Springfield, Ill. – Although Gov. Pat Quinn claims the comments were misunderstood, his budget director last week stated the Administration would seek a 2 percent tax hike after the November election, says State Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry).

“We’re going to pass a tax increase in January. We expect it is going to be substantial,” Quinn budget director David Vaught is quoted as telling Bloomberg. Vaught said an increase from the current 3 percent to 5 percent is likely. It would cost taxpayers $6 billion and would be the largest tax hike in Illinois’ history.

In 2009, a similar tax hike passed the Illinois Senate on a partisan vote, but the House of Representatives has not acted on that increase. It's unclear from Vaught's remarks if he was referring to that increase – which could yet be passed by the House – or if he was referring to a new proposal.

Republicans have consistently said raising taxes would hurt consumers and could have a deadly effect on job-creation at a time when Illinois is already suffering from some of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Republicans also point out that any tax increase, without core reforms to state government, will only offer temporary relief and lead to even more tax hikes in the future.

On July 28, a Senate Committee met in Chicago to discuss Metra, Chicago and suburban Chicago’s commuter rail system. The hearing was prompted after an internal Metra investigation revealed serious financial abuses and misconduct by the organization’s former executive director.

During the hearing, lawmakers, local officials and Metra administrators agreed that an inspector general must be installed to investigate corruption at Metra. A similar independent inspector general will be established at the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority under legislation that was signed into law this week; the Toll Highway Authority had long been considered to be fraught with political patronage and “pay-to-play” deals.

During the hearing Metra Chairman Carole Doris noted that Metra authorities have employed a temporary security firm to proceed with internal investigations until a permanent inspector general can be hired. Though Metra had planned to hire an inspector general, authorities were receptive to working with involved parties on how the position should best be filled.

Following the hearing, consensus was that Metra will continue to work with lawmakers and local government officials to develop the best possible investigator general scenario for the transportation hub.

Finally during the week, the Governor signed a new measure aimed at cracking down on Medicaid fraud. Senate Bill 3815 (P.A. 96-1346) creates a 17-member Public Benefits Fraud Protection Task Force to conduct a thorough review of the nature of public assistance fraud to calculate the extent of public assistance fraud and determine if more stringent penalties are necessary.

 

Other legislation signed into law this week includes:

 

Prescription Drug Listing (HB 5890/PA 96-1353): Provides in the definition of "prescription" that an order may contain, but is not required to, list the illness, disease, or condition for which the drug or device is being prescribed.  

 

Budget Objective Report (HB 6268/PA 96-1354): Requires the Governor's Office of Management and Budget to submit an economic and fiscal policy report to the General Assembly each year that outlines the long-term economic and fiscal policy objectives of the state, the economic and fiscal policy intentions for the upcoming fiscal year, and the economic and fiscal policy intentions for the following two fiscal years.

 

Smoking Exemption (SB 851/PA 96-1357): Removes the exception that allows private and semi-private rooms in nursing home and long-term care facilities to be smoking rooms; allows facilities licensed under the Nursing Home Care Act to establish a smoking room;  establishes that a “qualified examiner” can be a licensed marriage and family therapist if certain qualifications are met; authorizes licensed marriage and family therapists to involuntarily commit a client for a mental health evaluation if they feel the person is at risk to themselves or another.

 

Lobbyist Regulations (SB 1526/PA 96-1358): Allows the Secretary of State’s Inspector General to receive and investigate anyone’s complaints or information, not just a SOS employee; requires lobbyists to comply with the Lobbyist Registration Act when communicating with members of any board, commission or authority created by law or executive order; exempts from lobbyist registration requirement entities that receive no compensation other than reimbursement for expenses of up to $500 per year, while engaged in state government, unless making reportable expenditures; requires SOS to promulgate a rule establishing a list of the entities required to register; prohibits registered lobbyists, their spouse or immediate family member from serving on a state board, commission, authority or task force; lowers the lobbyist registration fee from $1000 to $300 annually; clarifies disclosure requirements.

 

Employment Restrictions Task Force (SB 2109/PA 96-1360):  Adds members to the Task Force on Inventorying Employment Restrictions, which was created to study the barriers to public employment faced by those with criminal records.

 

Electronic Records (SB 2630/PA 96-1364):  Authorizes and requires the use of electronic records in the executive branch, provides that agencies retain the discretion to exempt any record that the agency head concludes is better suited for paper storage, and creates the Electronic Records Advisory Board to make formal recommendations related to the use and retention of electronic records.

