Tax Relief

Laws Roundup – Price range, Tax Aid Nonetheless On Lawmakers’ To-do Checklist – InsuranceNewsNet

Lawmakers have until Friday, April 8 to wrap up business before adjourning for the summer. They are halfway through a two-week sprint to that legislative finish line.

While the legislative session normally lasts through the end of May, it was shortened this year to accommodate the state’s primary elections on June 28.

When asked what people can expect this week, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said “Anything, everything, craziness.”

“As always, the final week of the session will be very busy,” added Jaclyn Driscoll, a spokesperson for Welch’s office. “Legislation to holistically address public safety concerns and the state budget are among the top priorities to finish before adjournment.”

The state’s budget and tax relief

One of the legislature’s most important duties is to assemble a budget for the state — a spending plan to fund state agencies, grant programs and social service groups.

Last year, lawmakers passed the state’s budget in the early morning hours on the final day of their legislative session.

Throughout the past several weeks, appropriation committees have held hearings with representatives of various state agencies to discuss their financial needs. These talks inform the budget-making process that will eventually culminate in a spending plan.

Senate Democrats on Friday announced what they hope will be one aspect of the budget. Coming as part of multiple amendments to SB 1150, their “tax relief” plan includes provisions to issue a $100 tax refund to every Illinois taxpayer who earns less than $250,000 annually.

The plan would issue $200 checks to couples filing jointly with annual incomes of less than $500,000 and an additional $50 refund per dependent up to $150.

“This plan gets money back in the hands of consumers. They’ve endured through this pandemic. It’s time for the state to pay it forward,” said Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, who introduced the tax refund amendment.

The plan includes eight different tax breaks aimed at reducing the tax burden on Illinois residents. These include a six month moratorium on both a planned motor fuel tax increase and the 1% state sales tax on groceries, a one-time tax credit for homeowners up to $300, a week long pause on sales tax for back-to-school supplies from Aug. 5 to Aug. 14, an expansion to the state’s earned income tax credit, a $250 tax credit to teachers on school supplies bought for their classrooms and a tax credit of up to $500 for volunteer first responders.

“Through responsible budgeting the state has wiped out deficits and paid our bills. Now is the time to pay it forward and get money back to taxpayers,” said Bennett.

The homeowner tax credit and pause on motor fuel tax increase are both modeled on proposals that Gov. JB Pritzker made in his annual budget address in February.

Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, was quick to respond to the Democratic plan, criticizing its timing and scope.

“Under their plan, checks and relief will arrive right before the election and then will expire right after the election,” said McConchie. “This is not the real reform the people of this state want and need, and Illinoisans will see right through this disingenuous gimmick.”

The tax relief plan and overall budget will both need to be voted on next week.

Crime package

On Friday, Democrats from the House and Senate unveiled a plan which they say will reduce crime by addressing that are both the effects and root causes of violence.

“I lost my son to gun violence in the summer of 2014, when I was nine months’ pregnant with my daughter,” said Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, when discussing the package at a Friday press conference.

Gordon-Booth introduced an amendment to HB 1360, which would create a co-responder pilot program in East St. Louis, Peoria, Springfield and Waukegan. These pilot programs would employ social workers to go with police to respond to 911 calls for mental health crises, substance use issues and calls involving the homeless.

Urbana, Rockford and Chicago have all rolled out co-responder programs in recent years.

The package also includes an amendment to HB 4736, introduced by Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, which would create a Crime Reduction Task Force, a new anonymous crime reporting hotline and would expand the state’s witness protection program. Another bill, SB 4203 would allocate $20 million to the witness protection program and $1 million to the anonymous tip line.

Finally, SB 4203 from Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, the plan would include a $185.3 million increase in funding distributed across various state programs, including early childhood education, the teen pregnancy services program Parents Too Soon and after school programming among others.

“It’s especially important to me that marginalized populations have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else,” Villanueva said. “I take great care to make sure our under served communities have equitable access to the resources they so critically need to target disparity at its source.”

When pressed on the price tag for these new programs, Peters said the final amounts are still being negotiated and may change next week.

