Every year each bill and amendment introduced in the General Assembly is read and scrutinized by a myriad of groups and organizations in an attempt to ascertain any positive or negative impact. As a result, communication networks form around issues so that everyone is aware of relevant issues. For instance, ISAWWA will regularly communicate with township and municipal official state and regional organizations, water companies and entities and others to try to stay abreast of issues of importance. With all those eyes and communications efforts it’s pretty much impossible for issues to fly under the radar and sneak through, right? Wrong, as was the case with Senate Bill 3507 in 2014.
Senate Bill 3507 was sponsored by Sen. Kyle McCarter (R-Vandalia) and Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Edwardsville) to address a local issue. The bill provides townships with the authority to collect tap-on fees, but it also caps those fees for townships and municipalities to 1/6 of the annual estimated charges for the user, replacing the current actual cost required for installation and annual usage, including, presumably, municipalities who now charge actual cost. If that’s a true assessment of the impact then it creates an unfair situation for those cities and villages.
The scores of reviewers who scrutinized the introduction list simply missed this one. No witness slips at all were filed by relevant organizations or associations who are active in the legislative process in the Senate or House committees that heard the bill. At the last minute the Illinois Municipal League caught it and filed a corrective amendment but it was too late in the process for the sponsor to hold the bill to make the change so it passed and was sent to the Governor for his consideration.
Fortunately, there is a way to correct this flaw and that is by way of the Governor issuing an amendatory veto. Discussions are taking place with the Governor’s Office and the interested parties are hopeful that a resolution will occur. In the meantime, within the next week or so ass ISAWWA members will be asked to communicate with the Governor’s Office asking that he either amend the bill or veto it outright.
Now Where Do We Go?
Budget battle FY 2015 is over, but the ongoing fight for ways to dig the state out of its budget hole will continue without unabated through the ensuing gubernatorial campaign to, and most probably beyond, the next legislative session. The current budget, signed into law by the Governor over the weekend, represents a backward step after a few budget years worth of moving forward trying to claw out of the severe budget hole that at one time reached in the neighborhood of $13 billion. The current deficit of approximately $5 billion seems small compared to what once was, but it has also become more difficult to find cuts and offset revenue loses. The prospect of losing $4 billion in additional revenue through the expiration of the temporary income tax increase will also make it harder to reach the fiscal solvency summit.
But there are also other landmines out there that can hamper the ability of the state to overcome its ongoing fiscal plight, one of which being the uncertainty of the legal status of the pension reform legislation approved by the General Assembly last year. There’s no telling when the Sangamon County circuit court will issue rulings and allow the appeals process to eventually wind its way up to the Illinois Supreme Court for a final decision but there’s $1 billion per year in budget relief riding on the outcome. The reform statute technically took effect on June 1 but circuit court recently issued a stay so nothing of substance will occur until the Supreme Court decides and some have indicated that it could be up to two years before that happens.
In the meantime the two gubernatorial candidates have begun to slug it out over ways to erase the state’s debt. There’s still a long way to go before November and still a lot of information to digest and dissect, but it does appear that voters may be able to make some informed decision as to what each candidate has to offer. Now, it’s up to the candidates to make sure that what they have to offer by way of ideas sits well with those whom they hope to govern.
Governor Quinn has made his stance clear since his budget address … Illinois needs more revenue to help wrestle out of the fiscal thicket and the temporary tax needs to be made permanent. The legislature didn’t warm to that idea during the session but that’s the position he has taken and will hope to rally education and social service advocates to support him because of it. He will argue that huge cuts will be in store without the increased revenue and, in essence, he has made the gubernatorial race a referendum on the extension of the tax. He has one, and really only one, campaign goal and that is to force his opponent, Bruce Rauner, into revealing his plans to save the state. Quinn is of the opinion that you can’t cut your way to solvency and Rauner’s opposition to extending the tax, he feels, belies logic.
