May 27, 2020 Update

The 2020 spring legislative session stands adjourned.  The General Assembly met last week for special session, the first time the Legislature convened since March 5th, to pass the Fiscal Year 2021 budget and other emergency matters.  Senate President Harmon commented on the unprecedented session saying “we crammed an entire session into 18 days”. Meeting in marathon fashion, the General Assembly began session on Wednesday, May 18th and concluded their work in the early morning hours of Sunday, May 24th. The week proved chaotic as the General Assembly tried to quickly finish its business while social distancing and following new health guidelines. The House convened at the BOS convention center in downtown Springfield while the Senate conducted business in their chamber under strict social distance rules. Legislators were required to wear face coverings; a limited number of Senators were allowed on the floor at a time; and most staff continued to work remotely.  
The General Assembly approved several omnibus measures including passing a budget for next year. There were several items that proved too difficult to accomplish in the truncated session. Efforts to enact ethics reform, housing assistance, codification of the Governor’s Executive Orders regarding telehealth reimbursement parity, cannabis law changes, and a legislative effort to give the Governor additional tools to enforce the Governor’s Executive Orders all stalled this week. There was an attempt to authorize the legislature to meet remotely, but those provisions were stripped from the bill after numerous legislators objected. The Senate did, however, make rules changes to allow the chamber to conduct remote committee hearings and the allow members who cannot be physically present to participate in proceedings  

The following bills passed and will be sent to the Governor:
Budget:    Crafting next fiscal year’s budget proved extremely challenging given the uncertainty caused by the global pandemic. In presenting the budget, Leader Harris said that the budget is a series of tough choices. Budget makers contemplated a variety of budget scenarios and tools and ultimately decided to develop a budget predicated on what the sponsor characterized as “aggressive cash management authority and utilization of existing federal credit options” allowing the state to borrow to operate. The General Assembly hopes to return in a Fall Veto session to enact supplemental funding, but the prospect of a resurgence of the novel virus makes that plan uncertain.
SB264 (Harmon/Harris) enacts the FY 2021 budget, FY 2020 supplemental funding and pay-as-you-go capital funding. The FY 21 budget appropriates $39.9 billion in General Revenue Funds and $57.8 billion in other state funds for Fiscal Year 2021. Representative Harris said that FY 2021 funding generally remains flat at FY 20 levels. The budget assumes $36.154 billion in GRF and other state funds revenue as well as $4.5 billion in federal borrowing. The budget also includes $503.7 million in supplemental General Revenue Funds for FY 2021. SB2099 (Harmon/Zalewski) allows the Governor, with the approval of the Comptroller and Treasurer, to borrow up to $5 billion from the Federal Reserve Bank. The budget package also include appropriation authorization for Rebuild Illinois capital projects in HB64 (Hoffman/Harmon). Specifically, the bill funds $104 Billion in pay-as-you go and $20.8 billion in bonded capital projects. The bill leverages $10.4 billion in federal funds and distributes $3.6 billion to units of local government.HB357 (Harris/Harmon) contains the statutory language necessary to implement programmatic changes to the budget. A new business interruption grant is created. The Comptroller’s interfund borrowing authority is expanded to June 30, 2021 and the Governor’s transfer authority is expanded from 2% to 8%. The bill includes rate increase for FQHCs, LIHEAP and SMHRF. The bill also creates a Legislative Budget Oversight Committee so the General Assembly can review the progress on the implementation of the budget.COVID-19 Employment/Labor Package: HB2455 (Hoffman/Holmes) represents an agreement between labor and business on changes to the worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance programs.  With respect to worker’s compensation, this bill creates a temporary rebuttable presumption for first responder and front-line workers who contract COVID-19 on the job.  Enables Chicago police and firefighters who contract COVID-19 while on the job and die as a result access to death benefits.  Changes were made to the Illinois Work Review Panel to require appointments within 30 days and hearing within 45 days. The bill also ensures Illinois continues to qualify for federal funding by extending unemployment benefits, waiving a one-week unemployment insurance waiting period and expanding eligibility for unemployment to non-instructional education employees.
