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Illinois voters could be asked about IVF coverage, millionaire tax in November

Legislators listen to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker deliver his annual budget address on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, at the statehouse in Springfield, Ill.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Legislators listen to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker deliver his annual budget address last February at the statehouse in Springfield, Ill.

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 for interfering with election workers.

Those questions are part of a larger piece of legislation that passed the Illinois House Wednesday.

If approved by the Senate and signed by the governor, they would appear on the ballot in advisory, non-binding capacities. That means they wouldn’t carry weight if voters say “yes.”

Insurance coverage for IVF treatments

Voters would be asked whether insurance policies that cover pregnancy care in Illinois should be required to cover all forms of assisted reproductive treatments, including in vitro fertilization, with no limits.

Lawmakers tend to use these questions to gauge support on hot topics before introducing legislation.

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

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

Lawmakers also use these questions to entice people to the polls in important election years. The theory is that placing topics like IVF on the ballot, even if they’re only advisory, will get people to polling places where they’ll hopefully fill out the entire ballot.

Millionaire’s surcharge to spur property tax relief

Progressives also tend to like more taxes on millionaires, which is included in the measure. If approved, voters would be asked whether income earned over $1 million should be taxed an additional 3% to help fund property tax relief.

Income under $1 million would be taxed the same.

Voters considered a different proposal during the 2020 election, which would have eliminated Illinois’ flat 4.95% income tax rate and replaced it with a graduated rate that taxed income over $250,000 at a higher percentage. It failed, but wasn’t tied specifically to property tax relief – it was billed as a way to tackle Illinois’ historically high budget deficits.

Unclear through this referendum, however, is whether the $1 million income level is supposed to apply only to individuals, or if it also includes businesses filing as individuals. Also unknown is how the money raised from the surcharge would be put toward property tax relief.

“If [voters] like the general concept, then we in the General Assembly … would debate 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 try to interfere with an election worker. As with the other referenda, it’s simply an advisory question and doesn’t suggest what those penalties should be.

No abortion protections

An amendment to codify abortion protections into the state constitution will not make it to this year’s ballot even though it appeared to be one of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priorities when he was sworn in for a second term.

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

But Pritzker, who’s hitting the campaign trail nationally to advocate for abortion protections, said there’s more time to get this done in Illinois.“We're focusing on states where those rights have either already been taken away, or they're highly at risk,” Pritzker told reporters Wednesday. “I think it's less important here than it is in other states that we pass a constitutional amendment.”

Lawmakers have until six months before an election to approve binding ballot questions, and this year that deadline is May 5. Election law only allows three statewide referenda per ballot, but local municipalities can still add their own.

What else does the bill do?

Right now a political party can slate someone to run in a general election 75 days after the primary – even if they didn’t file for or run in the primary or conduct a write-in campaign. This bill eliminates that ability.

“If you don't either run on the ballot by filing the petitions … or run as a write-in candidate in the primary … you then couldn't just be put on the ballot one day by backroom deals by local party leaders,” Hoffman explained, noting that Illinois is an outlier nationally in allowing this practice.

It wouldn’t affect the ability of party leaders to appoint replacements in the event of deaths, resignations or other reasons.

It also moves the deadline for candidates to submit their nominating petitions 28 days earlier – a change requested by county clerks.

Republicans vote present, many walk out

Hoffman’s measure passed the House but the chamber’s 40 Republicans voted “present.” A large group went downstairs and held a news conference a few minutes later, with GOP leadership decrying a pattern they’ve seen before.

House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, said she was very surprised to see the bill surface Wednesday morning for the first time, only to be passed the same afternoon – it’s pretty early in the month of May for that.

“Serious legislators should want to give time to the public to understand the impact on our state,” said McCombie.

“We're used to seeing this kind of maneuvering on May 31. But we don't understand the sense of urgency right now. Unless the end goal is to stifle the democratic process.”

Alex Degman is a statehouse reporter with WBEZ in Springfield, Illinois.