Following the Governor’s State of the State address on Wednesday, January 29th, the Illinois General Assembly’s 2014 legislative session is officially underway. Despite multiple inches of snow and cold weather both the House and Senate were in session for a couple days last week. Meanwhile, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have finally passed a new 5 year Farm Bill, which President Obama signed last Friday marking the end of a long roller coaster ride that began in 2011 and at times left many wondering if we would ever get a new 5-year Farm Bill again. But with all the excitement surrounding the Farm Bill, it’s easy to forget about policy work happening right here in Illinois.
On the state level, it’s an election year in Springfield and because a portion of the recent income tax increase is set to expire during the next budget year, the budget is likely to be contentious. Bill introduction deadline in both the IL Senate and House is February 14, therefore a flurry of new bills are expected to be introduced in the coming weeks. This will likely mean fewer bills are considered and passed and more time is dedicated to budget issues.
Here are a couple highlights of things to expect this year in terms of local food policy:
- Farmers Market Regulatory Reform – Representative Mike Tryon & Senator David Koehler are working with Illinois Stewardship Alliance, public health stakeholders and the IDPH Farmers Market Task Force to create legislation to establish consistent state-wide regulations for farmers markets. More information and a bill number should be available next week. (IL Stewardship Alliance initiative)
- Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Act – Senator David Koehler and Representative Elizabeth Hernandez are sponsoring the legislation. Working with Food & Water Watch Senator Koehler is planning to make a serious push to get the bill passed this year. (IL Stewardship Alliance supports)
- Healthy Eating Active Living Act (HEAL) – Senator Mattie Hunter & Representative Robyn Gabel are sponsoring legislation that would create new funding for Medicaid and wellness programs that includes approx $10 million for local food related grants through a penny per once excise tax on sugary sweetened beverages. The HEAL act is an initiative of the Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity. (IL Stewardship Alliance currently has no position)
Legislation that was introduced last year is still potentially in play this year, the Illinois General Assembly runs on two year cycles. Below you can find an updated version of our 2013-2014 Bill tracker. That also includes some additional new bills introduced in 2014 that ISA has flagged. There will undoubtedly be more to follow.