Illinois holds first virtual committee hearings to move legislation
Due to the pandemic a change was made to the rules of the House of Representatives for the 102nd General Assembly which would permit committee hearings to be held virtually via Zoom. Over the summer some subject matter and task force hearings were held via Zoom, but this week marked the first time that we met to consider legislation and hold committee votes. It was a very different experience than what we are used to.
On Tuesday I presented two bills in the Judiciary-Civil committee, chaired by Rep. Andre Thapedi. Even with the new format for the hearing, we had a good discussion and dialogue. House Bill 263 and House Bill 266 both deal with the way that guardians are assigned under the Guardians For Adults with Disabilities article of state law. Wednesday afternoon another of my bills, House Bill 285, advanced out of the State Government Administration committee. This bill would create a commemorative date in honor of the U.S. military veterans who were exposed to radiation from nuclear tests during the Cold War. The bills were approved by the committees unanimously and now go to the House floor for debate.
To ensure that the public can still participate in this important process of governing, the schedule of committee hearings is posted here, and the process for submitting witness testimony can be found here.
Study finds Illinois the second-most corrupt state government in the USA
It is no secret that Illinois state government has a long-standing corruption problem, with recent indictments and convictions of everyone from Governors and legislators to local officials and political power-brokers. It makes the failure of the state’s leaders to act decisively against corruption (such as by passing the ethics reforms bills which I and other Republicans have introduced) especially frustrating. Now we have a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago which demonstrates that Illinois’ state government is more corrupt that 48 of the other 49 states. Louisiana was the only state ranked worse.
The UIC study looked at the number of political-corruption convictions in each state and compared them with the state’s population. The five states which border Illinois all came in much lower. We have to stop delaying action on ethics reform and pass some meaningful bills this year. You can review the full UIC study here.
Visit to the high school in Pontiac
I was grateful for the opportunity to visit Pontiac Township High School and see their new tutoring program to help students stay engaged. While I was there I had a chance to talk with Superintendent Jon Kilgore, teacher Paul Ritter, Brian Enderli of the Pontiac Police Department.
This has been a difficult year for education, but our teachers and students are doing their best every day to rise to the challenge.
Calling for increased capacity at sporting events
Many of our local high school sports teams have re-started their seasons as coronavirus cases have declined in our area. But they are still playing in front of nearly empty stands instead of friends and family. Of course we are still a long way away from the days of seeing the bleachers packed with fans, but this week I joined with Illinois principals, superintendents, school boards, athletic directors and a bipartisan group of legislators in calling on the Governor and the Department of Public Health to allow up to 25% capacity of fans to attend local sporting events.
“We have learned from conversations with school officials involved with the planning and execution of hosting extracurricular activities that here have in fact not been major viral outbreaks resulting from allowing previously prohibited extracurricular activities. We believe this is due to the unprecedented effort of local school officials and athletes to take the steps necessary to keep everyone safe,” our letter states. “We feel that allowing fans at a capacity of 25% can be accomplished following stated guidelines for mask-wearing and appropriate social distancing of 6 feet.”
Click here to read the letter in its entirety.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $5,021,783,949 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $6.9 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
To get all the latest news and information from every Illinois state agency, visit the state’s newsfeed website at https://www2.illinois.gov/news. There you will find the latest press releases from state agencies. If you want to receive updates only from the agencies you select, you can sign up to receive state agency news alerts by going to https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/gov/pages/communicationsoptin.aspx and signing up for e-mail news updates.
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).