Winger's Weekly Wrap-up

Economy – Intersect Illinois
New State job-creation agency gets name. Intersect Illinois,’ the name of the new agency, reflects the Prairie State’s position as a focus of U.S. nationwide transportation infrastructure. Intersect Illinois was created as a spinoff from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Set up to be similar to job-creation agencies in other states such as Georgia and Wisconsin, Intersect Illinois will share traits of the private and public sectors. It will be in charge of “selling” Illinois to potential job creators. The new name was announced on Monday, July 25.

Intersect Illinois, created by executive order of Gov. Bruce Rauner, has already begun selling Illinois as a place to work and invest. On Tuesday, July 26, for example, announced their decision to open a new 750,000-square-foot order fulfillment center in Romeoville. No local or state tax breaks were offered to Amazon in exchange for the decision, which concentrated on the infrastructure advantages enjoyed by Romeoville and other locations along the Chicago-area’s I-55 corridor.

Gambling – Illinois State Lottery
Tougher process put in place to select a long-term private partner. The announcement of a new search to select a private operating partner for the Illinois State Lottery was made by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Thursday, July 28. The Rauner administration has requested eligible firms to bid for a long-term contract to manage and operate the Lottery’s day-to-day operations. The RFP request includes terms and conditions meant to protect the interests of the State, its taxpayers, and the K-through-12 educational institutions that are the legal recipients of State lottery profits. Illinois takes in more than $670 million in net Lottery revenues annually. Popular Lottery tickets include daily games, scratch-off-games and multi-state jackpot games.

Current law allows the Department of the Lottery to work with a private partner, and the administration of former Gov. Pat Quinn inked a plan in September 2010 to turn over much of the day-to-day operations of the Lottery to the Northstar Lottery Group. The 2010 Northstar privatization announcement was accompanied by a great deal of fanfare as to how many new lottery tickets would be sold and how much increased revenues would be paid by the private partner to the State. Unfortunately, as soon as the privatization agreement was implemented Northstar’s ticket sales and payments to the State fell badly short of projections. The Rauner administration took steps upon taking office in January 2015 to sever the State Lottery/Northstar partnership agreement and begin to phase out operating ties with Northstar.

Governor Rauner told reporters that one of his top priorities would be to craft a partnership agreement that would create mutual incentives for the private partner and the underlying owner of the lottery, the State of Illinois, to look towards Lottery innovation and growth. The RFP specifies that the projected length of the private partnership will be 10 years.

Health care – 3-D mammography 
Breast tomosynthesis mandate signed into law. The technology for improved breast imaging, sometimes called “3-D mammography,” is already in place. SB 466, sponsored in the Illinois House by Rep. Michael McAuliffe, will improve screening for Illinois breast cancer by directing health insurance policies to cover this existing procedure. Instead of a single X-ray taken from a single direction, breast tomosynthesis captures an image of the breast through a series of X-rays from different angles. The individual bits of X-ray data are aggregated through software into a complex image. Tumors hidden by dense tissue can be seen by a skilled radiologist.

“This bipartisan legislation signifies the commitment of the General Assembly to the fight against breast cancer,” McAuliffe stated as the bill was signed into law. “The best way to fight cancer is with early detection.” Statistics compiled by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) indicate that 10,290 Illinois women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. Historically, diagnoses of breast cancer make up almost one-third of invasive cancer diagnoses in Illinois women, with as many as 1 in 8 Illinois women expected to face this diagnosis at least once in their lives.

With McAuliffe’s sponsorship leading the way, the House unanimously approved SB 466 in May 2016 by a vote of 114-0-0. Governor Rauner signed the measure into Illinois law as P.A. 99-588 on Wednesday, July 20.

Housing – Illinois home prices
Illinois Realtors report prices continuing on upward trend. The report from the Illinois Association of Realtors showed that June 2016 median Illinois home prices had risen 5.8% in comparison to June 2015, and a greater percentage of the homes listed for sale turned over in the summer month. The statewide median home price rose during this period from $192,800 to $204,000.

Home sales typically slow down in summer, with high-end homes taking a more prominent place within the overall year-round market. The year-to-date median Illinois home price is $183,174, significantly lower than then June 2016 median. On the other hand, the six-month median Illinois home price was up 7.3%, displaying continued strength within the broad base of the market made up by middle-class homes.

Low mortgage interest rates continued to play a role in the overall Illinois housing price recovery. The monthly average commitment rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.57% in June 2016. As in previous months, median homes within the city of Chicago were significantly more expensive than houses in other parts of Illinois.

Human rights – cellphone surveillance
New law requires police to target their surveillance of wireless phone data. The new Citizen Privacy Protection Act limits the use of the widely-discussed transmitter called “Stingray,” which has been extensively marketed to police forces. Stingray transmitters broadcast a signal that looks like a cell site. The phony ‘repeater’ is treated as a friend by all of the cellphones within electronic earshot, and the devices promptly share the phone’s location and who it is talking to or texting at the time.

Police forces naturally want to gather as much information as they can on criminals and suspects. “Stingray,” however, does not know or care who is a target of criminal investigation, and sweeps in this key information about everybody. In order to control the use of “Stingray” and related technologies, the new law requires police to delete the phone information of all non-investigation-targets within 24 hours. The law also forbids police from accessing data for use in an investigation not authorized by a judge through warrant or other process.

The Citizen Privacy Protection Act was introduced in the General Assembly as SB 2343. In the House, it was co-sponsored by House Republican Representatives Peter Breen and David Leitch. Governor Bruce Rauner signed SB 2343 into law on Friday, July 22, as P.A. 99-622.

Jobs – June 2016 unemployment rate
Illinois jobless rate declines to 6.2%, but total Illinois jobs also decline. Since the commencement of the 2008 economic downturn, Illinois’s job-creation and jobless figures have lagged the national numbers enjoyed by the other 49 states. This pattern continued in June 2016, with the State’s nonfarm payroll totals declining by 2,200 jobs from May 2016. Illinois continues to have fewer (6,003,600) payroll jobs within State lines than were counted sixteen years ago in September 2000. June 2016 statewide unemployment rates also dropped from 6.4% (May 2016) to 6.2% (June 2016), with the State’s total labor force declining due to outmigration and persons of labor age leaving the Illinois job market.

Jobs numbers compiled in June by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) show continued weakness in manufacturing, with more than 9,000 Illinois factory jobs lost between June 2015 and June 2016. This 12-month trend line indicates a continued shift by the Illinois economy from manufacturing employment to employment in leisure, hospital, professional services and business services. Over the shorter, 30-day period between May 2016 and June 2016, Illinois’ weakness was concentrated in educational and health services, with 7,300 jobs lost during this one-month period.

Throughout Illinois when measured by region, the overall job-creation picture showed a net gain of 39,700 new payroll job positions on a year-to-year basis, an increase of less than 1%. Within Illinois, some areas gained jobs and some lost jobs during this period. Job gains were concentrated in metropolitan Chicago and adjacent Lake County, with a net gain of 53,700 jobs in the year-to-year period. Job losses were concentrated in nonmetropolitan Downstate counties, with a net loss of 16,500 jobs in the largely-rural counties of Illinois. There was also significant weakness in the traditionally-farm-machinery-oriented Quad Cities metropolitan area, with a net loss of 5,500 jobs in the Davenport-Moline-Rock Island area. Declining prices for crude oil and corn-based ethanol weighed upon economic trends in these areas.

IDES continues to work to improve Illinois’ jobless picture and enable people who are between jobs to find new employment. Applicants for new employment and Illinois unemployment benefits are requested to post an online resume on the Illinois Job Link webpage as part of their contacts with the Department.