Veto session underway; Governor recognizes local first responders

First week of veto session
The House met for three days this week. This was the first of two scheduled weeks of session this fall to consider bills which the Governor vetoed over the summer, as well as some other legislation. Some of the Governor’s vetoes were overridden, including a bill dealing with a pension transfer credit for firefighters and police officers, legislation regarding residential roofing repairs, and a bill to cancel the debt of the Illinois International Port District. Some other vetoes were upheld, including a bill dealing with workers compensation.

Some bills which got a lot of attention this week were House Bill 4117 and Senate Bill 1657. House Bill 4117 is so poorly drafted that it could criminalize a much broader range of firearms than its supporters claim, including some shotguns and hunting rifles. There were even questions raised about whether the bill would ban law enforcement agencies from owning certain weapons. I oppose these bills because they violate the Constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners or add unnecessary regulation to gun dealers who are already regulated by the federal government. HB 4117 failed in the House on Thursday. SB 1657 has reached the floor, but has not yet been called for a vote.

The House will be back in session November 7-9 for the final week of the fall session.

Governor visits Pontiac, recognizes local first responders’ legislation

On Monday, Governor Rauner came to Pontiac to personally recognize two local first responders who helped pass important public safety legislation this year. I was proud to sponsor both of these bills in the House. It was an honor to have Pontiac Mayor Bob Russell, Livingston County Sheriff Tony Childress, Woodford County Sheriff Matt Smith and others from the law enforcement and fire protection communities join us for this recognition.

Fire chiefs and emergency managers in rural areas are sometimes called upon to respond to emergencies directly from home in their personal automobiles. This presents a danger because these cars are not equipped with warning sirens to let other drivers know they are on the road. Woodford County Emergency Management Agency Director Kent McCanless helped develop a bill to allow emergency managers and fire chiefs to use sirens, whistles or bells when responding to emergencies.

Pontiac Police Chief Jim Woolford came up with an idea for a bill which changes the existing law that currently requires police recruits to have at least an Associate’s Degree before they can be hired by a local police department. The bill Chief Woolford helped write changed the requirement so police recruits could also be considered if they had at least 60 hours of college credit, an equivalent of an Associate’s Degree. This helps improve public safety in small communities by increasing the number of potential candidates from which to choose.

Congratulations to both Director McCanless and Police Chief Woolford for helping to make our communities safer and better!

How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $16,437,663,520 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

Illinois sells $6 billion in bonds to help pay down bill backlog
To try to pay down a part of that backlog of unpaid bills, the state sold $1.5 billion in general obligation bonds last week. Proceeds from this bond sale and the sale of another $4.5 billion in general obligation bonds on Wednesday will be part of an effort to cut the state’s backlog nearly in half by next June.

The state will have one more bond issue by the end of the year: a $750 million general obligation bond issue for 2018 capital projects, which will also be sold competitively. The late payment interest fees on the current backlog are accumulating at between 9% and 12%. The borrowing cost on the bonds issued this month is 3.5%, which cuts the interest cost by more than half.

Illinois jobs decline in September – Unemployment rate unchanged
The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has announced that the state’s unemployment rate held steady at 5% in September and nonfarm payrolls decreased by 10,800 jobs, based on preliminary data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. A revision to the August job growth numbers showed a smaller decline than what had been initially reported.

Once again, Illinois’ job growth was well below the national average. While Illinois’ job growth has moved up and down in 2017, the trend over the past three months shows average declines of 4,200 jobs per month, while the six-month trend shows an average of 400 lost jobs per month. Both trends have worsened since last month.

Our unemployment rate is 0.8% higher than the rate for the nation as a whole, which decreased to 4.2 percent in September. There is some good news however, as Illinois’ unemployment rate is down 0.8% from where it was at this time last year. At 5%, the Illinois jobless rate has improved by 0.7% since January.

Did You Know?
Two of America’s most well-known cartoon characters are from Illinois. Cartoon detective Dick Tracy was created by cartoonist Chester Gould of Woodstock. Popeye the Sailor was introduced to newspaper readers by Chester native E.C. Segar in 1919 and is said to be based on a local resident of the Mississippi River town.