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Annual State of State address is January 31

Lawmakers are preparing to return to the Capitol next week for the beginning of the 2018 legislative session, which includes the annual State of the State address January 31.

During the week, lawmakers continued to hear testimony and gather information on the issue of legalizing recreational cannabis, and legislation has been filed aimed at closing the gender wage gap.

State of the State

The Senate is scheduled to meet January 30 and 31, and February 1, with the Governor’s State of the State Address set for January 31 during a joint session in the House of Representatives.  While Governor Bruce Rauner hasn’t made any public statements on what specifically will be included in his annual speech, Governors typically use the event to paint a picture of both the current status of state government and their plans moving forward.  The Governor will return to the House for another joint session on February 14 for the annual budget address, which will mark the start of the annual budget-making process.

Spring Legislative Session

The beginning of the spring legislative session is the annual restart of the lawmaking process.  Lawmakers in both chambers are filing new bills, which will continue up until the February 16 deadline for new, substantive, non-appropriations legislation (not budget or spending bills).  Bills will then be assigned to committees for hearings before advancing to the floor in either chamber.  Bills must then pass out of a committee in the originating chamber before the deadline of April 13. Legislation that passes in one chamber will then head to the other chamber for passage on or before a deadline of April 25.  The deadlines may be extended in either chamber.

Appropriations legislation (budget or spending bills) do not have the same deadlines and are often passed in the final days before scheduled adjournment on May 31.  Senate Republicans maintain their commitment for the upcoming Spring Legislative session to fight for commonsense reforms that will help improve government effectiveness, efficiency and accountability while helping to improve the state’s lagging economy and grow good-paying jobs.

Closing the wage gap

Many jobs continue to pay women less than their male counterparts who are performing the same job duties.  One Republican Senator plans to re-file legislation aimed at helping to close the wage gap between men and women.  Senator Michael Connelly of Naperville has filed Senate Bill 2333, which would make it illegal for employers to ask their employees or job applicants about their previous wage or salary history.

The legislation is based on a Massachusetts law passed in 2016, which in addition to banning requests for salary history, also promotes the use of employer-driven self-evaluation plans that would help individual employers to monitor their pay practices and fix any disparities that are not based on merit, seniority, production, or level of education.

Senate Bill 2333 is identical to legislation (Senate Bill 1039) filed by Senator Connelly last year, which was not allowed a committee hearing.

Recreational marijuana hearing

Lawmakers from both the Senate and House held the fourth in a series of committee hearings to discuss the possibility of legalizing and taxing cannabis for recreational use in Illinois.  Members of the Senate Appropriations I and Public Health Committees met in Chicago with the House Appropriations – Public Safety, Health & Healthcare Disparities, and Mental Health Committees to discuss the topic.

A number of elected officials and organizations spoke for and against the idea. Testimony in support of the idea included the Cook County Board President and the president of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, while testimony against the plan included a doctor from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health along with a former Drug Enforcement Administration administrator.

Supporters argued that legalization could generate $300 million to $700 million annually in tax revenue for the state while helping to eliminate the black market for marijuana and the crime associated with the illicit trade.  Opponents’ arguments point to the potential for increasing drug use among young people and the possibility of marijuana serving as a gateway to more addictive and dangerous drugs.

The joint hearing focused specifically on the language currently contained in Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353, which would likely be amended before passage and could potentially be voted on as soon as the spring legislative session.  Many supporters, however, believe that concrete action on the topic is unlikely until 2019.

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