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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

“Another Nice Mess”

At this time last year, no one would have ever predicted that there would be no approved state budget for FY 2016.  Unfortunately, this year, there is little surprise that no resolution has been reached for the upcoming FY 2017 Fiscal Year.

The deadlock, unwillingness to move forward, quagmire, or whatever term you want to use to explain this unprecedented stalemate is not going to end anytime soon.  The points are the same.  The Governor continues to call for reforms to several substantial issues like worker’s compensation, collective bargaining, school mandates, and a property tax freeze as part of his “Turn Around Agenda.”  The Speaker of the House continues to state that he wants to focus on passing a state budget and making sure the middle class workers of Illinois are protected.  Senate President Cullerton attempted to float the idea passing a short term budget, but there originally was little support from the Governor or the Speaker of the House.

Late last week, the House approved a spending plan that would appropriate $14.1 billion from the General Revenue Fund for programs that are not covered by continuing appropriations, consent decrees, and court orders.  No one was sure if this was a starting point to add pressure on budget negotiations or to set the stage for a larger budget show down.  Up until today, it was assumed the Senate could consider it and vote on it. 

While the Senate’s consideration of the “spending plan” loomed, the Governor and four legislative leaders met in the Governor’s office almost daily.  After each of those meetings, it became more apparent that no agreement was going to be reached by the May 31st deadline.  Concurrently, members of the General Assembly, legislative staff, and Governor’s staff held working group meetings on several of the key substantive issues.  These intensive meetings were lengthy and for the most part cordial, but have not resulted in any final compromises on reforms. 

Then, during today’s meeting, the Governor placed the idea of approving a stopgap budget on the table with the four legislative leaders. This was a significant shift in direction from a few days ago, when the idea of a short term budget received little support from the Governor.  The Senate President and House Speaker stated they would let the working groups that have been meeting continue to negotiate and see if a final compromise can be reached. 

Surprisingly, rumors started to surface that the Senate Democrats would not support the spending plan passed by the House last week.  Some members of the Senate Democrat caucus reportedly felt that more spending was needed for K-12 education.  Their plan surfaced as an amendment late today that would increase education spending for the upcoming fiscal year by $700 more than what was appropriated last year.  The bill was called for a vote in the Senate, where it passed.  The Senate then called the spending plan passed previously by the House, but it was unable to receive the needed votes for passage. The House then took up the education funding plan passed by the Senate.  However, the plan then overwhelmingly failed in the House with only 24 yes votes. 

So what is the next step?  There will be plenty of finger pointing, press conferences stating each view point, and calls for an end to the gamesmanship.  This is very rough and uncharted water, so there is not a clear path to follow.  What is starting to surface are statements from key leaders that it may be time to develop a “stopgap” or “interim” budget.  We anticipate that the legislative leaders and the working groups that have been meeting will continue to meet and work on negotiations to develop a stopgap/interim budget.  The Governor and Republicans will most likely start from a negotiation point they unveiled in legislation today. 

One thing is painfully clear, tensions between all parties is growing, not subsiding.  The tension will likely continue to increase as the reality that the lack of a spending plan means elementary and secondary education funding is unapproved.  Without this funding, rumors have already started that many elementary and secondary school districts will not be able to open their doors come the end of August.  That is probably the single largest political time bomb for lawmakers and everyone one knows it.

It is hard to capture the feelings and mood of everyone in the State House.  Maybe the best way to explain it is to compare the current situation to a common scene from the famous Laurel and Hardy movies.  As Stan Laurel would often say; “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”  

There you have it……”another nice mess” continues.

Vegetative Filter Strip – SB 2160 (Sen. Sullivan/Rep. Bradley)

SB 2160, which extends the sunset date on property tax assessments on agriculture filter strips to December 2026, was passed by the House of Representatives last week with 113 yes and 0 no votes.  The sunset, or end date, for the reduced property tax assessment for filter strips in current law is December 31, 2016.  If the Governor signs the bill, then the reduced assessment practice for these important nutrient management and water quality management tools will continue for an additional ten years.  SB 2160 is a legislative priority of the Illinois Farm Bureau and we appreciate the help of the sponsors and all legislators who supported the bill.  SB 2160 passed the Senate 56-0.  It passed the House with 113 yes and 0 no votes and will now be sent to the Governor for his consideration.  IFB supports SB 2160

Telecommunications Right-of-Way – SB 2237 (Sen. Harmon/Rep. Nekritz)

SB 2237, which allows telecommunications companies to install their cable in road rights-of-way without negotiating an easement with the landowner in most cases, was not called for a vote in the House Public Utilities Committee.  The bill has not yet moved forward and did not receive a vote by the full House of Representatives.  However, we do not believe that this issue is over.  We will continue to very carefully monitor the situation and work to defeat the bill.  Property rights are a fundamental issue for IFB, so this issue continues to receive focus from the state legislative team.

