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The Beginning of the End …   

The beginning of May has marked the State House with trees budding, flowers rising from the gardens, and the grass turning a lush green. It brings a peacefully serenity to the silver domed building. However, this peaceful serenity is likely the calm before the storm.

The General Assembly returned from its spring break and moved back into committee action with a slow and graceful pace. The typical rush that builds when calendars are turned to May has not yet materialized. This feeling led to some hopeful rumors that the General Assembly may actually be able to adjourn before Memorial Day. However, that feeling has waned in the past several days as news of key issues that still need to be dealt with have surfaced. The sponsors of those issues are still trying to get the necessary votes for their passage.

Of course, the main issues to be addressed revolve around the budget and the income tax issue. There is talk of a gaming bill and, more lately, a capital construction bill, but a clear revenue stream for funding capital projects has not arisen.

The only thing that is known now is that in 21 calendar days, at the stroke of midnight on May 31, the Illinois Constitution requires that bills with immediate effective dates take super majority votes to gain approval. This single requirement is what builds the pressure for the passage of the budget and other issues before the deadline.
 
KEY ISSUES

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE – SB 68 (Sen. Lightford)

Since the return of the General Assembly, there has been little movement on increasing the minimum wage rate in Illinois. At this time, there seems to be some hesitancy to seek passage of this issue through the General Assembly. The proponents’ strategy may be changing, as there has been some discussion that an advisory referendum on increasing the minimum wage may be placed on the November 2014 ballot.

We would like to thank everyone who communicated our opposition with your legislators. Your contacts make a difference. We will continue working to oppose an increase in Illinois’ minimum wage. SB 68 is on 3rd reading in the Senate. IFB opposes SB 68.
 
EDUCATION FUNDING FORMULA CHANGE – SB 16 (Sen. Manar)

The Senate Executive Committee approved an amendment to the previously approved changes to the General State Aid Formula on Wednesday. The changes made were as a result of concerns raised about the proposal that was previously approved by the committee several weeks ago.

The more significant development that occurred this week is that the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released a funding model based on the language of SB 16 and available school data. This model shows the estimated impact of what these changes would mean for state education funding for each school district.

Overall, it appears that rural school districts and school districts in Southern Cook County see increases in there per pupil funding. The Chicago Public School district, western and northern Cook County, and other suburban districts see funding levels decreased from their current levels. Below is a summary of the impact of the changes in the latest version of SB 16 based on general geographic areas.

The ISBE has made several additional details reports of funding impacts resulting from SB 16 available. If you would like to see the detailed reports, please http://www.isbe.state.il.us/EFAC/default.htm. The State Board of Education is supporting the changes included in SB 16.

At the present time, Illinois Farm Bureau is looking at this information and discussing its impact. IFB currently has not taken a position on SB 16.
 
ETHANOL – CONSUMER FUEL CHOICE FOR ILLINOIS (Rep. Bradley/Sen. Sullivan)

We continue to work with a coalition that includes the Illinois Corn Growers Association and other agricultural and proponent groups in talking with Senators and Representatives about the passage of the Consumer Fuel Choice for Illinois legislation. This proposal would change ethanol sales tax incentives and provide other support for the ethanol industry.   The legislation would place a new 10% reduction in sales tax on E-15 fuel blends, eliminate the current 20% sales tax incentive on 10% ethanol blended fuel, and provide for specified grant dollars for ethanol research and infrastructure. Illinois Farm Bureau supports the passage of the Consumer Fuel Choice for Illinois legislation.

We are hopeful that this issue will be included as part of a proposal from the House Revenue and Finance Committee and State Government Operations Committees, which have been looking at tax and finance statutes. These joint committees have been meeting since the beginning of session and have indicated their proposal should surface in the final weeks of session.
 
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

There has been a significant amount of recent activity regarding constitutional amendments that may be considered by voters during the November election. The General Assembly has the ability to place constitutional amendments on the ballot by approving joint constitutional amendment resolutions. The General Assembly was successful in placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot that deals with crime victims’ rights. They also passed a constitutional amendment resolution that would prohibit anyone from being denied their right to vote because of their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

However, the General Assembly was not successful in passing several other well publicized constitutional amendment resolutions. HJRCA 33 and SJRCA 40, which were each chamber’s version of a constitutional amendment authorizing a graduated income tax in Illinois, did not pass before the May 5th deadline to place constitutional amendments on the November 2014 ballot. Neither of these constitutional amendments will be considered by voters. A constitutional amendment resolution dealing with the “millionaire’s tax” had also previously failed to gain passage and will also not appear on the ballot.

