Legislative News from Rep. Grant Wehrli

DuPage County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day Announced

One way that Illinois households can help the environment is by making sure that hazardous waste items from their personal property are turned in for safe disposal. Tests of groundwater and surface water are finding significant quantities of chemicals, including pharmaceutical drugs, in the water used by Illinoisans for drinking and day-to-day life.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (ILEPA) has developed a network of collection sites for safe disposal of household hazardous waste, and DuPage County is offering an opportunity for residents to safely dispose of household hazardous waste on Saturday, October 5. Click here for those details. Oil-based paints and paint thinners, household weed killer, motor oil, cleaning products and drain cleansers, and household batteries are among the types of chemicals to be safely disposed of at this Saturday’s event.

Sterigenics Announces Permanent Closure of Willowbrook Facility

In a surprising announcement this week, officials from Willowbrook’s Sterigenics facility announced it is abandoning efforts to re-open after being closed by the EPA in February. Ethylene Oxide (EtO) emissions from the Sterigenics plant were found to be well-above acceptable levels and were tied to a cancer cluster in the area immediately surrounding the plant. But less than a month ago the EPA awarded a new permit that would allow the plant to re-open only if nearly-undetectable levels of the poisonous gas was released into the air. The decision to leave Willowbrook was a solid victory for citizen activists and DuPage and Will County lawmakers who have worked hard for more than a year to close them down permanently.

I served as the leading Chief Co-Sponsor this year of the Matt Haller Act, which created the strongest restrictions on EtO in the nation. The legislation was named in honor of a 45-year-old Willowbrook resident who passed away earlier this year from stage four stomach cancer. Haller lived one mile from the Sterigenics plant.

Those who live near plants that utilize EtO deserve to know the air they breathe is safe. The provisions of SB 1852, now listed as Public Act 101-0022 in the Illinois Statutes, reduces allowable EtO emissions at sterilization facilities to rates that ensure air quality levels are 99.9% chemical-free. Moving forward, sterilization plants not in compliance with the new standards would be shut down immediately.

Tax Amnesty Announced
From time to time, the State of Illinois announces tax amnesties, brief periods when people can pay past-due, unpaid taxes to the Department of Revenue (IDOR) and gain partial relief from penalties due. In spring 2019, the General Assembly asked IDOR to briefly open a tax amnesty window. In compliance with State law, IDOR has announced a six-and-a-half-week window for the payment of delinquent back taxes. The 2019 tax amnesty period runs from October 1 to November 15. The 2019 tax amnesty will cover past-due liabilities that accrued from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2018. Tax experts believe the tax amnesty may bring in as much as $175 million. 

Wehrli Hosts Successful Town Hall Meetings

During the month of September, I hosted two open topics town hall meetings in the 41st District. On September 10, I hosted a meeting in Naperville and on September 26 I hosted a meeting in Warrenville. Together, more than 150 constituents came out to hear about the recent legislative session, the upcoming fall veto session, and to participate in a Q & A conversation. I appreciate those who took the time to attend one of these meetings. As your voice in Springfield, your input is extremely valuable.

Taiwan Makes $2.2 Billion Commitment to Purchase Illinois Corn and Soybeans
The export agreements will be implemented over a two-year period. Corn and soybeans are the most significant cash crops grown in Illinois, but Illinois corn and soybean exports have been hard-hit in calendar year 2019 by poor crop growing conditions, international trade disputes, and other factors. The agreements, totaling $2.2 billion, were inked by the Illinois Corn Marketing Board and the Illinois Soybean Association, with assistance from the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Illinois is the top soybean producing state and second largest producer of corn in the nation, exporting more than 360 million bushels of whole soybeans annually and an average of 877 million bushels of corn. Taiwan is Illinois’ third largest trading partner of agricultural products.

Wehrli Greets Seniors at Annual Healthy, Wealthy & Wise Event

Each year the Naperville and Lisle Township Triad hosts a large expo to benefit our area’s seniors. Done through a partnership of law enforcement, senior citizens and local community organizations, this fair is always well attended. I look forward to participating in the event every year, and this year was no exception. I had some great conversations with constituents and enjoyed meeting a lot of new people. The mission of the Naperville and Lisle Triad is to enhance the quality of life of all senior citizens in Naperville Township and Lisle Township and to empower senior citizens to become more involved in community programs, including crime prevention programs, educational seminars, and implementing means to make the community a safer place for senior citizens.

Illinois Local Governments Have Power to Reject Cannabis Dispensaries
Under the law passed by the Illinois General Assembly in spring 2019, municipalities and counties do not have to grant licenses to businesses that want to sell marijuana within Illinois. Many Illinois communities are exercising their legal right to “opt-out” of the dispensary portion of the law, and Naperville’s City Council recently took advantage of the opt-out provision. The City of Warrenville is still considering the issue.

I voted against the recreational marijuana legalization bill (HB 1438) in the Illinois House. While I listened intently to all arguments both in favor of, and against marijuana legalization, I kept coming back to one inescapable truth: No action taken by the General Assembly to legalize recreational marijuana changes the fact that marijuana remains a Schedule I Controlled Substance and is illegal under Federal Law.

I believe firmly that states do not have the authority to usurp federal law. The Supremacy Clause found in Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is clear when it declares the Constitution, laws and treaties of the federal government to be the supreme law of the land, to which judges in every state are bound regardless of state law to the contrary. My oath of office includes a promise to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and I take that oath very seriously. Before states legalize recreational marijuana, federal lawmakers need to first remove marijuana from the Schedule I Controlled Substance list. That hasn’t happened.

