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Signs of Spring

As birds begin to chirp and repopulate the trees, franticly attempting to ready themselves for the warm spring weather, the members of the 99th General Assembly are frantically doing the same. The only difference is the members of the General Assembly are trying to save their summer, not prepare for the spring.

Committee deadline week has finally come to an end, and many pieces of legislation have made it through to see another fighting day; while others slowly fade into history as just another bill killed in committee…a cog in the machine…an afterthought. More times than not, the odds are stacked against a bill making it onto a chamber floor to be debated. But, under certain circumstances, you will see a bill magically appear, pass through one chamber, pass through the other chamber, and within four days of the bill being available for public interpretation, the Governor signs the bill into law. Just as the author Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Compromise is the best and cheapest lawyer”.

An example of this compromise is the arrangement between Senate President Cullerton, Speaker Madigan, Senate Republican Leader Radogno, House Republican Leader Durkin and Governor Rauner regarding the “fix” for the $1.6 billion budget deficit for Fiscal Year ‘15. The compromise “sweeps” approximately $1.3 billion from special state funds and makes additional budget cuts of 2.25% in an attempt to backfill the hole. The compromise fix was voted on in a bi-partisan fashion, allowing the first of several state fiscal crises to be addressed.

Now, with only 65 days remaining in the spring legislative session, focus turns to the approaching Fiscal Year ‘16 budget. Many questions linger under the capitol dome about how to patch the projected $6 billion shortfall for FY16 and the direction Governor Rauner plans to guide Illinois’ weakened fiscal ship. One thing is certain though, if a compromise is not set in stone by May 31st, the General Assembly birds will be chirping well into the hot summer months.   For the next two weeks, we can all hopefully enjoy the onset of spring as the General Assembly takes a reprieve.  Things will pick up when they return on April 14th.
Fiscal Year 15’ Budget Compromise

The unbalanced FY 2015 state budget has been a topic of discussion since the election last November.   After the election, then Governor-Elect Rauner asked the General Assembly to not address the budget situation by extending the temporary income tax or other revenue sources until he could address the situation once he was governor.  The General Assembly obliged, and since the gubernatorial inauguration, there have been talks in an effort to find a way to address the $1.6 billion shortfall.
In the past several weeks, the discussion focused on a 2.25% across the board cut to the FY 2015 budget, including reductions for several items the Governor had wished to avoid.  One of the areas was elementary and secondary education.  However, the 2.25% reduction only generated 20% of the needed $1.6 billion.  The remaining 80% will be plugged by sweeping dedicated funds.

The plan was not without controversy, but HB 318, which contained the proposal, was approved with bipartisan support.  In the House, the proposal was approved with 69 yes votes, including all 46 members of the House Republican Caucus who were in attendance.  There were 48 House members voting no.  In the Senate, the measure received 32 yes votes, which also included the entire Senate Republican Caucus of 20 members voting yes.  There were 26 no votes in the Senate.  What is significant about this vote is that both Republican caucuses have not supported the passage of the final state budget in over a decade.

Fund sweeps have not been used in the last couple of budget cycles, but were used almost every year for the four budget cycles previous to the last two.  Dedicated funds are generally funded by a specific revenue source like a fee or other specific assessment.  There were over 150 different funds targeted to be swept, included several agricultural funds.  The funds and the amounts that will be transferred to the General Revenue Fund are as follows:
Specific Fund Amount Swept
Agricultural Premium Fund                         $5,000,000
Weights & Measures Fund                          $2,000,000
Fair & Exposition Fund                               $1,000,000
Fertilizer Control Fund                               $500,000
Feed Control Fund                                     $1,000,000
Illinois State Fair Fund                               $1,000,000
Agricultural Master Fund                            $400,000
Pesticide Control Fund                                $3,000,000
Illinois Standardbred Breeders Fund            $250,000
Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders Fund           $250,000
The proposal also includes granting the Governor latitude to transfer up to 4% from any one line item in the budget to another line item.  These “emergency budget powers” have been done before, but it has been a long time since a bipartisan vote supported such powers.

