January 4, 2019
This Week's Highlights
Federal Government Update
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
116th Gavels In 
This week saw the first meeting of the 116th Congress, and Democrats regaining control of the House.  The freshmen class, younger and diverse than ever, head to the Hill under the shadow of a government shutdown with no end in sight.  

Pelosi Once Again Elected Speaker
As expected, Nancy Pelosi reclaimed the role of Speaker of the House of Representatives this week, as Democrats took back control of the House.  Speaker Pelosi won back the seat with overwhelming support from her party: 220 - 15.  It is interesting to note - 10 of those 15 were incoming freshmen, many of whom campaigned on not supporting her for Speaker. 

New House Passes Shutdown Ending Legislation, But Outlook Is Likely Slim
This week, the third shutdown of last year carried from 2018 to 2019, and though one of the new majority's first actions was to pass legislation opening the nine affected agencies, its outlook is likely slim at best.  

House Democrats passed, largely on party lines, legislation that would end the shutdown, but does not include funding for the Wall.  While the Senate previously also passed legislation without wall funding, Senate Majority Leader McConnell has signaled the Senate will not take up any funding packages that do not include the president's priority.  President Trump has vowed to veto the House's package.    

Although the President met with Congressional Leaders yesterday, and is planning to again today, any progress on the impasse seems bleak.  

New Session - New Rules
Each session, the House of Representatives vote on the rules that will govern their own procedures.  The House voted to pass the vast majority of the rules package, Title 1, yesterday; see the new rules for yourself here.

Chamber Breakdown
While rules changes are not always the biggest news, they are still important; the rules package dictates how Congress will operate and function for its duration.  

A few significant highlights:

- Stricter 72 hour window for major legislation to be read before a vote.  
This strengthens the "three day rule" and is excellent policy; current rules give about 24 hours because bills offered late one night are often voted on early on the third.
- Member Day Committee Hearings
This calls for member hearings for all committees and is excellent policy, as it moves away from the top down approach of recent sessions; it will ensure any bill brought to the floor has gone through a committee with a hearing and will allow all members an opportunity to voice their views on legislation.  However, it is important to note: this  rule does not take effect until March 1 - which allows the Democrats to move quickly on their early priorities.  
- Eliminates "CUTGO"
The rules reinstate PAYGO, and move from the 115th Congress' CUTGO (CUTGO -  spending increases must be offset with cuts, PAYGO - both mandatory spending increases and tax cuts must be offset, and allows for revenue increases (taxes), unlike CUTGO). 
Removes supermajority requirement to raise income taxes
This removes the requirement for a 3/5 supermajority vote to raise revenue through federal income tax rate changes
- Reinstates Gephardt Rule 
Essentially, this makes it easier to suspend the debt ceiling when the House passes budget resolutions.  
- Eliminates Dynamic Scoring
The Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation will no longer be required to produce a macroeconomic estimate of major legislation demonstrating the potential effects of said legislation on the country's economic growth
- Bans Members and their staffs from serving on corporate boards
This one is self explanatory- it will serve as a tool to reduce any collusion.  

While the majority of the rules package was passed yesterday, pieces will still be passed today and next week.  
State Government Updates
New Year, New Laws - 253 Of Them
2019 will bring a lot of change to the statehouse: Governor-elect JB Pritzker and democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate will gavel in next week, and there are 253 new laws on the books for Illinois in 2019; see the full list of 253 new laws here.  

Taxes, Government Spending, Education, Highways, And More - How Illinois Stacks Up Nationally
The Illinois General Assembly's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability released its 2018 state by state rankings comparing how Illinois compares to other states on issues like tax collection, government spending, education funding, and more; see the 2018 state by state comparison report here.

Annual State Actuary's Report Released Again Highlights Unfunded Pension Liability On Brink Of Being Unsustainable
The Office of Illinois Auditor General Frank Mautino released its 2018 State Actuary's Report last week, showing once again that Illinois' unfunded pension liability is threatening to take up larger and larger chunks of the State's budget; see the 2018 Actuary Report here.  The report also highlights the dangers of funds that are overly market reliant.  

According to the report, t he state's Teachers (TRS), State Universities (SURS), and General Assembly retirement systems (GARS) are already seeing negative cash flows while the State Employee (SERS) and Judges Retirement systems (JRS) are projected to have negative cash flows in the near future.

Bowman Retires From Illinois Board of Higher Education
This week, former Illinois State University President Al Bowman retired from the post of Executive Director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.  In his outgoing letter, Bowman laments the state of public funding for higher education in the State of Illinois, and the long term impact it is having on the state's institutions, students, and workforce.  
Local Governments Update
Normal Town Council
The Normal Town Council will meet next week; see what they plan to discuss HERE.