Senate Week in Review: Sept. 2 – 6, 2019

McHenry, IL. — New laws protecting children from secondhand smoke and allowing allow craft distilleries to deliver and sell their products directly to merchants have recently become law. 

In other news, an estimated $69 million in federal aid is being sought for flood damages across the state, and new reports give mixed reviews on Illinois’ economic outlook. 

New law targets secondhand smoke
Decreasing the amount of exposure children have to secondhand smoke is the aim of a new law, which takes effect June 1, 2020. 

House Bill 2276/ Public Act 101-0468 prohibits a person from smoking in a motor vehicle containing a person younger than 18, under any circumstance.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children and infants exposed to secondhand smoke could face a number health problems including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome. Children who have parents that smoke get sick more often and their lungs tend to grow less than children who do not regularly inhale secondhand smoke. The CDC notes that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. 

A violation is a petty offense with a maximum fine of $100.  For a second or subsequent offense, the maximum fine is $250. 

New law allowing craft distilleries to self-distribute, create “distill pubs”
Craft distilleries will now be allowed to deliver and sell their products directly to bars, restaurants and stores, as well as open “distill pubs” under a new law sponsored by my colleague State Sen. Dan McConchie. 

House Bill 2675/Public Act 101-0482, distilleries, who produce no more than 50,000 gallons a year, can sell and deliver up to 5,000 gallons of spirits per year directly to retailers and other vendors. 

Distilleries, like breweries and wineries, can now also open up “distill pubs”, where customers can sample their house-made spirits as well as other products. For years, craft breweries and wineries have been able to do limited self-distribution of their product in order to build brand recognition and loyalty, a privilege not granted to distilleries, until this new law that takes effect immediately. 

Federal Aid Sought for Historic Flooding
On Aug. 29, the Governor announced that with the state’s disaster assessment concluded, he has officially requested a federal disaster declaration be issued for Illinois due to the floods that plagued the state since February.

The declaration includes a request for Individual Assistance for 22 counties and Public Assistance for 32 counties.  If approved, a federal disaster declaration would help local governments, residents and businesses affected by this historic flood recover from the disaster by allowing them to apply for grants and loans to assist with storm-related expenses and losses.

Overall, more than $69 million in direct losses resulted from this spring’s flooding including $8.2 million in losses for individuals and $61 million in losses for units of government. More difficult to calculate, are the far-reaching economic ramifications for businesses, individual wages, and tax revenue for local governments. 

The federal disaster declaration request follows a state disaster proclamation by the governor in July and an agricultural disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in early August. More information about the state’s storm response efforts is available at

Counties included in the Individual Assistance and U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans request: Adams; Alexander; Calhoun; Carroll; Hancock; Henderson; Henry; Jackson; Jersey; Knox; Madison; Mercer; Monroe; Peoria; Pike; Randolph; Rock Island; Stephenson; Union; Whiteside; Winnebago; and Woodford counties. 

Counties included in the Public Assistance request: Adams; Alexander; Bureau; Calhoun; Carroll; Cass; Fulton; Greene; Hancock; Henderson; Henry; Jackson; Jersey; Knox; LaSalle; Lee; Madison; Mercer; Monroe; Morgan; Peoria; Pike; Randolph; Rock Island; Schuyler; Scott; St. Clair; Stephenson; Tazewell; Union; Whiteside; and Winnebago counties.
For those impacted by flooding, more information about flood recovery can be found at

State report shows Illinois deficit cut in half
The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report released Aug. 29 by the Illinois Comptroller’s Office shows Illinois cut its general funds deficit by $6.849 billion — from a deficit of $14.612 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 to a deficit of $7.763 billion in Fiscal Year 2018. That is largely because of a refinancing of state debt from high-interest to low-interest repayment.  

The state’s total assets were approximately $53.9 billion on June 30, 2018, a decrease of $400 million from June 30, 2017. The state’s total liabilities were approximately $248.1 billion on June 30, 2018, an increase of $33.3 billion from June 30, 2017. The state’s largest liability balances are the net pension liability of $133.6 billion and the other post-employment benefits liability of $55.2 billion.  

Health and social services expenditures of $29.2 billion comprised the largest expenditure function for fiscal year 2018, decreasing by $1 billion from fiscal year 2017. The second-largest expenditures, education expenditures, including spending for elementary and secondary education as well as higher education, totaled $25.4 billion, an increase of $3 billion, or 14 percent, from fiscal year 2017.  

New home construction in IL ranks near bottom
The rate of new home construction in Illinois continues to lag behind the rest of the country, according to a recent survey.

Data from a national building permit survey indicates the state was 48th in new homes built per 10,000 residents. Illinois had 17 new homes per 10,000 residents, just ahead of Connecticut and Rhode Island. 

The report notes that Idaho, Utah and Colorado have the highest new home construction rates. 


Craig Wilcox

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