Dec 9, 2019
Illinois 2020 Legislative Session Preview
The Illinois legislature started the year with high hopes, with Democrats holding the governor’s office as well as super majorities in both chambers. In January, Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker was inaugurated, along with a net gain of seven Democratic seats in the House and an increase to a 40-19 Democrat-Republican split in the Senate. After four years of fighting with former Governor Rauner, the Democrats were excited to achieve more progressive policy wins. In this aim they were widely successful, and most of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s policy goals were enacted with bipartisan support. Several key measures included a raise in the minimum wage to $15 by 2025; a $45 billion capital bill; a large gaming expansion bill; a bill legalizing recreational cannabis; and the approval of a graduated income tax amendment that will go before voters on the November 2020 ballot.
Top 2020 Agenda Items
Senate President Race
After 10 years as Senate President, John Cullerton has announced he will be retiring in January. His announcement has led to a heated race for the leadership of the body’s Democratic caucus. Likely contenders for the top spot include: Senators Kimberly Lightford, Don Harmon, and Elgie Sims. Senator Kimberly Lightford has emerged as the leading candidate, having support from prominent Democratic Senators Manar and Steans who came together with her to form a new leadership PAC. If elected, Lightford would be the first African American woman to serve as one of the top four legislative leaders in Illinois.
Despite pushes from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and a visit to Springfield during veto session, the Chicago Mayor was unable to get changes to the gambling legislation passed in Springfield. Mayor Lightfoot is lobbying for changes to the tax structures for a possible Chicago Casino, following a feasibility study earlier this year which concluded that the current taxes would make a Chicago casino unsustainable. It is likely the legislature will take up this issue again when they reconvene, and Governor Pritzker said he is looking to work with Mayor Lightfoot on the issue.
2019 saw a breakout of respiratory illness among vape users. With 5 deaths this year, Illinois leads the nation in vaping-related deaths. In response, law makers in Springfield have sought to enact various new regulations on vaping and vaping products. House Bill 3887, which would create the Flavored Tobacco Ban Act, prohibiting the sale of flavored e-cigarette and tobacco products was filed in September. Although a hearing was held, the legislation failed to move forward, but will likely come up again next year. Governor JB Pritzker has stated his support for a ban on flavored vaping products.
Ethylene oxide, a chemical used by medical device cleaning facilities and various manufacturers was thrown into the political spotlight in this year. One facility, Sterigenics, was shut down in February 2019 following an EPA report showing higher cancer rates in the areas surrounding the facility. The first ethylene oxide related bills to come through the legislature were passed in the spring. SB 1852 and SB 1854 were passed with broad bi-partisan support and have been touted as the most stringent ethylene oxide regulations in the country. Despite this, some members of the public and of the legislature believe the new laws do not go far enough. During veto session, two additional pieces of legislation were introduced including HB 3888, a bill to completely phase out the use of ethylene oxide in the state. While HB 3888 passed the Senate, both bills have been postponed and will be taken up again once the legislature comes back into session in January. The Governor has vowed to sign the legislation if it passes.
Gig Economy Taxation
A bill presented by State Representative Will Guzzardi aims to require online based companies, like Uber, to treat staffers as employees and not as independent contractors. This would require the companies to comply with minimum wage and other employee protections and would require their incomes to be taxed at a normal rate. This bill is based off of a similar one that California passed in September and is expected to come up in the 2020 session.
Lobbying and Ethics Reform
Due in part to the recent news related to federal investigations of public officials, expect to see additional lobbying and ethics reforms in 2020. This follows the smaller items taken up late in the 2019 veto session, including a Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform. The bipartisan commission, which met for the first time shortly before Christmas, has a March 31st deadline to issue a report with its recommendations. Among the issues it will consider include whether state lawmakers should be allowed to lobby other governments (which Chicago just prohibited starting next year), allowing legislators to hold multiple elected offices, and more extensive economic disclosure laws.
As was the case last year, education is expected to be a key item on the governor’s legislative agenda for 2020. As part of the state’s 2017 overhaul of the school funding formula, the legislature committed to increase education funding by at least $50 million each year for the next decade. Pritzker, a billionaire who is active in education philanthropy, maintained the state’s statutory commitment in that formula as well as increased funding for early childhood education in 2019. Similar investments are likely to be discussed this year. With many bills introduced throughout the month, lawmakers will continue to address education issues that the state has dealt with for years including teacher shortages, teacher retention, and additional curriculum mandates as well new issues like limiting the use of student restraint and isolation for behavioral problems. A task force report meant to address the issue of high property taxes is expected to include recommendations for school district consolidation, a perennial topic in the statehouse.
March Primary and General Election
With the 2020 primary to be held in March and November’s general election, expect to see some political changes around both elections. At the state level, Democrats hope to further their supermajority. At the federal level, Democrats hope to maintain 2018’s pickups in IL-14 (Underwood), IL-06 (Casten) and expand their majority by defeating Rep. Rodney Davis in IL-13. As discussed above, Illinois voters will also have their say on the adoption of a graduated income tax at the November ballot box.
2020 Important Dates:
January 1, 2020 –Recreational marijuana becomes legal
January 19, 2020 – Senate Democrats select next president
January 29, 2020 – Governor’s State of the State Address
February 14, 2020 – Bill introduction deadline
February 19, 2020 – Governor’s Budget Address
March 17, 2020 –Presidential Primary Election