Veto Session Mostly Quiet

The Illinois General Assembly met last week for the first week of Veto Session. This is the part of the legislative calendar that is reserved for dealing with any passed legislation that was vetoed by the Governor. It is also a time that lawmakers introduce bills or hold additional hearings on proposals that were not ratified during the spring session of the legislature.

The Governor used his veto pen on six pieces of legislation, all of which still await action. It appears that the subject of some of the vetoes will be considered during the second week of Veto session which is next week. There are efforts to override the veto of the bill that lifts the moratorium on building of nuclear reactors while new legislative language addressed the Governor’s objections.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 690 which validates previous 708 Board referenda that were questioned due to technicalities. The bill also adds language that a community mental health question may not be placed on the 2024 ballot in a township that approved a referendum in 2022.  This legislation is now headed to the House where it already has nearly 20 cosponsors.

The Senate took action on various Executive appointments. They advanced a bill to clarify provisions related to EV-capable parking, a gaming bill that extends the sunset on sports betting and a bill to validates certain referenda and tax levies for community mental health boards.

The Legislature did not take up a supplemental appropriation to support efforts related to the humanitarian migrant crisis. During the past few months, hearings were held to shore up the state’s obligation regarding Tier 2 pensions. Lawmakers had hoped to have legislation to review during Veto session but it appears that those issues will carry over into the spring session.

Immigrant Healthcare Program Puts More Pressure on Budget

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) recently announced the health benefits program for undocumented immigrants will set a pause on accepting new enrollees.

In 2020, Illinois created a Medicaid-style program for undocumented immigrants age 65 and older. The program was expanded twice and now covers those age 42 and older. The costs have ballooned. The Governor initially proposed $220 million dollars for the program in the current fiscal year. That was determined to be woefully inadequate to meet the needs of the program. The General Assembly appropriated $550 million and provided the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) with tools to limit costs.  Media outlets have reported that HFS is now estimating that the cost of funding this at $832.7 million, which far exceeds the appropriated amount.

HFS indicated that costs are running high because of the rate at which people are enrolling. Also, costs are up is due to enrollees’ extraordinarily high health care needs, most probably due to the fact that individuals had gone without any health care coverage.

HFS was tasked with utilizing copays and cost sharing as well as a membership cap to reign in the ballooning costs of the program. They have not yet gone forward with the implementation of those cost sharing tools. The administration is also looking to capture some federal dollars to assist with this program. HFS has stated that it will continue to monitor the costs; but it stated it is committed to preserving this nation-leading program for the future.

Bill to Allow Legislative Staff to Unionize Passes House

A bill allowing the unionization of legislative staff passed in the Illinois House of Representatives and heads to the Senate. House Bill 4148, which passed along party lines, would create the Office of State Legislative Labor Relations — which would represent staff in collective bargaining matters.

The push to unionize has mostly been led by House Democratic staffers; but the bill would apply to Democratic, Republican, and non-partisan staff in the House and Senate. The bill’s effective date is July 1, 2026. Bargaining over the state budget, organizational structure, and hiring of new employees would not be matters of discussion in collective bargaining through the legislation. Strikes would also not be permitted during months with at least one day of legislative session scheduled. The fate of the legislation is uncertain in the Illinois Senate.

State Announces New Agency to Oversee Early Childhood Programs

The State of Illinois announced the creation of a new State agency. The new agency would oversee preschool funding and regulation and day care licensing, as well as early intervention, home visiting, and child care assistance programs.  Currently, those programs operate under the Illinois State Board of Education, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of Children and Family Services. Creating a separate agency focused on early childhood is another step in this administration’s efforts to increase child care access.

Illinois Joins Lawsuit Against Social Media Giant Meta

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has joined other Attorneys General in filing suit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. AG Raoul said practices enacted by Meta have had major consequences on the mental health of young people, citing increases in depression, anxiety and body image dysmorphia. The lawsuit claims the social media company has harmed young people’s mental health – addicting them while misleading the public about the platforms’ safety. Illinois is one of more than 40 states filing suit in federal court.

Governor Supports National Organization on Abortion Access

Governor Pritzker is bankrolling efforts and lending his political staff to create an organization to combat anti-abortion efforts across the country. With Illinois already viewed as a safe haven for those seeking abortions, Pritzker has launched Think Big America, a tax-exempt issue advocacy nonprofit organization aimed at protecting and expanding abortion rights in other states. The media have noted that this raises his national profile and could set him up for federal political efforts in 2028.

Financial Transaction Tax Dead

Soon after his election, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson discussed a financial transaction tax as a means to shore up the city’s finances. The proposal requires State approval. Legislative leaders as well as Governor Pritzker immediately shot down the idea. They argued that the imposition of a financial transaction tax would likely harm Chicago’s exchanges and cause them to leave the state.

 Paid Leave for All Workers Act (PLAW) Effect January 1, 2024 for All Employers

On January 1, 2024, the Paid Leave for All Workers Act will be effect in Illinois. This Act will require Illinois employers to provide each of their employees, including part-time employees and domestic workers, up to 40 hours of paid leave for every 12-month period.

In January 2023 the legislation was amended in the House, passed the House, was sent to the Senate that day, and passed the Senate on a concurrence vote the same day. This is why, like sausage, you don’t want to see how legislation is made. There are efforts to delay implementation of this law since rules have not yet been set.

Copy of the Act

 https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=4351&ChapterID=68

IL Dept of Labor Rules w/Webinar Registration Option

 https://labor.illinois.gov/laws-rules/paidleave.html

 IL Dept of Labor FAQ’s:

https://labor.illinois.gov/faqs/paidleavefaq.html

Upcoming Dates

November 7-9, 2023                        Veto Session

Pension Updates Still on Hold

For the past several months, the House Personnel & Pensions Committee has hosted hearings to provide an overview of Illinois’ systems, as well as discuss ways to improve the long-term outlook of the state’s systems and the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund. Stakeholders have provided input on current status and how things can improve moving forward.

In additional to the statutorily mandated pension payment, there is growing concern that additional payments are needed on behalf of those enrolled in Tier 2 pension system. The Federal government sets standards for public retirement plans that do not enroll their employees in Social Security. The belief is that the immediate need is to correct the Tier 2 pension system to bring it into compliance with the federal guidelines.

While acknowledging that fixing the pension system will come at a cost, Chair Kifowit emphasized that the longer the issue remains unaddressed, the greater the financial burden becomes for Illinois, its pension systems and their employees.

Initially the House Personnel and Pensions committee sought to pursue pension reform legislation during the Veto session. There were no new pension related proposals introduced or called for a vote or hearing during the first week of veto session in October. The second week of Veto session is next week and there does not appear to be any indication that new pension legislation will be debated at that time either. There will be more dialogue heading into the Spring 2024 session.