We would like to thank all of you who called your State Senators and State Representatives in response to our action requests on the bill.  The calls were instrumental in keeping support for the bill to a minimum.  We heard from a number of legislators, both local and adopted, about the calls they were receiving from IFB members. Thank you for your help in protecting your property rights! SB 2237 passed the Senate with 35 yes and 18 no votes.  It is currently in the House Public Utilities Committee. 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 landowners.  IFB opposes SB 2237.

Truck Overweight Fine Surcharges – HB 3126 (Sen. Forby)

During the spring session of 2015, SB 1304 was passed and signed into law.  The mechanism included in SB 1304 that provided 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.  Overweight fines for trucks in the Illinois Vehicle Code have no cap and can total thousands of dollars per offense.  This places a significantly higher burden on surcharges paid on truck overweight fines by farmers and truckers if the increase were not limited.

IFB and the Mid-West Truckers Association had been in continued discussions for many months on limiting the negative impact of the surcharge increase passed last year.  Late this week, an amendment was filed on HB 3126 to address those concerns.  HB 3126 will limit the increase in the surcharge amount resulting from the legislation passed last year.  It states that the surcharge for truck overweight fines will be $15 per $40 of fine for the first $330 of fine, then the surcharge returns to the previous amount of $10 per $40 of fine for the remaining fine.  This minimizes the negative impact to farmers and truckers resulting from the increase in truck overweight fine surcharges, yet maintains reasonable payments into the funds used to support police cameras and training.  The Senate took up the amendment and passed it early today.  However, the House has yet to concur in the amendment.  We are very hopeful that the House will vote to concur in the amendment during one of its extended session days in June and then send the bill to the Governor for his consideration.  HB 3126 passed the Senate, as amended, .  The House has not yet voted to concur on the Senate amendment.  IFB supports HB 3126 as amended.

Local Government Consolidation

What began as several bills filed earlier this Spring covering the gamut of local government consolidation proposals ended up materializing into two bills (SB 389 and SB 388) that captured the most popular topics impacting local government consolidation throughout the state. Although both bills passed the Senate chamber, neither found their way to committee in the House. What finally transpired was a single bill (HB 229) that expanded current local government consolidation practices found in DuPage County. HB 229 would allow McHenry and Lake County to use the same approach as DuPage by giving the county boards the authority to consolidate or dissolve units of local government whose boards are appointed by the county board. HB 229 passed both chambers and will be sent to the Governor. 

The action on the bills introduced is a spectacular display of the volatility surrounding which and what governmental units should be dissolved throughout the state. As these bills gained traction in the State House, more and more groups, organizations, and individuals began to raise concerns as their own units of local government were found in the crosshairs of dissolution.

The idea of an “outsider” deciding what units of local government should be dissolved often becomes a fallacy, which became clear over the last several months. Illinois residents rely on units of local government to provide certain services and those units of local government are created by those same residents. When the unit of local government is no longer needed or useful, then the same individuals who created them are allowed to dissolve them. It’s a circular process that relies on the action of the residents. When certain units of local government come under fire for being inefficient or unwanted by those who do not live within the area or use the service, then their reasoning for dissolving the unit of government comes into question.

This is what we have witnessed multiple times this spring as many local government consolidation bills have met their end. It has become evident that residents in certain areas of the state depend on different types of governmental entities, and the decision regarding which ones should be dissolved should be left up to those who created them. Local government efficiency and transparency is necessary, but it should be done with oversight and decision making beginning and ending with the residents of Illinois.

School Funding Reform

One of the issues seeing significant consideration this session was school funding reform.  Presently there are four (yes…. four!) distinct proposals in the process to change the elementary and secondary funding formulas.  The most recent to be considered was a Senate amendment to HB 3190 that was approved by the full Senate last week.  This proposal changes the General State Aid formula based on an Evidence-Based Funding Model.  It included $205 million in payments to the Chicago Public School (CPS) for payment to the teachers’ pension fund.  The Evidence-Based Funding model in HB 3190 is identical to that contained in SB 231, which also makes numerous changes to the General State Aid (GSA) formula. 

Currently the evidence-based model outline contained in SB 231 and HB 3190 collapses special education funding into the GSA so the dollars would be distributed based on a need formula.  It also contains a hold harmless funding clause so school districts would not receive less funding in the first year of the formula change.  The hold harmless clause would then be phased out proportionally over four years to put the new funding levels in place.  The components also provide flexibility for school districts to increase the rate in one of their different tax levies and transfer the collections to another fund.  