It remains to be seen if the bipartisan approach that was used to address the FY 2015 budget will continue with the development and eventual passage of the FY 2016 budget.  Addressing a $1.6 billion short fall is one thing, but addressing a $6 billion projected FY 2016 shortfall is another.  One thing is for sure, the continued belief that this is a monumental task has legislative leaders already predicting that the spring session will run into a “summer overtime session.”  Governor Rauner also expressed his recognition of the tough times ahead.  Governor Rauner stated shortly after the passage of HB 318; “While today’s action is an important start, many more tough votes and challenging decisions must be made in the weeks ahead to complete the first steps of an Illinois turnaround. I look forward to continuing to partner with the legislature to enact policies that will create more jobs, increase local control and deliver value for taxpayers.”
IFB Priorities

COVERED FARM VEHICLES - HB 2515 (Rep. Cloonen/Sen. Bennett)
HB 2515 puts Illinois in compliance with federal regulations by exempting an operator of a covered farm vehicle (CFV) from having to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License. The bill also cleans up current language by defining “Gross Combination Weight Rating” (GCWR), exempting CFV operators from the medical examiners certificate portion of statute, and provides the option for mileage plated vehicles that are 12,000 lbs. or less to be registered as a CFV. HB 2515 is agreed upon language by IFB, Secretary of State, and the Illinois Department of Transportation. HB 2515 has passed the House floor (113-0-0) and is on First Reading in the Senate.  IFB supports HB 2515  
ROAD POSTING AND CLOSURE - HB 2580 (Rep. Costello)
The bill states that highway commissioners cannot permanently close or reduce the weight limit on any road or portion thereof without first holding a public hearing. The road commissioner must then create a memorandum explaining the reason for the proposed road posting or closing and answering concerns heard at the public hearing.  The county engineer must approve and file the memorandum with the road district clerk before the road can be permanently posted or closed. The public hearing and approval by the County Engineer creates public involvement and checks and balances in the decisions unilaterally made by road commissioners   HB 2580 was passed out of House Transportation: Regulations, Roads & Bridges Committee (18-0-0) and is currently on Second reading. IFB supports HB 2580.
SB 1727 is a result of landowner concerns that have surfaced with the expedited review process used to approve high voltage transmission lines in Illinois.  It limits the use of the expedited review process to any transmission line that does not exceed 25 miles in length across privately owned real estate. It also amends the process so that if a public utility seeks eminent domain powers after the Commerce Commission has issued an order using the expedited review process, then the time the Commission has before it must issue its order regarding eminent domain is expanded from 45 days to 365 days.  SB 1727 was held in the Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee. IFB supports SB 1727.
ETHANOL INCENTIVES - SB 1948 (Sen. Manar) & HB 3378 (Rep. Costello)
This legislation will sunset the current 20% sales tax incentive for E-10 ethanol upon becoming law, creates a 10% sales tax incentive for E-15 ethanol until December 31, 2018, and creates three new grant programs to encourage the distribution of ethanol, increased efficiency of ethanol production, and development of future corn based fuel production.  The grant programs would receive a total of $25 million annually for three years.  SB 1948 was held in the Senate Revenue Committee and HB 3378 was held in the House Revenue & Finance Sub-Committee on Sales and Other Taxes. IFB is seeking an amendment to both SB 1948 and HB 3378.
MINIMUM WAGE - SB 11 (Sen. Lightford/Rep. Turner) & HB 3345 (Rep. Turner)
Both SB 11 and HB 3345 were reported on in previous editions of QuickView.  Both bills increase the minimum wage in Illinois.  The bills are similar; however SB 11 increases the minimum wage to $11 by July 1, 2019, while HB 3345 increases the minimum wage to $10 by 2016.  Both bills create a tax credit for employers with fewer than 50 employees, calculated based on the increase in the minimum wage. SB 11 has passed the Senate, was transmitted to the House, and is assigned to the House Rules Committee.  HB 3345 has passed the House Labor and Commerce Committee and is on Second Reading in the House.

