A report from State Rep. Mike Tryon:
State Representatives and Senators were back in Springfield last week to finish responding to gubernatorial vetoes. We also considered several other pieces of legislation.
The positive outcomes from veto session can be better categorized as things that didn’t happen rather than as things that did.
No Lame Duck Session: With the banging of the final gavel on Wednesday, December 3, the House adjourned sine die, which means “without day”.
This eliminates the possibility of a Lame Duck Session when unpopular legislation is typically passed by lawmakers who are leaving office. The House will not reconvene until after Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner has taken his oath of office and the 99th General Assembly has been seated.
No Extension of the Temporary Income Tax of 2011: With the possibility of a Lame Duck Session off the table, the temporary income tax hike of 2011 will sunset as originally promised. If you recall, the 67% income tax hike was approved during a Lame Duck Session. Lawmakers who either lost their re-election bids or were retiring by choice were pressured into voting in favor of the tax increase, in many cases in exchange for lucrative post-Statehouse jobs. Because legislation to extend the temporary tax did not advance during veto session, the tax will expire before the new General Assembly is seated.
No Advancement of SB16: All pending legislation from the 98th General Assembly expires when the 99th GA is seated on January 14, 2015. Among the expiring bills is SB16, the controversial school funding formula rewrite, which sought to strip McHenry, Kane, and other collar county school districts of millions in General State Aid. Suburban legislators fought hard to stop the bill, and a real impact was felt from the massive opposition shown by residents whose school districts would have been unfairly punished through the provisions of the bill. More than 7,000 citizens filed opposition slips on line with the committees that met to gather testimony on SB16, and another 4,700 people signed an on-line petition against it. Additionally, legislators’ offices were flooded with phone calls and emails from citizens expressing their dislike of SB16. I expect the school funding conversation will extend into 2015 and that new legislation will be filed to change the formula. My hope is that the next bill will not pit the collar counties against Chicago Public and downstate schools. The ultimate reforms need to be fair to all.
Unfortunately, much of the legislation we did consider during the second week of veto session was bad for taxpayers, bad for businesses and preserved Chicago-style politics. It became evident early in the week that House and Senate Democrats intended to completely disregard the call by Illinois citizens that legislators work in a bipartisan manner. With no respect for procedure and rules, the majority party pushed through several damaging bills. Many of the bills either skipped the committee hearing process all together, or were presented for votes before all questions about financial and economic impacts could be answered.
Partisan Elections Bill Passes In Party-Line Votes: Calling the measure “Chicago politics at its worst,” House Republicans opposed SB 172, which allows political workers, including Chicago ward bosses, to bundle “absentee” ballots, and authorizes election clerks to start processing mail-in votes before Election Day. It imposes expensive new unfunded mandates upon election authorities, including burdens that will weigh especially heavily upon smaller, rural, and Downstate election authorities. It authorizes election judges to not only scrutinize people who vote in person, but to register new voters in person on Election Day. While the bill did include a few good components, our caucus was opposed to the permanent approval of these voting changes before we could properly analyze the temporary changes that were put in place as a trial measure for the November 4 election. In spite of every Republican voting against it, the measure was passed and now awaits the signature of outgoing Governor Pat Quinn.
General Assembly Approves Bill to Impose Automatic Savings Deductions upon Illinois Paychecks : The Secure Choice Savings Program Act (SB 2758) passes along yet another unfunded mandate to Illinois small businesses. The Act is based on an assumption that persons age 18 and up who are employed in Illinois should save money with money managers. The new program will automatically deduct 3% from employees’ paychecks unless they explicitly drop out of the savings program. The program will apply, as a mandate, to all places of employment that are at least two years old and are without existing savings plans that have employed 25 employees or more throughout the previous calendar year. Approximately 2.5 million Illinois workers could be affected. I view this as a classic example of government overreach, and voted “no”.
Sweeping Changes to Jury Structure and Pay Approved by House and Senate by Partisan Votes: Current law provides that in most cases tried under the Code of Civil Procedure, a 12-member jury shall be empaneled. SB 3075 reduces this headcount, in almost all cases, from twelve jury members to six jury members. SB 3075 also contains language that increases the daily rates paid by counties to their jury members. The new jury pay schedule mandates that jury members be paid at least $25 and up for each day of service. The actual pay rate will be determined by a sliding scale based on the population of the county where the jury member is empaneled. Officials in McHenry and Kane Counties have stated unequivocally that SB3075 will dramatically increase costs, with McHenry County estimating a 425% increase in juror payment costs. In 2013, McHenry County spent just over $88,000 paying jurors for performing their civic duty. Had SB 3075 been law in 2013, McHenry conservatively estimated that it would have had to payout $368,000. As a bloc, the Republican caucus voted against the measure.
Speed Limits for Trucks Increased to 60 MPH on Downstate Interstate Highways: Until the passage of SB 930, trucks driving on Downstate Illinois’ interstate highways were legally restricted to traveling at the rate of 55 miles per hour, although this speed limit was not fully enforced in practice. SB930 increases this speed limit to 60 miles per hour for interstate highways only. The lower speed limit continues to apply to non-interstate highways. The bill applies to vehicles licensed in the second division, a category that includes most heavy and freight trucks. After being passed by both houses of the General Assembly in the spring 2014 session, the measure was vetoed by Gov. Quinn. Both houses of the General Assembly overrode this veto by the required three-fifths majority.
70 MPH Speed Limit Coming to Illinois Tollways: Members of the House and Senate overwhelmingly overrode Governor Quinn’s veto to SB2015 which would bring the speed limits on expressways in line with the increased speed limit that was approved for downstate interstate roadways a year ago.
On a personal note, I did have one bill pass last week.
Althoff-McConnaughay-Tryon Conservation District Bill Passes Both Chambers: During the Spring Session, I did not advance a Conservation District Bill that would have allowed for property tax increases in McHenry County.
However, last week an amendment was added to SB 3341, which removed that possibility and simply provided the MCCD with the same bonding authority that other units of government utilize.
Through the amendment, the MCCD will now be able to refinance debt at lower rates and manage their tax rates in the same way that other governmental entities manage theirs.
Looking ahead, legislators are currently working on drafting bills that will be presented in Springfield next year. I my staff or I may assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact our Crystal Lake office at email@example.com or at (815) 459-6453. Best wishes for a warm and safe holiday season, and I hope you are able to spend quality time with family, friends and other loved ones.