GOVERNOR’S HIGHLIGHTS:COVID-19 Update: Illinois’ statewide indoor mask requirement ends on Monday, February 28, 2022. Mask requirements will continue where federally mandated, such as on public transit and in such high-risk settings as healthcare facilities and congregate care facilities like nursing homes and prisons. Masking requirements will also continue to apply in all daycare settings and in schools not subject to recent court rulings. Businesses and municipalities may choose to invoke their own masking requirements. The City of Chicago is also ending its mask and proof-of-vaccine mandates on February 28. Chicago Public School students, teachers and employees are still required to wear masks. The Archdiocese of Chicago is making masks optional effective Monday. Employees at the Illinois Secretary of State offices will still be required to wear masks beginning Monday, February 28. While the public is not required to wear masks, the Secretary of State is encouraging them to do so while visiting SOS facilities. The Illinois Supreme Court denied the Governor’s appeal of the mask mandate ruling, saying that it can’t hear an appeal on an issue that has already been found to be moot. It also said there can’t be a temporary restraining order on a mandate that has also been rendered moot.
Housing Relief: The Illinois Housing Development Authority will be accepting applications for homeowners financially impacted by the pandemic beginning in April. The Illinois Emergency Homeowner Assistance Fund will provide up to $30,000 in free assistance per homeowner. Monies will be paid directly to the servicer, taxing body or other approved entity on behalf of Illinois homeowners impacted by COVID-19 to prevent mortgage delinquencies, defaults and foreclosures. Program information and updates can be found here.
Broadband Development: The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity announced six recipients have been selected to participate in the inaugural cohort of the Accelerate Illinois Broadband Infrastructure Planning Program: the City of Springfield, Jackson County, Knox County, Mercer County, Whiteside County, and the Village of Elsah. The 14-week intensive training program will help leaders from participating communities develop broadband plans responsive to their unique local needs and position them to effectively leverage newly available state and federal broadband infrastructure funding. Read more here.
ATTORNEY GENERAL UPDATE: Today, Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced final approval of the national $26 billion opioid settlement agreement with the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen – and one manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson. The companies will start releasing funds to a national administrator on April 2, 2022. States and local governments will start receiving funds during the second quarter of 2022. Illinois will receive $760 million from the settlement. More information is here.
ELECTION UPDATE: The petition filing period for the 2022 election cycle runs March 7-14. Attorney Thomas DeVore is seeking the Republican nomination for Attorney General. DeVore has filed numerous lawsuits challenging the COVID-19 mitigations imposed by Governor Prtizker’s Executive Orders. DeVore will face attorney Steve Kim in the June primary. Patrick Sheehan is running as a Republican in the 19th State Senate District. He is a Lockport police officer and a commissioner on the Lockport Township Park District Board.
102ND GENERAL ASSEMBLY: The Illinois General Assembly met for in person session February 22-25. Friday, February 25th was the 3rd Reading deadline in the Senate. Deadline extensions are expected to be issued on a case-by-case basis.
Budget Update: Appropriations committees in both the House and Senate continue to review the Governor’s proposed FY23 budget at the agency level. According to a budget update from Leader Greg Harris, budget committees are wrestling with the challenge of reviewing numerous requests for ARPA funds as well as determining how much of those funds to allocate for FY23 and FY24. Leader Harris noted that the intention is to use one-time federal ARPA funds for one-time expenses such as paying down state debt. Budget makers are also reviewing ways to address the $4.2 billion shortfall in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. A bipartisan multi-industry working group is meeting to explore those options. The House Revenue Committee heard testimony from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, the Department of Revenue and the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget regarding revenue projections. Leader Harris noted that he anticipates the final FY23 budget will be predicated on conservative revenue estimates. The Total General Funds Revenues for FY23 are predicted by COGFA to be $46,317 million which is $484 million higher than GOMB’s estimate of $45,833 million. Revenues for the current fiscal year are $4.6 billion higher than originally projected – which is $695 million higher than the GOMB February estimate. Capitol News recaps the hearing here. Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza testified in a Senate budget hearing this week and called for repealing the Prompt Payment Act (a law that imposes a 12 percent interest whenever the state is late paying its bills) as well as eliminating the Vendor Payment Program (a program that allows private investors to purchase the debt owed to vendors and collect that interest penalty). Mendoza testified that the state is currently paying bills on average within 17 days of reaching her office and that those two programs are no longer needed. Illinois’ bill backlog currently stands at $3.6 billion – which includes $900 million in late health care bills from the state’s group health insurance plan which the Governor proposes paying off in the next fiscal year. There is no legislation filed on this issue at this time.
Legislative Action:HB 1780 (Gong-Gershowitz) which creates a statewide drug takeback program passed the House by a vote of 96-13-0. The sponsor noted the bill is designed to keep prescription medications out of the hands of children as well as to protect drinking water from medication contamination. The measure now heads to the Senate. Legislation to require schools to offer a plant based lunch option, HB 4089 (Nichols), was debated on 3rd Reading in the House and then pulled from the record to allow the sponsor to continue to work on the legislation. Concerns were raised during debate about the impact of the immediate effective date on existing vendor contracts should the bill take effect in the middle of a school year. Others expressed concerns that the bill is silent on the nutritional content of the plant based options which does not guarantee the options will be healthy. The Illinois Senate approved SB 3490 (Villa) which creates the Illinois Commission on LGBTQ Aging to investigate, analyze, and study the health, housing, financial, psychosocial, home-and-community-based services, assisted living, and long-term care needs of LGBTQ older adults and their caregivers. SB 3490 heads to the House for consideration. The Illinois House approved HB 4292 (Morgan) which authorizes an additional $1 billion in borrowing to extend the COLA buyout program for Tier 1 participants in the State Employees, State Universities and Downstate Teachers pension programs. The sponsor praised the success of the original buyout program noting it has saved the state $1.4 billion over the life of the program. The measure now heads to the Senate. The Illinois Senate approved SB 3917 (Glowiak Hilton) which seeks to increase microchip production and attract companies to invest in Illinois by creating a series of tax credits to support the semiconductor industry. The measure now heads to the House. The Senate Executive Committee approved, by a vote of 11 – 5 an amendment to SB 932 (Castro) which modifies the conditions by which an open or closed meeting may be conducted by audio or video conference without the physical presence of a quorum of the members. The bill is now pending before the full Senate. The Illinois Senate unanimously approved SB 3667 (Stadleman) which makes it easier for certain victims to file an order of protection. Under the bill, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault will have the option to file an order of protection online or in-person. Counties with a population of 250,000 or more can offer a remote hearing to the petitioner for a protective order. The bill heads to the House. The Illinois Senate approved SB 1571 (Martwick) which, as amended, represents a negotiated comprehensive reform of foreign fire insurance. The measure now heads to the House. The Illinois Senate unanimously approved SB 3617 (Fine), which accelerates the process for out-of-state clinicians applying for licensure in Illinois, as well as streamlining requirements for social workers, professional counselors, and clinical psychologists with licenses that have been inactive for five years. Additionally, it includes initiatives to support diversity in the mental health field, and establishes tax credits and other provisions designed to encourage more quality, accessible care to those seeking assistance.
Resignation: Senator Tom Cullerton resigned his position effective Wednesday, February 23rd. Cullerton has served in the Illinois Senate since 2013. Local Democrats have one month to make an appointment to fill the remainder of the term.
The Illinois House is scheduled to be in session Tuesday, March 1 through Friday, March 4. The Illinois Senate is not scheduled to be in session next week. Friday, March 4 is the 3rd Reading deadline in the House. Six weeks remain in the scheduled spring session.