Capitol Update - April 3

House observes deadline for moving bills out of committee
As of this week, more than 4,000 bills have been filed by House members for the 2017 spring session.  Only a fraction of these bills can be approved in House committee and sent to the House floor for further discussions and debate, and House members learned this week how many of their bills have survived this stage of the process.

People following specific bills are welcome to consult the Illinois Legislative Information System website, which has a master type-in box to look up the current status of each bill before the House or Senate.  In some cases, key elements of a bill that has died or been blocked in committee can be saved for further consideration later in the spring session as amendments to surviving bills.

New jobs created; economists continue to point to Illinois’ lagging job growth
The Illinois Department of Employment Security’s February 2017 unemployment report, showed the Prairie State’s jobless rate dropping from 5.7% to 5.4%. The current number was measured by the widely-followed U-3 ratio; other methods of measuring unemployment and underemployment also count people in other categories, such as involuntary part-time employment. These alternative metrics show much higher jobless numbers in Illinois.
Illinois has not created nearly as many new jobs as have neighboring and other U.S. states. In a pattern of lagging recovery from the severe recession of 2009-10, Illinois has created only 47,000 new nonfarm payroll jobs over the most recently measured twelve-month period – job growth of 0.8%. Poor numbers are concentrated in many Downstate communities and metropolitan areas, with unemployment of 11.1% posted for January 2017 in greater Rockford, 7.7% in the Decatur area and 7.0% in Carbondale. In fact, Illinois has virtually the same number of nonfarm payroll jobs as the number of employment positions that were posted and paid more than 16 years ago, during the previous job peak of September 2000.

Possible hack of data shared by Illinois Department of Employment Security
The possible intrusion into the computer server or server network of an IDES contractor could have affected data submitted by approximately 1.4 million Illinoisans who are enrolled in the IDES JobLink database.  The potentially-hacked data includes names, birthdates and Social Security numbers.

Under current IDES practice, Illinois unemployed men and women who are eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are required to enroll in IDES JobLink as a condition of receiving benefits.  The JobLink system is supposed to help unemployed Illinoisans find new jobs by matching their credentials with the qualifications posted by available employers.  As part of enrolling in JobLink, the unemployed person is required to submit personal identifying information.

As part of its implementation of the JobLink system, IDES affiliated itself with a Kansas private-sector service vendor, America’s Job Link – Technical Support, which operates software code needed to maintain the Job Link systems operated by ten U.S. states.  The data breach occurred in the database operated by this vendor.  IDES’s own data security was not breached, but JobLink was affected because IDES shared all of its JobLink data with the Kansas vendor.

In its press release describing the vendor data breach, the Department called for allocating adequate assets to cybersecurity and the protection of data gathered by the State of Illinois.  Cybersecurity project billings currently submitted to or under the control of the office of the Comptroller of Illinois have not been paid.

Office of the Governor touts jobs through tourism to Illinois
The Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel and Tourism celebrated the second year of the “Illinois Made” program this week, which highlights products that are craft-made or were invented in Illinois. Illinois products, such as Chicago-based Eli’s Cheesecake, are eligible to be designated “global brands” representing the Land of Lincoln to the rest of the nation and world. The program also showcases Illinois-experience goods and services, such as restaurants, craft wineries and breweries, and places of historical interest and experience, such as Lincoln’s Springfield, Nauvoo, the Illinois Amish country, and Cahokia Mounds.

Farmland appraisal values fall with price of motor fuel
Data presented at the 2017 Illinois Land Values Conference showed that prices paid for Illinois agricultural real property, including cropland, continued to fall in 2016 from all-time highs notched a few years earlier.  The data presented at the conference was generated from the annual survey results returned by members of the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.

Data presented at the conference indicated a trend line movement toward achievement of a secure floor in price of cropland per acre, as the rate of decline slowed significantly in calendar years 2016.  Cropland rated by Bulletin #811 as excellent quality arable land dropped from a median of $11,600 per acre to $11,000 per acre.  Corresponding drops were notched in the values of lands of lower quality, with Illinois farmland rated as excellent, good, average, or fair.  As in previous years, changes in the prices achievable for corn and soybeans were key factors in determining the movements of land towards new price points, with the use of corn as an ethanol feedstock being one of the major drivers in these price movements.

Farmland values were seen as negatively impacted by continued advances in crop productivity, with Illinois farmers responding to continued improvements in ag technology by harvesting a series of bumper crops of corn and soybeans.  The same values were seen as positively impacted by the tightly-held nature of much Illinois farmland, with an exceptionally high percentage of this non-replaceable asset held closely by family trusts that enjoy significant underlying liquidity and do not put parcels of land up for sale if they can avoid doing so.

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