ACMHAI Legislative Report – September 2022

Government Strategy Associates

Election Season is in High Gear

The general election is a little over a month away and early voting has already begun. Expect every commercial on the news and your mail box to be flooded with campaign literature for the coming weeks. The Democrats have a sizable financial advantage in the home stretch. Governor Pritzker just added another $20 million to his reelection fund. Also, he is donating more than $11 million from his campaign fund to Illinois Democrats including statewide candidates, Democratic caucuses as well as Supreme Court candidates.

At least 15% of members elected to the General Assembly in November will be new. The retirements have left many vacancies at key positions in leadership is each chamber as well as vacant committee chairs. New committee chairs will be named including a new Chair for the House Mental Health and Addiction Committee.

 SAFE-T Act a Major Campaign Issue

Much of the campaign debates have focused on The Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act, or the SAFE-T Act, which passed in January of 2021. Many of the provisions of the legislation do not go into effect until January 1 of 2023 including the elimination of cash bail and pretrial release procedures.  Several State’s Attorneys have filed suit in an effort to prevent the full implementation of the law. Members of the media have criticized both parties for misinformation regarding what the 764-page bill actually does or does not do. Rather than rely on social media to get facts on this bill, here is a review of the legislation provided by a central Illinois news station.

Lawmakers will likely make some adjustments and clarifications during the Veto session. Recent legislation was introduced to clarify that pretrial release will apply to individuals arrested on or after Jan. 1, 2023. The measure also permits judges to deny pretrial release for any alleged crime if the person arrested poses a threat to the safety of any person or the community. There will likely be more amendments and adjustments proposed between now and Veto session.

State Reduces Unemployment Fund Deficit

The state recently announced a plan Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund deficit by $450 million through an infusion of unemployment-related revenues. The t rust fund is the pool of money paid into by employers to provide a social safety net for unemployed individuals. Following the $450 million will bring the deficit below $1.4 billion. According to the Governor’s office this move is expected to save the state about $10 million in interest costs. Illinois lawmakers have not yet adjusted the tax rates on employers or cut benefits for claimants since 2020. Instead, they’ve pushed back statutory rate hikes and benefit cuts multiple times, scheduling them to take effect Jan. 1 if lawmakers can’t come to a compromise.

Gambling Revenues Add to State Coffers

Gambling revenues in Illinois during the last fiscal year hit an all-time high for the state, with almost $1.9 billion going into its coffers. The report from the Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting & Accountability says state gambling revenue hit nearly $1.9 billion as of June 30. That’s an increase of nearly 39% over 2021 and nearly $500 million higher than pre-pandemic 2019.

Lottery sales generated the most gambling revenue raking in more than $833 million. Lottery revenues generally go toward education funding. Video gambling revenue generated another $762 million for the state. It was up more than 52% from the previous fiscal year, according to the report. That’s due in part to changes in the law in recent years that increased the state’s share of video gambling revenues and allowed venues to add more machines. The majority of video gambling revenue goes to the state’s capital improvement fund. Sports betting in Illinois took in $92 million for the state. Sports betting tax revenues for Illinois were more than double the previous years’ take. Revenue from sports betting goes toward capital improvements.

Feds Target Another Lawmaker

Illinois state Sen. Emil Jones III (D-Chicago) has been indicted on federal bribery charges. Federal prosecutors accused Jones of taking $5,000 to protect a politically connected red-light camera company from unfavorable legislation. Senator Jones has resigned his committee chairmanship and party leadership position but remains in office. He pleaded not guilty to the charges. Jones III is running unopposed for re-election in the 14th Senate District, which spans much of the Far South Side and parts of southwest suburbs.

Private Foundation Grants Assist Local Media

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation announced $7.5 million in grants to Block Club Chicago, Capitol News Illinois, Injustice Watch, and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. According to the release, these commitment work to strengthen impactful reporting in Chicago and Illinois are intended to increase government transparency, enhance accountability of decision-makers to their constituents, and ensure public investments are creating and supporting opportunities for all, especially Chicago’s South and West Side residents. The grants include support for both editorial and business operations at Block Club Chicago, Capitol News Illinois, and Injustice Watch to help with sustainability and growth.

Upcoming Session Dates

Veto Session is scheduled for the weeks of November 15th and November 29th.

Lame Duck Session

Legislative Leaders have proposed January 4 through January 10 for potential session days in Springfield. Lawmakers may address abortion rights statute updates and as well as gun law changes during the lame duck session. Come January 1, bills with immediate effective dates require only simple majorities to pass.