New Year brings new laws as the 100thGeneral Assembly ends. Here are a few wins for Illinois taxpayers.

The Illinois General Assembly spent nearly 50 days in Springfield for legislative sessions in 2018. Thousands of bills churned through the legislature, and 517 became new laws.

There were bright spots as taxpayers gained some relief from the following changes:

McHenry County township consolidation – House Bill 4637: state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Cary

HB 4637 relaxes requirements to abolish townships in McHenry County by allowing residents to initiate the consolidation process. It also lowers the threshold of required signatures to get on the ballot from the current 10 percent, down to 5 percent.

Axing golden parachutes – Senate Bill 3604: state Sen. Thomas Cullerton, D-Villa Park

This measure, known as the “golden parachute bill,” aims to protect taxpayers against lavish severance payouts for outgoing government leaders. The bill imposes a fixed ceiling on government workers’ severance pay, capping payouts at the equivalent of 20 weeks of compensation. The bill also reestablishes severance packages as a privilege, rather than an entitlement: Government employees terminated due to misconduct would be barred from receiving severance packages.

Licensing transparency for ex-offenders – Senate Bill 2853: state Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry

SB 2853 assists ex-offenders navigating their way into the labor force. The bill requires the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to include information on its website that explains how specific offenses correspond to the agency’s policies regarding occupational licensure.

Teacher licensing reform – Senate Bill 2658: state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo

SB 2658 relaxes educator licensing renewal requirements for military service members and their spouses. Currently, educator license holders must renew their license once every two years. This bill changes the requirement to just once every three years for educator license holders who serve – or have a spouse serving – in the U.S. Armed Forces. While most licensing authorities require periodic license renewal, this can be especially burdensome for military families, because of the regularity with which they relocate. This bill eases this burden by increasing the longevity of their educator licenses.

Protecting small businesses from overregulation – House Bill 5253: state Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills

This bill requires regulatory agencies to examine the potential economic impact that proposed regulations might have on small businesses. Small businesses are hit hardest by overregulation, given their limited capacity to shoulder compliance costs compared with that of their larger counterparts. HB 5253 is one small step toward protecting small business owners from unnecessary and burdensome regulations.

Looking towards 2019 

Though lawmakers were not successful in advancing major reforms to state spending, many of the bills passed make small changes that move Illinois in a better direction. Looking ahead, lawmakers should prioritize those pressing issues facing Illinois, such as unfunded pension liabilities. Passing a budget spending cap would be a good place to begin.