Local vaccination rates; Working toward a Reagan statue

Local vaccination rates trail statewide percentage

Many people in our area and around the state have gotten the coronavirus vaccine, which is now available and recommended for everyone over the age of 12. Over the past couple of months Illinois and the nation have seen infection rates rising again due to a mutation of the virus called the Delta variant. Last week Illinois reported 26,062 new cases and 197 deaths. Every county in the state except one in northwestern Illinois is considered to be at high risk for transmission.

So how does our area compare when it comes to vaccination rates? As of Thursday morning, the state had achieved a fully-vaccinated rate of 54.13% among all Illinoisans. The vaccination rates for each of our district’s five counties trailed behind the statewide number. Woodford County has the highest fully-vaccinated rate in our district at 47.19%. In Ford County the rate is 45.34% while 42.47% of Livingston County residents are fully vaccinated. Iroquois stands at 39.36% and Vermilion is at 35.83%.

Vaccines remain available in each of the five counties of our district as well as at sites in neighboring counties. To find the vaccination site closest to you, please click here.

Eureka College leaders speak to House committee about Reagan statue

I was glad to invite Eureka College President Dr. Jamel Wright and Vice President of Institutional Advancement Josem Diaz to speak to the House Statues and Monuments Review Task Force about President Ronald Reagan, Eureka Class of ‘32. President Reagan was the only President who was born, raised and educated in Illinois, and I have introduced legislation to place a statue of him on the state capitol grounds. During our discussion with the committee we focused on his time growing up in Illinois, attending Eureka College as well as serving as California governor, President and leader of the free world. There were some great stories, dialogue and conversation.

I appreciate the efforts and support of committee chair Rep. Mary Flowers and Minority Spokesperson Rep. Tim Butler in making this happen.

When is a veto not a veto?

Last week I told you about the weak, watered-down ethics bill which Democrats enacted even though it barely scratched the surface when it comes to fighting corruption in government. The bill had been passed in the spring, partially vetoed in August, and then put up for its final vote in early September. The process of how we got to last week’s vote is a little complicated and it is rooted in the veto powers granted to the governor by the Illinois Constitution – which are very different from those given to the President by the U.S. Constitution.

In Washington the President has two choices when Congress passes a bill: sign it, or veto it. There is no in between. Reformers have been pushing for a middle-ground option known as a “line-item veto” for decades, but have not been able to enact it. In Illinois, as in most states, governors have a series of options when it comes to the different kinds of vetoes.

Like the President, a governor can sign a bill into law (or ignore it for 60 days and let it automatically become law without his signature) or veto it entirely. But in Illinois governors also have two other options. One is a “reduction veto” of spending bills, in which the governor can reduce the amount of spending authorized by a bill, with the remaining amount becoming law. The legislature can override this reduction veto and restore the full amount of spending.

The other option the governor has is called the “amendatory veto” in which he makes specific recommendations for change and returns the bill to its originating chamber. This is the option Governor Pritzker exercised with the ethics bill, making a few small changes and sending it back to the Senate and then the House for approval. I felt that his changes should have been more in keeping with the recommendations issued by the Legislative Inspector General when she resigned in protest of the General Assembly’s unwillingness to pass serious ethics reform. Because his changes fell short, I voted No.

When the governor issues an amendatory veto, the bill comes back to the General Assembly, which has several options of its own. It can give up and let the bill die, either by voting it down or by refusing to call it for a vote at all. If it wants, the legislature can override the governor’s veto by a three-fifths supermajority vote in both houses, thus making it law in spite of the governor’s recommendations. Or it can vote to accept the governor’s recommendations for change, which is what the House and Senate ending up doing with the ethics bill.

Each chamber has 15 days to vote on whether to accept the amendatory veto. Therefore when the first House vote on August 31 fell short, the House still had time to call the bill for a second try on September 9, which was successful.

The last step in this process comes if both houses accept the governor’s recommendations. The bill is then sent back to him to certify that the House and Senate vote has conformed to his recommendations. The amended bill then becomes law.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $5,638,019,302 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $7.8 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.

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