This Week in Springfield both chambers met to discuss legislation from the opposite chamber while lawmakers continued to discuss the budget in working groups.
RETAIL DISCOUNT & BUDGET
There are 13 scheduled days of regular legislative session remaining on the calendar. If the Assembly has not adjourned by midnight on May 31st, a super-majority in each chamber is required to pass anything. At the very least, that would give Republicans in the House serious leverage.
A bi-partisan, and relatively large, Budget Working Group has been meeting for several weeks. They have shared ideas on how to close the gap between revenue and spending and discussed estimating how much revenue there is to spend for Fiscal Year 2019.
Last year, a $5 billion income tax increase was utilized to help pay down approximately half of the bill backlog which had grown as high as $16 billion, as well as to get monies flowing again to agencies and the myriad programs they operate. While another tax increase is unlikely in an election year, policymakers are casting about for other pots of money. That means the Retail Discount is once again being discussed.
A few years ago, IRMA prepared this overview of the Discount. We have updated it and are once again sharing it with members of the Budget Working Group, legislative leaders, staff, and the Governor’s Office. One of the options that was discussed was a Kentucky-style approach to reducing the discount. In short, retailers would receive 1.75% of the first $1,000 in sales taxes collected and 1.5% of any amount over $1,000 but the total received would be capped at $50 per reporting period (i.e. per month). IRMA has prepared and shared an overview of the annual sales a business would reach before being capped under a Kentucky-style methodology.
This issue was raised in meetings directly with three of the four legislative leaders and the Governor last week during Business Day 2018. IRMA will continue to advocate to protect the partial reimbursement that is the Retail Discount in Illinois.
SB 2332 (Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield/Rep. Camille Lilly, D-Chicago) prohibits anyone below the age of 21 from purchasing tobacco from a licensed Illinois retailer while removing any penalties for the underage possession or consumption of tobacco. The initiative passed the Senate with a vote of 35-20-0 and passed the House Health & Healthcare Disparities Committee by a 3-1 vote.
As currently drafted SB 2332 makes it legal for a person under the age of 21 to: (1) possess tobacco, (2) consume tobacco, (3) sell tobacco, (4) buy tobacco from an unlicensed Illinois retailer or individual, or (5) buy tobacco from a licensed out-of-state retailer or online. Additionally, the bill protects unlicensed, unregulated, and, untaxed individuals selling tobacco to minors while prohibiting licensed retailers from selling tobacco products to anyone below the age of 21.
Advocates argue that the brain is still developing until the age of 21 and a person under that age cannot be expected to fully understand the decision they are making when choosing to use tobacco products. This makes an interesting argument since persons under age 21, among other things, are allowed to vote, join the military, enter into legally binding contracts, drive, serve on a jury, sue someone, get a tattoo or piercing, become a blood or organ donor, adopt a child, etc.
Raising the age from 18 to 21 may not make as big of a difference as lawmakers hope, given that most smokers — nine out of 10 according to the Surgeon General— have already begun smoking by the age of 18. Additionally, the vast majority obtain their tobacco products from older family and friends. Three out of four minor smokers will become adult smokers. Ironically, SB 2332 may actually encourage this behavior by removing the current statutory penalties for underage use and consumption of tobacco. And if it is a good idea to remove underage penalties for tobacco products should the state also remove underage use and consumption penalties for other age restricted products such as alcohol?
IRMA is opposed to the bill which will drive sales away from licensed retailers to illegal sellers and to out-of-state retailers.
SB 3291 (Sen. James Clayborne, D-East St. Louis/ Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago) would preempt home rule municipalities from passing regulations on the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS). The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) retains the authority to regulate private and commercial drone use. Despite this authority local municipalities have been introducing ordinances that regulate drones.
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has created rules for both commercial and private drone use and has made it clear that the FAA’s rules preempt local and state jurisdiction regarding the regulation of drones. Additionally, in 2015, Illinois created the Illinois Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Taskforce, which IRMA was appointed, to provide oversight and input in creating comprehensive laws and rules for the operation and use of drone technology within Illinois. The taskforce’s final report indicated that the state should be provide guidance within the FAA guidelines and however well-intentioned, overly burdensome local regulations that discourage or unnecessarily obstruct the otherwise safe and lawful use of UAS should be avoided.
SB 3291 passed the Senate by a 52-0 vote and the Transportation: Regulation, Roads & Bridges Committee by a 11-0 vote. IRMA supports SB 3291.
The State Medical Society is introducing legislation that will increase workers’ compensation rates for Illinois employers. SB 904 House Amendment #1 (Sen. Michael E. Hastings, D-Frankfurt/Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Belleville) will result in increased interest rates of 24 percent per year on medical claims for businesses and insurance companies. Additionally, employers and insurers will also face penalties of up to $1,000 per claim for failure to comply with the electronic billing requirements under the proposal. The amendment will be heard next week in the House Labor Committee. IRMA is opposed.
HUMAN RIGHTS EXPANSION
Currently, the Illinois Human Rights Act only applies to businesses with 15 or more employees. HB 4572 (Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago/ Sen. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin) expands the coverage of the Act to apply to any business with one or more employees. The legislation passed the House with a 64-37 vote and the Senate with a 33-13 vote. It now goes to the Governor for his consideration.
IRMA would like to publicly thank those who helped make Business Day 2018 a tremendous success again this year. On behalf of all the members of IRMA, thank you for your generous support!