Senate lawmakers return to Springfield April 10, and will continue their efforts to finalize a state budget and finish legislative business for the spring session by a scheduled adjournment date of May 31.
During the week, the Senate Gaming Committee met to discuss legalization of sports wagering in Illinois, while the Senate Appropriations II Committee met on budget requests for a number of state agencies.
In other legislative news, Senate Republican lawmakers are sponsoring proposals to crack down on robo-calls, and supporting a constitutional amendment that would cap state spending and link any future spending increases to economic growth.
Senate Gaming Committee met on sports betting
The Senate Gaming Committee met this week to discuss sports wagering legislation pending in the Senate, holding a “subject matter only” hearing on April 3.
Though no votes on any proposal took place, lawmakers discussed the potential benefits and pitfalls of proposals that would allow for the authorization and regulation of sports betting or electronic sports betting in Illinois (SB 2478), including legislation that would authorize the sports wagering licenses at horse racing facilities and inter-track wagering locations (SB 3125). Another bill considered by the committee (SB 3432) would authorize sports wagering, including electronic betting, at riverboat gaming facilities.
Advocates underscored that legalizing and regulating sports wagering would allow the state to capture tax revenue that is currently being directed to illegal, black-market betting operations. Those pushing for the measure cited a financial windfall estimated at anywhere from $300 million to $680 million annually, which if taxed at 10 percent could lead to an estimated $30 million to $60 million in new tax revenue for the state.
Representatives for professional sports leagues, which have opposed sports betting in the past, now offer their support for measures that offer a legal and safe way to bet on sporting events; however, the MLB and NBA also argued for a small percentage of any future profits from future gaming on league games, noting it is their games that would be generating the revenues.
However, opponents raised concerns about the impact legalization of sports wagering could have on Illinois’ current casinos, while others expressed concerns that expanding the gaming industry in Illinois to include sports gambling would lead to increased problem and pathological gambling in the state.
There is currently a federal ban on sports wagering for most states; however, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a decision to overturn the ban. It is widely anticipated that the nation’s high court will open the gate to sports betting. All of Illinois’ neighboring states, with the exception of Wisconsin, have introduced legislation to conduct sports wagering in the event sports betting is legalized.
Senate budget committees continue to meet
As the General Assembly enters the home stretch to the scheduled session adjournment date of May 31, the Senate appropriations committees continue to meet to discuss budget requests from the state’s agencies, boards and commissions. Lawmakers will use this information as they prepare to enter into budget negotiations in earnest over the coming weeks.
This week, the Senate Appropriations II Committee heard testimony from the University of Illinois, as well as some of the state’s largest agencies—including the Departments of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Natural Resources, and Agriculture.
Measure seeks to combat robo-calls
Seeking to place stricter consequences on those behind the bothersome barrage of robo-calls that keep cell phones ringing around the clock, Senate Republican lawmakers are calling for legislative action on Senate Bill 2573 that aims to address the growing problem of robo-calls throughout the state.
The legislation makes it easier for the Attorney General to crack down on those who violate the Illinois Automated Dialers Act by making the act of “spoofing,” where callers disguise their real number by showing up as a different number from the recipient’s caller ID system, a separate violation.
Senate Bill 2573 also requires prior written consent before callers can use an auto-dialer to initiate a telemarketing call. Both of these changes would align Illinois law with federal law, and would also make the unlawful practices subject to enforcement by the Attorney General.
Supporters note that while many robo-calls are simply bothersome, the low cost of auto-dialers allows criminals to easily afford mass phone calls, making it easier than ever to advance fraudulent and deceptive practices.
Estimates place the number of robo-calls per month at 2.4 billion in 2016—that’s up 1.5 billion from 2015. The increase is largely due to Internet-powered phone systems that have made it cheaper and easier to place these calls from anywhere in the world. In October, the Federal Communications Commission reported that telemarketing calls were the number one consumer complaint.
Legislation caps state spending, links spending to economic growth
Nearly 20 years of annual overspending exacerbated by the lack of job-creating, economic-stimulating reforms have contributed to a fiscal crisis that is stymying employment opportunities and driving residents out of Illinois. In response, a measure has been introduced that would place a cap on state spending, while also linking state spending growth to economic growth.
Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 21 would limit the growth of government, ensuring state spending can only increase if the Illinois economy is robust enough to sustain the spending increase. Supporters say the reform will not only have a positive impact on Illinois taxpayers, it will attract job creators, grow the state’s flagging population and boost local and state economies.
If Illinois had sustained just average economic growth from 2002 through today, the state would have benefitted from approximately $20 billion worth of additional revenue.