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2014 - Legislative Update April 6
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Legislative Update - May 6th, 2014

Majority Wins

One of the most contentious issues that both elected and appointed officials have to deal with is salaries. In a majority of cases elected officials have the authority to make the decisions directly and they exercise that authority within the rules or statutes that govern those governmental units. But if you serve on a board or commission that doesn’t have control of salary issues then you have to rely on whomever the state statutes give that authority to. And sometimes the will of a small minority can undercut a reasonable act of a majority.

Senate Bill 3425 and House Bill 5454 were introduced this session to address this very question. In one area of the state a majority of the appointing authority wished to give water commissioners an increase over the $1,000 per year that they currently received. The statutes cap the amount that a commissioner can receive in yearly compensation at $2,000. However, the statutes are not clear on the process for increases and appear to suggest that each and every one of the appointing authorities have to agree, and in this case one or two of the appointing authorities objected. These two bills provide a specific structure for making such decisions in the future by stipulating that any decisions on commissioner compensation in the future will be determined by a majority of the appointing authorities and it’s expected that one of them will pass both Houses by the end of May.

Urban Flooding Awareness Act Approved By Senate

One bill of some interest that passed the Senate just before their two-week break was the Urban Flooding Awareness Act (SB 2966) sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago). It 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.

The bill defines "urban flooding" as the inundation of property in a built environment, particularly in more densely populated areas, caused by rainfall overwhelming the capacity of drainage systems, such as storm sewers. and includes situations in which stormwater enters buildings through windows, doors, or other openings; water backup through sewer pipes, showers, toilets, sinks, and floor drains; seepage through walls and floors, and the accumulation of water on property or public rights-of-way.

The work group will look at the trends in frequency and severity over the past two decades; the apparent impact of global climate change ; the impacts of county storm water programs on urban flooding over the past two decades; strategies for minimizing damage to property from urban flooding, with a focus on rapid, low-cost approaches, such as non-structural and natural infrastructure, and methods for financing them, and other issues.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Illinois legislators used to love the last month of session. In the times of balanced budgets they counted the days toward the session’s end they experienced the excitement as the session inched toward a close with big issues being resolved one after another, a final budget being crafted, and being able to go back to their districts to talk about their many accomplishments. Their aim was, and is, to make constituents happy. But times have changed in a huge way. These days legislators dread the end of session, mostly because the state is dead broke and the big issue they may have to face this year is a possible vote on the income tax extension, and that’s not one accomplishment many of them feel comfortable touting back home. But in the next four weeks these and other big decisions affecting the future of state government will be waiting … and by May 31 many legislators will probably resemble the character in Edvard Munch’s, "The Scream.”

In one way legislators may catch a break if the Democratic leadership decides to postpone any tax vote until after the November elections or into early 2015. Speaker Madigan suggested last week that he didn’t have the 60 votes to approve the tax extension, and as May 31 draws nearer those votes will be even harder to find. But then what? For the relief of knowing that they won’t have to take a tough vote on taxes before the election they’ll have the thrill of trying to create a budget with a hole large enough to drive an eighteen-wheeler through. There’s nothing easy about the choices they’re going to have to make next month and there is no doubt that Tylenol will be in ample supply as the session days fly off the calendar.

Looking at revenue proposals, last month there were a plethora of them, including the proposed graduated "fair tax” graduated income tax and the 3% "millionaire tax” income tax surcharge. The "millionaire tax” idea imploded when two of the necessary 71 House votes needed to qualify it for the November ballot went off the reservation. The "fair tax” constitutional amendment is technically still alive and must be voted on by both chambers of the legislature before May 5. It has nowhere near the support to qualify it for the ballot even though proponents recently unveiled a listing of the tax brackets that they envisioned. It’s a case of too little, too late. So that leaves the temporary income tax extension proposal by the Governor as the only revenue game left in town.

