State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Vandalia) voiced his concerns after Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker unveiled his budget proposal on Feb. 19. Sen. Plummer was highly critical of the budget plan which calls for $1.6 billion in new spending and holds funding for priorities, such as education, health care and public safety, contingent on the approval of his tax increase.
As the spring legislative session gets underway in earnest, a number of new pieces of legislation have been filed including a bill that would change a process that too often leaves citizens waiting for treatment due to insurance coverage requirements. Other legislation recently filed includes a proposal to exempt overtime wages from the income tax and a bill that would recognize recipients of the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
Governor proposes $1.6 billion in new spending in budget address
Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled his budget proposal in an address before the General Assembly on Feb. 19, seeking $1.6 billion in new spending which relies on getting the Governor’s income tax increase approved.
“Governor Pritzker has proposed $1.6 billion in new spending predicated on a new tax increase that will harm those I represent in the 54th District,” said State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Vandalia). “The problem isn’t a lack of revenue. The problem is a lack of fiscal restraint.”
Lawmakers expressed concerns that in order to fund $1.4 billion for priorities like schools, health care and public safety, the Governor’s tax increase must be approved. Under the state’s revamped school funding formula from 2017, the state is statutorily required to increase school funding by $350 million a year. Under Pritzker’s proposal, only $200 million is guaranteed, leaving $150 million in school funding in jeopardy.
Sen. Plummer argued after the address that what Illinoisans need is more fiscal leadership and responsibility, not more reckless spending and unwarranted taxes.
New reforms would reduce medical care delays
New legislation has been filed that would change a healthcare process that currently leaves many Illinois residents waiting for medical treatment because of insurance coverage requirements.
Illinois patients often have medical care delayed or denied because of their health plans' use of a process called prior authorization. Senate Bill 3822, also known as the Prior Authorization Reform Act, is a bipartisan solution that supporters say will bring much-needed transparency and streamlining to prior authorization requirements.
Health insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers use prior authorization to cut costs, requiring health professionals to do extra paperwork before their recommended patient care is approved. Even when authorization is granted, too often insurance companies later deny payment for medical care they approved.
Prior authorization requirements are often not based on clinically valid criteria, and are administered by individuals who lack relevant qualifications. The Prior Authorization Reform Act would make sure prior authorization requirements are based on medical evidence and administered by qualified individuals.
Senate Bill 3822 has been introduced in the Senate and awaits assignment to a legislative committee where it will receive a public hearing.
Overtime wages not taxable under new bill
Illinois residents who work overtime would find some tax relief under recently filed legislation that would exempt overtime wages from the state income tax.
Senate Bill 3695 would create a deduction on any overtime wages earned in Illinois. Wages earned in excess to a taxpayer’s regular monthly or weekly salary would be exempt from the state income tax.
The state income tax on overtime wages would still be withheld from an individual’s paycheck; however, when that person goes to file their taxes for that year, they would receive a deduction equal to the amount of taxes paid on overtime wages.
Supporters of the measures say it’s the least that can be done for hard-working Illinoisans who already face high tax burdens.
Air Force Combat veterans would be honored under new bill
Recipients of the Air Force Combat Action Medal could be recognized on Illinois license plates under newly filed legislation.
Senate Bill 2518 creates the Air Force Combat Action Medal license plate and allows the Secretary of State to issue them to eligible drivers. The new plate would join numerous others created to recognize military service and awards, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Navy Service Cross, among others. The existing Combat Action Badge plate is offered for Army recipients of that medal, which is very similar to the Air Force’s Combat Action Medal.
This week, State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Vandalia) is continuing his push for independence in the legislative map-drawing process. Sen. Plummer has signed on as a co-sponsor of a new constitutional amendment, which would place a question on the ballot to allow for the creation of a new, independent commission, taking the process of drawing legislative districts out of the hands of sitting lawmakers.
In other news, a dozen historic sites in Illinois have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, including one in Alton, Illinois.
