Full spring session agenda on tap for COVID-seasoned legislature

Writen by Greg St. Aubin |

Published: March 29, 2021 |

Reading Time: 4 min

After all but canceling the 2020 spring session during COVID-19, the Illinois General Assembly, like the rest of us, has learned to adapt and legislators are making plans to tackle a wide array of issues with both in-person sessions in Springfield and virtual meetings.

by Greg St. Aubin, Illinois REALTORS®
Senior Vice President, Governmental Affairs

Let’s take a look at the key issues Illinois REALTORS® will be advocating this spring:

Disaster proclamation, eviction moratorium and rental assistance program

We had another intense battle during the lame-duck legislative session in January, with tenant groups trying to statutorily extend the ban on evictions to the fall of 2022, and to use the COVID-19 crisis to extract other restrictions on housing providers.

Illinois REALTORS®, conversely, advocated for ending the moratorium by law THIS spring, and to do so in an orderly fashion by giving property owners a financial incentive for renewing leases and keeping tenants in place. A meeting seeking to cobble together an agreement was held with Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan on his final day in power, but the legislation did not pass both chambers.

We now proceed anew with the 102nd General Assembly, 14 new legislators, a new set of rules and committee structures in each chamber, new Speaker in the House Chris Welch (D-Hillside), and new Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods).

We have had discussions with the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) to discuss details of the state’s distribution of the $566.2 million allocated to Illinois in federal Emergency Rental Assistance Funds meant to pay down back rent owed by tenants. An additional $268.5 million in rental aid was distributed directly to 10 large local units of government in Illinois for local distribution.

As the debate goes on, Illinois REALTORS® will tenaciously defend and protect consumers and housing providers, and advocate for policies that will help everyone across the housing spectrum emerge from this challenging time with a positive outlook.  We will also continue to thwart efforts to enact harmful policies some groups will try to attach to any relief legislation that advances.

Affordable housing vs. anti-housing agendas

A top priority of Illinois REALTORS® will be advocating for an agenda that prioritizes the need for more housing by removing or reducing regulatory barriers and by leading the way on implementing integrative housing policies that attract rather than repel investment in communities.

We crafted a specific legislative initiative towards these ends which provides for creative and targeted income tax, property tax and sales tax incentives that will foster the creation of new affordable housing units and keep affordable units affordable. Watch this page and look for the State Capitol Report for updates on this initiative.

Rent control, sealing of evictions, no application fee, source of income

As mentioned above, we will continue to have policy battles with those who advocate for a more confiscatory, punitive and government-controlled approach to housing policy.

One of the new committees this year, the House Housing Committee, will be chaired by Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) and vice-chaired by Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago). Rep. Guzzardi is the legislative champion of lifting the state’s ban on local rent control ordinances, and Rep. Ramirez sponsored legislation last spring and during the January lame-duck session that would have cancelled rent and extended the eviction moratorium well into 2022.

No doubt we are in store for some interesting and challenging committee discussions. But we have an ongoing dialog with these lawmakers, and as always, we will come prepared to strongly advocate from our point of view with the professionalism, respect and constructive approach that has served us well over the years.

Cook County tax assessments

Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi will continue his efforts to change the way commercial property is assessed for property tax purposes. We have had some concerns in the past, but discussions will be ongoing. Given the hit that commercial real estate has taken because of COVID-19, we want to ensure we are not heaping excessive burdens on commercial property.

Wage payment and collection act

One of our most important jobs as your advocates at the state and local levels is ensuring that your business is not disrupted, whether intentionally or not, by legislative, regulatory or judicial means. Along these lines, we are pursuing legislation this spring that will ensure the ability of our members to function as “independent contractors” is not jeopardized.

Clean energy

We are currently delving into a 900-page bill that seeks to enact the Clean Jobs Equity Act. This is a major, comprehensive clean energy and energy efficiency initiative that will have far-reaching impact throughout society, including on our state’s housing. The bill appears to establish ambitious new energy efficient building standards for residential and commercial new construction and renovation. Stay tuned to the State Capitol Report, our blog and other publications for further developments as they occur. 

Participate in 2021 Virtual Lobby Days

REALTOR® Lobby Days is going virtual this year and members have a chance to be a part of our most powerful advocacy efforts ever – a series of live, uninterrupted virtual lobbying sessions with the most prominent and powerful members of the Illinois General Assembly on April 12, April 19 and May 3. Register now for these member-only events and get an exclusive opportunity to hear what these dynamic leaders have to say about real estate related issues.

About the writer: Greg St. Aubin is Illinois REALTORS® Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs.

Your Illinois REALTORS® Legal Team