Calling on Gov. Quinn to Negotiate Gaming Bill, Rep. Lou Lang Says State Should Not Guarantee Casino Owner Profits

(Springfield, IL) — It’s a sure bet that gaming expansion will come up during the Illinois legislature’s fall veto session, but who will win and who will bust is uncertain.

A plan to add five casinos throughout the state, expand the number of places where people can make bets at each casino, and allow video gambling at horse tracks eked out of the Legislature this spring but stalled in the face of opposition from Governor Pat Quinn.

Quinn has criticized the legislation repeatedly, calling it “top heavy.”

“The bill that they have proposed has many, many defects, and it needs to be improved substantially,” Quinn said earlier this week. “I’m going to speak about this later this month, and we’ll lay out some principles that I think ought to be used for the Legislature when it comes to gambling.”

Lawmakers will return Oct. 25 to the state Capitol for the start of the two-week veto session.

State Sen. President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has put a temporary hold on the gaming legislation, preventing it from going to Quinn, who could reject part or all of the package.

From the end of the spring session until now, Quinn and legislators have met to discuss the gaming legislation, said state Rep. Lou Lang D-Skokie, who sponsored the gaming package in the House.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations, but there’s been no negotiation. The governor’s office is unwilling to negotiate and unwilling to tell us exactly what he wants in a bill,” Lang said.

Quinn said he is concerned about oversaturation, referring to the 10 current casinos in Illinois.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Lang Applauds Quinn Approval of Mental Health Parity, But Expresses “Concern” over Budget Cuts

State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie)

(Skokie, IL) — August 25, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn last week signed legislation that requires insurance companies to provide insurance parity for both mental health care and substance abuse treatment, drawing praise for the measure’s approval but concern over funding from the measure’s legislative sponsor.

“No one should be forced to forgo critical mental health care because of where they live or because their insurance charges more for the necessary treatment,” said Quinn.

The legislation, House Bill 1530, sponsored by State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and State Senator Willie Delgado (D-Chicago), prevents insurers from imposing additional barriers within the policy – such as financial requirements, treatment limitations, lifetime limits or annual limits – to treatments for mental, emotional, nervous and substance abuse disorders if no such stipulations exist for other health conditions.

The new Illinois new law exceeds the requirements of the recently-enacted federal mental health parity law, according to Lang.

“Federal enforcement is a more remote, lighter touch, relying on telephone calls and mail,” said Lang. “By matching state law to the federal standards, the Illinois Insurance Department can enforce the federal standards more aggressively than the federal government could by virtue of state face-to-face enforcement activities.”

Despite the governor’s signature on this legislation, Lang, the former Chairman of the House Committee on Mental Health Reform, expressed concern that Quinn’s effort to deeply cut funding for both mental health and substance abuse treatment services in this year’s budget undermines the coherence of any state strategy to improve behavioral health care in Illinois.

“Of course, I appreciate the governor’s signature on the mental health parity bill,” said Lang. “But we can’t slash funding for behavioral health care and then turn around and pat ourselves on the back and claim we’re helping the mentally ill.”

In the FY 2012 budget, Quinn proposed cutting $33 million from mental health director services and $63 million from substance abuse treatment, eliminating services for nearly 75,000 individuals.

“We have to pursue coherent behavioral health care strategy both on the substance and on the money,” said Lang.

Better Government Association Hosts Illinois Gaming Expansion Debate, Featuring Rep. Lou Lang, Others

(Chicago, IL) – Illinois’ Better Government Association will sponsor a debate tonight on Illinois gaming legislation sitting on Governor Pat Quinn’s desk between high-profile proponents and opponents, including Illinois House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

Moderated by Andy Shaw, President and CEO, of the watchdog group, two panels square off against each other at the Union League Club of Chicago on Wednesday evening for two-hours.

Lang, who sponsored the legislation, and Michael J. Mini, Director of Governmental Relations, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce face opponents Rev. Phillip L. Blackwell, Senior Pastor, at the First United Methodist Church of the Temple and Anita Bedell, Executive Director, Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems.

