Illinois This Week in Springfield 99-18

FEDERAL MONIES
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
ANNUAL MEETING

This Week in Springfield, the Senate passed a bill giving the State the authority to release federal funds and also passed their version of workers’ compensation reform.  Additionally, IRMA’s 58th annual meeting is just around the corner!

FEDERAL MONIES

The State and its agencies administer many programs that are funded primarily by federal dollars.  With the budget impasse continuing there has been no authority for the State to pass federal funds to local providers. As a result, the Senate introduced and passed Amendment 1 to SB 2042 that gives the State the authority to pass through nearly $5 billion of earmarked federal funds to the appropriate State agencies and programs.

Agencies receiving the funds include but are not limited to Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA), Department of Public Health (DPH), Department on Aging (DOA), and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). If passed by the House and signed by the Governor, programs that will receive their federal monies include but are not limited to the federal portion of LIHEAP, mental health services, alcohol and abuse treatment, developmental disabilities services, job training under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, cancer screening, prenatal services, etc.

Of particular importance to retailers is the continued funding of the Women Infants and Children Nutrition Program (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Many Illinois residents rely on these programs to assist them in procuring healthy foods for themselves and infants and these residents rely on their local food retailers who are key to the successful implementation and administration of these federally funded programs.  With the passage of this appropriation bill, these programs should not see an interruption of services.

The Governor has signaled that he supports the appropriation bill and intends to sign it if approved in the House. The House Democrats do not oppose the bill, but believe there are additional federal funds that need to be added to the legislation.

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WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

The Senate introduced and passed their version of workers’ compensation reform in Amendment 1 to SB 162. The legislation includes provisions relating to causation, traveling employees, establishing an Ombudsman Program, and modernizing and streamlining the workers’ compensation system.

SB 162 changes the definition of “in the course of employment” and “arising out employment” but does nothing to change the no-fault standard that requires an employer to pay 100% of an injury regardless of how little of the injury actually occurred due to an employment related action.  Additionally, while the legislation attempts to prohibit a claim when a traveling employee is injured outside the duty of their employment, it still allows a workers’ compensation claim for personal deviations.

SB 162 also creates an Ombudsman Program whose objective is to educate employees and employers of their duties and obligations under the Workers’ Compensation Act (“Act”) and to help all stakeholders (e.g. workers, employers, attorneys, medical personnel, etc.) navigate the system. Additionally, it creates a Commission whose purpose is to recodify the Act.

The legislation passed out of committee and the full Senate on a partisan roll-call over the objections of employer representatives including IRMA, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA), National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce because the provisions in the amendment are not enough to make meaningful changes to one of the most expensive workers’ compensation systems in the United States.

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ANNUAL MEETING

IRMA’s 58th annual meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 1, 2015. We look forward to celebrating IRMA and Illinois retailing with all participants and guests. The event starts at 11:30 a.m. and will be held in the Empire Room of the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago. Sponsorship and registration information can be obtained by contacting IRMA at 312-726-4600 or dbasowski@irma.org .

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Illinois This Week in Springfield 99-17

CONSUMER FRAUD & PROTECTION
CREDIT & FINANCE
ENVIRONMENT & UTILITIES
FOOD & LIQUOR
LABOR
LOSS PREVENTION
PHARMACY
REGULATION & LICENSING

 

With no deal in place on a Fiscal Year 2016 budget, and an escalating war of words between Democrats and Republicans, the General Assembly did not adjourn on May 31st. Both chambers have been meeting and will continue to meet in regular session throughout the summer or until a budget agreement is reached. It is important to note that since the May 31st deadline has been reached, a 3/5ths super-majority is required to pass any legislation that requires an immediate effective date.

To date 6,735 bills have been introduced in the 99th General Assembly.  Additionally, nearly 1,800 amendments were filed. Of those, 495 bills were passed by both Chambers and have been, or will be, sent to the Governor for his action.  The chamber in which the bill originated has 30-days from the date the bill passed both chambers to transmit the bill to the Governor. The Governor has 60-days from the date his office receives the bill to sign, veto, or amendatorily veto the legislation.

The following is a list of bills by subject matter of potential consequence to retail that passed the Assembly and sent to the Governor for his consideration. For your convenience, each bill number is hyper-linked so TWIS readers can easily read each bill in the form in which it was sent to the Governor. Additionally, the position IRMA took on each bill is noted.

As always, should you require additional information or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact IRMA.

CONSUMER FRAUD AND PROTECTION

Powdered Caffeine—SB 9 (Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield/Rep. Stephanie A. Kifowit, D-Aurora) creates the Powdered Caffeine Control and Education Act. It prohibits any person from selling, offering to sell, giving away, or providing free samples of powdered pure caffeine to any person under age 18 located in the State or to any person under age 18 making the purchase from within the State.  While IRMA is generally opposed to most product bans as consumers can just make the choice not to purchase a product and the FDA should be the ultimate arbiter of which food products are safe, IRMA was neutral on this bill as the product in question was not sold by IRMA members.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

Powdered Alcohol—SB 67 (Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago/Rep. Laura Fine, D-Glenview) prohibits the sale of powdered alcohol in Illinois.  While IRMA is generally opposed to most product bans, IRMA was neutral on this bill that bans a product that was already not available for sale in Illinois.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

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CREDIT AND FINANCE

Private Label Credit Cards—In the 98th General Assembly both the Senate and House unanimously passed an IRMA-initiative that allowed for a refund on bad debt established through a Private Label Credit Card (PLCC) administered by a third party. Former Governor Pat Quinn decided to use the bill, and a few others, as a vehicle for unrelated amendatory vetoes in his final moments in office effectively killing the bill. The initiative was reintroduced in the form of SB 507 (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie/Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights).

If a consumer does not pay for the merchandise they purchase on credit, and efforts to collect fail, a bad debt is declared and the sales tax is refunded to the retailer. This happens because in the eyes of the law, a sale is deemed not to have occurred. However, several years ago, the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) issued a controversial opinion that a bad debt refund did not apply to PLCC’s administered by a third party. SB 507 takes into consideration this modernization and corrects this inequity by allowing a refund of sales tax on the bad debt created by consumer using a store branded PLCC. Over the course of last year and again this year, IRMA worked with IDOR to address their procedural concerns to ensure proper documentation would be available; limited the transactions that are available for a bad debt refund; and provided a clear line of accountability.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

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ENVIRONMENT AND UTILITIES

Telecom Modernization and 9-1-1 FundingSB 96 (Sen. John Sullivan, D-Quincy/Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg) funds the deteriorating 9-1-1 infrastructure and contains important changes to modernize Illinois telecommunications and the video competition laws. Currently, there are three surcharges that help fund the current 9-1-1 systems and network. One of these charges includes a 1.5% tax that is collected by a retailer on the sale of any prepaid wireless telecommunications service.  The retailer must include a line item on the receipt to show the surcharge. The retailer remits the surcharge to the Illinois Department of Revenue where they place it in the Wireless Service Emergency Fund. In order to fund the Illinois Telecommunications Access Corporation (“ITAC”), which provides equipment for hard of hearing and deaf people, SB 96 adds an additional 1.5% surcharge on the purchase of any prepaid wireless telecommunications service. Similar to current law, the retailer will collect the 3.0% surcharge from the consumer. To remain consistent with current law the retailer may combine both surcharges in one line item on the receipt. The 3.0% tax will be remitted to the Illinois Department of Revenue where it will be divided between the Illinois Telecommunications Access Fund and the Wireless Service Emergency Fund. SB 96 also implements a statewide $0.87 tax per landline, wireless, VOIP, and cable provided telecommunications which will be collected by telecommunication carriers and remitted to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

