A rollercoaster week in the General Assembly
was buoyed by talk of momentum on a potential budget compromise including reforms
pushed by Republican leaders, then tempered by the reluctance of Democrat
leaders to fully embrace commonsense reforms—continuing to focus instead on
hiking taxes on working families.
In other action, the Senate advanced another Monetary Assistance Program
(MAP) grant measure that once again lacks any funding mechanism; debated the
benefits of regulating daily fantasy sports in Illinois, and advanced
legislation that would automatically register residents to vote when they
utilize certain state services.
Budget talks continue, reform compromise remains elusive
Republican and Democrat legislative leaders met with the Governor during
the week to discuss the potential for compromise on the budget and reform
proposals. As the state quickly approaches what would be a full fiscal year
without a budget, some Democrat legislative leaders have indicated a balanced
budget may never be approved.
The meeting of the leaders and the Governor occurred after a dedicated
group of legislators presented a budget framework to the leadership that
included spending cuts, government reforms, and potential revenue increases.
However, the future of that proposal is uncertain after remarks made by
House Speaker Michael Madigan, who implied many Democrat lawmakers would find
$5.4 billion in tax increases “inadequate.” Madigan has consistently panned
reform efforts, instead pushing for tax hikes. Senate Republican lawmakers have
maintained that they won’t consider any revenue enhancements without good-government
reforms to create jobs, reduce bureaucracy, and target waste and fraud in
More empty promises for MAP recipients
Democrat leaders have pushed forward yet another appropriation for MAP
grants for college students, advancing legislation to the Governor over
objections from Republicans who pointed out that the proposal once again lacks
the revenue to actually fund the program.
Speaker Madigan introduced House Bill 4167, which would direct an
additional $227 million for MAP grants, but lacks any revenue stream to fund
It’s unlikely that House Bill 4167 will be signed into law—Governor Bruce
Rauner has vetoed similar spending bills that lack the necessary funding.
Senate Republicans once again criticized the measure for giving false
hope to students, and instead advocated for a bipartisan bill passed
unanimously in the Senate in early May that included $454 million in additional
funding for all higher education entities, including MAP grants. Though
Senate Bill 2048 included a revenue source, it was stripped of its language in
the House and never called for a vote.
Daily Fantasy Sports regulation
Popular online fantasy sports gaming Web sites, such as DraftKings and
FanDuel, drew attention on May 19 when an effort to regulate daily fantasy
sports in Illinois passed by a narrow margin in the Senate.
House Bill 3655 establishes regulations for the fantasy sports gaming
industry by instituting strict guidelines, including setting a minimum age
of 21 for players, banning college and amateur-level sports from fantasy play,
prohibiting players from having more than one account and restricting the number
of contest entries one person can participate in. The legislation also
prohibits personnel that work in the daily fantasy sports industry from
participating on any fantasy sport platform. Additionally, athletes would be
prohibited from playing, and companies could not advertise on college campuses.
The Illinois Gaming Board would oversee the contests.
Opponents expressed concerns that these fantasy sports gaming sites
wouldn’t be held to standards imposed on other gaming entities in the state,
which are also overseen by the Illinois Gaming Board.
In several states, these contests have been deemed illegal, prompting
lawmakers across the country to try and establish regulations. Illinois
Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an advisory opinion in December noting her
opinion that betting through sites like DraftKings and FanDuel is illegal.
Automatic voter registration
Under legislation passed by the
Senate May 19, Illinois residents will be automatically registered to vote when
they get a driver’s license, update their driver’s license information or
conduct a transaction with the Department of Human Services, Department of
Healthcare and Family Services, Department of Employment Security, or
Department on Aging. The State Board of Elections will have the ability to add
other state government agencies to this list in the future.
Currently, when an Illinois
resident conducts business with one of these agencies, the person is asked if
he or she wants to register to vote. If the person does, their voter registration
application is processed. This is known as an “opt-in” process.
Under Senate Bill 250, the
person’s information will automatically be transferred to the State Board of
Elections and then to the local election authority for purposes of completing a
voter registration application or updating the person’s voter registration
information. The local election authority will contact the person by mail to
give the person an opportunity to “opt out” of voter registration. If the
person does not opt out, he or she will be registered to vote.
I raised concerns about voter
fraud and Senator Kyle McCarter raised concerns about voter eligibility. I
suggested I could support this legislation if it were coupled with efforts to
reduce voter fraud in Illinois, such as requiring a photo ID when you vote, as
many states such as Florida already do.
Senate Bill 250 now moves to the
House for consideration.