Capitol Report from Senator Craig Wilcox

Senator Wilcox to Host Listening Tour Town Hall on Monday, Nov. 15
My staff and I are putting the finishing touches on a town hall meeting that will be held on Monday, Nov. 15 at Harvard City Hall, 201 W. Diggins Street. The 6:00-7:30 p.m. event will include a panel discussion on issues of importance, including taxes, public safety, parental and individual rights, and ethics.  We’ll also leave plenty of time for Q & A.

I will be joined at this event by other nearby members of the Senate Republican Caucus.  RSVPs are appreciated for this event. It’s not too late to reserve your spot. If you’d like to attend and take advantage of this opportunity to ask questions of your elected officials in Springfield, please register at: www.ILSenateGOP.org/WilcoxRLT.

Governor Signs Controversial COVID Carve-out in HCRCA
Despite unprecedented opposition from everyday Illinoisans who urged the General Assembly not to make exceptions within the Health Care Right of Conscience Act (HCRCA) for COVID-19 vaccines and testing, Gov. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1169 into law on Nov. 8.

The HCRCA has been on the books for decades, and provides vital protections to Illinoisans. It prohibits any form of discrimination against individuals who refuse to take part in any healthcare service or procedure that is contrary to a person’s religious beliefs, morals, or convictions. But when Gov. Pritzker unilaterally put vaccine mandates in place for many Illinois businesses and fields, Illinoisans pointed to protections guaranteed in the HCRCA and pushed back against the mandate. It was at this point, when the courts were poised to agree with plaintiffs challenging the Governor’s authority on the issue, that Pritzker decided to create a carve-out within the HCRCA relative to COVID-19.

I voted against SB 1169 and believe the issue is bigger than vaccines. I believe the legislation sets a dangerous precedent that says it’s OK to discriminate against or even fire someone who stands firm in their religious or personal convictions.

As the carve-out to the HCRCA moved through Springfield’s committee process, legislators witnessed an unprecedented level of opposition from Illinoisans. Overall, close to 85,000 witness slips were filed in opposition to the legislation, with one amendment receiving more than 54,000 opposing witness slips. Democrats ignored these residents, and together with the Governor instead said it is OK for people to be discriminated against in the workplace and even to lose their jobs if they do not submit to the heavy hand of state government.

As written and signed by Gov. Pritzker, the COVID-19 carve-out takes effect on June 1, 2022.

Utility Assistance Still Available for Lower-Income Illinoisans
Funds made available through an expansion of the state’s Low Income Household Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) are still available to qualifying households in Illinois. The remaining $200 million is made possible through ARPA funds. The LIHEAP program provides assistance to qualifying Illinoisans to help pay for heat and energy costs during the colder months.

The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) is hosting two upcoming online informational events where the LIHEAP program will be explained, and during the virtual events, residents will be able to ask questions during live Q & A sessions. A Nov. 17 session will be presented in English, and a Nov. 18 session will be presented in Spanish. Both will be streamed live on the Citizens Utility Board Facebook page. Learn more and access registration forms at http://helpillinoisfamilies.com.

Senators Wilcox, McConchie, and DeWitte Host Successful Senior Fair in Crystal Lake

On Friday, Nov. 12, I co-hosted a comprehensive, free senior fair with Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie and Senator Don DeWitte. In the main gym at McHenry County College, we brought together dozens of organizations and agencies that specialize in caring for the senior population. With CDC and IDPH safety precautions in place, we had more than 120 seniors attend the two-hour event. My deepest thanks go out to the vendors who provided valuable information and giveaways to seniors, and I also thank everyone who attended.

Redistricting Lawsuit to be Heard in December
After declaring the initial legislative map drawn behind closed doors and signed into law by Gov. Pritzker as unconstitutional, a panel of three federal judges has set the week of Dec. 6 to hear challenges from a combined group of plaintiffs to the Democrats’ second set of maps.

The set of maps in question establish the legislative boundaries for the 118 House and 59 Senate Districts that will be in place from 2022-2032. Multiple groups, including Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and the East St. Louis branch of the NAACP, are suing based on a belief that the Democrats’ new redistricting maps still violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

During a Nov. 5 status call on the case, plaintiffs challenging the second set of maps agreed to submit their own maps or remedies to the court by Nov. 10. Defendants, which include Senate President Don Harmon and Speaker of the House Chris Welch, would then have until Nov. 22 to file a response.

U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr., who presides over the panel, said the case will be heard in an expedited manner, so as not to disrupt the 2022 election calendar, which allows candidates to begin circulating nominating petitions in mid-January.

Shoppers to Feel New Tax Pinch this Holiday Season
As shoppers use the internet to do their holiday shopping this year, many Illinoisans will notice a new spike in sales tax rates from online retailers. A change in state law now requires online retailers to charge the sales tax rate collected in the municipality where the shopper lives. For Chicagoans, this tax rate for online purchases is 10.25 percent. Prior to this year, online retailers like Amazon only had to charge the 6.25 percent state sales tax. Not too long ago, they were not required to charge sales taxes at all if they didn’t have a physical brick-and-mortar presence in the state.

Due in large part to this new online sales tax law, sales tax revenue is up 17 percent in Illinois from January to September this year compared to the same period in 2019, prior to the pandemic. The new online sales tax legislation is just one of 24 tax and fee hikes that have been put in place since Gov. Pritzker took office. Through these increases, a combined $5.2 billion more has been spent by Illinois consumers.

IHDA Delays Reopening of Illinois Rental Payment Program Portal
The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) has delayed the reopening of the Illinois Rental Payment Program to Dec. 6. Applications will now be accepted beginning Dec. 6 through 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 9 at illinoishousinghelp.org.

Tenant eligibility requirements are as follows:

  • Household lives in Illinois and rents their home as their primary residence.
  • Household must have experienced a financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the pandemic.
  • Household income is below 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), adjusted for household size.
  • Household must have an unpaid rent balance.
  • Proof of citizenship is not required.
  • Tenants residing in state-or-federally-subsidized housing are eligible to apply.

 

The portal was originally scheduled to reopen on Nov. 8. While the date for the program reopening is now delayed, money from this round will still be distributed to approved Illinoisans before the end of the year as originally scheduled.

For renters who are in need of immediate assistance, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is currently accepting applications for rental assistance. Households looking for assistance should contact an IDHS Service Provider Agency to ask about rental assistance. Provider Agencies can help people determine if they are eligible and can help them apply for rental assistance. A list of Provider Agencies can be found at https://www.illinoisrentalassistance.org/.

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