The Illinois House and Senate convened this week for the second week of Veto Session. The session dealt with major issues of State policy on which action was required prior to New Year’s Day.
This will not be the final session of the 102nd General Assembly. Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Springfield during the first week of January 2023 for a “lame duck” session to consider an assault weapons ban and further gun control measures, as well as other possible issues. The new 103rd General Assembly will be sworn into office during the January 11, 2023 Inauguration.
Democrats pass SAFE-T Act trailer legislation over GOP opposition
In a now-familiar pattern, Illinois Democrats passed changes to their so-called “SAFE-T” Act during the final hours of the fall Veto Session. The Democrats’ SAFE-T Act trailer legislation (HB 1095) passed with the minimum required number of votes in the House (71-40-0) on yet another partisan roll call. Not a single Republican in the Illinois House or Senate supported the measure. In both chambers, Republicans spoke out in opposition to this deeply-flawed legislation.
Democrats originally passed the SAFE-T Act by bare minimum partisan majorities during the early morning hours of the final day of the January 2021 lame duck session. This highly-controversial law ends cash bail, makes it more difficult to detain dangerous criminals, exploits victims of violent crime, imposes unfunded mandates on local governments, and cripples our law enforcement officers’ ability to do their jobs effectively.
Despite multiple attempts by the supermajority Democrats to clean up and clarify the intent of the SAFE-T Act, the harsh reality is that the Democrats’ so-called “reforms” will still let dangerous criminals back out onto our streets. No amount of sugarcoating can change what Illinoisans are seeing with their own eyes: shootings and other violent crime is up, carjackings are rampant, and criminal mob actions are plaguing our cities. Our law enforcement community is demoralized and police officers are retiring in droves, leaving some communities without any law enforcement officers at all.
The SAFE-T Act was a terrible law when it was originally passed under the cover of darkness at the end of the 2021 lame duck session. It remains a terrible law today: terrible for public safety, terrible for the victims of violent crime, and terrible for our law enforcement community.
A case against the SAFE-T Act will be heard in court on Wednesday, December 7. Sixty-two Illinois state’s attorneys, representing more than half of the counties in Illinois, have filed lawsuits against the controversial law. The lawsuits have been consolidated into one case that will be heard in Kankakee County circuit court. The December 7 hearing will make it possible for the plaintiff state’s attorneys to present evidence on the unconstitutionality of the SAFE-T Act. The circuit court is scheduled to rule on the case no later than Thursday, December 15. This will create a window of time prior to the January 1, 2023 implementation date.
House, Senate enact agreed Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund legislation
In the spring of 2022, supermajority Democrats passed and Governor Pritzker signed the FY 2023 budget that left a $1.8 billion deficit in the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund.
House Republicans strongly opposed the Democrats’ choice to leave a $1.8 billion hole in the UI Trust Fund, rightly arguing that we had the necessary revenue on hand to pay back our unemployment debt in full. The delay in paying back our unemployment debt to the Federal government cost Illinois taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in back interest and penalties. Instead of paying down the debt we owed to Washington D.C., Illinois Democrats spent a billion dollars on pork projects in Democrat districts.
A significant victory has now been won thanks to pressure applied by House Republican members of the Unemployment Insurance Task Force. An agreement has been reached between the business and labor community that will pay off the balance of the debt owed by the State of Illinois to the Federal government for money that was borrowed to replenish the state’s UI Trust Fund.
House Republicans helped bring labor groups and business interests to the negotiating table to work out a solution, and this week, a deal was reached that will reduce taxes on job creators by $913 million over the next 5 years. Not paying off this debt would have left Illinois businesses on the hook for that $913 million in unemployment insurance tax increases over the next 5 years.
After months of House Republicans demanding the Governor and supermajority Democrats in the House and Senate take responsible financial action and pay back in full the loan from the Federal government, Illinois job creators will benefit from a reduction in possible tax increases because of the agreement that has been reached to pay off our remaining debt.
In addition to paying down our remaining debt to the federal government, the State of Illinois will also increase the rolling balance in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which will help stave off future increases in taxes on jobs and job creators throughout the state. A higher rolling balance in the UI Trust Fund will also mean the State of Illinois will be better prepared in the event of a mass layoff event similar to what took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Bill 1698 contains the agreed language to pay off the UI Trust Fund debt and shore up the rolling balance in the Fund. SB 1698 passed the House on a bipartisan vote of 95-8-2, with the Senate concurring on a vote of 45-8-0.