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Right of conscience and economic development may be part of fall veto session

Illinois State Capitol Building Springfield.jpg
by jwayne810, licensed under CC BY 2.0
State lawmakers head to Springfield during a portion of the final two weeks of October for the fall veto session of the General Assembly.
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A little known 1998 state law is the next flash point for those debating vaccine mandates with some school districts beginning to use the Health Care Right of Conscience Act to fight Gov. JB Pritzker's executive order requiring teachers and health care workers to take regular COVID tests if they don't get the vaccine.

A move to weaken that law and bolster the testing order could come before the upcoming fall veto session of the state legislature.

Republican State Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington said he hasn't seen the proposal yet.

"I think there is a basis for the right of conscience act and I have been very open that I am one who is concerned about governmental mandates, especially as they might pertain to individuals and to parents of young children," said Barickman.

Some believe the furor over vaccine mandates is overstated, and that those who quit jobs rather than take regular COVID tests is far less than 1%. Barickman said the numbers are not the issue.

"These are individuals and these are individuals who are professing their individual rights and freedoms. I think whether it is one person or millions of people, individual rights are things we need to stand for and fight for," he said.

Barickman also repeated a frequently voiced position of his that he believes policy is best set by lawmakers and not through executive orders of the governor, even when the issue is a tough vote either way.

Supporters of the vaccine mandate have pointed to laws requiring childhood vaccines that function in the interest of public health and lower childhood mortality as a basis for adult vaccine mandates.

Economic development incentives

State Rep. Dave Vella has filed a bill to beef up economic development incentives to help Illinois attract more of the electric vehicle market. Vella is a Rockford area Democrat whose district includes an auto plant. Part of the restructuring could lengthen the term of EDGE tax credit eligibility from 10 years to 20 years. EDGE is an acronym for “Economic Development for a Growing Economy."

Like Vella, Barickman has an auto plant — Rivian — in his community, and he called called EDGE a "particularly useful" program. He said each proposal must be evaluated on its own merits, but it is possible to create a good deal for the state by offering longer term incentives even when the effect on state coffers from tax credits may be longer term as well.

"The principle is that there is some level of balance that's being placed, so there is an incentive on one hand, but there is an offset that's a result of economic growth and employment-based growth and there are metrics in place that the businesses have to meet," said Barickman.

The Rivian plant in Normal received some state incentives in 2017 through the EDGE program as an incentive to create 1,000 jobs. So far, Rivian has created about three times that number of jobs in Bloomington-Normal.

Another potential element of the legislative package on statewide economic development is a proposal to require targeted local property tax reductions in the communities that would be a home for a new development.

Traditionally, local governing bodies have made those decisions on incentives with separate agreements on property tax abatements. That can make the process of securing a new business more cumbersome and the rationale for having state control over that portion of the incentive package would be to streamline it.

Barickman has traditionally supported local control in several policy areas. He said if the state is going to deal with property taxes and how they are levied, it should do so in an overarching sense, not just for economic development.

"One of the significant problems that exists in Illinois is our very significant property taxes that continue to rise in unpredictable amounts year after year," said Barickman.

The veto session is during the final two weeks of the month. There is no guarantee such a legislative package will mature during the time lawmakers are scheduled to be in Springfield.

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