IMA Initiative to Grow Your Own STEM Teacher Advances
Over the past several years, the number of graduates in STEM and Vocational Education disciplines being produced by Illinois colleges and universities has greatly declined. According to the Illinois Board of Higher Education, there were 356 Bachelor Degrees conferred and just 89 Masters Degrees earned in 2016. The lack of qualified educators has contributed to the lack of students in programs that would properly prepare them for STEM positions in manufacturing sectors.
In order to tackle this issue, the IMA Education Foundation introduced SB 3047 (Manar, D-Bunker Hill), known as the Grow Your Own STEM Teachers Act. The Grow Your Own STEM Teachers Act proposes to invest state resources to increase the number of men and women pursuing careers as Vocational Educators. Under the proposal if a person: 1) is willing to major in Vocational Education; 2) attend an Illinois college or university offering Vocational Education as a Major; 3) obtain such degree in no more than five academic years for a Bachelor or six years for a Masters; and, 4) agree to teach in an Illinois high school or community college for a minimum of three years (Bachelor) or for a minimum of five years (Masters) – the State of Illinois will pay the tuition, fees, books, room and board (on-campus housing only) on behalf of the participating student.
SB 3047 passed out of the Senate Higher Education Committee by a unanimous vote of 13-0-0. While the bill advances, the IMA Education Foundation will be working with education groups, lawmakers, and legislative staff to further refine the measure moving forward.
IMA Initiative Receives Unanimous Support to Help Schools and Manufacturers
The House Economic Opportunity Committee and Senate Commerce and Economic Development Committee unanimously advanced initiatives of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association Education Foundation that benefit both schools and manufacturers. HB 4858 (Pritchard, R-Sycamore) and SB 3033 (Weaver, R-Peoria) allow local school districts and community colleges to apply for and receive grants for the acquisition of land, construction of facilities, and purchase of equipment dedicated solely to the instruction of occupations in manufacturing.
The legislation is an attempt to tackle the issue that many schools are unable to begin or expand programs of study to prepare youth and adults for careers in advanced manufacturing due to a lack of capital. Currently, Illinois high Schools and community colleges enroll just under 14,000 students in manufacturing-related programs of study. However, manufacturers statewide need an estimated 25,000 production workers annually to keep pace with the rate of retirements of the Baby-Boomer generation from the workforce. While the state’s educators say they can double the number of people in programs of study, in a recent survey, administrators noted that having sufficient space and access to modern equipment are becoming barriers. Allowing schools to apply for grants to purchase space and update equipment will better prepare students for the manufacturing workforce.
HB 4858 passed by a vote of 11-0-0 while the Senate measure also passed unanimously. They both advance to the full chambers for floor votes.
Lawmakers Target Labor at Energy Companies
Democrat Senator Mike Hastings (D-Frankfort) advanced legislation backed by dozens of labor unions that would essentially force petroleum refineries to hire union labor when performing any construction work. Using the guise of “public safety,” advocates seeking to mandate the payment of prevailing wage on privately funded work while requiring employers and their contractors to only hire individuals who graduated from an approved apprenticeship program authorized by the U.S. Department of Labor.
All manufacturers, including petroleum refineries, are dedicated to safety and only use skilled workers who are properly trained. Senator Hastings alleged during testimony on SB 2480 that these companies are using “out of state labor” that perform “shoddy work.” The legislation is similar to a measure passed in California more than five years ago following a fire at a Chevron facility.
The IMA, along with the Illinois Petroleum Council, Chemical Industry Council of Illinois, and others are working as a coalition to defeat the proposal that would create a graduated scale of workers meeting the standard. By 2019, at least 30 percent of employees must be registered apprentices or skilled journeypersons. It increases to 60 percent by 2021.
Consumer Protection Committee Approves Right to Repair Bill
By a single vote, the House Consumer Protection Committee approved the Digital Fair Repair Act over strong opposition from the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. Sponsored by Rep. David Harris (R-Arlington Heights), HB 4747 would require original equipment manufacturers to provide access to machine repair and diagnostic tools, along with access to embedded software, to independent repair shops.
While the sponsor claims that he wants to be able to take his iPhone to an independent repair shop as opposed to an Apple store, HB 4747 is broader in scope. It impacts every electronic device or vehicle including combines, bulldozers, lawmowers, appliances, toys, and more.
The bill creates serious safety and environmental issues. Whether intentional or unintentional, changes in coding or software could result in violation of emission laws, voiding of warranties, disruption of machine capabilities, less than optimal customer experience, or lack of transparency during resale.
Rep. Harris pledged to amend the bill to exempt medical devices and will try and work to exempt “off road” equipment. The IMA applauds Rep. Norinne Hammond (R-Macomb) and Rep. Tony McCombie (R-Savannah) for opposing this legislation in committee.
House Labor Committee Rejects Mandated Scheduling
In a complete rejection of Rep. Chris Welch (D-Westchester) and his proposed mandated scheduling legislation, the House Labor Committee sent the bill to subcommittee without a vote following a contentious subject matter-only hearing. This costly and cumbersome bill attempts to impose a “one size fits all” approach on employers by requiring them to pay wages for scheduling changes. Its another case of a lawmaker who clearly has no understanding or grasp of how private businesses operate.
