SPRINGFIELD, IL – It was a rollercoaster week in the Illinois Statehouse, beginning with the Governor’s veto of controversial “binding arbitration” legislation. Though the atmosphere turned momentarily hopeful with talk of momentum on a potential budget compromise that would include reforms pushed by Republican lawmakers and the Governor, Democrats are still seemingly reluctant to fully embrace commonsense reforms—continuing to focus instead on hiking taxes on working families.
As the General Assembly approaches the scheduled May 31 adjournment date, the Senate advanced a number of proposals, including another Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) grant measure that once again lacks any funding mechanism.
The Senate also approved legislation 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.
In other news, Secretary of State Jesse White rolled out his plan for a centralized processing system for driver’s licenses and state identification cards.
Budget talks continue, reform compromise remains elusive
Republican and Democrat legislative leaders met with the Governor this 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, that proposal is seemingly dead in the water 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. While Senate Republican lawmakers have acknowledged a willingness to discuss additional revenues, they 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 government.
The closed-door meeting allowed the legislative leaders to discuss difficult topics facing the state. At the conclusion of the meeting, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) noted that while she was hopeful that a compromise can be negotiated prior to the scheduled May 31 legislative adjournment date, she was skeptical that Speaker Madigan was truly willing to accept any of the good government reform proposals the Governor and Republican lawmakers say must be part of a budget compromise.
Her skepticism was legitimized with the Speaker’s press release shortly after the meeting in which he once again stated that reforming Illinois is not a priority that should be connected to the budget.
More empty promises for MAP recipients
Democrats pushed forward with 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 more than $227 million for MAP grants. This increases MAP funding by nearly 10 percent, to the tune of $397.1 million, but lacks any revenue stream.
Senate Republicans once again criticized the measure for giving false hope to students, and instead advocated for passage of 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 actual ways to fund the schools and programs, it was stripped of its language in the House and never called for a vote.
It’s unlikely the legislation will be signed into law—Gov. Bruce Rauner has vetoed similar spending bills that lack the necessary funding.
Daily Fantasy Sports regulation
Popular online fantasy sports gaming websites, 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 Illinois Senate. However, the proposal’s future is uncertain—following the vote, a procedural maneuver was filed that placed the proposal on hold and prevented it from moving forward to the House.
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.
Senate passes 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.
Opponents raised concerns about voter fraud and voter eligibility. Some critics also underscored their belief that voter eligibility should actually be tightened in Illinois, with voters required to provide photo identification before registering.
Proponents argued that this will increase efficiency, improve the reliability of the information in the voter rolls and encourage participation in the electoral process.
The General Assembly is adjourned until May 23, making that the earliest the bill could be considered by the House.
Governor vetoes latest attempt at AFSCME arbitration bill
A second attempt pushed by Democrat leaders to change the process of negotiating labor agreements was once again vetoed by Gov. Rauner on May 16.
This spring Democrats revived previous efforts, known as a controversial “binding arbitration” measure, to place the process of determining the outcome of taxpayer-paid, multi-billion-dollar labor agreements between the Governor and state employee unions in the hands of an unelected arbitrator.
Republican lawmakers largely voted against House Bill 580, which removes a duly-elected Governor from union negotiations in the event of a contract dispute. Critics of the proposal noted it is the job of the Governor, elected by the people of Illinois, to negotiate in good faith as a representative of the taxpayers.
Additionally, locally-elected union representatives would also be removed from the process, and critics questioned a provision in the legislation that would have removed the union’s ability to strike.
Not only was the proposal estimated to cost taxpayers up to $3 billion over the next four years, the motives behind the legislation were questionable—it would only apply to Gov. Rauner’s term in office.
An identical measure (Senate Bill 1229) was advanced by legislative Democrats in late 2015, but it failed to become law after Democrats couldn’t muster enough support to override Gov. Rauner’s veto of the legislation.
Secretary of State Jesse White rolls out centralized issuing of driver’s licenses
Beginning this month, Illinois residents will get a newly designed driver’s license and a new process to obtain or renew their old one. Under the new process, called Central Issuance, customers at Secretary of State Driver Service facilities will no longer immediately be issued a new permanent driver’s license/ID card at the end of the application process.
Over the course of the next four years, Illinois drivers renewing their licenses will be following new procedures to phase out the old cards. When it comes time to renew, the driver will receive a temporary paper driver’s license, along with their old one that has a hole punched in it, while the state checks the information for fraud.
Applicants whose information checks out will receive their driver’s license within 15 business days.
The redesigned card contains enhanced security features to safeguard personal information, prevent counterfeiting, and protect individuals from identity theft.
Fees for the new design will remain the same.
For more information on the new driver’s license and procedures, visit http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/special/central-issuance/CIDL-brochure.pdf.