March 15, 2021 Update

102nd GENERAL ASSEMBLY: The Illinois House met in virtual committees last week; while the Illinois Senate met in session on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Capitol.  
All Senators, staff, and members of the press are required to undergo saliva-based rapid COVID testing as part of the Senate’s return to session safety protocols. Senate committees were conducted virtually this week but that may be changing soon. In addition to conducting business at the committee level, the Senate also began moving bills on final passage. Beginning this week, the Illinois Senate will allow lobbyists and members of the public to be admitted into the Capitol as long as they present a negative COVID test. The Senate is also expected to add additional session days to the April calendar.
With the exception of a one-day session this week, the House is expected to continue meeting virtually at the committee level until mid-April.The Illinois Supreme Court ruled last Monday that Democratic State Representative Thaddeus Jones can simultaneously serve as State Representative and Mayor of Calumet City. Jones won the February primary, but faced a continued legal challenge about his naming appearing on the February ballot.  
Democrats have made appointments to the Redistricting Committees. Representative Elizabeth Hernandez will Chair the House Redistricting Committee and Senator Omar Aquino will chair the Senate Redistricting Committee. Senator Jason Barickman will serve as the Republican Spokesperson for the Senate committee. Other Republican appointments are still pending. Click here for House membership and here for Senate membership.  
Representative Andre Thapedi resigned from the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules effective Thursday, March 11th. In January, Thapedi announced he would resign from the Illinois House, but he has not given an exact effective date for his resignation.
The Illinois State Board of Education last Monday requested an additional $406 million, or 4.6%, over the Governor’s proposed FY 22 budget. The request came during the House Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education hearing. The Board is requesting an additional $362.1 million for the evidence-based funding formula and $50 million in early childhood education block grants. The Board also is requesting roughly $17 million to address the teacher shortage in Illinois. In addition, the Board asked legislators to hold transportation funding flat, rather than reduce it by $7.7 million as the Governor has requested. Appropriation Committees in both chambers continue to review agency budgets as part of the budget making process. The new fiscal year begins July 1st.
The Illinois Senate approved SB 104 (Feigenholtz) designed to assist the hospitality industry during the pandemic. The bill extends the cocktails-to-go bill passed in May; allows the use of credit cards when retailers purchase from distributors; changes timing of sales tax payments for restaurants; and permits the delivery of wine. SB 104 passed the Senate 56-0 and now heads to the House for consideration.The Illinois Senate also approved SB 116 (Morrison) which allows the Board of Directors of a corporation to hold remote shareholder meetings. SB 116 passed the Senate 56-0 and now heads to the House.
SB 188 (Feigenholtz), which allows municipalities to pass an ordinance to use TIF funds for the cost of business interruption associated with COVID-19, passed the Senate by a vote of 55-1. The House will now consider the bill. 
The House Human Services Committee approved HB 711 (Harris) which creates the Prior Authorization Reform Act, and now goes before the full House.  
The House Human Services Committee approvedHB 591 (Ford) which permits medical assistance recipients, including those enrolled in managed care, to use the pharmacy of their choice (as long as the pharmacy meets certain basic criteria). Representative Ford promised to continue working with the Department and will bring an amendment back to committee. The bill is now on 2nd Reading in the House.
The House Judiciary Criminal Committee approved HB 434, expanding the expungement of arrest and court records. The bill allows defendants whose criminal charges are dismissed with prejudice or result in acquittal to have the records relating to those charges immediately expunged at no cost to the defendant. HB 434 now moves to the full House for consideration.
Legislation to take ambulances out of the Medicaid managed care system,HB 684 (Gabel), passed the House Human Services Committee. Representative Gabel noted she will be working on an amendment to limit the bill’s scope to just ambulances and remove the other transportation providers. HB 684 is now on 2nd Reading in the House.

New Law: Governor Pritzker signedHB 2170 (Ammons/Lightford) which represents the education and workforce development pillar of the Legislative Black Caucus initiative. In part, this new law seeks the development of: new programs to support minority early childhood education; a task force to explore equitable school experiences; revised state standards for high schools; special summer programs for impoverished students; and efforts to enroll Black students at in-state colleges (rather than their departing for other states). The Governor’s comments on the legislation are here.

