SPRINGFIELD – The 2022 Fall Veto Session wrapped up during the week of Nov. 28 to Dec. 2, with Illinois state lawmakers taking up legislation that made changes to the controversial SAFE-T Act.
Additionally, the General Assembly took action to pay off the remaining debt to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
Plus, extensions for driver’s license renewals have officially come to an end, and there are still a few weeks left for qualifying homeowners to get a free smart thermostat for their homes through a partnership with Ameren Illinois and Google.
Controversial SAFE-T Act changes, but public safety concerns remain
In the final week of the annual fall veto session, legislators took up an amendment to House Bill 1095, which made some changes to the controversial SAFE-T Act.
The SAFE-T Act is a major criminal justice rewrite that was passed, despite bipartisan opposition, in a late-night lame-duck session on Jan. 13, 2021. Since its passage, Senate Republicans joined state’s attorneys and law enforcement personnel from across Illinois to sound the alarm on how the law threatens the safety of their communities.
One of the more controversial provisions includes the elimination of cash bail, which is set to take effect statewide beginning Jan. 1, 2023.
Despite the changes approved by the General Assembly last week, which include expanding the types of offenses that are eligible for pre-trial detention, Senate Republicans said the bill still does not go near far enough to fix the many concerns found in the law.
State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) notes, among other concerns, that judges still won’t have the broad discretion they need to be able to hold certain dangerous people in jail ahead of their trial. Additionally, the changes found in House Bill 1095 still don’t address the millions of dollars this law will cost local governments and police departments.
House Bill 1095 was approved by a strictly partisan vote and is now awaiting the Governor’s action.
UI Trust Fund payoff will cost businesses more
An agreement between the business and labor communities was reached last week to address the outstanding loan balance to the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The state took out the loan during the pandemic to help pay the unprecedented number of unemployment claims.
During the final day of the fall veto session, lawmakers voted on an agreement to pay off the remaining $1.363 billion debt using unexpected, one-time revenue the state is expected to receive this fiscal year.
Sen. Tracy says she had strongly advocated for the use of federal COVID-19 funding to pay the entire deficit last spring, just as 31 other states did, to avoid any tax increase on businesses. Instead, Gov. JB Pritzker and Democratic leaders refused to pay the full deficit ahead of a tax increase kicking in and spent much of the federal money on pork projects.
However, after final negotiations during the agreed bill process, Sen. Tracy says a plan was proposed that would at least result in saving employers $913 million over 10 years, stabilizing the unemployment fund and protecting employee benefits. The final plan was driven by Republican lawmakers continually appealing to the Administration to address the issue.
License and permit extensions come to end
Residents across the state are now required to renew their driver’s licenses on the actual renewal date following an end to a two-year long extension period resulting from COVID-19.
The first extension came in early 2020 because of the closure of several businesses and state agencies. Several more extensions were granted until Secretary of State Jesse White announced the final deadline extension would come to an end Dec. 1, 2022.
The renewal deadline includes those with driver’s licenses, ID cards and permits, but does not apply to commercial driver’s licenses or CDL learner’s permits.
Although Secretary of State offices have since reopened following the pandemic, the state agency is still encouraging people to complete the renewal process online at https://www.ilsos.gov/. Lobbies at the facilities are currently open but may require an appointment depending on its location.
Ameren Illinois and Google offer smart thermostats to qualifying customers
Ameren has announced an energy-saving plan to qualifying customers to receive free smart thermostats. Courtesy of a partnership between Google and Ameren Illinois, now through the end of 2022, individuals or families can get a free Google Nest Thermostat.
Residents may also qualify for free installation through the Ameren Illinois Smart Savers Initiative.
The goal of this special offer is to help reduce costs that go into heating and cooling homes, as well as managing the overall amount of energy usage.
A unique feature of the Nest Thermostat is it can detect when customers are home and will adjust temperature accordingly. Also, customers can easily program everything from their smart phones.
Customer eligibility includes being a current Ameren Illinois electric or gas residential delivery customer, the primary heating source must be supported by an Ameren Illinois fuel, natural gas or electric, and customers must have in-home Wi-Fi. Another stipulation is making sure it is compatible with the home’s HVAC system.
For more information, visit https://amerenillinoissavings.com/nest/ or call 866-251-2531.