Changes to state mask mandate; Big crush of bills to end session

Most (but not all) state mask mandates lifted

For more than a year we have been living under executive orders issued by the Governor with very little input from legislators or local officials. I continue to believe that state law needs to be changed to require legislative input once a 30-day emergency declaration has expired, and I have sponsored legislation to do just that. Government by executive order over such an extended period of time is not how our system is supposed to work.

Having said that, I am pleased to report the lifting of most of the mask mandates and other emergency rules which were put in place last spring. This news comes after the CDC changed its own mask guidance and after case numbers and vaccination rates in Illinois greatly improved. This comes the same week as the Illinois State Board of Education voting unanimously to require that “all schools must resume fully in-person learning for all student attendance days,” starting this fall.

On Monday, most of the mask mandate was lifted for fully vaccinated people. It remains in effect for “healthcare settings, in congregate settings and on transit,” as well as in schools and daycare centers. Businesses and other private property owners may still require masks on their property if they so choose. The emergency rules which “enforce masking and distancing for vaccinated people in business settings” have also been rescinded. Those who have not been vaccinated “should continue wearing masks in most settings.”

Read the full announcement from the Governor’s office by clicking here. According to the Department of Public Health, 4.8 million Illinoisans are now fully vaccinated, including 58% of all residents over the age of 16 and 86% of residents older than 65.

House nearing end of session with large number of bills in the works

More than 500 bills passed the House this spring, and 400 more passed the Senate. Now each of these bills is being heard in the other chamber in advance of the scheduled adjournment on May 31. Some are major legislation with far-reaching implications, others are small bills tailored to one specific situation. It has been reported that there is a great deal of confusion amongst the legislative leadership about the bills that are possibly coming up for final action.

As it is every year, our top priority has to be passing a balanced budget for the fiscal year which begins July 1. This year we also face the once-in-a-decade task of redrawing legislative districts to reflect new Census numbers. This important process is unfortunately becoming mired in partisan politics in spite of a promise from the Governor to veto any unfair, partisan map.

We are also expecting to see energy legislation in the final days of session. Discussion has been ongoing for months on a package of bills concerning different aspects of state energy policy: from investments in the electric grid to subsidizing Illinois’ nuclear plants. Exelon has announced that without action by the legislature it will close two of its nuclear generating stations, endangering hundreds of jobs. The legislature and the Governor are working on bills to address the issue and bring about more clean, affordable energy for Illinois’ future.

One complication is the fact that the last major energy bill, in 2016, was the subject of the corruption investigation that led to the fall of former Speaker Michael Madigan earlier this year. That brings us back to the importance of passing some kind of serious ethics reform this year, which thus far the House has failed to do. We have a lot of work to do before adjourning.

State revenue estimate up considerably, makes case for no new tax increases

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability has upgraded its revenue estimate for the current fiscal year and next year as well. Thanks to the recovering economy the estimates now predict a surplus for this year and a much better revenue picture for next year. In all, revenue for this fiscal year is up by $7.2 billion compared to last spring when the current budget was passed, closing the expected budget hole and giving the state a $1 billion surplus.

It is important to note that this was accomplished without raising taxes. Last year Illinoisans were being told that the only way to fix our budget crisis was to amend the Constitution to enact a large tax increase. Voters rejected the tax increase, and now we are seeing that it was never necessary in the first place.

Next year’s revenue estimate was revised upward by $792 million. The current projection estimates that Illinois will have $41.188 billion in revenue in the next fiscal year. That presents us with a much smaller gap between the Governor’s proposed budget and the available revenue. If we are willing to work together, we can pass a balanced budget this year and start to break the cycle of bad, unrealistic budgeting practices which have caused so many of state government’s problems.

Thank you Trooper Dattoli

It was windy, getting dark and the rain was pouring down on Monday night. I was on I-72 near Decatur and all of a sudden my car hit something and my right front tire went flat. I pulled off the road and stopped.

It wasn’t long before Trooper Joe Dattoli arrived. He brought his own tire pump and other equipment to get my temporary tire on and get me going again! I cannot tell you how comforting it felt to see Trooper Dattoli pull up to assist me. While we worked on the tire, we talked and smiled about the situation. Thank you Trooper for making a difference for me! God bless you and thank you for all you do to help others!

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,501,924,134 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.1 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

Department of Public Health reports coronavirus deaths in Livingston and Vermilion counties

Corinne Wood, Illinois’ first female Lieutenant Governor, dies at 66

House recognizes Marvin Perzee County Fair Day

What do you see?

Dueling ethics bills stalling despite multiple corruption scandals

Governor announces grants to help make rent payments, end to eviction moratorium in August

May is Older Americans Month

IDNR Conservation Police step up enforcement patrols as busy boating season begins

Treasurer’s office accepting submissions for Cream of the Crop photo contest

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