 

Southern Illinois SNG Plant (SB 2660): Makes numerous changes to current coal gas law, including allowing an Illinois gas utility to enter into a contract for up to 10 years instead of 20 years of supply with any company for the purchase of substitute natural gas.

 

Roadside Memorial (SB 3803/PA 96-1371):  Allows for placement of a fatal accident memorial marker for the victim or victims of a reckless homicide offense that was not related to a DUI offense.

 

Truth in Advertising (SB 3509/P.A. 96-1340): States that an advertisement for health care services must identify the type of license held by the health care professional; states the advertisement must be free from any and all deceptive or misleading information; states that the health care professional must wear a name tag during all patient encounters that clearly identifies the type of license held; and the same credentials must be displayed clearly if he/she has an office where patients are seen. 

 

State Employees (SB 3531/P.A. 96-1341): Creates the African American Employment Plan to improve the delivery of state services to African Americans by increasing the number of African American State employees and the number of African American state employees serving in supervisory, technical, professional, and managerial positions.

 

DUI Fee Increase (SB 3616/P.A. 96-1342): Provides for an administrative fee increase for DUI violations from $500 to $750 and gives the law enforcement agency that made the arrest a bigger percentage of the fine than current/previous law provides.

 

DUI Test Refusal (SB 3732/P.A. 96-1344): Requires mandatory revocation of the driver’s license of a driver suspected of a DUI that causes death or serious bodily injury, and who refuses to provide a blood or breath sample upon request from a police officer.

 

State Employee Pension Credit (HB 5262/P.A. 96-1320): Allows a state employee who was laid off, but returned to State employment, to establish creditable service for the period of the layoff.

 

Health Information Exchange (HB 6441/P.A. 96-1331): Creates the Illinois Health Information Exchange Authority to promote and facilitate the sharing of health information among health care providers within Illinois and in other states, and foster the widespread adoption of electronic health records.

 

Inspector General (SB 3118/PA 96-1347): Creates an Inspector General for the Toll Highway Authority to detect and deter fraud and corruption.

 

Driving Privilege Revocation (HB 4580/P.A. 96-1305): Requires the Secretary of State to immediately revoke the driving privileges of any person who has been convicted of an offense that involved the unlawful operation of a motor vehicle and was the proximate cause of an accident resulting in the death of any person.

 

Minor Tattoos/Piercing (HB 4895/P.A. 96-1311): Makes it unlawful for a person to falsely represent that he or she is the parent or legal guardian of a minor younger than 18 at a tattoo parlor or a body-piercing business.

 

Fund Sweeps (HB 4961/P.A. 96-1312): Provides that the Illinois Historic Sites Fund and the Presidential Library and Museum Operating Fund are not subject to sweeps, administrative charges, or charge-backs or any other fiscal or budgetary maneuver that transfer any amounts from those funds into any other fund of the state.

 

Tuition Lock (SB 3222/P.A. 96-1293): Provides that if an undergraduate student at one of Illinois’ public universities, who had received the same rate for tuition for four years, continues on for a fifth and/or sixth year, the student will be charged tuition not to exceed the amount charged to students who enrolled in the University the academic year the academic year the student enrolled in the University.

 

Disabled Veteran Homestead Exemption (SB 3666/P.A. 96-1298):  Allows a disabled veteran to keep the disabled veterans homestead exemption if s/he goes to a nursing home or VA facility, as long as the house is either unoccupied or used by the spouse.

 

Alternative Fuel Vehicle (HB 6047/PA 96-1278): Provides that a conversion cost rebate may be issued for the cost of converting a conventional vehicle or a hybrid vehicle to an alternate fuel vehicle. 

 

Driving Permits (HB 6450/PA 96-1284): Authorizes issuance of a family financial responsibility driving permit to allow a person who has lost his or her driver’s license for non-payment of child support to drive to and from a job, to receive alcohol treatment, drug treatment or medical care, or for the purpose of seeking employment.

 

Veterans Homestead Exemption (SB 2350/PA 96-1288):  Allows returning veterans to claim the $5,000 veterans homestead exemption in the tax year following the year in which they return if the primary residence is first acquired when they return.

 

AED (HB 5838/PA 96-1268): Eliminates the requirement that a supervisor of an outdoor physical fitness facility be responsible for ensuring that an automated external defibrillator is available during the time that an event or activity at the facility is being conducted. 

 

Sex Offense Victim Polygraph (HB 5931/PA 96-1273): Prohibits law enforcement from even asking a sex offense victim to submit to a lie detector test.

 

 

 

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