Senate week in review

Feb. 16-20          Send a link to a friend

[FEB. 25, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- Senate Republicans expressed concern about the increase in spending outlined last week in the governor's fiscal 2005 budget proposal, according to state Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield.

Senate Republicans support the governor's commitment to avoid raising the sales and income tax, and they agree with the governor's call for fiscal discipline in Springfield. But they are disappointed to once again see spending increases in the governor's budget proposal. The budget proposed last week adds $750 million in spending. This is on top of the $1 billion in spending additions approved last year.

There also is concern about a new list of taxes on Illinois businesses. The governor's budget includes proposals to eliminate $320 million in tax incentives. One proposal would change the way business software is taxed. Currently, when multiple software licenses are purchased, sales tax is paid on only one copy of the program licensing fee. The governor now wants to tax every copy purchased. It is dubbed a corporate loophole, but businesses of all sizes use computer software, and even small businesses purchase multiple software licenses.

Senate Republicans are fearful the anti-business climate will continue a pattern of jobs leaving the state. An independent survey released earlier this month suggested that more than 16,000 Illinois jobs were lost because of the $1 billion in fee and tax increases contained in the fiscal 2004 budget. The survey also reported that more than two dozen Illinois companies were actively considering moving out of state because of the higher costs.

In other news, several Senate Republicans unveiled legislation to prohibit the state from owning casino licenses. Last year legislation (Public Act 93-0028) was passed giving the state the ability to manage a casino. An amendment filed this week to Senate Bill 2235 would prohibit the state from owning a riverboat casino license or horse racetrack organization license, repeal the legislation allowing the state to manage a casino, and maintain the state's proper role of issuing these licenses and regulating these entities.

In other news, a Senate committee advanced legislation (Senate Bill 2103) requiring a more comprehensive and detailed quarterly financial report, to present a better picture of the state's financial situation. The purpose of the legislation is to give lawmakers and the public a better understanding of how the state's financial situation is and a better sense of what to expect in the future.


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Finally, Senate Republicans unveiled a package of 20 separate legislative measures to address the crisis in health care created by skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance costs. Some of the more creative proposals include a plan to create a special court system focused on medical liability cases. Another approach under consideration would be to convert the existing medical liability system into a workers' compensation model that would guarantee fair compensation to injured patients without having to go to court. Other measures provide "good Samaritan" immunity for doctors, require the Department of Insurance to conduct an investigation into the causes of rising medical malpractice rates, and provide graduated caps on noneconomic damages, beginning at $500,000.

Legislative measures approved this week in Senate committees include:

Unauthorized movie theater videotaping (SB 2134) -- Creates the offense of unauthorized videotaping in a movie theater and establishes penalties.

Child care product safety (SB 2378) -- Makes a comprehensive list of unsafe children's products available to facilities that do not have Internet access.

Child product recalls for safety (SB 2379) -- Imposes requirements on commercial dealers in children's products with respect to product recalls.

License plate discounts (SB 2453) -- Beginning with the 2006 registration year, anyone who has received a Circuit Breaker property tax and relief grant would pay $24, instead of the usual registration fee, for a vehicle displaying the license plates issued to Gold Star recipients.

Speed limits (SB 2374) -- Allows large trucks, recreational vehicles such as campers, and vehicles towing another vehicle to drive 65 miles per hour on rural interstates and toll highways outside urban areas, the way cars and smaller trucks do now.

Bottled water safety (SB 3112) -- Requires bottled water companies to register with the state; provides for increased inspections and safety tests of Illinois bottled water plants and sources.

[News release]

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