CAPITOL RECAP: Pritzker sworn in as major proposals advance in lame duck session

CAPITOL RECAP: Pritzker sworn in as major proposals advance in lame duck session

By CAPITOL NEWS ILLINOIS

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker was sworn in to his second term Monday with the state’s other constitutional officers, promising a bold and ambitious agenda for the next four years.

The ceremony was held at the Bank of Springfield Center, the same venue that for several months served as a makeshift House floor during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for social distancing. Pritzker recalled that time while reflecting on his first term in his inaugural address.

“The hope we share, the hope I expressed at my first inauguration, was born of a truth lodged firmly in my heart – that Illinois has always stood at the intersection of American ambition and human resilience. And that combination is what has made this the greatest state in the union,” Pritzker said.

A friendly crowd of supporters and fellow dignitaries was enthusiastic about the governor’s proposals, applauding and cheering at the mention of banning assault weapons, bringing down the cost of higher education and ensuring reproductive rights in the state.

Pritzker said education will be a main priority in his second term, and he emphasized the importance of making preschool more readily available and college tuition free for every family with median-income or below.

“I propose we go all in for our children and make preschool available to every family throughout the state,” he said, eliciting an eruption from the crowd. “And let’s not stop there. Let’s provide more economic security for families by eliminating child care deserts and expanding childcare options.”

With time running out to pass a ban on the sale of assault weapons in Illinois before the new General Assembly takes office Wednesday, Pritzker used the opportunity to advocate for the version of a bill passed by Democrats in the state House last week.

“When I campaigned for reelection and promised to pass an assault weapons ban, eight states already had one. Very soon, Illinois must be the ninth. And we ought to have a real accounting of the assault weapons currently in circulation,” Pritzker said. “Let’s get it done, and then the federal government should follow our lead.”

He also touted accomplishments from his first term, including Illinois’ six credit upgrades, raising the state’s minimum wage, legalizing recreational marijuana and passing legislation that targets climate change.

As he emphasized the importance of protecting reproductive rights, the crowd responded with enthusiastic applause and even shouts.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul in his speech praised Illinois’ reproductive health care laws, comparing them to neighboring Missouri’s, where his daughter recently graduated from the state’s flagship university.

“I was so pleased to drive into the state of Missouri to the temporary graduation last year, but not nearly as happy as I was to drive out of Missouri – out of a state that does not reflect a woman’s right to make decisions about her body,” Raoul said.

Pritzker was sworn in by Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis, accompanied by First Lady MK Pritzker and their daughter Teddi and son Don. He took his oath on two Bibles. One belonged to Henry Horner, Illinois’ 28th governor who held the office from 1933 until 1940. The other belonged to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States whose image is ubiquitous in the capital city, which is home to his presidential library.

* * *

PAY RAISES: Officials at the highest levels of state government will receive substantial pay raises this month after the House and Senate passed a budget bill that also advances a $400 million business incentive fund proposal pushed by Gov. JB Pritzker.

Under the bill, lawmaker salaries will increase to $85,000 annually, up from approximately $73,000 – a roughly 16 percent increase to their base salary. Lawmakers also receive per diem reimbursements and stipends for leadership positions. Additionally, the measure adds new leadership positions within any caucus that maintains a supermajority – which Democrats currently do – that are eligible for stipends.

The state’s constitutional officers are also slated to receive raises, and Pritzker signed the bill into law Monday hours before the new statewide officers were sworn in at a Springfield convention center.

Under the pay schedules outlined in the bill, salaries of the lieutenant governor, comptroller and treasurer will increase from $143,400 to $160,900; and the attorney general’s and secretary of state’s from $165,400 to $183,300.

Pritzker told the Associated Press Saturday that the idea for cabinet pay raises originated with him as an effort to retain top talent and make Illinois’ salaries commensurate with other large states. Lawmakers, he also told the outlet, maintain the authority to determine their own salaries.

Sen. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago, reiterated that the raises were meant to help Illinois attract “the best and the brightest.”

The governor’s pay would increase to $205,700 from $181,670, although Pritzker, who has a net worth exceeding $3 billion, does not take a salary.

Top state agency directors and some of their deputies will also receive raises for their terms that begin anew this month. That includes a salary of at least $200,000 for Department of Children and Family Services director Marc Smith, up from $182,300. The raises generally range from 10 to 15 percent, and the governor will have the authority to up those salaries under the measure. The agency salaries will also be subject to increase at the rate of inflation.

Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, faulted the measure for including the automatic raises, calling it “bad policy.” He noted that lawmakers already effectively received a 2.4 percent pay bump in July, as Democrats declined to negate the automatic cost-of-living increase laid out by state law.

The wide-ranging bill also allows for the transfer of $850 million to the state’s “rainy day” fund to buoy its balance, currently at its highest-ever levels.

And it allows for the transfer of $400 million to a “large business attraction fund” backed by Pritzker. The governor has floated such a “closing fund” as one that would keep Illinois competitive with its neighbors in trying to lure new businesses, such as electric vehicle-related companies, to Illinois.

House Majority Leader Greg Harris said last week that the fund would need to be further defined in law before any of the money could be spent.

The measure was contained in Senate Bill 1720.

* * *

GUN BILL: Negotiators in the Illinois House and Senate have reached agreement on a bill to ban the purchase, sale and manufacture of semi-automatic assault weapons and large-capacity magazines while still allowing people who already own such weapons to keep them.

The deal came together Monday as Gov. JB Pritzker, who campaigned on a pledge to pursue such a ban, was being inaugurated into his second term in office.

Only a day earlier, the House and Senate seemed to be far apart. But by Monday night, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Pritzker and Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, announced that they were all in agreement on a final proposal.

One of the key sticking points concerned a requirement that people currently owning such weapons register them with the Illinois State Police. Those individuals would be required to disclose the make, model and serial number of the specified weapons to obtain a special endorsement on their Firearm Owners Identification, or FOID card. The House had included that in the bill it passed shortly after midnight Friday morning, but an early draft of a Senate plan reportedly proposed dropping it.

The final version of the bill, contained in a package of amendments to House Bill 5471, includes the requirement but extends the deadline for compliance to Jan. 1, 2024, instead of 180 days after the governor signs the bill into law, as the House had proposed.

The Senate language was unveiled during a committee hearing Monday morning, only a few hours before inauguration ceremonies for the governor and other constitutional officers were about to begin blocks away in a downtown Springfield convention center.

Other changes included a more up-to-date list of weapons that would fall within the banned category along with authority for the Illinois State Police to modify the list through administrative rules to capture new and copycat models as they come onto the market.

The Senate bill also clarifies that any device that makes a semi-automatic weapon fire more rapidly – whether it converts the weapon into a fully automatic one or merely increases the rate of fire – will be illegal. And it defines large-capacity magazines as those capable of holding more than 10 rounds for a long gun or 15 rounds for a handgun.

The Senate version also does not change the age limit to obtain a FOID card, meaning people between the ages of 18 and 21 will still be able to obtain one with the consent of a parent or guardian. The House had proposed eliminating that exception.

In an effort to ease concerns of hunters and sportsmen, the bill also contains a provision authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to adopt administrative rules exempting weapons used only for hunting that are expressly permitted under the Illinois Wildlife Code.

That, however, was not enough to quell the opposition of gun rights advocates who argued that the weapons to be banned are “commonly used” weapons in American society and thus, under standards of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings, will likely be deemed unconstitutional.

The bill passed the Senate, 34-20, and was sent to the House, which is expected to vote on whether to concur with the Senate changes Tuesday.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide, as well as hundreds of radio and TV stations. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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