The 2019 spring legislative session was full of wins for the Illinois Press Association and its members. Just as we have seen during previous legislative sessions, the IPA defeated several proposals that would have removed or eliminated public notices from newspapers.
Those attempts came primarily from one legislator in particular this year, Sen. Jim Oberweis (R-Sugar Grove). Oberweis sponsored six pieces of legislation to remove notices from newspapers, ranging from virtually every notice in the Municipal Code to assessment notices found in the Property Tax Code.
The IPA testified against most of these measures in committee and was able to ensure that they didn’t move to the Senate floor for a vote. The following measures from Sen. Oberweis were all defeated this legislative session:
Senate Bill 189, Status: Dead (Would have eliminated ALL newspaper notices from Municipal Code)
Senate Bill 1059 FA #1, Status: Dead (Would have eliminated assessment list publication)
Senate Bill 1059 FA #2, Status: Dead (Would have eliminated assessment list publication)
Senate Bill 1061 FA #1, Status: Dead (Would have eliminated assessment list publication)
Senate Bill 1061 FA #2, Status: Dead (Would have eliminated assessment list publication)
Senate Bill 1061 FA #3, Status: Dead (Would have eliminated assessment list publication)
That’s a lot of bills to propose during one session, the majority of them being filed after May 15.
School Statement of Affairs
House Bill 2485, sponsored by Rep. Dave Severin (R-Benton), sought to eliminate the publication of the school statement of affairs in newspapers. This bill was defeated in committee after failing to garner the requisite number of votes to proceed. Severin sponsored an identical measure last year that received only 29 votes in favor of passage on the House floor, less than half of the 60 votes required to advance to the Senate.
Plastic Bag Tax
The IPA was also involved in discussions regarding taxes on plastic bags. As none of our customers like receiving the newspaper after it has been ruined by weather, the IPA is firmly against any tax that will add to our members’ bottom line as they distribute their product. The IPA was supportive of Senate Bill 1240 sponsored by Sen. Terry Link (D-Indian Creek), which called for a 7-cents-per-bag tax. It provided 2 cents to the retailer, 2 cents to wholesalers, and 3 cents to the state.
The IPA supported this legislation because it specifically excluded newspapers from the tax and it would prevent local home-rule governments from enacting their own regulations on objects like plastic bags or Styrofoam containers. The measure was never called for a vote in the Senate.
The IPA remained neutral on House Bill 3335, sponsored by Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago). This bill would have imposed a 10-cent tax on bags. Of that, 3 cents would be returned to the retailer, with the rest being split among various environmental programs. While this legislation seemed to exempt newspapers, although not as specifically as Senate Bill 1240, it doesn’t provide for home rule preemption regarding additional taxes that could be placed on plastic bags. The IPA is in agreement with the business community that there is real need for a uniform statewide standard regarding this matter and that a patchwork of taxes and regulations related to plastic bags across Illinois would not be in our members' best interests. This bill was not called for a vote in the House.
Social Media Definition/Mugshots
The IPA was ultimately successful in the passage of Senate Bill 1699, sponsored by Sen. Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) and Rep. Maurice West (D-Rockford). This measure was initiated by the IPA as a trailer bill to mugshot legislation signed into law in 2018. While the news media was exempted under the previous bill, and still is according to this measure, the Chicago Police Department took the rather peculiar position (to put it nicely) that its forward facing public website could have been construed as a “social media” website under the new law and thus removed all mugshots from public view and quit sharing that type of information with the news media.
Most of this problem was caused by Illinois’ law lacking a firm definition of what constitutes a “social media” website. What Illinois does have, however, is a very clear definition of what constitutes a “social networking” website and that term will now take the place of the rather amorphous “social media” website used in the previous iteration of this statute. This should close the loophole the Chicago Police Department was using to not post mugshots on its public website and keep this information available to the news media.
The IPA was also actively involved in negotiations on two bills related to the Freedom of Information Act. Senate Bill 1929, sponsored by Sen. John Curran (R-Downers Grove) and Senate Bill 2135, sponsored by Sen. Terry Link (D-Indian Creek), were both flagged by the IPA as restricting access to certain information held by law enforcement. Both bills moved out of legislative committee with the caveat that the sponsors come to an agreement with the IPA before proceeding any further. The IPA appreciated the efforts of both Sens. Curran and Link to work with us on these bills and to make sure that there were no unintended consequences resulting from the changes they were seeking.
Manufacturers Purchase Credit (Graphics Arts)
Lastly, as many Illinois Press Association members are aware, IPA staff worked very hard during the 2017 state budget battle to advocate for and ultimately pass a permanent reinstatement of the Graphic Arts and Machinery Equipment sales tax exemption. As part of our efforts during that time, graphic arts production was once again recognized as a manufacturing process, thereby allowing those in the graphic arts profession to take advantage of the same tax credits used by other Illinois manufacturers.
Despite our efforts during that heated spring legislative session almost two years ago, the Manufacturer’s Purchase Credit, or MPC, remained expired and unavailable for commercial printers to help offset other production costs. Rules for utilizing the “old” MPC were difficult and hard to understand for most newspapers and commercial printers. Record keeping related to the credit was a nightmare and became an area often targeted by auditors.
Those days are gone.
The MPC has been reinstated and modernized, with the passage of Senate Bill 689. Beginning on July 1, the MPC will function as a straightforward sales tax exemption. This means that Illinois manufacturers, now defined to include graphic arts production, will no longer pay state or local sales tax on items consumed in the manufacturing process such as lubricants, coolants, fuel, oils, adhesives, and other such products. The new modern structure eliminates the old convoluted process for obtaining an MPC and replaces it with a permanent and straightforward sales tax exemption, making it far easier for printers to utilize.