Petition drives can also be used to place constitutional amendments on the ballot, but this approach is limited to proposals that only amend the structure and procedure of the General Assembly. Two constitutional amendment proposals recently filed more than the required number of signatures to be placed on the ballot. However, they both were immediately challenged in court on the grounds that neither meets the strict requirements to only amend the structure and procedure of the General Assembly.

One constitutional amendment effort, called the “Term Limits and Reform” proposal, is led by gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner. This constitutional amendment would restructure the General Assembly by reducing the number of Senators from 59 to 41, while increasing the number of House members to 123, or three per Senate district.   It would also place term limits of eight years on General Assembly members and change the veto procedures used by the Governor.

A second amendment proposal by the “Yes! for Independent Maps” group seeks to change the way that redistricting is conducted in Illinois. This proposal would create an independent redistricting commission made up of 11 members and would establish specific procedures for how the maps should be drawn.

The court cases filed on both the “Term Limits and Reform” proposal and the “Yes! for Independent Maps” proposal should be considered by the courts soon. It is expected that court proceedings will begin sometime in June. IFB opposes the “Term Limits and Reform” proposal because reducing the number of Senate districts would reduce representation for less populated rural areas in Illinois. IFB currently has no position on the “Yes! for Independent Maps” redistricting proposal.   
 
COVERED FARM VEHICLES - SB 3398 (Sen. Hutchinson/Rep. Sims)

SB 3398, IFB’s legislation addressing “Covered Farm Vehicle” designations for small trucks, passed the Senate and has moved on to the House. SB 3398 addresses an issue with Illinois statute following the recent implementation of federal changes to trucking regulations. The bill, if passed, would allow smaller trucks with B or D license plates pulling a trailer with a farm plate to be considered a “covered farm vehicle”. Currently, these vehicles are not “covered farm vehicles” in Illinois and are not allowed to utilize the same exemptions provided to larger trucks with farm license plates as allowed by federal trucking regulations.

Farmers who wish to have their trucks with B or D license plates identified as a Covered Farm Vehicle when towing their farm plated trailer or an implement of husbandry will be able to do so through the registration of the vehicle. The identification as a Covered Farm Vehicle will appear on the registration card for the vehicle and a $10 surcharge will be added. This will allow farmers operating these smaller trucks pulling farm plated trailers to enjoy all allowable exemptions from federal trucking regulations. SB 3398 passed the Senate with 52 yes and 0 no votes. It has been assigned to the House Transportation: Vehicles and Safety Committee. IFB supports HB SB 3398.
 
Environment

LMFA AMENDMENTS – HB 5637 (Rep. Jakobsson)

HB 5637, which makes numerous changes to the Livestock Management Facilities Act, will not receive any further consideration this session. The bill proposed to make numerous changes to the LMFA that would have been extremely detrimental to the livestock industry in Illinois. Since its implementation, the LMFA has provided a balanced approach in protecting the environment and allowing farmers the ability to continue to raise livestock on their farms.

While HB 5637 will not progress any further this session, the ag industry in Illinois will continue to face challenges to the LMFA. It is expected that legislation attempting to amend the LMFA will be sought by groups critical of animal agriculture in future sessions. HB 5637 was was returned to the House Rules Committee. IFB opposes HB 5637.
 
Food

MANDATORY GMO LABELING - SB 1666 (Sen. Koehler)

As reported previously, Sen. Koehler has decided to not call SB 1666 this session. The bill, as introduced, would have mandated that all foods containing any ingredients made from biotechnology to be labeled as "Genetically Engineered". IFB worked with a coalition of agricultural, commodity and business groups to oppose this mandatory labeling legislation.

The focus and attention on GMO labeling has now shifted to federal legislation on the issue. A group of ag and food organizations, called the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food, is seeking federal legislation that will protect consumers by eliminating confusion and advancing food safety.  SB 1666 Amendment #1 was re-referred to the Senate Assignments Committee. IFB opposes SB 1666 Amendment #1.
 
Labor

PREVAILING WAGE FOR SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION – HB 5606 (Rep. Reis/Sen. Manar)

HB 5606 states that the term "public works" does not include work done for purposes of soil and water conservation, whether or not done under public supervision or paid for wholly or in part out of public funds, and performed directly by an owner or person who has legal control on agricultural lands. HB 5606 previously passed the House with 113 yes and 0 no votes. It passed the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee and is now on Second Reading in the Senate. IFB supports HB 5606.
 
