Springfield Legislators Face Long To-Do List Near Session’s End

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There won’t be any relaxing or unwinding this weekend for Illinois legislators. They’re heading into the holiday weekend with a jam-packed to-do list, and they’ve got through Monday – Memorial Day — to get it done.

Big-ticket items, including a major energy overhaul, ethics package and a new state budget are still in the works.

Budget Negotiations

Illinois’ budget picture for the 2022 fiscal year is rosier than expected; despite the pandemic revenues are coming in higher than fiscal forecasters originally predicted. Plus, the state’s getting $7.5 billion in COVID-19 relief funding.

Republican legislators say given that, there’s no need to close $932 million worth of what Gov. J.B. Pritzker categorizes as corporate loopholes.

Republican Sen. Jil Tracy of Quincy says it wasn’t long ago that the governor actually signed into law and championed some of those tax breaks, as part of a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

“Unfortunately, what he once viewed as valuable job creation incentives, he now calls loopholes in his effort to reverse his position,” she said. “Let me be clear: Any tax increase as part of this year’s budget must be off the table.”

Legislators who are part of budget negotiations say talks that will determine the future of those tax plans are ongoing.

While most of the tax programs in question would impact businesses, Pritzker also has proposed slicing the tax credit Illinois gives to donors to a state-backed scholarship program, called Invest in Kids, that helps pay tuition for low-income students who want to attend private school.

There’s also wrestling over how to spend the COVID-19 relief money. Nearly every interest at the statehouse has a demand for how to use those dollars.

Latino legislators want money dedicated toward immigrant welcoming centers and programs that “were imperative in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic as these programs have literally been lifelines for individuals and families locked out of federal relief funds for rental assistance,” said State Rep. Dagmara Avelar, D-Bolingbrook.

While a spending plan’s still in the works, much has been done under the capitol dome, with legislators passing a flurry of bills that’ll go to Gov. J.B. Pritzker to either sign into law or veto.

Juneteenth

Senate Bill 1965 would make June 19 a state holiday. 

“It marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be free. It was the time when the end of chattel slavery was got away with in this county,” state Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago.

Hospitality Pandemic Recovery

Senate Bill 104  also heads to Pritzker with bipartisan backing. The proposal extends of a temporary law passed during the pandemic that allows licensed establishments to serve cocktails to go. This time, though, wine-to go is allowed too.

The plan also lets bars, through part of July, give patrons a free drink with proof they’ve gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I think this is a great initiative to really do two things that are important in our communities right now. One is to support the food and beverage industry – restaurants and bars – that were so dramatically impacted over the course of the last year are are now starting to reopen their doors, to invite people back into your local watering hole,” Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said. “Also, at the same time, this is promoting an important public health initiative of promoting vaccination.”

School Code Hairstyles

Four-year-old Jett Hawkins inspired Senate Bill 817, which passed the House on Thursday. Hawkins’ school made him go home because his braids violated its dress code.

The measure, which previously passed the Senate, prohibits accredited schools from discriminating against hairstyles like braids, Afros and dreads that are associated with hair texture or ethnicity.

Meanwhile, legislators are still trying to work out the kinks of other proposals or muster up enough votes to pass.

Parent Notice Abortion Repeal  

Among those that could be taken up this weekend are HB 1797 and SB 2190, which would repeal a current Illinois law that requires parental notification before anyone under age eighteen can have an abortion.

Gun Ownership

Once again, gun rights activists’ efforts to require mandatory fingerprinting and background checks whenever someone gets a state gun license Firearm Owners Identification Card, appear to have stalled.  

HB1091 and SB568 have been dubbed by backers as the Block Illegal Ownership, or BIO, and Fix the FOID, bills.

“You can look at your newspaper, you can turn on the news, you can ask your neighbor, you can ask children in your community ‘why do we need to pass the BIO bill?’ Because we need to do our one job and that is to save the lives of our children and our community members,” said Rev. Ciera Bates-Chamberlain, director of Live Free Chicago. “We … need good policy to help us regulate and control the amount of illegal guns that are flowing through our community and that are literally killing our sisters and brothers.”

Illinois is already so behind on issuing FOID cards, the state is facing numerous lawsuits.

Video: Watch our full interview with Deputy Governor of Infrastructure and Public Safety, Christian Mitchell on Illinois’ clean energy future.


Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky


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May 27, 2021 at 09:28PM

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