Sprinkler Rule Snuffed Out
The discussion of mandatory fire sprinklers never quite got past the smoldering stage as the Fire Marshall’s Office withdrew the JCAR request in early August, just before a schedule hearing.
In retrospect, the Fire Marshall had to know that this issue has always been an incendiary one. If not, then his staff did a woeful job of research before he made the decision to move forward. If his purpose was to raise awareness he certainly did that, but the resulting firestorm suggests that if awareness was the strategy he overplayed that hand. Mandatory sprinkler legislation is not a new issue by a long shot, and it has always been extremely controversial. There was no way that bypassing the legislative process by going to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) was going to be successful. Even if it was, you could bet the house that legislation to overturn the rule would be introduced immediately. And there is also no doubt that it would have been enacted easily.
So, unfortunately for the Fire Marshall, he was in a lose-lose situation. He said in interviews that he wanted the enactment of this program to be his legacy. Well, he tried. However, the legislative process is one where negotiation of major issues is the order of the day and where legislators abhor being blindsided. And blindsided they were. Major issue decisions are not made outside the public eye by a legislative adjunct agency. The process demands that the legislature itself consider and either approve or reject major policy decisions that can have far-reaching impacts.
There’s little doubt that the sprinkler legislation will be reintroduced, probably next January. But with the misguided effort this summer there is every expectation that even the little support the issue has generated my dry up.
Light "Official” Agenda For Veto Session
Governor Quinn has now completed acting on all of the 595 bills that were sent to him by the General Assembly during the spring general session. And, from the looks of it the scheduled two week "veto session” that begins on October 22 may be hard pressed to find things to do since the sum total of gubernatorial non-duplicative veto, amendatory veto and appropriations veto/reduction actions totaled five. And with the exception of legislative salaries that the Governor vetoed, none of the other issues that will be considered in October should take longer than minutes to dispose of, one way or another.
In addition to signing and vetoing legislation, Illinois’ Constitution also gives the Governor the power to use an amendatory veto power to make changes in substantive legislation, and also to reduce or veto line items in appropriations bills. Regarding substantive bills, the only two bills the Governor vetoed were a bill that would have lessened the number of free admission days that Illinois museums are required to provide and another that dealt with no-bid contracts for the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA). He amended another bill to make slight changes in legislation regarding the posting of township meeting agendas. As for appropriations bills, he nixed legislative salaries and one other item that the legislature has already upheld. That’s it. The full "official” agenda for late October/early November.
But, there is also an "unofficial” agenda every fall and there could be a full plate of other issues that surface beginning with the ongoing pension reform dilemma that is being negotiated by a legislative conference committee. Additionally, the upcoming activation of health care benefits exchanges may require some legislative action, as might the necessity of some budget tweaks. Lastly, there are occasional times when legislation is approved when everyone agrees that corrective legislation or "trailer bills” are necessary. The veto session normally the time when the product of summer discussions among interested parties are enacted. On the surface, the agenda for the fall may look pretty sparse, but in reality these sessions can sometimes pack more of a punch in a short time than the longer spring sessions.
An Early Conundrum?
As far as state fiscal health is concerned, the "calendar watch” is on January 1, 2015, the day the temporary income tax is set to expire. The expectation is that final decisions regarding the expiration, extension, or possible phase-out will be made after the November, 2014 elections and prior to the January round of elected official inaugurations. But some inclination of what’s to come may be evidenced during the period of March-May, 2014 when the task of putting together s state budget that would be impacted by the loss of temporary income tax revenues will play out.
The state fiscal year begins on July 1, meaning that as the general Assembly attempts to craft the FY 2015 budget during next spring’s session they will be able to rely on only six months of the additional revenue that the temporary tax has brought, $7.5 billion. That means over $3.5 billion of those funds would be lost, and even if some pension reform is approved that frees up another $1 billion, that still would leave legislative budgeteers $2 billion short. The legislature has shown in the past that it can be pretty wily when it comes to budget shortfalls. Portions of this fiscal year’s budget were lump summed so agency officials would have to make difficult decisions on how the negotiated AFSCME pay raises were to be paid. The legislature specifically did not appropriate the funds for those raises, arguing that they had no input in the negotiations. Chances are they will do lump sums again for FY 2015 urging state departments to use spending restraint in the first six months of the year, until final decisions on how to handle the temporary tax are addressed post-election. Legislators will have the luxury of some time to be able to make decisions and determine a course of action.
One individual who does not have any time luxury will be Governor Quinn, who will face a possible perplexing dilemma early in the new year. Quinn presumably will be facing a heavy primary election challenge in the March 18 primary election. Landmines and controversy are not something any candidate looks forward to in the midst of any election campaign, but a quirk of the calendar could give him one. Illinois law requires a governor to submit a budget the legislature by the third Wednesday in February, February 19, 2014. One month before the primary election … and with a $2 billion or more shortfall looming. Does he cut and anger a good portion of his base? Does he call for a tax extension one month before his fate is decided in the primary election? Does he ask the legislature to extend the date for presenting a budget (which has been done the past three years, but never beyond March 10)? Answers to these questions, obviously, will be known in time. But, as debates on pension reform, the impact of the Affordable Care Act and other fiscal issues begin to be discussed, this gargantuan slice of it will determine much of the other outcomes.