Mineral Interests

OIL AND GAS PERMIT TIMELINES – HB 5567 (Rep. Phelps/Sen. Forby)

HB 5567, as amended, establishes consideration and approval timelines that IDNR must meet for certain applications or petitions for oil and gas operations. The sponsor of HB 5567 worked with IFB to amend the bill to remove our opposition. HB 5567 passed the House with 96 yes and 2 no votes. It has been assigned to the Senate Energy Committee. IFB has no position on HB 5567 as amended.
 
Transportation

OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE STAMP – SB 2633 (Sen. Koehler/Rep. Mautino)

SB 2633 makes numerous changes to the fee for an Off-Highway Vehicle Usage Stamp. Exemptions from the fee continue to include off-highway vehicles used for production agriculture and livestock production. It also clarifies that a stamp is not required for off-highway vehicle use on property owned by the operator, his family, or both. It adds additional exemptions for golf carts and off-highway vehicles used for commercial business. SB 2633 passed the Senate with 56 yes and 0 no votes. It passed the House on a vote of 93 to 13. It will be sent to the Governor for his consideration. IFB supports SB 2633.
 
Wildlife

PROTECTION OF COUGARS, BLACK BEARS, AND GRAY WOLVES - SB 3049 (Sen. Holmes)

SB 3049 was amended to allow cougars, black bears, and gray wolves to be immediately taken if they pose an imminent threat, or there is a reasonable expectation that it causes an imminent threat, of physical harm or death to a human, livestock, domestic animals or harm to structures or other property on the owner or tenant's land. The amendment also establishes a process where a nuisance permit can be sought if one of these animals is a threat but not an immediate threat. SB 3049, as amended, passed the Senate with 47 yes votes and 0 no votes. It passed out of the House Ag and Conservation Committee and is on Second Reading in the House. IFB has no position on SB 3049 as amended.
 
BOBCAT HUNTING – HB 4226 (Rep. Rosenthal/Sen. McCann)

HB 4226 removes the prohibition on taking bobcats in Illinois and establishes a hunting season for bobcats. It provides that the season limit for bobcats shall not exceed one bobcat per permit. HB 4226 passed the House with 91 yes and 20 no votes. It is now in the Senate Assignments Committee. IFB supports HB 4226.
 
Other

STATE FAIRGROUND FOUNDATION – SB 2903 (Rep. Manar/Rep. Poe)

This will create a foundation for the Illinois State Fair Grounds to accept donations from private and public sources. These donations are to be made to an entity created by statute to accept gift, donations, and grants for the construction and maintenance of the physical properties of the Illinois State Fairs in Springfield and DuQoin. SB 2903 Amendment #2 passed the Senate on a vote of 44 to 11. It is in the House Rules Committee. IFB supports SB 2903.
 
LEVEE CONSTRUCTION STANDARDS - HB 4502 (Rep. Tracy)

The bill would require IDNR to allow a surface water level increase of .5 feet for construction, matching the standard used in Iowa and more closely aligning with the federal standard of 1 ft. The bill also mandates INDR respond to levee improvement permit requests within 90 days. The bill did not move forward in the House, but discussions continue among stakeholders and IDNR. HB 4502 is on Second Reading in the House. IFB supports HB 4502.
 
INDUSTRICAL HEMP RESEARCH – HB 5085 (Rep. Leitch/Sen. LaHood)

HB 5805 provides that the Department of Agriculture and any institution of higher learning may grow and cultivate industrial hemp for agricultural research purposes. The bill also authorizes the Department of Agriculture to adopt rules to implement this process.

IFB policy states “We encourage research of market potential for the production and processing of industrial hemp. We will aggressively pursue actions necessary to allow research on the production of industrial hemp and require the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to issue permits to U.S. farmers allowing the production of this crop.” HB 5085 passed the House with 70 yes and 28 no votes. It passed the Senate Agriculture and Conservation Committee and is on Second Reading in the Senate.  IFB supports HB 5085.

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In This Issue

 

Senate Third Reading

Wind Energy Facility Construction And Deconstruction

Farmland Assessment

Hydraulic Fracturing

Minimum Wage Increase

Gun Issues

Same Sex Marriage Legislation

Animal Issues

Transportation Issues

Food and Labeling

Taxation Issues

Energy Issues

 


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