Illinois lawmakers will miss their self-imposed Friday deadline to pass a budget, with no spending plan having surfaced by Thursday night. They are also working to pass an array of measures regulating everything from bathrooms to generic drug pricing and Native American studies.
There’s no big consequence for not having a budget passed by Friday. Lawmakers technically have until July, when a new fiscal year begins, to pass the budget. Typically, the General Assembly aims to wrap things up by May 31, because it’s both politically and practically more difficult to wrangle the super-majority of votes come June.
Deciding how to spend roughly $50 billion dollars is at stake. Among the issues to be settled:
- How to handle, and whether to expand, a state health insurance program for non-citizen residents.
- How much to increase what hospitals and doctors are reimbursed when they care for patients on Medicaid
- Whether Illinois will continue to give a tax break to donors who pay scholarships that allow low-income students to attend private schools, via the Invest in Kids program
- And how much money Illinois’ public schools, including Chicago Public Schools, will receive.
Any bill, including a budget, must come before the General Assembly for a minimum of three days. It’s unknown whether lawmakers will gather through the weekend for session or return next week.
Democrats can pass a budget, without any Republican support, and are believed to be in broad agreement on spending parameters, making it more a matter of when a budget will pass rather than if a deal will be reached.
Before the session adjourns, lawmakers must also approve a map of districts for Chicago’s elected school board. Candidates will begin to run for seats in 2024; state lawmakers will decide the boundaries of representation.
An initial version was widely panned by Chicago organizations keeping a watchful eye on the process.
Late Wednesday night, Democrats unveiled a new map.
Lawmakers who drafted the districts say it’s representative, follows voting rights laws and will empower families to elect school leaders who understand their communities.
But the early feedback given at a virtual hearing Thursday night from groups such as Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education and Kids First Chicago is that the second draft doesn’t change enough from the initial version, and that both disenfranchise Latino and Black families.
Another hearing on the map was set for Friday morning.
Meanwhile, the Senate advanced a proposal that would allow DACA recipients to become police officers, should it be permissible by the federal government.
State Sen. Neil Anderson, a Republican who is also a Moline firefighter, said he’s concerned how a non-citizen could swear an oath to protect the U.S. constitution.
“There’s a huge, huge issue with this,” he said. “Here in the state of Illinois as a sworn elected official in this body and as a professional firefighter that is sworn to uphold the constitution, I find this disturbing. I find it distasteful and the fact that we are passing law that is predicated on federal law changing just shows where our priorities are.”
Anderson also voiced problems with a proposal that will allow, but not require, businesses to have gender neutral multi-occupancy bathrooms (House Bill 1286).
Each stall must have dividers that go from the floor to the ceiling and doors that lock; the bathroom must have a baby-changing station and a machine with menstrual supplies.
Anderson said the bill will lead to violence because of what he will do if a man goes into a bathroom used by his 10-year-old daughter.
“I’m telling you right now if a guy walks in there, I’m going to beat the living piss out of him. So this is going to cause violence. And it’s going to cause violence from dads like me,” Anderson said.
Sponsoring state Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, said the measure doesn’t force anyone to use a gender neutral bathroom. She said it’s meant to be inclusive for LBGTQ+ individuals, as well as for families with young children and older adults who may need assistance.
State Sen. Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, said those who have problems with gender neutral bathrooms have a problem with the LBGTQ+ community.
“And it sounds like these are the same people who act as if they don't have family members or friends who are members of the LBGTQ community,” Lightford said. “It sounds like it’s people who don’t understand that life is evolving. People are changing and growing and not afraid to be who they are and as a society we ought to offer options. So if you do not want to go in that particular bathroom, then just don’t frickin’ do it. Don’t go in the bathroom, don’t’ take your kids in the bathroom, just don’t use it.”
The measure next moves to the House.
With Thursday’s action by the Senate, both chambers have approved a bill (Senate Bill 218) that clears the way for civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers over deceptive marketing.
“One of the key components of this is to prevent marketing to children. And if you think it is far-fetched, I’m looking at an ad from We Won Tactical with cartoon characters, marketing the JR-15, the Junior-15. A rifle that looks like an AR-15, and encourages you to ‘get him one like yours. Smaller, safer, lighter,’” said Senate President Don Harmon, who sponsored the plan.
Critics say the language is so ambiguous it will cause trouble for small firearms dealers that advertise.
Gov. J.B. Pritkzer immediately issued a statement indicating he will sign the proposal into law as a means “to hold reckless manufacturers and advertisers accountable for their actions.”
“Gun violence is a public health epidemic, and those who encourage unlawful use of a firearm or target sales of firearms to minors worsen the scourge of gun violence in our communities. This legislation finally protects Illinoisans from predatory actions by the firearms industry,” Pritzker said.
Other measures advancing to the governor’s desk include a requirement schools teach Native American history (House Bill 1633), and a mandate (House Bill 3129) that businesses with 15 or more employees make public the wage and benefits when posting a job or promotion.