Senate Week in Review: February 24 – 28, 2020

Springfield, IL. – This edition of my weekly column focuses on the risk to public safety due to a policy decision within the Illinois Department of Corrections, and an effort to regionalize the state’s minimum wage law to protect jobs and the profitability of employers, especially small businesses. 

Other news includes a list of legislation I introduced for the 2020 spring session to address firearms, veterans, business taxes and more. Plus, recognizing an Eagle Scout from Richmond-Burton High School. 

DOC policy change criticized by Illinois Sheriffs
During the week, members of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association sounded the alarm about a recent policy change in which non-citizen felons are being released from the state prison system back into Illinois communities WITHOUT local law enforcement or federal immigration authorities being notified.  

While these individuals are being released for past criminal actions, which harmed Illinois victims directly, they should now be held accountable for breaking laws that impact the nation. We are either a country based on rule of law, or we are not. Our laws are not subject to an individual’s decision on which laws to follow. 

Previous policy required the Department of Corrections to coordinate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to transfer non-citizen felons to the Pontiac Correctional Center where the process of determining the former inmate’s immigration status would begin.   

In light of the Sheriffs’ Association’s concerns and noting the potential dangers to public safety, Senate Republicans are calling upon the Illinois Department of Corrections to answer the following questions:

  • Why was this policy changed?
  • Whose decision was it to change this policy?
  • Why weren’t lawmakers informed?

Republicans lawmakers have called upon the Senate President and the Chairman of the Senate Criminal Law Committee to call a special hearing on this matter.   

New legislation filed to regionalize minimum wage
Recently-filed legislation to regionalize the statewide minimum wage would provide some relief to Illinois’ job creators. 

Senate Bill 3396 would set minimum wages depending upon the region of the State. Specified units of local government would be allowed to opt-out of the statewide mandated minimum wage rate and opt-into a regionally adjusted minimum wage. The adjusted minimum wage reform would provide a sliding scale type of rate – so areas with historically-low unemployment or higher costs of living will have rates closer to the statewide hourly rate.  

The legislation establishes six regions for purposes of determining the minimum wage, based on a percentage of the mandated statewide minimum wage. 

One of my concerns about the new minimum wage law when it passed was that it failed to recognize there are very different cost-of-living considerations across the state. For example, while the goal of $15 an hour may be appropriate for Chicago, it could very well be an unaffordable wage for employers in smaller communities outside the city. I’m also concerned about whether our businesses are able to remain profitable and competitive with their counterparts in neighboring states, such as Wisconsin, which have a lower minimum wage. 

The first step of a six-year phased-in increase to a $15 an hour state minimum wage took effect on Jan. 1 of this year, increasing the minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $9.25 an hour. The next scheduled minimum wage increase to $10.00 an hour occurs July 1, 2020. 

Our newest Eagle Scout
I recently had the honor to present a Senate Certificate of Recognition to Landon Simecek, from Spring Grove, for attaining the rank of Eagle Scout (pictured left).

His Eagle Scout project is visible as you enter his hometown from various routes. Landon organized the replacement of the old Welcome to Spring Grove signs with new, modern and more structurally substantial signs by organizing volunteers and securing financial donations. He also created a website where you can read about his project. (https://chuffed.org/project/welcoming-you-with-my-eagle-scout-project

Landon is a freshman at Richmond-Burton High School. Becoming an Eagle Scout is a great accomplishment and these ceremonies give me great hope for the future of Illinois as we see the making of future leaders for our communities. 

Legislation introduced or sponsored
It’s still quite early in the 2020 spring legislative session, but here are some of the Senate bills I am sponsoring or cosponsoring:

  •  Senate Bill 2535 Repeals the Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) Card Act. The FOID card is really an unnecessary level of red tape. The FOID card involves a background check and it’s required in Illinois to purchase a firearm and ammunition. But, there is already a federal background check and waiting period for purchasing firearms. The state regulation is just extra bureaucracy that makes law-abiding citizens pay for exercising their Second Amendment rights.
  • Senate Bill 2995Increases penalties for persons convicted of aggravated cruelty to a companion animal. If convicted of causing the death of a companion animal, the person would be guilty of a Class 2 felony, currently a Class 4 felony. A second or subsequent conviction for an act causing the death of a companion animal is a Class 1 felony, rather than the current Class 3 felony.
  • Senate Bill 3221Reinstates the tax exemption for the use or sale of tangible personal property purchased from an Illinois retailer by a taxpayer engaged in centralized purchasing activities in Illinois. The exemption, which expired in 2016, allows Illinois businesses to purchase items tax-free from out-of-state retailers IF the items are only stored in Illinois temporarily and sent outside of Illinois for use. This is a critical sales tax exemption for Illinois businesses with multistate locations that engage in centralized purchasing, increase their competitiveness and protect Illinois jobs.
  •  Senate Bill 3175 Caps the tax on the purchase of premium cigars at 50 cents. The cap would help small family tobacco and cigar shops compete with mail order and online companies, which are often located in states with no cigar tax. The cap would also keep Illinois stores competitive with stores in surrounding states that have a 50-cent cigar tax limit in place.
  • Senate Bill 3191 Grants permission to apply for Concealed Carry permits to nonresident members of the U.S. Military who are permanently stationed in Illinois. Illinois does allow nonresidents permission to carry, but only from select states, which may not include the member’s home state. Under SB3191, members of the military would be treated as the same as residents of Illinois.
  • Senate Bill 3192 Allows currently employed and retired State correctional officers and county correctional officers the authority to carry their own firearms while off-duty. These law enforcement personnel put their lives on the line at work, and they can be subject to assault or retribution when off-duty, just as any police officer or sheriff’s deputy.
  • Senate Bill 3480Waives the standard passenger motor vehicles registration fee for veterans with a service-connected disability.
  • Senate Bill 3607 Prohibits state legislators from receiving cost of living adjustments (COLAs) or pay increases commencing on or after January 1, 2023, unless specifically approved by law. Currently, legislative pay raises can occur automatically, unless they are out-right rejected by the General Assembly.
  • Senate Bill 3723Increases the research and development tax credit for Illinois industry. Increases the research and development credit by providing that any increase in research and development (R&D) activities applies on a permanent basis. This bill would help incentivize increases in critical R&D activity that spurs future economic growth. Effective immediately.

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