Mary Dixon: Illinois lawmakers are returning to Springfield today after missing their self imposed deadline for the springs legislative session, WBEZ's Alex Degman joins us from Springfield to catch us up on what they've done so far and what comes next. Good morning, Alex.
Alex Degman: Hi Mary.
Mary Dixon: So, what's the holdup? Why has the legislative session been extended?
Alex Degman: They thought that they could get all of their business done by May 19, but that just didn't happen because there are still too many things that are still up in the air about next year's budget. Both of the state's forecasting arms, the main budgeting ones, they don't think the state is going to make as much money as initially thought. Another program that they didn't think was going to cost as much as it is, and that is a Medicaid style healthcare program for undocumented immigrants that is expected to cost about a billion dollars more next fiscal year than it did this year. And they're trying to figure out how to pay for that, or at least move things around to make room for things.
Mary Dixon: So while leaders are working on those issues behind closed doors, we do know that lawmakers approved a lot of bills this session. What were some of the more interesting ones?
Alex Degman: There were a lot of them. So we'll start with gender neutral multi occupancy bathrooms. All this says is if you're a business and you want to create a multi occupancy, gender neutral bathroom, here are the parameters that you have to follow. And the thing that created the controversy about this measure was that people misunderstood. They thought that this was a mandate that businesses had to create these restrooms or they had to retrofit existing restrooms to become gender neutral multi occupancy. But that's not the case. Another thing they did was full day kindergarten. By 2027 school districts statewide have to figure out how to offer a full day kindergarten program. But that doesn't mean that districts can only offer that. The bill also allows them to offer a part-time kindergarten as well. There was a bill that brings gun manufacturers in line with state consumer protection laws for deceptive marketing. So, this measure that passed doesn't allow them to market to illegal militias or children.
Mary Dixon: There were several bills, Alex, that stalled this session. But as we know in Springfield, nothing ever really dies. Can you tell us about some of those stalled bills?
Alex Degman: Yeah, there was a bill that would potentially help the Bears move from Soldier Field to Arlington Heights. This is something that was introduced early in May and it's going to be taken up over the summer probably reintroduced in the fall. The idea is to give the Bears some tax certainty around the Arlington International Racecourse site essentially. And then there were a couple of sweeping measures. That deal with firearms and cannabis that are going to need some more work, but they could also be talked about later this week. For firearms, the main part of this omnibus bill would look at things like someone who's the subject of an order of protection. Right now, the way it is if they have firearms and they're the subject of that order of protection, they have to relinquish their firearms to somebody else with a FOID card, but that could theoretically be somebody in the same household. So lawmakers said, well, we think you need to relinquish it to law enforcement. And then the cannabis bill has nearly 20 things. Things like more space for craft growers to have in their grow facilities and another one would be to let dispensaries have drive through operations.
Mary Dixon: So what happens next? Especially with the budget?
Alex Degman: Well, there's a couple of hard deadlines that are coming up. The first one is May 31st. That is the date that they really are trying to hit because after May 31st, it takes more votes to pass anything. So, right now they need 60 votes to pass a budget and starting June 1st, they're going to need 71. They're going to want to hit that. And they do have the incentive to do that. But then June 30th is the one that they need to hit constitutionally, because the fiscal year starts on July 1st.
Mary Dixon: We'll see what happens this week. Alex Degman covers the statehouse for WBEZ. Thank's Alex.
Alex Degman: Thanks Mary.
Mary Dixon: This is WBEZ.
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