CAPITOL RECAP: Pritzker signs electric vehicle manufacturing incentives into law

Gov. JB Pritzker signs the Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois Act Tuesday at a signing event in Belvidere.

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a tax incentives package Tuesday that state lawmakers hope will help Illinois become a manufacturing hub for the budding electric vehicle industry.

The Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois, or REV, Act, passed the General Assembly with near-unanimous bipartisan support during the recently concluded fall session. It provides tax credits for income tax withheld for EV manufacturers and costs to train new or retained employees.

It also applies to the manufacturers of EV parts, such as batteries. It’s an effort to lure new manufacturers to Illinois while incentivizing existing manufacturers to invest in their Illinois facilities and workers.

The tax credits created by the new law range from 75% to 100% of income tax withheld for creating new jobs or 25% to 50% for retained employees, depending on factors such as company location and number of employees hired. A 10% credit for training expenses would also be available.

Tax credits for construction wages and building materials are also included in the bill.

The added incentives complement Illinois’ other advantages when it comes to manufacturing, Pritzker said, but they are needed to make Illinois competitive with other states from a financial perspective.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, said that’s particularly true in Belvidere near his district, where the Stellantis manufacturing company, which produces Jeeps at the location, is reportedly considering retooling its facility to manufacture electric vehicles.

The state has also been looking to lure a joint battery manufacturing venture announced by Stellantis and tech giant Samsung.

The other advantages to choosing Illinois, according to Pritzker, are a centralized location in the U.S., strong infrastructure, the second-largest crop of computer science engineer graduates in the nation and a pair of major national laboratories.

Republicans were broadly supportive of the tax incentives package. But during floor debate, they peppered the bill’s Democratic sponsors with questions as to why the governor froze a similar tax incentives package known as the Blue Collar Jobs Act as part of his budget proposal for the current year, grouping it with other policies he referred to as “corporate tax loopholes.”

The measure also has support from the state’s manufacturing industry.

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ELECTIONS LAW: A new law in Illinois aims to ban out-of-state contributions and so-called “dark money” in judicial campaigns by requiring all candidates to disclose the sources of their contributions.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Nov. 15 signed Senate Bill 536 into law, an omnibus elections bill that makes a number of other changes to the way elections are conducted.

Under the bill, no judicial campaign committee is allowed to accept contributions from any out-of-state source or any person or entity that does not disclose the identity of those making the contribution, except for contributions that are below the threshold for itemizing.

The bill also raises the threshold for itemizing contributions to $1,000, up from $500.

It also prohibits people from making or accepting anonymous contributions or contributions made in someone else’s name.

Democrats pushed the bill through the General Assembly on the final day of the fall veto session. It came about partly in response to the 2020 elections in which Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride, a Democrat, was defeated for retention, the first time in state history that a state Supreme Court justice failed to win retention.

“Trying to avoid dark money in elections, I think is something that we can all get behind” Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, said during debate on the House floor.

Republicans, however, argued that it was a partisan maneuver designed to help Democrats protect their current 4-3 majority on the court.

“So, in my opinion, this is another effort for the majority to change the rules of the game because they don't like the outcome,” Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said.

The new law also includes other changes, including one giving voters the option of identifying as male, female or non-binary on their voter registration applications so their gender identity can match what appears on their passport or driver’s license.

It also allows people to apply for permanent vote-by-mail ballots year round. And it requires all polling places to have at least one polling booth that is wheelchair accessible.

Another provision creates a new 15-member task force to “review current laws and make recommendations to improve access to voting for persons with disabilities.”

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ASSAULT WEAPONS BAN: In its latest round of opinions Thursday, the Illinois Supreme Court upheld a village of Deerfield assault weapons ban via a deadlocked decision.

The decision was split 3-3, with Justice Michael Burke abstaining from the vote, meaning an appellate court’s ruling that allowed the ban was upheld as the final decision. Burke was part of the 2nd District Court of Appeals which heard the case previously.

The case centered around a narrow window written into a state’s amendment to the FOID Act in 2013, which allowed home rule municipalities to adopt stricter gun laws if they passed an ordinance within 10 days of the law’s effective date, July 9, 2013.

