Week in Review for May 24, 2019

Democrats advance graduated tax hike legislation. On Monday evening, the Democrat majority passed a graduated income tax amendment out of the House Revenue and Finance Committee, over Republican objections.

SJRCA 1 passed out of the House Revenue and Finance Committee on a partisan vote of 9-6, with all Republican members voting ‘No.’ The graduated income tax constitutional amendment now goes to the full House of Representatives for a final vote. If approved by the House, the constitutional amendment would be placed on the November 2020 general election ballot.

At a Capitol press conference immediately preceding Monday’s Revenue Committee hearing, Reps. Dan Caulkins and Brad Halbrook were joined by Andrew Libman, president of the Libman Company, a central Illinois manufacturer with nearly 700 employees. Mr. Libman detailed his opposition to the graduated income tax and how it will affect his family-owned business. Libman also testified in opposition to SJRCA 1 at the Revenue Committee hearing.

“The Libman family has run a successful Illinois manufacturing company for more than 120 years,” Rep. Caulkins said. “Passage of the Pritzker tax hike will force companies like Libman to re-examine their cost structure and determine whether they can afford to stay in Illinois or move to more job-friendly states. Illinois cannot afford to lose any more good-paying manufacturing jobs. The Pritzker jobs tax must be defeated.”

On Friday morning, Democrats passed SB 687 out of the House Revenue and Finance Committee, again over strong Republican objections. This legislation would establish the actual graduated income tax rates in Illinois should SJRCA 1 be approved by the voters in 2020.

SB 687 passed out of committee on a partisan vote of 9-6, with all Republicans again voting ‘No.’ Republican members of the Revenue Committee, including Rep. Margo McDermed, objected to the technical sleight-of-hand used by Democrats to post the measure for a vote in committee, which did not give opponents time to file witness slips in opposition to this massive tax hike.

House Republicans continue to point out that Illinois currently has the revenue necessary to pass a balanced Fiscal Year 2020 budget without higher taxes. On Thursday, first-term House Republican members held a Capitol press conference to reiterate their opposition to handing the Democrats a “blank check” to raise taxes and increase spending.

Lightfoot takes oath as mayor of Chicago. Lori Lightfoot, elected in the spring 2019 election cycle, replaced former mayor Rahm Emanuel. A veteran prosecutor, Lightfoot served in the Northern Illinois District from 1996-2002 as an assistant U.S. Attorney. She has also served as a lawyer in private practice, working at the firm of Mayer Brown. Born in Ohio, Lightfoot moved to Illinois in 1986 to attend law school at the University of Chicago. She won election by a margin of 72%-27% in a mayoral runoff held on April 2, 2019. Lightfoot took the oath of office as Mayor of Chicago on Monday, May 20.

Rep. McDermed Passes Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Tracking Legislation. SB 1411will require everyone who touches one of the “evidence kits” compiled in cases of sexual assault to report to a central database on where the kit is and how long it will take to get to the next stage of the evidence process. This information can be extremely important to victims, who are the persons who have submitted the evidence contained in the kits. Current law enforcement procedures do not always make this this information available to victims. This measure is the result of a three-year negotiations process led by Rep. Margo McDermed, who sponsored the bill in the Illinois House.

SB 1411 was approved by the House on Wednesday by a unanimous vote of 118-0-0. The House vote will send this measure to the Governor’s desk for signature.

House acts to toughen penalties for violations of “Scott’s Law.” The Illinois House of Representatives voted Thursday to increase criminal penalties for motorists who violate “Scott’s Law.” State Representative John M. Cabello, a Chief Co-Sponsor of the legislation, reacted to the bill’s passage following the vote.

“Sixteen state troopers have been hit on Illinois highways so far this year, three of them fatally,” Cabello said. “Most of these incidents involved violations of Scott’s Law. We need to do a better job of educating the public about Scott’s Law and require mandatory jail time for offenders when they injure or kill someone.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 1862, would increase criminal penalties for violations of Scott’s Law to:
  • Minimum fine of $250/maximum fine of $10,000 for the first violation (no property damage or injury);
  • Minimum fine of $750/maximum fine of $10,000 for the second or subsequent violation (no property damage or injury);
  • Up to one year in prison and fine up to $2,500 if the violation results in damage to another vehicle;
  • 1-3 years in prison and fine up to $25,000 if the violation results in the injury or death of another person;
  • Provides that a person who commits reckless homicide while violating Scott’s Law shall be sentenced to 3-14 years in prison; or, if the person caused the deaths of two or more people, a term of 6-28 years in prison.
The bill also provides for the Illinois State Police (ISP) to use all money in the Scott’s Law Fund to fund the production of materials to educate drivers on approaching stationary authorized emergency vehicles, to hire off-duty State Police for enforcement of Scott’s Law, and any other purposes the ISP deems necessary.