Illinois Farm Bureau continues to oppose increasing the Illinois minimum wage as proposed in both bills.  We believe that increasing in the minimum wage would hinder business growth and expansion in our state, which is already known as having an unfriendly business climate.  SB 11 passed the Senate on a vote of 35 yes, 18 no, and 1 present and is in the House Rules committee.  HB 3345 passed the House Labor and Commerce Committee and is on Second Reading in the House.  IFB opposes SB 11 and HB 3345.
EXOTIC WEEDS – SB 681 (Sen. Biss)
SB 681 adds exotic bush honeysuckles; exotic olives including autumn olive; salt cedar; poison hemlock; giant hogweed; oriental bittersweet; and lesser celandine; and Japanese, giant, and Bohemian knotweed to the list of designated exotic weeds. These weeds are considered to be invasive species. By adding these weeds to the list of exotic weeds, it would ban the weeds and their seeds from being offered for sale, bought, planted, or distributed without a permit from IDNR. The bill was amended to allow autumn olive berries to be used in value added products if done with a permit from IDNR and the seeds are sterile after manufacturing. SB 681 passed out of the Senate Environment Committee, and is on Third Reading in the Senate. IFB supports SB 681. 
HB 3240 increases the penalty for anyone who refuses or fails to submit an application to the Department of Natural Resources before construction takes place within a designated floodplain. The bill increases the maximum penalty from $1,000 to $10,000 with a $1,000 penalty for each day the individual is in violation of the Act. After negotiations with the Department, they have agreed to a maximum penalty being no more than twice the amount of the application fee, which will set a new maximum penalty of $5,000. HB 3240 is on Second Reading in the House. IFB is seeking an amendment to HB 3240.
SB 1726 makes changes to notice requirements and other protections for landowners involved in a transmission line project.  The sponsor of SB 1726 amended the bill, removing most language, and passed the bill out of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.  This was done to allow for an amendment that could be filed following additional negotiations between proponents and opponents of the bill.  SB 1726 passed the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.  IFB supports SB 1726.   
HB 3523 requires that commercial wind energy operators of commercial wind energy facilities enter into an agricultural impact mitigation agreement with the Department of Agriculture outlining construction and deconstruction standards and policies designed to preserve the integrity of any agricultural land that is impacted by construction and deconstruction. It also requires the agricultural impact mitigation agreement to be signed prior to any public hearing required prior to a siting decision of a county or municipality regarding the commercial wind energy facility. HB 3523 passed the House Renewable Energy and Sustainability Committee (14-0-0) and is on Second Reading in the House. IFB supports HB 3523.
OIL AND GAS NOTICE – SB 1378 (Sen. Forby) & HB 3215 (Rep. Phelps)
Amends the procedures of the Department of Natural Resources' when a well has been abandoned or is leaking salt water, oil, gas, or other substances into any fresh water formation or the surface of the land in the vicinity of the well, so that the notice of a hearing shall consist of written notice served to the permittee personally or by certified mail sent to the permittee's last known address. If the Department determines that the permittee resides or has gone out of this state or cannot be found or is concealed within the state so that he cannot be served with notice, the Department may publish notice of the hearing in a newspaper published in the county in which the well is located or if there is no newspaper published in that county, then the in a newspaper published in the adjoining county in this State having a circulation in the county in which action is pending. The Department may also cause notice of the hearing to be posted at the tank battery located on the lease containing the well at issue for at least 30 days prior to the scheduled date of the hearing. This would aid in the hearing process for abandoned or leaking wells and adding them to the list of wells to be plugged. SB 1378 passed the Senate Environment Committee and is on Third Reading in the Senate. HB 3215 passed the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee and is on Third Reading in the House. IFB supports SB 1378 and HB 3215.
OIL AND GAS PERMIT MORATORIUM – SB 1202 (Sen. Morrison) & HB 3096 (Rep. Conroy)
SB 1202 and HB 3096 state that no new permits shall be issued for surface extraction activities on lands owned by IDNR or the federal government if located in Illinois. This moratorium also applies if IDNR or the federal government does not own the mineral interest below the property. SB 1202 was held in the Senate Environment & Conservation Committee.  HB 3096 was held in the House Environment Committee.  IFB opposes both SB 1202 and HB 3096.
RENEWABLE ENERGY PORTFOLIO STANDARD – SB 1485 (Sen. Harmon) & HB 2607 (Rep. Nekritz)
SB 1485 and HB 2607 amend the Illinois Power Agency Act, increasing the long-term renewable resources procurement plan.  It would require that 35% of the electricity demand for Illinois be sourced from renewable resources by 2030, up from 25% by 2025. The bills would also increase Illinois’ efficiency policies for homes and businesses by 50 percent, with a goal of achieving a 20 percent demand reduction by 2025.  Finally, the bill amends the Environmental Protection Act requiring that upon promulgation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of a final rule regulating carbon dioxide emissions from existing electric generating units, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency shall be authorized to implement a cap and trade program or similar market mechanism to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. SB 1485 passed the Senate Environment Committee and is on Second Reading in the Senate.  HB 2607 was held in the House Energy Committee.  IFB opposes both SB 1485 and HB 2607.
Sen. Koehler has reintroduced a bill that would require all foods containing any ingredients made from biotechnology crops to be labeled as "Genetically Engineered".  The label would be mandatory, establishes a negative perception of biotechnology, and is contradictory to FDA food labeling guidelines.  A coalition of agricultural commodity and business groups is working to oppose mandatory labeling legislation.  SB 734 was held in the Senate Committee on Environment & Conservation. IFB opposes SB 734.
SEAFOOD LABELING – HB 133 (Rep. Thapedi)
HB 133 requires that any label of fresh, frozen, or processed fish or shellfish, wild or farm raised, offered for sale at wholesale or retail clearly identify the species of fish or shellfish by its common name, whether the fish or shellfish was farm raised or wild caught, and whether the fish or shellfish was caught domestically or imported. The bill also requires that a retail food facility offers for sale any fresh, frozen, or processed fish or shellfish, wild or farm raised, may not knowingly misidentify or misbrand the country of origin of the fish or shellfish or whether the fish or shellfish was farm raised or wild caught. The labeling requirement proposed by HB 133 would create enforcement costs for the State of Illinois when labeling is already enforced by the FDA and would create a redundant labeling requirement. HB 133 is on Third reading in the House. IFB opposes HB 133.
This bill designates pumpkin pie as the official state pie of the State of Illinois.  Illinois continues to be the leading producer of pumpkins in the United States.  HB 208 passed the House Museum, Arts, and Cultural Enhancement Committee and is on Third Reading in the House. IFB supports HB 208.
This bill designates sweet corn as the official vegetable of the State of Illinois.  SB 800 passed the Senate Agriculture Committee and is on Third reading in the Senate. IFB supports SB 800.
HB 2690 with House Amendment #1 allows for the sale of raw, unpasteurized milk on the premises of the farm where it is produced. The bill also deletes language that allows the Illinois Department of Public Health to create rules regarding the production and transaction of raw milk. HB 2690 passed the House Judiciary-Civil Committee and is on Second reading in the House. IFB is seeking an amendment to HB 2690.
Law and Order
This bill legalizes the possession of 30 grams or less of cannabis (marijuana) by a person 21 years of age or older.  SB 753 also permits the production and possession of up to 5 cannabis plants by a person 21 years of age or older.  SB 753 was held in the Senate Criminal Law Committee. IFB opposes SB 753. 
HB 218, as amended, makes the possession of 30 grams or less of any substance containing cannabis (marijuana) a civil law violation with a maximum fine of $125.  This represents a reduced charge from the current Class C misdemeanor for 2.5 grams or less, Class B misdemeanor for more than 2.5 grams to 10 grams, and Class A misdemeanor for more than 10 grams to 30 grams.  The bill would also require that any record of violations for the possession of 30 grams of less of marijuana would be expunged every six months.  The reduced penalties included in HB 218 would serve to decriminalize marijuana.   HB 218 passed the House Restorative Justice Committee and is on Second Reading in the House. IFB opposes HB 218.
