Greetings! I hope this update finds you and your family enjoying early summer! I would like to take this opportunity to give you a recap of recent and pending state issues. Please scroll below for news important to local families and taxpayers.
ETHICS REFORM/GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Legislative Inspector General resigns, calls for fundamental changes. Under existing State General Assembly law, legislators are supposed to obey a series of laws and guidelines governing their work, income, and conduct. Legislative members’ compliance with these laws and guidelines is supposed to be overseen by the Legislative Inspector General, who has the power to scrutinize and refer cases for possible disciplinary action against a legislative member of the Illinois House or the Illinois Senate.
However, current law and practice gives key legislators broad powers to block the referral of any evidence against a member for scrutiny or to make a case against the member. When Illinois Legislative Inspector General Carol Pope offered her resignation on Wednesday, July 14, she stated that under current Illinois law “true ethics reform is not a priority.” She described some of the internal General Assembly veto points against disciplinary due process, and lamented that as a result, her job is “essentially that of a paper tiger” who can pretend to try to enforce the law but has no power to actually do so. While Inspector General Pope’s official last day has not yet been finalized, her public resignation offer was a signal that she considers her useful service to be at an end.
House Republicans responded to Pope’s resignation by renewing their call for ethics reform. House Republicans have offered many bills in Spring 2021 to improve the standing of the Legislative Inspector General within the Illinois General Assembly. HB 2575, co-sponsored by Rep. McCombie, removes or modifies many of the veto points that currently prevent the Legislative Inspector General from taking steps to commence an investigatory action. HB 3396, sponsored by Rep. Patrick Windhorst, contained comprehensive legislation strengthening the Office of the Legislative Inspector General to crack down on legislative lobbying activities. These bills were re-referred to the House Rules Committee, effectively killing them.
House Republicans urge veto of flawed ethics reform legislation. The Republican caucus is urging Governor Pritzker to issue an amendatory veto to a piece of ethics reform legislation that was passed on the final day of session in the Illinois House. This comes after Legislative Inspector General Pope announced her resignation partially citing provisions in Senate Bill 539 that limit the jurisdiction of the LIG. The bill makes changes to the state’s ethics laws.
Over the course of the last year and a half, the Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform has highlighted many deficiencies in existing state ethics laws, none of which are adequately addressed in SB539. Despite the efforts of House Republican lawmakers, comprehensive ethics reform measures have been largely ignored—and the caucus as well as the Legislative Inspector General were shut out of the bill negotiations.
“I agree with many elements of this bill, but it is woefully inadequate to address the enormity of the challenges we have in Illinois,” said Rep. McCombie. “The Legislative Inspector General should not be held back in their role to get to the truth. At a time when we have seen countless elected officials indicted and ongoing federal investigations—we need stronger anti-corruption reforms to restore the public’s trust.”
Rep McCombie joined the Republican caucus and sent a letter to Governor Pritzker expressing their concerns with the ethics bill, as it has yet to be signed into law.
Legislative Budget Oversight Commission issues final report for Fiscal Year 2021. Events in FY20 and FY21 created a budget crisis in Illinois. The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in Illinois in March 2020, led to a series of stay-at-home orders that brought much of the Illinois economy to a halt. Although these stay-at-home orders were succeeded by “mitigation” orders that allowed some economic activity to resume, budget planners had to anticipate that the Illinois economy would continue to be shaken by the pandemic. In spring 2020, these economic factors played a major role in the assumed revenue estimated for the approaching FY21 fiscal year, which as planned would have had a $6.3 billion budget hole. To address this deficit, the General Assembly gave the Governor’s office new authority to issue up to $5 billion in debt, provided the Governor’s office with additional temporary latitude to transfer money between funds, and granted emergency authorities to govern funds authorized from the federal CARES Act.
With the creation of coronavirus testing systems, and then a series of COVID-19 vaccines, it was possible for most of Illinois life and activity to resume. Pent-up demand, and federal aid in the form of stimulus aid payments and expanded unemployment benefits, created an economic boom in some sectors. The State of Illinois, in FY21, saw healthy payments of income taxes and sales taxes to Illinois coffers. The Illinois budget picture fluctuated down and then up, creating a series of challenges for budget planners. FY20 tax revenues wound up far below expectations, while FY21 tax revenues were influenced by multi-billion-dollar recovery trends. The GOMB wound up its work at the end of FY21 (the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2021) with a final report to the Legislative Budget Oversight Commission. The report describes the dramatic swings in various lines of State revenue intake and spending outtake during the crisis years of FY20 and FY21. The budget implementation bill (BIMP) for FY22 extends the sunset of the Oversight Commission to ensure that the Commission will continue its oversight work through the FY22 fiscal year, ending June 30, 2022.