“Illinois legalized gaming decades ago. That debate is over,” said Lang. “The question before us is this: is the state going to fully the develop its economic potential of a key tourism sector to save or create 90,000 jobs and bring $1.5 billion to the state treasury?”

Quinn is weighing whether to sign or veto the legislation which include a casino for Chicago, a top economic priority of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The Union League Club is located at 65 West Jackson Blvd. The debate will be held in the Crystal Room, 5th Floor. Registration begins at 5:00 P.M.; the program is 5:30 to 7:00 P.M. An audience Q & A session will follow the panel discussion.

AUDIO: Rep. Lou Lang Explains Illinois Gaming Expansion Bill During House Floor Debate

(Springfield, IL) — June 2, 2011. You want to hear more about Illinois gaming expansion? Illinois House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie) provides a full explanation of the Illinois gaming expansion legislation, Senate Bill 744, during the House floor debate on the bill.

The plan would generate $1.5 billion from upfront fees, which would be used to help pay the state’s $4.5 billion in unpaid bills, and produce $500 million annually for education and other state services, according to Lang.

Listen to Lang’s comments here:

Governor Pat Quinn, who has referred to the legislation as “top heavy”, is reviewing the measure.

Illinois House Approves, 65-50, Rep. Lou Lang’s Illnois Gaming Expansion Plan

(Springfield, IL) – May 31, 2011.The Illinois House yesterday approved, 65-50, a fresh gaming expansion package that will devote more than $1.5 billion of up-front and other fees to pay the state’s backlog of overdue bills, add at least $500 million annually to the state treasury, and create or save 90,000 jobs.

“This revised gaming legislation will critically boost the Illinois economy by creating 50,000 new jobs, saving 40,000 jobs linked to the horse racing industry, and providing more than $1.5 billion to pay the state’s overdue bills, said House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie), chief House sponsor of the legislation.

“These are top priorities for both Governor Pat Quinn and the legislature,” Lang stated.

Continue reading

Lou Lang: Illinois Minimum Wage Hike for 400,000 Workers, 70,000 New Jobs Boost Illinois Economy, Governor Pat Quinn

House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie)

(Skokie, IL) — July 20, 2010. The Illinois economy has recently generated some welcome news on a couple fronts for both Illinois workers and Governor Pat Quinn.

First, the Illinois minimum wage increased to $8.25 an hour on July 1, after increasing to $8.00 only a year ago, while, second, the state witnessed an increase of 70,000 new jobs since January, defying naysayers who said a minimum wage hike would kill job growth.

According to an Economic Policy Institute study, the increase in the minimum wage will help over 409,000 Illinois workers confront the rising cost-of-living and better afford basic necessities like groceries, gas, rent, childcare and medicine, while simultaneously helping to boost the Illinois economy.

“The Illinois Department of Labor has worked diligently to ensure workers receive fair wages, so they can meet their basic needs and have the ability to spend more, which in turn helps stimulate the economy,” said Director Catherine Shannon.

Illinois’ minimum wage rose, due to legislation that I supported, to $7.50 an hour in July 2007, with automatic increases of 25 cents per year built in over the next three following years to $7.75 on July 1, 2008; $8.00 on July 1, 2009; and $8.25 on July 1, 2010. This is the last automatic increase provided for by the law.

Illinois is one of 14 states with a higher minimum wage than the federal standard of $7.25. Only Washington ($8.55) and Oregon ($8.40) have higher minimum wage rates than Illinois. In the Midwest, only neighboring Michigan, at $7.40 per hour, joins Illinois, exceeding the federal level.

Raising the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour will generate an additional $520 in annual wages for a full-time minimum wage worker, up to $17,160 per year. Additionally, full time minimum wage workers in Illinois will earn $2,080 more in annual wages than workers receiving the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, according to the Illinois Department of Labor.