Additionally, nominations are now being accepted for the Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal is reminding older Illinoisans about the importance of fire safety.
Senate Republican lawmakers join bipartisan push to pass Fair Maps amendment
This week, it was announced that a bipartisan group of lawmakers are coming together to file a new constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 18, which would take sitting legislators out of Illinois’ legislative map-drawing process and prevent them from drawing their own districts.
SJRCA 18 includes the following provisions:
- Establishes an independent, 17-member commission appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court, who is charged with drawing the Congressional and General Assembly maps.
- Seven commission members will be nominated from each political party and three commission members will not be affiliated with either political party.
- Allows the public to provide comment and submit maps during the map drawing process for consideration by the Commission.
Senator Plummer, who is a proponent for changing the system for drawing legislative maps, contends that this proposal is the first step in rooting out government corruption and would send a strong message to Illinoisans that the status quo in Springfield is no longer acceptable.
In order for SJRCA 18 to be placed on the ballot this General Election, the full General Assembly must pass it no later than May 3, 2020.
Illinois sites added to National Register of Historic Places
A dozen sites in Illinois have been added to the National Register of Historic Places of 2019 based on recommendations from the State Historic Preservation Office.
The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of properties that merit special attention and preservation. Every Illinois county has at least one property or historic district listed in the National Register. To be eligible, properties must be more than 50 years old.
The 2019 additions are:
- Chicago Municipal Tuberculosis Sanitarium District, Chicago, Cook County
- Copley Hospital, Aurora, Kane County
- First Congregational Church, Des Plaines, Des Plaines, Cook County
- Louis Fredrick House Barrington Hills, Lake County
- The Forum, Chicago, Cook County
- Leaning Tower of Niles, Niles, Cook County
- Lilacia Park Historic District, Lombard, Du Page County
- Alton Gas and Electric Powerhouse, Alton, Madison County
- Downtown Urbana Historic District, Urbana, Champaign County
- Hunziker Winery Site, Warsaw, Hancock County
- Paris High School and Gymnasium, Paris, Edgar County
- Rollo Congregational United Church of Christ, Earlville vicinity, De Kalb County
Nominations open for Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame
Nominations are now being accepted for the 2020 Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame awards hosted by the Illinois Department on Aging.
The Senior Illinoisans Hall of Fame was created by the Illinois General Assembly in 1994 to honor Illinois residents ages 65 and older for their personal achievements in four separate categories; Community Service, Education, Labor Force and Performance & Graphic Arts.
The Illinois Department on Aging will be accepting nominations now through May 31.
For more information and to download a nomination form, click here.
OSFM stresses importance of fire safety for older Illinoisans
The Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) is reminding older Illinoisans about the importance of fire safety.
People over the age of 65 face the greatest risk of dying in a fire. In 2018, 44% out of the 118 fire deaths in Illinois were people over the age of 60. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), on average, over 1,000 Americans 65 and older die in home fires with the leading cause of these deaths is careless smoking.
OSFM says to keep these tips in mind to create a fire safe home:
- Know two ways out of every room. Practice using both ways.
- Remove any items that may block your way out of the room or your home.
- Discuss your fire escape plan with family and neighbors. Contact your building manager or fire department to discuss your plan if you need extra help escaping.
- Keep eyeglasses, keys, hearing aids and a phone within reaching next to your bed.
- Practice your home fire escape drill twice a year.
Tax season has begun as federal and state W-2 forms arrive in the mail, but according to the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR), thousands of eligible taxpayers fail to claim both the Illinois Earned Income Credit (EIC) and the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
IDOR acting Director David Harris says those taxpayers are missing out on thousands of dollars.
Anyone eligible for the federal EITC automatically qualifies for the Illinois EIC, which is a refundable tax credit worth up to 18 percent of a taxpayer's federal claim. However, IDOR says nearly 20,000 Illinoisans claimed a federal EITC credit without also claiming the state EIC, leaving more than $5 million unclaimed.
