Five months after concluding a productive spring session, lawmakers return Monday to Springfield to start their abbreviated veto session.
The thing is, they won’t find many vetoes to occupy their time. Gov. J.B. Pritzker only vetoed seven bills outright and used his amendatory veto powers to rewrite only one bill. Half the bills Pritzker vetoed were because they duplicated bills he signed.
“The legislation that was passed during the spring legislative session was highly negotiated and represents compromise as evidenced by the fact that the governor only vetoed a handful of bills,” said Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill. “Democrats and Republicans compromised. That doesn’t set into motion a large agenda for veto session.”
There are certainly issues lawmakers can tackle if they are so inclined, like help for the city of Chicago, pension reform, relief from high drug prices, vaping restrictions and even allowing college athletes to get endorsement deals.
The key is if they are inclined. The House has posted a number of committee hearings starting Monday and one of the bills scheduled to be heard would ban flavored tobacco products. The Senate hasn’t posted a hearing schedule yet. The chamber holds private meetings of Democratic and Republican members where decisions are made about what issues to tackle.
Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, an assistant Republican leader in the House, said he thinks the veto session will be quiet.
“I don’t imagine we’re going to do a whole lot in the veto session,” Butler said. “We’re only scheduled to be in six days over the two weeks which doesn’t give us a lot of time.”
Butler said that while some large issues are pending — like revamping the gambling expansion bill and pension consolidation — “are pretty big issues that at least in my mind I’d like to push to the spring.”
Here are some of the issues that could be addressed:
Diabetics who need insulin to survive have been squeezed by ever-increasing out-of-pocket costs for the medicine. A vial of one type of insulin costs $31 in Canada and $135 in the U.S.
At a recent news conference, Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, said the state is “allowing pharmaceutical companies to gouge our citizens.”
Manar is sponsoring Senate Bill 667 which would cap out-of-pocket expenses for a month’s supply of insulin at $100. The bill would only apply to state regulated insurance plans and not those under federal regulations. But he said the state can’t wait for Congress to act.
“Lives are being torn apart by this,” said Manar, who has toured the state promoting the bill. “I am tired of people getting soaked.”
There is some heavyweight opposition to the bill, not only from the pharmaceutical and insurance industries, but also from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.
Manar said he believes the bill will be scheduled for a Monday afternoon committee hearing.
Illinois has a glut of police and fire pension systems — some 649 of them to be exact.
Many of them are small as pension systems go and are unable to generate top investment earnings. Many of them are woefully underfunded and putting pressure on local government budgets because of increased funding needs.
A task force formed by Pritzker recently recommended that the assets of those funds be combined into two funds, one for police officers and one for firefighters. The accounts of the systems would still be separate so that an underfunded system wouldn’t suddenly be flush with cash. But the task force said investment returns would improve and administrative costs be cut.
However, some opponents of the consolidation described it as a money grab that will either be used to prop up the state budget or bail out Chicago pensions. (Chicago public pension funds are not part of the proposed consolidation.)
Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond, an assistant House Republican leader, said she’s heard from many of her local police and fire departments who are opposed to the consolidation.
“This is a major change,” she said. “I think a shift like that needs to be (fully) debated.”
Rep. Mike Murphy, R-Springfield, said that “in theory, I’m definitely in favor of it.”
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” he said. “A lot of concerns are not justified.”
At the same time, there is no written draft of the bill available and Murphy said he wants to see it before committing to a vote. He also said he’d like to see it specifically written into the bill that the pension money can’t be diverted to other uses.
In the wake of illnesses and even deaths linked to vaping, legislation was proposed to ban the sale of flavored tobacco used in some vaping products.
Supporters of the bill said having vaping devices that taste like bubble gum or other flavors entice teens to try vaping products. In some cases, it can even result in teens moving from vaping to combustible tobacco, they said.
Opponents of an outright ban contend the flavored products are used by adults who switch to vaping in an attempt to quit smoking cigarettes and other combustible tobacco. Vaping shops said flavored products represent a significant part of their business and a ban would cause many of the stores to close.
Convenience stores contend a ban won’t work and could drain money from the capital program which gets some of its revenue from the sale of vaping products. They also point out that the most recent version of the bill would also ban the sale of menthol cigarettes and snuff.
Opponents of the ban also contend that two different issues are being conflated. In most instances, people who were sickened or died after vaping used black market products and products containing THC. Banning the sale of legal, flavored products won’t stop those cases, they said.
A House bill banning the products is scheduled for a hearing Monday afternoon. The Senate is also expected to push its own version of the ban.
The city of Chicago wants help with its budget problems and is turning to Springfield.
The city wants lawmakers to pass a real estate transfer tax bill that would apply to Chicago and raise the existing tax on expensive properties while lowering it on less expensive homes.
Chicago also wants changes to the gambling expansion bill passed last spring so that a Chicago casino will be more lucrative to an operator. A study said the taxes applied to the Chicago casino would make it unappealing to investors.
Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan, a principal sponsor of the expansion bill, previously said he doesn’t want to make changes. Anytime a gambling bill is discussed, various competing gambling interests all want something for themselves.
The transfer tax may also have problems.
“I’m not willing to do that,” Bourne said. “It’s inappropriate to do during the veto session.”
“I’ve not been briefed by anyone about the city of Chicago (requests),” Manar said.
Contact Doug Finke: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr
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October 26, 2019 at 02:31PM