Update from S4: News and Politics from Illinois and around the USA



The House passed a bill to exempt certain startup activities from SEC requirements, aiming to facilitate greater access to capital. The Helping Angels Lead Our Startups (HALOS) Act would allow startups to hold “demo days” to showcase their products and meet potential investors without needing to verify the investors’ net worth or accreditation. Proponents of the bill say that it will remove unnecessary restrictions and enable startups greater access to investors. Critics say it will remove a crucial protection for investors and encourage startups to promote high-risk investments. Despite wide bipartisan support in the House, the bill’s future in the Senate is uncertain. Read more on The Hill.


In the absence of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and with no replacement coming anytime soon, the Supreme Court has slowed down its acceptance of new controversial cases. Only six cases have been accepted since Scalia died in February, and none of them are highly contentious. The evenly-split Court is likely trying to avoid cases that the justices are not confident they can decide without another member. Read more in the Washington Post.


Even as conservatives have begun asking to confirm Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is standing strong in his refusal to consider President Obama’s nominee. The dramatic change of heart in many Republican legislators comes directly from Donald Trump’s new position as the Republican presidential nominee, barring any changes at the national convention. There is widespread concern that with Trump as the nominee, Hillary Clinton will win the White House and have the opportunity to appoint a much more liberal justice. Some conservatives want to cut their losses now and appoint Garland, who is respected by both parties. Read more.


The FDA finalized a rule on e-cigarettes and some tobacco products that had been in limbo for several years. The new rule includes e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine in tobacco regulations, barring their sale to people under 18 and regulating the industry at the federal level for the first time. The rule also requires cigar and e-cigarette producers to register with the FDA, which will have a huge effect on small vape shops that mix their own liquids. The industry group American Vaping Association called the regulations effectively “a prohibition” because of the costs accompanying the application process. Read more in the New York Times.


Illinois has passed over 300 days without a budget, and the consequences are becoming harder to undo, no matter when funding shows up. Aside from the fact that if no budget is passed before the end of May, the General Assembly will need a supermajority to pass one, many organizations are already beyond the point of full recovery even if they were paid today. As of January 2016, 84% of the state’s human service agencies reported cutting programs, and countless organizations have cut staff and seen their waitlists for services grow. “The whole social services safety net is starting to wear away,” said one social services executive. “Once it goes, it’s virtually impossible to rebuild.” Read more in Bloomberg.


A coalition of 64 social service organizations sued the Rauner administration for over $100 million the state has failed to pay them since last July. Although Gov. Rauner’s office dismissed the suit, chalking it up to frustration, coalition chair Andrea Durbin says it is “strictly a business case” centered on unfulfilled contracts. “We’ve been held accountable to the contracts. We’ve been asked to deliver services, to report our data, to participate in program oversight,” she said. “You can’t with one hand ask people to do work and with the other hand deny them the ability to be paid.” Read more in the Chicago Tribune.


Despite the stopgap funding bill for higher education passed last week, Chicago State University still needed to lay off over 300 employees last Friday. The university received $20 million from the legislation, but administrators were counting on $37 million from the state this year. Read more from ABC7.


Yesterday the Senate passed a bill to send an additional $454 million to struggling colleges, and the House is expected to take it up next week. Read more in the State Journal-Register.


Rep. Christian Mitchell’s bill for a constitutional amendment to change Illinois’s income tax system to a graduated tax died in the House. Rep. Lou Lang sponsored a companion bill that would have set the rates for the graduated tax, and he blames Gov. Rauner for pulling several Republican supporters away from the initiative. According to Rep. Lang, the plan would cut taxes for 99% of Illinois taxpayers and still raise an additional $1.9 billion for the state. The governor’s spokesperson, on the other hand, said that a graduated tax would “result in driving thousands of jobs out of Illinois.”Read more in the State Journal-Register.


There are two legislative working groups trying to put together a budget: the Ad-Hoc committee that has been meeting for the past year, and the new Budgeteers committee.  Both bipartisan groups are working on passable budget compromises, but the clock is ticking. Read more in Politico Illinois.


Members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) are concerned about the likely financial consequences of a strike, and the union seems to be backing away from a strike this month. CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said, “If CPS provokes us, and unilaterally effects change, all bets are off. In the absence of that, I get a sense that our members would not be looking at a strike in May.” A strike could start as early as May 16th if the union gives 10 days’ prior notice, but hopefully attempts a compromise will be successful. Read more in the Sun-Times.


