February 2, 2018 Update

On Wednesday, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner delivered his fourth and final State of the State Address of his first-term to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly. Noting that the work has begun, Rauner called on legislators to exercise bipartisanship “to finish the job” as he spelled out his accomplishments and laid out his priorities for the year ahead.   Much like last year, Rauner noted his successes in the areas of ethics reform, increased education funding and reform, job creation, criminal justice reforms and government efficiency.  Rauner called for broad policy changes asking legislators to “stop spending money we don’t have, to get our pensions under control and to give power back to the people”.
This year’s State of the State Address, while generally positive in tone, was lacking specific programmatic detail about the Governor’s suggested policy changes.  Those policy specifics along with details of the Governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year will be revealed when he delivers his Budget Address to the General Assembly on February 14th.  During Wednesday’s speech, Rauner promised that his upcoming budget will be balanced and “offer a path to reduced spending and show the way to surpluses.” Many in the legislature are skeptical at how the Governor will balance this year’s budget and pay down the state’s record breaking backlog of bills while at the same time rolling back the income tax increase approved last year by the Legislature.
With respect to ethics reform and sexual harassment, Rauner announced an Executive Order to strengthen the policies that ensure all government employees under his jurisdiction have “reliable and responsible outlets for reporting acts of sexual misconduct”. The order creates a chief compliance office within the executive branch; requires reviews of allegations within 10 days; and requires training on best investigation practices by the end of this year and every two years thereafter.   At the time of this writing, the Executive Order is not available on-line. Rauner further pledged to introduce legislation to make the Ethics Act the “prevailing law of the state in all matters involving misconduct”.   And as he has done in his last three State of the State speeches, Rauner again reiterated his call for term-limits.
Rauner called Illinois’ property tax system “a vicious form of oppression”.   Unlike in past years, the Governor did not call for a statewide property tax freeze.  Instead, he urged lawmakers to approve true property tax relief by giving the people the ability to lower their property taxes through a simple voter referendum.  Rauner also announced that legislation will be introduced that will prevent legislators from practicing before any property tax appeals board throughout the state.
The Governor’s remarks met with sharp criticism. Rauner’s Republican challenger, Representative Jeanne Ives.  She surmised the speech was “a summary of what Rauner promised and failed to do”.  Speaker Madigan criticized the Governor for continuing to blame others for the challenges facing our state.  He noted “For the good of our state, maybe it’s better the governor continue sitting on the sidelines and pretend he is ‘not in charge.’ That way, serious leaders can continue working to move our state forward.” Senate President Cullerton said that he has to question the Governor’s sincerity about working together in a bi-partisan fashion after three years of political attacks against the Democratically-controlled General Assembly and its leaders.
Six weeks remain before the March primary election.  Rauner, who is up for re-election this year, faces a primary challenge from fellow Republican State Representative Jeanne Ives. Ives is being supported by the conservative wing of the party, including fellow conservatives in the legislature.  The winner of the March primary will face off in November against the winner of the six-way Democratic primary.
In other action this week, The Illinois Senate voted 48-2 to override the Governor’s veto of SB332  which grants a liquor license to a restaurant in Senator Munoz’s district.  The Governor argued in his veto that such exemptions should be left to local decision rather than decided by the General Assembly.  The idea expressed in the Governor’s veto is under discussion and is the subject of newly filed legislation which will be considered later this spring. The bill now heads to the House for consideration.
Both the Senate and the House overrode the Governor’s veto of SB444 which was trailer legislation to the education reform law (PA 100-465) passed last year.  SB 444 will now become law.  The bill’s sponsors both noted that the issues of the amendatory veto were being addressed between the State Board of Education and the Department of Revenue making the contents of the amendmentory veto unnecessary.
An amendment to create the Geolocation Privacy Protection Act (SB 1021 (SFA 0001), was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee for a hearing.  The amendment provides that a private entity may not collect, use, store, or disclose geolocation information from a location-based application on a person’s device unless the private entity first receives the person’s affirmative express consent after complying with specified notice requirements.  Other geolocation privacy legislation (HB3449) was vetoed by the Governor last summer. A hearing on the amendment is not scheduled at this time.
Representative Martwick filed legislation (HB4371) to authorize the issuance of an additional $107 billion in State Serial Long Term Pension Obligation Bonds. The legislation also creates a continuing appropriation for payments on those bonds.  While the bill is still assigned to the House Rules Committee, the House Personnel and Pensions Committee held a subject matter hearing on the idea Tuesday.  During the hearing, the sponsor testified that he believes the bonding will help pay down the state’s $130 billion unfunded pension liability.  Critics of the plan argue it would be the largest bond issuance in world history and would further impact the state’s weak credit ratings.

 

State Representative Elgie Sims has been named to replace State Senator Donne Trotter who recently retired. A replacement for Sims has not yet been named.
Today is the deadline to request legislation to be drafted for the 2018 legislative session.  Friday, February 16th is the bill filing deadline in both chambers.  Both chambers return to session at noon on Tuesday, February 6th.