Senate Week in Review: March 11-15, 2019

The Senate spent most of its time during the week working on legislation in committees, with some floor action and several controversial measures making news.

In other action, new reports look at job creation, and state and local tax burdens in Illinois. And applications are available for the next Illinois State Police Cadet Class.

Senate passes ‘Tobacco 21’

On March 14, the Senate tackled the controversial issue of raising the age from 18 to 21 to purchase tobacco, electronic cigarettes or alternative nicotine products.

House Bill 345 would eliminate penalties for underage possession, but retailers still would be fined for selling restricted products to underage customers. A number of communities in Illinois have adopted Tobacco 21 rules, but this legislation would make it a statewide standard. 

Proponents say the best way to keep kids from smoking, is to ensure they never start. Tobacco use is known to cause a number of health problems including respiratory diseases and lung cancer. These often preventable diseases place a huge burden our healthcare system. Additionally, some studies show vaping isn’t working as a healthier alternative to tobacco use, or as a way of helping smokers quit tobacco. E-cigarette use has been called a serious public health threat by the U.S. Surgeon General and the Food and Drug Administration.

While the intent of the legislation may be a sincere effort to help people avoid the illnesses associated with smoking, opponents raised concerns that the legislation repealed penalties on possession of tobacco products by minors. This means that while people younger than 21 couldn’t legally purchase these products, there would be no penalty for possessing them.

Previously approved by the House of Representatives on March 12, House Bill 345 passed the Senate on March 14 by a vote of 39-16-1. The bill heads next to the Governor’s desk.

New ballot requirements for presidential candidates

Under Senate Bill 145, candidates for President and Vice-President would be required to publish or make their income tax returns public. Failing to do so would mean that candidate would be barred from appearing on an Illinois Presidential ballot. Under current federal law, presidential candidates are not required by law to publish or make their income tax returns public.

Courts have held, in two separate cases, that it’s unconstitutional for states to add requirements to a federal office. Those cases are U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, and Cook v. Gralike.

Senate Bill 145 now moves to the full Senate for action.

Encouraging economic news

The improving national economy may be impacting Illinois, although there’s still room for improvement.

According to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), preliminary figures show nonfarm payrolls increased by 24,000 jobs in January 2019, when compared to December 2018. IDES also reported during the week that job growth during the three-month period of November to January averaged a monthly gain of 12,500 jobs.

Illinois’ state and local tax burdens

Illinoisans understand well, the amount of state and local taxes they pay each year. What you might not know is how we compare with other states.

The online consumer and financial website, WalletHub ranks Illinois with having the highest effective state and local taxes in the nation at 14.9 percent. The ranking was based on a Median U.S. Household income of $58,082, with an estimated annual tax burden of $8,653.

WalletHub ranks Illinois’ current flat income tax rate of 4.95 percent at 39, our real-estate tax at 50 and our sales and excise taxes (taxes on products such as gasoline, tobacco and alcohol) in the middle of the pack at 25.

Wanted: State Troopers

The Illinois State Police (ISP) is accepting applications for its next Cadet Class.

Cadet Class 130 is tentatively scheduled to begin in October. ISP has 21 patrol districts across the state. The deadline for a completed application and required documentation is May 31.

More details are available at the Illinois State Police Merit Board website at www.illinoistrooper.com.