New General Assembly; New House Speaker

New 102nd General Assembly sworn in

I was honored on Wednesday to once again take the oath of office as the representative from the 106th district. It is a privilege to represent the people of our area, and I remain grateful to you for your trust.

This year we face many challenges as a state, and there is much the General Assembly needs to do to meet those challenges. We have to get serious about reforming our ethical culture in state government. We must fix our broken pension system and reform our property taxes as well. This should be the year we work together to pass a realistic, balanced budget based on an honest assessment of what our fiscal condition is.

The state of Illinois also has some administrative challenges that we have to overcome soon. The problems in the Department of Employment Security (IDES) continue to make things hard for those who have become unemployed due to the pandemic, or those who have had fraudulent applications filed in their names. And we must straighten out the backlog of FOID card applications.

When we reach the end of the spring session in May, we as legislators will have to look back and ask ourselves some important questions. What have we really done to help all of Illinois? What have we done to help our constituents protect themselves and recover from COVID-19? What have we done to improve the process at IDES? What have we done to help our local businesses that have lost millions due to the pandemic? What have we done to help our neighbors who no longer have jobs? What have we done to improve the ethical tone and culture of the House? What have we done to take some of the governmental burden off of businesses? What have we done to improve our schools and roads? What have we done to improve our budget, our debt and our pension situation? Who have we helped?

There is much to do, but if we are willing to work together and make tough choices, we can meet the challenges we face.

Madigan out as Speaker; Chris Welch to lead House in 102nd General Assembly

The Illinois House of Representatives got its first new Speaker of the 21st century this week, as Representative Chris Welch of Hillside was chosen to lead the body for the upcoming term. Welch replaces longtime Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago, who was first elected Speaker back in 1983. Speaker Welch joined the House in 2013 after serving on his local school board. Before becoming Speaker he was chairman of the House Executive Committee.

Former Speaker Madigan was a longtime impediment to reform and amassed far too much power for any one individual in government. I hope that Speaker Welch will seize this opportunity to improve the climate in the General Assembly on everything from ethics and civility to including both parties in passing legislation. This can be a real turning point for the state if we can change things for the better in the Illinois House. I wish Speaker Welch all the best in taking on this important task.

Voting No on law enforcement bill

I voted No on a law enforcement bill, House Bill 3653 (formerly known as House Bill 163), which was opposed almost universally by law enforcement and prosecutors from every part of the state because it harms law enforcement and makes our state less safe. Unfortunately it passed by a vote of 60-50.

Disappointing end to the 101st General Assembly

Before the inauguration on Wednesday the House returned for five days of session to finish up the outgoing 101st General Assembly. It was a chance to wrap up bills before the new members of the House were sworn in. It could have been a chance to act on ethics reform and property tax reform, to look into the failures at the Department of Employment Security or reduce the wait time for FOID card applications, or to re-assert the legislature’s role in state government after months of Governor Pritzker governing by executive order. But it wasn’t.

What we got instead was a hyper-partisan session that seemed at times to have more to do with internal Democratic Party politics than it did with governing the state of Illinois. Not a single Republican bill was even called for a vote during the entire session. It was yet another missed opportunity and a serious disappointment.

Among the other bills passed were a well-intentioned but flawed education bill. It was laden with unfunded mandates which will force property taxes to be raised, while decreasing the qualifications for obtaining quality educators by removing the minimum grade point average of 3.0 to obtain an Alternative Educator License. The House also continued its frustrating pattern of passing legislation that will hurt small businesses and job creators in Illinois.

There were a few bright spots. There was a great amount of concern that the lame duck session would see an income tax increase rushed through, but that did not occur. We also saw a few good pieces of legislation, like a bill to crack down on payday lenders, but overall it was a sad end to the outgoing General Assembly.

I hope this new term will bring some common sense and a real commitment to fixing what is broken in state government.

VA Director steps down

On Monday morning the House held a hearing to look into what went wrong at the LaSalle Veterans Home where a coronavirus outbreak sickened many veterans and staff. Numerous shortcomings in the state’s response to the outbreak at the facility have come to light in the aftermath.

Monday afternoon the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, Linda Chapa LaVia, announced she was stepping down from her post. She will be replaced by Major General Peter Nezamis who will serve as interim director of the agency until a new director can be appointed. General Nezamis currently serves as the assistant adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard and is a 34-year veteran of the Air National Guard, including service in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $5,295,045,572 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.7 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 more than $141 billion.

More news from around the state

The latest update from the Department of Public Health reports deaths in Livingston and Vermilion counties

Local county health departments: Ford, Iroquois, Livingston, Vermilion, Woodford

Vaccine phase 1B will include roughly 3.2 million Illinois residents

Department of Public Health to begin posting COVID vaccination data

IDFPR and banks work together again to provide free check cashing for stimulus checks

The next round of PPP loans will soon be available

For additional helpful resources, click here.

My district offices remain closed to in-person visits, but are still accessible by phone at (815) 432-0106 (Watseka) and (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac).