Some NW Side lawmakers discuss possible issues that may come up in veto session
by KEVIN GROSS
Despite recent corruption scandals involving several legislators in the General Assembly, some Northwest Side lawmakers said that changes to the gambling bill may be addressed during the veto session.
“I haven’t heard that it’s going to be a robust veto session. The governor has only vetoed 35 bills this year,” state Senator Laura Murphy (D-28) said. “A lot of those bills went through both House and Senate, so really you just veto one of them because the duplicate bill had passed already…I’m hearing new changes may mainly be in gaming and vaping.”
State Senator Iris Martinez (D-10) said that the legislature might look at gaming and Governor J.B. Pritzker recently signed a capital infrastructure bill into law. Pritzker also recently proposed a bill regarding public pension consolidation.
“To be honest, I don’t really know of anything else major than just doing some ‘trailer bills’ on some of the items that we did work on over the summer,” Martinez said.
Trailer bills are tacked onto legislation that was already passed earlier in the year and they contain changes or clarifications.
“I think if there was something key to nix, he would’ve vetoed it already,” state Representative John D’Amico (D-15) said. “There’s no doubt, we accomplished a lot this summer to move the state forward. We had 4 bad years under the prior administration, and were trying to right the ship and get things done.”
“The thing about this year is that the veto is not as it was in the past, where we had to override the past governor on seemingly everything,” Martinez said. The state’s new gaming bill is likely to be amended in the near future. As passed in June, it would legalize sports betting statewide, create licenses for six new casinos including Chicago’s first casino, and expand gambling seats at existing casinos and to racetracks.
“(Tax) rates will all be negotiated…It (proposed rates) are currently more lucrative to new casino operators, and in all of this the state has to be the winner,” said Murphy.
Murphy’s district includes Rivers Casino in Des Plaines and she said that gaming tax rates need to be fair to such pre-existing casinos, who paid higher taxes and fees than those currently proposed in the new gaming bill.
“Rivers Casino is perhaps the only entity in the entire state that had to make the payments they already did to the state. They’ve followed all the rules, and now they (new casino operators) want to change the rules to be more beneficial to them.”
“The gambling bill is something I think we can work together on and try to make that happen, because the revenue is needed not only for our city but the state as well,” D’Amico said. “Right now, the way it was drafted I don’t think it would be in the city’s best interests to have that (tax rate structure)…and that’s still up in the air, gaming tax rates, final revenue projections and negotiations.”
Murphy said that a Chicago casino should be located in a central area to maximize tourist revenue. The final location of Chicago’s casino is not controlled by state legislature.
“The goal should always be to receive as much of the flow of outside tourist dollars as possible. I don’t think those locations (proposed throughout South and West Chicago) should be locations for casinos,” Murphy said.
On another matter, it is unclear if the General Assembly would “bail out” Chicago in order to avoid a property tax hike that is likely necessary to balance Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s budget.
Also, the legislators said that a bill proposing to restrict sales of flavored tobacco products and outright ban flavored electronic cigarette products or flavored vapes may gain traction during the veto session, but its ultimate passage is questionable this year.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a rush to do anything quick about that. I think we want to make sure everything is vetted correctly, but we do have to put something in place because we could have a health crisis coming up from vaping,” Martinez said. “When it comes to a health crisis to our young people we have to address that. But we have to address that in a way that’s vetted.”