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2014 - Legislative Update November
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Illinois Section AWWA Members
Legislative Update
Sent to members and employees of those utilities and
organizations that have a company or utility membership.
November 1, 2014



Fracking Decision Deadline Near


When the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) met on October 14 to discuss a decision on fracking rules there was some expectation that they would punt until after the Tuesday’s election. The absolute deadline for making a decision is November 15 and they are scheduled to meet once before that date, November 6. The rules were under formulation for months and under consideration by JCAR since the summer. The question now is whether or not JCAR will risk having to start the rules process all over again by rejecting what they have before them.


When the original drat rules were published by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) there were over 35,000 comments by fracking opponents. And, since the law says that each comment must be responded to separately it took months to get that accomplished and get on with the process. A second go-round will not be any easier. And the IDNR Director indicated recently that he will not issue any permits unless final rules are adopted and in place.

Also, adding to the drama, a few weeks ago a group of land owners who sold property leases to drillers filed a law suit alleging they were being deprived of their property’s value.

Regardless of what happens at the November 6 JCAR meeting someone is not going to be happy, but the fracking legislation that was approved by the legislature many moons ago was the product of a long negotiations process that resulted in an agreement among all the divergent interests … at least at that time. IDNR spent months trying to get the rules right, and even though both sides of the issue have complained about the final product, there’s probably little chance that JCAR is going to cast that work product aside to start from scratch. There is every expectation that the rules will be approved on November 6, maybe with some direction from JCAR to the General Assembly as to fixes the might be pursued in the veto session or in 2015.


And The Winner Is …


And another brutal election campaign draws to a close.


Seemingly stark differences in positions have been espoused by each of the candidates for governor. It’s very apparent that there is extreme dislike on both sides as the extremely negative tone of television ads and tenor in their debates has shown. But through that rubble voters are going to have to look through all of the "noise” and focus their attention on who they feel will be able to best lead the state during the next four years, fiscally and otherwise. And, of course, taxes and revenues will be front and center.


Governor Quinn threw down the tax gauntlet last March in his budget message that called for making the temporary income tax permanent … what some called a "gutsy” move, others called "suicidal”, and yet others called a "Hail Mary pass” … a last ditch effort to try to snatch victory from the grasp of almost certain defeat. Politicians traditionally stay away from any talk about raising taxes on the campaign trail like a hot potato so the Governor’s move was quite extraordinary. The fact that he hasn’t backed away from that stance and continues to push while the race itself is within the margin of error is fairly significant. It also means that what some had predicted about the outcome of the race being a referendum on taxes may actually come to pass, regardless of the margin of the outcome next week. When the smoke clears on Election Day pundits will interpret the results as a victory for either the candidate who wanted to keep the tax or the one who doesn’t. Period. Regardless of the nuances the positions each has staked out that’s the way the results of the race will be interpreted and that’s what the legislature will no doubt look at when making any significant policy considerations during the remaining weeks of their session.


So who will win? With just a few days left before Election Day the race is a virtual tossup. Four years ago Quinn won a squeaker, sneaking by state Sen. Bill Brady by a handful of votes. The closeness of that race has been characterized by some as a post-Blagojevich voter hangover that almost took down Quinn in a state that has been become more and more "blue” in the last 20 years. But the last four years have not brought an end to the fiscal tsunami that Illinois has experienced during and since the Great Recession. State debt is down by half, unemployment is edging downward but, on the other hand, the stack of unpaid bills is hovering somewhere between $4-$6 billion, pension reform legislation that took forever to enact looks like a goner in the courts, and there seems to be a general malaise about state’s leadership and its ability to solve problems. Enter Bruce Rauner. With the resources to self fund his campaign (to the tune of almost $30 million thus far) and access to other deep pockets, he has been able to compete and offer a competing vision that he hopes will resonate with voters. While Rauner’s plans for Illinois offer incomplete details and more questions than answers, the closeness of the race evidenced thus far in pre-election polling suggests that confidence in the current leadership is lacking and a change, regardless of how incomplete the picture, may be in order.


There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into winning an election. Beyond the debates and television ads each of the campaigns have been spending countless hours and dollars trying to identify which supportive voters they can count on … and making arrangement to make sure that by the time the polls close on November 4 that as many of them as possible have make the trek to their polling places to cast their votes. In close races successful GOTV (Get Out The Vote) efforts make the difference between election night parties and crying towels. Democrats have always depended on GOTV efforts on election days and the GOP, assisted by Rauner resources, is trying to establish a ground game this year. GOTV efforts have a lot to do with candidates often looking past published polls and declaring, "The only poll that counts is the one on Election Day”. That may ring very true this year.


November 5: Quinn


One thing for certain, since being given up for dead just a few months ago a win by Pat Quinn will be categorized, without a doubt, as miraculous. In the Catholic Church two miracles qualify someone for sainthood. Quinn is Catholic. Some wags might try to convince Pope Frances that two improbable squeaker wins by Quinn should qualify. But any ability to reach into any supernatural bag of tricks would best be focused on the conundrum of getting the state back on track. That’s where the state could really use a miracle.


