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In November, Illinois voters could be asked about IVF coverage and the millionaire's tax

Illinois voters could be asked this November whether millionaires should be taxed more, whether insurance policies in Illinois should be required to cover in vitro fertilization treatments and whether candidates running for office should face civil penalties if they interfere with poll workers.

These questions are part of a larger bill that passed the Illinois House of Representatives on Wednesday.

If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, they would appear on the ballot in an advisory, non-binding capacity. This means they would have no weight if voters said “yes.”

Insurance coverage for IVF treatments

Voters would be asked whether insurance policies covering pregnancy care in Illinois should be required to cover all forms of assisted reproductive treatments, including in vitro fertilization, without restrictions.

Lawmakers tend to use these questions to gauge support for current issues before introducing legislation.

“In light of the recent decision in Alabama regarding in vitro fertilization, we [believe that] We would like to understand how the general public feels about this,” Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), the measure’s sponsor, told the House Executive Committee.

He was referring to a February Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos used for IVF should be considered children.

Lawmakers also use these questions to entice people to vote in important election years. The theory is that putting issues like IVF on the ballot, even if only advisory in nature, will drive people to polling stations where they will hopefully fill out the entire ballot.

Millionaire Surcharge to Promote Property Tax Relief

Progressive advocates also tend to favor higher taxes on millionaires included in the measure. If approved, voters would be asked whether income over $1 million should be taxed an additional 3% to fund property tax relief.

Income under $1 million would be taxed the same.

Voters considered a different proposal in the 2020 election that would have eliminated Illinois' flat 4.95% income tax rate and replaced it with a graduated rate that taxes income over $250,000 at a higher percentage. It failed, but wasn't specifically tied to property tax relief — it was touted as a way to address Illinois' historically high budget deficits.

However, it is unclear in this referendum whether the $1 million income limit should apply only to individuals or whether it also includes companies that register as individuals. It is also unknown how the money raised through the surcharge will be used for property tax relief.

“If [voters] “If I like the overall concept, then in the General Assembly … we would discuss how the property tax relief would work,” Hoffman said.

Election security

Voters would be asked whether a candidate for office – at any level – should face civil penalties if they attempt to interfere with a poll worker. As with the other referendums, this is merely an advisory question and does not suggest what these penalties should be.

No abortion protection

An amendment to codify abortion protections in the state constitution will not come up for a vote this year, even though it was apparently one of Gov. JB Pritzker's top priorities when he was sworn in for a second term.

“The right to privacy and bodily autonomy requires that we establish constitutional protections for reproductive rights in Illinois,” he said during his inaugural address in January 2023.

But Pritzker, who advocates for abortion protections nationwide, said there is more time to enforce this in Illinois: “We are focused on states where these rights have either already been revoked or are at great risk,” Pritzker said Wednesday to reporters. “I think it’s less important here than in other states that we pass a constitutional amendment.”

Lawmakers have up to six months before an election to approve binding ballot questions, and this year that deadline is May 5. The electoral law only allows three statewide referendums per vote, but municipalities can still add their own.

What else does the bill provide?

Currently, a political party can nominate someone to run in a general election 75 days after the primary — even if that person did not file for the primary, did not run, or did not run a write-in campaign. This bill eliminates that possibility.

“If you don't vote by filing the petitions… or running as a write-in candidate in the primary… you couldn't just one day be put on the ballot through backroom deals by local party leaders.” Hoffman explained that Illinois is an outlier nationally when it comes to allowing this practice.

This would not affect party leaders' ability to appoint replacements in the event of death, resignation or other reasons.

Additionally, the deadline by which candidates must file nomination petitions will be moved 28 days earlier – a change that was requested by county officials.

Republicans vote present, many walk out

Hoffman's measure passed the House, but the chamber's 40 Republicans voted present in favor of it. A large group went downstairs and held a news conference a few minutes later in which the GOP leadership denounced a pattern they had seen before.

House Minority Leader Tony McCombie said she was very surprised when the bill first surfaced Wednesday morning, only to be passed that same afternoon – it's still early in the month of May.

“Serious lawmakers should want to give the public time to understand the impact on our state,” said McCombie (R-Savanna).

“We are used to seeing such maneuvers on May 31st. But we don't understand the sense of urgency right now. Unless the end goal is to suppress the democratic process.”

Anna Harden

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