WEEK IN REVIEW: Special End of Session Edition

The Illinois General Assembly adjourned for the summer on June 2, two days after the regularly scheduled adjournment, after addressing a number of high-profile issues.

Major infrastructure plan approved

Huge infrastructure upgrades are on the way thanks to a capital program that will bring vital investment to communities throughout the state of Illinois. The bipartisan plan will provide nearly $45 billion in direct investment in Illinois’ aging transportation infrastructure, as well as include funds for construction projects for schools, public universities, sewer and water systems and state facilities.

Horizontal revenues generated under the plan, those that go to roads and bridge, can only be used to fund transportation projects thanks to the lock box amendment passed several years ago by Illinois voters. This means that taxpayers can rest assured that when they fill their gas tank, the money generated from those taxes will be a direct investment back in our roads

Vertical projects – those to make improvements at schools, public universities and state facilities, among others – will be funded largely by a gaming expansion that includes six new casinos, and legal sports wagering in Illinois.

This bipartisan infrastructure investment plan will revitalize the state, helping to attract business, stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Syverson votes NO to pay hike

State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) joined his fellow Senate Republicans in rejecting a budget that included a pay hike for legislators in the final days of the spring legislative session. Late on the night of May 31, Senators were surprised to find a $1,600-per-year salary increase in the budget presented to them.

The $39.9 billion budget, which includes a 2.4 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to legislators’ base salary, was considered initially in the Senate on May 31 just before the clock struck midnight.

In Illinois, COLA increases for legislators are automatic in state law unless the legislature takes action to block them. Blocking these pay increases has become a routine practice and, for a decade, budget legislation has included language to freeze salaries. However, the previously agreed to COLA freeze was missing from the legislation.

Freeze language was added to legislation that the Senate voted to send over to the House; however, the House sponsor filed a motion to reject the freeze, and the bill was never called for a vote.

Despite optimism that a bipartisan state budget was within reach, without language to freeze this pay hike for legislators, all 19 members of the Senate Republican caucus ultimately voted “no” on the budget proposal.

Gaming expansion clears the General Assembly

After more than a decade of hard work, the Illinois General Assembly finally passed a comprehensive gaming expansion package for Illinois in the final hours of the spring legislative session. When signed by the Governor, the measure will allow for six new casinos, including one in Rockford, and legal sports wagering in Illinois.

Senate Bill 690, co-sponsored by State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), authorizes casinos for Rockford, Chicago, Walkers Bluff, Danville, Waukegan, and the south suburbs.

The measure would also allow for sports wagering at casinos, racetracks, lottery and online. Fantasy sports sites, like FanDuel and DraftKings, will be able to partner with a casino, racetrack, or other sports venue that offers a sports book, and those wishing to engage in sports betting would then physically enter a casino to register to place and place deposits. The in-person deposits would allow them to place bets through the online services.

Additionally, the bill allows a sixth terminal at video gaming establishments other than truck stops where ten terminals will be allowed. Terminals will be taxed at 33 percent of revenue which will increase to 34 percent in the second year.

Revenue from this expansion, will help fund capital improvements in Illinois.

“This has been legislation that I’ve worked on for the past decade, and I am very excited to see all those years of hard work and negotiating finally come together in a successful and bipartisan package that will benefit all of Illinois,” said Syverson in an issued statement after the measure passed the Senate. “This will be a game changer for our region, generating millions of dollars in tax revenue for Rockford and Winnebago County and creating hundreds of high-paying jobs.”

Finger-printing, fee increases for FOID stall out

A measure decried by Second Amendment advocates as an unnecessary infringement on privacy rights stalled out during the last week of the spring legislative session. Senate Bill 1966, a so-called “fix the FOID” bill, would have required fingerprinting to apply for a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card and increased fees.

New applications and renewal fees for a FOID card would have increased from $10 to $20 under the controversial measure. Applicants would also have been required to pay costs for fingerprinting and processing a background check – an extra expense on top of the application fee.

Additionally, FOID cards would have been valid for only five years instead of the current ten, meaning the increased fees would be twice as often.

Facing opposition, the measure failed to move during the spring legislative session.

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