A message from State Rep. Mike Tryon:
Veto Session concluded on November 7th, and lawmakers who were prepared for a long day at the Capitol that day were surprised when Speaker Madigan abruptly adjourned Veto Session in the mid-morning.
While legislators did act on some bills during the session’s final week, most of the largest issues, like pensions, tougher sentences for gun crimes and tax incentives for Archer Daniels Midland and Office Depot/Office Max remained unresolved.
Below is a summary of items that were acted upon in the Illinois House during the final week of veto session:
House and Senate Approve Redefinition of Marriage to Include Same-Sex Couples
Survey results from an insert in the Northwest Herald and his web site showed 61% of Mike Tryon’s constituents did not favor allowing same sex marriage.
When lawmakers returned to Springfield on Tuesday, the first item on the agenda was SB10, the bill that would extend all of the benefits, responsibilities and protections available to married couples equally to same-sex or male-female couples and their children. It is obviously a very emotional and polarizing issue.
In my End of Session Report, which appeared as an insert in our local newspaper at the end of the summer, I surveyed my constituents on a variety of issues, including same-sex marriage. This survey was also available through my legislative web site and it was emailed to everyone in District 66 for whom I have an email address.
In response to the question about same-sex marriage in Illinois, 61% of the respondents asked me to vote NO on SB10, 32% asked me to vote YES, and 7% said they were undecided. These results, along with emails and phone calls received in my office about SB10, were all taken into consideration prior to the vote.
In line with the majority of the people who took the time to weigh in on the matter, I voted against SB10. I am aware; however, that there are strong opinions on both sides of the argument, and believe we must now preserve a sense of civility in the aftermath of the vote.
General Assembly Approves Bill to Limit Pension Enhancements
In a 92-24-1 vote, legislators last week also approved a bill that puts pension reform language in place for pension system retirees who later go to work within the State Universities Retirement System (SURS). SB2196 limits the additional pension benefits that can be earned when this practice occurs. I supported the bill.
House Approves Incentive Package to move Univar from Washington to Downers Grove
Members of the Illinois House voted 86-28-1 last week to provide tax credits and other incentives that would entice Univar, a chemicals distribution firm based in Redmond, Washington, to move its corporate headquarters to Downers Grove. In moving its headquarters to Illinois, Univar would be committing to the creation of 69 immediate new jobs in Illinois, the retention of 100 current Illinois jobs and the addition of 400 additional new jobs in Illinois in the future. I supported this bill.
Both Chambers Approve Pension Reform for Chicago Park District Employees
In a model that might become the basis for statewide pension reform, lawmakers in the House and Senate approved a pension reform bill last week aimed at salvaging the pension fund for employees of the Chicago Park District. This pension system is not part of the pension systems that have a $100 billion liability. It is a system managed by Chicago. Legislators voted to amend the Chicago Park District Article of the Illinois Pension Code with changes that include:
- Phasing in employee contribution increases from 9%-12% over five years
- Creating a phased supplemental employer contribution
- Phasing in of employer property tax levy multiplier increases
- Increasing the Tier 1 retirement age and decreasing the Tier II retirement age
- Decreasing the annual COLA from 3% to the lesser of ½ of the CPI or 3%
- Decreasing the duty disability benefit
- Prohibiting new benefits unless additional funding is authorized
- Adding a funding guarantee
- Prohibiting the use of the pension funds for costs associated with retiree healthcare
Today the pension system for Chicago Park District employees is funded at only 43% and the reforms are intended to bring the system up to a level of 90% funded in the future. While I favored most of the components of this bill, I still maintain that while pension benefits can be changed moving forward, benefits that have already been earned cannot be diminished. For that reason I voted against the bill because I believe it is unconstitutional.
In addition to the bills that either stalled or were voted upon last week in Springfield, there are several other issues about which I would like to provide updates.
House Resolution Demands Answers Regarding Scope of Obamacare-Related Health Insurance Cancellations
Last week I signed on as a co-sponsor of HR680, a piece of legislation that demands that the Illinois Department of Insurance fully disclose the number of Illinoisans who have received cancellation notices from their private insurance carriers in anticipation of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The resolution also asks for disclosure of the actual number of Illinois residents who have successfully obtained health insurance through the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace, and requests Congress to take steps to delay implementation of the ACE individual mandate until issues have been resolved.
Over the weekend, Crain’s Chicago Business Journal came out with an article in which Jennifer Koehler, Director of the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace confirmed that only hundreds of Illinois residents successfully obtained insurance through the Marketplace in October. As cancellation notices continue to hit mailboxes across the state, the fact the citizens are not able to successfully sign up for the mandated ACA insurance is beyond troublesome.
Dominick’s Grocery Closures will Put 5,600 Illinoisans Out of Work
Large employers are required to notify the IL Department of Employment Security (DES) whenever a large layoff is coming that will result in further pressure to hard-pressed unemployment insurance funds. Last week Dominick’s, Chicagoland’s second-largest grocery store chain announced that when their stores close at the end of this year, 5,633 people will be laid off.
Unemployment Rate in IL Tied to Income Tax Increase
The Institute of Government and Public Affairs recently released an independent study which showed a correlation between the 2011 income tax increase and the State’s current status as having the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate. In their October 30 report, the study found that the tax increase was correlated with a sharp pattern of underperformance in Illinois’ ability to create new private-sector jobs and that it has slowed the recovery process from the losses suffered during the economic crisis that began in late 2008.
Medicaid Eligibility Audit Continues to Show Widespread Abuse
Members of the House Republican Caucus have been pushing since early 2012 for an audit of the Medicaid rolls so that those abusing the system could be removed and funding would remain available for our state’s poorest citizens. While full implementation of this review has been repeatedly delayed, preliminary findings have uncovered a startling pattern of waste and abuse. A preliminary audit of 712,000 Medicaid beneficiaries indicates that as many as half of the persons within this group do not fulfill all of the eligibility criteria for the program. Throughout Illinois, an estimated 2.8 million people receive Medicaid benefits, with another 300,000 to 500,000 scheduled to join the program due to a massive Medicaid expansion approved by the General Assembly as part of the ACA. I voted against that expansion.
With the abrupt end of veto session, I believe it is likely we will be called back to Springfield before the end of the year to deal with legislation that stalled, such as the gun crimes bill, the tax incentives bills and hopefully pension reform. All indications are that the 10-member pension conference I will continue to keep you informed about the progress legislation as key bills move through the legislative process in Springfield. As always, if my office staff or I may assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to reach us through email at email@example.com or at the phone numbers listed below.