We all know every spring in our area, flooding is a major concern. We saw that first hand last year along the Illinois River. I am proud to say our communities are taking a proactive approach right now, to make sure our communities stay safe. Earlier this week, we held our Flood Fighting School in Ottawa. I was joined by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, LaSalle County Emergency Management, the City of Ottawa, and dozens of other community leaders.
We learned about proper sandbag preparation, how to build a sandbag structure, how to fight flooding properly, common failures, levee management, and what new products are on the market right now that we can purchase to keep rising flood waters out of our communities. I hope we take advantage of some of these products as they make fighting floods easier, require less man power, and are much easier to take away once the flood waters receded.
The goal is simple: be prepared now and know how to properly fight flooding, so when our rivers start to rise, which we know they eventually will, we can save lives, property, homes, and our infrastructure. I want to thank all who came out to our Flood Fighting School and am very happy our leaders are staying one step ahead in our efforts to prevent flooding because we all know it’s not a matter of if a flood will hit our area, it’s a matter of when.
Above: Senator Rezin speaks at the Flood Fighting School
Senate Week in Review:
Though an extension of the tax increase was all but assured during the fall veto or a lame-duck session if Pat Quinn had won re-election, conventional wisdom dictates Democrat leaders in the House and Senate will not be quick to act on an extension of the increase given Quinn’s recent defeat. Their 2011 tax hike is scheduled to begin phase-out on January 1; however, Democrat legislative majorities will likely force the new Governor to lay out his own plan to balance the budget without the additional tax revenues. Opponents of the tax increase extension note the measure faces Republican opposition, and emphasized passing major initiatives with support from “lame duck” legislators is poor public policy.
The most prominent and controversial policy issue percolating in the Capitol is a possible increase of the minimum wage. Legislation (SB 68) is poised to move in the Senate that would increase the state’s minimum wage from the current $8.25 per hour to $10.65 per hour by 2016.
Quinn has long-supported passage of an increase, and recently stated a minimum wage hike is his top priority before leaving office in January. Governor-elect Bruce Rauner has also indicated he would support a minimum wage increase, though only if coupled with business-friendly concessions, including tort reform, tax reforms and workers’ compensation reforms.
Heading into the fall session, the future of the initiative is unclear. Proponents of a minimum wage increase point to the results of an advisory referendum on minimum wage that was placed on the November 4 ballot, and which garnered significant support from Illinois voters. However, minimum wage opponents contend that increasing the minimum wage will hurt Illinois employers, resulting in lay-offs and increased prices on goods and services.
Illinois currently has the seventh highest minimum wage in the United States, which is an additional dollar-per-hour more than the standing federal minimum wage.
Senate Bill 16 Subject Matter Hearing Nov. 18
Following months of public debate and discussion surrounding Senate Bill 16, an education funding reform plan that would completely rewrite Illinois’ school-aid formula, a subject matter hearing has been scheduled for November 18 at 3:00 p.m. before a joint meeting of the House Appropriations-Elementary & Secondary Education Committee and House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
During the spring legislative session, Senate Bill 16 passed the Senate 32-19-6 and currently awaits further consideration in the House.
Recently, State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), Senate Bill 16 Chief House Sponsor and chairperson of the House Elementary & Secondary Education Committee, indicated she does not intend the call the bill to a vote in its current form. However, this hearing suggests that Senate Bill 16, or some version of the legislation, could be called during a January lame-duck session.
This year, Gov. Quinn vetoed just 11 of the 243 Senate Bills and 268 House Bills sent to the Governor’s desk for consideration. Notably, the Governor vetoed bills that would have established regulations for ridesharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar and brought uniformity to speed limits on Interstates and toll highways.
On the ridesharing issue, vetoes were issued on two bills, House Bill 4075 and House Bill 5331. Both dealt with the competition between traditional taxi companies and new startups, like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, which offer rides to customers who connect through smart phone applications.
House Bill 4075 imposed new statewide regulations on the companies. Proponents argued that the requirements were needed to assure customer safety by establishing insurance requirements and banning agreements that exempt the companies from liability.
