Week in Review for July 8 through July 12, 2013

Concealed Carry Enacted
House overrides Governor’s veto of concealed carry bill.  The compromise concealed carry bill enacted by the General Assembly in May 2013, HB 183, contained measures intended to meet the Second Amendment mandate imposed on the states by the federal Constitution and found valid by the federal court system.  It enacted the Firearm Concealed Carry Act, a new State Act.

The Second Amendment grants broad rights to Americans to own and carry firearms; the complex May 2013 legislation and new Act, HB 183, will implement these rights by creating a “shall issue” licensure process in Illinois.  Most Illinois residents
will be allowed to apply for, and receive, the right to undergo training and acquire a license to carry a personal, concealed, firearm in many public places.  These rights will not become active, however, until the Illinois State Police takes action to create an application system for Illinois firearms owners.  HB 183 creates guidelines for the State Police to follow in creating this system.  The concealed carry license application fee will be $150, and will impose training and background check requirements upon applicants.  Estimates indicate that as many as 300,000 Illinois residents may file concealed carry permit applications.  Applicants will not be allowed to legally carry concealed weapons under state law until their applications have been completed and approved.  

After Governor Quinn attempted to impose additional conditions on the concealed carry compromise language enacted in HB 183, the General Assembly took steps to re-enact the original May 2013 legislation.  This was done by overriding the veto by three-fifths votes in both chambers.  The House vote, cast on Tuesday, July 9, was 77-31-0; the Senate’s vote on the same day, 41-17-0, made P.A. 98-63 law, notwithstanding the veto of the Governor.  Those following this issue are now monitoring the administrative rules to be adopted, over the next 180 days, by the Illinois State Police to create a legal system to be used by applicants from all over Illinois who will exercise their concealed carry rights.  In addition, litigation has been filed that could pre-empt all or part of the State Police rulemaking process.  Concealed carry rights will remain on hold in Illinois until this litigation is settled or until the completion and implementation by the Illinois State Police of the application procedure created by this Act.

Concealed Carry “Trailer” Bill 
Concealed carry “trailer” bill would have granted minor increased protections to peace officers, but also would have altered terms of bipartisan concealed carry compromise.  HB 1453, a new bill enacted separately from the main concealed carry law (HB 183), would have require persons exercising their concealed carry rights, if stopped by a peace officer (such as a police officer) to immediately tell the peace officer, if asked, that that they are carrying a gun.  It would have changed the funding procedures to be used to enforce the mental health background checks to be imposed on concealed-carry applications.  The bill also contained new language covering the procedure for public notification concerning the 23 classes of real properties that have the right to keep concealed weapons off their premises.

The House vote on HB 1453, on Tuesday, July 9, was 62-47-0.  As the bill had an immediate effective date and was being considered during a special session, it would have required a three-fifths majority (71 votes) to become law.  With 62 votes, HB 1453 did not get this three-fifths majority and did not become law.

Local Government
Some Illinois local governments push to limit or ban so-called “assault weapons.”   One of the features of the new Illinois firearms law, HB 183 (P.A. 98-63) closes the window now granted to some Illinois local governments to enact bans on rapid-fire weaponry by local ordinance.  So-called “assault weapons,” including rifles manufactured to increase the rate of fire enjoyed by the shooter and resembling weapons used in combat settings, are in common possession and use among law-abiding firearms users, but are unpopular with supporters of gun control.  Current law gives Illinois local governments 10 days, expiring on Friday, July 19, to enact ordinances affecting so-called assault weapons.  Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called his City Council into a special meeting, on Wednesday, July 17.  It is expected that further gun control action may be taken at that time affecting the 2.7 million residents of Illinois’ largest city.  

Budget – Pensions 
Conference committee holds Springfield hearing on SB 1 pension reform.  The hearing, held in Springfield on Monday, July 8, discussed pension reform.  Proposals drafted by several legislative leaders and senior lawmakers, including House Republican Leader Tom Cross (HB 3411), continue to be under review.  SB 1 committee members expressed a strong desire to get finalized actuarial numbers as soon as possible so as to give them, and the General Assembly, an objective, nonpolitical picture of the savings to be earned and the sacrifices to be made under various scenarios.

Rising interest rates continue to worsen the financial picture facing the State as it seeks to borrow money for capital infrastructure needs, and increase pressure upon the General Assembly to achieve a pension reform compromise.  No pension votes were taken this week.  A co-chairman of the conference committee, Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), projected on Wednesday, July 10 that actuarial numbers could be in place and consensus language achieved by mid-August.

General Assembly
Governor takes action to defund General Assembly salaries, accusing lawmakers of inaction on pension reform.  Like other expenses of the State, the salaries of members of the Illinois House and Senate are paid through monies appropriated by the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor.  On Wednesday, July 10, Governor Quinn amendatorily reduced amounts appropriated in HB 214 by slightly more than $13.8 million, thereby reflecting his intent that members of the General Assembly not receive pay or leadership stipends.  The Governor has stated that if a bill is passed to reduce the unfunded liabilities (approaching $100 billion, and increasing by $5 million daily) of Illinois’ State-managed pension systems, he would consider signing a supplemental appropriations bill to replenish this General Assembly pay line item.

As of week’s end the Governor’s amendatory veto was scheduled to become effective as soon as Thursday, August 1, when the legislative paychecks that would have been funded by HB 214 were scheduled to have been distributed to lawmakers.  However, the precise legal status of the Governor’s line-item veto had not yet been finalized as of Friday, July 12.  The chief executive’s line-item veto powers may be trumped, in this case, by countervailing State constitutional language that guarantees that General Assembly members shall not have their pay altered during their terms of office.  

Health Care
Unanswered questions remain as individual health care insurance mandate deadline approaches.  Millions of Americans will be eligible to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act starting on October 1, 2013, less than three months from now.  Both proponents and opponents of “Obamacare” agree that the exceptionally complex legal provisions of the bill are supposed to provide a nationwide subsidy to low-income households without insurance.  Critics utilize this consensus to point out that the law is likely to create a “free-rider” situation and encourage a significant number of uninsured patients with a wide variety of pre-existing health conditions to enter the health insurance market, thereby potentially swamping the existing system and lowering the quality of care available for every American.  Nearly 1 million Illinois residents will be eligible for subsidized health insurance in 2014.

As of July 2013, the Illinois General Assembly has passed some, but by no means all, of the legislation required to the terms of this controversial new federal law.  Illinoisans who sign up for “Obamacare” should be aware that this partial noncompliance means that the terms under which they seek to sign up could change dramatically over time, especially if additional problems crop up that further affect nationwide implementation of this measure.