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Friday, April 22, 2016

PRESSURE COOKER

We all know how this process works in Springfield.  The closer you get to a deadline, everyone gets more intently focused on getting their bills amended and passed.  This naturally builds friction, tension, and anxiety between legislators, their staffs, and constituents. 

This week was no different as both chambers moved towards today’s passage deadline for getting bills approved in their original chamber.  Adding to this pressure were the very real concerns about the future of higher education.  College students were facing tough decisions about what was going to happen as programs were being curtailed, some university employees were facing layoffs, and a few campuses were considering closing.   

The pressure was almost ready to blow the top off the Capitol dome.  But in an unexpected turn of events, the General Assembly, along bipartisan lines, approved a short term spending plan for higher education.  We have a summary below. 

The House and Senate will take next week off.  When they return on May 3rd, they are scheduled for only 21 more days.  We anticipate that the FY 2017 budget will take center stage, but all the other issues that are currently in the process will also be moving toward that magic date of adjournment on May 31st


TELECOMMUNICATIONS RIGHT-OF-WAY – SB 2237 (Sen. Harmon)

Several hundred of you responded to our Action Request on SB 2237 and we greatly appreciate your effort.   Thank you again for reaching out to your State Senators and adopted State Senators and asking them to protect your property rights.

SB 2237 was not called for a vote this week.  The Senate had a passage deadline for bills that ended today.  However, we fully anticipate that this issue is not dead.  Extension of this deadline may be granted, which may occur in this situation.  We will update you with additional details on the bill after the Senate returns on May 3rd.     

To review, SB 2237 is an unconstitutional taking of landowners’ property rights.  It allows telecommunications companies and cable operators to access the road right-of-way for installation of their equipment after receiving consent from the highway authority.  Consent would not have to be sought from the landowner who may own the land in or under the right-of way if they haven’t paid property taxes on the right-of-way for the previous two years.  Most landowners in rural areas are not assessed property taxes on the land in the right-of-way, which means the bill would grant telecommunications companies access without negotiating an easement in many cases.

SB 2237 passed the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee and is on Third Reading. IFB held numerous discussions with the proponents of the legislation, but was unsuccessful in seeking an amendment to the bill to protect the private property rights of the landowner.  IFB opposes SB 2237.

 

SHORT TERM FUNDING FOR HIGHER EDUCATION

The pot began to boil this week as the crisis for higher education and community colleges came to a head.  Talk of more employee layoffs, potential institution closings, and loss of accreditation for higher education institutions increased the pressure. Today, the steam was released somewhat when the House and Senate approved a measure to provide short term funding for state universities, community colleges, and the Monetary Award Program (MAP) assistance fund. 

SB 2059 provides a total of $651.7 million for expenses incurred until September 1, 2016.  Of the total appropriated, $74.1 million will be appropriated to community colleges, $169.8 million for the Monetary Award Program (MAP) assistance fund, and the remainder will be split between the state institutions of higher learning.

This clearly was the result of bipartisan negotiations between Governor Rauner, Speaker Madigan, Senate President Cullerton, House Republican Leader Durkin, and Senate Republican Leader Radogno.  As with any budget negotiation, there were hiccups and derailments.  Late yesterday afternoon, hope was running high that an agreement was coming, but then it all fell apart last night in the House.  The Senate even delayed its tentative adjournment last night in hopes of being able to get things on track today.  After more negotiations and a separate bill providing limited funding to some human service programs, the short term funding bill got back on track.

The very fragile agreement was called for a vote and approved by both chambers this morning.  The House vote was 106 yes and 2 no votes.  The Senate approved it unanimously with 55 yes votes.  The human services appropriation bill, SB 2047, provides approximately $451 million for costs incurred prior to July 1, 2016.  It was approved by the Senate also unanimously 55-0.  It is expected the House will take up SB 2047 when it returns after a break next week. 

 

Drainage District Consolidation – SB 389 (Sen. Morrison/Rep. Sente)

This spring, multiple legislators filed legislation looking to address the issues found in the Lt. Governor’s Local Government Consolidation and Unfunded Mandates Task Force Report. Most of the Task Force’s attention was placed on finding ways to dissolve special taxing districts and units of local government more easily. With many of these bills being given little attention, one of particular concern passed the Senate this past week.

SB 389 (Sen. Morrison) is a bill filed in response to the report filed by the Lieutenant Governor’s Task Force. The bill would allow the county board, in counties with a population between 500,000 and 3,000,000, to dissolve a drainage district whose commissioners are appointed by the county board. If a drainage district is dissolved, those commissioners would no longer hold office and the county board would assume all taxing authority and functions of the dissolved drainage district. Also, SB 389 would give township board of trustees the ability to pass a resolution to abolish road districts whose road system makes up less than 15 miles of roadway.