Opponents argued that the legislation was a thinly-veiled effort by traditional taxi companies to protect their business and shut out competition from the ridesharing companies.
While the original measure imposed greater restrictions on drivers who worked more than 18 hours a week, the companion bill, House Bill 5331, allowed drivers to “bank” that time, so that they could work more hours during weeks when special events occurred without triggering the higher restrictions.
Gov. Quinn vetoed both measures, claiming regulation of these types of services needs to remain at the local level. He stated that statewide regulation should be initiated only when it becomes evident that the issues cannot be properly address by local governments.
Speed Limit Veto
Also vetoed was Senate Bill 2015, a follow-up measure to legislation that raised the speed limit on Interstate highways in Illinois to 70 mph in January, which is consistent with most other states, including almost all Midwestern states.
Senate Bill 2015 would have brought the state’s Toll Highway system in the Chicago region up to the same 70 mph standard.
In vetoing the measure, the Governor argued that studies show more than 90 percent of tollway drivers exceed the speed limit by 11-15 miles per hour during non-rush hour times. However, proponents of the increase said that the statistics cited by the Governor actually make the case that the existing speed limit is too low and said it would make more sense to bring the speed limit up to a more reasonable level and enforce that higher speed limit.
The following bills were also vetoed by the Governor:
Travel Insurance (SB 2590 – Governor Vetoed): Allows “travel insurance” to be sold by a licensed business enterprise or travel retailer subject to certain conditions.
The amendatory veto was issued citing technical issues that need to be resolved, noting relevant parties need additional time to work on the legislation.
Voluminous Requests (HB 3796 – Amendatory Veto): Amends the Freedom of Information Act to provide a process for handling "voluminous requests," to allow for recovery of personnel costs to review documents for redactions of a commercial request, and to allow a public body to refer a requester to their website if the information is posted on the public body's website.
The legislation was vetoed by the Governor, who contended it reduces government transparency by limiting the ability of citizens to seek public records, and it would make it more difficult for citizens to obtain a large volume of records, slowing the process for individuals who lack electronic means to request or obtain information.
Construction Debris (HB 4606 – Amendatory Veto): Clarifies that facilities that accept only general construction or demolition or demolition debris and operate in accordance with the Environmental Protection Act are not considered a "pollution control facility." Identical to SB 2944 which passed unanimously.
The amendatory veto provides that the new demolition debris waste facility applicant must notify the local county newspapers about the site. Further, the EPA must accept written comments concerning the permit application for the site.
Anatomic Pathology (SB 1630 – Amendatory Veto): Spells out billing practices of “anatomic pathology services. Clarifies exemptions and specifies there is no prohibition against a referring physician, who takes a patient specimen, from charging a patient or a payer an acquisition or processing charge. Anatomic pathology is a medical specialty that is concerned with the diagnosis of disease based on the gross, microscopic, chemical, immunologic and molecular examination of organs, tissues, and whole bodies.
The amendatory veto adds language regarding enforcement of markups by physicians, giving the Dept. of Financial and Professional Regulation the explicit authority to discipline a physician for improper markup of a bill including: license revocation, suspension or non-renewal. Also adds language to stipulate physician choice in lab services be made clear in billing.
Condominium Non-Payments (SB 2664 – Amendatory Veto): Creates a “clear and fair” formula/calculation for how much a person who purchases a distressed condo (or condos) owes in backdated assessments. Limits the amount of time that a purchaser must pay in fees/liens to no more than nine months.
The amendatory veto requires the real-estate owned lender to pay for any special assessments that have been previously assessed and attorney’s fees that have been incurred because of the prior owner’s default.
Water/Sewer Connections (SB 3507 – Amendatory Veto): Limits connection fees charged by township and municipal waterworks and sewage systems to 1/6 of the annual rate of the estimated annual charges for that class of service.
The amendatory veto removes municipalities from the bill.
Capitol Building Upgrades (HB 3793 – Item Veto): Fiscal Year 2015 budget measure that includes capitol construction appropriations.
The only veto of the FY15 budget, the Governor used his power to line item veto a $250 million “Other Funds” appropriations for Capitol building upgrades.