Bruce Rauner, on the other hand, has been criticizing Quinn’s lack of leadership and effectiveness and has emphasized how he can bring the state back to fiscal solvency without the additional tax revenue. After being pressed for specifics, he has begun slowly to release portions of his plan. Last week he released a plan that he indicated would save the state $1 billion but, in many cases, provided a rough outline rather than specifics … for example, saving $500 million from the Department of Central Management Services but not stipulating where. This past week his campaign released a plan that suggested closing corporate loopholes and ending some “corporate welfare” as a way to save money. Many of the components of the plan have been discussed for years and have fallen by the wayside for lack of support. He says he can overcome those opposition obstacles. He also indicated that further of his plans would be forthcoming in a few weeks. His candidacy may rise or fall on the specificity or lack thereof that he provides to voters before November.
There’s a line in the old Arlo Guthrie rendition of “Alice’s Restaurant” where he describes his Selective Service draft physical as a process where one was “injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected”. Those same adjectives could very well be how the gubernatorial campaign will be described in the upcoming months.
A 1994 Redux?
Last November the Democrats captured huge legislative majorities in the state due to President Obama’s strong showing in the state, but also to their prowess in drawing the legislative map boundaries. When the dust cleared on Election Day 2012 they had captured veto-proof majorities in both chambers … 40-19 in the Senate and 71-47 in the House. The question now is whether or not those majorities can be maintained.
In 1992, Republicans won the right to draw the legislative maps. And even though the Senate, as expected, elected a Republican majority House Democrats, remarkably, won 70 seats. Then, in 1994 they lost 13 of those seats and Republicans took over the chamber for the two years, only to see it return back to the Democrats in 1996 and ever since. 1994 was a horrific year for Democrats and there are some signs that 2014 may not be a great one either. Could they be in jeopardy of relinquishing their majorities or veto-proof majorities in either the Senate or House? Veto-proof, partially. Regular majorities, not likely.
In the Senate 36 votes are required for a veto-proof majority. Democrats have 40 seats and would have to lose five to relinquish veto-proof and 12 to lose their majority outright. It appears at this point in the election season only two of their seats are highly contested, so even losing them and no others would mean that they hold on to their veto-proof status. One of the strategies that parties use when remapping Senate seats is to anticipate the competitiveness of districts and number the districts so that all of the competitive ones don’t come up in the same election cycle. Senators serve two four-year and one two-year term every ten years so there is a method to the madness of numbering the district and they have apparently strategized well.
Looking at the House, on the other hand, there is some likelihood that their veto-proof majority could be lost next session. Many of their 2012 victories were upsets and losing just one of those seats will end that status. Losing their majority to Republicans, however, will be another matter. A review of competitive districts shows that 11 Democratic districts are highly competitive, and if they would happen to lose them all they would also lose control of the chamber. There are also five GOP seats in the competitive range. The odds of 1994 re-occurring, however, are less likely because of the way the maps were drawn and because it’s highly likely that at least one of those competitive Democratic seats will see an incumbent victory.
A Busy Ballot
Illinois doesn’t allow for popular initiatives as do other states with an exception for the
Legislative Article of the Illinois Constitution. Nor has Illinois been prone to clutter the ballot with advisory referendum questions as have other states where it has been somewhat of a common practice, especially in electoral battleground states, to try to drive voter turnout by placing controversial ballot questions on the ballot. Until 2014, that is, when the legislature was particularly busy passing advisory referenda and Constitutional Amendments in an effort to “gauge the support” of the electorate. At present there are two legislatively-driven Constitutional Amendments and three advisory referenda that will appear on November’s ballot. Two initiative-driven Constitutional Amendments were ruled invalid by a circuit court judge last Friday. One of them has pulled the plug while the other will be appealed.
- Victims’ Rights – Constitutional Amendment - Provides additional rights to crime victim including freedom from harassment and intimidation, to be heard at various proceedings, receive notice, to communicate with prosecutors and a number of other provisions.
- Voting Rights – Constitutional Amendment - Provides that no person shall be denied the right to register to vote or to cast a ballot in an election based on race, color, ethnicity, status as a member of a language minority, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, religion or income.
Minimum Wage Increase Referendum – Non-binding - asks whether the minimum wage in Illinois for adults over the age of 18 should be raised to $10 per hour by January 1, 2015.
- Tax For Education Referendum – Non-binding - asks whether the Illinois Constitution should be amended to require that each school district receive additional revenue, based on their number of students, from an additional 3% tax on income greater than $1,000,000.