IFB has been very vocal of our opposition to the bill regarding the precedent it would set. Even though the language would only apply to four counties (Lake, DuPage, Will, and Kane), those counties have agricultural areas. Granting the county boards the authority to pick and choose the drainage districts they see as burdensome means landowners who created those drainage districts have little or no recourse to stop the county board’s decision.

One thing to remember throughout all of these discussions concerning consolidation is the simple fact that special districts are created by the voters who expect a service from their creation. If that service ceases to be viable, then the voters who created it have the ability to dissolve it in current law. By allowing county governments to make the decision to dissolve these special districts it will remove the oversight and control from the individuals who rely on their service.   

SB 389 passed the Senate on a vote of 36 yes, 9 no, and 3 present votes and has arrived in the House.  IFB opposes SB 389.

 

TOP ISSUES OF ATTENTION

VEGETATIVE FILTER STRIP – SB 2160 (Sen. Sullivan/Rep. Bradley)

SB 2160 will extend the sunset date on property tax assessments on agriculture filter strips to December 2026. Vegetative filter strips are an important tool for farmers regrading nutrient management and for the reduction of soil erosion. SB 2160 passed the Senate with 56 yes and 0 no votes.  It has been assigned to the House Revenue and Finance Committee.  IFB supports SB 2160.

GOVERNOR’S HARVEST EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION – SB 2992 (Sen. Anderson, Rep. Moffit)

SB 2992 would authorize the Governor, during an emergency harvest situation, to allow for a 10% gross vehicle weight (GVW) limit increase in order to effectively transport agricultural commodities from the field to local grain bins and elevators in a more efficient manner, while also reducing truck traffic on our local roads. During a declared harvest emergency, IDOT will make available harvest emergency permits through the Illinois Transportation Automated Permit system (ITAP). These permits will be free of charge and only applicable during the time of the emergency harvest declaration, which can only be authorized from September 31st through December 31stSB 2992 passed the Senate on a vote of 58 yes and 0 no votes and has arrived in the House. IFB supports SB 2992.

TRUCK OVERWEIGHT FINE SURCHARGES – SB 2550 (Sen. Forby)

During the spring session of 2015, SB 1304, which created important reforms in law enforcement and a funding mechanism for body cameras worn by officers, was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law.  However, the mechanism used to provide additional funds for the Law Enforcement Camera Grant Fund and the Traffic and Criminal Conviction Surcharge Fund created a significant burden on farmers and truckers in Illinois.  The law increased the surcharge for traffic violations and criminal convictions from $10 per $40 of fine to $15 per $40 of fine.  Truck overweight fines are considered traffic violations and have increasing and very costly fines. 

IFB has been working with legislators and staff to reach a compromise to reduce the negative impact of the significant increase in truck overweight fine surcharges resulting from the legislation that passed last year.  We are making good progress on an agreement and are hopeful that we can move forward with a plan to reduce current surcharges. It is possible this compromise will be placed on a different bill once the issue begins moving forward.  SB 2550 is assigned to the Subcommittee on Police Professionalism of the Senate Executive Committee.  IFB supports SB 2550.

SEED LIBRARIES AND SEED SWAP EVENTS – SB 2130 (Sen. McCann/Rep. Butler)

SB 3130, as amended, exempts seed libraries and seed swap events from the Illinois Seed Law.  Under the current law, these events would be required to meet the regulations of the law.  The bill also states that seed libraries may adopt labeling or record-keeping standards to identify the date, species or common name, and source of the seed received.  This information would then be made available to the Illinois Dept. of Agriculture for an investigation if a problem arises.

IFB has no concern with reducing the regulations for seed libraries and seed swap events.  Because IFB’s policy on Weed Control calls for improved enforcement of noxious weeds, we asked that seed libraries and seed swap events be required, rather than recommended, to have the limited traceability included in the amendment in the event that some problem arises with the seed.  The Illinois Department of Agriculture had asked for traceability so they would have the ability to address a problem, such as a noxious or exotic weed problem.   Even with this requirement, the bill significantly reduces the regulations imposed on seed libraries and seed swap events.  Unfortunately, the proponents of the bill have been unwilling to amend the bill in such a way.  We will continue to work on the bill as it moves to the House in an effort to reach a reasonable resolution.  Until that time, IFB is opposed to the bill.  SB 3130 passed the Senate with 43 yes, 5 no, and 2 present vote.  IFB is opposed to SB 3130.

EXPEDITED REVIEW OF TRANSMISSION LINE PROJECTS - SB 2551 (Sen. Righter), HB 4969 (Rep. Meier)

We have continued to work to on SB 2551 and HB 4969 this session.  Unfortunately, the public utility interests have opposed the bills and gaining the necessary votes needed for passage in committee are out of our reach.  These two pieces of legislation aim to change the expedited review process that any transmission line can use so that it would be more reasonable for impacted landowners.    We were able this week to start conversations with the opponents and discuss their concerns towards the approach contained in the two bills.  All parties agreed that the discussion was helpful in allowing everyone to better understand the concerns.  SB 2551 has been assigned to the Subcommittee on Generation, Utilities, and Telecom in the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee. HB 4969 has been re-referred to the House Rules Committee.  IFB supports SB 2551 and HB 4969.