Electronics Recycling—Public Act 97-0287 created the Electronic Products Recycling & Reuse Act (“Act”) that established a statewide system for recycling and/or reusing certain electronic devices discarded from residences by requiring electronic manufacturers to participate in the management of discarded and unwanted electronic products. The Act does not require local government funding or participation, instead requiring manufacturers to set up and pay for the collection, transportation, recycling and or reuse of obsolete electronic products.  As manufacturers were reaching their statutory goals earlier in the year, and municipalities were not budgeting for this foreseen reality, the municipalities were not able to keep open their operation because they are not self-sustaining. In response, the municipal waste facilities wanted to renegotiate for more funds and higher collection goals.  In HB 1455 (Rep. Emily McCasey, D-Romeoville/Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry) the manufacturers and waste facilities reached an agreement that would: (1) divide the collection goals up between two different groups of manufacturers at two different rates including television and monitors (80%) and all other electronics (50%); (2)the goals would be based on market share of TV/monitor and electronic sales; (3) the overall goal would not exceed 50 million pounds; and (4) a pilot program for a 25% credit carry over for one year.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

Prohibition on Mixing Sharps—SB 793 (Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora/Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago) prohibits a person from knowingly mixing sharps, including, but not limited to, hypodermic, intravenous, or other medical needles or syringes or other medical household waste containing used or unused sharps, including, but not limited to, hypodermic, intravenous, or other medical needles or syringes or other sharps, with any other material intended for collection as a recyclable material by a residential hauler.  The bill was passed to protect sanitation workers from inadvertent injuries, infections, and diseases from syringes found in the garbage. Residents are encouraged to drop the needles off at voluntary drop off sites.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

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FOOD AND LIQUOR

Food Handling—Last legislative session, after a couple of years of negotiations, changes were made to the Illinois Food Code to ensure that every person who is preparing food in Illinois has training in food handling and safety procedures.  As part of that initiative, persons seeking Food Service Sanitation Managers Certifications (FSSMC) have to take a nationally accredited exam with a passing score of at least 75%.  SB 46 (Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago/Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Oak Lawn) changes that language to allow FSSMC exam takers to receive whatever passing score is recommended by the test preparers.  These minimum scores are set nationally.  This change preserves the integrity of the certification while giving FSSMC seekers the flexibility that they need to get certified and transfer certification from another state.  In addition, the bill allows more restaurants that have corporate food handling programs certified in other states to transfer those programs to Illinois.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

Brew PubsHB 3237 (Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago/ Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago)  provides clear guidance on the use of social media for advertising alcohol as well as increases the number of gallons a brew pub may sell directly to the public.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

Liquor “Of Value” ProvisionsHB 4018 (Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley/Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago) clarifies that alcoholic liquor can be packaged in combination with non-alcoholic products without violating the three-tier system.  In addition, it makes clear that manufacturers and distributors can furnish non-alcoholic merchandise to retailers for free as long as the merchandise is not tied to an alcoholic product.  The Illinois Liquor Control Commission had previously taken the heavy-handed position that furnishing items such as coolers to promote non-alcoholic products (e.g. sports drinks, bottled water, etc.) violated the Act.  Therefore this change was sought to clarify that such practices will not be considered as violating the prohibition of giving something “of value” to retailers to sell or promote the sale of alcoholic products.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

Happy Hour, 100ft Rule Exemptions and Sunday SalesSB 398 (Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago/Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago) will give businesses some flexibility to have traditional happy hours and will clarify that meal and party packages with unlimited drinks for a set price are allowed by law.  The city of Chicago wrote tickets to hotels and restaurants on New Year’s Eve for violating Trade Practice Policies (TPP) written by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC).  The TPPs have always been issued to describe “best practices” and have never been given the force of law.  A number of the restaurants and hotels that were cited for the practice have since sued the city and all of the cases that have reached a final decision have been decided in favor of the business.  SB 398 was written to address this issue and to allow licensees to serve discounted drinks for up to 4 hours/day for no more than 15 hours/week.  The bill will also include the following measures: (1) prohibits TPPs; (2) allows hotel restaurants under the same ownership to have one license and transfer liquor from one location to the other as long as the restaurants are in the same hotel; (3) deletes the Sunday sales prohibition, but will allow local jurisdictions to prohibit Sunday sales through local ordinances; (4) grants the local liquor commissioner the authority to provide an exemption to the 100 ft. rule so that businesses don’t have to seek the exemption from the state legislature, but preserves the business’ right to seek the exemption from the General Assembly if desired; (5) requires that all servers of alcohol be BASSET certified; (6) prohibits licensees from selling drinks “2 for 1”, from increasing the volume of a drink without proportionately increasing the price and from allowing drinking games. The changes to this bill represent agreements made between everyone involved in the 3-tier system.  They are common sense changes that allow retailers and restaurants to have flexibility and certainty in the sale of alcohol and, most importantly, to sell and serve it responsibly.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

Food Establishment Self-InspectionsSB 1800 (Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago/Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago) will allow the City of Chicago to implement a self-inspection program for low-risk food establishments.  Qualifying food establishments would perform their own health inspections every two years which would then be randomly audited by the Department of Public Health.  The department will develop the inspection form and fines for noncompliance will be assessed.  The city has run a successful pilot program for the past couple of years, so this bill would make the program permanent and allow them to expand beyond current program participants.  Allowing low-risk food establishments to perform their own inspections allows the city to use its limited inspection resources wisely and cover more ground to ensure the safety of the food residents consume.  IRMA members have participated in the pilot program and we look forward to having more members qualify for the expanded program.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

Snap EligibilitySB 1847 (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie/Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston) will allow more people in Illinois to qualify for SNAP benefits.  It is estimated that the bill will add 40,000 more SNAP cases (cases include individuals and families) to the program. Prior to 2013, Illinois had one of the most favorable SNAP distribution schedules in the country because it distributed benefits throughout the month.  After making some software changes in 2013 that were allegedly necessitated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Department of Human Services (Department) elected to change SNAP distribution to the first 10 days of the month. Having a SNAP distribution system that is not spread throughout the month and creates substantial difficulties for grocers in high-SNAP areas, their employees, and customers. This change was particularly baffling because it was made after the USDA (the federal Department that issues SNAP benefits to the states) wrote a letter to all of the states encouraging them to distribute benefits throughout the month.  In response to the letter, a number of states began expanding their distribution beyond the first few days of the month.  Illinois was the only state to move in the opposite direction.  If the state were operating with a SNAP distribution system that worked for everyone involved, IRMA would not be opposed to adding more cases to the program.  Considering the present way that the Department is choosing to distribute benefits, we are opposed to adding more cases until a permanent solution to distribution is adopted.

IRMA POSITION: OPPOSE

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LABOR

Veterans Employment Preference—HB 3122 (Rep. Robert Pritchard, R-Sycamore/Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Matteson) creates the Veterans Preference in Private Employment Act. A private employer may adopt and apply a voluntary veterans’ preference employment policy if: (1) the veterans’ preference employment policy is in writing; (2) the veterans’ preference employment policy is publicly posted by the private employer at the place of employment or on any website maintained by the private employer; (3) the private employer’s job application informs all applicants of the veterans’ preference employment policy and where the policy may be obtained; and (4) the private employer applies the veterans’ preference employment policy uniformly for all employment decisions regarding the hiring or promotion of veterans or the retention of veterans during a reduction in force. A private employer who maintains a veterans’ preference employment policy may require and rely on an applicant’s or employee’s Department of Defense DD214/DD215 forms or their predecessor or successor forms, an applicant’s or employee’s NGB-22 discharge form or its predecessor or successor forms (if a member of the National Guard), and a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs award letter (if the applicant or employee is claiming a service-connected disability) to establish eligibility for such policy.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

Equal Pay—The Equal Pay Act of 2003 (“Act”)prohibits employers with four or more employees from paying unequal wages to men and women for doing the same or substantially similar work, requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility, under similar working conditions.  HB 3619 (Rep. Cynthia Soto, D-Chicago/Sen. Michael Noland, D-Elgin) would extend the requirements of the Act to include all employers. It also creates a two-tiered civil penalty that would subject employers with fewer than 4 employees that violates the Act is subject to penalties of $500 for a first offense; $2,500 for a second offense; and $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense. An employer with 4 or more employees is subject to penalties of $2,500 for a first offense; $3,000 for a second offense; and $5,000 for a third or subsequent offense.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

