Progress continuing on vaccinations
More than 30% of all Illinoisans have now received their coronavirus vaccinations and are considered to be fully vaccinated. In all, more than 9 million vaccine doses have been adminstered throughout the state. With many of these requiring two separate shots, it will take more than 26 million total doses to fully vaccinate the entire population of Illinois. An ample supply exists for those who still wish to get their vaccination at any of the more than 1000 vaccination locations in Illinois.
Along with this good news about vaccination progress comes the continuing ominous news about the spread of the illness. The state is still averaging more than 2000 new cases per day, including many individuals who have to be hospitalized. One Peoria hospital recently reported it intensive care unit being 97% full.
If you have not already done so, please visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or contact your local health department to find out how to get vaccinated in your local community.
Partisan redistricting process moves forward
Every ten years the Constitution requires the General Assembly to re-draw the state’s congressional and state legislative districts to ensure that each district is equal in population. This week we learned that because Illinois’ population has not grown as fast as other states like Texas, North Carolina and Montana, we will have one fewer seat in Congress starting in 2023.
In the past the redistricting process has been abused to keep one party or one politician in power. By drawing district lines to ensure the election or re-election of a particular politician the process can be a useful tool for cementing someone’s hold on an office.
We entered 2021 with some hopes that this year would be different. In 2018 Governor Pritzker said that he would veto any partisan redistricting map. House Speaker Chris Welch co-sponsored legislation in the past creating a Constitutional amendment for an independent redistricting commission – it passed the House overwhelmingly. It looked like 2021 might be the year that we ended the terrible tradition of one party using redistricting to hold onto power.
But now Governor Pritzker seems to be backing away from his promise, despite repeated requests for him to reaffirm the position he took in 2018. In order to rush through the process and pass a map before both parties can be involved, the majority in the General Assembly is going forward with a plan to use data from the less-accurate American Community Survey instead of waiting for the official figures from the 2020 Census.
The collection of too much power in too few hands has been one of the greatest flaws in state government in recent years, leading to ethical scandals and other problems. In the past redistricting has been a useful tool for keeping that system in power. The Governor needs to stay true to his original position and support a fair, nonpartisan map.
Click here to see the Facebook Live discussion I hosted about redistricting with Rep. Tim Butler of Springfield and Rep. Avery Bourne of Morrisonville, two of the leaders in the effort to get a fair and non-partisan map.
House bills in the Senate, Senate bills in the House
Last Friday was the deadline for legislation to pass one house of the legislature and go over to the other house for consideration. Before the deadline expired the House failed to pass legislation dealing with ethics reform or lowering property taxes, or anything having to do with making it easier to start or sustain a business in Illinois.
The House did pass a bill which would change the law to make possession of certain amounts of drugs such as heroin and cocaine misdemeanors instead of felonies. I opposed that bill because I believe it will make our communities less safe. There was also no action to reduce the backlog of FOID card applications and renewals, though we were successful in stopping a bill which would have worsened the problem by requiring all FOID card applicants to be fingerprinted.
This week the House began hearings on Senate bills which had passed out of that chamber. I was proud to have nine bills which I sponsored pass the House and go over to the Senate. We will be back in session next week and every week through the end of May.
Illinois Rental Payment Program opens applications in May
The Illinois Housing Development Authority’s Rental Payment Program offers assistance to Illinois renters who are not able to pay their rent because of the pandemic. Eligible applicants may receive as much as 15 months of assistance – up to 12 months of past-due rent plus three months in the future, with a maximum grant of $25,000. This program uses federal funds and grants are paid directly to the housing provider. For more information, please click here.
Facebook Live discussion with Richard Pearson
Join me at 7 p.m. on Monday night May 3 for a Facebook Live discussion with Richard Pearson, the Executive Director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, about issues affecting gun owners in Illinois.
Click here to join the discussion.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,305,311,297 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.
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).