Week in Review for May 26, 2018

Budget negotiations continue as clock ticks down to May 31 deadline. With less than a week left before the scheduled end of session, the House and Senate continue to work on budget negotiations with the hope of passing a balanced budget by the end of May.

Both houses of the General Assembly have adjourned for the weekend and are scheduled to return on Monday for Memorial Day session. Negotiations will continue over the weekend as the “budgeteers” work towards an agreement on a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2019.

Gov. Rauner announces certification of 327 Illinois Opportunity Zones. Gov. Bruce Rauner has announced that 327 Opportunity Zone census tract recommendations submitted by the State of Illinois have been approved by the U.S. Treasury Department. These zones cover more than 85 counties throughout the state and aim to support the future of Illinois through economic growth and investment.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for communities throughout Illinois,” Rauner said. “These zones include some of the most underserved areas of the state that have the greatest potential for improvement. They represent a broad cross-section of Illinois that includes rural, urban and suburban in-need communities that are ripe for investment and job creation.”

To determine the most effective tracts for nomination, a three-phase approach was implemented to identify need and potential, adequately represent the entire state, and account for local input. Phase one involved need based indexing depending on factors like poverty rates, specifically those among children, unemployment rates, crime rates and population. These standards highlight the goal of the program in Illinois which is to cultivate potential within disadvantaged communities and invest in our future generations across the state.

Phase two and three were used to further identify the allotted 327 tracts Illinois could nominate under the federal program guidelines. To ensure a statewide benefit, each county with qualifying tracts received at least one zone and towns and cities across the state were limited on the number of zones included.

“Illinois is the epicenter of commerce in the Midwest and, as such, our people and our businesses are uniquely positioned to leverage the state’s assets into enterprise and job creation,” Rauner said. “I hope you are as eager to use the Opportunity Zones as I am to boost our economy and grow jobs in Illinois.”

Established by the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones present an opportunity for private, tax-free investment in low-income areas with economic need, benefiting residents living in the zones and private investors. 1,305 qualifying low-income census tracts were available for selection, of which only 25% could be nominated by the Governor for inclusion in the program.

For more information on Opportunity Zones visit https://www.illinois.gov/dceo/Pages/OppZn.aspx.

Illinois-based firm Ulta enters Fortune 500 list. The widely-referenced list of “America’s largest companies” covers five hundred of the highest-grossing corporate firms headquartered in the United States. Bolingbrook-based beauty products retailer Ulta Beauty has entered the most recent Fortune 500 list. Ulta joins familiar Illinois names like Boeing, John Deere, and Caterpillar on the Fortune 500 list.

Ulta Beauty carries cosmetics, skin care products, fragrances, and hair care products, with an emphasis on goods for women. The firm, managed by CEO Mary Dillon, employs or contracts with approximately 35,000 associates, who work at hundreds of locations throughout the United States. Shares of the firm are traded on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.

Illinois' first family moves back into the Governor's Mansion. Monday was moving day for the first family as Gov. Bruce Rauner and first lady Diana Rauner took up residence at the Illinois Governor's Mansion following a two-year renovation project. The move fulfills a promise the first couple made to the state three and a half years ago.

"Diana and I pledged to renovate the Mansion at no cost to the taxpayers," Gov. Rauner said. "Thanks to an incredible effort by the first lady and the Mansion Association, we are on the verge of accomplishing a stunning renovation ... on time and on budget with private funding."

"This project has meant so much to my husband and me because of what it means to the people of Illinois," first lady Diana Rauner said. "We see the Mansion as the People's House, a place where visitors can come to glimpse our history, reflect on our accomplishments and creations, and experience Illinois-style hospitality."

The renovated Governor's Mansion will re-open for the public this summer. When it does, people will be treated to a remarkable transformation. The completion of the residence section of the Mansion renovation made moving day possible for the Rauners.

The Mansion has retained its gracious architecture, rising out of a refurbished landscape in the heart of Springfield. Inside, the home has been remodeled to show off the history of its famous residents and make room for exhibits of Illinois art and craftsmanship.

The renovations will improve the visitor's experience for Illinoisans and for tourists from around the world. The upgrades include an all-new visitors' center and rooms dedicated specifically to historic events, including the Columbian Exposition and former Illinois Governors and first families.

A designated space will feature its first exhibit, Art in Illinois, when the Mansion re-opens. The exhibit brings together over 102 works of art from Illinois-based artists, including 20 privately-owned pieces that will be on public display for the first time.

The reimagined Governor's Mansion also includes expanded educational opportunities for visitors with new programming and professional docents to give tours seven-days-a-week and assist in planning special events.

