The McDermed Dispatch for June 15th

Speaker Madigan has officially given us a schedule for this unprecedented extended session. Session days will be every Tuesday for the next 3 weeks.

Rauner Makes Preparations
       Governor Rauner has initiated steps to prepare for the underfunded FY16 budget passed by the GA. The various bills that make up that budget have not yet been sent to Governor Rauner to either veto or sign. If a budget is not signed by the beginning of July, then the state loses significant authority to spend money. The Governor is wisely preparing for that possibility.
       The Governor has announced steps to ground state planes, suspend the state portion of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, freeze state police vehicle purchases, suspend the Illiana expressway, and suspend all future incentive offers to companies for business attraction and retention.

Comptroller Warns of Consequences
       This past week Comptroller Leslie Munger held a press conference to outline some of major consequences of a failure to reach a budget agreement. Most notably, new payments to state vendors and Medicaid providers will stop, state workers will start missing paychecks, and most concerning of all, General State Aid payments to schools may not be delivered on time by August 10th. However, through continuing obligations and other legal provisions, the state will be able to continue funding certain critical areas including debt, pension, retiree, and most local government payments. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Aid to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled programs will continue to be funded as well. The Comptroller called on the General Assembly to quit with the rhetoric and posturing and work with the governor to pass a balanced budget.

Good news for Beer Lovers
       A bright spot in the Illinois economy is the rising number of craft operations that brew unique and local beers, which are often sold on-site in brewpubs or taprooms. Many beer distributors are developing mutual arrangements with craft breweries; these contracts expand the opportunity for these beers to be consumed in local taverns and even sold in beverage stores and groceries.
       While current law allows many breweries licensed as craft breweries to brew up to 30,000 barrels of annual production, this cap increasingly limits production growth and job creation by Illinois brewmasters and owners. On Tuesday, June 9, the Illinois House concurred with Senate amendments to HB 3237 to increase the craft-brewing production cap to 120,000 barrels a year, sending the measure to Gov. Rauner for possible approval.
       The General Assembly has also approved legislation to allow ‘Happy Hours’ once more in Illinois. Happy Hours have been banned since 1989 because authorities were fighting to reduce DUI violations and to enforce an increase in the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. The bill includes a new mandate to impose training requirements which will help staff identify underage drinkers.

Worker’s Compensation Battle Continues
      The workers’ compensation system was discussed on the first day of the extended session. It has been one of the most partisan issues of the 2015 spring session, and hopes had been raised that a debate of this issue could lead to common ground between the two political parties in Springfield. Unfortunately, the new language presented by the House Democratic leadership this week did not materially change their previous positions, and did not include the priorities publicly set by House Republicans and Governor Bruce Rauner. Essentially, Speaker Madigan proposed codifying existing law, creating a task force, and labeling it reform. The proposals discussed would have either not affected the cost of worker’s compensation or actually made it worse. House Republicans voted unanimously against the partisan amendments.

Property Taxes
        Both the Illinois House and Senate discussed and debated property tax issues during their sessions this past Tuesday. No resolution was reached in either chamber. Reports from the nationwide Urban Institute and from Wallethub label Illinois as the state with the second-highest property taxes in the U.S.
        Heads of local governments and tax reform experts agree that a freeze on Illinois property tax bills could have unintended consequences. The main source of education funding comes from property taxes and by freezing or cutting them, without helping local governments to cut costs, you endanger that critical funding.
        Many advocates are starting to call for real reforms in the way Illinois taxing bodies fulfill their duties. Relief that could be offered includes reductions in the unfunded mandates imposed by Springfield on local governments and school districts. Governor Rauner has renewed his call for the General Assembly to take a genuine look at these mandates and to sit down with him in real negotiations on one of the biggest issues that faces the State and its taxpayers. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has filed HB 4224 to enact a property tax freeze that also includes cost saving measures for local governments so that this needed relief does not come at the cost of quality education.

And finally, the New Lenox Park District is looking for past or present military members to represent their branch of service at the Proud American Days Military Tribute ceremony on July 26th. If interested, please contact Lauren Lotz at llotz@newlenoxparks.org

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