To be eligible for the tax credit programs, taxpayers must meet certain income and residency qualifications and file a tax return, even if they do not owe any tax or are not required to file. To find out if your family qualifies for the credit, visit the Internal Revenue Service's EITC Assistant.
Those wanting to purchase firearms would no longer need to possess a FOID card under legislation filed recently. Senate Bill 2535 would repeal the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Act, which supporters of the bill say is outdated and redundant.
“The reality is, the requirement of FOID cards was a bureaucratic push to make it harder for Illinois residents to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” said State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville). “We should be seeking ways to prevent criminals from accessing firearms, not adding to the red tape, costs and hurdles placed on law-abiding gun owners.”
The FOID Act was created in 1968 as a way to identify people who were eligible to own firearms as part of a public-safety initiative in Illinois to meet the requirements of the federal Gun Control Act of 1968. However, with updated technology allowing for the use of instant background checks, the bill’s sponsors say the FOID card serves no real purpose.
While Senate Bill 2535 would eliminate the need for a person to own a FOID card, it would not change any of the other requirements for purchasing a firearm. Those who buy a firearm would still need to undergo strict federal background checks at the time of purchase.
In addition to filling in college basketball brackets, Illinoisans can pick winners for another March tournament that will determine the "coolest thing made in Illinois."
IMA President and CEO Mark Denzler wants to showcase the wide range of items made in the state. He said most people don't realize what all is made in Illinois.
Manufacturing accounts for 12 percent of Illinois' gross domestic product and a $304 billion economic output — the largest of any industry in the state, according to the IMA. More than 592,000 people are employed in the industry.
"We have to attract the next generation of workers to Illinois," Denzler said. "By showing the products and companies that are here, hopefully we can also help provide that next pipeline of workers."
On Jan. 5, it was announced that $50 million in funding is being released for the first round of matching grants of Illinois’ $420 million statewide broadband expansion. Applicants for the grant are anticipated to include Internet service providers, rural cooperatives, nonprofits and local governments.
Grant responses for the first round of funding can be submitted through April 3, with up to $5 million available per project. Interested applicants can find more information about the Notice of Funding Opportunity at https://www2.illinois.gov/dceo/AboutDCEO/GATA/Pages/2366-1333.aspx.
The Rebuild Illinois capital plan has slotted $420 million toward broadband expansion — $400 million for the grant program and $20 million to strengthen the Illinois Century Network. The matching requirements in the grant program will leverage state funds to attract at least an additional $400 million from Internet service providers.
As 2019 comes to a close and we prepare for a new year, several notable laws take effect January 1 that Illinois residents may want to know about.
The new laws kicking off 2020 cover everything from transportation safety and increased traffic penalties, to supporting our military personnel.
Strengthening Scott’s Law
2019 will be a year the Illinois State Police never forget. With three tragic deaths and numerous other incidents causing injuries, 2019 broke records early in the year for the number of accidents involving our State Troopers along Illinois roadways.
The drastic increase prompted the Illinois State Police to ramp up patrols to enforce Scott’s Law, more commonly known as the “move over law,” requiring drivers to reduce speed and switch lanes when approaching an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. As of November 3, 5,860 tickets had been issued for Scott’s Law violations. During the same period in 2018, 738 citations were given.
The General Assembly and the Governor also took the tragic incidents of 2019 seriously and passed several measures into law. Beginning January 1:
• The minimum fine for violating Scott's Law will increase from $100 to $250 for the first violation and $750 for the second violation.
• Those who violate Scott’s Law and cause an injury or death will be charged with a Class 4 felony.
• The Scott's Law Fund will be created to educate motorists on the importance of Scott's Law.
• The Secretary of State will be required to include at least one question about Scott’s Law on the written driving test.
Increased traffic fines
Illinois motorists may want to think twice about disobeying traffic laws next year. Starting January 1, drivers can expect to pay more for passing a stopped school bus and speeding through a construction zone.