Small Business Regulatory Review—HB 3887 (Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Aurora/Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield) requires each State executive agency to scrutinize its rules, administrative regulations, and permitting processes as they pertain to small businesses in order to identify those rules, regulations, and processes that are unreasonable, unduly burdensome, duplicative, or onerous to small businesses. Each State agency must submit its reports containing the results of its review to the Office of Business Permits and Regulatory Assistance, the Governor, and the General Assembly.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

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LOSS PREVENTION

Accelerated Court ResolutionSB 202 (Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago/Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside) establishes a pilot program for Cook County which would provide an accelerated route to adjudication for persons accused of misdemeanor retail theft or criminal trespass.  This measure comes out of concerns raised by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart about jails overcrowded with non-violent offenders who remain in jail for long periods of time awaiting trial because they cannot afford to bond out.  This bill will permit qualifying persons accused of the aforementioned crimes to either have a final adjudication of their case within 30 days of arrest or be allowed to bond out of jail on their own recognizance until their hearing date.  IRMA supported this bill because it addressed the crime of retail theft in a way that is fair to the victim without undermining the severity of retail theft.  Additionally, this bill substantively addresses the concerns of criminal justice reform advocates who want to ensure that persons sitting in jail awaiting trial are there because they are a potential threat to society and not simply because they are poor.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

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PHARMACY

HeroinHB 1 (Rep. Lou Lang, D- Chicago/Sen. Dan Kotowski (D- Park Ridge) creates the nation’s most comprehensive approach to combating heroin and prescription drug abuse. HB 1 includes, but is not limited to, the following provisions: allows pharmacists to dispense opioid antagonists to someone claiming a heroin overdose pursuant to policies and procedures developed by the Illinois Department of Public Health; expands authority of the Illinois EPA to distribute grants for drug take-back programs; provides training for law enforcement, school officials, fire fighters, and others to administer opioid antagonists; IEPA shall establish a statewide medicine take-back program; the Department shall develop a poster and brochures for display and distribution in pharmacies regarding take-back information/events; expands utilization of the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP); creates a peer review committee for prescribers and dispensers; and lowers the threshold where someone is potentially considered to be shopping for medicine from six prescribers or six pharmacies in one month to three prescribers or three pharmacies in one month.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

BiosimilarsSB 455 (Sen. Tony Munoz, D- Chicago/Rep. Edward Acevedo, D- Chicago) regulates how and when biosimilars are substituted and notification provided to prescribers and patients. In short, a biologic can only be substituted with a biosimilar if the FDA has approved the biosimilar for substitution, the prescriber has not indicated “do not substitute’, and the patient is informed of the substitution. Additionally, within five business days of dispensing a prescribed biologic, the pharmacy must input the information into an interoperable electronic medical records system, an electronic prescribing technology, a pharmacy benefit management system, or a pharmacy record that can be electronically accessed by a prescriber. Entry into one of these systems is presumed to be notice to the prescriber. If the prescriber does not have electronic access, he/she must notify the pharmacy and the pharmacy must then transmit by other means.

IRMA POSITION: Support

Pharmacy Transfer to Physician Assistant—SB 689 (Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine/Rep. Grant Wehrli, R-Naperville) allows a pharmacy or pharmacist to deliver prescription drugs to a licensed physician assistant who provides hospice services to a hospice patient or who provides home health services to a person, at the residence or place of employment of the person for whom the prescription was issued or at the hospital or medical care facility in which the patient is confined, or may drop off the prescription at a designated area determined by the patient or the patient’s agent. The physician assistant may possess controlled substances prescribed for an ultimate user if the physician assistant provides hospice services to a hospice patient who is the ultimate user or provides home health services to a person who is the ultimate user.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

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REGULATION AND LICENSING

Data SecuritySB 1833 (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie/Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago) changes what is currently considered “personal information” for the purposes of requiring notification to the consumer and/or the Attorney General if the information is breached.  Specifically, the bill charts new territory by requiring notification for breaches of “consumer marketing” and “geolocation” information.  After months of discussions with the Attorney General’s office, IRMA was able to negotiate several changes to the bill which, in total, removed IRMA’s opposition.  Some of the more important changes include:  narrowing the definitions of consumer marketing and geolocation information to more closely target specific behavior of concern to the Attorney General, removing the requirement to notify the individual when geolocation and consumer marketing information is breached, raising the threshold that triggers notification requirements and expanding the time allowed for businesses to notify individuals and/or the Attorney General when information is breached.  There were a number of other changes made in a good faith effort by the Attorney General’s office to address IRMA’s concerns.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

Data Security ResolutionSR 142 (Sen. Mattie Hunter, Chicago) recognizes that all industries including but not limited to financial, public, government, retail, manufacturing, medical, utilities, etc., suffer from data breaches. The resolution urges the federal government to focus on increased security measures for credit card data kept by all affected industries. As originally introduced, SR 142 left the impression that data breaches were largely a retail problem which would have left a false impression but was amended by the sponsor at the request of IRMA.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

Tobacco Retail Licensing Trailer BillHouse Bill 2494 was introduced and passed last year as P.A. 98-1055 and requires retailers to obtain a license to sell cigarettes. The legislation was introduced to reduce the sales of cigarettes to minors, illegal sales of contraband tobacco, and the illegal smuggling of cigarettes in Illinois. The license includes an annual fee that is intended to help fund the interdiction of smuggling and retail inspections. P.A. 98-1055 also included an employee training program, a merchant citation mitigation provision, and record keeping provisions.  HB 2513 (Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago/ Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield) is a trailer bill that clarifies the provisions passed in P.A. 98-1055. Specifically, the legislation: (1) allows a waiver for records to be kept out of state; (2) broadens the employee training requirements; (3) allows the employee training to be conducted electronically; (4) provides an avenue to mitigate retail tobacco citations; and (5) provides a waiver for closed loop distribution invoice record keeping requirements.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

Contraband CigarettesSB 509 (Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago/Rep. John Cabello, R-Loves Park) will allow cigarettes without the tax stamp of the local jurisdiction to be considered contraband and thus make retailers subject to penalties outlined in the Cigarette Tax Act.  The City of Chicago sought the change because the sale of cigarettes without the Chicago/Cook County tax stamp is on the rise and they wanted the option to impose stronger fines on retailers who are caught selling such unstamped packs of cigarettes.  The rise in the illegal sale of cigarettes is not only relegated to bad actors in the retail community, but increasingly, such sales are occurring in person-to-person sales controlled by local gangs.  The rise in the illegal sale of cigarettes seems to correspond to the tax increases that have occurred at the state and local levels over the past couple of years.  These tax increases have made the price of cigarettes more expensive than any other city in the country; a fact that is not lost on the growing underground market for unstamped cigarettes.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

Smart Phone Anti-Theft ActSB 66 (Sen. Ira Silverstein, D-Chicago) creates the Smart Phone Theft Protection Act and requires wireless communications device dealers to maintain a written record of every purchase or acquisition of a used wireless communications device for resale. The legislation provides that a law enforcement agency that has probable cause to believe a device has been stolen or is evidence of a crime may place an investigative hold on or confiscate the device. Additionally, the legislation requires the installation of video security cameras at a dealer’s physical location. Retailers with 25 or more locations are exempted from the requirements of this legislation.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

Drone Taskforce—As drones make their way from military application to commercial and personal uses, some foresee the need to plan for their widespread adoption. SB 44 (Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield/Rep. Brandon Phelps, D- Harrisburg) seeks to create the Unmanned Aerial System Oversight Task Force Act. The purpose of the Task Force is to “provide oversight and input into creating comprehensive laws and rules for the operation and use of drone technology within this State subject to federal oversight and regulation”. Assuming the bill is signed into law, the Governor has 90-days to complete the appointments to the Task Force. Currently, 17 people will serve on the Task Force including a representative of IRMA. The members of the Task Force must ‘consider commercial and private uses of drones, landowner and privacy rights, as well as general rules and regulations for the safe operation of drone, and prepare comprehensive recommendations for the safe and lawful operation of [drones] in this State”.  The Task Force must issue a report no later than July 1, 2016.

