March 19, 2021 Update

The Illinois Senate was in session Tuesday, March 16th and Wednesday, March 17th. The Illinois House was in session for one day only on March 18th. In addition to the floor action this week, both chambers continue to conduct hearings remotely at this time.
The Illinois Senate released protocols for individuals entering areas under its control. At this time, the Capitol will remain closed to the general public. Individuals wishing to have access must have an appointment and undergo COVID testing, including those wishing to testify in person at legislative hearings. Requests to provide in-person oral testimony must be submitted 24 hours in advance. Even though some members and witnesses may be physically present in the committee rooms, the Senate will continue to hold hearings virtually. Read the new protocols here.
The Illinois House will return to the use of a “consent calendar,” a practice that has not been utilized for several years. The consent calendar allows final action on multiple non-controversial bills on a single roll call. Legislation not eligible for the consent calendar include: revenue or appropriations bills; bills requiring more than 60 votes to pass; and legislation requiring the adoption of floor amendments. The consent calendar will expedite final passage of agreed legislation.
Most expected the Illinois House to consider legislation this week to decouple from certain federal tax laws. An amendment was expected to SB 217 (Hoffman) with the possibility of a floor vote on Thursday. The final vote was postponed, however, after the federal government announced the tax filing deadline will be extended until May 15th — which allows legislators more time to consider the controversial legislation prior to tax filing deadlines. 
The Illinois House approved along partisan lines — by a vote of 72-41 — HB 158 (Lilly) , which represents the Black Caucus’ healthcare pillar. HB 158 heads to the Senate for consideration. Capitol News has more on the legislation.  The Illinois House also approved — by a vote of 70-41 — HB 1871 (Stuart) which makes permanent some of the pandemic related election law changes enacted specifically for the 2020 election cycle. The bill allows the continued use of drop boxes and curbside voting; ensures that all ballots mailed within appropriate guidelines are counted even if they are mailed without postage; and allows the use of federal HAVA funds for the purchase of drop boxes. HB 1871 heads to the Senate for consideration.
The Illinois House approved HB 2877 (Ramirez) — by a vote of 73-38– which creates the COVID-19 Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program Act. The bill makes several changes including: the sealing of a court file in a residential eviction action; emergency sealing of a court file in a residential eviction action during the COVID-19 emergency and economic recovery period; and a temporary COVID-19 stay of certain foreclosure proceedings and filing. HB 2877 now moves to the Senate.
The Illinois House approved SB 72 (Hoffman), as amended, which is an initiative of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. During the lame duck session, the General Assembly approved HB 3360 (Hoffman/Harmon) to allow for pre-judgment interest, rather than post-judgment interest, in civil proceedings. That bill is pending on the Governor’s Desk and is facing strong opposition from the medical and business communities, among others. SB 72 incorporates the underlying language of HB 3360 with changes including — exempting state and local government, lowering the interest rate from 9 to 6 percent, and moving the start date to when the suit is actually filed. SB 72 passed the House by a vote of 67-40 and now heads back to the Senate for concurrence.
The Illinois House unanimously approved legislation to allow the reopening of West Lake Hospital in Melrose Park, SB 168 (Willis/Ellman). The bill heads back to the Senate for concurrence.
Legislation to create the Clean Energy Jobs Act, HB 804 (Williams), passed the House Energy and Environment Committee by a vote of 18-11. The bill puts Illinois on track to 100% renewable energy by 2050. The sponsor noted she will continue to work on the legislation. The bill now heads to the full House. 
The House Energy and Environment Committee also approved HB 2640 (Davis) the Path to 100 Act. The legislation would increase the cap on energy bills from roughly 2% to 4% in order to provide funding for renewable projects to avoid the “solar cliff.” HB 2640 heads to the Senate.
Following a subcommittee and full committee hearing, legislation (SB 455/Koehler) that would claw back 20% of the capitation rates from Medicaid managed care organizations was held in the Senate Health Committee. 
Representative Zalewski filed an amendment to HB 849 which would lift the ban on in-state wagering on collegiate sports. The underlying bill and amendment are pending before the House Executive Committee. 
The Illinois Senate Redistricting Committee held its first hearing this week, which marks the beginning of the process to redraw congressional and legislative districts. Senate President Harmon said that he expects the General Assembly to complete the process before the June 30th constitutional deadline, despite the data delay by the Census Bureau. Representative Andre Thapedi tendered his resignation from the Illinois House, effective immediately. 
The Illinois House also approved a resolution along partisan lines to condemn Republican Representative Chris Miller for being involved in the January 6th rally that led to the violent insurrection at the US Capitol and promoting actions of an internationally recognized para-military hate group (HR 132/Morgan). The Legislative Ethics Commission is continuing a review of Miller’s conduct.