The Governor's Mansion reopens to the public on July 14, 2018.

Illinois eliminates tax burden on human-powered watercraft. Until 2018, the law that requires that an Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Water Usage tax stamp be affixed to boats launched into Illinois waterways was applied to human-powered boats such as canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats. IDNR has decided to stop enforcing the tax-stamp requirement for summer 2018 boating in human-powered boats. The decision affects the 74,012 owners of non-motorized vessels who purchased the IDNR tax stamps in 2017.

Revenues from the $6.00 tax stamps were nominally used to build and maintain boat ramps that the non-motorized craft sometimes use, but the tax stamp did not raise very much money and most of the time, the owners and users of these light vessels just drop them into shallow water. In addition, there was ambiguity over whether the tax-stamp requirement applied to personal floating devices such as inner tubes and children’s float rafts. Meanwhile, many of the users of boat ramps continue to use them to push and pull heavy motorboats in and out of Illinois deep waters. Motorboats will continue to have to pay taxes. The rules change will take effect on Friday, June 1.

IDNR will continue to offer three-year registrations for all boats, including canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats. The registration fee creates a legal status for each individual boat in case of loss, theft, or accident. The registration fee schedule describes the registration fees charged to boat owners based on boat length and power. Registration is voluntary for owners of light human-powered boats.

Water main break affects nine southern Illinois counties; Gov. Rauner issues disaster proclamation. A major reservoir, Rend Lake, supplies water to 175,000 residents of communities in nine counties throughout southern Illinois. A water main break last week compromised the flow of clean water from the lake and forced supplies to be shut off. Trickles of water have since been allowed to flow, subject to boil orders.

The water shutoff and boil orders have led to job interruptions and layoffs throughout the Rend Lake Conservancy District. Gov. Bruce Rauner has visited the affected area and has issued a disaster proclamation. The proclamation, which followed the breach in the 36-inch-wide water artery, will enable assistance to be given to those affected by the shutdown and boil order. Gov. Rauner’s proclamation applies to Franklin, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Perry, Saline, Washington, White, and Williamson Counties in southern Illinois.

Take the Give Them Distance pledge. Illinois transportation, safety and government leaders were at the state Capitol this week to honor the life of Illinois Tollway roadway maintenance worker David Schwarz and to call on Illinois drivers to take the Give Them Distance pledge.

The Give Them Distance pledge launched as part of a statewide effort to emphasize the importance of the Illinois Move Over Law, which was expanded by Governor Bruce Rauner in 2017 and requires drivers to slow down and change lanes safely when approaching any vehicle stopped on the side of the road with lights flashing.

Schwarz was tragically struck and killed while working on the Tollway in 2017 by a driver who failed to follow the Move Over Law. Governor Rauner joined leaders from the Illinois Tollway, Illinois State Police, Illinois General Assembly and AAA recognizing Schwarz’s life today and emphasizing the importance of this vital law by calling on all drivers to take the Give Them Distance pledge.

“Too many lives are lost on our roadways,” Rauner said. “Awareness of this common-sense law is so important to any driver in Illinois who has to pull off the side of the road, whether it is a commuter, roadway maintenance worker or emergency first responder. We want to make sure everyone remembers to slow down and move over for any vehicle with flashing lights.”

“We have set an ambitious goal of achieving 1 million Give Them Distance pledges so that the Move Over Law becomes second nature to all drivers on Illinois roads. Through Give Them Distance, it is our hope that everyone who works and travels on Illinois roadways can make it home to their families safely each night,” said Illinois Tollway Executive Director Liz Gorman.

The Illinois House of Representatives honored Schwarz through House Resolution 804and joined the Give Them Distance team to call for safer roads throughout Illinois.

“Ensuring the safety of roadways across Illinois is a responsibility that belongs to everyone who gets behind the wheel of a vehicle,” said Illinois State Police Director Leo Schmitz. “While our troopers are increasing enforcement of this important law in all parts of the state, I urge all drivers to take the Give Them Distance pledge, commit to move over for ALL vehicles on the side of the road and spread the word to your friends and family.”

Give Them Distance leaders, including the Illinois Tollway, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police, Office of the Secretary of State and AAA, are calling on members of the media, state legislators and drivers across Illinois to visit GiveThemDistance.com, take the pledge and share their commitment on social media to challenge their friends, family and constituents to join the movement for safer roads. Among those who have already joined the movement by taking the pledge are ABC 7 Chicago Traffic/Transportation Anchor Roz Varon and Chicago Bears Quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Get the Week in Review emailed directly to your inbox! Sign up today to get a first-hand look at the continuing legislative and fiscal challenges facing policymakers in Springfield.