Unemployment up slightly; Ethics reforms still needed

Unemployment increases by small amount in June

Illinois’ unemployment rate went up by 0.1% in June, now standing at 7.2%. Gains continued to be made in the Leisure and Hospitality sector, with 10,700 jobs added to the part of the economy that includes restaurants and hotels. Professional and Business Services fell by 3700 jobs and Manufacturing declined by 2500.

Illinois’ unemployment rate of 7.2% is 1.3% higher than the national average for June, which also increased by a tenth of a point. The state continues to recover from the pandemic shutdowns, however, as our current unemployment number is right about half what it was one year ago. In June 2020 when so many businesses were shut down, unemployment in Illinois was 14.2%.

Meanwhile, concerns are rising about the deficit in the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. When many thousands of Illinoisans lost their jobs last year the fund paid out billions in unemployment assistance. To help meet the demand the state borrowed more than $4 billion from Washington DC. Now the state is heading for a $5 billion deficit in the unemployment insurance trust fund, and starting in September the federal government will begin charging interest on the loan.

The longer this deficit goes unaddressed the greater the danger of seeing large increases in the taxes which Illinois businesses pay into the fund, or drastic reductions in the benefits unemployed Illinois receive from the fund. So far we have not seen a plan from the Pritzker administration for how to address this latest crisis.

Calling for more action on ethics reform

Last week the Legislative Inspector General (LIG), Carol Pope, resigned from her office as the General Assembly’s top ethics watchdog. She said that ethics reform “is not a priority” for the current leadership of the General Assembly. As I said last week, she is 100% correct, and I am among the many members of the House and Senate who have put forward ethics reform proposals which were ignored in the spring session.

The legislature passed a very weak ethics bill this spring. Many of us voted for it in the belief that some reform is better than none, but we also recognize that there is still much to be done. I have joined with more than 20 other representatives in signing a letter to Governor Pritzker asking him to use his amendatory veto powers to strengthen the ethics bill which was passed in May. One of the factors which Judge Pope pointed out in her resignation message was language in the bill, SB 539, which actually limits her office’s power to conduct investigations.

The Joint Commission on Ethics and Lobbying Reform has pointed out many of the weaknesses in our ethics laws, but SB 539 did little to address those weaknesses. Our letter to the Governor urged him to eliminate those restrictions from the bill and “use this opportunity to spark true, bipartisan, meaningful reforms that will empower the LIG, hold elected officials accountable and put Illinois on a better path forward.”

Lemonade stands legalized

We’ve all shaken our heads when we heard stories about antiquated laws which have unintended consequences for modern times. I am glad to report that this year we did something about one of these old statutes that threatened one of the great summer pastimes for youthful entrepreneurs. “Hayli’s Law” is legislation which we passed this spring to make clear that old Illinois laws governing grocery stores and other food retailers cannot be used to shut down kids’ lemonade stands.

This all began months ago when a 12-year-old in Kankakee County named Hayli Martinez had her lemonade stand shut down by authorities citing an old public health law about food inspections. Under a certain interpretation of the old statute, many kids could have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. The legislation which was passed this spring and signed this month allows lemonade stands to be operated by kids under 16 without having to obtain a temporary food permit from the local health department.

Supporting families of fallen law enforcement officers

I was honored to visit with more than 80 law enforcement, family members and supporters as they stopped in Dwight Saturday morning. They were part of a bicycle trip from Alton to Chicago to draw focus and support for Illinois Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), a non-profit organization which provides resources to assist in rebuilding the lives of surviving families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. Thank you to Steve and Erica Snyder and their family for hosting the group as they came through our area. It was a great day for a great cause! Visit ilcops.org for details.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $4,052,871,406 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $4.7 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 $141 billion.

More news from around the state

Business leaders hope Pritzker ends pandemic unemployment payments

Amtrak has resumed full service around Illinois

State ‘strongly encourages’ public, private colleges to require students to get COVID-19 vaccine

Department of Revenue issues automatic tax refunds to unemployment benefit recipients

Illinois to begin lifting eviction moratorium next month

Meet the more than 50 Olympic athletes with connections to Illinois

IDNR announces 2021 Habitat Fund Project grant applications

DNR has also announced 2021 Pheasant Fund Project grant applications

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