Currently, a violation of Scott’s Law does not include jail time and is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000. If the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the offense, their driving privileges are suspended for 90 days to one year if the violation results in damage to the property of another person; 180 days to 2 years if the violation results in injury to another person; or 2 years if the violation results in the death of another person.

Also known as the “Move Over” law, Scott’s Law requires that when approaching any vehicle equipped with oscillating, rotating, or flashing lights stopped along the roadway while the owner or operator of the vehicle is engaged in his or her official duties, a motorist must reduce speed, change lanes if possible, and proceed with due caution.

An authorized emergency vehicle under Scott’s Law, includes ANY vehicle authorized by law to be equipped with oscillating, rotating, or flashing lights, while the owner or operator of the vehicle is engaged in his or her official duties.

A companion bill, Senate Bill 2038, will require the Secretary of State to add a “Scott’s Law” question to the written exam that applicants must take in order to be awarded a driver’s license in Illinois. It also creates the Move Over Task Force to study the issue of violations of the provisions of the Code prescribing how to safely enter a highway construction zone, approach a disabled vehicle, and approach an authorized emergency vehicle. SB 2038, sponsored by Reps. Mark Batinick, Tim Butler and John Cabello, was approved by the House on Friday, May 24, by a vote of 114-0-0.

Illinois jobless rate remained at 4.4% in April 2019. The unchanged April 2019 Illinois unemployment rate was higher than the national jobless rate of 3.6% for the same month. The 80-basis-point (0.8%) gap between the state of Illinois’ rate and the national rate was a deterioration from the 40-point gap (4.3% for Illinois and 3.9% nationwide) that existed twelve month earlier in April 2018. This signals that Illinois’ jobless picture continues to fall behind the numbers posted by other states. For example, the April 2019 unemployment rate was 3.6% in the economically healthy state of Indiana. While the national jobless rate signals “full employment” throughout many of America’s 50 states, pockets of higher unemployment remain in Illinois, particularly Downstate. For example, the April 2019 unemployment rate was 5.5% in Decatur, and was 5.4% in Rockford.

Ticket prices to be reduced for the 2019 Illinois State Fair. The regular admission price of $10 will be cut in half to $5 for Fair days from Sunday until Thursday. Friday and Saturday tickets will stay at $10 and senior tickets will stay at $3. In addition, free admission is offered on commemorative days for veterans, senior citizens, and first responders. The Illinois State Fair will be celebrated in Springfield from Thursday, August 8 through Sunday, August 18, 2019.

House & Senate GOP Members Call For DCFS Worker Protections. State Representative Tony McCombie stood with Republican lawmakers from the House and Senate Thursday, along with the husband and daughter of slain DCFS worker Pam Knight, to demand a Senate vote on legislation that would provide important protections to DCFS workers.

“Today, we are calling for the Senate to give a hearing and a vote on HB 1482, and I am asking Governor JB Pritzker to support this common sense legislation,” said McCombie, the Chief House Sponsor of the bill. “Now is the time to close the loophole that currently excludes DCFS and Adult Protective Service Workers from life-saving protections.”

HB 1482, filed in response to the brutal beating and subsequent death of DCFS worker Pam Knight, would provide DCFS and Adult Protective Service employees with the same protections against assault as are given to teachers, police/fire, and other emergency responders who protect those in harm’s way.

“As we all know, DCFS is struggling. Caseworkers are overburdened and the outcomes for our children have too often been tragic. While we are aware of the recent issues faced by DCFS, I want to make sure we don’t forget about the past,” said McCombie. “Less than two years ago, we mourned another horrible loss for DCFS when case worker Pam Knight was brutally attacked by the father of a two-year-old boy she was advocating for in Chadwick, Illinois. DCFS caseworkers are the ones who are going into these homes, putting their lives at risk, in order to save children from dangerous situations. Many times their protective efforts are obstructed by the child’s parents.”

After his wife’s death, Don Knight has made it his mission to advocate for the safety of DCFS caseworkers.

“Send a message to child welfare workers – their lives matter,” said Don Knight. “Their safety matters. While I will never get my wife back, it has become my mission to improve DCFS processes and protect DCFS workers so this never happens again.”

HB 1482 is sponsored by Sen. Brian Stewart in the Senate, and the bill is currently stalled in the Assignments committee with half a dozen bipartisan co-sponsors.

“DCFS investigators serve as protectors of our most vulnerable citizens, children living in troubled domestic environments,” said Sen. Brian Stewart. “The job of DCFS investigators is difficult, thankless and dangerous. Some did not fully understand how dangerous until September 29, 2017 when DCFS investigator Pam Knight of Sterling was assaulted while taking a two-year-old child into protective custody. Tragically, Mrs. Knight passed away from her injuries on February 8, 2018, more than four months after being assaulted. Right now, police officers, firefighters and other peace officers are protected by the law. DCFS investigators should have the same protections. I am proud to sponsor this bill, and other like it, in recent years.”

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