By Stephen S. Morrill // Morrill & Associates, PC
After three years of virtual hearings, remote voting, and severely truncated session schedules caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Illinois General Assembly wrapped up a relatively “normal” 2023 spring session just after midnight on May 27, 2023. Following a two-week lame duck session in early January, the 103rd General Assembly was sworn in and began its work in earnest, filing a staggering 7,910 bills (compared to 2,830 in 2022).
The Illinois General Assembly will convene its fall veto session on October 24-26 and November 7-9.
Key Substantive Legislation
Morrill & Fiedler (M&F) has monitored, on behalf of the Midwest Independent Retailer’s Association (MIRA), all proposed ordinances within the City of Chicago and Cook County, as well as all bills and amendments of interest filed before the Illinois General Assembly throughout spring session. In addition to the substantial work of monitoring an unusually high volume of bills, M&F, on behalf of MIRA, successfully navigated a significant number of legislative initiatives impacting the retail grocer industry. Below is a summary of the advocacy efforts by M&F on priority county and state matters.
- M&F worked with Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller to enact a trailer ordinance to clarify Cook County’s ordinance allowing a property tax assessment reduction to grocery stores located in, locating into, or expanding operations in certified food deserts. That final ordinance, 23-1644, was approved on April 27, 2023.
- M&F worked with other business organizations to defeat a progressive caucus proposal to cap retailer discount at $2,000 per retailer.
- HB 3811 (Burke/Cunningham) – Senate proposed “reforms” to Biometric Information Protection Act (BIPA).
- IL Trial Lawyers Association, ACLU, and business groups met for months in an attempt to negotiate BIPA reforms that would balance employer concerns with employee protections.
- Senate amendments 2, 3 & 4 would: (a) increased fines from $1,000 to $1,500 per occurrence; (b) added “electronic signature” as an eligible type of violation; and (c) clarified circumstances in which the same action only counts as a single violation. None of the amendments provided language to clarify that a violation only occurs when actual harm is proven.
- Amendments did not reflect negotiations and were strongly opposed by the business community.
- HB 3811, and all Senate amendments, were held and did not advance out of Senate committee.
- BIPA negotiations continue and the issue is expected to be considered during the 2023 fall veto session.
- SB 850 (Belt/Canty) – creates $20M grant program for grocery stores to combat food deserts.
- A priority included in Governor Pritzker’s proposed budget in February, this bill tasks DCEO with the creation of a Grocery Initiative to increase access to healthy food throughout the state.
- Independently owned for profit grocery stores, cooperatives, not-for-profit grocery stores, and grocery stores owned by units of local government will be eligible for the Grocery Initiative Grant program.
- $20 million appropriation included within FY24 budget (SB 250).
- SB 850 passed both chambers, has been sent to the Governor for his signature, and is expected to be signed into law by August 21, 2023.
As members of the IL General Assembly return to their districts for the summer, M&F will remain active on behalf of MIRA, strengthening relationships within the Office of the Governor and DCEO to assist in developing the state grant program for food deserts, working with MIRA membership that may qualify for the Cook County property tax incentive and state grant program, strengthening alliances between MIRA and Cook County Commissioners, and facilitating introductions to Chicago Mayor Johnson and his administrative appointees and to newly-elected City aldermen to educate them on the benefits MIRA members provide to the City and its residents.
The recent closing of multiple grocery stores within the Chicago-metro area, as detailed in an August 2023 Crain’s Chicago Business article, highlight the continued struggle facing both grocery stores and neighborhoods, and has kept a continued focus by elected officials to address food deserts in Illinois.