As America continues to respond to acts of senseless violence against people of color, I am participating in a variety of meetings and discussions about how lawmakers can help promulgate change within our criminal justice system and promote equality. On June 4, I participated in a zoom session sponsored by Naperville Neighbors United, a local organization that promotes courageous conversations to help make Naperville inclusive and welcoming to all residents. I was able to listen as residents shared their stories, fears and frustrations as they relate to race, equity and inclusion.
Last night I was part of a bipartisan Facebook Live event hosted by State Representative Emmanuel “Chris” Welch of Chicago. As a group, four lawmakers discussed the recent murder of George Floyd, police misconduct, protests, and the need for criminal justice reforms. Along with Representative Welch, I was joined on the Facebook Live event by Republican State Representatives Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) and Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City). I extend my sincere thanks to Representative Welch for inviting me to participate in the Facebook Live event, and found the discussion to be informative and enlightening. I look forward to more honest conversation, and hope that we can work together on substantive change. There aren’t any easy answers, but the work of equality is something we must all recommit to every day.
Republicans Help Enact Property Tax Relief
The relief language was contained in SB 685, passed by the General Assembly during the May special session. Responding to the cash-flow crunches being faced by many Illinois households, the legislature took action on a bipartisan basis to temporarily stop counties from offering up delinquent properties for tax sale. Under this new law, the annual tax sale that would ordinarily be held in calendar year 2020, to bring in money on delinquent parcels of real property, shall be held no earlier than the first month after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. This tax-sale suspension applies to all counties outside oCook County, which has taken such action on its own. Delinquent properties will continue to accumulate back taxes, interest, and penalties.
Another key provision of SB 685 reduces paperwork burdens on senior citizens and persons with disabilities by providing for the automatic rollover of a property taxpayer’s status to enjoy certain exemptions and senior-freeze rights with respect to their homesteads. If a property qualified for any of these exemptions in the 2019 taxable year, it will continue to qualify in the 2020 taxable year without time-consuming re-application paperwork. SB 685, in its final form, was approved unanimously by the House. The bill was signed into law on Friday, June 5.
SB 685 fell short of property tax relief at the level that many House Republicans supported. For example, HB 5772 would have created a 90-day property tax payment holiday throughout Illinois. In response to the sharp personal income declines of the current pandemic, HB 5772 would have said that each Illinois property tax bill would have been due 90 days later than the date payments would otherwise have been required to have been made. Together with other House Republican COVID-19 relief proposals, HB 5772 was bottled up by the majority party and was not released for a vote.
Rep. Grant Wehrli Reacts to Rejection of IDPH Permit for Naperville’s Centennial Beach
Naperville’s Centennial Beach is a community gem that has provided summer fun for the last 88 years. The operators of Centennial Beach recently applied for a permit so that some summer recreational opportunities could be provided this year with safety measures, but the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) rejected the permit. Under the Governor’s Phase 3 plan, swimming facilities licensed by IDPH are not to be opened except for lap swimming, diving, swimming lessons, swim team practices, and therapy pool use. Water parks and bathing beaches are not to be opened in Phase 3.
I’m disappointed that the gathering place known as “the beach” will not be open for summer fun this year. I’m sorry that seniors who made visits to “the beach” part of their normal summer routine won’t have that option this year, and I’m sorry that so many young people will not have summer employment opportunities that have always been available at this community swimming area.
We should be following nationally-recommended guidelines with regard to swimming facilities during the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidelines for the safe operation of these recreational facilities this summer and recommended that decisions be made locally, but the Governor has randomly decided those guidelines don’t work in Illinois. He decided on a full-out statewide ban of recreational swimming during his Phase 3. The CDC has not recommended a ban, so why is Governor Pritzker?
Gov. Pritzker Signs Unbalanced FY21 Budget into Law
The Fiscal Year 2021 budget and Budget Implementation Act (BIMP) spending bills were signed into law on Wednesday, June 10. This clears the way for the documents to be used to operate the State’s business in Fiscal Year 2021, starting July 1. The bills were SB 264 (budget) and HB 357 (BIMP).
The Constitution of Illinois requires that the General Assembly, each year, enact a balanced budget (Article VIII, subsection 2(b)). Although State revenues have fallen off the table during the COVID-19 pandemic and these lost revenues are expected to continue into FY21, the majority party made no significant cuts in the FY21 budget to help offset the loss in revenues. SB 264, for the most part, held spending flat at FY20 levels, which included significant increases compared to FY19.
