With a new governor in office, the Democratic-controlled Illinois House is charging ahead on legislation blocked by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner as he pursued his pro-business, union-weakening agenda.
The House voted by wide margins this week to approve a bill that would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their salary histories and another bill that would raise the legal smoking age to 21. Those votes come after new Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill last month that will raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025.
The salary history measure passed Wednesday by an 86-28 vote. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Anna Moeller, an Elgin Democrat, said it is designed to help close the wage gap between women and men. Moeller said Pritzker has expressed support.
“I knew that if we could get it through the General Assembly this year, we would have a partner in the governor’s office to sign it,” she said.
The legislature passed two previous versions of the bill, but Rauner vetoed both, arguing that there were more business-friendly ways to address the issue. He pointed to a law that took effect in Massachusetts in July that is similar but allows employers to ask for wage history after making a job and salary offer.
The vote on the salary history bill came a day after the House voted by nearly as wide a margin to approve a bill that would raise the legal age for purchasing cigarettes, other tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21 statewide. Rauner also vetoed a previous version of that bill, citing the negative effect it would have on businesses that sell tobacco products.
Democrats like their chances better on both issues now that Pritzker holds the pen to sign or veto legislation.
In one of his first acts upon taking office in January, Pritzker signed an executive order prohibiting state agencies from asking job applicants about their pay at previous jobs. “The governor believes it’s an important first step in closing the pay gap and looks forward to reviewing the bill,” Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said in an emailed statement.
As for the tobacco bill, Abudayyeh said the governor supports efforts to prevent young people from smoking and “looks forward to reviewing the legislation to raise the smoking age.”
While the salary history and tobacco bills passed the House with bipartisan support, Democratic lawmakers acted without any Republican votes to deliver Pritzker a major victory in his first weeks in office by approving a plan to increase the statewide minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. Rauner vetoed a bill that would have increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.
These early moves have some in the business community on edge as Pritzker also advocates for a graduated income tax plan that would raise rates on the wealthy and on corporations.
“I unfortunately do think that they are an indication of what the next four years are going to look like,” said Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, which was closely aligned with Rauner and opposed legislation on the smoking age, salary history and the minimum wage. “It doesn’t mean every anti-business bill is going to go ahead and pass. I do think that Gov. Pritzker really does want to be seen by the business community as somebody who understands their issues.”
However, Maisch added, “it looks like we’re going to take a few beatings.”
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March 13, 2019 at 05:45PM