SB471 (Lightford/Gordon-Booth) amends the Public Employee Disability Act to create a temporary 60-day extension of paid disability leave if an employee is injured in the line of duty.  The bill also enacts labor relations provisions for “racinos”.  Finally, the bill increases charges from battery to aggravated battery if the battery occurs when a retailer or retail employee is giving public health directions during a public health emergency. 
HR848 (Madigan) commends essential workers for their efforts and sacrifice.
Sunset Extensions:  Two sunset extension bills passed this week.  HB2174 (Willis/Jones) grants a one-year extension for various regulatory acts that were set to expire this year.  Sunset extensions include the Transportation Network Provider Act, the telecommunications and video sunsets and the 911 sunset. The bill also delays the implementation of the hotel panic button legislation.  SB1857 (Koehler/Burke) extends for one-year various sunsets and deadlines that were set to expire.  Deadline extensions include the sale of the Thompson Center in Chicago, the deadline for the Alzheimer’s research lottery scratch off, the deadline for the Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act and the Cook County Fee Waiver Program.
Omnibus Education:  SB1569 (Rezin/Davis) makes K-12 and higher education related changes in response the pandemic.  This bill addresses remote learning days, student teacher requirements, graduation requirements and other education related items.  At the higher education level, the bill addresses AIM High and articulation with respect to pass/fail classes. In essence, the bill codifies many of the education emergency rules put into effect in response to the pandemic.Omnibus Election Bill: SB1863 (Morrison/Burke) is an omnibus election bill that expands vote by mail for the 2020 General Election due to the COVID pandemic. The sponsor indicated the legislation tries to balance public health while allowing for robust voter participation.  SB 1863 creates the Conduct of the 2020 General Election Article in the Code. For the 2020 general election, provides for changes to vote by mail, first time registrants and changes of address for registrants, the public dissemination of information for the 2020 general election, early voting and election day requirements, judges of election, electronic service of objections, additional duties of election authorities and the State Board of Elections. Establishes November 3, 2020 as a State holiday for schools and certain university employees so that they may be used as polling places.  Provides that all government offices (with the exception of election authorities) shall be closed unless authorized to be used as a location for election day services or as a polling place. Provides the State Board of Elections with emergency rulemaking authority. Repeals the Article on January 1, 2021.
HB2238 (Burke/Martinez) is a trailer bill to SB 1863 and makes various changes to how many election judges are needed to determine the validity of certain mail in ballots and adds a provision that lock boxes for drop off ballots must be secured with a lock.
Graduated Income Tax: The General Assembly is required to draft ballot language and arguments for and against constitutional amendment propositions to be placed on the General Election ballot.  SJR1(Harmon/Madigan) creates the official ballot arguments for and against the graduated income tax constitutional amendment.
Hospital Assessment:  SB2541(Steans/Harris) contains the language necessary to renew the hospital assessment program in Illinois to enable the state to capture $3.9 billion in federal funds. This represents an increase of $450 million over previous years. The assessment bill includes a Medicaid physician rate increase and prioritizes funding for the critical access and safety net hospitals. The hospital transformation piece was removed from the bill and will be worked on in the future.Governmental Omnibus:    SB2135 (Link/Burke) is an omnibus bill that makes several governmental changes.  Codifies provisions of the Governor’s Executive Orders involving open meetings exemptions, Secretary of State deadline extensions, and notaries.  Creates the Restore Illinois Collaborative Commission to monitor actions taken by the Governor with regard to the Restore Illinois plan and to keep members of the General Assembly informed of those actions and any need for further legislative action. Directs the Broadband Advisory Council to study the provision of free access to broadband services. Requires the Department of Insurance to appoint a task force on business interruption insurance policies to study the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses and the need for changes to business interruption insurance policies based on those impacts, including recommendations for legislation.
Healthcare Omnibus:SB1864 (Link/Harris) is an omnibus healthcare bill that contains the products of the healthcare and Medicaid working groups.
