Final hours of session underway
Today is scheduled to be the final day of the spring session of the General Assembly. Before things get too hectic around the Capitol I wanted to give you a quick update on where we stand. Some issues remain up in the air at this hour, so I hope to have a more complete update for you in next week’s newsletter.
Budget deal reached – 3200 pages long
Last night Governor Pritzker and Democrat leaders in the House and Senate announced they had reached a budget deal. The bill is over 3200 pages long and was dropped on our desks with only a few hours to review it before the vote. Just like last year. There was almost no transparency when it came to the final draft of the budget. It increases spending even though revenue is projected to decrease. It relies on federal funds to fill in the gaps. When the federal funds run out, I’m afraid the Democrats will go back to pushing for tax increases. And we still owe the federal government over a billion dollars to pay back what we borrowed for unemployment claims.
This process remains badly broken and it does not serve the people of Illinois well to keep spending their money this way.
Crime bills pass House, fail to repeal SAFE-T Act
Last January Democrats passed a crime bill (the SAFE-T Act) on a party line vote over the objections of virtually all of our law enforcement groups. Since then, crime has risen throughout the state. I joined many other House Republicans in suggesting some ideas for helping our police and getting crime under control. We could begin by repealing last year’s flawed legislation and starting over.
This week the General Assembly finally acted, with some Republican ideas incorporated into the bills which passed. While Democrats still refuse to repeal the SAFE-T Act, the House did make a number of improvements which were supported by our sheriffs and police chiefs. Among the legislation passed this week was a bill to help us recruit and retain police officers, legislation to protect witnesses and prevent carjackings.
We still have much more to do, but at least this week we finally took a small step in the right direction.
Farmers’ market legislation passes
I was proud to see a bill I sponsored on behalf of our farmers’ markets pass the House. Senate Bill 3838 creates a statewide, standardized licensing process for farmers’ markets that keeps market fees low for farmers. It was an idea which came from the Stewardship Alliance and one which the Farm Bureau has been supportive of as well.
In any city or county where the local health department requires you to have a farmers’ market permit, a vendor would now have a standard, one-year permit that could not cost more than $175. We would also have a statewide standard for sanitation guidelines, rules and regulations, instead of local governments being able to add more stringent requirements than those which are set by the Illinois Department of Public Health. It means that vendors will have consistency in permitting and consistency in sanitation. The bill passed both houses unanimously and is now on its way to the Governor’s desk.
Governor reissues executive orders yet again
For two years I have been calling for an end to one-man rule in Illinois. Governor Pritzker has been issuing and re-issuing executive orders to make policy, completely sidelining the legislature and local governments and taxpayers. Last Friday he re-issued a long series of executive orders, once again acting without including any of the people’s representatives.
I and other members of the House have introduced and co-sponsored bills to restrict the Governor’s ability to issue these endless series of executive orders and to limit the extent of his emergency powers. But like so many other good ideas in this session, the Governor’s allies in the leadership of the General Assembly have refused to even consider our bills, content to let the one-man rule continue. The people of Illinois are not well served when they are ignored and overruled, when decisions are made by one person with no input or collaboration with anyone else. This has to stop.
IGOLD Day in Springfield
Wednesday was a busy day at the Capitol. It was nice to have so many Second Amendment supporters in Springfield for the annual Illinois Gun Owners’ Lobby Day (IGOLD). Members of the Illinois State Rifle Association, including its director, Richard Pearson, reached out to legislators in support of our Second Amendment rights. I am proud to stand with them at the Capitol every year.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $4,245,824,173 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $5.3 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?
Did you know Illinois has an official state reptile? The painted turtle was bestowed with that honor about 20 years ago following an online poll conducted by Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. Formally known as Chrysemys Picta, the painted turtle received 16,742 votes to win the poll. The legislature made the designation official in 2005. Illinois is not alone in having a state reptile: we are one of 17 states which have made such a recognition.
More news from around the state