Senate Bill 3616 extends Illinois’ Enterprise Zone program an additional 25 years.
According to statistics released by the Governor’s Office, more than 354,000 jobs have been created over the life of the program, while more than 536,000 jobs have been retained and more than 42,000 businesses have participated in the program.
The Enterprise Zone bill not only extends the program, but creates a new process for communities to apply for the designation. The Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will accept and review all applications to determine if they meet three of 10 criteria to be certified as a zone, including unemployment rate, infrastructure, plant closure/job loss, education, poverty rates, and high commercial and industrial vacancy.
The measure also creates a new Enterprise Zone Board to review applications and increases the reporting requirements for companies that receive tax benefits.
GOVERNOR CALLS SPECIAL SESSION
Lawmakers are preparing to return to Springfield August 17 after Governor Pat Quinn called a special legislative session to address pension reforms.
Governor Quinn has not detailed exactly what he hopes to achieve during the special session, but appears to be increasingly focused on a plan that would shift major pension costs from the income tax to local property taxes.
I do not support the shift to property taxes to cover pension costs because it would not save taxpayers’ money.
When lawmakers left Springfield at the end of May, there was general agreement among the Governor and legislative leaders of the broad outlines of pension changes. However, no final agreement could be reached when pension reforms became linked to shifting the cost for teacher pensions to local property taxpayers, rather than state income taxes.
Unless there is a major breakthrough on the issue, it is unlikely that the special session will result in comprehensive pension reforms. However, it is possible that the House of Representatives might take up a more limited reform which previously passed the Senate. House Bill 1447 would impact only the state employees and General Assembly retirement systems.
Another bill signed into law during the week will make immunization information easier to obtain.
House Bill 5013 will make immunization and health exam statistics more widely available, in an effort to raise awareness and enable parents to get a better idea of how many of their children’s classmates have been vaccinated.
The State of Illinois requires vaccinations to protect children from a range of diseases, but the State Board of Education reports that more than 60,000 students (about three percent) were not in compliance with immunization or health exam mandates during the 2010-11 school year.
Four measures affecting fire safety were also signed into law.
Senate Bill 3373 will consolidate three separate state funds used to finance local equipment purchases like trucks, ambulances and station upgrades into a single fund.
House Bill 5283 will encourage fire protection districts to buy equipment built in Illinois by providing for lower interest rates on loans to purchase fire vehicles that are partly or fully manufactured in state. If a vehicle is fully built in Illinois and meets other requirements, the local fire district could qualify for a zero percent interest loan.
House Bill 4757 extends the deadline by one year for all post-secondary schools in Illinois with dormitory housing to have sprinklers installed. The new deadline will be 2014. Institutions that do not meet this deadline will face a $1,000 a day fine.
House Bill 4715 makes changes to current firefighter testing requirements, so that tests will be based on current industry standards.