Violators of the minimum wage will face state investigations to help ensure compliance with the law.  In 2009, the Illinois Department of Labor conducted over 1,500 investigations of alleged violations and collected over $1.4 million in underpaid wages to Illinois workers.

Workers under 18 may be paid 50 cents less per hour less than the adult minimum wage. Tip credits may be up to but not exceed 40 percent of the minimum wage.

In a study by the Voices for Illinois Children, the child advocacy group found that more than 80% of minimum wage workers in Illinois are working adults, not teenagers, and one-third of minimum wage earners are sole breadwinners for their families. Additionally, approximately 144,000 of the workers who would benefit directly from the minimum wage increase are working parents and nearly 60% of them are women.

Not every one, however, is a fan of the minimum wage.

Kim Maisch, Illinois Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, recently claimed that state lawmakers in 2006 failed account for a potential economic downturn in which businesses would be less able to cope financially with a minimum wage increase.

“This is a classic example why lawmakers should not build in automatic increases to the minimum wage.”

However, the Illinois seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped -0.4 points from 11.2% to 10.8% in May, according to data released recently by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The over-the-month decline is the largest since October 1983.

Additionally, Illinois has added 70,000 jobs so far this year, more than any other midwestern state, according to department data.

“Five months of positive job growth coupled with two consecutive months of declines in the unemployment rate offer reasons for cautious optimism,” Director Maureen O’Donnell said.

While the Illinois unemployment rate remains stubbornly and unacceptably high–and above the national rate of 9.5%–70,000 new Illinois jobs and more than 400,000 workers with more money in their pocket will help jump-start Illinois’ economic recovery.

This is good news for workers and Quinn who is looking to hold onto his job in November.

Governor Pat Quinn Approves Rep. Lou Lang’s Bill to End Predator 1,000% Interest Pay Day Loans in Illinois

Governor Pat Quinn

(Chicago, IL) – Governor Pat Quinn yesterday signed legislation into law that eliminates 1,000% interest “pay day loans” in Illinois.

Quinn signed a bill into law that will increase protections for Illinois residents obtaining consumer installment loans and cap interest rates charged by consumer finance companies.

“Many consumers who take out short-term loans are doing so as a last resort to pay their bills and provide for their families.” said Quinn. “It is important that we do everything we can to protect these consumers who are already hurting, by helping to make these loans more affordable.”

The legislation, House Bill 537, sponsored by House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie) protects consumers by setting “reasonable” interest rates for loans.

Payday loan predators have peddled consumer installment loans in Illinois with interest rates that have averaged 341% and have reached 1,000%. Under the new law, rates on consumer installment loans will be capped at 99% for loans $4,000 and less and 36% for loans greater than $4,000.

“The days of legal loan-sharking are gone,” said Lang. “This new law will end the financial serfdom imposed on struggling, working families by payday loan companies.”

During February 2006 through December 2008 204,205 payday loan consumers took out 1,194,582 payday loans, or an average of 5.9 loans per consumer, according to March 2009 report by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said, “House Bill 537 reigns in abusive and predatory lending practices and protects consumers. I want to thank … Representative Lang, the Governor’s Office and consumer advocates for their hard work on this important consumer protection legislation.”

The new law also includes provisions to help borrowers repay loans more easily:

  • Lending is based upon the borrower’s ability to repay the loan.
  • Monthly payments on consumer installment loans are limited to 22.5 percent of the borrower’s gross monthly income.
  • In order to give borrowers enough time to repay the loan, the new minimum loan term will be set at six months – an increase from the previous four month term.
  • The law also eliminates balloon payments and prevents lenders from penalizing borrowers for paying off loans early.

“We look forward to working with licensed lenders and their customers to make sure this law is strictly enforced,” said Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation Brent Adams.

The law also expands the existing statewide database that tracks payday loans to also track consumer installment loans, which will enable the state to ensure that lenders are complying with the new law.

The law takes effect within nine months of Quinn’s signature.