Animals

ANIMAL EXPOSURE – HB 5010 (Rep. Feigenholtz/President Cullerton)

HB 5010, as amended, provides that no owner of a dog or cat that is a companion animal may expose the dog or cat for a prolonged period of time to extreme heat or cold conditions that result in hypothermia, hyperthermia, frostbite,  or similar condition as determined by a Doctor of 

Veterinary Medicine.  The language was amended to require that a doctor of veterinary medicine must diagnose the animal, removing IFB’s opposition.  HB 5010 passed the House of Representatives with 104 yes, 6 no, and 1 present vote.  IFB is neutral on HB 5010 as amended.

Food and Feed

EGG LOT CONSOLIDATION - HB 6287 (Rep. Nekritz/Sen. Mulroe)

This bill expands the sell by date for grade AA and A eggs in Illinois from the original 30-days after candling date to 45 days after candling. It also allows eggs to be repackaged when the retailer performs a lot consolidation where the lot consolidation is performed by or under the supervision of a registered lot consolidator. “Lot consolidation” would only be allowed for the replacement of damaged eggs with eggs from the same grade, size, source, brand, lot, and sell by date.  Registered lot consolidators must be trained and stores wishing to consolidate egg lots must retain and maintain an Egg Lot Consolidation Log form. HB 6287 passed the House on a vote of 91-22-0 and is in Senate Assignments Committee.  IFB is seeking an amendment to HB 6287 that would provide transparency to consumers and would provide some protections for egg farmers in Illinois when lot consolidation occurs.

LOCAL FOOD, FARMS, AND JOBS COUNCIL - HB 5933 (Rep. Gabel/Sen. Biss)

This bill would allow the board of directors of the Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Council to divide board membership into classes with and without voting rights. HB 5933 has passed the House with 101 yes and 2 no votes.  It will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.  IFB is neutral on HB 5933 as amended.

Law and Order

CANNABIS PENALTIES – SB 2228 (Sen. Steans/Rep. Cassidy), HB 4357 (Rep. Cassidy)

SB 2228 and HB 4357 make the possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis (marijuana) a civil offense with a fine between $100 and $200.  This is a reduced charge from the current Class B misdemeanor for between 2.5 and 10 grams.  It also increases the amount of marijuana that may be possessed before a felony is charged for a first offense from 30 grams to 100 grams.    The bill also requires that any conviction for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana be expunged from the person’s record every six months.  Finally, it establishes limits on the amount of THC that can be in person’s system before they are charged with driving under the influence.  The reduced penalties and expungement of convictions included in SB 2228 and HB 4357 would serve to minimize criminal penalties for marijuana and would not be a significant deterrent to its recreational use.   SB 2228 passed the Senate with 40 yes and 14 no votes.  It has been sent to the House for consideration.  HB 4357 is on Second Reading in the House.  IFB opposes both SB 2234 and HB 4357.

WRONGFUL TREE CUTTING – SB 3289 (Sen. Stadelman)

SB 3289 and HB 5577 state that any party found to have intentionally cut or knowingly caused to be cut any timber or tree on land with a primary purpose of preservation or conservation that they did not have the legal right to cut or caused to be cut must pay the owner of the timber or tree 3 times stumpage value plus all remediation costs. It does not change the rights provided under current law that an owner of land is paid 3 times the stumpage value of the trees. SB 3289 passed the Senate with 44 yes and 5 no votes.  The bill will be sent to the House for consideration.  IFB is neutral on SB 3289.

Local Government

TOWNSHIP CONSOLIDATION – SB 388 (Sen. Bush/Rep. Conroy)

SB 388 would allow for multiple townships that share a border to consolidate through front door referendum, and the decision to consolidate must be approved by a majority of the voters in the effected townships. The bill also allows for townships that are coterminous with a municipality to dissolve into that municipality. SB 388 passed the Senate on a vote of 53 yes and 0 no votes and has arrived in the House. IFB is neutral on SB 388.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT REDUCTION AND EFFICIENCY – HB 4501 (Rep. Yingling/ Sen. T. Cullerton) HB 4501 would allow all county boards within the State to dissolve and consolidate units of local governments whose boards are appointed by the county board. The county board would pass a resolution or ordinance to dissolve a specific local government unit, which would be initiated through back-door referendum. HB 4501 passed the House on a vote of 93 yes and 19 no votes.  It has arrived for consideration in the Senate. IFB opposes HB 4501.

