2017 was unprecedented year for the state of Illinois. We entered the year with uncertainty as the state continued to prolong the longest budget impasse in U.S. history since the Great Depression and partisan rhetoric was at an all-time high. In response to that, SBAC members increased their engagement and ensured that the small business community’s voice was represented. Our members took it upon themselves to engage and tirelessly advocate for a functional government, a level the playing field for small business and economic development.
2017 Legislative Victories
The Fight to Lower LLC Filing Fees
Our fight to lower LLC filing began in March when SBAC Leadership consisting of Ryan Tolley, Advocacy Director, and Tony Zeoli, Partner at Freeborn & Peters, took a trip to Springfield to testify on legislation to lower LLC fees in House Revenue & Finance Committee. That testimony kicked off a year-long effort to lower Illinois excessive fees.
On the last day in session, the SBAC was able to work with leadership in the House of Representatives to successfully pass the bill out in waning hours of the final day. However, with limited time for the Senate to act, the bill was stalled and unable to be called for a vote before the end of spring session. Over the summer the SBAC launched multiple campaigns to encourage legislators to call the bill for a vote during veto session. We were able to launch our most successful campaign with hundreds of business contacting legislators to advocate for the passage of the bill.
At the start of Veto session, SBAC leadership (Elliot Richardson, Scott Baskin, Larry Minutillo & Ryan Tolley) made the trip down to Springfield to advocate to Senate Leadership on the importance of having this legislation brought to a vote and passed. SBAC members met with President John Cullerton and Minority Leader Brady to highlight the need for a bi-partisan effort and highlighted the favorable economic impacts this legislation can have to spur growth in the state.
At the end of Veto Session, the Senate unanimously passed the legislation, 55-0. After the passage of the LLC bill, the SBAC joined Governor Rauner in hosting the bill signing at Level Office in downtown Chicago. The law became effect on December 20th, with the signature of the Governor.
Legislation to Make it Easier and More Affordable to Access Intrastate Equity Crowdfunding
At the start of 2016, Illinois passed a law allowing non-accredited investors to invest in Illinois companies, opening up an alternative option for small businesses to raise capital from their local communities. Due to changes in federal regulation, we now have the option to make change to our Illinois law that would make Intrastate Equity Crowdfunding a less costly and more viable option.
During the spring session, the General Assembly passed SBAC-backed legislation to give Illinois companies a better option. This important bi-partisan win is important to ensuring that Illinois companies are not limited in their ability to grow due to lack of capital investment.
This legislation passed both chambers and was signed into law on September 19th. The Public Act (PA100-0507), which goes into effect on June 1, 2018, changes current Intrastate Equity Crowdfunding laws to allow Illinois companies incorporated or organized outside of the state, to participate in Illinois’ Crowdfunding law, allow portals to accept equity as payment if they choose, allow finders’ fees and commissions similar to recently adopted federal guidelines, allows affiliates of the portal company to make an offering as long as the relationship is properly disclosed, broadens the classes of persons who can serve as qualified escrowees, makes it easier for companies to market their offering by allowing them to use the more expansive new federal guidelines and clarifies the issuers that can rely on types of evidences such as driver’s licenses, which are also allowed under the federal regulations.
Eased Restrictions on Home-Based Businesses in Chicago
U.S. history is littered with business success stories and some of our most well-known started in the home or garage of their founder. However, in Chicago that was a difficult task given the restriction placed on home-based businesses. The SBAC advocated to ease the restriction and on February 22nd 2017 City Council passed an ordinance to allow home-based businesses more flexibility and opportunities to grow. Through this ordinance, home-based business can now sell products made in their home at retail stores, hire more than one additional employee, reduce the number on inspections that these businesses are subjected to and allow them to use their garage for business purposes.
