Bipartisan group urging action; Jobless rate comparison

Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urges Senate to act
Last week I shared with you some of my frustration at the level of partisanship that has come to dominate Springfield. This week, I have some better news to report. I joined with a bipartisan group of 30 House members in calling on the Senate to pass their “grand bargain” bills over to the House so that we may take up the bills before the May 31 adjournment deadline. It was encouraging to stand with so many members from both sides of the aisle in issuing this call.

As you may remember, at the start of this year Republicans and Democrats in the Senate negotiated what came to be known as the “grand bargain.” It was a series of bills dealing with the budget, but also reforms to systems like workers compensation and state procurement. Some of the bills passed while others stalled before the effort lost momentum. We believe that this process needs to keep moving. Accordingly, we called upon the Senate to send the bills over to the House so that we can hold our own negotiations and hopefully move toward a resolution of this deadlock which has dragged on for far too long. These bills aren’t perfect, but I believe they give us a starting point that we can improve upon to get a solution that is acceptable to all sides.

I wrote last week that people of good will on both sides of the aisle needed to come together to find compromise and solutions. It is too early to say if that is where this will lead, but as I stood in the well of the House chamber with more than a dozen members of each party I felt cautiously optimistic that we had just taken a step forward.

Illinois’ jobless rate remains above many neighboring states’
The most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Illinois’ seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll unemployment rate is 4.9%.

Overall, this is an improvement on the figures which Illinois posted during the economic downturn of the last decade. Unfortunately, this improvement is not enough to keep Illinois from falling farther behind our neighbors. The numbers in the report show much lower unemployment rates in many of our neighboring states. For example, Iowa’s unemployment rate for the same month was 3.1% and Wisconsin’s rate stood at 3.4%. Indiana was a full percentage point better than Illinois, coming in at 3.9%.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, in 2015, an estimated 34,000 Illinois residents moved to Indiana, many of them in search of a better climate for job creation. This is just another warning about the need for business-friendly reforms to state policies here in Illinois.

Legislation would clarify state’s responsibilities for persons in residential care transitions
Under existing state law, the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Human Services has the legal standing to defend the rights of persons in community mental health care or developmental disabilities care. This standing is based upon their status as persons served by a licensed care agency.

But if an Illinois care agency’s license is revoked there could be a problem with this arrangement. Under the current law, if a license is revoked it also renders in question the jurisdictional standing of the Inspector General to defend these patients. House Bill 742, which is sponsored by Rep. Patti Bellock, addresses the problem by closing this loophole and granting continued jurisdiction and standing to the Inspector General. The bill is a part of the 2017 House Republican bill package to defend the rights of persons in mental health and developmental disabilities care. The House unanimously approved the bill and sent it to the Senate for further action.

Push to build south suburban airport continues
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced last week that six firms have responded to their request for information on who would be interested in developing an airport in southeastern Will County. The initiative, which was not a formal Request for Proposals (RFP) process, was explained as a way for IDOT to gauge continuing interest in the project. Since 2001, the state has acquired more than 4,454 acres of land northeast of the town of Peotone. Nearly all of the land needed to build a modern airport has been acquired at a cost of $95 million.

It remains unclear if the south suburban airport project will ever become a reality. Proponents have long advocated for reducing Illinois’ air traffic congestion through the construction of a third Chicago-area airport. But those hopes have diminished over the 16 years that the plan has been in the works. The airline industry has shown less enthusiasm for new airport development in the U.S. The major airlines have moved their focuses toward finding more efficient ways of using existing runways and gates at Midway and O’Hare instead.

IDOT’s position remains that it is possible to develop a thriving south suburban commercial airport by predevelopment agreement with an experienced airport developer. The private-sector firm would be responsible for a feasibility analysis, followed by finance and business plans and then actual financing. Implicit in this series of goals is the probability that the developer would be given the chance to finance, design, build, maintain, and operate the airport for a significant length of time after development. A private operator would operate an airport under the supervision of IDOT, just as O’Hare and Midway are operated by the city of Chicago under IDOT’s supervision.

Peotone is in Will County, about 25 miles north of the boundary of the 106th district.

Did You Know?
The famed Lewis and Clark Expedition launched its westward drive from Illinois on May 14, 1804. The 33-man expedition departed from Camp Dubois, near present-day Hartford, Illinois, for what became a two-year journey across the newly-acquired Louisiana Purchase lands of the upper Midwest and Rocky Mountains. The expedition returned in September 1806, passing Camp Dubois en route to their final destination of St. Louis.