An update at 7 p.m. on Friday

Watch for farm equipment on the roads

This spring we have seen a lot of rain, and it has made it much harder for local farmers to plant their fields. Many farmers are out there now, and it is important that drivers be alert for farm equipment on the roads. Use caution when approaching farm equipment on a highway, and give them plenty of room. Our farmers power the Illinois economy and feed the world. The least we can do is show a little patience for their equipment on the highways. Be safe!

Lots happening today; things changing every hour

Today was the scheduled adjournment day for the General Assembly, but we learned a short time ago that we will be in session at least until Sunday June 2. The Constitution requires the House and Senate to complete their work by midnight on May 31, or the process for passing a bill becomes much more difficult. Consequently, there was a huge crush of legislation coming to the floor during the last days of May. It now appears that at least some of it will spill over into June.

We started this week with most of major issues of the session still unresolved, and some of them are still being worked on. Here are some short updates on where we stand on these major issues. Look for a more complete roundup in next week’s newsletter.

House passes graduated income tax hike on party line vote

On Monday afternoon after a long debate, the House passed the Constitutional amendment enacting the graduated tax increase. All Democrats voted yes, all Republicans voted no. Click here to view my floor speech from Monday’s debate. I explained that most of the states in the nation are moving away from graduated income taxes because they have seen their many shortcomings. The last state to go to a graduated income tax was Connecticut – nearly 30 years ago – and the result was disastrous: taxes were raised on the middle class, jobs were lost and the labor force shrank.

I voted No on this amendment because I believe this tax increase will hurt family farms and small businesses, and will lead to more reckless spending and even more tax increases in the future. I voted against raising taxes because we produced a balanced budget last year without any new taxes, and I believe we can do so again this year if we are willing to work together. If enacted, this tax increase would be the third time Illinois income taxes have been raised since 2011. Following the passage of this amendment; on Thursday night; the House passed the legislation setting the new tax rates: a $3.5 billion tax increase.

The 1581-page budget bill which was dropped on our desks a few hours before the scheduled end of session today.

Fiscal Year 2020 state budget

A few hours ago, a 1581-page state budget bill was dropped on our desks and it could be voted on as early as this evening.

No one could possibly read, review and analyze a document of this importance in that amount of time. Yet legislators are expected to vote on a massive bill which spends tens of billions of dollars. This is a good example of the kind of irresponsible budgeting practices that have gotten Illinois into the mess we are in.

After weeks of time in working groups and many hearings, the supermajority Democrats decided to ignore all that work and just ram through their own proposal. This is no way to run a government!

Extreme abortion bill passes House

Many of us were shocked last weekend when an extreme abortion bill which had been dormant for a couple of months was very quickly brought back and rushed through a committee on Sunday night. This new bill is Senate Bill 25. This legislation, if enacted, would make abortion a “fundamental right” under state law and prohibit any state interference with it. It would also mean that a fertilized egg, embryo or fetus would not have independent rights under state law. It requires private insurance companies to cover abortion. I support protecting the life of the mother, but I also support protecting the life of the baby.

A No vote did not in any way roll back any rights currently existing under Illinois law. Abortion is still legal in Illinois. Those of us who voted No did so because we oppose expanding abortion rights to include allowing abortions after the point of viability (the point when a baby can survive outside the womb) and because we oppose a bill that prevents unborn children from having any rights under the law in Illinois. It was also questioned as to whether this would render the Parental Notification Act (the existing law which requires the parents or guardians of minors seeking an abortion to be notified) unenforceable.

I voted No on this bill when it was brought to the floor on Tuesday, but it passed 64-50.

Gun control bill passes, punishes law-abiding gun owners

Senate Bill 1966 passed the House on Wednesday 62-52. I voted against this bill because it punishes law-abiding gun owners. The bill would cut in half the amount of time a FOID card is valid, while doubling its cost. It would also require all applicants for a FOID card to be fingerprinted. It also creates a difficult, time-consuming process to transfer ownership of a firearm. I agree that when a person has broken the law and had their FOID card rescinded we need to do a better job of enforcing the existing law. But this bill does too much harm to those who obey the law, therefore I voted No. You can see my floor remarks here.

Today: Marijuana legalization passes House, sports betting, capital bill still unresolved

The House started off today by taking up the proposed marijuana legalization bill. Negotiators worked hard to come to a compromise on this bill, but they fell short of addressing law enforcement’s concerns about impaired driving and home-grow regulations. This bill was rushed to completion without addressing a lot of objections. I voted No, but the bill passed early this afternoon. You can watch my floor speech here.

In the time remaining in session, we still have some significant issues left to resolve. At the time of this writing, these issues included enactment of a sports gambling bill and the capital bill for infrastructure improvements. Action on these bills and a few dozen others could come at any time, or could be put off until the fall veto session.

Honoring a fallen hero

On Memorial Day, the House unanimously adopted a joint resolution which I sponsored to designate a portion of Illinois Route 9 in Paxton as the Trooper Marvin C. Archer Memorial Road.

Trooper Archer served in World War II in the Pacific before returning to his duties with the Illinois State Police. In 1946, he and his partner spotted a stolen vehicle and initiated a traffic stop. Trooper Archer was shot and killed at the scene. It is truly fitting that we remember his sacrifice, and the sacrifice of all those who risk their lives every day for our safety.

Coal ash cleanup bill passes

On Monday evening the House passed Senate Bill 9, legislation which would create the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act. Many local residents near the Vermilion River in our district have been concerned by the environmental and ecosystem damage being done by the presence of coal ash; the by-product of burning coal which can contain mercury and other dangerous chemicals. This legislation creates a mechanism for preventing future coal ash prevention of the river. I voted yes on this bill, which passed the House 77-35.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,721,054,937 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.6 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.

More details next week

As I mentioned above, we are working into the closing hours of session this weekend to resolve the remaining major issues of the 2019 spring session. I will have a more detailed update from the Capitol for you in next week’s newsletter.