House Bill 1873/PA 101-0055 increases the fine for passing a stopped school bus that has its stop arm displayed from $150 to $300 for the first offense and from $500 to $1,000 for the second or subsequent offense. Similarly, Senate Bill 1496/PA 101-0172 increases the fine from $10,000 to $25,000 for failing to reduce speed when approaching a construction zone.
New rules of the road
Some changes are coming about what is not allowed on Illinois' roadways. Beginning January 1, Senate Bill 87/PA 101-0189 will make it illegal for vehicles to have tinted or smoked lights. Law enforcement officials say these lights often make it difficult to see the vehicle.
Also, starting in the new year, Senate Bill 86/PA 101-0297 will add to the current ban on cell phone use while driving by prohibiting drivers from operating a vehicle while also watching or streaming video on a device.
New laws support military personnel, families
Laws supporting members of the military and their families are among those that will take effect January 1.
To make it easier for military spouses to find work in Illinois, House Bill 1652/PA 101-0240 will provide for expedited licensure reciprocity for service members and their spouses. The new law requires professional licenses to be processed within 60 days of the submitted application. Often when military members and their families relocate to Illinois, the process of obtaining a professional license is cumbersome and can take months. The goal of this new law is to help spouses quickly become licensed in their profession in Illinois.
Also starting January 1, veterans seeking to add the “Veteran” designation on their driver’s licenses have another option under the Secretary of State's acceptable forms of proof. In addition to providing a DD-214 or an NA-13038, veterans will now be able to submit a United States Department of Veterans Affairs summary of benefits letter instead.
Veterans will also be offered a wider variety of specialty license plates starting January 1. Senate Bill 944/PA 101-0536 makes the Disabled Veteran license plate and the ISERVE license plate available for motorcycles. Under House Bill 2618/PA 101-0262, veterans can receive one set of any military series license plate for free. Previously, only the Disabled Veterans and ISERVE license plates were offered for free.
New laws impacting the agriculture industry
Farmers will no longer have to pay for certain license plate registration fees beginning in 2020. House Bill 2669/PA 101-0481 removes the $250 fee and size restrictions for a single unit self-propelled agricultural fertilizer implement.
Also beginning January 1, those who sell agriculture products at farmers markets and retail stores have more flexibility in labeling their products as "local." House Bill 2505/PA 101-0258 modifies the term "local farm or food products" to include products processed and packaged in Illinois using at least one ingredient grown in Illinois. Before this law, all ingredients had to be grown in Illinois for it to be considered a “local product.”
There’s more to know before 2020 kicks off! To view a full list of laws taking effect January 1, visit: https://bit.ly/2qI1qGK
Springfield, IL…..State Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) has filed legislation that severely curtails the ability of lawmakers and staff of the Illinois General Assembly from having ownership in, or being compensated by, the gaming industry while in office. Senate Bill 2318, filed by Senator Plummer on Monday, is part of a package of ethics bills Plummer has worked on to address some of the serious conflicts of interest that presently can exist between lawmakers and industries over which they hold significant influence.
“If the average Illinois citizen knew their elected officials were making laws to create and expand protected industries from which they are themselves earning money, they would be disgusted. But that’s what happening and it needs to stop, immediately,” said Plummer. “If we’re going to restore the trust of the people of Illinois in their state government we have to make sure strong and independent voices exist to represent the reform measures that, while maybe not popular among the political class, are common sense and necessary to fix our broken system.”
SB 2318 would specifically bar members of the General Assembly and their immediate family, as well as staff of the General Assembly and their immediate family, from holding an ownership interest in a privately held gaming enterprise or business. It was also bar the same groups of people from holding anything more than a passive interest in any publicly traded gaming enterprise. In addition, the legislation would bar members and staff of the General Assembly and the immediate families of both groups from receiving any form of compensation for services rendered to or employment with any gaming enterprise or business.