To cover the losses from declining revenue, Democrats made clear that they would rely on borrowing, including $1.2 billion in previously authorized emergency borrowing powers and up to $5 billion in borrowing from the U.S. Federal Reserve through the Municipal Liquidity Facility, a new financing avenue created by Congress in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This massive borrowing scheme was authorized in SB 2099 as part of the overall budget package, in lieu of cuts to FY20 levels and despite budget exercises that GOMB asked state agencies to participate in last fall that would achieve budget savings of up to 6 percent at various agencies. House Republicans unanimously voted “No” against the Democrats’ borrow-and-spend budget.
Free Job Training Offered for Unemployed Illinoisans
Get Hired Illinois is a web portal that connects out of work Illinoisans with job and career training opportunities during the coronavirus pandemic. The Get Hired portal provides information on both job opportunities and unemployment information. It is designed to be user-friendly for all job seekers regardless of backgrounds, and will also allow employers not only to upload jobs, but also to set up virtual job fairs and training. Job seekers can receive job training and a certificate of completion free of charge for a limited time. To avoid having to pay the fee for the certificate of successful completion, Illinois residents can enroll in online courses for free through Coursera on this webpage and are encouraged to enroll between June 1 and September 30, 2020. All students seeking to participate in the free program must complete all courses by December 31, 2020. Students who do not complete their course by December 31st will have the option to continue and receive their credential at their own expense. Here are the steps people can take to get started:
1. Create an Illinois workNet account
2. Visit the training page and click on the “Access Your Free Courses” button
3. Coursera will then send the individual an email so he or she can get started on their courses
House GOP Calls on IDES to Reopen Local Offices
Last week I joined several House Republicans in sending a letter to the Director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security, calling on the agency to reopen local offices throughout Illinois to more effectively serve residents in need of unemployment benefits amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter was co-signed by 25 members of the House Republican Caucus. My office still receives dozens of calls each week from frustrated Illinoisans who are unable to secure deserved unemployment benefits. Secretary of State offices have reopened and so have Vehicle Emissions Testing facilities. The Governor’s own reopen plan states that businesses can reopen in Phase 3. Why is he holding back on reopening local IDES offices?
State Board of Education Issues Guidelines for Permitted Summer School Activities in Phase 3
The IL State Board of Education (ISBE) announced the list of summer school-related activities that will be allowed in Phase 3, along with a list of rules. Decisions regarding whether to conduct allowable activities during Phase 3 will remain at the discretion of local school authorities, in consultation with local public health departments. Click here to learn more.
Pre-Registration now available for in-person Driver’s License/ ID Card Services
The Secretary of State has launched an online driver’s license and ID card preregistration application program to reduce the processing time of transactions at Driver Services facilities. It is a proactive approach that will save customers time during their facility visit. Customers may go to cyberdriveillinois.com to access the preregistration application for driver’s licenses and ID cards and input specific information regarding their upcoming transaction. As a result, once the customer visits a Driver Services facility, the clerk will not have to enter all of the data like a change of address or a change of height and weight into the electronic application form because the customer has already updated the information. This will improve the efficiency of these transactions. As a reminder, Driver Services facilities statewide are open to serve ONLY new drivers, customers with expired driver’s licenses/ID cards and vehicle transactions through July 31. Expiration dates for driver’s licenses/ID cards and vehicle registration stickers have been extended until Oct. 1, 2020 so customers do not need to rush into a facility. Click here to learn more.
Governor Pritzker Cancels State Fairs
Governor Pritzker has issued an Executive Order canceling the Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairs this year. The announcement of the cancellations has prompted the Department of Agriculture to offer a safe, creative way to ensure youth exhibitors still get a chance to showcase their hard work. The annual State Fairs, which attracted over 600,000 visitors combined in 2019, will return in August 2021.
Due to the cancellations of the fairs, the Department of Agriculture will host a Junior Livestock Expo in Springfield in September, for Illinois exhibitors ages 8-21 to show their animals. The 4-H General Project Show will take place virtually, with premiums and ribbons to be distributed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Details regarding entry and operations are forthcoming.
Law that Bans Smoking in Cars in the Presence of a Child Takes Effect
In 2019, lawmakers approved and the Governor signed a law that makes smoking in a car or light truck in which a child is also riding has become a violation of State law. The law had a delayed effective date, but recently took effect. The prohibition applies to cigarettes, cigars, and all other substances that can be smoked. Any passenger under the age of 18 triggers the definition of the offense.
Smoking in a car with a child is now a petty offense, drawing a fine of $100 (plus court costs) for a first offense. The police are not allowed to stop a vehicle upon suspicion of committing this offense; if it is charged, it will be charged on top of whatever other offense(s) for which the vehicle was stopped. The offense does not apply to vaping, the act of consuming nicotine from an electronic delivery device such as an e-cigarette.