Picking a Partner
After a number of surprisingly embarrassing events that impacted electoral history and possibly state policy, the General Assembly eventually got the message that having separate nominating elections for both governor and lieutenant governor was not the world’s best idea. So, for the first time in Illinois candidates for governor will have to select running mates and run with them on the primary election ballot. Since it is expected that petitions for gubernatorial candidates will be on the street by the middle of September, you can expect a bevy of announcements in the next few weeks as to who will be paired with whom.
An interesting progression of events has gotten Illinoisans to this place in electoral process. Up until the 1970 Constitution was adopted Illinoisans elected governors and lieutenant governors separately. From the adoption of the previous Constitution in 1870 everyone thought that was a progressive idea until 1968 when Republican Richard Ogilvie was elected Governor and Democrat Paul Simon was elected Lt. Governor. At that time the lieutenant governor took over the reins of the government if the governor was out of town, so it could have ultimately kept Ogilvie "hostage” had his subordinate been some nefarious individual. Luckily for Ogilvie, Simon never would, and didn’t, give him any headaches. But, the 1970 Constitution addressed that issue by forcing candidates to run jointly for both offices so never again would there be another situation similar to the Ogilvie/Simon situation. And that, most thought would be the end of the story.
But then came 1986 when a follower of Lyndon LaRouche somehow won the primary election for lieutenant governor over the slated Democratic candidate, and another was nominated in the Secretary of State’s race. Democrats in the 1986 created a third party to run in the fall elections because the LaRouche candidates wouldn’t budge. Third parties seldom succeed and 1986 was no exception. Governor Thompson, whose poll numbers were on the decline and who might have faced a spirited challenge from Adlai Stevenson III, had every reason to smile on election night. This should have been enough for the legislature to think about changing the nominating process but nope.
The Constitution allows the General Assembly to determine how governor and lieutenant governor candidates are nominated. It took yet another upset in the Democratic primary in 2010 for someone to finally get the message that maybe a change is in order. So, 2014 is finally the year that there will be peace on the state executive electoral front. The next step, maybe, will be trying to find something meaningful for the next lieutenant governor to do.
Rep. Jaime Andrade, Jr.(D-Chicago) has been appointed to replace Rep. Deb Mell who has resigned.
Rep. John Anthony (R-Morris) has been appointed to replace Rep.Pam Roth (R-Morris) who has resigned.
Reps. Kay Hatcher (R-Yorkville), Jim Sacia (R-Freeport), and Darlene Senger (R-Naperville) have announced their intentions not to seek re-election.
House Republicans have elected Rep. James Durkin (R-Western Springs) as their new leader. Former Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) will not seek re-election to the House, opting to run instead for State Treasurer. He will retain his seat in the House until the end of his term.
Session Schedule/Deadline Dates
Here are relevant dates for the legislative session.
· October 22-24 – First Veto Session week
· November 5-7 – Second Veto Session week
Bills of Interest
HB 1379 – Rep. Phelps/Sen. Haine(Current Status: Approved by Governor- PA 98-0213) - Provides an alternative procedure that a large public utility may choose in establishing the ratemaking rate base of a water or sewer utility that the large public utility is acquiring. Provides that the Commission's order that approves the large public utility's acquisition of the water or sewer utility shall include the Commission's decision establishing (1) the ratemaking rate base of the water or sewer utility and (2) the district or tariff group with which the water or sewer utility will be combined for ratemaking purposes. Sets forth provisions concerning definitions, appraisers and their duties, ratemaking rate base, and rate cases.
HB 1522 – Rep. Fortner/Sen. Koehler(Current Status: Approved by Governor- PA 98-0335) - Provides that DuPage and Peoria counties may adopt a schedule of fees applicable to real property that benefits from the county's stormwater management facilities and activities. Sets forth the circumstances under which a fee schedule may be adopted and the uses for the fees. Provides that any proposed fee schedule must be approved by a referendum in Peoria County before it can be imposed. Provides that the county shall provide notice to municipalities within its jurisdiction of any fees proposed and seek the input of each municipality with respect to the calculation of the fees. Provides that the county shall give land owners at least 2 years' notice before imposing the fee, during which time the county shall provide education on green infrastructure practices and an opportunity to take action to reduce or eliminate the fee. Further provides that a fee waiver shall be included for property owners who have taken actions or put in place facilities that are approved by the county that reduce or eliminate the cost of managing runoff.
SB 72 – Sen. Haine/Rep. Tryon(Current Status: Signed By Governor – PA 98-0078) - Repeals the Industrial Hygiene Regulatory and Enforcement Fund. Repeals the Industrial Hygienists Licensure Act. Amends the Environmental Protection Act. Provides for the transfer of funds from the Industrial Hygiene Regulatory and Enforcement Fund to the Environmental Protection Permit and Inspection Fund. Provides that a community water supply that is exempt from regulation under the Public Water Supply Operations Act does not have to register a person who is in charge of the community water supply in order to be exempt from the Illinois Pollution Control Board's mandatory chlorination requirements. Recognizes Certified Industrial Hygienists certified by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene as environmental professionals who may, among other things, conduct Phase I and Phase II Environmental Audits. Amends the Rivers, Lakes, and Streams Act. Requires the Environmental Protection Agency to report on the water quality of Lake Michigan every 2 years or at the direction of the Governor (rather than every year or at the direction of the Governor). Effective immediately, except that the repeal of the Industrial Hygiene Regulatory and Enforcement Fund takes place on January 1, 2014.
SB 1715 – Sen. Frerichs/Rep, Bradley – Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation (Current Status: Signed by Governor – PA 98-0022)