House nears adjournment deadline
The House is scheduled to adjourn for the summer on Monday May 31. After that date the state Constitution makes it more difficult to pass bills into law, so there is always a crush of legislation in the closing days as legislators race against the clock to get bills passed before the deadline. While things can and frequently do change quite a bit in the closing days and hours of session, here is an update on where things currently stand as of Friday morning. Much is still unresolved.
Last week I told you about the increase in revenue from the ongoing economic recovery, and how it brought us close to the point of being able to balance the budget. Unfortunately getting over that last hump is proving to be very difficult, and so far Republicans have not been included in many of the discussions.
Governor Pritzker has proposed closing the remaining gap by raising taxes on small businesses and rolling back some of the business incentives that we enacted in 2019 to help create jobs in Illinois. At the time, those incentives were heralded as progress in reforming Illinois’ job-creation climate, and they were part of a bipartisan agreement to pass a budget and create jobs. It is disappointing to see the Governor considering going back on his word and doing away with those incentives.
Over the weekend the Democrats rolled out an unfair, partisan redistricting plan which was drawn in a back room behind a locked door. The map was widely criticized not only for its blatant partisanship but for the fact that it relied on incomplete and inaccurate data, instead of waiting for the correct numbers from the Census Bureau. Hearings were held this week and many key questions were not answered by the sponsors of the plan. Last night they revealed some changes to the proposal that was produced over the weekend, but without the correct Census data, these maps have the same shortcomings as the original version.
Negotiations are continuing on a package of energy bills. Though we have not yet seen the finished product, those involved in the negotiations have said their goal is to enact a plan which would improve and modernize Illinois’ electricity delivery infrastructure, keep the state’s four nuclear power plants in service and deliver cleaner and more affordable energy to Illinois for the future. A lot of details remain to be worked out on this issue.
This year began with the fall of former House Speaker Michael Madigan in connection with a bribery scandal. On Wednesday his former Chief of Staff, who is also the former Clerk of the House of Representatives, was indicted in connection with the scandal. All of this comes after a year which included several high profile scandals and resignations of state legislators. There was hope that this might finally be the catalyst for passing real ethics reform. Unfortunately, although there have been some discussions in the Senate, the House has thus far failed to pass any significant ethics reform this spring.
Earlier this year Governor Pritzker signed a law enforcement bill which was hastily passed through the legislature despite overwhelming opposition from nearly every law enforcement group in the state. Promises have since been made to consider changes to the law to prevent “unintended consequences.” Since then there have been some talks, but so far no legislation has been passed to address the many serious concerns raised by those we entrust with keeping our communities safe.
Donating the pay raise
Two years ago state legislators were given a pay raise which we did not deserve. I pledged that I would not keep the raise, instead donating it to a local nonprofit agency serving the residents of the 106th District. This month I was proud to donate my raise to the Gibson Area Food Pantry in Gibson City. Karen Wright, Matthew Ertel, Jean Ertel and Rick Ertel, along with their volunteer team do a great job of helping meet the needs of our community. Thank you for all your efforts!
More vaccination milestones passed
Last weekend the five millionth Illinoisan became fully vaccinated. More than 11 million shots have been administered in Illinois. Also this week the state passed a rate of 40% of the total population fully vaccinated. The number of adults who are fully vaccinated is approaching 50%, while 65% of adults have received at least one shot. If you or a loved one have not yet been vaccinated, there are vaccination sites in all five counties of our district. Information is available at coronavirus.illinois.gov or by contacting your local health department.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $3,212,036,854 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.
Have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day!
This weekend we pause to remember those who have given their lives for our country. Memorial Day was created by an Illinoisan, General John A. Logan who went on to represent Illinois in the U.S Senate. In his proclamation declaring the holiday in 1868, Logan called on patriotic Americans to remember those who had lost their lives in the Civil War and to “raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor.”
Take a moment this weekend to remember those who have given so much for our freedoms and liberties. Thank you to all who serve and to their families.
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.