Facing an April 11 deadline to move their bills to the House of Representatives, Senate lawmakers spent much of their time during the week in committees or voting on legislation on the Senate floor.
Also during the week, Senate Republican legislators took Governor Pat Quinn to task for using a legal loophole to avoid scrutiny of some of his appointees, and GOP lawmakers unveiled a comprehensive package of legislation to jump-start Illinois’ economy and create jobs.
In other action, despite speculation that Democrat leaders were planning to quickly move a controversial plan through the Legislature to tackle Chicago’s pension crisis, that measure stalled in the House.
Governor Quinn abusing executive privilege with appointments
Senate Republican legislators this week pointed to evidence Governor Quinn has been abusing his executive privilege to maneuver around the Illinois Constitution. When the Governor nominates an individual for a position, the Illinois Constitution sets a clock of 60 session days for action by the Senate or the person is automatically confirmed.
Recently facing an April 4 deadline for two of his agency directors, Governor Quinn withdrew their names from nomination on March 27. He then resubmitted their names on March 28, thereby restarting the 60-day period again, which in effect gives them another year before they have to face Senate scrutiny. Senate Republicans say setting aside any concerns they may have about the appointees, they believe the Governor is abusing the integrity of the executive appointment process.
The two directors currently up for reappointment are Julie Hamos, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and Manuel Flores, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
An amendment to Senate Bill 2014 has been filed that will close the loophole and prevent the 60-day clock from restarting by simply withdrawing an appointee and reappointing them.
Senate Republicans are also sponsoring a resolution calling for the modification of Senate Rules so the 60-day clock will not be allowed to be reset. The Caucus will also be asking the Attorney General to give an opinion on the meaning of the 60-day clock, and to clarify the legal effect of any actions taken by these appointees during the time period the original appointment messages were pending.
Senate, House GOP unveil jobs plan
Senate and House Republicans came together during the week to advance a comprehensive legislative package to jump-start the Illinois economy and create jobs.
Noting that last week Democrat leaders proposed three different tax increases as a way to generate new revenues for the state, GOP lawmakers pointed out that these proposals do nothing to help the nearly 570,000 individuals collecting unemployment in Illinois to find jobs. In response, Republicans sought input from business leaders with the goal of encouraging business development and job growth in Illinois at very little cost to taxpayers.
The lawmakers said Illinois needs to steer clear of tax hikes and focus on policies that will stimulate economic development, encouraging revenue growth through the creation of jobs. They also noted that a key component of the jobs plan would be to establish primary causation for workers’ compensation to lower costs and make Illinois’ employers more competitive with neighboring states.
Other provisions of the Senate and House Republicans Jobs Plan include:
· Make the research and development tax credit permanent.
· Authorize the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to establish 50 new Enterprise Zones.
· Reduce the cost of setting up an LLC in Illinois from $750 (currently) to $39. (This proposal was approved in the Senate and is now before the House.)
· Expand the reach of science, technology, engineering, and math education opportunities in Illinois by creating STEM academies within the confines of local schools.
Chicago pension bail-out halted in House
It appeared as though Democrat leaders were quickly moving a plan through the Legislature during the week to tackle Chicago’s pension crisis; however, in the face of opposition from lawmakers of both parties, the General Assembly adjourned without advancing the bill.
Backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Senate Bill 1922 would increase property taxes in the city as a way to pay down some of the city’s growing pension obligations. The bill would also require members of the municipal employees’ and laborers’ retirement systems to pay more into the pension systems, and would reduce cost-of-living benefits.
However, Republicans noted that property owners in Chicago already benefit from significant property tax breaks compared to downstaters. By using a property-tax reduction program proposed March 26 by Governor Quinn, which would be financed through an extension of the Democrat leaders’ 67 percent income tax increase, downstate and suburban residents would be subsidizing the costs associated with Chicago’s pension bail-out, while also giving Chicago residents greater tax relief.
Senate passes legislation in anticipation of April 11 deadline
Senate lawmakers passed more than 100 bills during the week, sending them to the House for review. The House will either approve the bills and send them to the Governor for final consideration, or amend the bills and send them back to the Senate for concurrence on those changes. Sometimes Senate bills get held in the House and do not advance at all.
A list of legislation passed by the Senate and Senate committees is available at our caucus’ “Senate Action” page.