New Credit Report: Fitch Credit Ratings hinted that it may be considering a credit upgrade for Illinois. Fitch referenced Illinois’ more “normal fiscal decision-making process, including on-time budgets that address fiscal challenges primarily with sustainable measures.” Fitch also noted Illinois benefited from a significant influx of federal aid and has thus far allocated those funds towards non-recurring expenditures thus avoiding a fiscal cliff. In addition, Illinois has made substantial progress paying down its bill backlog. Fitch also noted that Illinois is on track to fulfill its statutorily required pension obligation in the proposed FY 23 budget. Read the full report here.
COVID-19 Update: The Illinois Department of Public Health’s emergency rules governing COVID mitigations in schools expired on Sunday, February 13. By law, emergency rules are effective for only 150 days. On Monday night, the Illinois Department of Public Health reissued emergency rules requiring schools to continue to implement COVID-19 protocols regarding masking, testing and exclusion. But on Tuesday, the bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted 9-0 to reject the Illinois Department of Public Health’s latest emergency rule, thus prohibiting it from taking effect. Legislators on the Commission cited ongoing litigation as the reason the Department is prohibited from moving forward with the rule at this time. Governor Pritzker responded by saying schools should continue with COVID mitigations because his Executive Order remains in effect despite the fact that the emergency rule was prohibited. Capitol News has more here and here.
As you will recall, on February 4th, a circuit court judge overturned the Governor’s COVID mitigations for schools. The Governor appealed that decision and late Thursday, the Fourth District Appellate Court dismissed the Governor’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling against his mask mandate in schools, calling the request “moot” after JCAR objected to the latest emergency rule. The court wrote in its ruling “Thus, none of the rules found by the circuit court to be null and void are currently in effect. Accordingly, for the following reasons, we dismiss defendant’s appeal because the expiration of the emergency rules renders this appeal moot.” The Governor continues to argue his Executive Order remains in effect for the schools not subject to the court’s decision. Read the court’s ruling here .
Charise Williams, the former chief of staff for the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, is joining the crowded Democratic primary field vying for the 1st Congressional District.
Plainfield Village Trustee Harry Benton announced he will seek the Democratic nomination in the 97th House district. Benton lost in 2020 to incumbent Republican Representative Mark Batinick who is not seeking reelection this year. Michelle Smith and Thomas McCullagh are competing in the Republican primary to replace Batinick. Bartlett Mayor Kevin Wallace is challenging freshman Representative Maura Hirschauer in the 49th House District.
Brett Nicklaus, a Dixon businessman, is challenging Senator Win Stoller in the Republican primary for state Senate in 37th District.
Woodford County Chief Deputy Sheriff Dennis Tipsword is seeking the Republican nomination for the open 105th House District.
McLean County Board Member Sharon Chung is running as a Democrat in the open 91st House District. She will face fellow Democrat Karla Bailey-Smith who ran an unsuccessful campaign for the seat in 2020 against Representative Keith Sommer.
Springfield attorney Kent Gray is circulating petitions to challenge Representative Tim Butler in the primary.
Consultant Joe Alexander is seeking the Republican nomination in the open 87th House District.
In the 55th House District, Republican business owner Michael Lupo will challenge Representative Marty Moylan in November.
102nd GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
The Illinois General Assembly met in person for session this week, the first time that both chambers have been in session at the same time since the beginning of January. The Senate canceled session for Friday as another winter storm set its sights on Illinois. Given this week’s committee deadline, the Illinois House was in session Tuesday through Friday. Today is the deadline to pass substantive House Bills out of House committees. Watch for deadline extensions on a case-by-case basis.
The Illinois Senate approved SB 670 (Glowiak/Hilton), directing that a maximum of four weeks can lapse before the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation completes the licensing process for professions. The bill now heads to the House.
SB 2951 (Hunter) received unanimous approval by the Senate. The measure not only extends the income tax credit for certain hospitals but also exempts the personal property tax credit from automatic sunset provisions. SB 2951 now heads to the House.
The following bills were advanced by House committees:
HB 5107 (Davis), allowing Chicago Public Schools principals to unionize.
HB 209 (Mussman) bans the use of latex gloves in food service, with respect to preparing and handling food.
HB 3067 (Gong-Gershowitz) prohibits stores from selling or distributing disposable polystyrene foam food service containers.
The provisions of HB 4116 (Morgan) prohibit employers from refusing the hiring of individuals or disciplining of employees whose drug tests show the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). As amended, the bill permits discharge based on THC-positivity if the employee: works in a safety sensitive position; demonstrates impairment: or has test results such that the THC exceeds the limits under specified provisions of the Illinois Vehicle Code.
Under HB 4645 (Greenwood), healthcare professionals, medical facilities, or behavioral health providers can apply to the Department of Public Health for loan repayment assistance. The measure creates the Equity and Representation in Health Care Act; the Equity and Representation in Health Care Workforce Repayment Program; and the Equity and Representation in Health Care Workforce Scholarship Program.
HB 4795 (Moeller) requires the Environmental Protection Agency to create a take back program for firefighting foam containing PFAS.
HB 5445 (Wang Stoneback) requires the Director of the State Police to appoint (within 60 days of the effective date) the Commission on Implementing the Firearms Restraining Order Act.
HB 5566 (Robinson) requires the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, subject to appropriation, to provide grants to municipalities to provide filters for areas with lead service lines whose areas do not have a plan to replace the lead service lines.
HB 4608 (Delgado) requires the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and its MPO Policy Committee, in coordination with the Regional Transportation Authority, to develop and submit a report of legislative recommendations regarding changes to the recovery ratio, sales tax formula and distributions, governance structures, regional fare systems, and any other changes to State statute, Authority, or Service Board enabling legislation, policy, rules, or funding that will ensure the long-term financial viability of a comprehensive and coordinated regional public transportation system that moves people safely, securely, cleanly, and efficiently and supports and fosters efficient land use.
Legislative Inspector General: The Honorable Michael P. McCuskey was appointed this week to serve as Legislative Inspector General – SJR 48 (Harmon/West). Republicans in both chambers objected to the process in which McCuskey was appointed, arguing the process ran counter to state law. The bipartisan Legislative Ethics Commission is tasked with recommending a candidate to serve as the Legislative Ethics Commission; however, the LEC has not reached a consensus on a candidate. Democrat leaders argued that the office is too important to leave vacant and advanced McCuskey’s appointment without LEC approval. The appointment passed along partisan lines. Capitol News has more here.
Senate Terms: The Illinois Senate holds elections on staggered terms. In accordance with the Illinois Constitution every ten years Illinois Senators are required to divide the chamber’s term sequence into three groups: 4-4-2; 4-2-4 or 2-4-4. The term “lottery” was conducted on Tuesday. The new terms are here.
Both chambers are scheduled to be in session February 22 – 25. Friday, February 25 is the 3rd Reading deadline in the Senate. Friday, March 4 is the 3rd Reading deadline in the House.