“Illinoisans know right and wrong. Their lawmakers should know right and wrong, too,” said Plummer. “In a perfect world, politicians wouldn’t use their positions to profiteer, but Illinois, as we all know, is not a perfect world. Significant ethics reform is badly needed in Springfield and I look forward to working with legislators from across the state and across the political spectrum to address these violations of the public trust and restore confidence in our state government.”
Springfield, IL…State Senator Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) and State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) teamed up to urge the legislature to secure state funding to make repairs and improvements to the Kaskaskia Watershed.
“The Kaskaskia Watershed is vital to the economy in southern Illinois,” said Rep. Meier. “These funds will be used to restore and protect the Watershed from further erosion, resulting in the prevention of flooding at Scott Air Force Base and improving the waterway for barges that ship goods down the river.”
The United States Congress established the Kaskaskia Watershed Restoration Act in 2007 and authorized $20 million for critical projects after a Comprehensive Plan is developed. The Comprehensive Plan is stalled due to the lack of financial support from the State of Illinois. Rep. Meier and Sen. Plummer are requesting $300,000 to be included in the upcoming state budget in order to complete the plan and to leverage federal funding to protect the Watershed.
According to Senator Plummer, “Time is of the essence, it’s critical the state allocate much needed funding to protect the Kaskaskia Watershed. It generates over seven million tourists, $162 million from tourism and nearly 560,000 people rely on the Watershed as their primary source of drinking water.”
The Kaskaskia Watershed encompasses 10.2 percent of the State and includes all or parts of 22 counties. The Watershed starts in Champaign County and ends at the Mississippi River in Randolph County, including three authorized Corps projects, Lake Shelbyville, Carlyle Lake, and the Kaskaskia Navigation Project.
Senator Plummer and Representative Meier sponsored identical resolutions that were approved in the spring and fall veto session to help secure state funds for the Kaskaskia Watershed. The resolutions (HR 394 and SR 451) urge all four caucuses and the Governor to consider the Kaskaskia Watershed Comprehensive Plan when creating the upcoming fiscal year budget.
Springfield, IL…..State Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville) is sponsoring legislation that aims to protect taxpayer dollars and safeguard local first-responder pension funds.
Senate Bill 2312, filed by Senator Plummer immediately following the passage of pension-consolidation measure Senate Bill 1300, would close a loophole that could endanger the well-managed pension of first responders in many local municipalities.
“I have been saying for years that we must protect taxpayers and get our arms around the pension mess in Illinois. So, yes, I’m a skeptic when those who have fought common sense reform and soaked the taxpayers every step of the way suddenly appear to take some responsibility,” said Plummer. “Unfortunately, the plan passed last week lacked a simple protection to ensure that local dollars can’t ultimately be used to create a system where well-managed pension funds are used to bail-out those that have been poorly managed. My proposal would add this vital safeguard.”
Senate Bill 1300, which is expected to be signed into law, would take the current 649 local police and fire pension boards that are locally managed and put them under the control of two separate boards in Springfield. The Police Investment Board would administer investment functions for local police departments, and the Fire Investment Board would manage investments for local fire departments. It would also combine the assets of these funds into one pool of funds, but with each local fund getting its own share of the return that is proportional to the amount they have invested in the fund.
Sen. Plummer’s legislation would protect these municipal investments by ensuring that no law would prohibit local funds from continuing to receive a proportional share of the return on their investment. Under Senate Bill 2312, should the assets be mixed with the funds of another municipality, the balance of the investments would be returned to their respective municipal pension funds. This protects our first responders and those who have been doing things responsibly.
“Would you want your 401K or retirement savings transferred to some new agency in Springfield, considering their track record?” asked Plummer. “Or would you prefer to have your retirement savings managed at a local level by people you know with a strong track record of competence and financial solvency? I hear the concerns of local police officers and firefighters loud and clear and, frankly, I totally get it.”
Senate Bill 2312 would only take effect if and only if Senate Bill 1300 is signed into law by the Governor and becomes law in the form in which it passed both houses. Currently, Senate Bill 2312 has not been assigned to a Senate committee.