Week in Review, September 2-6

Week in Review for week of 9/2/13 through 9/6/13


The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (CGFA) reports an ease-up in the hard-pressed State of Illinois general funds.  This is the account used to cover many of Illinois’ past-due and delinquent bills and debts, such as payments to medical care providers.  In recent years Illinois has repeatedly owed its creditors billions of dollars, with current debts running more than $8 billion behind cash on hand.   

In a report released on Wednesday, September 4, CGFA reported a slight easing of this trend in August 2013. General funds tax revenues, used to pay past-due bills, increased by 3.7% over August 2012, with employed Illinoisans increasing their purchases of goods and services and paying more sales tax.  In addition, $397 million in one-time money was transferred to general funds from the Income Tax Refund Fund.  However, this income tax refund payment will not be repeated in any of the final months of calendar year 2013, and not all Illinois residents are employed and able to buy new goods and services (see “Economy,” below).


·         Springfield’s CGFA continues to signal that Illinois’ economy is growing very slowly, if at all.  In its September 4 report, the General Assembly’s “economic think tank” summarized the State’s financial numbers and trends for August 2013.  Illinois’s official July 2013 unemployment rate, at 9.2%, was the second highest jobless rate in the U.S., exceeded only by Nevada at 9.5%.  The number of persons employed by Illinois wage-payers actually dropped during the first seven months of this year.  On a seasonally-adjusted basis, 110,000 fewer Illinois residents were employed in midsummer than had been collecting wages last Christmas.  Had it not been for a decline in the size of the Illinois labor force as discouraged workers left Illinois or ceased to search for employment, the unemployment rate in the Midwest’s largest state might well have re-crossed the double-digit line.    

·         Layoff warnings confirm dismal economic picture.  Larger private-sector employers are required to distribute 60-day layoff warnings to many of their employees prior to job termination, and warnings were distributed in August 2013 to almost 600 Illinois workers.  Termination warnings of this sort are often distributed when a large warehouse or factory is slated for closure.  In a typical August 2013 termination warning, 177 workers at Booklet Binding, a Carol Stream print shop that specializes in high-value-added stitched and bound paper publications, were told that their facility was scheduled for shutdown.  The August 2013 layoff warning summary was published by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) on Thursday, September 5.

Guns – Concealed Carry

·         Under General Assembly pressure, the Illinois State Police starts the process to register concealed carry instructors.  P.A. 98-63 (HB 183) enables licensed Illinois residents to exercise their right to carry a concealable firearm in public places, such as in a moving motor vehicle or on a public street or sidewalk.  However, the State Police are directed by the terms of this law not to grant an Illinois concealed carry license until a license applicant has successfully completed a course led by a registered provider of concealed-carry safety instruction. 

Many experienced Illinois gun users, with firearms safety and concealed carry certifications earned from other government agencies or from the private sector, have applied to the State Police for a process to be set up to register them as concealed carry instructors.  On Friday, August 30, the State Police released administrative rules and announced their intent to begin registering qualified instructors.  Designation of a corps of concealed carry instructors will be a key step in implementation of the new law.  Applicants for registration and approval as concealed carry instructors will be required to submit their fingerprints and to show proof of certification from a federal, State, or local governmental law enforcement agency, or from a recognized organization with a record of training activities in gun safety, such as the National Rifle Association (NRA).  The new emergency rules were released under a special provision of Illinois law that allows them to go into effect t immediately, without a public comment period.

The State Police rulemaking action was a response to a demand of the Illinois General Assembly.  The legislature wrote the law so as to require the State Police to begin listing a registry of approved gun safety instructors no later than Saturday, September 7.  Lawmakers asserted that the “hard” line imposed on the State Police was necessary to prevent foot-dragging by elements of state government that continue to oppose concealed carry.  P.A. 98-63 was enacted into law on July 9, 2013 over the veto of Governor Quinn.

More information on the State Police’s temporary emergency rules for concealed carry instruction may be found here.


·         Pension loopholes allow high-ranking state officials to continue collecting pension payments after pleading guilty.  Current law governing the pensions for high-ranking Illinois state officials, including members of the General Assembly, allows these officials – once they have qualified for payments from the cash-strapped Illinois public pension systems – to continue to collect their monthly payments until their guilty pleas have been finalized by the act of court sentencing.   Current state and federal criminal laws include a lengthy “sentencing phase” of the criminal trial process, in which a guilty verdict or guilty plea is followed by a lengthy determination of the status of the individual with relation to various factors that the court is required to take into consideration when issuing a sentence.   

On Tuesday, September 3, the Chicago Tribune reported on the application of this law with respect to former Representative Connie Howard (D-Chicago), who resigned from the Illinois House in July 2012 but remained eligible for her pension during her guilty plea and sentencing phase.  The former lawmaker is scheduled to be sentenced in November 2013.


·         Governor’s 15-member reform panel begins operations.  The task force, which began meeting on Tuesday, September 3, has been asked to examine the operations of the Chicago area-based Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and its three operating boards, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), the Suburban Bus Board (Pace), and the commuter train authority (Metra).  Questions swirl around all of Chicago’s mass transit operations after the recent controversial resignation of the Metra CEO amid a severance payment of $871,000.  The RTA and the three transit boards operate in a confusing mixture of cross-cutting responsibilities involving the inter-relationships between the overall authority, the three operating boards, local governments, and State government.  The RTA and the three operating boards have a total of 47 board members appointed by 16 different public officials and bodies, mostly county board chairpersons and the mayor of Chicago. 

State Government

·         Over $135 million in no-bid contracts reported.  The State of Illinois has enacted a Procurement Code, which contains a complex bidding procedure that is meant to be followed in almost all of the cases where the State needs to purchase a commodity good or service (many professional services are procured through a different process). 

A loophole in the Procurement Code is supposed to provide responsible, high-ranking state officials with a narrow window to buy no-bid goods and services in genuine emergencies.  However, a report published on Friday, August 30 indicates that over $135 million in “emergency” no-bid goods and services were bought by the State in fiscal year 2013, which ended June 30.  This emergency procurement, which was done without suppliers competing with each other or asking for state bids, was up 33 percent over the year before and represented almost four times the annual volume of no-bid state business awarded under this loophole during former Governor Blagojevich’s final fiscal year (FY08).