Lawmakers Return for Fall Veto Session, Gas Tax on Horizon?
With the election in the rearview mirror, Illinois lawmakers returned to Springfield for the first of two weeks of the Fall Veto Session sandwiched around the Thanksgiving holiday.
This year, Illinois lawmakers passed a total of 619 pieces of legislation with Governor Rauner issuing total or amendatory vetoes on 83 bills. In order to override the Governor’s action on a specific bill, the House and Senate must achieve supermajority three-fifths votes in each chamber.
The House of Representatives and Senate started the process of acting on the Governor’s vetoes this week and will conclude the second week of Veto Session.
There is ongoing discussion that lawmakers could return in early January before inauguration to vote on a revenue package that would be used to fund a capital infrastructure program next year. The plan could double the state’s current gas tax of 19 cents to finance a multi-billion dollar construction program to build roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
Bills with an immediate effective date that are passed after January 1 only require a simple majority to pass rather than a supermajority vote. With dozens of lame duck lawmakers, the current legislature could pass the tax before they leave office and send it to the desk of incoming Governor JB Pritzker for his signature.
House and Senate Environment Committees Discuss Ethylene Oxide
This week both the House Environment Committee and the Senate Environment and Conservation Committee debated legislation that calls for banning the use of Ethylene Oxide, or EO, which is an important compound used in both in the manufacturing process of countless products and as a medical equipment sterilizer. Calls for a ban on EO stem from a United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) assessment that is scientifically-flawed according to many experts. Using a flawed risk value derived with inaccurate assumptions that was not based on the best available science resulted in a warning for miniscule amounts of EO emissions causing sensationalist headlines in newspapers.
The USEPA assessment for EO claims that it could cause cancer at one part per trillion. By comparison, the human body emits EO at a much greater level of 1.8 parts per billion. Cooking oil, auto emissions, and smoking all release EO emissions that are tens of thousands of times greater that the USEPA assessment believes is safe.
The IMA, Chemical Industry Council, iBIO, and national experts provided testimony at both committees explaining the flaws in the science used by the USEPA in their report and also warned of the dangers that banning EO would have on the medical supply community who would find themselves without a sterilization process for their equipment that is both necessary and required by the FDA. It would negatively impact many other manufacturers that use EO.
While the Senate hearing was subject matter-only, the House committee agreed to continue negotiation and passed Leader Jim Durkin’s legislation (HB 5983) which calls for a ban on EO beginning in 2022, and Representative Carol Sente’s bill (HB 5985) that bans EO beginning in 2021. Before both hearings stakeholders came together and discussed possible compromises and timeline of when legislation could move and new language and further stakeholder meetings are expected in the near future.
Measure to Increase Tobacco Purchase Age Limit Advances
The Senate acted this week to override Governor Rauner’s veto of legislation (SB 2332) raising the age for the legal purchase of tobacco products from 18 to 21. Governor Rauner vetoed the bill because while it raises the age to purchase tobacco products, it also decriminalizes underage possession. With a vote of 36-19, the bill now heads to the House where it will require 71 votes to override the Governor’s veto. An override attempt will be much harder in the House as the bill originally passed with only 61 votes, well short of the 71 it will now need to become law.
E-Waste Agreement Passes Both Chambers
The Senate unanimously concurred on SB 3550 (Bush/Sauer) that allows for residential collection of Consumer Electronic Devices (CED) at drop-off locations throughout the state. The bill was a compromise amongst stakeholders that failed to make it out of the Senate during regular session due to time constraints. Seen as an important piece to the overhaul of the State’s E-waste program since the Illinois Consumer Electronics Recycling Act went into effect in 2017, the bill will now go to the Governor’s desk where a signature is expected.
Legislator Notification for New Air Permits
Senator Tony Munoz (D-Chicago) introduced a pair of new amendments to SB 241 this week dealing with notifications for permits issued by the Illinois EPA. While the IMA opposed the first amendment mandating public notification for all air or water permit issued by the Agency, the Senator then filed a more workable amendment that would require the IEPA to notify legislators and post to their website whenever a new facility applies for an air permit. While the first amendment passed out of the Senate Executive Committee, the Senator is expected to move the second amendment when the General Assembly returns after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The IMA appreciates Senator Munoz for listening to concerns from the IMA and amending his legislation.
Trailer Bill to Allow Communities to Update Water Utilities
A trailer bill that follows the enactment of Public Act 100-751 passed out of the House Public Utilities committee 14-6-0. The underlying Act allows municipalities to receive fair market value when selling their water or wastewater assets. Selling water assets is sometimes essential when a community cannot afford important upgrades to maintain the system. The original law was passed ten years ago and was then extended earlier this year by the legislature. However, it was technically flawed so the new trailer bill, SB 3051, changes the implementation date of the law and will likely be called for a vote in the House during the second week of Veto Session.
Workers’ Compensation Regulation & Captive Insurance
The Senate took action this week to refute the Governor’s veto of two measures (SB 904, SB 1737) dealing with workers’ compensation and modernization of captive insurance. With Senate approval, both measures now move to the House of Representatives for approval that appears likely.
The first bill, SB 1737, is a compilation of five separate bills that were enjoined and include rate regulation of workers’ compensation insurance carriers. If approved, insurance companies will need to file and get rate approval from the Department of Insurance prior to those rates taking effect. Additionally, the legislation includes an IMA proposal (SB 1286) that modernizes the captive insurance law and reduces the tax rate on employers that utilize captives for managing risk.
The IMA opposed SB 904 that was an initiative of the State Medical Society that originally doubled interest rates on employers and insurers for undisputed workers’ compensation claims. The bill allows a health care provider to sue in court to recover interest payments, leading to increased time and litigation costs. The final bill that passed the General Assembly maintained the current 1 percent interest rate (rather than 2 percent) but still allows for lawsuits rather than allowing the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission to adjudicate claims.