MUNICIPALITY TAX LEVY – HB 4434 (Rep. DeLuca)

HB 4434 would allow the county clerk to automatically extend a tax levy for a municipality who fails to adopt a tax levy ordinance. The county clerk can only extend the tax levy equal to the rate in the most recent levy year, or the maximum rate permitted to be extended if a valid levy ordinance had been adopted. HB 4434 passed the House Cities and Villages Committee and is on Third Reading in the House. IFB seeks to amend HB 4434.

Taxes

WIND ENERGY PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT– SB 2612 (Sen. Koehler/Rep. Demmer)

This bill extends the sunset date on the current process of assessing wind turbines for property tax purposes by five years.  Current law ends the process for assessing wind turbines at the end of the 2016 assessment year.  This bill would extend the sunset until the end of the 2021 assessment year.    SB 2612 passed the Senate 50-0-0.  It has been assigned to the House Revenue Committee.  IFB supports SB 2612.

Transportation

SECRETARY OF STATE COMMERCIAL VEHICLE CLEANUP – HB 4445 (Rep. Welch/ Sen. Harris)

HB 4445 makes many changes to the Illinois Vehicle Code. Primarily the bill allows for the Secretary of State to adopt rules concerning the testing requirements for Covered Farm Vehicles (CFV) and the exemptions that apply. HB 4445 passed the House on a vote of 115 yes and 0 no votes.  It has arrived in the Senate. IFB supports HB 4445.

Wildlife

PRIVATE PROPERTY FISHING LIMITS - HB 5796 (Rep. Meier/ Sen. Luechtefeld)

HB 5796 will provide that the limits on the number and size of fish a person may take in a day do not apply to individuals fishing in lakes or ponds entirely within their private property.  HB 5796 passed the House 113-0-2 and is in Senate Assignments Committee. IFB supports HB 5796.

HUNTING GAME BIRDS – HB 4604 (Rep. Cavaletto/ Sen. Luechtefeld)

HB 4606 changes the name of the fee for “Public Hunting Grounds for Wild Pheasants” to “Public Hunting Grounds for Game Birds”. The bill also allows for the taking of bobwhite quail, chukar partridge, and gray partridge on public hunting grounds that allow for the taking of game birds. HB 4604 passed the House 108-3-0 and is in Senate Assignments Committee. IFB supports HB 4604.

BOBCAT PELTS – SB 2143 (Sen. Harmon)

SB 2143 would make it illegal for anyone to sell the pelts of bobcats which were taken in Illinois. The violation for doing so would be a petty offense. SB 2143 passed the Commerce and Economic Development Committee and is on Third Reading in the Senate. IFB opposes SB 2143.

Other

AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION – SB 2975 (Sen. Cunningham/ Rep. Costello)

This bill creates an agriculture education teacher grant program to fund personal services costs for agriculture education teachers. It states that a school district may apply for a grant to fund 50% of the personal services cost for an agriculture education teacher.  However, a school district that is creating a new agriculture education program may apply for a grant to fund 100% of an agriculture teacher's personal services cost in the first and second year of the new agriculture education program and 80% of an agriculture teacher's personal services cost in the third and fourth years of the new agriculture education program. A school district is allowed to apply for a grant for more than one teacher. It specifies that agricultural education is a course of study included in the definition of "areas of identified staff shortages".  SB 2975 passed the Senate on a vote of 58 yes and 0 no votes and has arrived in the House.  IFB supports HB 4990.

STATE FAIR FOUNDATION – SB 2903 (Sen. Brady)

These bills establish the Illinois State Fairgrounds Foundation under the authority of the Department of Agriculture. The Foundation's purpose is to accept private grants and donations and grants from the federal government for the purpose of supporting the Illinois State Fair and the DuQuoin State Fair.  SB 2903 passed the Senate Executive Committee and is on Third Reading. IFB supports SB 2903.

BICENTENNIAL FARMS – SB 2993 (Sen. Anderson/Rep. Moffit), HB 5790 (Rep. Meier/ Sen. Anderson)

SB 2993 and HB 5790 provide that the Department of Agriculture may designate "Bicentennial Farms".  This would be in addition to the current “Centennial” and “Sesquicentennial” farms already authorized.  SB 2993 passed the Senate 50-0-0 and is in the House Rules Committee.  HB 5790 passed the House 114-0-0 and is on First Reading in the Senate. IFB supports both SB 2993 and HB 5790.

AGRIBUSINESS SIGNS – HB 4318 (Rep. Moffitt/ Sen. Anderson)

This bill would authorize the Department of Agriculture to sell to qualified applicants signs designating that an agribusiness has been operated for 100 years or more or 150 years of more as the same agribusiness.  HB 4318 passed the House on a vote of 112 yes and 0 no votes and has arrived in the Senate. IFB supports HB 4318.

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