The McDermed Dispatch for April 25th

It’s been a busy and tumultuous past two weeks in Springfield. A lot of work was done and it appears as though there may be a light at the end of the tunnel for this budget impasse.

Constitutional Amendments Considered
         It’s constitutional amendment season! In order to put a constitutional amendment question before the voters in November a proposal must either be approved by a three-fifths margin in both chambers or get the signatures of at least 300,000 registered voters. Only 3 constitutional articles are allowed to be amended in a given election year. A number of proposals made the news this week:
         HJRCA 5 would eliminate the office of the Lieutenant Governor beginning with the term of office commencing in 2019. It would change gubernatorial succession such that the Attorney General would take over the governorship should the office become vacant. The Lt. Governor’s office has limited official responsibilities and its elimination would save taxpayers around $1.6 million a year. It passed the House on Friday, but the Senate debated its own version the day before and it failed to gain the necessary support amid concerns that succession could fall to a member of the opposite party.
        HJRCA 26, dubbed the “Millionaire’s Tax” failed to garner the necessary support to pass the House.
        HJRCA 36 did pass and it protects the funds set aside for transportation infrastructure from being used for other purposes.
        HJRCA 58 reforms the redistricting process that occurs every 10 years by removing the General Assembly and the governor from the process of drawing legislative maps. Instead, an eight-member independent commission appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court would be in charge of drawing the state House and Senate districts. It is similar to the Independent Maps effort that is currently trying to secure enough petition signatures to get on the November ballot. The Senate passed a constitutional amendment lawmakers largely would still be in control of mapping, but the process would be opened up through public hearings.
         HJRCA 59 would allow for a graduated income tax though it does not assign the variable rates. Both HJRCA 58 and 59 have not yet been voted on.
         It remains to be seen whether any of these proposals or the ones passed by the Senate can get enough support from the members in both chambers by May 9th to make it to the ballot in November.

Higher Education Funding Sees Relief
         After a bipartisan, bicameral deal on higher education funding was almost derailed by Speaker Madigan, the House managed to pass SB 2059. It will provide stopgap funding to struggling universities and colleges as well as the MAP program. It will keep the lights on as a full budget is worked out. In a rare moment of compromise, common sense prevailed. I hope we see more bipartisan efforts like this in the future. You can read the letter to the editor I wrote after the vote here.
         Although nothing came of the meeting between State leaders two weeks ago, there is work being done behind the scenes by rank and file legislators on a balanced budget and reforms. Comptroller Munger announced recently that she would be delaying lawmaker’s paychecks, adding them to the growing list of bills instead of putting them at the front of the line. I applaud the move. Hopefully it will light a fire under the budget discussions. If we can’t find common ground to solve these important issues, it is going to be a long May.

Final Bill Deadline Passes
         Friday was the deadline for 3rd reading of bills. For any bill to be debated and voted on, it must first be read 3 separate times. Passed bills include:
         HB6167 expands the democratic process to allow 17 year olds (who will be 18 by the general election) to sign and circulate petitions and may participate in township primary elections
         HB5576 expands insurance coverage for birth control codifying in statute what is already required by the Affordable Care Act.
         HB5684 will help prevent municipalities from significantly raising employee salaries before retirement so as to raise their pensions.
         HB5973 will help inmates who undergo rehabilitation and training in various fields, such as barbering and cosmetology, obtain the necessary state licenses upon release.
         The House is not in session this week in observance of Passover. We return to Springfield on May 3rd to begin hearings and debate on Senate bills.

Beagles Descend Upon Springfield
Beagles_springfield.jpg         Members of the Beagle Freedom Project and their allies brought a few new friends down to Springfield last week. They were there to advocate for legislation that will require publicly funded research facilities to work with nonprofit animal groups to find homes for the dogs and cats they have used in their labs. Beagles are a popular breed for lab testing and research purposes because of their disposition and size. For this reason, HB4297, the ‘right to release’ legislation I am sponsoring in the House, is also known as the beagle freedom bill.

Department of Revenue Misallocates
           The Illinois Department of Revenue announced an error that occurred in the Quinn administration that misallocated $168 million by overpaying taxing districts. The error originated in the Corporate Personal Property Replacement Taxes (CPPRT) Fund, which is revenue collected by the State of Illinois from corporations and paid to local governments to replace money that was lost by local governments when their powers to impose personal property taxes on corporations, partnerships, and other business entities was abolished in the 1970 Constitution.
            The error was discovered because of a recent tax system modernization initiative. It affects about 6,500 taxing districts throughout Illinois, including 149 in Will County. Overpayment amounts are less than $10,000 for most bodies, but 10 taxing districts were overpaid by more than $1 million, including the city of Chicago, which was overpaid $19.4 million.