IRMA POSITION: SUPPORT

Conceal CarrySB 836 (Sen. John Sullivan, D-Quincy/Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg) amends the conceal carry law which went into effect last year.  Since the bill was signed into law, there have been a number of interested parties on both sides of the issue looking to amend the bill in any number of directions.  While it did not seem that there was much desire to actually change the law this soon after passage, SB 836 will make two changes that should be noted. First, the bill allows a person to purchase a firearm with a conceal carry license instead of the FOID card. We can expect the Illinois State Police to promulgate administrative rules implementing this new provision. Second, it also allows a person to transfer a loaded firearm from their person or inside the vehicle to the trunk while in a parking lot. Currently, the weapon must be unloaded prior to exiting the vehicle for placement into the trunk.

IRMA POSITION: NEUTRAL

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Illinois This Week in Springfield – 99-16

PROPERTY TAX
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
OTHER ACTION
SCHEDULE

This Week In Springfield, both chambers convened on Tuesday per their plan to meet once-a-week while there is no state budget. The Senate convened a Committee of the Whole to discuss the impact of a property tax freeze and in the Judiciary Committee to discuss workers’ compensation.  The House met to debate and vote on property tax freeze legislation and process two concurrence motions in other committees.

PROPERTY TAX

 

As part of his Turnaround Agenda, Governor Bruce Rauner has called for a multi-year freeze of property tax extensions at the 2015 level. Beyond that, a local unit of government can increase property taxes only upon voter approval. Local school districts, units of local government, etc. are universally opposed to this proposal. According to Governor Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, Illinois has the second-highest property tax in the nation. With few exceptions, two-thirds of school revenues come from locally imposed property taxes.

The Senate convened a Committee of the Whole consisting of several panels of witnesses to discuss the anticipated implications of such a freeze. While the Senate discussed the issue in a Committee of the Whole, the House undertook two legislative proposals intended by the House Democrats to represent the Governor’s proposal as they understood it from his Turnaround Agenda.

HB 690 (Rep. Jack Franks, D-Woodstock) sought to limit property tax increases to zero percent. Currently, in jurisdictions under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), increases are limited to the rate-of-inflation or five percent, whichever is less. Those not under PTELL have no such limitations. Under HB 690, increases in every jurisdiction would be limited to zero percent unless the local voters approve any increase. After much debate, HB 690, as amended by House Amendment #1, failed to receive the 3/5ths super-majority required for passage.

House Amendment #1 to HB 691 (Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion) was nearly identical to House Amendment #1 to HB 690 with minor differences and the major difference that it pre-empts home rule units of government and does not apply to bonds approved by voters in a referendum.

House Amendment #2 to HB 691 would prohibit collective bargaining around the issues of third party contractors, health insurance benefits, curriculum and student discipline, pay increases, the use of employee time for the business of the labor organization, staffing levels, and procedures, processes, forms, and criteria for personnel evaluations.

Like HB 690, HB 691 failed to obtain the super-majority needed for passage.

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WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

 

Last week, the Illinois House approved HB 1287 (Rep. Michael J. Madigan, D-Chicago)/ Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago) containing the House Democrat’s version of workers’ compensation reform. Briefly, the proposal codifies the current ‘any cause’ standard; the expanded liability of employers for traveling employees; requires self-insured entities to report data to the Department of Insurance; requires the Department of Insurance to approve insurance premium rates; and introduces joint and several liability of employers when assessing fault for repetitive motion injuries. Presently, the current employer bears the full cost regardless of how long the employee has been with the employer. Under this proposal, the current employer would still bear the full cost but could sue other employers to capture their percentage of the injury.  Employer groups, including IRMA, oppose HB 1287 believing it will increase the cost of workers’ compensation instead of lowering the costs on the seventh most expensive system in the nation.

HB 1287 was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee as subject-matter only and no vote was taken.

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OTHER ACTION

 

The House Health Care Licenses Committee approved a motion to concur with Senate Amendment #1 to HB 3219. As originally introduced, HB 3219 (Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside/ Sen. Iris Martinez, D-Chicago) contained an unfunded mandate on pharmacies requiring all Schedule II substances containing hydrocodone be dispensed in a locking bottle made by one manufacturer. IRMA opposed the legislation and the sponsors amended the legislation to make it a voluntary pilot project. The Committee unanimously approved the motion to concur and it is anticipated the House will act on the motion when they return next week.

The House Executive Committee approved a Motion to Concur with Senate Amendments #1 and #2 to HB 3237 (Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago/ Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago)  providing clear guidance on the use of social media for advertising alcohol as well as increasing the number of gallons a brew pub may sell directly to the public. HB 3237 was approved in committee and the entire House voted to concur.

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SCHEDULE

As previously noted, the Assembly is planning to meet once-per-week while the budget stand-off continues. It is anticipated that each week will largely be dedicated to one issue (e.g. property tax freeze). The first two weeks, the Assembly has met on a Tuesday.

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Illinois This Week in Springfield – 99-15

SESSION CONTINUES
PRIVATE LABEL CREDIT CARDS
HEROIN
BIOSIMILARS
LOCKING MECHANISM FOR PRESCRIPTIONS
DATA SECURITY
RETAIL THEFT – ACCELERATED RESOLUTION COURT
SNAP ELIGIBILITY
LIQUOR CONTROL ACT AMENDMENTS
TOBACCO
TELECOM MODERNIZATION
DIRECT SALES
FOOD ESTABLISHMENT SELF-INSPECTIONS
CONCEAL CARRY

This Week In Springfield, both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly adjourned but only temporarily. With no deal in place on a Fiscal Year 2016 budget, and an escalating war of words between Democrats and Republicans, both chambers will meet in regular session throughout the summer or until a budget agreement is reached. As such, the House is scheduled to return June 4th and the Senate June 9th. It is important to note that since the May 31st deadline has been reached, a 3/5ths super-majority is required to pass any legislation.

What follows is an overview of where legislative session stands as well as a review of issues of immediate concern to retail over the last week.

SESSION CONTINUES…TENSIONS RISE

As noted above, an FY 16 budget for the State of Illinois has not been approved. The Governor proposed a budget of just over $32 billion in February that was out-of-balance by $2.2 billion due to a pension reform program most considered to be unrealistic. In return, the House and Senate developed and passed a $36 billion budget that is $3-$4 billion out-of-balance. A parliamentary motion was utilized to hold the passed budget in the Assembly. That motion can be removed at any time by the filer and, once removed, the budget is then transmitted to the Governor. It is widely anticipated that this will not occur until very close to July 1st – the start of the next fiscal year. The effect of the holding motion is two-fold. First, it does give all parties time to negotiate further. Second, if nothing is agreed to by the deadline, it gives the Governor very little time to act. His choices are to either Reduction Veto the budget or apply a Total Veto. However, the Governor has already stated he intends to exercise a Total Veto immediately upon receiving the Democratic budget.

TWIS readers know that the Governor submitted a Turnaround Agenda and has publicly stated that he is willing to consider additional tax revenues for the state so long as portions of his Turnaround Agenda are approved. For example, the Governor is seeking reforms in Illinois’ workers’ compensation and tort systems as well as a property tax freeze, redistricting reform, and term limits. However, the Democratic-majorities in the House and Senate put significant pieces of the Governor’s proposals (i.e. workers’ comp, tort, and property tax freeze) to votes where, predictably, they failed to receive majorities necessary for passage. In the case of the House, the Republicans voted “present” to signify their displeasure with what they perceived as a contrived process and the fact they did not consider the proposals ‘real’ as they had not actually been introduced on behalf of, or written by, the Governor. Additionally, the House voted down the Governor’s human service cuts included in his budget proposal. In the Senate, Republican Leader Christine Radogno introduced significant portions of the Turnaround Agenda which were written by the Governor’s Office. These proposals were heard in long and often contentious hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee and then voted down along party.

