SPRINGFIELD – Illinois lawmakers last week passed significant legislation dealing with electric vehicle manufacturing incentives and the availability of hygiene products for prisoners in the state’s correctional system.
But some weightier issues, including a possible assault weapons ban, will wait until a lame duck session scheduled for early January.
Last week, lawmakers wrapped up a five-day fall veto session that focused mainly on changes to the SAFE-T Act criminal justice reform package first adopted in 2021 and a $1.8 billion infusion of cash into the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
But several other bills passed as well, including an expansion of tax credits and other incentives aimed at promoting electric vehicle manufacturing in Illinois.
Last year, lawmakers passed the Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois Act, or REV Illinois, that provided tax incentives for electric vehicle manufacturers, or companies that manufacture certain component parts for electric vehicles, to locate or expand in Illinois.
Under that program, companies receiving the breaks could receive a state income tax credit of 75-100 percent of payroll taxes withheld from each new employee and 25-50 percent for retained employees. The law also provided a 10 percent credit for training expenses.
The stated goal of that program was to make Illinois a hub for electric vehicle manufacturing. But other states have been getting into the game as well, including Indiana and Michigan, which some people have argued offer better incentives than Illinois.
The first and only contract under the REV Act thus far was signed between the state and T/CCI Manufacturing in Decatur in September to create an estimated $2.2 million in value for the company to retool its facility that manufactures compressors.
House Bill 5189, which cleared the General Assembly Thursday, Dec. 1, expands the incentives to be available to the makers of more component parts, and raises the maximum tax credit to 75 percent of the incremental income tax attributable to retained employees. That amount can also go to 100 percent, depending on where the jobs are located.
That language was part of an “omnibus” tax bill that also includes a five-year extension of tax deductions for contributions to ABLE accounts, a savings program for people with disabilities; an expansion of the Live Theater Production tax credit to make more productions eligible for the credit; and a provision stating that any student loan forgiveness that may be approved by the federal government will not count as taxable income for Illinois taxes.
Lawmakers also passed a bill ensuring that inmates in the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections will have free access to underwear and menstrual hygiene products.
House Bill 4218, by Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, follows other bills lawmakers have passed recently that seek to end what advocates have called “period poverty.” In 2021, lawmakers passed a series of bills to expand the availability of such products, including requirements that they be made available in college and university restrooms and homeless shelters.
Another bill called on the Department of Human Services to apply for a federal waiver so the products would be eligible for purchase through the SNAP and WIC food assistance programs in Illinois.
Lame duck session
Some of the weightier issues that lawmakers hope to deal with before the next General Assembly is sworn into office are being deferred to a lame duck session that is scheduled for five days between Jan. 4 and 10.
That’s because the Illinois Constitution requires that any bill passed after May 31 of a calendar year must receive at least a three-fifths majority to have an immediate effective date. Otherwise, they do not take effect until June 1 of the following year.
But bills that pass after Jan. 1 – even during lame duck sessions that occur before newly-elected lawmakers are sworn in – need only a simple majority to have an immediate effective date.
Among the issues expected to be debated is a proposed ban on the sale or possession of assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Those are the same types of weapons and ammunition systems that have been used in multiple mass shootings in the United States. But calls for banning them in Illinois intensified after a mass shooting at an Independence Day parade last summer in Highland Park that left seven people dead and dozens more injured.
On Thursday, Dec. 1, the final day of the veto session, Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, filed HB 5855, the “Protect Illinois Communities Act,” which would make it illegal to manufacture, deliver, sell or purchase an assault weapon, assault weapon attachment, .50-caliber rifle or .50-caliber cartridge.
It would also make it illegal for anyone to possess such a weapon or ammunition 300 days after the effective date of the act, unless it is registered with the Illinois State Police.
The bill would also remove the ability of people under age 21 to own firearms and ammunition, with an exception for those serving in the U.S. military or National Guard.
And it would amend the state’s Firearms Restraining Order Act by allowing state’s attorneys and assistant state’s attorneys to act as a “friend of the court” in restraining order petitions while extending the maximum length of those restraining orders to one year instead of six months.
Morgan, whose district includes Highland Park, served as leader of the Firearm Safety and Reform Working Group that House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch appointed earlier this year.
“Gun violence is destroying families and communities from East St. Louis to Highland Park to Chicago, and this moment demands urgency,” Morgan said in a statement. “It is time that we had the political courage to admit that guns are a problem and that we can do something about it.”
Chief cosponsors of the bill include Reps. Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia; La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago; and Barbara Hernandez, all of whom have backed similar legislation in the past.