Faced with a Democratic supermajority in the General Assembly, newly elected Republican lawmakers met with area chambers of commerce Tuesday morning to discuss what business-related issues should take precedence when the state House and Senate convene next month.
State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, state Rep.-elect Tom Weber, state Sen. Craig Wilcox and state Sen. Don DeWitte attended “Coffee with your Legislators” at Park Place Banquets in Crystal Lake.
Several legislators said they feel confident one subject is sure to be introduced during the upcoming legislative session: recreational marijuana legalization.
DeWitte, who was sworn in to finish the term of former Sen. Karen McConnaughay before his victory in the primary election, said he is not against legalizing marijuana from a philosophical standpoint, but he is concerned that the need to bolster revenue is the only thing driving the initiative.
“I think it’s very premature,” DeWitte said. “I think the state is still struggling with medical marijuana rules and regulations that took three years to come together.”
Weber said he is opposed to legalization, but if it were to pass, he would like to know what rights business owners would have if their employees smoked marijuana before they came into work or during a break.
“I think that’s something that really hasn’t been discussed,” Weber said.
Wilcox said one business-related bill he did not support last session was Senate Bill 2641, which would have imposed taxation, insurance requirements and other parameters on car-sharing companies such as Turo and Getaround.
An amended version of the bill passed both chambers in May, was vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in August and received a successful override vote in the Senate before dying at the end of the veto session after the House failed to call it for a vote.
“I’m not inclined to allow a business model that’s been in existence for some time – and [that’s] figured out how to work in the system – ask for immediate taxation and regulation on a fledgling business,” Wilcox said.
DeWitte, however, said he supports the override based on commitments from Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, and Sen. Antonio Munoz, D-Chicago, to write a trailer bill that addresses some of the concerns peer-to-peer businesses had with the legislation. He added that the Legislature might see another version of the bill this session.
Wilcox also was critical of House Bill 4637, which passed both chambers in November and would give McHenry County residents the power to abolish townships with a majority vote at the polls.
He said he feels that the bill never really went through an honest debate and doesn’t hit on a number of issues, such as what would happen with township debt.
“Does that debt remain a responsibility of the geographic region of the dissolved township, or does it become a countywide debt?” Wilcox said.
Skillicorn said one thing that will be discussed this spring is the possibility of a capital bill to invest in construction and repairs to the state’s infrastructure. Skillicorn said he intends to prioritize transportation during negotiations.
“I’m not of the belief if you pay taxes at the fuel pump that it should be used for other things,” he said.
However, one problem that McHenry County Republicans face in issues such as this is their lack of leadership positions or seniority to get legislation out of committee, Skillicorn said.
Although Republicans are under the weight of Democratic supermajorities this upcoming session, Skillicorn and DeWitte both praised the open and conducive atmosphere between both sides of the aisle.