The first week of the fall veto session ended with lawmakers on the Senate Executive Committee advancing legislation that would increase the state’s minimum wage to $11 over the next three years.
The Senate and the House of Representatives also acted on a number of gubernatorial vetoes; however, at the end of the first week, it seemed unlikely lawmakers will move forward on legislation that would tighten regulations on ride-sharing companies or move the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum from the auspices of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA).
Minimum wage increase moves through Senate
On November 19, Democrat legislative leaders pushed a measure through the Senate Executive Committee that would increase the minimum wage in Illinois from the current $8.25 per hour to $11 per hour by July 1, 2017.
The bill’s sponsor indicates she wants the legislation to be approved by the General Assembly before January 1.
Senate Bill 68 would increase Illinois’ minimum wage to $10 per hour on July 1, and incrementally increase it by an additional $.50 per hour over the next two years, bringing the minimum wage to $11 per hour by July 1, 2017.
Opponents of a minimum-wage increase underscore that increasing the minimum wage will hurt Illinois employers, resulting in layoffs and increased prices on goods and services. However, Governor Pat Quinn has long supported passage of an increase, and recently stated a minimum-wage hike is his top priority before leaving office in January.
While Governor-elect Bruce Rauner has also indicated he would support a minimum-wage increase, he has stressed that would only be if it was coupled with business-friendly concessions, including tort reform, tax reforms and workers’ compensation reforms. Rauner points out that these initiatives would help employers create more jobs, which will help them absorb the cost of the minimum-wage increase.
Republicans on the Executive Committee said a discussion on the minimum-wage increase is one that should be held when the new legislature and Illinois’ new governor have been sworn into office—not during the fall veto session, or a possible lame-duck session in January.
The Senate Executive Committee also advanced legislation (House Bill 5485) that would add staffing levels, also known as “manning,” to the list of mandatory subjects of collective bargaining for firefighters. If an agreement cannot be reached, the local government and the collective bargaining unit will be subject to binding arbitration.
Opponents stressed that if manning is imposed on a city, and that city gets into a budget squeeze, it could not reduce minimum staffing without the union’s agreement. As a result, the bill could force local governments to raise property taxes to pay for increased staffing levels. Firefighters note that manning is already contained in many municipal labor agreements across the state (including Chicago) and that this bill would not require, only continue to allow, an arbitrator to award manning during arbitration. Arbitrators can still choose not to award a request to insert manning into a union contract.
Many firefighters argue that understaffing has jeopardized public safety, and the safety of the firefighters, due to municipal budget troubles, which drives the need for the legislation. On November 20, House Bill 5485 was passed by a 42-11-4 vote in the Senate after a long debate. I voted against it, as did several other Republicans.
House education committees hold hearing on SB 16
On November 18, members of the House Elementary Committee and the House Elementary and Secondary Appropriations Committee held a joint hearing on Senate Bill 16, the controversial legislation that would significantly overhaul Illinois’ current school-funding formula.
At the lengthy hearing, proponents and opponents, including both superintendents and teachers from across the state, outlined what changes they believe are needed to make the measure palatable. House lawmakers agreed that the state’s system of education funding is in need of reform. However, after the discussion held during the Nov. 18 hearing, it seems that Senate Bill 16 would require significant revisions in order for the legislation to be approved by House lawmakers.
ALPLM separation from Historic Preservation Agency postponed
The House will postpone a decision to transition the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) to a stand-alone agency until results of a study on the issue are released. The report is scheduled to be delivered in mid-January, the product of a study panel convened to look into the management at the ALPLM and the IHPA. The issue of switching the ALPLM to a separate agency arose last spring following complaints from the board members who cited hiring issues and difficulty implementing new programs due to the structure of the IHPA.
Senate overrides Governor’s speed-limit veto
On November 20, the Senate voted 44-5-1 to override Governor Quinn’s veto of legislation I sponsored that increases the speed limit on Illinois toll highways to 70 miles-per-hour.
Governor Quinn vetoed Senate Bill 2015 on Aug. 26, citing evidence that tollway drivers already exceed the speed limit in many cases, which he said can lead to serious accidents. However, a recent study found that differential speeds between vehicles were actually more problematic.
The Governor is fond of saying “Let the will of the people be the law of the land,” yet he was quick to veto legislation that was sponsored by 36 Senators representing Chicago, suburban and downstate areas of Illinois. On November 20, a majority of my colleagues in the Senate joined me in overriding the Governor’s veto.
Senate Bill 2015 now moves to the House of Representatives for override consideration.
No action on ridesharing veto
The House sponsor of legislation that would have imposed new statewide regulations on ridesharing companies like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar said he would not be pursuing an override of the Governor’s veto of his legislation (HB 4075/HB 5331). Instead, he indicated he would work with interested parties to draft a new bill that would impose fewer, less burdensome regulations on the companies.
Other vetoed bills that were overridden by the Senate or House during the week include:
Construction Debris (HB 4606 – amendatory veto): Clarifies that facilities that accept only general construction 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.
Suburban Truck Speed Limit (SB 930 – veto): Provides that in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, the interstate speed limit for second division vehicles, such as a semi-truck, is 60 mph on interstate highways.
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.
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 Web site if the information is posted on the public body’s Web site. The bill was introduced as a way to help municipalities, which the bill’s sponsor stated sometimes receive “spiteful, harassing” Freedom of Information Requests.