor JB Pritzker’s desk for his signature. This legislation is a victory for all union members and public employees in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case, which overturned 40 years of settled collective bargaining law.

“This is about protecting union members’ rights in Illinois. We have the right to organize. We have the right to use our collective voice to advocate for our students, our schools and our communities. Thank you to our lawmakers for recognizing our seat at the table should be protected,” IEA President Kathi Griffin said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

17 Comments
  1. - Ok - Wednesday, Nov 13, 19 @ 10:59 pm:

    Wow. So… productive.

    Always bet on nothing happening.


  2. - Anon - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 6:59 am:

    So sad I feel terrible for the homeowners in the pension fund locations,your children and their children will be forever paying. The municipalities should show the public what this means to their future.


  3. - Quibbler - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 7:23 am:

    Casinos are effectively a regressive tax by other means. It’s really sad how much time and energy is spent on logistical debates about who gets to pay that tax, as opposed to just taxing the Pritzkers are Rauners of the world.


  4. - PublicServant - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 7:34 am:

    ===I feel terrible for the homeowners in the pension fund locations===

    You feel bad that homeowners in these areas are going to save an estimated 2.5 billion over the next 5 years due to this bi-partisan consolidation? Puzzling. Also, don’t firemen and police officers own homes in these areas?


  5. - Anon - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 8:12 am:

    Public servants 5 year without details for a trade off of new benefits that exceed tier 1 is not a gain except for the pension members. Pensions are paid over 10 to 30 years. Taxes for generations to come so yes I feel terrible. As a Illinoisan I expected better for my children and grandchildren.


  6. - Just A Dude - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 8:24 am:

    Anon: “Better than tier 1″. I would certainly bet against that. Please share the details.


  7. - Anon - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 8:38 am:

    Agree with the suggestion that municipalities should be transparent in regards to police and firefighters costs
    Separating this cost out on your property tax bill would go along way in providing tax payers how much of their tax money is going into police and fire departments


  8. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 8:43 am:

    Was listening to committee meetings and floor debates yesterday but missed SB 1784, the union protection bill, when the Senate committee adjourned. Very glad it got to the floor and passed. It’s very wrong for the IPI to get names and addresses of state employees to send them union-busting junk mail. Who are the IPI’s donors, their names and addresses?


  9. - Nick Name - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 8:47 am:

    ===giving active and retired police firefighters===

    ?


  10. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 8:48 am:

    === Agree with the suggestion that municipalities should be transparent in regards to police and firefighters costs
    Separating this cost out on your property tax bill would go along way in providing tax payers how much of their tax money is going into police and fire departments===

    First, police and firefighters are also taxpayers.

    What is *your* purpose to that breakout?

    Tax bills do break out where monies go, like school districts, townships, etc…

    If you do a little legwork, you can figure out in a budget how much the town is spending.

    Oh… explain the greater than Tier 1 thingy.

    Thanks.


  11. - Anon - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 8:51 am:

    Look at the death benefits who receives benefits without earning merely because they die, not even in the line of service that cost for a young survivor is a lifetime of taxes for a town. That’s better than tier 1.


  12. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 8:54 am:

    Sen. Syverson’s point about the Chicago casino seems pretty dense. If no one uses the license because it’s not profitable the capital plan is going to lose more than $140 million.


  13. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 8:54 am:

    === death benefits who receives benefits without earning merely because they die, not even in the line of service that cost for a young survivor is a lifetime of taxes===

    This says so much about you.

    See you in church. You must be a hoot on Facebook.


  14. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 9:16 am:

    == that cost for a young survivor is a lifetime of taxes for a town.==

    I can’t tell if you’re doing a bit or not, because this shouldn’t have to be explained - but that’s not how that works. Surviving children, assuming they are listed as the sole beneficiary and that the public servant were a single parent of said children, would get benefits until they reach adulthood. Not for their entire lifetime. And on top of that, in your morbid scenario the municipality would actually be paying out less overall than if the public servant had not died and kept working up to retirement.


  15. - Perrid - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 9:21 am:

    Three Dimensional Checkers, you’re making the assumption that the consultant is right and no one will bite. Which is reasonable, but not guaranteed. If they are wrong then the state will be leaving money on the table.


  16. - Anon - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 10:00 am:

    Read the act it says that a pension can be paid for any death no matter the amount of service so it says about me.. that it isn’t fair to a small town.


  17. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Nov 14, 19 @ 10:04 am:

    - Anon -

    I stand by my comment, probably more so.

    Keep explaining.


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