According to the State Comptroller’s Office, the current back log on unpaid bills is $4,201,782,844 (which does not include $1.928 billion in short-term borrowing and emergency borrowing that is required to be repaid).
I recently wrote about the State’s improved bond rating in an Op-Ed in the Clinton Herald. Read it here to learn more about why the bond rating was bumped and what it means.
Illinois unemployment rate rises to 7.2% in June 2021. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced Thursday that the unemployment rate rose +0.1 percentage point to 7.2 percent, while nonfarm payrolls increased +12,500 in June, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The May monthly change in payrolls was revised from the preliminary report, from -7,900 to +4,300 jobs. The May preliminary unemployment rate was unchanged from the preliminary report, remaining at 7.1 percent.
The June payroll jobs estimate and unemployment rate reflects activity for the week including the 12th. The BLS has published FAQs for the June payroll jobs and the unemployment rate.
In June, the three industry sectors with the largest over-the-month gains in employment were: Leisure and Hospitality (+10,700), Trade, Transportation and Utilities (+3,400), and Construction (+2,100). The industry sectors that reported the largest monthly payroll declines were: Professional and Business Services (-3,700), Manufacturing (-2,500) and Information (-200).
The state’s unemployment rate was +1.3 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for June, which was 5.9 percent, up +0.1 percentage point from the previous month. The Illinois unemployment rate was down -7.0 percentage points from a year ago when it was at 14.2 percent.
“As I travel through the district and state, I hear from businesses – large and small, that there is one consistent concern,” said McCombie. “The lack of willing workers! Our state depends on an active and strong workforce, and it is time people get back to work.”
Increasing concerns with the Enhanced Unemployment Benefits. A group of Illinois employer associations is urging the governor to end enhanced unemployment benefits and reinstate the work-seeking requirements to ensure the state’s economic recovery isn’t further delayed. Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) is part of a group of more than 20 associations that sent the governor a letter Tuesday, July 13, asking him to end the enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 a week and reinstate requirements for those getting the benefits to look for work. “The faster that everyone’s back in the workforce, the faster Illinois recovers and hopefully gets back to pre-pandemic performance,” Karr said in an interview.
To determine if the supplemental unemployment dollars should end to encourage people to get back to work, Rep McCombie did a poll on her social media and an overwhelming 82% said yes the Governor should stop the supplemental dollars.
Secretary of State Jesse White reminds residents to be aware of scams targeting Illinoisans. Due to fraudsters’ continued attempts to entice the public into falling victim to scam texts and email, Secretary of State Jesse White is reminding residents to be on alert for multiple scams claiming to be from the Secretary of State’s office seeking personal information to defraud Illinoisans.
White says these texts and emails are scams and recipients should not click on any links or provide any information. Visiting these various fraudulent websites could place malware on the recipients’ devices or trick them into disclosing sensitive personal information. The Secretary of State’s office nor the Illinois Department of Employment Security EVER requests personal information, like a Social Security number, via text message or email.
“Delete the text or email,” said White. “Do not click on them and do not provide any of your personal information.”
To provide screenshots of emails of the fraudulent texts or emails, please submit them to ScamAlert@ilsos.gov. If you have clicked on a link, provided your personal information or believe you have been a victim of identity theft, please call he Illinois Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 866-999-5630.
Our Spring contest has ended! See the wonderful photos that were chosen as the winners! If you missed out, please submit photos for the Summer Photo Contest. I love to see all the fun and creativity that District 71 has to offer!
“Spring Arrival” – Photographer: Michele Gillete | Hillsdale Road, Morrison – March 24, 2021
Photographer: Jeff Dauphin | Savanna, IL
McCombie Reading Buzz Program – There is still time to get your kiddos reading this summer to complete the reading program! Please see website for instructions!
OUR OFFICE HAS MOVED – We are now at 2510 Locust St in Sterling and will be hosting an Open House in August – we will keep you posted.
As always, feel free to contact my district office at 815-632-8384 or at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or concerns about legislation, state issues, or upcoming events. I look forward to hearing from you!