Legislative observers are not yet convinced that the Democratic leadership is serious about calling the Governor’s tax proposal for a vote before the end of the spring session. Even with the seriousness of Illinois fiscal plight, 2014 is still a political year and every member of the House will be on the ballot in November. And for the General Assembly to make big tax decisions prior to elections just simply has not been the case over the last 20 years. The last thing legislative Democrats want is to get clobbered at the polls in 2014 like they did in 1994 after stunning wins two years before. There’s probably little chance that they’ll lose their majorities but a shrinking plurality is a certainly possibility, especially with early signs pointing to Republicans making inroads nationwide. In that framework the last thing Democrats want to do is to add fuel to the fire, and a tax vote could do just that. And, if the decision is made to postpone tax decisions for six months the accompanying budget will most certainly lead to gnashing of teeth by everyone who relies on state government programs, policies and funding,

A lot can happen in Springfield in the last month of any session and this session will be no exception. Sometimes it’s a wonder to see how creative solutions can arise from seemingly impossible circumstances, but creativity levels will have to be in uncharted territory if the 2014 legislative session is to end on any kind of positive note.

Drawing Your Own Conclusions

One of the petition drives that is in the midst of concluding is one to place a Constitutional Amendment on the November ballot to change the method by which the Illinois redistricting process takes place. The consensus by some is that the process for redistricting currently outlined in the Illinois Constitution doesn’t work the way it was intended and need to be changed. Who’s behind the change? Well, for one, there are a number of good government groups who look at ways that other states remap in a nonpartisan way (ie. Iowa, California) and think that process would be preferable and workable here. For another, Republicans have been left further and further behind as Illinois has become bluer and bluer. They feel, just as Democrats would if the shoe was on the other foot, that there is a better chance for equity with a "nonpartisan” effort. In essence, Republicans in Illinois have nothing to lose and everything to gain by supporting the effort. In 2011, for the first time since the adoption of the Illinois Constitution in 1970, one party, Democrats, controlled the entire reapportionment process because they controlled both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office. The result almost obliterated Republican representation in the legislature as Democrats won veto-proof majorities in the 2012 elections. Any change in process, with the exception of one they have complete control of, would be preferable to the GOP.

This is how the current process works: In the redistricting year, the year after the federal census, the legislature has until June 30 to approve new legislative districts. If they fail to do so, or if the Governor would veto that plan, an eight member Commission with a membership of four from each political party is appointed and has until August 10 to come up with a plan. If they fail to do so then a tiebreaking member is appointed and the winning party creates the map. The framers of the Illinois Constitution thought that the idea of a tiebreaker that vested all the remapping power in the "winner take all” scenario would be so frightening that it would force compromise before it ever got to that. Wrong. In 1981, 1991 and 2001 the tiebreaker occurred and would have again in 2011 had one party not controlled the entire process. The unthinkable became the norm in this case.

The new proposal would take the legislature almost completely out of the process. It would create an Independent Redistricting Commission comprised of eleven members that would be charged with filing a redistricting plan by June 30 and provides them with guidance for drawing district boundaries. Those eleven members would be selected by a panel of "Reviewers” appointed by the Auditor General, who becomes the big "poobah” in the plan, by March 31. Legislative leaders would have limited capability to remove names from the potential appointment list. The commissioners would have until June 30 to craft a redistricting plan. But, if they don’t then that’s where it gets interesting (for individuals who like this kind of stuff).

If there is no plan by June 30 then the Chief Judge and the highest ranking member of the other political party on the Illinois Supreme Court have the responsibility of naming a Special Commissioner for Redistricting by July 31 and who would have until August 31 to file a plan. Because of the incredible importance attached to redistricting cartography having these two individuals agree on one individual who will have the fate of the entire process in their hands and yet try to be completely nonpartisan will be a herculean, if not impossible, task. The proposal doesn’t say what happens if the Supreme Court appointers can’t agree, but if they can’t the process could actually turn out to be worse than the present system because the present system has a specific means to end a draw. With eleven commissioners appointed at the outset the hope from the advocates of the new plan is that the process will end there. That’s what the framers of the 1970 Constitution hopes, too, and their hopes were dashed on the very first try.

All this stuff is boring, right? It is, until you realize the high stakes governmentally, policy-wise, and politically that are tangential to the process. To the winners go the spoils of governing, setting policy and just about everything else that comes with democracy.

Only time will tell if this type of system is better than the one it seeks to replace. And only surviving a court challenge will allow voters to weigh in on Election Day in November. Proponents of the proposal will be submitting their petitions to the State Board of Elections next week. From there signature verifications and a court suit will follow in an attempt to keep it off the ballot. If the proposed amendment finally makes it to the November ballot there is a better than even chance that it will be approved by voters. The big question is whether or not the result will be any better in the long run than the system in place today.

Pension Reform Update

There is no further information regarding the pension lawsuits. It appears that the first court appearances to argue the relevant issues may not occur until mid to late May.