Budget Update: The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability delivered its FY 22 revenue estimates to the General Assembly this week. The Commission estimates Illinois will bring in roughly $40.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2022, which is about $1 billion less than the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget is projecting. The Governor’s budget is predicated on closing $932 billion in “corporate tax loopholes” and transferring $565 million into GRF from other state funds — both of which require the approval of the General Assembly. COGFA is estimating that personal income tax will grow roughly 3%, sales taxes are projected to be up 2.8%, with little growth expected from corporate income taxes. The full report is here.  Illinois is also expected to receive $13.2 billion in state and local funding — $7.5 billion for the state and $5.5 billion for city and county governments — under the latest federal COVID relief bill. The new funds will be a boost for the state as lawmakers work with the Governor to craft the FY 22 budget. The Governor’s spokesperson noted the Administration will” focus on how to spend the new federal stimulus money in the most fiscally responsible way.” The Governor is expected to use part of the federal money to pay off borrowing and old bills. 

 Executive Order:Executive Order 2021-05   reissues most executive orders, extending a majority of the provisions through April 3, 2021. Executive Order 2021-05 extends the eviction moratorium with changes to include additional renter protections. Capitol News offers more on the changes and the history of the moratorium.  

 COVID-19 Update: Public health officials discovered the Brazilian variant in Illinois, making it the third variant discovered in Illinois in recent weeks. Public health officials are continuing to monitor for new variants.  
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced plans to reopen both the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs games to fans beginning with opening day in April. Stadiums will be allowed to have 20% capacity — 8,122 fans per game for the Chicago White Sox and 8,274 fans per game for the Chicago Cubs. 
Illinois schools and other recreational athletic venues located in Regions in Phase 4 can increase spectators from 50 persons to 20% of the outdoor venue capacity under new guidance issued by state officials. The new guidance applies to all youth and adult recreational sports, school-based sports (high school and elementary school), travel clubs, private leagues and clubs, recreational leagues and centers, and park district sports programs. This guidance does not pertain to professional sports leagues or college division level sports.
The Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Public Health issued new guidance for Illinois’ schools. Social distance for in-person learning is now defined as 3 to 6 feet for students and fully vaccinated staff. Bus capacity continues to be limited to 50 persons. Read the new guidance here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance for individuals who have been fully vaccinated — offering vaccinated Illinoisans a glimmer of hope with eased restrictions. The agency says that such individuals:

  • Can visit indoors with other fully vaccinated people without masks or social distancing

  • Can visit unmasked with people from another household who are not vaccinated – if the latter are considered low-risk of serious illness from COVID

  •  Can forgo testing and quarantining after a known COVID exposure, as long they are symptom-free 

 The CDC noted, however, that those who are fully vaccinated should continue to exercise certain measures when out in public, including wearing masks, avoiding crowds and taking precautions when gathering with high-risk unvaccinated persons.  Individuals who are two weeks out from their second dosage of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines – or the single-dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine — are considered fully vaccinated.   Approximately half of Illinois’ senior citizens (those 65 years and older) have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine.

Housing Rehabilitation Grants:  The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity announced the recipients of the 2020 (sic) Community Development Block Grant for Housing Rehabilitation. $6.8 million in assistance will be awarded for communities to invest in over 135 housing improvement projects. More information on the announcement is here.  For communities that are still interested in applying, DCEO has issued another round of funding for the 2021 program which will provide $7 million in project funds. The application deadline for the 2021 program is Tuesday, August 3rd. Communities interested in applying should attend the Office of Community Development Housing Workshop, scheduled for March 30, 2021. To register to attend, please visitDCEO’s website.

  Illinois’ Credit Rating: Illinois recently saw at least some encouraging developments from S&P Global Ratings, which conferred “stable” status on the state – an upgrade from its year-long status of “negative.” The rating agency noted Illinois’ credit strengths including a stronger-than-expected revenue performance and budget cuts by the administration. Also leading to the improved credit rating was the absence of additional federal stimulus payments in the proposed budget. 

Student Loan Debt: The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation joined a multi-state coalition of state financial regulators asking U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to partner with states in protecting student loan borrowers across the country. Specifically, a coalition letter calls to the Secretary’s attention two policies that obstruct states’ ability to regulate the private companies that service federal student loans. The state regulators urge Cardona to reverse these policies and to join states’ efforts to ensure the student loan servicing industry is a resource for borrowers — not a barrier to relief or source of harm. More information is here. 

The Illinois Senate will be in session March 16th – 18th. The Illinois House will meet in virtual committees next week and convene in session for one day, on March 18th.  The House committee schedule ishere. The Senate committee schedule ishere.