An increase in certain types of crimes has been a major talking point throughout this legislative session, particularly from Republicans, who introduced several packages of bills which included a range of provisions, including one from Rep. Patrick Windhorst, R-Metropolis, that would have repeated major elements of the criminal justice reform bill passed by the legislature in 2021.

Despite support from the leadership of the Republican party, these bills never gained any support from members of the Democratic majority.

Insurance transparency regulation

Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, is hopeful that in the final days of the session, a bill she introduced in response to an ongoing controversy involving Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and Springfield Clinic will pass.

The two entities ended their contractual relationship after a negotiations dispute which left tens of thousands of patients in need of a new doctor. The controversy also revealed Blue Cross Blue Shield to be operating a “ghost network,” listing health care providers who are not accepting patients in their database. Scherer and other lawmakers questioned Blue Cross Blue Shield executives about this last week at a legislative hearing.

“I introduced HB 5729 to increase transparency in the health insurance industry and to protect the insured,” said Scherer. “I look forward to seeing the bill move out of the rules committee early next week so that we can hold Blue Cross Blue Shield accountable for their treatment of consumers in Illinois.”

The bill would clarify some reporting rules in the Network Adequacy and Transparency Act, a law which the state’s Department of Insurance recently fined Blue Cross $339,000 for allegedly violating.

reproductive rights

On March 31, the final day of Women’s History Month, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed several resolutions in support of reproductive rights. They urged the Illinois congressional delegation to support federal legislation to protect access to abortion and other reproductive health care, declared that the chamber believes the Roe v. Wade decision was fairly decided and declared support for the adequate funding of Planned Parenthood.

“I don’t want to have to worry about dying in a back alley trying to get an abortion,” said Rep. Margaret Croke, D-Chicago, when discussing the funding of Planned Parenthood.

These resolutions were largely symbolic, though they were accompanied by a bill that would give doctors further protection if they perform abortions.

On Thursday, the House passed HB 1464 on a partisan in a 68-41 vote. The bill explicitly says that a doctor licensed in Illinois will not be disciplined in Illinois if another state revokes their license for performing an abortion. The bill passed along partisan lines and is now awaiting action in the Senate.

Reproductive health advocates thanked the House for taking these actions.

“As abortion rights are attacked each week across the country, Illinois worked diligently to establish a fundamental right for all people to make every decision regarding their reproductive health care without government interference,” said Colleen Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois in a statement.

Republicans were staunchly opposed to these resolutions and the bill, saying they were a distraction from more important issues, such as ethics reform or criminal justice issues.

“This is my fifth time during an election year of hearing the same divisive issues,” said Rep. CD Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville. “We continue to ignore the things that the people of Illinois are really concerned about.”

Official snake and rock

Two bills, both of which were formally approved by the legislature last week, would add to Illinois’ list of state symbols.

A bill, HB 4261, would designate dolostone as Illinois’ official state rock. It passed unanimously passed the House on March 3 and the Senate on Tuesday.

The idea was brought to the General Assembly by students at Pleasant Dale School in Burr Ridge and Maplebrook Elementary School in Naperville, according to a press release from Sen. Laura Ellman, the bill’s Senate sponsor.

“Developing this legislation has been a fantastic learning experience for students across our state, and this is an opportunity to show the next generation that they are capable of great things,” Ellman said.

Another bill, HB 4821, would designate the Eastern Milksnake as the official snake of Illinois. It unanimously passed the House on March 4 and passed in the Senate on Thursday in a 54-2 vote.

The Senate debate served as an opportunity for some lawmakers to have a bit of fun, such as Bennett, who asked a lighthearted question to the bill’s Senate sponsor, Rep. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg.

“We’ve talked a lot about our concerns with the census and how we’re losing population in rural areas, including your district,” said Bennett in the Senate debate on Thursday. “I’m wondering if this is a misguided attempt that your milksnake would bring all the boys to the yard?”

The bills will need the governor’s approval before becoming official.

Contact Andrew Adams: [email protected]; (312)-291-1417; twitter.com/drewjayadams.

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