General Assembly reconvenes; COVID alters session schedule

Spring session underway

The 2022 spring session of the Illinois General Assembly began this week, with the House and Senate returning to Springfield on Wednesday. This year’s session calendar has been compressed into a shorter timeframe. Instead of being in session until May 31, we are scheduled to complete our work and adjourn on April 8. The number of actual days scheduled to be in Springfield is comparable to a normal year, but without as many long recesses over the course of the session.

We have many important issues to address this year. We will need to pass a balanced state budget. Last year we passed a budget that was not truly balanced, but we received billions of dollars from Washington DC through a series of COVID-19 relief bills. That money allowed us to plug some holes in the budget, but also allowed some state leaders to put off tough choices for another year. For the upcoming year we are unlikely to have that kind of federal money flowing in, so we will have to work harder to pass a realistic, balanced budget.

Other issues that should be prominent this year include keeping our state safe from crime, improving our job-creation climate, recovering from the pandemic and the continuing need for meaningful ethics reform. I am also working on legislation to implement the recommendations of our School Construction Task Force to help our local school districts get the money they need for building improvements.

Higher COVID numbers cause cancellation of some January session days

The number of session days we have to work with this spring was reduced again this week as the scheduled Tuesday and Thursday session days were cancelled due to the rise in COVID cases. House Speaker Chris Welch and Senate President Don Harmon announced the cancellation late last week. The Speaker cited a 130% increase in Illinois’ daily average of cases and 50% increase in hospitalizations over the previous two weeks. Next week’s session has also been cancelled.

Most of the 2020 spring session was cancelled due to COVID, as were many of the early days of the 2021 session.

Judicial redistricting bill introduced, quickly voted on

As usual, session included some surprises. Once again Democrats rolled out an important piece of legislation and then voted on it a short time later. This time it was a bill to politicize the judiciary by redrawing the districts of the state’s judges and creating several new judgeships. Just like the congressional and state legislative maps which passed in 2021, this map was drawn behind closed doors and rushed through to passage with no transparency and little input from our judges.

Governor Pritzker promised to veto any partisan redistricting map, but has now repeatedly gone back on that pledge. Will he do it yet again?

Changes to policing bill do little to address last year’s shortcomings

One year ago the General Assembly passed policing legislation which was opposed by virtually every law enforcement group in the state. I voted No because I believed the bill would make Illinois less safe. This week another bill came up which was hyped as an improvement to the legislation passed last year, but it fell far short of the kinds of changes which last year’s bill needed.

One of the biggest problems with last year’s bill was that it prohibited police from holding persons arrested and charged with serious violent offenses before trial. This week’s legislation did nothing to change that glaring error. Instead it focused primarily on allowing detained individuals to make multiple unmonitored phone calls after arrest. This week’s bill did nothing to make Illinoisans safer or to fix the many flaws in last year’s legislation. I voted No. We need to do much more work on this issue.

Tour of carbon storage facility

Thank you Dr. Steve Whittaker of the Illinois Geological Survey (University of Illinois) and manager Steve Kelly with One Earth Energy for a tour of their drilling facility in our district on a chilly day last week. This facility is a test site for carbon storage. There has been a growing interest and focus on what carbon capture and carbon storage can offer the state of Illinois. This involves capturing carbon dioxide, liquefying it under pressure and storing it safely deep underground. The geological rock structure in Illinois offers much promise for carbon storage. There are exciting times ahead for this new technology! More to come!

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $4,588,629,907 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.5 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.

Did You Know?

The county lines in the area which today makes up the 106th district were shifted many times in the early years of Illinois statehood. Parts of our area have been claimed by Fayette, Crawford, Clark, Edgar, Bond, Sangamon, Shelby, Tazewell, LaSalle and McLean Counties. The boundaries of the five counties which make up our district (Ford, Iroquois, Livingston, Vermilion and Woodford) were not finally settled until more than 40 years after statehood.

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Illinois colleges go remote to begin spring semester

Illinois Department of Agriculture picks Rebecca Clark as manager of the Illinois State Fair