June 23: Springfield Special Session Update

This week kicked off the start to the General Assembly’s special legislative session. As you may recall, last week Gov. Rauner issued a proclamation calling legislators back to the state’s capitol to resolve the budget impasse before the end of the 2017 fiscal year (June 30).

The week began with Gov. Rauner addressing the public at the old state capitol in Springfield. During his address, the governor called for Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate to unite and approve the governor and GOP-backed ‘Capitol Compromise.’

To this point, much of the activity has been behind the scenes in caucus meetings, meetings between legislative leaders and high level staff, and at media press conferences. However, the House has held two Committees of the Whole this week on subjects relating to the GOP’s ‘Capitol Compromise.’ Yesterday’s hearing featured Leader Durkin’s workers’ compensation proposal and today’s featured the concept of a statewide property tax freeze.

The Illinois Chamber’s Employment Law Council played the lead role on behalf of the business community in testifying in support of Leader Durkin’s workers’ compensation reform proposal. HB 4068 represents a majority of where bipartisan negotiations left off in the Senate on the Senate’s grand bargained SB 12. While not perfect for the business community, the bill does make several positive changes to the state’s workers’ compensation system, such as; revisions to the medical fee schedule, closed drug formulary, freezes average weekly wage for four years at $775, provides credits for injuries to the spine, returns the shoulder to part of the arm, provides for a definition of traveling employee, and makes other substantial system changes.

The committee lasted well over five hours and included panels from both opponents and proponents of the bill. While no formal vote was taken during the committee, the bill has since been posted for a committee hearing Saturday, June 24, in the House Labor and Commerce Committee. There is word that the bill may very likely be passed favorably out of the committee. This would signal a positive step in the right direction for workers’ compensation.

The Illinois House is currently convened in a Committee of the Whole in which they are debating the concept of a statewide property tax freeze, HB 4066 (Durkin). The bill would amend PTELL to freeze property taxes for 2017 through 2020 levy years to all taxing districts, including home rule units of government. The bill would also allow voters, by referendum, to lower levies, raise levies or renew the freeze in increments up to four years.

In comparison, the Senate Democrats passed two property tax freeze proposals. SB 484 would amend PTELL for 2017 and 2018 levy years to freeze property tax levies for units of local government, including home rule units but not the City of Chicago. The freeze does not apply to taxes levied to pay off bonds or pension payments. Adding, there is no mechanism for voters to extend or reduce the freeze.

The second Senate Democrat property tax freeze freezes property tax levies for school districts (exempting City of Chicago school districts) for two years. It would allow certain school districts to obtain a waiver from the State Board of Education from the freeze. No mechanism is included for voters to reduce or extend.

Legislators are also aware that the Republican’s ‘Capitol Compromise’ includes the transfer of $268 million in Road Fund dollars permanently away from the road and bridge construction to other transportation objectives. This would include $231 million to Chicago transit, $25 million in Road Fund dollars to make debt service payments on Transportation D bonds, and increases by $2 million the Amtrak subsidy funded from the Road Fund.

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