Welcome to my monthly E-Newsletter! On Wednesday, January 14th, I was sworn in for my first full term as your Representative. It is an honor to serve you. Below is a quick update on a few developments and issues from this past month:
Recent Action on Legislation
I filed my first bill, HB 303, on January 26th. This bill amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to define the term “severance agreement”. It forbids the use of confidentially clauses in severance agreements made with taxpayer money. The bill is designed to increase government transparency and encourage appropriate allocation of taxpayer funds. On February 13th the bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee for deliberation.
I filed HB 303 because I saw the necessity of ensuring a process that is fair to the taxpayers after College of Dupage’s recent lucrative severance package given to its former president . As such, I became a co-sponsor of Rep. Jeanne Ives’ (R- Wheaton) House Resolution, HJR20, on February 6th. The resolution urges the Board of Trustees at the College of DuPage to reconsider the 762,000 dollar severance agreement reached with Dr. Robert Breuder and to rename the College of DuPage Homeland Security Education Center in honor of Staff Sergeant Robert J. Miller. It was referred to the Rules Committee on February 18th.
On February 19th, I joined with Rep Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside) to Co-Sponsor HB2512. The bill calls for a disabilities task force to consider issues that affect persons with disabilities and their involvement with police, aspects of the judicial system, and public safety. The task force will make recommendations to the Governor and GA with the goal of ensuring the well-being of those with disabilities while protecting public safety. The members of this task force will serve without compensation and will be appointed the Attorney General. On the 19th, I also became a Co-Sponsor on HB2658, which Amends the State Property Control Act to allow retiring State Police officers to purchase the service pistol and badge they used throughout their career.
On Friday February 20th, I was appointed to the Appropriations-General Services Committee, bringing my total committee assignments up to seven: Counties & Townships, State Government Administration, Environment, Intermodal Infrastructure, Health Care Licenses, and Juvenile Justice & System-Involved Youth.
Elsewhere in the General Assembly
The House has started its schedule of spring 2015 hearings. Under the Rules of the House, all House bills and most amendments are looked at and debated by committees. Members of these committees have been previously named, but the panels themselves started to meet this week, hearing testimony and remarks from advocates and witnesses. House committees can approve a bill, reject a bill, or hold the bill for further debate. Potential committee actions are posted in the General Assembly Dashboard prior to each committee hearing and Illinois voters are welcome to follow issues they are interested in at the ILGA website.
The filing deadline for bills in the House was this past Friday. There was a flurry of activity in the week leading up to it as members tried to get as many of their bills submitted before the cutoff.
Governor’s Budget Address
Governor Rauner addressed the General Assembly with the yearly Budget Address on Wednesday, February 18th. Below is my response:
“The Governor’s message today was clear: our state finances are in crisis, and we will need to work together now on the difficult decisions needed to turn it around. It’s clear Governor Rauner recognizes that like our families, our state must live within its means, and he has given us an honest assessment and a starting point for negotiation. As I review the details in the coming weeks, I am looking forward to discussing them with my constituents and getting their input. I’m optimistic that this spring we will finally begin to get Illinois back on track.”
State Pension and Health Benefits
After being sworn in, I refused a state pension and the health benefits offered to members of the General Assembly. Illinois is in a serious fiscal hole and has one of the worst funded state pension systems in the nation. My refusal, while a marginal step, shows my determination to get this state’s finances under control and my willingness to take the necessary actions. I hope that other Representatives and Senators, who haven’t already, will consider doing the same.