SB 1864 creates the Health Care Affordability Act. Requires the Department of Healthcare and Family Services, in consultation with the Department of Insurance, to oversee a feasibility study to explore options to make health insurance more affordable for Illinois residents. Creates the Kidney Disease Prevention and Education Task Force Act. Creates the Kidney Disease Prevention and Education Task Force. Creates the Telehealth During the COVID-19 Pandemic Act. Provides that in order to protect the public’s health, to permit expedited treatment of health conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to mitigate its impact upon the residents of the State of Illinois, all health insurance issuers regulated by the Department of Insurance shall cover the costs of all telehealth services rendered by in-network providers to deliver any clinically appropriate, medically necessary covered services and treatments. Provides that the medical assistance program shall provide coverage for routine care costs that are incurred in the course of an approved clinical trial if the medical assistance program would provide coverage for the same routine care costs not incurred in a clinical trial. Permits the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to take necessary actions to address the COVID-19 public health emergency to the extent such actions are required, approved, or authorized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Permits the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to cover the treatment of COVID-19 to persons who qualify for medical assistance under federal law and regulations and to noncitizens. Contains provisions concerning payment claims for ambulance providers that are unable to obtain a Physician Certification Statement; assessment forms for long-term care facilities; income verification for medical assistance recipients; remote monitoring and support services as a waiver-reimbursable service for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 
TIF Extensions: SB2052 (Stadelman/Welch) extends various TIFs throughout the state.
School Debt Limitations:  SB1937 (Manar/Welch) Extends the debt limitations for various school districts. 
COVID-19 Liquor ResponseHB 2682 (Zalewski/Feigenholtz) allows bars and restaurants to provide cocktail sales to-go. The bill also provides some temporary filing fee relief. The provisions are repealed in one year.
COVID-19 Local Government Response:HB2096 (Willis/Murphy) is an omnibus local government bill.  Allows a township board to postpone its annual meeting during the period of a Gubernatorial disaster declaration and clarifies that rebates under CARES Act do not count as earned income for the purposes of township assistance.  The bill creates the Cards for Kids Act which provides that nonresident fees for the privilege and use of a library shall not be charged to a nonresident in an unincorporated area in Illinois who is a student whose household falls at or below the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Income Eligibility Guidelines.
Toll Bridge:SB531 (Harmon/Willis)Amends the Toll Bridge Act. Provides that a county board may alter and change the rates of toll by entering into an agreement establishing a toll rate schedule for a period not to exceed 99 years. The language was requested by the Will County State’s Attorney in regards to the toll bridge over the Des Plaines River.
Gaming: SB516 (Cunningham/Rita) makes various changes to the gaming bill passed last year. SB 516 extends the time that casino operators have to pay the reconciliation fee from 2 to 6 years. The bill also reduces the tax rates for the Chicago casino and makes a technical fix for the Danville casino. Due to the pandemic, moves the due date for fees for gaming and sports betting license and positions from July 1, 2020 to July 1, 2021. Makes technical fixes to ensure video gaming for both the Illinois State Fairgrounds and the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds.
COIVD-19 Property Tax Relief: SB685 (Harmon/Zalewski) makes several changes regarding property taxes.  In counties other than Cook, provides for the permissive waiver of interest and penalties on property taxes. Delays tax sales. Makes changes to scavenger sales. There is no property tax freeze or other property tax reduction in this proposal.
Sexual Assault: SB557(Bush/Cassidy) is an initiative of the Cook County State’s Attorney. In light of the pandemic, the bill temporarily allows federally qualified health centers to perform rape kit examinations at a time when a visit to the emergency room may be difficult due to the pandemic.Senate Rule Change: The Senate adopted a rule change in the early hours of Sunday morning that creates two new standing committees on Government Accountability and Ethics and Pensions. The rule change also allows the Senate President and Minority Leader to establish a process to allow for remote committee hearings, including pubic participation. Finally, the rule change allows members to participate and vote remotely during a pandemic.
Some House Republican legislators formed the Illinois Taxpayer Freedom Caucus. The group of 20 legislators will focus on structural and ethical reforms.
Coming UP:
The General Assembly adjourned until Tuesday, November 17th or to the call of the presiding officer.  I have posted links to the calendars in the “Important Links” seciton to the left of this page.