- Women’s Health Referendum – Non-binding - asks whether any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides prescription drug coverage should be required to include prescription birth control as part of that coverage.
Then there are the two citizen initiative Constitutional Amendments that were submitted for inclusion on the November ballot. One relating to term limits had passed the scrutiny of the State Board of Elections signature review before a circuit court judge rules that it was unconstitutional last Friday. It will be the appealed to the Supreme Court who will determine whether or not they meet the constitutional test of being “structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV” of the Illinois Constitution. It may be a slippery slope for the proponents based on previous Supreme Court rulings and last week’s circuit court decision. The second proposal regarding reapportionment was also ruled unconstitutional last Friday and proponents have decided not to appeal so that effort is off the map, at least for now.
- Term Limits Plus - Supported and partially funded by Bruce Rauner has met the statutory signature requirement after a review by the State Board of Elections. The next stop is the judicial process. The Illinois Supreme Court has previously ruled that term limits do not meet the constitutional test of what is allowed on the ballot. To try to overcome that same result the “Term Limits Plus” proposal provides an 8-year term limit along with reducing the size of the Illinois Senate from 59 to 41, increasing the size of the Illinois House from 118 to123, carving three House districts out of every Senate district, making all Senate terms four years instead of the current two, four year terms and one, two year term out of every ten years, and changing the number of votes required to override a gubernatorial veto from three-fifths to two-thirds. All of these “extras” are designed to persuade the Court that his proposal has what it takes to be allowed on the ballot. Last Friday a circuit court judge decided against this proposal for two reasons. First, the judge ruled that this conglomeration of items should not have been and each should have been submitted separately. Second, the previous Supreme Court ruling against a term limit constitutional amendment was cited and the judge ruled that its presence invalidated the entire proposition.
- Reapportionment Reform – proponents wanted to change the way Illinois legislative districts are drawn and proposed a complex procedure designed to provide better citizen input and less politicization of the process. An initial review of submitted petitions to the State Board of Elections indicated that the minimum signature requirement was not reached although proponents filed many more signatures that required. The signature evaluation process was proceeding but reports that many individuals signed petitions multiple times, some as many as ten, and a large number of others who signed were not registered voters had placed this initiative in jeopardy. Had they lost the signature challenge proponents would more than likely have headed to court on that issue. Worse, the circuit court ruling last Friday that disallowed the term limit proposal also ruled the proposal invalid. Interestingly, the judge ruled that a question on reapportionment itself could have been valid but some of the other provisions in the proposal, such as eligibility requirement for Commissioners, were not “structural and procedural” and negate the entire proposal. Reapportionment won’t come into play again until 2021, after the next federal census, so proponents have more time should they want to try again.
Term limits proponents, in the meantime, have indicated that they will appeal directly to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The Final Hurdle(s)
When the legislature gives final approval to any bill proponents often jump for joy at the accomplishment and for having survived the often hazardous legislative process. But that’s not where the process ends. It’s the Governor who has the (almost) final say and he and his staff will spend the summer reviewing each of the bills approved by the General Assembly and deciding what to do with each.
From the day a bill receives final action the General Assembly has 30 days to forward it to the Governor. The Speaker and Senate President must sign each bill that passes to certify that the procedural requirements for passage have been met. Final preparation of each bill for presentation to the Governor is handled by the chamber of origin. The Governor, then, has 60 days from the day a bill is presented to him to act, either by signing, amending or vetoing. Obviously, if his action is either amending or vetoing the legislature gets the final say during their fall veto session.
Past practice has been for the legislature to take almost all the time allowed it to send bills to the Governor. Exceptions are for major pieces of legislation that need immediate attention or that may warrant early signing ceremonies, but most bills don’t get forwarded until close to the 30 day mark. Likewise, to allow as much time as possible for scrutiny of legislation, the Governor will most often wait until the 60 day window closes before acting on bills. The Governor’s office generally culls through bills sent to them to determine which may be appropriate for a press event, but that is relatively few and almost all will be signed at the end of a day sometime near the 60 day deadline.
