Senate Week in Review: February 11-15, 2019

The House voted along party lines to increase Illinois’ minimum wage despite economic concerns by business and public groups; a bill has been introduced to streamline local government and protect hard-earned taxpayer dollars; and a state agency is reporting that more people are reaching out for help with their opioid addiction.

While the Senate schedule allowed Senators to be back in their respective districts during the week, the House of Representatives met in the Capitol for three days.

Minimum wage hike heads to Pritzker’s desk

After passing the House on a party-line vote on February 14, a controversial $15 per hour minimum wage is on its way to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk. If signed into law, Senate Bill 1 would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour over six years, and to $13 per hour during the same period for those employees younger than 18.

Opponents of the plan noted the vast differences in the cost of living across Illinois. They also raised concerns that the incremental increase could have far-reaching implications for employers across the board, including an increase in annual costs for state agencies, local school districts, human service providers and hospitals. And who will pay those costs? It will be the hard-working families of Illinois, who have told me time and time again that their top concern is the rising costs associated with government.

A better way to increase wages for working families is to create and boost economic opportunity. The more jobs created, the more people go to work. The more demand for employees and employers will increase wages to secure good employees, providing a living wage for more working families. It’s not complicated. This way increase wages through economic growth, not an unfunded government mandate.

Senate Bill 1 was passed by the Senate February 7, also by a party-line vote. Pritzker is expected to sign the measure into law.

Protect taxpayers during consolidation

Senate Bill 1567 would add several key protections for taxpayers during local government consolidation decisions.

Under the current rules, the elimination of one government entity can sometimes put residents from outside its borders on the hook for bills owed. This measure aims to change that.

Key provisions of SB 1567 include:

Only taxpayers within the dissolving township boundaries are responsible for paying any debt transferred to the county. Protects other county taxpayers.
Assets of the dissolved township or road district, especially if liquidated, must be used solely for the benefit of residents of the geographic area within the former boundaries of the township.  Protects the taxpayers who previously paid the taxes allowing a township to acquire those assets.
Ensures that counties or municipalities will receive Motor Fuel Tax dollars that were dedicated to a dissolving township based on lane miles. Protects local taxpayer dollars, as part of a dissolved township’s lane mile Motor Fuel Tax account from being redistributed statewide.

Opioid helpline reaches 10,000 calls

The Illinois Department of Human Services recently announced that the Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances has received 10,000 calls.

The confidential, 24-hour hotline is designed to help provide support for people dealing with substance abuse, or their families. The program launched in December 2017.

The number for the hotline is 1-833-2FINDHELP, and can also be accessed online at HelplineIL.org.

Illinois State Fair adding concerts

While the Illinois State Fair, an annual event showcasing what Illinois has to offer, is still six months away, live music fans got an update this week on the musical acts set to perform.

 So far, Grammy-winning country duo Dan & Shay are on the schedule for August 11. In addition, acapella group Pentatonix will perform on August 14.

The Illinois State Fair runs August 8-18.