May 15, 2021 Update

The Illinois General Assembly adjourned for the week. The Senate pushed back the deadline to pass substantive House Bills out of Senate committees until May 21st. Roughly two weeks remain in the spring legislative session. The Senate Labor Committee approved legislation, HB 12 (Costa Howard/Villivalam), which offers public school, public university, and public community college employees in Illinois family and medical leave on the same terms and conditions as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act with a lower eligibility threshold. HB 12 is pending before the full Senate. The Illinois Senate unanimously approved SB 967 (Castro) which addresses maternal mortality and inequities in the healthcare system. Specifically, the bill requires the Illinois Department of Human Services to update its maternal health programs for pregnant and postpartum individuals who are determined to be “high-risk” under the new criteria. The Illinois Department of Public Health is also required to update policies with new guidance and requirements for hospitals that deliver babies. SB 967 heads to the House for consideration.  The Illinois House approved HB 3702  (Willis) which updates and modernizes Illinois’ next generation 9-1-1 system. HB 3702 heads to the Senate for consideration. The House approved HB 1092 (Wang Stoneback), which strengthens the Firearms Restraining Order. The measure directs the Illinois Department of Public Health to promote public awareness of the Firearms Restraining Order. In addition, the bill: creates a Commission on Implementing the Firearms Restraining Order Act; requires the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board to create and conduct an officer training on the FRO; clarifies which family members can request a FRO; and identifies the jurisdiction in which a petition for a FRO can be filed. Most law enforcement organizations remain opposed to the bill at this time. HB 1092 now heads to the Senate for consideration. 
The Illinois House approved HR 88 (Ramirez) which urges policy decisions of State agencies and the Illinois General Assembly to align with the goal of preventing, reducing, and ultimately eliminating, the use of restraint and seclusion with children and adolescents. Representative Zalewski filed HB 4078  which is being referred to as the “shot and a beer” bill. The legislation would allow bar owners to provide a single alcoholic drink to persons who provide proof of COVID vaccination. HB 4078 has been referred to the House Rules Committee.  Companion labor-backed constitutional amendments were filed last week and appear to be on the fast track. SJRCA 11 (Villivalam) and HJRCA 34 (Evans) provides that employees shall have the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively and prevents passage of any law or ordinance that negates or diminishes that right. SJRCA 11 is assigned to the Senate Executive Committee and HJRCA 34 is assigned to the House Labor Committee. Traditionally, the legislature considers constitutional amendments in the second year of the two-year General Assembly just ahead of the General Election. Once approved by the General Assembly, constitutional amendments must be approved by voters in the general election.  The House Energy and Environment Committee held a subject matter hearing this week to discuss Governor Pritzker’s clean energy proposal — HB 4074 (Buckner). Capitol News recapped the hearing here.  Representative Fran Hurley has been designated as the whip of the new Democratic Moderate Caucus. The recently formed caucus is composed of “like-minded members who advocate for a balanced, steady approach to lawmaking”.   

GOVERNOR’S HIGHLIGHTS:COVID-19: Governor Pritzker is expected to revise his executive orders following the CDC’s new guidance to ease restrictions, including mask wearing and social distancing, for those who are fully vaccinated.   Yesterday, Illinois entered the Bridge Phase of the Restore Illinois Plan – putting the state one step closer to fully reopening. Notably, in this phase, fully vaccinated individuals do not count towards capacity limits. The state will continue to monitor COVID metrics and additional mitigations could be imposed if warranted. More information on the Bridge Plan is here. On Thursday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported 1,918 new cases of COVID-19 and 35 additional deaths. The statewide positivity rate has dropped to 2.7%. As of Wednesday night, 1,765 patients with COVID-19 were reported to be in the hospital including 465 in the ICU and 236 on ventilators.  In another attempt to incentivize individuals to get their COVID vaccination, Governor Pritzker announced that Six Flags Great America will offer 50,000 free tickets to their parks in Gurnee and Rockford to newly vaccinated Illinois residents. The announcement was made as Illinois expands vaccination availability to children ages 12 through 15 in accordance with new FDA guidelines.  Employer-based vaccination clinics will be getting underway in the middle of this month. Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health have announced that ten sites in Chicago, Schaumburg, and Rockford will soon be offering two-dose vaccinations. The effort – which will key in on front desk staff, custodial workers, security, building engineers, and others – is a partnership between the state and the Building Owners and Managers Association and local unions. Employers wishing to participate in this undertaking should contact the IDPH. More information here.  Some $235 million is being invested by the Illinois Department of Public Health to bolster the access that middle and high schools have to covidSHIELD testing – and thereby accelerate the return to safe in-person learning. The funding will enable the saliva-based test to be available at low or no cost. In middle and high schools, the testing can be used to address the spectrum of possible exposures, not only in the schools themselves but also in settings involving sports or extracurricular activities.

