Last week, the U.S. Chamber launched a comprehensive effort to mobilize the business community and Main Street economic voters leading up to Election Day. The initiative includes an online toolkit that provides users with the information needed to vote in their states and districts, as well as the opportunity for businesses to engage their employees in the effort. You may have seen The Wall Street Journal article highlighting our voter turnout efforts, which can be accessed here.
The effort features the Vote For Jobs website with state-specific voting information including early voting and absentee ballots. We encourage you also to visit the voter toolkit, which includes sample Get-Out-The-Vote email messages, blog posts, press releases, and more.
The launch is being supported with a new video to remind all Americans of the virtues of free enterprise and the power of our democracy. With your partnership, we are uniquely positioned to engage tens of millions of voters in the final weeks of the election: building upon a century of working together to strengthen our country’s economy and future.
House Republicans appointed to Human Trafficking Task Force. The 14-member Task Force has been asked to develop ideas for new State laws and policies to crack down on human trafficking. The Task Force was created by HB 2822 (Jesiel/McConnaughay), which was enacted into law earlier this year as P.A. 99-864. Three House Republican legislators, Sheri Jesiel, Patti Bellock and Barbara Wheeler, served as lead sponsors of the bill and have been appointed to serve on the Task Force.
The new Task Force has been asked to hold hearings and report to the General Assembly on or before June 30, 2017 on ways and means to address the growing problem of human trafficking across Illinois. In addition to lawmakers, the Task Force will include a high-ranking member of the Illinois State Police to be chosen by the Director and a representative of the Chicago Regional Human Trafficking Task Force to be chosen by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“Human trafficking” is a euphemism used to describe the forced movement or confinement of human beings. Most, but not all, of the victims of human trafficking are girls or women, and most, but not all, are trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, which operates a nationwide hotline (1-888-373-7888) to report cases of human trafficking, reports that since 2007 they have received 130,485 reports of human trafficking throughout the United States. Many of these reports are multiple references to single individuals. The Center believes these reports represent 27,775 separate cases of human trafficking involving up to 29,880 victims. In some cases, more than one person is being victimized.
The Center further discloses that 3,646 cases of alleged human trafficking have been reported to it so far this year throughout the U.S., including 94 cases from Illinois.
COGFA tracks continued growth in Illinois video gaming. The Illinois Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), the nonpartisan budget-analysis arm of the General Assembly, annually tracks and reports on revenues from Illinois-based wagering activities. Due to changes in law and technology, our gaming industries are shifting in identity. Illinois gaming taxes are deposited into either general funds or into other, earmarked State budget funds, depending on which type of gambling the tax was imposed on.
COGFA’s 2016 “Wagering in Illinois” report, released on Monday, September 19, details a continued shift in Illinois gaming activity in FY16 away from other forms of gambling toward video gaming. Video gaming was approved in the Video Gaming Act, enacted in 2009, and the first video gaming machines were approved in 2012. Video gaming is now four years old in Illinois. From every dollar taken in by Illinois in taxes imposed on gambling during the recently-concluded fiscal year, 20.5 cents was paid by the video gaming industry. This was an increase from 16.5% in FY15 and 9.1% in FY14. There are now more than 24,000 licensed video games in operation in more than 5,600 locations throughout Illinois.
Backlog of unpaid bill hits $8.6 billion. The unpaid-bill count, tracked on a day-to-day basis by the office of Comptroller Leslie Munger, hit more than $8.6 billion this week. The red-ink number is closely watched by holders of Illinois debt paper and by international credit rating agencies and firms that rank worldwide debtors by chances of insolvency. For example Moody’s, the world’s largest credit-rating firm, currently ranks Illinois general obligation debt backed by general funds at Baa2, two ranks above “junk bond” level. Moody’s adds that they have a “negative outlook” on Illinois’ current Baa2 rating. Analysts at Moody’s report that Illinois’ “structural budget gap” currently equals at least 15% of Illinois general fund and pension expenditures.
The backlog, counted as of Thursday, September 22, represents more than $8.6 billion in bills payable from Illinois general funds. These bills have either been presented to the Illinois Comptroller for payment, or are known to be waiting in the coffers of various State agencies for presentation and payment. Many of these bills are request for reimbursement to providers of supplies and services to the State and its clients, particularly medical and nursing care provided to Medicaid patients.
The unpaid-bill ledger count reported weekly by Munger’s office is likely to continue to fluctuate in future weeks. However, the overall red-ink trend is expected to continue to go upward, based on tax payments to the State continuing to fall short of monies obligated by continuing appropriations, court orders, and consent decrees. Illinois’ unpaid-bill debt is only a small fraction of the total debts owed by the Illinois public sector. One estimate indicates that the State of Illinois alone has compiled obligations, including future pension obligations, of more than $45,500 per taxpayer.
Four years ago, according to the Pew Center on the States (2012) one in four eligible citizens were not registered to vote for the General Election. That is an astounding estimate of 51 million U.S. citizens.
Citizens who register and vote in elections have a unique opportunity to shape local, state, and federal governments. The candidates we elect to office will directly impact our region’s and our country’s policy agenda. Whether a policy maker’s decisions are large or small, your decisions on Election Day determine the direction we go. Make sure you’re registered so you can have a say.
Next week, Sept. 26-30, the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce is joining with other organizations – and most importantly our members, to support Voter Registration Week.
If you are not already registered to vote or if you need to update your information on file with your voter registration, this is a great time to do so. Take time to visit the voter registration page on http://www.illinoisprosperity.org/languages/english/ezvote.asp?g=illinois . Once you’re there, simply enter your ZIP code and complete the voter registration process.
While you’re on the website, be sure to check out the candidates on your ballot, other pertinent election issues important to our nation and our state. Everything you need to become an informed voter has been provided.
Don’t be silent during this election. If you are already registered to vote, take time to make sure your voter registration information, such as your home address, is accurate and up-to-date.
Your vote counts, but you can’t vote if you aren’t registered.
New Illinois laws expand employee leave in family situations. The Child Bereavement Leave Act was signed into law on July 29. The new law requires Illinois employers with 50 or more employees to grant up to 10 days (two work weeks) of unpaid leave to eligible full-time employees who have lost a child. The leave most be preceded by 48 hours of notice, except in emergency situations, and most be completed within 60 days after the child’s death. In many cases, Illinois employers are choosing to voluntarily pay workers who take bereavement leave.
A separate bill, the Employee Sick Leave Act, was also signed this summer but will not go into effect until January 1, 2017. The new law concentrates on employers who voluntarily provide their employees with paid sick leave. It expands the permissible use of this sick leave to cover time needed to care for the employer’s immediate family members, including parents-in-law and grandparents.