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Update from the Capitol 2/14/2020

Friday, February 14, 2020 - Posted 9:13:38 AM by Rep. Tom Bennett

As always, you can reach me through the contact form at, or by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) or (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.

Gaming Board announces rules for initial sports betting in Illinois

The Illinois Gaming Board, the agency which oversees betting in Illinois, has issued its rules for the conduct of newly-legalized sports betting in Illinois. Betting windows at Illinois' existing casinos will be the first to open. Applications have been filed by three casinos which have already undergone regulatory and security scrutiny for their existing gaming operations. The state will conduct security checks on the firms which casinos plan to hire to operate the sports betting services. Once that is complete, legal sports betting in Illinois will open for business.

According to the Gaming Board, the next betting windows to open will be at Illinois' horse racetracks, a much more extensive process due to the many off-track gaming parlors these facilities are affiliated with. These facilities will also be inspected for security issues and to ensure legal compliance. To comply with the law, each facility has to demonstrate that it has enacted effective methods to prevent those who are underage from betting on sporting events. They must also honor the wishes of those who have voluntarily added their name to the gambler "self-exclusion" list.

Once sports wagering is open at casinos and racetracks, the Gaming Board will move on to the rulemaking process for licensing other facilities to conduct sports wagering. Due to the difficulty of conducting the kinds of security checks that will be necessary for a new operation, it is expected that this process will take a very long time.

January revenue was up $60 million

Revenue coming into the state treasury increased by $60 million in January, with some help from Uncle Sam. Overall, the state's receipts from income taxes were down slightly, but transfers of funds from the federal government more than made up for that decline. Other sources of revenue, such as sales taxes were stable throughout the month.

Last week we learned the numbers from the recently-concluded state tax amnesty program. This program made it possible for qualified taxpayers who had any outstanding tax liability to the state of Illinois from the years 2011-2018 to pay it off with the state forgiving any interest and penalties. The tax amnesty resulted in the paying of $237 million in qualified tax payments from more than 60,000 Illinois taxpayers. The program generated more than expected, as it was projected to bring in about $175 million. More than a quarter of those new funds will be distributed to local governments.

One area where tax revenue has fallen substantially has been the state's cigarette tax. Cigarette tax revenue has been in decline for several years as more people quit smoking cigarettes. While this was once a significant source of state revenue, in January receipts from cigarette taxes were less than 1% of tax revenue.

New legislation at the gas pumps

This week my office received a number of phone calls about recently-introduced legislation that would require all gasoline purchases in Illinois to be pumped by an employee of the gas station. I appreciate that the sponsor of the bill is trying to create jobs, but I just don't see the need for this particular change in the law, and I think it might cause more difficulties than it solves. The bill is in the House Rules Committee now, but should it come up for a vote in its present form, I will be voting No.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,467,491,586 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.3 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $137 billion.

Spaghetti and conversation in Goodfield

I attended the 70th annual community spaghetti supper in Goodfield recently. There was great support from the community and a wonderful turnout. Thanks to the organizers for letting me help out and to all those who shared their perspectives on a wide range of topics. As we start the General Assembly's spring session I really enjoy getting out to community events like this one to hear from many of our neighbors about what they would like to see us do in Springfield. Thanks to everyone!

Gun owners' advocacy group sues State Police over FOID card delays

A lawsuit has been filed by the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) and the Second Amendment Foundation over the continuing delays in getting Firearm Owner Identification cards issued and/or renewed in Illinois. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, my office and the offices of many other legislators in Illinois have been contacted by gun owners reporting that State Police processing times for applications to obtain or renew a FOID card have been getting longer and longer. Illinois' has had its FOID card law on the book for over 30 years. Most other states do not require gun owners to maintain identification cards.

The lawsuit alleges that there are currently serious problems with the state's application and renewal process, as well as the processes for enforcement and reinstatement. One potential driver of these difficulties is the fact that over the past few years the state has swept close to $30 million from the funds meant to support FOID card issuance and enforcement, to spend the money on other things. The result has been a diminished capacity to process the applications, and therefore slower response times.

Did You Know?

This week we marked Abraham Lincoln's 211th birthday. Most everyone knows that Lincoln was a renowned lawyer, but did you know he never attended law school? In spite of that, he worked on more than 5000 legal proceedings and argued over 400 cases before the Illinois Supreme Court. Did you know Abraham Lincoln used to wrestle in his spare time? In fact, he was such a good wrestler that he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992.