At this writing, the prospects of agreement in the near future appear dim. Earlier this week, the Governor promised a $20-$40 million full-scale campaign to attack Democrats, particularly Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton, for what the Governor believes are their unwillingness to compromise, failing to protect the middle-class and ominous statements that the two leaders have enriched themselves. For their part, Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton claim to have been preparing for this all spring and have promised to respond in-kind painting the Governor as unreasonable, a threat to the middle-class, and bringing Washington D.C.-style politics to Illinois. Some of this has already started to emerge as they have described Governor Bruce Rauner as a Republican-version of Rod Blagojevich and have adopted a mantra that they are willing to discuss reforms they believe would help the middle class (e.g. minimum wage, paid sick leave).

Deadlines are what often help bring issues to a conclusion. In terms of deadlines, the first state paychecks will be due the second week of July. If there is not budget at that point, state workers will start to miss paychecks. The first General State Aid payment for schools is due approximately August 10th. Some schools will not be able to open if these payments are not received. Over-shadowing this entire situation are the contract negotiations with AFSCME – the union representing the vast majority of state employees. These negotiations have been widely reported to be very contentious and the word ‘strike’ has been bandied about. However, late in session, the Assembly, voting on party-lines, sent to the Govenor SB 1229 (Sen. Don Harmon, D-Chicago/Rep. Mike Smiddy, D- Port Byron). This legislation would prohibit workers from striking, would keep the current contract in place until such time as a new agreement is reached, and would allow either party to invoke mediation. If a mediator is unable to bring agreement, either party can initiate impasse mediation.

It remains to be seen how this will all play out. If, indeed, both sides carry through with their threats, it is going to be a very long, hot summer in Illinois.

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PRIVATE LABEL CREDIT CARDS

As TWIS readers may recall, the Assembly unanimously passed an IRMA-initiative last year that allowed for a refund on bad debt established through a Private Label Credit Card (PLCC) administered by a third party. Former Governor Pat Quinn decided to use the bill, and a few others, as a vehicle for unrelated amendatory vetoes in his final moments in office effectively killing the bill. The initiative was reintroduced in the form of SB 507 (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie/Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights).

As a refresher, if a consumer does not pay for the merchandise they purchase on credit, and efforts to collect fail, a bad debt is declared and the sales tax is refunded to the retailer. This happens because in the eyes of the law, a sale is deemed not to have occurred. However, several years ago, the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) issued a controversial opinion that a bad debt refund did not apply to PLCC’s administered by a third party. SB 507 takes into consideration this modernization and corrects this inequity by allowing a refund of sales tax on the bad debt created by consumer using a store branded PLCC. Over the course of last year and again this year, IRMA worked with IDOR to address their procedural concerns to ensure proper documentation would be available; limited the transactions that are available for a bad debt refund; and provided a clear line of accountability. As a result of this continued negotiation SB 507 passed both Chambers and has been sent to the Governor for his signature.

IRMA would like to thank Sen. Daniel Biss and Sen. Anthony DeLuca for their sponsorship as well as the Illinois Department of Revenue for working diligently with IRMA and other parties to obtain a workable compromise.

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HEROIN

Illinois will soon have the nation’s most comprehensive approach to combating heroin and prescription drug abuse. HB 1 (Rep. Lou Lang, D- Chicago/Sen. Dan Kotowski (D- Park Ridge) passed both chambers this week and now proceeds to the Governor.

HB 1 includes, but is not limited to, the following provisions: allows pharmacists to dispense opioid antagonists to someone claiming a heroin overdose pursuant to policies and procedures developed by the Illinois Department of Public Health; expands authority of the Illinois EPA to distribute grants for drug take-back programs; provides training for law enforcement, school officials, fire fighters, and others to administer opioid antagonists; IEPA shall establish a statewide medicine take-back program; the Department shall develop a poster and brochures for display and distribution in pharmacies regarding take-back information/events; expands utilization of the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP); creates a peer review committee for prescribers and dispensers; and lowers the threshold where someone is potentially considered to be shopping for medicine from six prescribers or six pharmacies in one month to three prescribers or three pharmacies in one month.

IRMA would like to thank Rep. Lang, Rep. John Anthony,Rep. Patti Bellock, Sen. Kotowski, Sen. Iris Martinez, and Sen. William Delgado all of whom contributed significantly to one or more of the issues contained in HB 1. We would especially thank Rep. Lang for his approach that led to the final version of HB 1.

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BIOSIMILARS

In a very simplistic definition, biologics are medicines derived from living organisms. Early versions include vaccines and blood components (e.g. blood platelets). Second generation are chemically synthesized. Biosimilars are, as the name implies, similar to biologics in that they function the same way in the body. They are the generic version of biologics. The US FDA recently opened a pathway for biologics to be approved for use in the United States. Some have sought to inhibit the substitution of biologics with biosimilars despite the financial benefits that accrue to patients and government programs. A battle has been raging in states around the nation between those who want to inhibit such substitution and those that don’t want artificial barriers. Illinois was a part of that debate.

This week, agreement was reached on SB 455 (Sen. Tony Munoz, D- Chicago/Rep. Edward Acevedo, D- Chicago) regulating how and when biosimilars are substituted and notification provided to prescribers and patients.

In short, a biologic can only be substituted with a biosimilar if the FDA has given approval, the prescriber has not indicated “do not substitute’, and the patient is informed of the substitution. Additionally, within five business days of dispensing a prescribed biologic, the pharmacy must input the information into an interoperable electronic medical records system, an electronic prescribing technology, a pharmacy benefit management system, or a pharmacy record that can be electronically accessed by a prescriber. Entry into one of these systems is presumed to be notice to the prescriber. If the prescriber does not have electronic access, he/she must notify the pharmacy. The agreement on SB 455 ends a multi-year debate in Illinois.

IRMA would like to thank Sen. Tony Munoz for his leadership on this issue over the past three years. Additionally, IRMA would thank Rep. David Harris for his leadership and participation as well as Rep. Acevedo for his sponsorship in the House.

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LOCKING MECHANISM FOR PRESCRIPTIONS

As introduced earlier this Session, HB 3219 (Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside) would have created a pilot project mandating every pharmacy to participate and requiring every new or refilled Schedule II prescription that contains hydrocodone to be dispensed in a non-reusable locking device. This package is defined as having an alphanumeric combination lock. The bill had been introduced at the behest of the only company to manufacturer such a product. IRMA pointed out that this mandate would cost pharmacies at least $39 million dollars. Moreover these costs are not recoverable because pharmacies are prohibited from charging the patient for the bottle under their existing contracts with private insurers and government benefit programs (e.g. Medicare Part D, Medicaid, and prescriptions for individuals in nursing homes) would be exempt from the legislation. Additionally, this legislation would provide an advantage for mail order prescription providers because the mandate could not be enforced on out of state mail-order pharmacies. Finally, pharmacies were not provided protection from liability if the product failed. As a result of some of these concerns, Rep. Zalewski amended the legislation to create a pilot project for which pharmacy participation is completely voluntary. Moreover, the pilot project is limited to $150,000 that is provided from the Department of Human Services. IRMA would like to thank Rep. Zalewski and Rep. Robert Martwick for addressing the concerns of the retail community.

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DATA SECURITY

SB 1833 (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie/Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago) changes what is currently considered “personal information” for the purposes of requiring notification to the consumer and/or the Attorney General if the information is breached.  Specifically, the bill charts new territory by requiring notification for breaches of “consumer marketing” and “geolocation” information.  After months of discussions with the Attorney General’s office, IRMA was able to negotiate several changes to the bill which, in total, removed our opposition and allowed IRMA to take a neutral position.  Some of the more important changes include:  narrowing the definitions of consumer marketing and geolocation information to more closely target specific behavior of concern to the Attorney General, removing the requirement to notify the individual when geolocation and consumer marketing information is breached, raising the threshold that triggers notification requirements and expanding the time allowed for businesses to notify individuals and/or the Attorney General when information is breached.  There were a number of other changes made in a good faith effort by the Attorney General’s office to address IRMA’s concerns.  SB 1833 passed both chambers and now awaits action by Governor Rauner. IRMA would like to thank Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Senator Biss, and Rep. Williams.