Between the middle and end of May the general Assembly sent the Governor 519 bills. Thus far he has acted on 53 and has vetoed one, so there’s still a long way to go before he gets through the list. And with the legislative majority and the Governor all being the same political party there will probably be very few that are vetoed. That, and the legislative process these days encourages discussion and compromise so proposals are worked out and agreed to prior to final action being taken. Last year there were only a handful of vetoes and the same is expected this year so the General Assembly may have to think of other things to do during their scheduled veto session in mid November and early December.
Rep. Josh Harms (R-Watseka) has announced that he will not seek re-election but will complete his term. A ballot replacement will be named in the very near future.
Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Westmont) has announced that he will be resigning from the Senate by the end of July as a result of his being selected as Chair of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA).
Session Schedule/Deadline Dates
Here are relevant dates for the legislative session:
- November 19, 20, 21 – first veto session week
- December 2, 3, 4 – second veto session week
Bills of Interest
Bills listed are those that have been sent to the Governor for final action.
HB 3635 – Rep. W. Davis /Sen. Sandoval -
Provides that the Illinois Commerce Commission shall require all gas, electric, and water companies with at least 100,000 customers under its authority, all loc
al exchange telecommunications carriers with at least 35,000 subscriber access lines, and a person or entity providing cable or video service to submit an annual report by April 15, 2014 and every April 15 thereafter, in a searchable Adobe PDF format, on all procurement goals and actual spending for female-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned, and small business enterprises in the previous calendar year. Provides that each participating company shall include certain specified information in its annual report. Provides that each annual report shall include as much State-specific data as possible. Provides that the Commission and all participating entities shall hold an annual workshop open to the public in June of 2014 and every year thereafter on the state of supplier diversity to collaboratively seek solutions to structural impediments to achieving stated goals. (Status – Sent To Governor)
HB 5785 – Rep. Franks/Sen. Biss - Amends the following Acts and Codes to provide that, upon a majority vote of the boards of the entities created under the following Acts and Codes in favor of the proposition to annex or consolidate, then that entity shall cease: Property Tax Code, Counties Code, Cemetery Maintenance District Act, Civic Center Code, Conservation District Act, Downstate Forest Preserve District Act, Public Health District Act, Tuberculosis Sanitarium District Act, Museum District Act, Illinois International Port District Act, River Conservancy Districts Act, Solid Waste Disposal District Act, Street Light District Act, Surface Water Protection District Act, Water Service District Act, Water Authorities Act, Water Commission Act of 1985, and the Illinois Highway Code. Provides that on the effective date of the annexation or consolidation, all of the rights, powers, duties, assets, liabilities, indebtedness, obligations, bonding authority, taxing authority, and responsibilities of the entity shall vest in and be assumed by the governmental unit assuming the former entity's functions. (Status – Sent To Governor)
SB 2780 – Sen. Kotowski/Rep. Nekritz - Amends the Environmental Protection Act. Removes a provision requiring rule to include a requirement for a local match of 30% of the total project cost for projects funded through grants. Adds to the definition of "treatment works". Provides that the Water Pollution Control Loan Program shall be used and administered by the Environmental Protection Agency to provide any financial assistance that may be provided under a specified provision of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act for any projects eligible for assistance under that provision. (Status – Sent To Governor)
SB 2928 – Sen. Link/Rep. Osmond - Creates the Lake County Prescription Drug Disposal Pilot Program. Provides that the program shall facilitate the collection, transportation, and disposal of pharmaceuticals by law enforcement agencies. Requires the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health to submit a report on the collection efforts and overall effectiveness of the program to the General Assembly and the Governor by January 1, 2016. (Status – Sent To Governor)
SB 2966 – Sen. Steans/Rep. Cassidy – Creates the Urban Flooding Awareness Act. Defines "urban flooding". Provides that, by June 30, 2015, the Department of Natural Resources, in consultation with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the Department of Commerce and Economic Development, the Department of Insurance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the Illinois State Water Survey of the University of Illinois, and other State, regional, and local storm water management agencies, thought leaders, and interested parties, shall submit to the General Assembly and the Governor a report that reviews and evaluates the latest available research, laws, regulations, policies, procedures, and institutional knowledge concerning issues of urban flooding. (Status – Sent To Governor)
SB 3055 – Sen. Biss/Rep. Fortner - Amends the Illinois Water Well Construction Code. Changes the definitions of "modification" and "closed loop well". Makes other changes. (Status – Sent To Governor)
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