This bill creates the offense of theft of recyclable metal when a person, without the consent of the owner, knowingly obtains or exerts control over property consisting of any recyclable metal as that is manufactured, sold, or used for transmission lines, telephone lines, irrigation equipment, heating and ventilating systems, and other applications.  A person also commits theft of recyclable metal when he or she, in committing theft of recyclable metal, knowingly damages or destroys any property of another by removing or damaging recyclable metal components of that property.  Penalties for the offenses vary based on the value of the metals and damages and if the property was stolen from a school, church, or unit of government.  HB 393 was held in the House Judiciary & Criminal Sub-Committee on Sentencing, Penalties, and Criminal Procedure. IFB supports HB 393. 
Local Government
SB 839, as amended, would allow counties to establish standards for noise pollution that are in accordance with, and no more restrictive than, Illinois Pollution Control Board noise regulations. SB 839 has been assigned to the Senate Subcommittee on Governmental Operations. IFB has no position on SB 839 as amended. 
SB 30 would eliminate all award and performance based compensation for township assessors, multi-township assessors, and supervisors of assessments. These performance based incentives allow for certified assessors to fairly and consistently assess property values within their jurisdiction.  Eliminating these performance based incentives could possibly lead to a reduction in the number of certified assessors, reduce the interest in becoming a certified assessor, or result in poorly assessed home values. SB 30 is on Second reading in the Senate. IFB opposes SB 30.
Beginning September 1, 2015, the bill would impose a tax on the privilege of engaging in a financial transaction on any of the following exchanges or boards of trade: the Chicago Stock Exchange, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the Chicago Board Options Exchange. The tax would be imposed at a rate of $1 per contract for all transactions for which the underlying asset is an agricultural product and $2 per contract for all other contracts.  HB 106 was held in the Sales and Other Taxes Subcommittee of the House Revenue and Finance Committee. IFB opposes HB 106.
REPEAL THE STATE ESTATE TAX – HB 394 (Rep. Unes) & HB 434 (Rep. Sullivan)
HB 394 and HB 434 repeal the Illinois Estate and Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax. The bills state that no tax shall be imposed for persons dying on or after the effective date of the bills or for transfers made on or after the effective date of the bills.   HB 394 and HB 434 were held in the Sales and Other Taxes Subcommittee of the House Revenue and Finance Committee. IFB supports both HB 394 and HB 434.   
COMMERCIAL DISTRIBUTION FEE REPEAL – HB 371 (Rep. Mayfield), HB 387 (Rep. Martwick), & SB 662 (Sen. Sandoval)
HB 371, HB 387, and SB 662 repeal the collection of the annual commercial distribution fee that is placed on all registered license plates greater than 8,000 lbs. except for farm plates, which are exempt from the fee.   Currently, the State of Illinois imposes a 14.35% sales tax on existing and new commercial license plates, adding to the burdensome expenses needed to operate a truck in this state. All revenue generated from the commercial distribution fee is placed into the General Revenue Fund, instead of going back into the Road Fund which is used to maintain and improve road infrastructure. Both HB 371 and HB 387 were held in the House Subcommittee on Sales and Other Taxes, while SB 662 has been assigned to the Senate Revenue Sub-Committee on Special Issues. IFB supports HB 371, HB 387, & SB 662.
SB 1390 is an effort to create transparency, clarity, and consistency on truck-tractor/semi-trailer length laws throughout Illinois’ roadways.The bill will increase the kingpin to rear axle length limit on other state highways and Class III roadways from 42’6” to 45’6”; increase the bumper-to-bumper length limit from 55’ to 65’ on other local roads & streets; finally, it will remove the 55’ overall wheelbase limitation on Other State Highways and Class III routes to create consistency with all other roadways. SB 1390 was held in the Senate Executive Committee, however it is expected that the bill will receive a committee deadline extension to allow for further discussion.  IFB supports SB 1390.