Quinn has unapologetically insisted that the temporary tax increase, scheduled to sunset on January 1, be made permanent. If he wins expect him to renew the call for the legislature to act to do exactly that. A Quinn win would also be a signal to legislators that voters agree. Quinn made a comment during as debate with Rauner that he expects the legislature to act in November or December on taxes. Wrong. The legislature may, in fact, act on the tax issue but that will never happen before January 1. Any action before the new year would require a three-fifths vote for any legislative action to be effective immediately. After January 1 that requirement drops to a majority. Big difference. Three-fifths supporting the tax increase (71 House/36Senate) just isn’t there regardless of the veto-proof size of the Democratic majorities. A Constitutional majority (60/30) could be. There are fourteen days in January before the current legislative session adjourns and it’s a good bet that most major policy actions needed by the legislature won’t happen until then.


Rauner has demanded that win or lose Quinn not call the tax issue for a vote during the post-election sessions. What Quinn does or doesn’t want really is moot because it’s going to be the legislative leaders that decide if/when action on a tax bill will take place, and if Quinn loses they may not be so disposed. Would Quinn push for an extension of the higher tax rate even if he loses? He might, but legislative leaders may not be so inclined. But a Quinn win would be a signal that voters understand the state’s need for more revenue and almost guarantees successful consideration of the tax issue in January. Rank and file legislators may demand an extension of the higher rate rather than permanency, something the leaders may not prefer, but either way the higher rates will be in place for at least a while longer. If Quinn loses, the leaders almost certainly will look for a signal as to what Rauner’s intentions may be and then may or may not decide to move forward with whatever it is he may want prior to the inauguration.


Aside from policy and revenue issues Quinn will have to begin the process of reviewing his Cabinet and making a determination as to whether or not any changes will be needed. It’s too early to tell whether or not any changes will be widespread, but movement almost always does occur after elections when agency heads determine whether they’ve had enough or the governor determines he’s had enough of them.


November 5: Rauner


A November 4 victory by Bruce Rauner is a definite possibility. If that does occur it would be reminiscent of the line in the song "Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who … "The change it had to come. We knew it all along.” And he’ll have four years to achieve his "vision” and extricate the state from its fiscal doldrums and general melancholy. To do that he’s going to need lots of help from the GOP faction in the General Assembly in addition to the expected Democratic majorities and that’s where things can get extremely touchy.


In addition to creating a Transition Team and identifying who he feels should be pushing some of the state agency "levers” he’s going to have to make some decisions on some major policy and revenue issues almost immediately. And since the majorities in each legislative chamber will most probably remain Democratic he’s going to have to reach out and make nice since he’s going to need at their support to advance policy initiatives and get appointments approved. He’s tempered his remarks since the primary but he also is going to have to be very careful not to alienate the GOP faithful by playing too nice. There’s going to be a lot expected from him because he’s created his "Shake Up Springfield” mantra that the public is going to expect him to deliver. If he wins the public is going to expect Scott Walker. What they don’t want is Dan Walker. Rauner had better show up in Springfield with a figurative helmet and flak jacket because regardless of which of the two he winds up emulating it’s going to be a tug-of-war royale.


The first major decision a Governor-elect Rauner will have to face is whether or not to ask for an early extension of the income tax increase. The additional $1.6 billion in revenue could make his first six months in office a lot less trying, but it would also cause a firestorm and he would pay a huge price both in incredibility GOP legislative and party support, plus the public at large. Twice during Jim Thompson’s tenure as Governor he campaigned on no tax increases only to change his mind once the election was over. He pulled it off each time but times have changed dramatically since then. Rauner has already insinuated in his position papers that he wants to extend the higher tax rate temporarily. The tax is already schedule to expire on December 31 of this year. Rauner’s position papers specify that he wants to phase out the tax increase, but the only way to phase out a tax that’s already set to expire is by extending it. The question is whether he’s willing to write off the $1.6 billion lost to the tax expiring during the first six months of the fiscal year and then work with the new legislature to reinstitute it beginning July 1? That doesn’t make for consistent fiscal policy, and also considerably lessens the odds of succeeding.


While Rauner might ultimately decide to wait until the new legislative term to make a final decision of both income taxes and expansion of service and sales taxes that he has suggested, many observers have come to the opinion that the state simply can’t lose the $3.2 billion in the short term that would lost if the tax increase went away all together. It will be a herculean challenge to convince members of the GOP caucus to support any of these initiatives, temporary or otherwise. With Democratic control of the governor’s office and legislature for the last twelve years the Republican delegation has been content to let Democrats make all the tough decisions, including on revenue and tax issues. With one of their own in the governor’s chair that whole dynamic changes. Democrats won’t be planning to vote for anything unless a goodly number of Republicans are on board first. That will be a very bumpy road and provide a true test of Rauner’s leadership capabilities. Republican legislators will be skittish about voting for anything even perceived as increasing taxes or spending for fear of a primary election challenge. It will be a Governor Rauner’s job to change the attitude of many GOP legislators who are far closer to the Tea Party in philosophy. And that’s the trap a Governor Rauner will have to try to avoid. Blaming any policy failures on lack of Democratic support when your own party won’t touch it won’t play well. Governing requires the right balance of resoluteness and submissiveness. How well and quickly a Governor-elect Rauner creates that balance may determine the ultimate success of his term of office.


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




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