Legislative Update: July 13, 2015

Democrats Continue Push for Unbalanced, Unconstitutional Budget
As the State of Illinois entered the second week of its fiscal year without a balanced budget in place, House Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton continued to take a piece-meal approach to the budget crisis.

Democrats again backed a temporary budget to fund certain services at a level that is not sustainable over the course of the entire fiscal year. SB 2040, passed by the bare minimum of 71 partisan Democrat votes in the House Thursday, does not contain one-month spending levels based on the projected FY16 revenue estimate of $32 billion. The Governor’s Office of Management and Budget believes this plan will ultimately require the expenditure of over $36 billion of GRF taxpayer resources for FY16. As approved, SB2040 marches the taxpayers of Illinois toward a $4 billion unbalanced budget, one month at a time.

On Thursday I expressed my disappointment in the lack of progress toward approval of a balanced budget. You can listen to my remarks here.

Three Different Courts Hear Case of State Employee Pay
Three different courts heard testimony last week about whether or not State employees should be paid during the budget impasse, and by the end of Thursday, there were two starkly different results.

On Tuesday, a Cook County circuit judge ordered that the Comptroller was not allowed to pay the full payroll to state employees without an appropriation. The same order allowed the Comptroller to pay eligible state employees the federal minimum wage pursuant to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. At the same time, the judge signed off on an agreed order that allowed the Comptroller to expend monies for non-appropriated funds, continuing appropriations, consent decrees and judicial operations.

The Comptroller, CMS and the unions appealed the first court order to the First District Appellate Court. A four judge panel issued a temporary restraining order staying the order to pay employees the federal minimum wage until the Appellate Court is fully able to rule on the appeal. The TRO also barred the Comptroller from paying the full payroll. In essence, the TRO prevents the Comptroller from paying any wages to state employees. The Court also provided for an expedited hearing process and should offer a ruling on the appeal no later than July 20th.

On Thursday, a St. Clair County circuit judge held a hearing on the matter filed by AFSCME and twelve other unions on the same issue of employee payroll. The unions argued that full payroll should be paid, even without an appropriation, because of the Contracts Clause of the Illinois Constitution. The St. Clair County judge, according to media reports, issued a verbal order that allows the Comptroller to process the full payroll for all State employees, based on the inability of the Comptroller to differentiate union employees from non-union employees. The Comptroller’s Office has indicated it will indeed process the full payroll, based on the order. The Attorney General’s Office has indicated it will appeal the order.

House Republicans Introduce Bill to Ensure State Workers Get Paid
Last week I signed on as a sponsor of HB 4245, which designates pay for State workers as a “continuing appropriation,” a category that legally outranks the lack of a formal State budget. Enactment of HB 4245 would ensure that State and public university employees would be paid on July 15 and succeeding pay periods throughout FY16. Shortly after signing on as a sponsor, I spoke about the importance of the legislation. You can listen to that interview here.

HB 4245 covers all State agencies, the offices of constitutional officers such as the Secretary of State, State universities, community colleges, and a wide variety of ancillary agencies and offices in which payroll expenses are supported by State appropriations. Many House Republicans co-sponsored HB 4245 and the measure was fully supported by Governor Rauner.

Chief bill sponsor Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer took to the House floor Thursday to push for a fair hearing on his legislation to ensure State workers continue to receive their paychecks. Unfortunately, House Democrats chose to block the bill, and refused to release it from the House Rules Committee.

Governor Rauner, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin File Revised Turnaround Illinois Plans
As a signal to voters that the continued Illinois budget impasse only increases the evidence that substantial reforms are needs, Leader Durkin and Governor Rauner worked together this week to refile and re-launch “Turnaround Illinois.” This package of five key reform measures represents movement together fulfilling of the issues platform that the people of Illinois supported in November 2014 when they voted for Governor Rauner.

The planks of the Turnaround Illinois platform filed this week include tort reform (HB 4246); a two-year freeze on Illinois property tax extensions (HB 4247); workers’ compensation reform (HB 4248); term limits for elected State officials (HJRCA 41), and nonpartisan redistricting (HJRCA 42).

New Rules Ban Outdoor Smoking on Illinois College, University Campuses
The Illinois Smoke-Free Campus Act took full effect on Wednesday, July 1 at community colleges and State universities throughout Illinois. The law, which is implemented through local university and college boards of trustees, forbids smoking and the use of any tobacco product on campus.

The Smoke-Free Campus Act was enacted by the General Assembly in spring 2014 as SB 2202. The ban was given a July 1, 2015 effective date so as to give colleges and universities ample time to prepare implementation of the measure. Signs banning outdoor smoking are now familiar sights in Illinois public higher education. The move follows up on the actions of many individual Illinois boards of trustees and university/college presidents who have taken action on their own to ban outdoor campus smoking. The University of Illinois banned outdoor smoking at Urbana-Champaign on January 1, 2014.

Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, an advocacy group, reports that as of July 1, 2015, there are now 1,577 campuses throughout the United States that are described as “100% smokefree.” 1,078 of these campuses also ban nonsmoking tobacco products.

General Assembly Sends Concealed Carry Trailer Bill to Governor
In spite of the budget division in Springfield, there are many issues that continue to receive bipartisan attention from the Illinois General Assembly. The concealed carry trailer bill is a spring 2015 measure that looks at and solves many of the glitches affecting the 2013 Firearm Concealed Carry Act.

Concentrating on issues that involve the interaction between an armed citizen and a member of law enforcement or a member of emergency services personnel, SB 836 describes what members of each group should do during these encounters. For example, this bill clarifies that if a citizen licensed to carry a concealed firearm is contacted by law enforcement or emergency responders, the officer may secure the firearm or direct that it be secured during the duration of the contact.

The House vote to pass SB 836, as amended, was 84-23-3. House Republicans Ed Sullivan, John Anthony, and John Cavaletto co-sponsored the measure, which is expected to be signed into law soon.

Waters Continue to Rise in Illinois
Heavy summer rains continue to worsen floodwater conditions. Water is standing in many farm fields, leading to severe crop damage for many farm owners and operators. This was the wettest June in Illinois history, with an average of 8.91 inches of rain falling. More rain fell in early July.

Conditions are especially challenging in the Peoria area, where the Illinois River is running well above its banks. Many bottomland parcels are devoted to camping and boating, but these activities have been disrupted or ruined in summer 2015. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency continues to coordinate disaster relief efforts.