The House and Senate have been on a legislative "spring break" for the last two weeks. While neither Chamber returned to Springfield, Both chambers continued to conduct committee hearings through the virtual platform at ilga.gov. The committee schedule was substantially lighter than a typical week. The second week of spring break was also mostly quiet aside from redistricting hearings.
The Senate is scheduled to return for session this Tuesday, April 13th. The House will return on the 13th as well. There is a consensus among many House members that the lower chamber will return for action in Springfield for 4-5 days a week until the conclusion of session at the end of May.
House Revenue Committee Holds Extensive Subject Matter Hearing
On Thursday, April 1st the House Revenue Committee held a subject matter hearing on numerous pieces of legislation pertinent to Chamber Members' interests. Two bills heard of note were HB 860 and HB 3529. These bills are both initiatives of the Cook County Assessor. The Chamber has been, and remains, strongly opposed to both bills.
On HB 860, proponents said that the bill will "increase transparency" help address inequality, and increase the accuracy of assessments with the increased data provided. Witness, Cook County Assessor Kaegi said that HB 860 would require property owners to submit additional data on rental income which would provide a more accurate evaluation of the property. The implication of the "increased accuracy" is increased property taxes on Cook County real estate. Furthermore, the Chamber does not share the Assessor's view that this legislation promotes transparency.
The Assessor also stated that he wants income-producing properties to carry a larger tax burden in the county. This bill also places new burdens on tenants of income producing property by requiring tenants who are responsible for paying a proportionate share of the property taxes as a part of their rental agreement to also provide income information to the Assessor. The Chamber opposes this legislation.
Derrick Johnson, President of the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago (BOMA) testified as an opponent. Johnson said that commercial property in Cook County already pays more than its a "fair share." Johnson also shared data that showed commercial property essentially subsidizes residential property in the County due to the outsized tax burden already borne. Johnson also presented data revealing that the Assessor was far less likely to grant appeals for commercial property than residential property. The Chamber agrees with Mr. Johnson's testimony. The Chamber will continue to work with the other business organizations to explain to members of the General Assembly why the Assessor’s legislation is a bad idea that will not accomplish its avowed goals.
Governor Pritzker Signs CTU and Firefighter Pension Bills
Last week, Governor Pritzker signed HB 2275 into law. This bill strengthens Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) bargaining rights and was openly opposed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. This bill exclusively applies to the municipality of Chicago and repeals key mediation measures for disputes between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city of Chicago. This bill could lead to more strikes if agreements are not reached, a potentially disruptive result for working parents and employers in the city. The Chamber opposed this legislation.
In the last week Governor Pritzker also signed HB 2451 into law. This bill provides an unsustainable increase in pension payouts for public sector employees that will ultimately increase the already staggering property tax burden on homeowners and business. The age restriction on a three-percent cost-of-living increase for retired firefighters born after 1966 was removed. This bill was opposed by both Republicans and Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Mayor Lightfoot criticized the bill as a "back room deal." Lightfoot says the bill will cost the City of Chicago an additional $18-30 million annually. The Chamber opposed this legislation.
Illinois Chamber Infrastructure Council Holds Spring Meeting
On Thursday, April 8th the Illinois Chamber Infrastructure Council held its annual Spring Meeting. This year's virtual event featured Senate Transportation Committee Chair Villivalam (D) and Republican Spokesman Dewitte (R). These two transportation leaders provided updates about the capital bill implementation, future transportation funding sources and how they think the remainder of session will play out.
Senator Fowler (R) also gave a presentation and answered questions during the event. In his update on the Cairo Port Project, Senator Fowler said the infrastructure investment will be the one of the biggest revitalizations of a depressed area in the United States. Aside from the potential economic boom, the impetus for the Cairo project is that 80 percent of all barge traffic in the nation passes through the region.
Also of note, Chairman Villivalam said that attendees should be on the lookout for design-build legislation introduced in the next week. The Spring Meeting is one of the Council's quarterly gatherings available for Infrastructure Members.