New Laws: Governor Pritzker signed the healthcare transformation bill, SB1510. The new law aims to foster partnerships – to be funded by a pool – to establish/improve health care delivery systems that will both bolster health care equity and improve access to the Medicaid and uninsured populations in their communities.  In addition to the hospital transformation provisions, the new law: provides COVID-related extensions for nursing homes; makes technical corrections for the hospital assessment; enacts a fix to the FQHC formula; and reinstates supplemental funding rate for DCFS children held beyond medical necessity. Governor Pritzker called the legislation a “giant leap forward” in the mission to reduce inequities across Illinois. See the news release here.
COVID-19 Update: Acknowledging “it’s time to begin to cautiously move toward normalcy,” Governor Pritzker announced a “bridge phase” between Phase 4 and 5 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan. The bridge phase is designed to serve as a transition period with higher capacity limits and increased business operations, without “prematurely embracing a reckless reopening.” Illinois will still follow CDC guidelines and require the use of face masks during the bridge phase.
The bridge to Phase 5 allows for higher capacity limits at places like museums, zoos and spectator events as well as increased business operations. 
To advance into the Bridge Phase, the entire state must reach a number of markers, including attainment of : a 70% first-dose vaccination rate for residents 65 and over; a 20% or lower ICU bed availability rate; and a hold steady rate on COVID-19 (and COVID-like) hospital admissions, mortality rates, and case rates over a 28-day monitoring period. To advance to Phase 5, the state must reach a 50% vaccination rate for residents age 16 and over and — over an additional 28-day period — meet the same metrics and rates required to enter the transition phase. 
To prevent a large increase in new COVID-19 cases, Illinois will revert back to an earlier phase if, over the course of 10 days, the state experiences an increasing trend in COVID-19/ COVID-like illness hospital admissions; a decrease in ICU bed availability; an increase in the mortality rate; and an increasing case rate.
There has been an update to current Phase 4 mitigations and the capacity limits of the bridge to Phase 5. That is, capacity limits have been redefined and expanded — they will not count individuals with proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test (PCR) 1-3 days prior to an event or outing. The mitigation plan also includes adjustments to current Phase 4 mitigations, made in coordination with business leaders and health experts. More information is here.
On Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,325 new cases of COVID-19 in Illinois, including 34 additional deaths. As of Wednesday night, 1,120 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 252 patients were in the ICU and 100 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators. The preliminary 7-day statewide positivity rate is 2.4%, while the test positivity rate is 2.7%.

Vaccine Update:  Beginning April 12th, Illinois (outside of Chicago) will expand vaccine eligibility for individuals age 16 and over. The Governor also said he will make other classes of individuals eligible for vaccinations prior to April 12th. Chicago receives its own separate vaccine allotment and sets its own eligibility criteria. On March 29th, Chicago will move to Phase 1C of its vaccination plan, expanding eligibility to people with certain underlying health conditions and other essential workers. 
The Illinois Department of Public Health launched the Vaccine Appointment Call Center — 833-621-1284 — to assist people without access to, or are uncomfortable using, online services to get an appointment for their COVID shot. Currently, the call center is open seven days a week from 6 am to midnight, with about 500 agents answering calls (with the ability to expand during peak periods). Agents are English and Spanish speaking, and there is the availability for translation into other languages.
A total of 5,172,415 doses of vaccine have been delivered to providers in Illinois, including Chicago. Another 414,900 doses total have been allocated to the federal government’s Pharmacy Partnership Program for long-term care facilities. A total of 4,375,171 vaccines have been administered in Illinois as of Wednesday at midnight, including 359,041 for long-term care facilities. Illinois averages administering 99,210 doses/day.

Tax Filing Extension: Governor Pritzker announced an extension to the state’s individual income tax filing and payment deadline, from April 15 to May 17. The Illinois Department of Revenue will continue to process tax refunds for those filing ahead of the deadline. The filing extension does not apply to estimated tax payments; those remain due on April 15, 2021. Formulas to be used for estimated tax payments have been identified. Such filers can use either 100% of estimated or 90% of actual liability for 2021 — or 100% of actual liabilities for 2019 or 2020.
The Illinois Senate adjourned until March 23rd. The Illinois House adjourned until April 13th.  The Illinois Senate moved the committee deadline for passage of substantive legislation out of Senate committees from March 26th to April 16th. The move recognizes the technological related delays in convening remote committees at the start of the spring session. The House committee deadline remains March 26th, although that deadline is likely to be extended. Speaker Welch stated this week that the chamber is on target to have all 4,000+ bills that were filed this spring assigned to a committee by March 26th.