Senate Week in Review: March 1-5

SPRINGFIELD – Concerned with continuing reports of problems with Illinois’ COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Senate Republicans have been meeting with local health departments in recent weeks to determine how the system can be improved. State Sen. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) says what they found is that the Pritzker Administration needs to abandon its “go-it-alone” attitude and instead work with lawmakers and other state and local officials to make the vaccine rollout work for all Illinoisans.

After the Senate President’s office cancelled legislative session in Springfield this week, lawmakers met remotely and started moving legislation in virtual Senate committees. Members are expected to return to the Capitol next week. 

In other news, Illinois restaurants, retailers and businesses are speaking out against a specific component of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s budget plan that will harm their attempts at recovery. Several Senate Republicans are also joining with local business and medical communities in asking Gov. Pritzker to veto a prejudgment interest bill passed during the waning hours of “lame-duck” session in January.

March is Women’s History Month, celebrating the many achievements of women throughout history. The Senate Republican Caucus will be highlighting the stories of many influential women in Illinois throughout the month of March.

Senate Republicans work with health departments on vaccine rollout

For months, Senate Republicans have called on the Pritzker Administration for more inclusion of the Legislature in all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic response, including the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout. Seeking a solution, and acting on a suggestion by the Governor, Senators have been working with local health departments over the past several weeks, including a Zoom meeting last week with more than 40 county officials, to identify the major issues they are experiencing in getting vaccinations to their residents.

Based on local feedback, the Caucus produced a report outlining the biggest issues and suggestions from the local health departments. On March 4, Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie (Hawthorn Woods) and Deputy Republican Leader Sue Rezin (Morris) sent the report to the Governor, along with a letter asking that Pritzker consider the suggestions and begin to collaborate with local officials and lawmakers to make the vaccine rollout work for all Illinoisans.

Restaurants, retailers oppose budget provision

On behalf of local restaurants, retailers and businesses, several Republican Senators are speaking out against a specific component of Gov. Pritzker’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal.

In his budget plan, the Governor recommends reducing the Retail Discount, a critical mechanism in place that only partially reimburses our business community for collecting and transferring Illinois’ sales tax on behalf of state and local government.

What the Governor has carelessly labeled as a “corporate loophole” is actually the business community’s way of attempting to recoup just some of the costs they incur from administering and remitting the sales tax required by law. In fact, according to the Illinois Restaurant Association, every time a consumer uses an electronic form of payment, retailers must pay a processing fee of 2.25 percent plus ten cents to credit card companies. Meanwhile, the retail discount only covers 1.75 percent of that total cost. The numbers are clear, businesses are already taking a financial hit from providing services on behalf of the state.

A point of further concern is the fact that this is not the first time his Administration has attempted to make changes to Illinois’ retail discount. In 2019, an even more aggressive attempt to eliminate the retail discount was proposed under Gov. Pritzker’s leadership.

Senate Republicans argue that government-imposed shutdowns have decimated the business community, and the state should be helping create a landscape for them to rebuild rather than adding to their cost burdens.

Lawmakers urge Governor to veto prejudgment interest bill

Speaking on behalf of the business and medical communities in their districts, several Republican Senators asked Gov. Pritzker this week to veto the prejudgment interest bill that was passed during the waning hours of the “lame-duck” session in January.

House Bill 3360 allows plaintiffs who win a personal injury or wrongful death case in court to be paid their judgment PLUS an additional nine percent interest on judgment dating from the time the defendant first learned of the injury.

If signed into law, House Bill 3360 would require the payment of prejudgment interest for costs that have not yet occurred and are not yet known, requiring employers to pay interest that could go back years. Meanwhile, the proposed measure would drive up healthcare costs at a time when medical providers are already overwhelmed and deter physicians from working in the state. 

The Senators noted that businesses and medical providers are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent statewide shutdowns Gov. Pritzker unilaterally imposed on the state. As they are working to get back on their feet, Illinois’ job creators and healthcare industry cannot afford to have any new cost burdens placed on their shoulders, which would only further hamper their recovery.

House Bill 3360 was sent to the Governor on Feb. 4.

Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month, focusing on the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. The Senate Republican Caucus will be highlighting the stories of many influential women in Illinois throughout the month. On every Friday, the Caucus will also feature one of its women members. On March 5, the Caucus is featuring 47th District Senator Jil Tracy of Quincy.

Prior to her public service, Sen. Tracy worked in private law and then went on to serve as Assistant Illinois Attorney General where she was Director of the West Central Regional Office for 19 counties.

Sen. Tracy puts her experience to good use in her leadership roles as Senate Republican Whip and Republican Spokesperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

When asked what her proudest accomplishments were, she said that raising four productive children was her proudest accomplishment, but her proudest moment in life so far was being sworn in as a practicing attorney to the Illinois State Bar Association.

The Illinois Senate Republicans are so appreciative of the work and experience Sen. Tracy brings to our Caucus. #strongwomenstrongIllinois