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RETAIL THEFT – ACCELERATED RESOLUTION COURT

SB 202 (Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago/Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Riverside) would establish a pilot program for Cook County which would provide an accelerated route to adjudication for persons accused of misdemeanor retail theft or criminal trespass.  This measure comes out of concerns raised by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart about jails overcrowded with non-violent offenders who remain in jail for long periods of time awaiting trial because they cannot afford to bond out.  This bill will permit qualifying persons accused of the aforementioned crimes to either have a final adjudication of their case within 30 days of arrest or be allowed to bond out of jail on their own recognizance until their hearing date.  IRMA supports this bill because it addresses the crime of retail theft in a way that is fair to the victim without undermining the severity of retail theft.  We also support this bill because it substantively addresses the concerns of taxpayers and criminal justice reform advocates who want to ensure that persons sitting in jail awaiting trial are there because they are a potential threat to society and not simply because they are poor.


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SNAP ELIGIBILITY

SB 1847 (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie/Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston) will allow more people in Illinois to qualify for SNAP benefits.  It is estimated that the bill will add 40,000 more SNAP cases (cases include individuals and families) to the program.  IRMA opposed the bill because it adds more cases to a SNAP distribution system that is not spread throughout the month and creates substantial difficulties for grocers, employees, and customers.

Prior to 2013, Illinois had one of the most favorable SNAP distribution schedules in the country because it distributed benefits throughout the month.  After making some software changes in 2013 that were allegedly necessitated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Department of Human Services (Department) elected to change SNAP distribution to the first 10 days of the month.  This change was particularly baffling because it was made after the USDA (the federal Department that issues SNAP benefits to the states) wrote a letter to all of the states encouraging them to distribute benefits throughout the month.  In response to the letter, a number of states began expanding their distribution beyond the first few days of the month.  Illinois was the only state to move in the opposite direction.

Amidst IRMA’s strong objection, the Department moved forward with the distribution change.  A few months later, IRMA submitted evidence that changing the distribution caused job loss, a reduction of employee hours, and store traffic that was severely diminished in the latter half of the month.  Presented with that data, the previous administration agreed to temporarily add additional dates beyond the 10th of the month to relieve the pressure on the independent grocers that largely serve communities in need and to put their employees back to work.  As this was a temporary compromise, a resolution was passed that required everyone to come back to the table in 2015 and hammer out a permanent fix to SNAP distribution that was fair to everyone involved in the program.  Before the group reconvened, SB 1847 was introduced to add more people to the SNAP program and further exacerbate the existing distribution problem.

The grocers that IRMA represents seek a permanent solution that will allow customers, regardless of how they pay for their groceries, to be served with dignity, offered healthy, perishable items at all times of the month, put employees back to work throughout the month, and allow for grocery stores that are operating in areas where there is high SNAP usage to remain viable.  Despite IRMA’s objection to moving the bill until a distribution solution is reached, the bill passed both Houses.  The sponsors, committee chairmen and Republican members of the House committee have vowed to help us reach a solution with the Department and advocate community this year.  We would also like to thank Rep. Patti Bellock for her presentation on the House floor explaining the need to solve this problem. IRMA looks forward to resolving this issue in the near future.


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LIQUOR CONTROL ACT AMENDMENTS

 
“Of Value” Provisions

HB 4018 (Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring  Valley) clarifies that alcoholic liquor can be packaged in combination with non-alcoholic products without violating the three-tier system.  In addition, it makes clear that manufacturers and distributors can furnish non-alcoholic merchandise to retailers for free as long as the merchandise is not tied to an alcoholic product.  The Illinois Liquor Control Commission had previously taken the heavy-handed position that furnishing items such as coolers to promote non-alcoholic products (e.g. sports drinks, bottled water, etc.) violated the Act.  Therefore this change was sought to clarify that such a practice will not be considered as violating the prohibition of giving something “of value” to retailers to sell or promote the sale of alcoholic products.

Happy Hour, 100ft Rule Exemptions and Sunday Sales

SB 398 (Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago/Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago) will give businesses some flexibility to have traditional happy hours and will clarify that meal and party packages with unlimited drinks for a set price are allowed by law.  The city of Chicago wrote tickets to hotels and restaurants for their offering of such packages on New Year’s Eve in violation of Trade Practice Policies (TPP) written by the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC).  The TPPs have always been issued to describe “best practices” and have never been given the force of law.  A number of the restaurants and hotels that were cited for the practice have since sued the city and all of the cases that have reached a final decision have been decided in favor of the business.  SB 398 was written to address this issue and to allow licensees to serve discounted drinks for up to 4 hours/day for no more than 15 hours/week.  The bill will also include the following measures:

•           Prohibit TPPs

•           Allow hotel restaurants under the same ownership to have one license and transfer liquor from one location to the other as long as the restaurants are in the same hotel

•           Deletes the Sunday sales prohibition, but will allow local jurisdictions to prohibit through local ordinances

•           Grants the local liquor commissioner the authority to provide an exemption to the 100 ft. rule so that businesses don’t have to seek the exemption from the state legislature

•           Requires that all servers be BASSET certified

•           Prohibits licensees from selling drinks “2 for 1”, from increasing the volume of a drink without proportionately increasing the price and from allowing drinking games

The changes to this bill represent agreements made between everyone involved in the 3-tier system.  They are common sense changes that allow retailers and restaurants to have flexibility and certainty in the sale of alcohol and, most importantly, to sell and serve it responsibly.

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TOBACCO

Tobacco Licenses

House Bill 2494 was introduced and passed last year as P.A. 98-1055 and requires retailers to obtain a license to sell cigarettes. The legislation was introduced to reduce the sales of cigarettes to minors, illegal sales of contraband tobacco, and the illegal smuggling of cigarettes in Illinois. The license includes an annual fee that is intended to help fund the interdiction of smuggling and retail inspections. P.A. 98-1055 also included an employee training program, a merchant citation mitigation provision, and record keeping provisions.  HB 2513 (Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago/ Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Deerfield) is a trailer bill that clarifies the provisions passed in P.A. 98-1055. Specifically, the legislation: (1) allows a waiver for records to be kept out of state; (2) broadens the employee training requirements; (3) allows the employee training to be conducted electronically; (4) provides an avenue to mitigate retail tobacco citations; and (5) provides a waiver for closed loop distribution invoice record keeping requirements.  The good faith negotiations between the Illinois Department of Revenue and IRMA led to an agreed bill that passed both Chambers unanimously and has been sent to the Governor for his signature.

IRMA would like to thank Rep. Marcus Evans, Sen. Julie Morrison, staff and the Department of Revenue for all of their hard work on reaching an agreeable compromise on this legislation.

Contraband Cigarettes

SB 509 (Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago/Rep. John Cabello, R-Loves Park) will allow cigarettes without the tax stamp of the local jurisdiction to be considered contraband and thus make retailers subject to penalties outlined in the Cigarette Tax Act.  The City of Chicago sought the change because the sale of cigarettes without the Chicago/Cook County tax stamp is on the rise and they wanted the option to impose stronger fines on retailers who are caught selling such unstamped packs of cigarettes.  We should note that it seems the rise in the illegal sale of cigarettes is not only relegated to bad actors in the retail community, but increasingly such sales are occurring in person-to-person sales controlled by local gangs.  In addition, we also note that the rise in the illegal sale of cigarettes seems to correspond to the tax increases that have occurred at the state and local levels over the past couple of years.  These tax increases have made the price of cigarettes more expensive than any other city in the country; a fact that is not lost on the growing underground market for unstamped cigarettes.

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TELECOM MODERNIZATION

The current 9-1-1 network in Illinois is outdated and lacks the necessary funding to maintain adequate 9-1-1 services for the State.  In 2013, the Illinois General Assembly extended the sunset on the Telecommunication Act and in doing so also created the 9-1-1 Services Advisory Board (“Board”). The Board was convened to determine the 9-1-1 costs necessary for every 9-1-1 system to adequately function and to recommend options to fund these systems. SB 96 (Sen. John Sullivan, D-Quincy/Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg) contains the recommendations as presented by the Board after numerous statewide meetings. It also contains important changes to modernize Illinois telecommunications and the video competition laws.

