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.
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.
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.
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.
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.