Senate Week in Review: March 4-8, 2019

Governor J.B. Pritzker took the next step during the week in advancing his controversial plan to change the state’s income tax from a flat rate to a graduated rate based on income.

Also during the week, a new Senate committee has scheduled meetings across the state in upcoming months to gauge the need for capital improvements and infrastructure projects; and some lawmakers are hammering away at Second Amendment rights.

Governor announces graduated tax rates

On March 7, Governor Pritzker announced the tax rates he would set as part of his proposal to change the Illinois income tax system. The state income tax is currently a flat 4.95 percent rate for all residents. The Governor is suggesting six tax bracket rates based on income, ranging from 4.75 percent to 7.95 percent.

The Governor’s announcement is just the next step in a long process. Changing from a flat income tax to a graduated income tax requires amending the Illinois Constitution. If approved by lawmakers, the would need to be put to Illinois voters in the next general election, which would be November 2020 at the earliest. The process has a lot of moving parts, and many supporters and many opponents will want to weigh in on the proposal, which will likely undergo quite a few changes before it is called for a vote.

The Senate Republican Caucus has this to say about Pritzker’s proposed graduated income tax rates: “Without guaranteed protections for middle class families, we are opposed to the governor’s $3.4 billion tax increase.”

Senate Subcommittee continues hearings

The newly formed Senate Subcommittee on Capital met in Edwardsville March 4 to hear testimony from colleges, universities, and local governments in southern Illinois about their capital and infrastructure needs.

Comprised of members of the Senate’s Appropriations II and Transportation Committees, the Subcommittee on Capital is tasked with understanding the needs around the state prior to drafting a potential capital improvement projects bill.

Illinois hasn’t had a capital bill in 10 years, which is cause for safety and economic concern among state officials, transportation experts and higher education administrators, who say the state’s infrastructure has been rapidly deteriorating.

In the coming weeks, the Subcommittee on Capital will continue touring the state to gain better insights into the state’s infrastructure problems. Edwardsville was just the second of six scheduled hearings. The first took place in Springfield on Feb. 21.

Four other hearings have been scheduled:

Monday, March 18, 1 p.m. – Decatur Public Library, 130 N. Franklin St., Decatur
Monday, April 8, 3 p.m. – Bradley University, Peplow Pavilion inside the Hayden-Clark Alumni Center, 1501 W. Bradley Ave., Peoria
Tuesday, April 16, 1 p.m. – Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle St., Chicago
Monday, April 22, 1 p.m. – Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove Ave., Elgin


Lawmakers take shots at Second Amendment rights

Several controversial gun-control measures have recently been filed for consideration in the Legislature.

Proposed measures include a ban on using ammunition containing lead when hunting wildlife, a mandate on the storage of firearms with penalties for violations, a requirement for FOID Card applicants to turn over a list of their social media accounts to authorities, and a serial number requirement for all handgun ammunition.

Other measures carry extra costs for law-abiding gun owners, including a proposed tax on firearm ammunition and a 3.75 percent surcharge on firearms and firearm component parts.

Also being considered is a measure that would make it a felony to possess an “assault weapon” 300 days after the law goes into effect unless the assault weapon was owned before the law went into effect and is registered with the State Police. One bill would ban licensed concealed- carry holders from carrying in polling places, and another proposal would revoke the FOID cards of those who suffer and report losses or thefts of their firearms in three separate incidents within a two-year period.

Advocates of the Second Amendment contend that many of proposed gun-control measures filed this year encroach on the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners.  Rather than entertain overreaching and unconstitutional proposals, lawmakers should work together and focus on the fundamental causes of gun violence in Illinois.

To follow along with this legislation and other bills filed in the 101st General Assembly, visit http://ilga.gov/.

Abridged standardized testing to take effect

The Illinois State Board of Education will begin implementing the Illinois Assessment for Readiness (IAR) test this month to students across the state. The IAR will be taking the place of the highly-criticized Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test implemented in 2015.

Critics of the PARCC exam cite duration, scoring errors, technical glitches, and delays in releasing scoring results among their criticisms. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, the IAR will be shorter than the PARCC test while still asking the same types of questions.

The IAR test will be administered to students in third grade through eighth grade, across the state.