Week in Review: Budget, firearms ban, jobs and more


Budget Address/State of the State next week. Governor JB Pritzker will deliver his annual Budget Address/State of the State speech to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday, February 15.
Governor Pritzker will unveil his proposed State Budget for Fiscal Year 2024. In recent public statements, the governor has proposed massive expansions of State programs, which will require significant new spending to achieve. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, State spending has greatly increased with the influx of federal relief funds. With these short-term revenue sources about to disappear, the well has run dry. If Illinois Democrats continue to increase spending for new or expanded programs, Illinois taxpayers will be on the hook for the Democrats’ spending spree.

The Illinois Constitution directs the General Assembly to enact a budget in which “proposed expenditures shall not exceed funds estimated to be available for the fiscal year as shown in the budget.” Illinois Democrats have often fudged or ignored the language that mandates them to enact a balanced budget. This is often done by passing a late-night budget, where appropriations bills suddenly appear in the middle of the final night of session, with no opportunity for legislators or the general public to review the budget. House Republicans are again calling for the General Assembly to adopt and stick to a proper revenue estimate, as required by the Constitution. Leader Tony McCombie and her budget team are committed to a budget process that is open, transparent, and accountable to hardworking Illinois families.

New Illinois gun ban law faces stiffening headwinds in court. The Democrats’ gun ban law, passed during the January 2023 lame-duck session, bans certain so-called “assault weapons” as well as extended firearm magazines. The law requires that certain firearms already owned by law-abiding gun owners be registered with the Illinois State Police.

After the gun ban bill was passed by the Democrat supermajority and immediately signed into law by Gov. Pritzker, the measure began to face serious constitutional challenges. This week, a plaintiff’s group that includes Rep. Dan Caulkins won a third Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Illinois gun ban law. The Macon County court decision represented further evidence that multiple Illinois courts are finding that the balance of probable outcomes is shifting against the controversial law. Litigation will continue at the state and federal levels.

State grants Bally’s initial approval to move towards the operation of a temporary Chicago casino. The operation is slated to commence at the Medinah Temple, the Near North Side building built in 1912. The action this week by the Illinois Gambling Board (IGB) was the first round of approval for the Chicago casino operation. The IGB’s action authorizes the building’s management to sign contracts with suppliers to start delivering the goods necessary to refit the building space and prepare to operate the casino. The names of the contractual suppliers then have to be submitted to the Board for a second round of licenses and permits. As the full licensure of the Medinah Temple gambling floor is an ongoing process, no firm casino opening date has been set yet. The developers, and the city of Chicago as a chief tax collector, are going to push to open the doors during calendar year 2023.

The Medinah Temple casino is slated to be a “temporary” space for gambling experiences and entertainment. It will operate during the period that Bally’s is pursuing its separate application, in what will be a third and a fourth round of licensure permits, for final approval to construct and operate a permanent casino on an industrial site adjacent to the North Branch of the Chicago River. This property is now slated to become the footprint for what developers hope will be a $1.7 billion casino complex of hotel rooms, gaming, and entertainment. In June 2019 action, the Illinois General Assembly granted legislative approval to Chicago to be the host city of the future casino complex, and this February 2023 action continues the implementation of the multi-year planning process. The resulting casino complex will pay gambling and hotel occupancy taxes to both Chicago and the State of Illinois.

Illinois ranked high for regional workforce development. Illinois’ No. 1 status among states in the East North Central region of the U.S. was bestowed by Site Selection, a magazine and website oriented towards professional challenges related to workforce development. Illinois’ high score across a variety of career-readiness metrics was attributed to statewide economic development efforts oriented towards workplace-ready training. Illinois replaced Indiana, the previous No. 1 Midwestern state, in the multistate ranking.

Illinois’ orientation towards workforce development includes strong institutional ties between community colleges and local employers. House Republicans have championed the creation of employment advisory boards within the Illinois community college system. Illinois manufacturers and other employers have pioneered new ways to use the concept of registered apprenticeship programs as a tool for regional workforce development.

Burn Awareness Week includes public-safety messages on the safe handling of hot items. Burn injuries are a primary subset of accidental injuries that can require healthcare treatment, including emergency room visits and possible hospitalization. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2020 (the most recent year for which totals are available) 276,086 persons received medical care for the treatment of unintentional burn injuries. Comparable figures from a different database indicate 91,875 persons treated for burn-related injuries at hospitals. The largest subset of burn-related injuries tabulated by hospitals was from scalds, injuries to the skin from hot objects or liquids.

The Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal (OSFM) observed Burn Awareness Week (February 5 through 11, 2023) by distributing and stressing family safety reminders against burn injuries this week. Burn injuries can come from objects that can move around easily, such as heated liquids in an uncovered bowl or container. The OSFM asks all Illinois residents, especially parents and caregivers, to be aware of bath water, hot coffee and tea, hot liquid foods such as microwaved soup, and especially containers on stovetops. The OSFM urges parents to maintain and enforce a “3-foot kid-free zone” around a household stove, oven, or fireplace. Keeping these spaces kid-free will help keep young Illinois children off the annual list of 276,000 burn-injured Americans.

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