Lawmakers are preparing to return the Capitol next week for the beginning of the 2018 legislative session, which includes the Governor’s annual State of the State address on Jan. 31.
Also during the week, lawmakers continued to hear testimony and gather information on the idea of legalizing recreational cannabis, legislation is filed aimed at closing the gender wage gap, and both the state and federal governments will begin accepting tax returns next week.
State of the State
Illinois lawmakers will return to the Capitol next week for three scheduled days of session on Jan. 30 and 31, and Feb. 1, which will include the Governor’s State of the State Address on Jan. 31 during a joint session of both chambers held in the House of Representatives.
While Gov. Bruce Rauner hasn’t made any public statements on what specifically will be included in his annual speech, typically governors use the event to paint a picture of both the current status of state government and their plans moving forward.
The Governor will return to the House for another joint session on Feb. 14 for his annual budget address, which will mark the start of the annual budget-making process in earnest.
Looking forward to the Spring Legislative Session
The beginning of the spring legislative session is the annual restart of the lawmaking process. Lawmakers in both chambers are filing new bills, which will continue up until the Feb. 16 deadline for new, substantive, non-appropriations legislation (not budget or spending bills). Bills will then be assigned to committees for hearings before advancing to the floor in either chamber. Bills must then pass out of a committee in the originating chamber before the deadline of April 13. Legislation that passes in one chamber will then head to the other chamber for passage on or before a deadline of April 25. The deadlines may be extended in either chamber. Appropriations legislation (budget or spending bills) do not have the same deadlines and are often passed in the final days before scheduled adjournment on May 31.
Senate Republicans maintain their commitment for the upcoming Spring Legislative session to fight for commonsense reforms that will help improve government effectiveness, efficiency and accountability while helping to improve the state’s lagging economy and grow good-paying jobs.
Recreational marijuana hearing
Lawmakers from both the Senate and House held the fourth in a series of joint committee hearings to discuss the possibility of legalizing and taxing cannabis for recreational use in Illinois.
Members of the Senate Appropriations I and Public Health Committees met in Chicago with the House Appropriations – Public Safety, Health & Healthcare Disparities, and Mental Health Committees to discuss the topic.
Lawmakers heard from a number of elected officials and organizations who spoke for and against the idea. Testimony in support of the idea included the Cook County Board President and the president of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, while testimony against the plan included a doctor from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health along with a former Drug Enforcement Administration administrator.
Supporters argued that legalization could generate $300 million to $700 million annually in tax revenue for the state while helping to eliminate the black market for marijuana and the crime associated with the illicit trade.
Opponents offered their own arguments which pointed to the potential for increasing drug use among young people and the possibility of marijuana serving as a gateway to more addictive and dangerous drugs.
The joint hearing focused specifically on the language currently contained in Senate Bill 316 and House Bill 2353, which would likely be amended before passage and could potentially be voted on as soon as the spring legislative session. Many supporters however believe that concrete action on the topic is unlikely until 2019.
Closing the wage gap
Many jobs continue to pay women less than their male counterparts who are performing the same job duties. One Republican Senator plans to re-file legislation aimed at helping to close the wage gap between men and women.
State Sen. Michael Connelly (R-Naperville) has filed Senate Bill 2333, which would make it illegal for employers to ask their employees or applicants about their previous wage or salary history.
The legislation is based on a Massachusetts law passed in 2016, which in addition to banning requests for salary history, also promotes the use of employer-driven self-evaluation plans that would help individual employers to monitor their pay practices and fix any disparities that are not based on merit, seniority, production, or level of education.
Senate Bill 2333 is identical to legislation (Senate Bill 1039) filed by Connelly last year, which was not allowed a committee hearing.
Tax filing season begins
The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) will begin accepting 2017 individual state returns on Jan. 29, the same day that the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will begin accepting federal individual income tax returns.
IDOR reminds taxpayers that filing returns electronically and utilizing direct deposit is the fastest way to receive refunds. The agency estimates that direct deposit refunds will be issued four weeks from the time that error-free returns are submitted. Taxpayers can use the MyTax Illinois online service to file returns, make payments, and check the status of refunds, as well as to look up their IL-PIN, estimated tax payments, and 1099-G amounts. More information is available on the IDOR website at tax.illinois.gov.