From State Senator Craig Wilcox:
Senate Week in Review: February 4 – 8, 2019
SPRINGFIELD — Typically, controversial legislation at the State Capitol is left for the end of the spring session in May, but not this year.
Just weeks into the start of spring Legislative Session, the Senate voted on a Democrat initiative to incrementally increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour – a plan that could have huge repercussions for employers across the board, including public universities, school districts, and not-for-profit organizations.
In other news, in anticipation of the upcoming U.S. Census and the redrawing of Illinois’ Congressional and General Assembly maps, the Senate Republican Caucus hosted a press conference at the State Capitol this week to voice their support for a fair maps amendment on the next statewide ballot—and urged voters to join them in demanding a more transparent, fair and nonpartisan redistricting process.
Also during the week, Senate Republicans introduced key initiatives to target the issue of campaign fund corruption between lobbyists and legislators, and government consolidation to save taxpayer dollars.
Minimum wage hike passes Senate
The Senate convened Feb. 7. The majority party pushed through a plan to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next six years. Senate Republicans were united in opposition to the measure that could have far-reaching implications for employers across the board, including an increase in annual costs for state agencies, local school districts, human service providers and hospitals.
The last time Illinois raised the minimum wage was 2006.
A year later, 50,000 jobs were lost, according to Illinois labor statistics.
This new proposal did not include any of the suggestions made by business interests, and it fails to recognize there are very different cost of living considerations across the state.
While the goal of $15 an hour may be appropriate for Chicago, it could very well be an unaffordable wage for small business owners in smaller communities outside the city.
Additionally, the Illinois minimum wage of $8.25/hour is already higher than Wisconsin’s $7.25/hour.
Raising Illinois’ puts additional pressure on the profitability and competitiveness of our businesses compared to their counterparts across the state line.
There is also a provision in the minimum wage law, Senate Bill 1, that should give everyone pause for concern.
Under SB1, the state Department of Labor may make random audits of employers to ensure compliance with the higher minimum wage.
The possibility of government overreach and even abuse of the audit provision should raise an alarm.
Senate Bill 1 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Republicans push for fair maps amendment on ballot
With the U.S. Census and the redrawing of Illinois’ Congressional and General Assembly maps fast approaching, the Senate Republican Caucus held a press conference on Feb. 6 to voice their support for a fair maps amendment on the upcoming statewide ballot.
The ballot initiative, which has garnered bipartisan support from both sides of the aisle, would grant the control of the redistricting process to a nonpartisan, independent committee to draw the districts, rather than entrenched politicians.
Under our current legislative remap process, the partisan voting histories of voters who live in a district are used to draw the maps.
That process ultimately discourages competition, reduces voter choice and limits the impact of a foundational principle of citizenship – the right to vote.
Every 10 years, following the decennial U.S. Census, Illinois’ Congressional and General Assembly maps are redrawn.
Illinois currently has a winner-take-all system for the redistricting process, where the politicians who are in control right now have the power to draw the maps for the next 10 years.
This gives them the ability to shift legislative district lines to create an advantage for the members of their party, which is often referred to as “gerrymandering.”
This system is what creates strangely-shaped districts and uncompetitive elections.
Senate Joint Resolution-Constitutional Amendment 4 (SJR-CA 4) gives voters the opportunity to amend the Constitution to create a new, non-partisan system for drawing maps.
It would establish an independent redistricting commission, increase transparency in the process and provide for public hearings to allow Illinois residents to weigh in.
You can join the push demanding fair legislative maps in Illinois. Sign the petition to urge political leaders to add a fair maps amendment to the ballot. The petition is available at my legislative website: senatorwilcox.com.
Preventing campaign fund corruption between lobbyists and legislators
In an effort to target campaign fund corruption between lobbyists and state legislators, new legislation filed in the Senate aims to prohibit lobbyists with political campaign accounts from donating to members from that account.
Under current law, there are no regulations to prevent newly registered lobbyists who have access to a campaign account from donating campaign funds to members of the Illinois General Assembly.
Senate Bill 128 would specify that donations to members from campaign accounts are strictly prohibited, and will remain forbidden for two years after the individual’s lobbyist registration expires.
Senate Bill 128 is currently awaiting a Senate Committee assignment.
Dissolving drainage districts could mean lower property taxes
Legislation to allow the dissolution of unnecessary drainage districts passed out of the Senate’s Local Government Committee this week, which presents a proactive and valuable opportunity to reduce the property tax burden in Illinois.
Senate Bill 90, [sponsored by State Senator Dan McConchie] particularly targets suburban regions of Illinois that used to be farmland, and are now residential areas and paying taxes to both the municipality and the drainage district.
These circumstances are costly and duplicative for the taxpayer, as the municipality is already taking on the drainage responsibilities for those areas, rendering the drainage district unnecessary.
By allowing municipalities to dissolve drainage districts, taxpayers should see significant property tax relief and a more streamlined government.
Senate Bill 90 will now move to the full Senate for consideration.