SPRINGFIELD — The state’s COVID-19 response and operating budget will be on the top of the agenda for lawmakers when they return for a socially distanced session this week, according to an email distributed to Illinois House members Tuesday.
The House will meet Wednesday through Friday at the Bank of Springfield Center in downtown Springfield, while the Senate will convene at the Capitol in its regular chamber.
Precautions will be in place to check temperatures of entrants at the door, and lawmakers and others in attendance will be required to socially distance and wear face coverings. An added police presence will be patrolling downtown as protests are apparently scheduled around the venues.
Speaker Michael Madigan said in a statement Tuesday that the House will immediately vote on new rules requiring those in attendance, including lawmakers, to follow the safety measures. Some of the more conservative members of the Republican caucus have indicated they will not wear masks during the session.
“The House will take up this rule change immediately upon convening Wednesday. After the motion passes, any member in violation of the rule change will face discipline, including potentially being removed from the chamber by a vote of the House,” Madigan, a Democrat from Chicago, said in a statement distributed by his office. “This is not an action I take lightly, but when it comes to the health and safety of members, their families, staff and the communities they represent, it is the right and prudent thing to do.”
“Staff and members of the public not observing the rules will be asked to leave the premises immediately,” Madigan added.
Illinois House members received health guidelines and the legislative agenda from Madigan’s chief of staff Tuesday.
The 15 agenda items include operating and capital budgets as well as five different areas of focus for COVID-19 response. The House is also expected to take up an elections omnibus, including an expanded vote-by-mail program.
Lawmakers will also hear arguments for and against the graduated income tax as they debate the language that will appear before voters on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. Republicans have asked that a vote be taken to remove the question from the ballot, but Democratic leaders have not indicated a willingness to do so.
The COVID-19 response areas include governmental administration, such as the secretary of state’s ability to extend guidelines, discussion of a recovery advisory group, Freedom of Information Act delays and reworking of an executive order on immunity for health care providers. Also under that agenda item is a discussion of allowing the state Supreme Court to delay speedy trial requirements in an emergency.
Another agenda item is a COVID-19 health care package, discussion of which could touch on increased access to telehealth, allowing behavioral health centers to distribute drugs to mental health and substance abuse patients, as well as a potential study on insurance affordability and a kidney disease task force.
A COVID-19 revenue package is also up for discussion. Considerations for that bill include a sales tax deferral program, property tax measures such as a delay of interest accrual, and a one-year deferral of application requirements for homestead exemptions.
Discussion of a COVID-19 education package could include remote learning days, graduation requirements, student teacher requirements and more, according to the agenda.
Other agenda items include a hospital assessment program, which generates about $3.5 billion each year in federal funding to hospitals that treat large numbers of Medicaid patients. An update is due for the program and must be approved by the federal government after being passed by the General Assembly.
A measure pertaining to the Municipal Liquidity Facility program passed through the federal CARES Act earlier this year is also on the agenda. That program aims to aid state and local governments through the direct federal purchase of short-term notes from states, but aid is directly available only to states and large counties and cities. States, however, can support smaller counties and local governments by establishing the program and making it available to them. The agenda item includes the necessary debt authorizations to do so.
The House will also take up regulatory and governmental sunsets that are due for extension, tax increment financing district extensions and debt exceptions, and a resolution to support health care workers, frontline employees and essential employees.