Session Schedule/Deadline Dates

Here are relevant dates for the legislative session:

  • May 16 – House/Senate Committee Deadline
  • May 23 – House Senate 3rd Reading Deadline
  • May 31 – Adjournment

Bills of Interest

The deadlines for bills introduced in the House and Senate has now passed. Listings reflect current status of bills. Note: Proposals that did not move out of committee could resurface on other bills as amendments before the end of the session.

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 local 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 – Passed House; Senate – Energy Committee

HB 4382 – Rep. Nekritz/Sen. Kotowski - 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 – Passed House; Senate – Committee on Assignments)

HB 4699 – Rep. Tryon - Amends the Public Water Supply Operations Act. Provides that every community water supply in Illinois, with specified exemptions, shall have on its operational staff, and shall designate to the Agency in writing, either (i) one Responsible Operator in Charge who directly supervises both the treatment and distribution facilities of the community water supply or (ii) one Responsible Operator in Charge who directly supervises the treatment facilities of the community water supply and one Responsible Operator in Charge who directly supervises the distribution facilities of the community water supply. Defines "Responsible Operator in Charge". Establishes duties of Responsible Operators in Charge. Provides that a violation of the Act by a Responsible Operators in Charge shall be enforceable by administrative citation. (Status – House – Environment Committee - Dead)

HB 4717 – 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 – House - Rules Committee - Dead)

HB 5454 – Rep. Poe/Sen. Manar - Amends the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that each water commissioner shall receive the same compensation that shall be determined by the water commission (currently, the appointing authority). (Status – Passed House; Senate – Committee on Assignments)

HB 5629 – Rep. Gabel - Creates the Water Loss Accounting Awareness Act. Provides that, before July 31, 2015, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, in consultation with the Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Illinois State Water Survey of the University of Illinois, and other local and regional water management leaders and interested parties as the Agency deems appropriate, shall submit to the General Assembly and the Governor a report that reviews and evaluates the latest available information on water loss in Illinois including existing data, policies, procedures, and institutional knowledge (including publicly available reports from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the American Water Works Association, and the State archives). (Status – House - Rules Committee - Dead)

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 – Passed House; Senate – Committee on Assignments)

HB 5875 – Rep. Yingling - Amends the Freedom of Information Act. Provides that "public body" includes any State-wide organization which receives 75% or more of its funding through contributions from taxing bodies for the sake of membership or dues in order to participate in the organization's activities, including, but not limited to, educational endeavors, legislative initiatives, or a general liability insurance pool. (Status - House – State Government Administration Committee - Dead)

SB 2770 – Sen. Althoff/Rep. Tryon - Amends the Public Water Supply Operations Act. Provides that every community water supply in Illinois, with specified exemptions, shall have on its operational staff, and shall designate to the Agency in writing, either (i) one Responsible Operator in Charge who directly supervises both the treatment and distribution facilities of the community water supply or (ii) one Responsible Operator in Charge who directly supervises the treatment facilities of the community water supply and one Responsible Operator in Charge who directly supervises the distribution facilities of the community water supply. Defines "Responsible Operator in Charge". Establishes duties of Responsible Operators in Charge. Provides that a violation of the Act by a Responsible Operators in Charge shall be enforceable by administrative citation. (Status – Passed Senate; House – Environment Committee)

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 – Passed Senate; House – Environment Committee)

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 – Passed Senate; House – Judiciary Committee)

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 – Passed Senate; House – Rules Committee)

SB 3047 – Sen. Kotowski - Creates the Water Loss Accounting Awareness Act. Provides that, before July 31, 2015, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, in consultation with the Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Illinois State Water Survey of the University of Illinois, and other local and regional water management leaders and interested parties as the Agency deems appropriate, shall submit to the General Assembly and the Governor a report that reviews and evaluates the latest available information on water loss in Illinois including existing data, policies, procedures, and institutional knowledge (including publicly available reports from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the American Water Works Association, and the State archives). (Status – Senate – Re-referred - Committee on Assignments - Dead)

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 – Passed Senate; House – Environment Committee)

SB 3425 – Sen. McCann/Rep. Poe - Amends the Illinois Municipal Code. Provides that each water commissioner shall receive the same compensation that shall be determined by the water commission (currently, the appointing authority). (Status – Passed Senate; House – Rules Committee)


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