HB 4008 will allow non-licensed operators of road machines and farm tractors to operate that machine for the exclusive purpose of conducting farming operations. Currently, these individuals are only allowed to operate those machines between the home farm building and any adjacent or nearby farm land.
The bill will also allow U.S. government employees operating a motor vehicle owned or leased by the U.S. government, an individual operating a road machine or farm tractor for farming purposes, or any member of the train operating crew, to do so while their license or permit has been suspended or revoked. HB 4008 passed the House Transportation:  Vehicles and Safety Committee and is on Third Reading in the House. IFB supports HB 4008.
BOBCAT HUNTING - HB 352 (Rep. Verschoore), HB 490 (Rep. Davidsmeyer) & SB 106 (Sen. McCann)
All three bills remove the prohibition on taking bobcats in Illinois.  They establish a hunting season for bobcats which will be set annually by the Director of IDNR between November 1 and February 15.  It provides that the season limit for bobcats shall not exceed one bobcat per permit.  It requires that the pelts of bobcats be tagged in accordance with federal regulations and IDNR may require harvest registration. It also allows bobcats to be taken during the open season by use of a small light which is worn on the body or hand-held by a person on foot and not in any vehicle.  HB 352 has passed out of the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee and is on Second Reading in the House. HB 490 was held in the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee.  SB 106 passed the Senate Agriculture Committee and is on Second Reading in the Senate. IFB supports HB 352, HB 490, and SB 106.
SB 673 provides that wild turkey and deer hunting permits shall be issued without charge to Illinois landowners who have a life estate on at least 40 acres of Illinois land and wish to hunt on their land only.  Currently, permits issued without charge are limited to owners of at least 40 acres who wish to hunt on their land only.  SB 673 was held in the Senate Agriculture Committee. IFB supports SB 673.  
HB 400 requires any person or entity that owns or operates a carnival, fair, or amusement ride to perform a back ground check on all volunteers. This bill would put a major fiscal burden on all local, county, and state fairs that depend on volunteers to do needed cleanup and tasks around the fair grounds. HB 400 was held in the Business Licenses Subcommittee of the House Business and Occupational Licenses Committee. IFB opposes HB 400.
SEED LIBRARIES – HB 2487 (Rep. Pritchard)
HB 2487, Amendment #1 defines a "seed library" and provides that specified provisions of the Illinois Seed Law concerning labeling requirements do not apply to seed in an Illinois seed library that is as free from noxious and exotic weeds as possible.  IFB had opposed HB 2487 as introduced, but the changes made by Amendment #1 have removed our opposition.  HB 2487 passed the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee and is on Second Reading in the House. IFB has no position on HB 2487 as amended by Amendment #1.
SB 1275, Amendment #1, creates the Access to Cemeteries on Private Property Act. It states that specified persons may enter the property of another, with the landowner's consent, to discover, restore, maintain, or visit a grave, private cemetery, or abandoned cemetery. It also establishes a process that if consent cannot be obtained from the landowner, the person seeking access may file a petition in the circuit court of the county in which the petitioner has reasonable grounds to believe the grave, private cemetery, or abandoned cemetery is located for an order allowing the petitioner to enter the property to discover, restore, maintain, or visit the grave, private cemetery, or abandoned cemetery. The court's order may not require the landowner to make modifications to his or her property in order to accommodate access to the grave, private cemetery, or abandoned cemetery. It also provides that the landowner, in the absence of willful and wanton conduct, is immune from liability in any civil suit, claim, action, or cause of action arising out of the access granted under the Act.  SB 1275 was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is on Second Reading in the Senate. IFB opposes SB 1275, Amendment #1, as drafted and is seeking an amendment.  

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