Currently, there are three surcharges that help fund the current 9-1-1 systems and network. One of these charges includes a 1.5% tax that is collected by a retailer on the sale of any prepaid wireless telecommunications service.  The retailer must include a line item on the receipt to show the surcharge. The retailer remits the surcharge to the Illinois Department of Revenue where they place it in the Wireless Service Emergency Fund.

In order to fund the Illinois Telecommunications Access Corporation (“ITAC”), which provides equipment for hard of hearing and deaf people, SB 96 adds an additional 1.5% surcharge on the purchase of any prepaid wireless telecommunications service. Similar to current law, the retailer will collect the 3.0% surcharge from the consumer. To remain consistent with current law the retailer may combine both surcharges in one line item on the receipt. The 3.0% tax will be remitted to the Illinois Department of Revenue where it will be divided between the Illinois Telecommunications Access Fund and the Wireless Service Emergency Fund. SB 96 also implements a statewide $0.87 tax per landline, wireless, VOIP, and cable provided telecommunications which will be collected by telecommunication carriers and remitted to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

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DIRECT SALES

SB 142 FA #1 (Sen. Kotowski, D-Park Ridge) as introduced allowed a person over the age of 65 to cancel a direct sales contract (Tupperware, Etsy, Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, etc.) after 15 business days or three weeks. Illinois, along with 48 other states, follow Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) rules that allow consumers of all ages to cancel a direct sales contract within three business days. These guidelines were promulgated in 1972 and have continuously been reviewed by the FTC and found to provide adequate protection for all consumers, including those over the age of 65. Sen. Kotowski amended the bill to require a different format for the cancellation provision adjacent to the consumer’s signature. This too would be inconsistent with 49 other states and the FTC rules.  The amendment passed the Senate Judiciary Committee based on the reservations expressed by members of the Committee. Sen. Kotowski held the amendment on 3rd reading to allow IRMA to help negotiate and develop a comprehensive bill over the break that would target and address the bad actors in the direct sales industry while protecting both legitimate businesses and vulnerable consumers.

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FOOD ESTABLISHMENT SELF-INSPECTIONS

SB 1800 (Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago/Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago) will allow the City of Chicago to implement a self-inspection program for low-risk food establishments.  Qualifying food establishments would perform their own health inspections every two years which would then be randomly audited by the Department of Public Health.  The department will develop the inspection form and fines for noncompliance will be assessed.  The city has run a successful pilot program for the past couple of years, so this bill would make the program permanent and allow them to expand beyond current program participants.  Allowing low-risk food establishments to perform their own inspections allows the city to use its limited inspection resources wisely and cover more ground to ensure the safety of the food residents consume.  IRMA members have participated in the pilot program and we look forward to having more members qualify for the expanded program.

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CONCEAL CARRY

SB 836 (Sen. John Sullivan, D-Quincy/Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg) amends the conceal carry law which went into effect last year.  Since the bill was signed into law, there have been a number of interested parties on both sides of the issue looking to amend the bill in any number of directions.  While it did not seem that there was much desire to actually change the law this soon after passage, SB 836 will make a number of changes that will mostly be of no concern to the retail community.  Members should note two changes in particular.  First, it allows a person to purchase a firearm with a conceal carry license instead of the FOID card. We can expect the Illinois State Police to promulgate administrative rules implementing this new provision. Second, it also allows a person to transfer a loaded firearm from their person or inside the vehicle to the trunk while in a parking lot. Currently, the weapon must be unloaded prior to exiting the vehicle for placement into the trunk. SB 836 passed both chambers and now awaits action by Governor Rauner.

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Illinois This Week in Springfield – 99-14

SNAP DISTRIBUTION
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
GOVERNOR’S AGENDA
RETAIL THEFT
TORT REFORM
DATA SECURITY
MILLIONAIRE TAX
SERVICE TAX
WEEK AHEAD

This Week In Springfield, the House continued bringing components of Governor Bruce Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda to the floor for debate and vote. Additionally, with the scheduled date of adjournment looming, both chambers were busy moving and debating legislation including, data breach, heroine abuse, SNAP, and millionaire’s tax.

 SNAP DISTRIBUTION

 

A large problem for grocers, their employees, and their customers will soon get a lot worse. Unfortunately, it is being portrayed by some as a win-lose proposition when it can easily be a win-win situation.

SB 1847 (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie/Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston) will allow more people in Illinois to qualify for SNAP benefits.  It is estimated that the bill will add 40,000 more SNAP cases (cases include individuals and families) to the program.  While IRMA generally would not be opposed to such a measure, when we consider the current manner in which SNAP benefits are distributed in this state, IRMA feels compelled to oppose this bill at this time as it simply inserts more eligible participants into a distribution system that fails recipients, grocers, and employees of grocers. While these outcomes are not the desire of the sponsors of SB 1847, these outcomes will occur as a result of unnecessary unilateral changes made by the Illinois Department of Human Services during the administration of former Governor Pat Quinn.

Prior to 2013, Illinois had one of the most workable SNAP distribution schedules in the country because it distributed benefits throughout the month.  After making some software changes in 2013 that were allegedly necessitated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Department also elected to change SNAP distribution to the first 10 days of the month.  This change was not required by ACA and was particularly baffling because it was made after the USDA (the federal Department that issues SNAP benefits to the states) wrote a letter to all of the states encouraging them to distribute benefits throughout the month.  In response to the letter, a number of states began expanding their distribution beyond the first few days of the month.  Illinois was the only state to move in the opposite direction.

Amidst IRMA’s strong objection, the Department moved forward with the distribution change.  A few months later, IRMA submitted proof that changing the distribution caused job loss and a significant reduction of employee hours and store traffic in the latter half of the month.  Presented with that data, the previous administration agreed to temporarily add additional dates beyond the 10th of the month to relieve the pressure on the independent grocers that largely serve communities in need and to put their employees back to work.  As this was a temporary compromise, a resolution was passed that required everyone to come back to the table in 2015 and hammer out a permanent fix to SNAP distribution that was fair to everyone involved in the program.  Before the group reconvened, SB 1847 was introduced to add more people to the SNAP program and further exacerbate the existing distribution problem.

IRMA has proposed a permanent solution that will allow customers, regardless of how they pay for their groceries, to be served with dignity, offered healthy, perishable items at all times of the month, put our employees back to work throughout the month and allow for grocery stores that are operating in areas where there is high SNAP usage to remain viable.  In order to turn this into a win-win proposal, all that is needed is an amendment requiring the Department to make permanent the temporary fix by February 1, 2017.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

 

The last few weeks, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan has put before the House for consideration parts of Governor Bruce Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda.  As reported in previous issues of TWIS, the House has considered amendments regarding right to work, property tax freeze, and budget cut initiatives. This process is being used by the House Democrats to publicly debate and attempt to frame components in Governor Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda.  In response, the House Republicans largely voted ‘present’ on the proposals as a way of protesting the process which they see as a ‘sham’.

Following the same format, and as a follow up to the Workers’ Compensation Committee of the Whole last week, Speaker Madigan introduced four workers’ compensation amendments to HB 1287 (Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago) for consideration and debate. The amendments largely provided for business friendly reforms to the workers’ compensation system.

House Amendment 1 to HB 1287 included a heightened ‘causation’ standard that would require the workplace be the major contributing cause of injury (at least 50%).

House Amendment 2 to HB 1287 would have allowed the determination of permanent or partial disability to be corroborated by independent medical examinations and treating medical records (such as AMA Guidelines).

House Amendment 3 to HB 1287 proposed a significant reduction in the medical fee schedules. These schedules are used to determine what medical providers will be paid for the procedures they perform related to workers’ compensation injuries. Despite a 30% reduction in 2012, Illinois still has the fourth highest medical fee schedule in the nation.

House Amendment 4 to HB 1287 would have subjected insurance companies to a rate approval process.

Similar to the past debates, the House Republicans referred to the process as disingenuous. As a result, Republicans voted ‘present’ on the four amendments while Democrats voted ‘no’ on the first three amendments. Consequently, the first three amendments failed. On the fourth amendment, the Democrats voted ‘yes’ contending the amendment would force insurance companies to pass workers’ compensation savings to businesses. Consequently, the fourth amendment was adopted to the bill but was held on the order of Second Reading and was not called for a vote.