Sen. Andy Manar’s bill to change the school funding formula to direct more money to poorer districts stalled this week when the Rauner administration released calculations claiming that the bill would cut funding from downstate districts to send millions of dollars more to Chicago. In reality, the bill has a ‘hold harmless’ provision that would prevent any districts from seeing funding cuts for the first year, but “Rauner’s numbers drop provided all the politicalcover Republicans needed to renew claims that the Democratic legislation was designed to prop up cash-strapped CPS at the expense of other districts,” writes Monique Garcia in the Chicago Tribune. Gov. Rauner wants to see school funding approved before reforming the system, which Sen. Manar says would simply make the disparities between school districts even larger. Legislators have received several different sets of numbers, and Sen. Manar is postponing a vote until they have had adequate time to consider them.Read more here and here.


Rep. Lou Lang’s bill to prohibit courts from denying defendants access to medication-assisted substance abuse treatment programs passed the Criminal Law Committee.


Mayor Emanuel hired Andrea Zopp, who lost the Democratic US Senate primary to US Rep. Tammy Duckworth, as Deputy Mayor. Zopp will be charge of major city projects.


New York

Sen. George Amedore introduced S 7446, which would allow the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services to provide funding to for-profit agencies for substance use disorder and gambling programs.


Sen. Diane Savino introduced S 7467, a companion to Rep. Richard Gottfried’s Assembly bill to authorize five additional medical marijuana organizations. Each organization would be authorized to manufacture medical marijuana products and operate up to eight dispensaries.


Retiring US Rep. Chris Gibson announced he will take a job as a visiting lecturer at Williams College and will not run for governor in 2018. He will close the exploratory committee he opened to look into the possibility, and he will return all contributions. Read more in Morning Consult.


New Jersey
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto’s bill to work on Atlantic City’s finances without an immediate state takeover fizzled out yesterday. Speaker Prieto had planned to call the measure for a vote, but he canceled it when four members did not show up, effectively dooming the bill. It is not clear whether the bill would have passed, or whether Senate President Steve Sweeney’s takeover bill could pass the Assembly. Speaker Prieto now plans to work on a compromise bill, though Senate President Sweeney so far is refusing to work with him, despite announcements to the contrary. Read more in Politico New Jersey.


After much uncertainty, Atlantic City managed to make a $1.8 million bond payment this week, averting default. The payment only covers interest, but the city prevented what would have been the first municipal default in the state since 1938.


Two NJ Transit rail unions, representing close to 40% of the workforce, rejected the tentative agreement that prevented a strike earlier this year. Unions representing railway conductors and engineers did not ratify the new contract accepted by 14 other NJ Transit unions and will likely return to negotiations. So far, there is no threat of a strike. Read more.


Lakewood’s housing boom shows no signs of stopping, and the township is quickly running out of room- at least horizontally. The Township Committee appointed members to study ways to incorporate the dramatic growth, including raising the five-story limit on buildings. Read more.


Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz introduced S 2139 to add dysmenorrhea, severely painful menstrual cramps, to the list of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. Rep. Tim Eustace introduced the Assembly version last month.


Rep. Kirk Schuring’s bill to legalize medical marijuana passed committee this week. Although many legislators are not in favor of legalizing marijuana, they are more concerned with what voters might pass as a constitutional amendment in November and want to get ahead of them with legislation. Rep. Schuring’s bill does not allow people to grow their own marijuana, and it excludes some medical conditions that are part of proposed ballot initiatives. Read more.




US Rep. Todd Young beat US Rep. Marlin Stutzman in the Republican primary to replace retiring US Sen. Dan Coats. Rep. Stutzman is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and is a Tea Party favorite, while Rep. Young is favored by more moderate Republicans. Rep. Young will face Democrat Baron Hill, a former state representative, in November.


Both representative’s districts were up for grabs because of their decision to run for Senate, and both are considered safely Republican. Jim Banks, who is supported by the House Freedom Caucus, won the primary in Rep. Stutzman’s district, and Trey Hollingsworth, a wealthy transplant to the state, won in Rep. Young’s district. Read more in Morning Consult.


State Supreme Court Justice David T. Prosser is retiring at the end of July, though his term does not end until 2021. This means Gov. Walker can appoint a successor to serve until 2020, at which point an election will be held for the seat.