A third state elementary and secondary spending plan is contained in SB 2048.  It provides funding for an “Equity Grant” that would suspend the current GSA and provide funding for FY 2017 at the current level as in FY 2016.  The bill would then distribute an additional $700 million based on student poverty counts.  Details of how this would be implemented would be contained in future legislation.

The final proposal builds on SB 2048 by suspending the GSA for three years and building a base of formula funding of no less than the FY 2016 GSA levels.  The bill, HB 813, would take the “Equity Grant” and change it from being calculated on student poverty counts to a distribution based on the low-income poverty concentration and the school districts local available resources.

At the present time, it is unclear which, if any, of these proposals will move forward.  None of the proposals passed both chambers to be sent to the Governor.  Apparently this issue has also been caught up in the uncertainty of the future and will continue to be discussed over the coming weeks or months.  

Seed Libraries and Seed Swap Events – SB 2130 (Sen. McCann/Rep. Butler)

SB 3130 exempts seed libraries and seed swap events from the Illinois Seed Law.  After continued discussions with the proponents and the sponsors of the bill, it was amended in the House in a way that removed IFB’s opposition.  The amendment states that seed libraries and seed swap events will be required to establish labeling or record keeping requirements in the event that some problem arises with the seed.  This information will then be made available upon request of the Dept. of Agriculture for investigation into the problem if needed.  IFB appreciates the work of the sponsors and proponents in reaching an agreement on this legislation.  SB 3130 previously passed the Senate with 43 yes, 5 no, and 2 present votes.  It passed the House, as amended, 111-0.  The Senate then concurred in the House amendment with 57 yes and 1 present vote.  The bill will be sent to the Governor.  IFB has no position on SB 3130 as amended.

Priority Issues


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.  The bill was held in the House Rules Committee and not called for a vote. IFB supports SB 2992.


We have continued to work to on SB 2551 and HB 4969 this session.  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.  While the utilities remain opposed to the concepts included in SB 2551 and HB 4969, discussions with them remain ongoing in an effort to find a reasonable solution.  SB 2551 and HB 4969 were not called for votes this session and were held in their respective chambers.  IFB supports SB 2551 and HB 4969.


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. It passed the Senate 52-0 and will be sent to the Governor.  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.  It passed the Senate with 45 yes and 6 no votes and will be sent to the Governor.  IFB was 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 passed the House with 101 yes and 2 no vote.  It passed the Senate 49-0 and will be sent to the Governor for consideration.  IFB has no position on HB 5933 as amended.

Law and Order

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

SB 2228 would 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 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.  The bill passed the House 64-50 and will be sent to the Governor.  IFB opposes SB 2228.



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 passed the House 111-0 and will be sent to the Governor.  IFB supports SB 2612.



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 passed the Senate 58-0 and will be sent to the Governor for consideration.   IFB supports HB 4445.


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.  The bill passed the Senate with 56 yes and 0 no votes and will be sent to the Governor.  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.  It passed the Senate 54-0.  It will now be sent to the Governor.  IFB supports HB 4604.


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.  It passed the House 111-1 and will be sent to the Governor for consideration.  IFB supports SB 2975.

STATE FAIR FOUNDATION – SB 2903 (Sen. Brady). HB 5783 (Sen. Manar/Rep. Wojcicki-Jimenez)

SB 2903 establishes 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 also exempted the foundation from the state procurement code in an effort to streamline projects funded by private donations.

Late this week, Sen. Manar introduced an amendment to HB 5783 that established the State Fairgrounds Foundation, but without the exemption to the state procurement code.  The bill also would require the state to operate the State Museum in Springfield and at additional locations in Illinois.  Finally, the bill made a technical change to a task force dealing with economic development for disabled persons.  SB 2903 was held on Third Reading in the Senate.  HB 5783, as amended, passed the Senate with 38 yes and 18 no votes.  It was not called for concurrence in the House.  IFB supports SB 2903 and has no position on HB 5783.

BICENTENNIAL FARMS – HB 5790 (Rep. Meier/ Sen. Anderson)

HB 5790 provides that the Department of Agriculture may designate "Bicentennial Farms".  This would be in addition to the current “Centennial” and “Sesquicentennial” farms already authorized. HB 5790 passed the House 114-0-0 It passed the Senate with 57 yes and 0 no votes and will be sent to the Governor. IFB supports 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.  It passed the Senate on a vote of 58-0.  The House concurred with the Senate amendment with 117 yes and 0 no votes.  It will now be sent to the Governor for his consideration. IFB supports HB 4318.


If you have any questions on the items listed in this edition of QuickView or on other state legislative matters please contact us.  The State Legislative Team can be reached at (309) 557-2308 or by e-mail at statelegislation@ilfb.org.

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