CAPITOL RECAP: Pritzker signs electric vehicle manufacturing incentives into law

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law a tax incentives package Tuesday, Nov. 16, that state lawmakers hope will help Illinois become a manufacturing hub for the budding electric vehicle industry.

The Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois, or REV, Act, passed the General Assembly with near-unanimous bipartisan support during the recently concluded fall session. It provides tax credits for income tax withheld for EV manufacturers and costs to train new or retained employees.

It also applies to the manufacturers of EV parts, such as batteries. It’s an effort to lure new manufacturers to Illinois while incentivizing existing manufacturers to invest in their Illinois facilities and workers.

The tax credits created by the new law range from 75 percent to 100 percent of income tax withheld for creating new jobs or 25 percent to 50 percent for retained employees, depending on factors such as company location and number of employees hired. A 10 percent credit for training expenses would also be available.

Tax credits for construction wages and building materials are also included in the bill.

The added incentives complement Illinois’ other advantages when it comes to manufacturing, Pritzker said, but they are needed to make Illinois competitive with other states from a financial perspective.

Bill sponsor state Sen. Steve Stadelman, D-Rockford, said that’s particularly true in Belvidere near his district, where the Stellantis manufacturing company, which produces Jeeps at the location, is reportedly considering retooling its facility to manufacture electric vehicles.

The state has also been looking to lure a joint battery manufacturing venture announced by Stellantis and tech giant Samsung.

The other advantages to choosing Illinois, according to Pritzker, are a centralized location in the U.S., strong infrastructure, the second-largest crop of computer science engineer graduates in the nation and a pair of major national laboratories.

Republicans were broadly supportive of the tax incentives package. But during floor debate, they peppered the bill’s Democratic sponsors with questions as to why the governor froze a similar tax incentives package known as the Blue Collar Jobs Act as part of his budget proposal for the current year, grouping it with other policies he referred to as “corporate tax loopholes.”

The measure also has support from the state’s manufacturing industry.

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ELECTIONS LAW: A new law in Illinois aims to ban out-of-state contributions and so-called “dark money” in judicial campaigns by requiring all candidates to disclose the sources of their contributions.

Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday signed Senate Bill 536 into law, an omnibus elections bill that makes a number of other changes to the way elections are conducted.

Under the bill, no judicial campaign committee is allowed to accept contributions from any out-of-state source or any person or entity that does not disclose the identity of those making the contribution, except for contributions that are below the threshold for itemizing.

The bill also raises the threshold for itemizing contributions to $1,000, up from $500.

It also prohibits people from making or accepting anonymous contributions or contributions made in someone else’s name.

Democrats pushed the bill through the General Assembly on the final day of the fall veto session. It came about partly in response to the 2020 elections in which Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride, a Democrat, was defeated for retention, the first time in state history that a state Supreme Court justice failed to win retention.

 “Trying to avoid dark money in elections, I think is something that we can all get behind” Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, said during debate on the House floor.

Republicans, however, argued that it was a partisan maneuver designed to help Democrats protect their current 4-3 majority on the court.

“So, in my opinion, this is another effort for the majority to change the rules of the game because they don't like the outcome,” Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said.

The new law also includes other changes, including one giving voters the option of identifying as male, female or non-binary on their voter registration applications so their gender identity can match what appears on their passport or driver’s license.

It also allows people to apply for permanent vote-by-mail ballots year round. And it requires all polling places to have at least one polling booth that is wheelchair accessible.

Another provision creates a new 15-member task force to “review current laws and make recommendations to improve access to voting for persons with disabilities.”

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REMAP LAWSUIT: Plaintiffs in three lawsuits challenging the new legislative district maps that Democrats pushed through the General Assembly earlier this year submitted their proposed changes Wednesday, Nov. 10, which would create more Latino- and Black-majority districts in Cook County and the Metro East region.

The latest filings, submitted to a three-judge federal court panel Wednesday night, will be the subject of a combined hearing that is tentatively set for the week of Dec. 6, although exact dates have not yet been announced.

Along with the proposed new maps, the filings also include written testimony of expert witnesses and arguments as to why the plaintiffs believe the approved maps are unconstitutional and violate the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The plaintiffs include the two top Republican leaders in the General Assembly, Sen. Dan McConchie, of Hawthorn Woods, and Rep. Jim Durkin, of Western Springs, who hope to use the case to chip away at the Democrats’ current supermajorities in both the Illinois House and Senate.

Another set of plaintiffs includes a group of Chicago-area Latino voters represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF.

The third set of plaintiffs includes the East St. Louis branch of the NAACP, which argues that Black areas in and around East St. Louis that could have made up a Black-majority district were deliberately broken up and spread across separate House districts in order to protect two white incumbent Democrats.

All three of the suits name House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, Senate President Don Harmon and the Illinois State Board of Elections, along with its individual members, as defendants. They seek an order to block ISBE from implementing the maps that Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law Sept. 24 and to adopt the new maps that they have submitted to the court.

All three sets of plaintiffs rely heavily on a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court precedent from North Carolina, Thornburg v. Gingles, which set out three factors needed to invalidate legislative district maps on the grounds of racial discrimination.

Under that standard, plaintiffs must show that the minority groups at issue are sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district; that the minority groups are politically cohesive; and that the majority votes sufficiently as a bloc such that it can usually defeat the minority’s preferred candidate.

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SUPREME COURT RAPE CASE: The rideshare company Lyft argued before the Illinois Supreme Court Wednesday, Nov. 10, that a 2014 state law protects it from being held liable for the criminal actions of one of its drivers who allegedly raped a passenger in 2017.

The case centers on the constitutionality of the state’s first law to regulate the industry, passed in 2014, and could have implications for the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Lyft that specifically addressed constitutional concerns.

The alleged rape occurred in July 2017 in Chicago, when the plaintiff, referred to in court filings as Jane Doe, used the Lyft app on her phone to schedule a ride after a night out with friends. She was picked up by Lyft driver Angelo McCoy, and fell asleep in the back of the vehicle and was later raped, according to the court filing by her lawyer, J. Timothy Eaton, of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP.

The Supreme Court was not asked to consider whether Lyft could be held directly liable for negligence or fraud. Instead, the legal question is whether Lyft can be held “vicariously” liable for the acts committed by McCoy.

Key to the case is the 2014 Transportation Network Providers Act, passed on the final day of the General Assembly’s legislative session on Dec. 3 of that year.

Discussion in legal filings centered on a specific provision of the Transportation Network Providers Act that states that rideshare drivers “are not common carriers, contract carriers or motor carriers, as defined by applicable State law, nor do they provide taxicab or for-hire vehicle service.”

Lyft argues that language differentiating Lyft from other “common carriers” means it is not subject to the same liability as a taxicab company – which is a common carrier, along with other modes of transportation such as airplanes and railcars.

But Doe’s team argued that if the General Assembly wanted to grant such immunity, it should have spelled it out directly.

Doe’s court filing argued that a passenger’s safety is in the driver’s hands, whether in a cab or a Lyft, which makes that a “special” relationship which holds the driver to the “highest duty of care.”

If the court does decide that the Transportation Network Providers Act grants immunity to rideshare companies, Doe’s team argued, then it should determine that the law unconstitutionally favors a specific industry, and it should be struck down on those grounds.

But Lyft’s lawyers, along with Raoul, argued that such a reading of law would constitute an overreach by the court, because lawmakers made a reasonable judgement that the industry is different than the taxicab industry and should be regulated differently.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.