Illinois Legislature Continues Work on Budget, Gambling Bill

on Jun2
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2019-06-01 23:35:55

What to Know

  • The Illinois House will continue to debate several bills, approved by the Senate, that will set the new fiscal year’s budget

  • The House is also considering a bill to expand casino licensing and legalize sports betting in the state

  • The Senate, which adjourned yesterday, expects to go back into session Sunday

The May 31 deadline came and went for the Illinois legislature, but despite the increased vote total needed to pass bills, legislators are still plugging away on several key issues in Springfield.

On the House side, finishing off work on the budget is a top priority this weekend. The Senate passed five different bills on Friday, with the parameters of the budget already having been approved by the House. The remaining four pieces of legislation will need to be approved by the body before they can be sent to Governor J.B. Pritzker for his signature.

Bills to appropriate and spend funds for construction projects are part of the package being considered by the House, and a budget implementation plan is also being considered by the body, according to an email sent out by Senate Democrats on Saturday.

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Since the bills were not finalized by May 31, they will require a three-fifths majority to pass, but with a supermajority in both houses of the legislature, Democrats expect to pass all pieces of the budget before concluding their work at the capitol.

A vote on a gas tax bill, which would raise funds for construction projects by increasing the tax on fuel in the state of Illinois for the first time in nearly 30 years, is one of the pieces of legislation that is expected to be voted on Saturday.

Speaker Madigan issued a statement Saturday evening saying “today, while Democrats and Republicans have used some additional time to build a stronger compromise, the people of Illinois can see the first signs of a state beginning to move in the right direction…We have now passed a bipartisan, balanced budget that invests $375 million more in education, and protects critical services for seniors, women’s health, and families in need. It meets our full pension obligation, and pays down more than $1 billion in old bills.”

The Senate adjourned its session on Friday after completing its work on the budget bill, as well as an abortion rights bill that it approved and sent to Pritzker’s desk, but the body will reconvene on Sunday as the legislature tackles several other issues, including a complex sports gambling bill that is drawing attention from all corners of the political world—calling for slots at O’Hare and Midway airports, along with horse racetracks, legalizing sports betting. College teams are said to be exempt and the licensing fees would start in the millions.

The bill would give Chicago a new casino license, and would also grant a casino license to the south suburbs and Waukegan, but it has run into opposition from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who initially said she opposed the bill’s language that allows venues like Soldier Field to house gambling facilities.

Lightfoot later issued a statment saying, ““After productive discussions with the Governor, we have agreed to allow a limited amount of betting at sports venues subject to local oversight and control. These enhancements to the gaming proposal will allow us to maximize revenue capabilities of a new casino for the City of Chicago and ensure a good quality of life for our neighborhoods that might otherwise be affected. As such, I urge the passage of SB 690 as amended. We will remain engaged with the Governor as well as Speaker Madigan and President Cullerton to ensure a fair outcome for all of Chicago this session.”

The Chicago casino would be privately owned—the city would get a third of the tax revenue and the rest would be split between the state and the private owner.

The fate of the bill could be known before the end of the day Saturday.

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