Deerfield did so within the law’s parameters, but the court was asked to decide whether the village’s 2018 amendment to its ordinance that banned civilian use of assault weapons and large capacity magazines was an extension of the 2013 action or a new law altogether.

In 2019, a Lake County judge ruled in favor of gun rights groups and Deerfield resident Daniel Easterday, who sued to block the ordinance and claimed it was in violation of the state’s FOID and concealed carry laws.

But the 2nd District Appellate Court later overturned that decision, ruling that the 2013 FOID amendment created “a hybrid balance of regulatory power between the state and local governments,” and “Deerfield preserved its power to regulate assault weapons concurrently with the state when it enacted its 2013 ordinance.”

While the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal, the 3-3 deadlock means the appellate court decision remains in effect.

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FOID RIGHTS RESTORED: A 2020 ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court which declared gun rights to be civil rights was key to a Thursday decision which restored Putnam County man Thomas Brown’s right to a FOID card.

Brown was a FOID cardholder for several years, most recently applying for and being granted renewal in 2013. But in 2016, he tried to purchase a gun at a federal firearm licensee, leading the Illinois State Police to conduct a background check. That unearthed a 2001 conviction in California on a “misdemeanor offense of inflicting corporal injury on a spouse” that he did not disclose on his FOID application, according to a court filing.

California law provides that after a period of 10 years a person convicted of a misdemeanor can no longer be penalized for gun possession. Brown’s lawyers argued that because Brown was eligible to own a gun in California after 10 years, that means he had his “civil rights restored,” satisfying a specific exemption in federal law that allows for his gun ownership.

The court agreed, stating that “California law does not apply to Brown in a vacuum,” and he does not have to show an “affirmative statement of restoration” from the state of California in order to show that he had his civil rights restored.

The fact that California does not consider gun ownership a civil right did not matter in this case, because, the court wrote, “this court unanimously concluded (in the 2020 Johnson case) that restoration of firearm rights under the FOID Card Act constitutes ‘civil rights restored’ for purposes of federal law”

It was necessary for Brown to show that he satisfied that exception in federal law, because the state’s FOID Act specifically states that granting relief to a person who is appealing their denial cannot be done in violation of federal law.

Outside of that question, the Supreme Court determined that the Putnam County court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Brown met all the other criteria to have his gun rights restored.

The Supreme Court noted it had to rule only on whether the circuit court abused its discretion in determining whether Brown met the criteria, which also state that an applicant must not be dangerous and that granting them a FOID card cannot be against the public interest.

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JOB GROWTH: The Illinois unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a percentage point in October to 6%t as employers added 40,900 jobs during the month, the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday.

According to the preliminary data, the industry sectors with the biggest job gains during the month were professional and business services, which added 17,700 jobs; leisure and hospitality, which added 8,400 jobs; and trade, transportation and utilities, which gained 7,700 jobs.

Those gains were partially offset by job losses in the information sector and educational and health services.

The October jobless rate in Illinois was 1.4 percentage points higher than the national rate, but it was 2.1 percentage points below where it was a year earlier.

Compared to a year ago, the number of nonfarm payroll jobs was up by 190,300, with gains showing up in nearly all major industries.

The leisure and hospitality sector, which was hit hardest by the pandemic, has added back 60,800 jobs while professional and business services have gained back 50,000 jobs. The trade, transportation and utilities sector has added 37,200.

Financial activities, which is still down by 5,200 jobs, was the only industry group that reported jobs losses over the year. Total nonfarm payrolls were up 3.4% over the year in Illinois and 4.1% in the nation.

Along with the October jobless figures, the Bureau of Labor Statistics made a significant downward adjustment to the September unemployment rate, lowering it to 6.2% from the preliminary estimate of 6.8%. That was due to an adjustment BLS had made in January to the way it estimates the size of a state’s labor force in order to account for the impact of the pandemic.

IDES said in a news release that the adjustment inadvertently created “distortions” to statewide labor force estimates for Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin for January and all subsequent months through September 2021.

BLS said the distortions were only recently identified after Illinois and another state in the agency’s East North Central Division raised concerns about their monthly 2021 labor force estimates. The BLS has found that distortions to the Illinois labor force estimates are limited to January-September 2021

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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