101st General Assembly kicks off spring session
The House convened on Tuesday for the first of eleven consecutive weeks in Springfield. More than 1400 bills have already been introduced, with as many as 4000 expected.
On Tuesday the House adopted a set of rules that will govern the way it conducts business over the next two years. Once again, the House adopted a set of rules which concentrates an enormous amount of power in the hands of Speaker Madigan. He will once again be able to control which bills come up for discussion and debate, and which ones will not.
I supported a reform package which would have changed the rules to allow ample time to review amendments; and which would have created a way for legislators to force a vote on a bill rather than allowing one person to block it. I would like for us to know in advance which bills are going to be brought up each day so that we can better prepare for the debate and the vote. Unfortunately, we were not able to overcome Speaker Madigan’s supermajority.
A lot of good ideas have been kept off the House floor in the past because of this process. One of the biggest problems we have in state government is too much power concentrated in too few hands. These rules are a good example.
Two new board and commission appointments
I was honored to be chosen by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin to be a member of the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) and the Capitol Historic Preservation Board. These bodies are set up in such a way as to make their work bipartisan or nonpartisan, with each of the legislative leaders given a certain number of appointments.
If you are a regular reader of my newsletter you have seen many references to COGFA. It is the budget watchdog for the General Assembly which is charged with compiling reports about state revenue and spending, budget forecasts and updates on how well state programs are working. The Capitol Historic Preservation Board is a group appointed by legislative leaders, statewide officials and the mayor of Springfield to work with the Architect of the Capitol to perform advisory functions regarding the historic preservation of our Capitol building and its grounds. Ground was broken on the current Capitol building just over 150 years ago, and much history has taken place within its walls and grounds. It is an honor to be charged with helping to preserve it for future generations.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $7,271,943,698 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $8.3 billion. 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 subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $130 billion.
Prairie Research Institute holds legislative event
The University of Illinois’s Prairie Research Institute held their legislative event this Monday. Executive Director Mark Ryan and Deputy Executive Director Richard Winkel did a great job organizing the event and providing area legislators with some very good information. It was also nice to see Rick Winkel, who served our area well in the General Assembly for a number of years.
We had some great conversations about issues of importance to residents of east central Illinois. Among the many attendees at the event were Senators Scott Bennett and Chapin Rose, and Representatives Mike Marron, Darren Bailey, Dan Caulkins and Brad Halbrook. The Prairie Research Institute has data going back 100 years or more on Illinois waterways, soil and other natural resources. They have also been helping with flooding issues in our district. I very much appreciate their hard work.
State tax filing season begins
The Illinois Department of Revenue has begun accepting state tax returns. The agency is encouraging Illinoisans to submit their returns electronically. This is particularly advantageous if you are expecting a refund, as electronic returns are processed faster and can get you your refund quicker than if you filed on paper. New tax forms are now available from the Department for those who need them. Tax filers also have the option of requesting that any refund be directly deposited into their bank account.
Did You Know?
Even though the Bears didn’t make it this year, the Super Bowl still has an Illinois connection. The footballs to be used in Sunday’s game are not pigskins but are actually made of leather. The game balls used in the Super Bowl; just like those used in every NFL game for the past 77 years; will be made of leather from the Illinois-based Horween Leather Company.