House Republicans blast call center legislation for its anti-business message
Rep. Chad Hays (R-Catlin) said GOP lawmakers would not stand one more day of nonsensical Democrat-sponsored legislation after House floor debate of HB4081 on April 19.
HB4081, sponsored by Rep. Michael Halpin (D-Rock Island), creates the Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act. It provides if any center begins in Illinois and relocates without proper notice, they must pay grants, taxes, loans or profits made in the state back or will be fined up to $10,000 a day.
Just the thought of the bill upset Hays. Reading off a 2018 State of Illinois Economic Forecast Report by Moody’s Analytics, Hays noted data showed southern Illinois is likely to attract call centers; and the district he represents, which includes Champaign and Vermilion counties, has been ravaged by unemployment since the early 1980s.
“Yet when we have an opportunity to bring jobs to east central Illinois, we have ... this on the board,” Hays said before asking Halpin what he had to say for himself.
“I say if businesses are going to bring call centers to Illinois and are going to receive taxpayers’ money, then they should commit to stay in Illinois,” Halpin said.
Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) had an issue with the definition of a call center, which in Halpin’s bill includes 50 or more employees in a back office.
“There is nothing in there, no requirements, that the employees be doing call center work,” Breen said, then asked Halpin why a prior and similar bill he had never became law.
Halpin said the Senate killed the bill, adding “we all know we can’t trust their judgment.”
Breen said it surprised him that the Senate would make the intelligent move to deny Halpin’s bill, which according to Breen will drive needed business from the state, which is suffering extreme debt.
Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) also had an issue with the definition.
“I am reading the exact text here, not the analysis, but the actual words that you wrote, that doesn’t say call center anywhere in the definition of call center,” Wheeler said, also adding the bill will deter business.
Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) wanted to know how Halpin expected Amazon to seriously consider doing commerce with Illinois if his bill passed, noting “they are not here yet, so what does this tell them?”
“Amazon is going to make a decision on where it is going to locate its second headquarters; and as a state, we need to think about the long-term future of the residents here,” Halpin said.
Halpin’s bill sends the message that Illinois does not appreciate job creators, according to Ives, who said HB4081 is one of the biggest anti-business measures that has ever come before the General Assembly.
Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) wanted to know exactly how many businesses would qualify under Halpin’s confusing call center definition, but the sponsor could not answer.
“There is an issue of vagueness that I am sensing in this legislation,” Durkin said.
Durkin said that lawmakers deserved an answer and suggested Halpin pull his bill. Durkin, who said he travels the state often and speaks to big and small businesses, often hears ‘why is the legislature constantly micromanaging the way in which we do business?”
“This bill loudly says we are not open for business,” Durkin said.
HB4081 is hypocritical, according to Rep. Mike Fortner (R-West Chicago), who said while Illinois is encouraging businesses to begin in the state by offering grants, Halpin's bill asks for grant money back after a commerce succeeds.
“We need to get it right and this bill is just not ready yet,” Fortner said.
Rep. Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) questioned how many out-of-state businesses looking to locate in Illinois had the sponsor consulted about the bill.
None, said Halpin, who added the bill is to prevent businesses from leaving the state and is not about businesses coming into Illinois.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions and here we are,” Batinick said.
Rep. Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) questioned at length the definition of call center and was blamed by Halpin for intentionally obscuring the legislation language in her inquiry; however, she made it clear what the bill says.
“I am not sure why it is called what it is since it should be called the 'You are not welcome in Illinois Act,'” McDermed said.
After the heated debate, HB4801 passed the House in a 61-49 vote and moved to the Senate.