Legislation to Watch:
HB 415,Water Services was placed on the calendar for a second reading. This bill Provides that a public utility that provides both water and wastewater services may request in a general rate case proceeding that the Illinois Commerce Commission allocate a portion of the public utility's wastewater service revenue requirement for recovery through water service base rates, allocate a portion of the public utility's water service revenue requirement through wastewater base rates, or for the combination of that public utility's water service and wastewater service revenue requirements. Provides that as part of any proceeding, the public utility shall present evidence to establish, and the Commission shall consider, specified factors. Provides that if the Commission finds that an allocation or combination is in the public interest, the Commission shall enter an order approving such allocation or combination of the public utility's water and wastewater service revenue. Provides that the water service revenue requirement or wastewater service revenue requirement may not be increased by more than 3.5% through an allocation from the water service revenue requirement or wastewater service revenue requirement.
HB 2379, Small Cell Wireless was placed on the calendar for a second reading. This bill Amends the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act. Provides that the Act is repealed on December 31, 2026 (currently, June 1, 2021). The Chamber supports this bill.
HB 3431, Medical Cannabis, was placed on the calendar for a second reading. This bill provides that employers are not prohibited from adopting specified policies concerning medical cannabis by registered qualifying patients, including drug testing policies for such patients working in safety sensitive positions. Unless specified circumstances are met, prohibits employers from taking adverse action against registered qualifying patients who work in non-safety sensitive positions solely due to a positive drug test for medicinal cannabis. Defines "safety sensitive position". Provides that nothing in the Act prohibits an employer from enforcing a preemployment drug testing policy, zero-tolerance drug testing policy, random drug testing policy, or a drug free workplace policy (rather than only a workplace drug policy) or disciplining a registered qualifying patient for violating such a policy, provided that an employer shall not take adverse action against a registered qualifying patient in a non-safety sensitive position solely due to a positive drug test for medical cannabis (rather than due to a positive drug test for cannabis) unless specified criteria are met. Provides that there is not a cause of action for any person against an employer for disciplining or terminating the employment of a registered qualifying patient when enforcing a compliant policy. The Chamber supports this bill.
SB 300, BIPA Reform is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday. This bill provides that a right of action shall be commenced within one year after the cause of action accrued, if, prior to initiating any action against a private entity, the aggrieved person provides a private entity 30 days' written notice identifying the specific provisions of the Act the aggrieved person alleges have been or are being violated. Provides that if within the 30 days the private entity cures the noticed violation as to the person providing notice and provides the person providing notice an express written statement that the violations have been cured and that no further violations shall occur, no action for damages of any kind may be initiated by the person providing notice against the private entity. Provides that if a private entity continues to violate the Act in breach of the express written statement, the aggrieved person may initiate an action against the private entity to enforce the written statement and may pursue statutory damages for each breach of the express written statement, as well as any other violation of the Act that postdates the written statement. Provides that a prevailing party may recover: against a private entity that negligently violates the Act, actual damages (rather than liquidated damages of $1,000 or actual damages); or against a private entity that willfully (rather than intentionally or recklessly) violates the Act, actual damages plus liquidated damages up to the amount of actual damages (rather than liquidated damages of $5,000 or actual damages). Very similar to HB 559, the Chamber supports this bill.
SB 2041, Cannabis Impairment was assigned to the Senate Executive-Cannabis Committee. This bill Establishes standards with respect to cannabis for impairment sufficient to bar compensation for injuries to employees who are intoxicated. Provides that the presence of 5 nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol in the blood or 10 nanograms of tetrahydrocannabinol in other bodily substances shall create a rebuttable presumption that intoxication is the proximate cause of the injury. This bill is a Chamber Initiative.
Save The Date: Chamber Day
The Illinois Chamber will be hosting the annual Chamber Day event on April 14th-15th through a virtual format. View the link below for the necessary registration info. We hope to see you there!