 Rebuild Illinois Grants Awarded for Local Infrastructure: Earlier this week, Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Transportation announced the latest round of $250 million in grants for municipal, township, and county infrastructure projects across the state. This fourth round of Rebuild Illinois brings to $1 billion the amount of funding awarded under the program. Rebuild Illinois will invest $1.5 billion at the local level, spread out in six installments over the course of three years and supported with financial oversight by IDOT. The program was passed in 2019 and represents an overall $33.5 billion investment in the state’s transportation system. Details here. 

Expansion of Community Navigator Program for Small Businesses: Additional grant monies are being made available by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to small businesses struggling with the pandemic’s effects. The effort – an expansion of DCEO’s Community Navigator Program – will entail up to $10 million in grants. DCEO said on Tuesday it is issuing a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) aimed at helping more disadvantaged businesses benefit from relief efforts to strengthen economic recovery. Under the program, navigator partners give businesses direct help on applications for funding as well as providing technical assistance sessions, webinars, and general outreach. Targeted businesses include small businesses located in rural areas or disproportionately impacted areas (DIAs) and those owned by racial or ethnic minorities, veterans, immigrants, women, and those with disabilities. Learn more here.C

ampaign Jumpstarts Tourism Season: A new campaign promoting the return to travel across Illinois was unveiled this week, the state’s first since the onset of the pandemic last year. Set to the theme of “Time for Me to Drive,” the campaign urges residents and visitors to take to the streets to enjoy the state’s diverse communities and scenic landscapes safely. Additional information here. 

ELECTION UPDATE:Add Chicago Alderman David Moore to the growing list of Democrats seeking to replace retiring Secretary of State Jesse White. Moore will face Chicago Alderman. Pat Dowell, former state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, Senator Michael Hastings, and Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia in the 2022 primary.Democratic leaders and the Governor are rumored to be considering moving the 2022 primary election from March to sometime in the summer of 2022 due to the likely legal challenges over the drawing of new legislative districts. Such a move would require legislative approval.  

BUDGET UPDATE: Crafting the state’s new Fiscal Year 2022 budget just became more challenging after the US Treasury Department issued interim rules on Tuesday to prevent state and local governments from using funding from the American Rescue Plan to pay off debt. State officials had planned to use the funding to pay off the $3.6 billion borrowed from the Federal Reserve last year. No word yet on how lawmakers and the Governor plan to address the loan repayment.  March and April revenue receipts were more vibrant than had been projected, prompting the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability to revise its estimates for both the current and 2022 fiscal years. COGFA now places its projections for FY21 at $45.616 billion (which reflects an increase of $2.025 billion over the March forecast). For FY22, general revenue funds are projected to be $41.188 billion – up $792 million from COGFA’s estimate in March. The agency warned that the boost seen in FY21 was an anomaly and should not be factored into the FY22 expectations. See more here. Meanwhile, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget has revised its revenue estimates as well. Under its newest projections, GOMB is projecting upticks in General Funds revenues of $1.469 billion for FY21 and $842 million for FY22 (compared to original estimates in February of this year).  Specifically, GOMB is now placing FY21 General Funds at an estimated $36.703 billion (Feb 2021 estimate: $35.311 billion). Total revenues for the current fiscal year — including federal sources — are now expected to be $44.949 billion. Looking ahead to FY22, GOMB is predicting $35.283 billion in total General Funds revenue (Feb. 2021 estimate: $34.589 billion). Total revenues for FY22 — including federal sources and the governor’s proposed tax changes — have been reforecast at $42.552 billion. View the revisions here. 

COMING UP: The Illinois Senate will reconvene on Monday, May 17th at 4pm. The Illinois House will reconvene on Tuesday, May 18th at noon. Note the new deadline to pass substantive House Bills out of Senate Committees is now Friday, May 21st. May 28th is the deadline to pass substantive bills out of the opposite chamber