Friday, May 21, 2010

Legislative preview

By Jamey Dunn

The main focus when the Illinois General Assembly reconvenes next week will be working out a budget that lawmakers can find politically tolerable. Gov. Pat Quinn said at a Chicago news conference today that the plan is not final yet.

“I think we have made some good process. We aren’t there yet, but we’re very close,” Quinn said. “We have to balance reductions and expenses with investments in human beings.”

In addition to the budget, both chambers may still address some legislative issues. Here are a few possibilities:

Both chambers
HB 5873 The proposal would create a two-tiered pension system for firefighters and police officers. If the measure is signed into law, those hired after it takes effect would have to wait until age 55 to be eligible for full pension benefits. They would also be able to receive 72 percent of benefits after 30 years of service instead of the current 75 percent.

SB 377 This “tax amnesty” plan would allow citizens and businesses that owe back taxes to pay them off from October 1 to November 15 of this year without facing penalty. Chicago Democratic Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, a sponsor of the bill, estimates the plan could bring in about $250 million. Gov. Pat Quinn said last month that he was not in favor of the plan. So even if it passes both chambers, it may not become law.


HB 4623 This bill would cap the amount of income seniors can earn and still get free rides on Chicago public transit. The issue was hotly contested in the Senate, but lawmakers reached a compromise, which they advanced over to the House in early May.

SB 2093 Creates a plan for Sales Tax Revenue or STAR bonds. The plan allows for state sales tax dollars from a certain area to go toward a local development project. In this bill, the area is Marion and the project is an entertainment and shopping complex being built by Holland construction.

The Southern Illinoisan reported today that Republican Sen. John Jones is interested in including his hometown of Mount Vernon in the plan. He argued that other southern Illinois communities should have the option to create STAR districts as well. That could potentially hold up the bill. However, Jones said it could also be accomplished with additional pieces of legislation.

SB 3750 The measure would ban the sale of children’s food containers that contain bisphenol-A, or BPA, which has been linked to certain cancers and other health problems. Business groups strongly oppose the bill. The issue has been on the legislature’s radar for a while, but lawmakers failed to move a ban last session. The Senate held a committee hearing dedicated to the topic early this month, and the bill could come up for a vote next week.


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