MANY ISSUES SIDELINED
Despite speculation that a long list of controversial measures might be voted on, the Illinois Senate wrapped up the first days of the “lame-duck” January session with most major proposals sitting on the sidelines.
STILL NO PENSION PLAN FROM QUINN
Chief among the proposals not addressed was major pension reform. Despite Governor Pat Quinn’s oft-quoted statement that he was “put on this earth” to do pension reform, Senate lawmakers saw the first two days of the session fade away with no plan from the Governor and no movement toward major reform.
Absent other alternatives, in the final hours January 3, Senators revisited a limited reform that would affect only state employees and the General Assembly. House Bill 1447 passed in the spring, but was never brought to a vote in the House of Representatives. In the lame-duck session, lawmakers sent a follow-up bill to the House that would keep that option open by adjusting the dates when the reforms would take effect.
ANTI-GUN MEASURES SHELVED
Gun rights advocates scored a major victory when two anti-gun measures were shelved.
House Bill 1263 would ban semi-automatic weapons while House Bill 815 would ban ammunition clips containing more than 10 rounds. Nearly 200 witnesses registered their opposition to the measures in a Senate committee.
Both House Bill 815 and House Bill 1263 also imposed major new requirements on recreational shooting ranges.
NO SENATE VOTE ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Although there was much discussion prior to the start of the lame-duck session that gambling expansion, legalization of medical marijuana and same-sex marriage would all be on the agenda, only same-sex marriage surfaced in the Senate.
House Bill 4963 was approved by the Senate Executive Committee, but the sponsor elected not to call it for a final vote. While the measure could still be voted on before the new General Assembly is sworn in January 9, supporters indicated they would likely wait until spring to revisit the issue.
EMPLOYEE UNION BILL HELD
A measure that seeks to address the high costs associated with the state’s growing number of unionized public employees won approval, but then was held using a parliamentary maneuver.
Senate Bill 1556 prohibits some state employees, including liaisons, lawyers and legislative employees, from joining unions and also gives the Governor the authority to set aside as non-union positions some workers that report directly to his office. The measure allows the Governor to remove some employees from unions who joined over the past four years.
After the bill was approved, a senator filed a “motion to reconsider” which effectively prevents the measure from being sent to the Governor until the Senate acts on his motion.
OTHER BILLS PASSED SENATE
While most of the “headline” proposals failed to materialize, a number of other bills were addressed in the Senate. They include:
Affordable Homes Program Extension (HB 5019): Extends the Making Home Affordable Program to January 1, 2014 (was January 1, 2013). Also, delays the effective date of sections that concern the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
E911 Sunset Extension (SB 1543): Extends the sunset of the Wireless Emergency Telephone Safety Act from April 1, 2013, to July 1, 2013.
Budget Implementation (HB 2891): Changes the date of the Governor’s annual budget address to March 6, rather than February 20. Transfers up to $9.6 million into the state’s Medical Disciplinary Fund to cover a shortfall. Nearly $12 million has been taken out of the fund over the last 10 years to pay for other state programs. Transfers $151 million from General Revenue Funds to be used for Medicaid payments. Requires the Governor’s budget office to submit an annual report detailing fund transfers.
First Informer Broadcasters (HB 5528): Allows broadcasters in Illinois to cooperate with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency or the Illinois Broadcasters Association in coordinating plans for and responding to an emergency or disaster. First Informer Broadcasters will be allowed access in an emergency to transmit essential emergency or disaster-related public information programming.
FOID Card Exemption (HB 1237): Establishes procedures by which an active law enforcement officer employed by a unit of government, who is denied, revoked, or has his or her Firearm Owner’s Identification Card seized because the officer had been a patient in a mental institution within the past five years, may apply to the Director of State Police requesting relief if the officer did not act in a manner threatening to the officer, another person, or the public.
Fraternal Order of Police License Plate (HB 2842): Includes a provision that requires the approval of the Illinois State Police before a person may renew a Fraternal Order of Police License Plate. ISP wants to make certain people are paying membership dues annually before they can have this plate.
HMO Deductible Plan (SB 3233): Permits HMOs to begin to offer plans that have a deductible, subject to annual limits set by federal law.
Liquor Licenses (HB 3450): Allows Illinois State University to serve liquor at events that are not student-related activities. Seeks to resolve a disagreement affecting craft distillers, by allowing them to distill up to 30,000 gallons annually, increasing to 35,000 gallons after one year. Also allows the craft distillers to sell up to 2,500 gallons themselves (amounts over that must be through a licensed retailer).
Medical Malpractice (HB 5151): Brings the state statutes into line with Illinois Supreme Court decisions rejecting past medical malpractice reforms. Replaces a sliding scale of contingency fee limits for attorneys with a cap of 33 1/3% of all sums recovered. Also deletes provisions for court review of contingent fee agreements for fairness.
Mental Health committee (HB 2105): States that a township doesn’t have to provide direct mental health services to be exempt from having to appoint a mental health advisory committee, but may merely fund such services and also be exempt from the requirement.
Open Meetings Training (HB 5315): Authorizes a commissioner of a drainage district or a director of a soil and water conservation district, to satisfy training requirements of the Open Meetings Act through an alternative training arrangement, such as a conference or group training, rather than electronic training.
Sex Abuse (HB 6193): Expands the areas of continuing professional development for teachers to include training programs on sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention. Also requires schools to provide age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention curriculum in grades Pre-K through 12.
Transfers Anti-Violence Program (HB 3816): Transfers the controversial Neighborhood Recovery program from the Illinois Violence Prevention Agency to the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.