Under the terms of the legislation, an employer that changes an employee’s schedule within 72 hours of the shift would be forced to pay 50 percent of those wages. For example, if a manufacturer has an additional shift added to meet a customer’s demand, and the customer changes the delivery deadline, the company would be forced to pay the wages of workers who did not work. It has a more profound impact on the retail, service, and hospitality sectors that use flexible scheduling.
HB 5046 also prevents an employer from firing a person who is in the country illegally. However, federal law prohibits employers from employing foreign nationals who are in the country illegally. This would require businesses to choose between violating state or federal law.
Democrats Push to Reject Trump’s Environmental Policies
Senator Daniel Biss (D-Skokie) pushed SB 2213 through the Senate Labor Committee this week on a partisan vote. The bill blocks any changes made by the Trump Administration on environmental policy by rejecting any changes to statute relating to environmental protection, natural resources, or public health made at the federal government level after January 1, 2017. The retroactive measure also allows any person to file lawsuits alleging violations of the Environmental Protection Act, a power currently afforded only to the Attorney General or States’ Attorneys. The bill was met with widespread opposition including the IMA.
The bill passed over opposition from the IMA and business community. However, the Senator noted he would be looking to further amend the bill with language that is being drafted by the Attorney General’s Office and environmental activists.
Manufacturing Job Destination Tax Credit, MPC Held in Committee
As we have seen over the past few years, the IMA’s tax reform initiatives to make Illinois more attractive for manufacturers has been held up in both House and Senate Revenue Committee as legislators consider the credit a bargaining chip in budget negotiations. The Manufacturing Jobs Destination Credit, Introduced in both HB 5469 (McCombie, R-Savana) and SB 3303 (McConnaughay, R-West Dundee), would help attract good, high-paying manufacturing jobs to Illinois by reducing a significant cost barrier and addressing education and workforce development issues.
The IMA’s proposal would create a tax credit to offset the cost of both labor expenditures and job training costs. In order to qualify, the manufacturing company must provide health insurance, paid time off, and other retirement benefits (401k) plan for its employees.
The second tax reform proposals (HB 5295, SB 3453) pushed by the IMA would reinstate the Manufacturers Purchase Credit, modernize and make permanent the Research & Development credit, create a training expense credit, and allow companies to help offset the cost of apprentices.
The IMA will continue pushing for tax law changes in the final eight weeks of session.
Tax Exemption for Coal and Aggregate Advances with IMA Support
The House Revenue Committee advanced a measure this week that extends a tax exemption sunset for coal and aggregate exploration, mining, off-highway hauling, processing, maintenance, and reclamation equipment. HB 4415 (Costello, D-Red Bud) received unanimous support in a rare showing of bipartisanship on a tax issue. The IMA’s support, along with the support of aggregate producers and transportation groups, was able to rebut opposition from environmental advocates. The bill will move to the House Floor for full consideration.
Bill Advances to Give Communities Support for Water Infrastructure
Lawmakers from the House Public Utilities Committee advanced a measure this week to allow municipalities to receive fair market value if they choose to sell water or wastewater assets. The bill, HB 4508 (Sauer, R-Libertyville), extends the sunset on the Systems Viability Act (SVA) by another 10 years, authorizing municipalities the right to sell their water and water assets. The sunset extension not only gives communities greater flexibility in managing their water systems, but also allows communities of all sizes to receive fair market value if they choose to privatize their water system. This measure is important to manufacturers who rely on a strong infrastructure from the communities where they reside and who depend on a community’s ability to maintain their water systems. The bill passed out of the Committee by a vote of 13-2-2 and will advance to the House floor for consideration.
Converting Non-Recycled Plastics in Illinois to Fuels and Chemicals
Policymakers in the House Environment Committee chose this week to encourage Illinois manufacturing to continue not only to grow, but also lead in innovation and technology by advancing HB 5198 (Walsh, D-Joliet). The legislation, an initiative of the Chemical Industry Council of Illinois and supported by the IMA, ensures that post-use, non-recycled plastics that are converted to crude oil, fuels, chemical feedstock, or other valuable raw materials or products via pyrolysis or gasiﬁcation are not misclassiﬁed as solid waste. This classification is important to ensure that manufacturers in Illinois who take part in this particular chemical process are regulated like other manufacturers, not as solid waste management facilities or waste sites.
Despite efforts from environmental activists to claim that taking non-recycled plastics and turning them into fuels and other products is not recycling, the measure saw bipartisan support and passed by a vote of 12-6-0. Legislators noted during committee that the plastics being used to create fuel and other products through pyrolysis or gasification are non-recyclable and that the legislation would actually prevent these plastics from going into a landfill where they could sit for decades, if not centuries.
Senate Committee Passes Oil & Gas Regulations
Senator Dave Koehler, chair of the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee, pushed legislation through the Committee this week that would impose new burdensome and costly regulations on energy companies. Acting in response to local activists, Senator Koehler advanced a bill over IMA opposition that actually amends the wrong section of law.
SB 3174 seeks to require companies to provide the length and direction of horizontal or directional extensions. It requires the disclosure of certain chemicals. All of these requirements are currently included in the Hydraulic Fracturing Act but this legislation amends the Oil and Gas Act meaning that they would apply to small operators that do not frack wells.
This politically-motivated bill now moves to the Senate floor for consideration.