Prior to the votes in the House, a coalition of employer representatives, including IRMA, issued the following statement calling on all members to vote present: “At this time, we are asking all House lawmakers to vote present on the workers’ compensation amendments filed today until our elected officials have reached comprehensive agreement on reform.  Illinois employers stand ready to work with leaders on both sides of the aisle.”

TORT REFORM

 

Speaker Madigan continued to submit pieces of Governor Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda to the full House. This week, tort reform was considered.  As TWIS readers are aware, a Tort Reform Committee of the Whole was convened last week to discuss tort reform in Illinois. The committee was stacked with witnesses that suffered from a variety of injuries from negligent or other tortious actions. As mentioned above, this process is being used by the Democrats to frame the discussions around the Governor’s initiatives.

According to the Turnaround Agenda, the Rauner Administration is seeking, among other things, to limit joint and several liability, and limit damage awards as a result of medical expenses to those expenses that are actually paid.

In response to the Tort Reform Committee of the Whole debate, and Governor Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, Speaker Madigan has filed House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 37 (HJRCA 37) (Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago) that would limit awards for damages for certain tort claims. Specifically HJRCA 37 limits punitive damages to no greater than three times the amount of compensatory damages awarded or $50,000. Additionally, HJRCA 37 limits the total amount recoverable for an injury or death of a patient as a result of medical malpractice to no more than $1,250,000; limits a health care provider’s liability for medical malpractice to $250,000 per occurrence; and limits the damages for the loss of consortium to no more than $300,000.

HJRCA 37 is scheduled to be heard in the Judiciary Civil Law Committee next Tuesday.

 GOVERNOR’S AGENDA

 

TWIS noted several weeks ago that the Governor had created a number of working groups comprised of representatives of each of the four legislative caucuses, the Governor’s office, and key staff. The working groups were decided to facilitate compromise in the following subject areas: tax reform, infrastructure, economic development, ethics, state budget, and pensions. While those groups have met, progress has been minimum at best.

Friday morning, six pieces of legislation were filed in each chamber by Republicans on behalf of the Governor’s office containing most of the Governor’s desired goals. These proposals are as follows:

  • Senate Amendment #1 to SB 1046/HB 4224 contain property tax freeze proposals, changes to collective bargaining with public sector unions, and prevailing wage reforms.
  • HB 4214 allows municipalities to declare bankruptcy.
  • SJRCA 14/HJRCA 39 contain proposed term limits. These are proposed constitutional amendments. In order to be placed on the ballot they must pass each chamber with a 3/5ths majority and then be approved by 60% of the voters voting on the question in a general election (November 2016).
  • SJRCA 15/HRJRCA 40 contain a proposal to establish a non-partisan redistricting commission to draw the boundaries of legislative districts every ten years. Currently, if one party holds both chambers of the Assembly as well as the Governor’s Office, that party will draw the boundaries. If one of the two legislative chambers or the Governor’s office is held by a different party, the tie-breaker goes to a drawing. The winner of the drawing gets to draw the maps. Again, these are constitutional amendments and must follow the process noted above.

RETAIL THEFT

SB 202 (Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago/Rep. Michael Zalewski, D-Chicago) passed out of the House Judiciary Criminal Committee this week on a 9-1-0 vote.  The bill is an initiative of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to institute an accelerated resolution court pilot program for misdemeanor retail theft cases as well as criminal trespass to real property and/or state supported land.  This measure comes out of concerns raised by the Sheriff about jails overcrowded with non-violent offenders and the housing of non-violent offenders in jail who cannot afford to bond out.  Persons accused of the aforementioned crimes, if they qualify, will either have a final adjudication of their case within 30 days of arrest or be allowed to bond out of jail on their own recognizance until their hearing date.

The State’s Attorney’s office has expressed some concern about their ability to adjudicate cases within 30 days and there has also been some conversation about whether felonies should be included.  An amendment was introduced this week to address some of those concerns.  It is unclear at this writing whether the amendment will come back to committee or whether it will be agreed to on the House floor.

IRMA would like to thank Sheriff Dart, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Rep. Zalewski and Sen. Cunningham for including us in this important conversation.  Reducing the taxpayer burden in Cook County while ensuring that non-violent offenders get a speedy trial is sound public policy that IRMA supports.

DATA SECURITY

The House Judicial Civil Committee passed the data security bill out of committee this week with a party-line vote of 7-4-0.  SB 1833 (Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Skokie/Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago) changes what is currently considered “personal information” for the purposes of requiring notification if the information is breached.  Specifically, the bill charts some new territory by requiring notification for breaches of consumer marketing and geolocation information.  After months of negotiations with the Attorney General’s office, IRMA was able to negotiate several key changes to the bill which, in total, will remove our opposition and place IRMA in a neutral position.  Some of the significant changes include:  narrowing the definitions of consumer marketing and geolocation information to more closely target specific behavior of concern to the Attorney General, removing the requirement to notify the individual when geolocation and consumer marketing information is breached, raising the threshold that triggers notification requirements, and expanding the time allowed for businesses to notify individuals and/or the Attorney General when information is breached.  There were a number of other changes made in a good faith effort by the Attorney General’s office to address IRMA’s concerns.  The bill has been sent to the House floor where it will be considered next week.

IRMA would like to thank Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Rep. Williams and Sen. Biss for their earnest efforts to address many of our initial concerns as this bill has moved through the legislative process.

MILLIONAIRE TAX

In 2014, voters were asked if they would support a higher tax on personal income over $1 million to help fund schools.  The results of that non-binding ballot initiative revealed that 60% of the voters were indeed in favor of the additional 3% tax.  Armed with that information, Speaker Madigan renewed his bid for a change to the Illinois Constitution that would permit such a tax to help fund schools.  After a hearing in the House Revenue Committee, HJRCA 26 (Rep. Michael Madigan, D-Chicago) was passed on a vote of 8-5-0.  This week, that measure was debated on the House floor.

A long, heated debate ensued regarding several points including:  whether higher earners should pay more in taxes, the reasons why businesses are leaving the state and taking jobs with them, how Illinois’ tax structure compares with neighboring states and whether the state’s current system of taxing personal income is “fair.”  In the end, the measure failed to receive the necessary number of votes for passage, falling three votes short, and it was postponed for further consideration.  If the measure had passed, it would have put forth a ballot question in the next general election (November 2016) where it would have to be approved by 60% of those voting on the question. “Postponed Consideration” is a procedural maneuver that allows a proposal to be voted on one more time should the sponsor so desire. If it again fails to receive the required number of votes, in this case 71, the measure is considered ‘lost’.

SERVICE TAX

A report advocating for the expansion of the Illinois sales tax to services was jointly issued this week by the Taxpayers Federation of Illinois and the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. According to the report, their proposal would generate an additional $2 billion in tax revenues. Business-to-business transactions would be exempt because such taxes would result in taxes being paid on taxes – a process known as ‘pyramiding’.

WEEK AHEAD

Both chambers have adjourned for the Memorial Day weekend and will reconvene Monday afternoon. When they reconvene, we will be six days from the scheduled adjournment of May 31st. If the Assembly has not adjourned by midnight on June 1st, 3/5ths is required to pass any item including a budget.

As noted above, the Governor convened working groups to attempt a compromise. He has also had several pieces of legislation introduced containing his reform agenda. The Democrats are reportedly working on a budget with cuts not as severe as those proposed by the Governor. The Governor has signaled a willingness to consider additional revenues but only in exchange for some of the reform items noted previously.

If the Assembly passes a budget to the Governor, he could sign it (unlikely), either reduction veto certain line-items to bring it into balance with anticipated revenues, or outright veto the budget. The Governor will then have to call the Assembly back into Special Session to consider the budget and any other items he specifically designates in his call.

This week, the Springfield State Journal-Register carried a letter from the Governor telling everyone associated with the legislative process to “expect a very long extra session” if the Assembly passes a budget but not his reforms.

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