Give Business Owners Flexibility on Window Signs Regulations
After the media highlighted that business owners in Chicago neighborhoods were being fined for simple window signs, the SBAC was quick to act and make recommendations that would help clarify existing regulations for window signs that require permits. As result of our efforts, effective January 1st, 2018, business owners who use less than 25% of their window for non-structural signs, will no longer be required to have a permit to put up simple vinyl signs. This win will reduce the number of fines that businesses in Chicago are subjected too as well as provide regulations that are simpler for businesses to understand.
Federal Marketplace Fairness Act Introduction
As a new Congress convened, the SBAC was swift to revitalize an effort to level the playing field for brick and mortar businesses in Illinois, who are at a disadvantage to on-line retailers. The SBAC spearheaded efforts to work with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin to re-introduce the Marketplace Fairness Act. We also met with and work with U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth to put Illinois full support behind our effort.
The SBAC continues to push this effort into 2018 to level the playing field for brick & mortar stores in Illinois and ensure that they have a level playing field with on-line retailers.
Strengthening Our Coalition
A key driver of the SBAC’s advocacy successes, is our commitment to building bridges with like-minded groups and moving legislation through critical mass. Our members work tirelessly to connect us to aligning business groups, associations and chambers in order to form large coalitions and strengthen our advocacy efforts. The partnerships we formed allowed us establish a monthly working group with the City of Chicago, bringing your issues directly to the Mayor’s office and the various department business owners must interact with. We thank all of our coalition partners for your continuous engagement throughout the year.
Advocated for a Functional Government
The importance of economic certainty is imperative to a healthy business community. Understanding that, the SBAC took up the important task of advocating for a functional government throughout this year. In May 2017, the SBAC went to Springfield with a robust contingency of members and were joined by our partners GOA Regional Business Association and the Greater Waukegan Development Coalition. With over 30 advocates from the small business community, we met with elected officials to discuss the devastating impacts of the budget stalemate and a way forward including reforms to Workers’ Compensation, Pension Reform and Term Limits for leadership. We met with a number of legislators throughout the day including: former Senate Minority Leader Radogno, Senator Steans, Senator Castro, Representative Martwick and House Minority Leader Durkin. We also had the opportunity to meet with Governor Rauner.
At the conclusion of spring session, Illinois had still not passed a budget, so the SBAC took our message straight to residents around Illinois through a grassroots campaign. Joined by over 50 members, we canvassed at local events and spoke to residents about the importance of engaging with their legislators and calling on them to end the budget impasse and pass reforms that would spark Illinois’ economy. We also launched an on-line campaign to give members an easy way to contact their legislators and send this message directly to them.
Joined National Coalition to Protect Net Neutrality
Late in the summer of 2017, newly minted FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, proposed to eliminate FCC rules that prohibit Internet Services Providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing legal content, or prioritizing some websites and applications over others. The SBAC & the national coalition garnered signatures from over 500 business in Illinois calling on Commissioner Pai to not eliminate the existing rules.
On December 14th, the F.C.C. voted 4-2 in favor of repealing the 2015 Net Neutrality Rules. In response, a bi-partisan group of legislators began looking into legislative ways to continue net neutrality protections. The SBAC is heading in 2018 to look forward to working with legislators on solutions that can protect small businesses from harmful practices such as block & throttling or charging excessive rates for adequate internet speeds to reach their online consumers.
2017 was one of our most active since our inception – engaging in federal, state and local issues that impact small business owners across the state. This would not be possible without the hundreds of business owners who engage tirelessly with the SBAC by actively working on our issues on the Policy Committee, joining us at community events, lobbying in Springfield and participating in online campaigns.
Your engagement has allowed us to continue ramping up and delivering more wins for business owners across the state. By looking back at this year we want all of members to know that this would not be possible without you. We want you to know through these efforts, our voice is more impactful than it has ever been. SBAC leadership and staff look forward to continuing and expanding these efforts into 2018 – and continue to do what we always done, ensuring business owners that their voice is heard and driving changes that will level the playing field for the small business community.