Despite what I believe are very valid concerns, the bill passed and Illinois is preparing for legalization that takes effect on January 1.

House Mental Health Committee Holds Hearing on Vaping Crisis

I recently attended and served as the ranking Republican at a Mental Health Committee hearing that focused on Illinois’ vaping crisis. This fall I filed HB 3887, which would create the Flavored Tobacco Ban Act, and set penalties for individuals and manufacturers who would sell the products illegally. Specifically, it would ban the sale of flavored nicotine or nicotine/TCS products commonly used in vaping pens and e-cigarettes. Other flavored tobacco ban bills have been filed this year, but my HB 3887 is the only bill that includes flavored nicotine products that also include THC.

During the committee hearing, I questioned the Illinois Attorney General and Director of Public Health about statistics involving lung illnesses by those who have used vaping materials combined with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. You can listen to my line of questioning here.

As a General Assembly, when we address this growing health crisis, we need to ensure we are taking steps that address the real problem. When I hear that between 75% and 80% of Illinois cases of lung illness tied to vaping also involve vape products that include THC, I see a direct correlation between THC-infused products and significant lung disease. With marijuana legalization taking effect on January 1, I believe any flavored nicotine product ban must also address THC-infused products.

States are under pressure to take action on vaping, which has recruited millions of children and young adult users nationwide. Vaping cartridges are replacing traditional cigarettes as a favored method to ingest addictive nicotine. Children and juveniles are prohibited from consuming nicotine, but the law is currently being broken by so many people that enforcement is becoming a challenge.  Educators are reporting that the number of high school students who “vape” with e-cigarettes is increasing at annual rates of more than 100% per year. 

DuPage County Republicans Partner with Sheriff James Mendrick to Fight Opioid Crisis

Between 2015 and 2018, opioid deaths in DuPage County almost doubled, from 51 reported deaths in 2015 to 98 deaths in 2018. In an effort to reverse this alarming trend, I’m partnering with three other DuPage County Republican State Representatives and DuPage Sheriff James Mendrick to fight the epidemic through distribution of a new, easy-to-use drug disposal system.

We are helping Mendrick distribute disposable bags that deactivate the harmful ingredients in opioid pills or patches. According to Mendrick, individuals with leftover opioids simply have to put them into the bag, add water, and shake. A drug deactivation system then breaks down the drugs to a point where they can safely be thrown in the trash. Mendrick said any leftover prescription of up to 45 pills or six fentanyl patches can be destroyed in the pouches. The disposal bags were made available to the sheriff’s office free of charge through a grant obtained by the Illinois Sheriffs Association.

In his short time as Sheriff of DuPage County, Sheriff James Mendrick has shown excellent leadership in fighting the scourge of opioid abuse in our county. I’m honored to partner with him on this program that will save lives by reducing opportunities for opioids to fall into the wrong hands.

The free opioid deactivation bags are available at the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office and at all four of our State Representative district offices:

  • Representative Jim Durkin: 16W281 83rd Street, Suite C, Burr Ridge, IL
  • Representative Deanne Mazzochi: 1 S. Cass Avenue, Westmont Centre, Suite 205, Westmont, IL
  • Representative Grant Wehrli: 55 S. Main Street, Suite 383, Naperville, IL
  • Representative Amy Grant: 211 E. Illinois Street, Wheaton, IL

House Republicans Lead Fight to Repeal “Trade-In” Tax
Last week I signed on as a Chief Co-Sponsor of two bills that would remove the “trade-in-credit” cap of $10,000 on vehicle purchases. The Illinois General Assembly enacted legislation this year to cap the credit that has, up until now, partially relieved the burden of sales taxes on people buying new or used motor vehicles in Illinois. This burden can be substantial. In an Illinois jurisdiction where sales tax is imposed at a rate of 9%, for example, purchasing a new $40,000 motor vehicle will generate an additional sales tax of $3,600. This bill is typically added to the financing package for the car or light truck, and the buyer must cover it in monthly payments.

Until spring 2019, new-vehicle buyers and their dealers had a recourse to reduce this tax bill. For purposes of calculating sales tax, the value of a vehicle being traded in was subtracted, or ‘credited,’ from the price of the purchase at the time of the transaction. If the buyer of the $40,000 motor vehicle were trading in a vehicle with a trade-in value of $15,000, the transaction would generate a sales tax base of $25,000, not $40,000.

HB 3890 and HB 3891 would compel the State to value trade-ins at their true market value, and to allow dealers and their customers to subtract all of the trade-in credit from the price of the car for purposes of sales tax calculation. I am hopeful that one or both of these bills will be considered during the upcoming fall veto session.

Illinois Drivers’ Licenses Switching to REAL ID Compliance

Starting on October 1, 2020, the security-compliant identification cards will be required by the federal REAL ID Act for many public activities, including entrance into federal buildings and entering the secure areas of a public airport. The Illinois Secretary of State’s office announced this week that it has issued 300,000 federal-compliant REAL IDs during the first six months of active compliance. REAL IDs are identified by a gold-circled star in the upper right-hand corner.  

The process of getting a State drivers’ license or identification card has become more cumbersome. Applicants have to present additional documentation, as well as their address and old drivers’ license, when they apply for a REAL ID card. In addition, the new cards are produced in secure facilities and cannot be handed out at the Secretary of State’s local offices. Instead, the applicant is given temporary documentation. If the application is in order, the compliant REAL ID card is mailed to the applicant in a sealed, unmarked envelope within 15 business days.