Illinois' first congressional remap draft is out but changes could be in store as lawmakers returned to Springfield this week for the first of their final two weeks of scheduled session in 2022.
It's customary for lawmakers to meet each fall to consider overriding or accepting any of the governor's vetoes or amendatory vetoes of legislation passed in the regular session. The two-week period is generally referred to as the fall "veto session."
But this year, lawmakers took their override votes when they were in town to consider a recently passed energy regulatory overhaul bill, leaving no more veto business to be considered over the next two weeks.
Instead, the congressional maps will be the main topic of discussion during the fall session, while lawmakers are also considering repealing a Parental Notice of Abortion law and making changes to the state's Health Care Right of Conscience Act to strengthen the governor's ability to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or testing requirements, among other potential actions.
Lawmakers unveiled draft congressional maps Oct. 15. But if they follow a similar process to the one taken to approve state legislative district maps earlier this year, there will likely be changes to the boundaries ahead of their final passage.
The remap effort will have national implications, as it will create the congressional boundaries for the next 10 years, including for the first midterm election under President Joe Biden next year.
The U.S. House is split 220-212 in favor of Democrats with three seats currently vacant – two last held by Democrats and one last held by a Republican. With Democrats firmly in control of the remap process in Illinois, national observers have noted the state would be pivotal to Democrats maintaining the balance of power in the House.
Illinois will have 17 congressional districts to draw this year, down from the 18 it had for the past 10 years, due to a population decline since the 2010 U.S Census. Currently, the state has 13 Democratic congressional representatives and five Republicans, but observers have noted the Democrats have several pathways to drawing a map to give the party a 14-3 advantage in the state.
Parental Notice of Abortion
Currently, Illinois has a law on the books stating "no person shall knowingly perform an abortion" on a person under the age of 18 unless the physician's office "has given at least 48 hours actual notice to an adult family member of the pregnant minor."
The notice requirement doesn't apply if a minor is accompanied by an adult family member or if an adult family member waives the notice in writing. Additionally, there are exceptions for minors who are victims of physical or sexual abuse or neglect by an adult family member. The law also allows for "judicial bypass," meaning the courts can waive the requirement in certain circumstances. The law does not require parental consent.
House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch was the cosponsor of a bill to repeal the parental notification requirement earlier this year, contained in House Bill 1797. That measure stalled in committee, but advocates have restarted the push in recent weeks to repeal the notice. Last week, Gov. JB Pritzker said he was in favor of repealing the parental notice law, although he was unsure if it would come for a vote in the veto session.
Health Care Right of Conscience
Pritzker has mandated vaccine or testing requirements for state workers in congregate settings, for health care providers and for school employees – although negotiations with one of the major unions representing many of those workers are still ongoing.
Now, the governor is seeking a change to an existing state law that some are using to defy the mandates and testing requirements based on religious beliefs.
The Health Care Right of Conscience Act defines conscience as "a sincerely held set of moral convictions arising from belief in and relation to God, or which, though not so derived, arises from a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by God among adherents to religious faiths." On those lines, certain care can be refused.
The governor's office has been promoting legislation that would narrow the allowable exemptions when it comes to COVID-19 requirements, although a spokesperson did not identify the exact language it was pursuing.
The state's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund has a deficit of $4.4 billion, according to the U.S. Treasury. This week, lawmakers are not expected to pass a long-term solution to pay down the debt – those talks are likely to come in the regular budgeting process next year.
But a major insurance premium hike for businesses and benefit cuts for people claiming unemployment is scheduled to take effect in January without legislative action, so negotiators on the unemployment front said the tentative plan is to push off the effective date of those rate changes to give lawmakers more time to consider a long-term fix.
Contact Jerry Nowicki at email@example.com.