Legislators were asked to vote last week on a budget in a piece-meal approach, with no consideration as to how spending X amount here would impact the amount left to spend on Y over there. Instead of coming to an agreement on a budget/spending number and distributing what we have to the various appropriations committees who could take the time and give consideration to where that money should specifically be spent, we were asked to vote on bits of spending without the context of all state programs. The budget put forth by the majority party promises programs and agencies almost $4 billion more than the state has. Last year the General Assembly passed a bill that spent over $1.5 billion more than the state took in. The state would have been unable to make payroll at Illinois prisons, low-income working families would have lost their child care assistance, court reporters would have been laid off, and money for services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled would have run out had a last minute bipartisan deal not been reached to make cuts and transfers in state spending. This $4 billion budget hole is not something that can be similarly fixed. It’s careless to make promises we know we can’t keep, especially to those that need it the most.
In November, the voters of this state made it clear that they wanted bipartisanship and shared policy making. They also made clear that Springfield couldn’t continue its ways of fiscal mismanagement. We now have a governor committed to turning Illinois’ financial ship around. I fully support the governor’s efforts to cut back spending and to seek reforms which would not only bring more taxpayers in to this state, but also reform the irresponsible state spending practices before considering tax increases. The recent pension decision by the State Supreme Court and subsequent credit downgrades make it clear that we can no longer “kick the can down the road”.
In the meantime, Republicans have filed a bill to prohibit cost-of-living adjustments during the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2015 for state government legislative and executive elected officers. Given the dysfunction going on in Springfield, it’s safe to say we haven’t earned it. Speaker Madigan has not released the bill from the Rules committee.
The 5 bills related to the Governor’s turnaround agenda aimed at reforming state government and bringing jobs to the state that I mentioned last week were rejected by the Senate. Senate committees, in a partisan split, voted down the administration’s proposed reforms of civil liability lawsuits, changes to workers’ compensation, and a property tax freeze. The governor’s proposals on term limits and independent map redistricting were not allowed to be heard in either the Senate or the House.
My bill to ban confidentiality clauses in severance and agreements made with taxpayer money stalled in the Senate. The bill had passed the House overwhelmingly 114-2. A new Senate report, sparked by the controversy at the College of DuPage, where President Breuder recently received one of the largest severance packages for a public employee in state history, was released. It chastised public universities and community colleges for providing “excessive fringe benefits” and lucrative exit deals for top administrators, including a $480,418 severance package to the former ISUE president after less than a year on the job. I think we need legislation like HB303 now more than ever. I’m disappointed, but I remain committed to fighting for government transparency and accountability in Springfield.
House Bill 1, passing last week, is the result of comprehensive effort by a 37-member, bi-partisan House task force on the Illinois heroin crisis that held hearings and public testimony throughout the state last year. This sweeping measure aims to curb heroin use and preventing overdose deaths by expanding specialized drug courts that focus on treatment. It would also require police departments and fire houses to stock opioid antidotes that could be used to counteract overdoses.
SB1304, is a wide-ranging police reform bill that was sparked, in part, by recent incidents in Ferguson, Baltimore, and South Carolina. 200 police reform bills were filed in the House this year. Bipartisan efforts combined the best 15 bills into this one inclusive measure.This bill, passing out of the House last week, is an omnibus police bill that creates both the Police and Community Relations Improvement Act and the Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera and Management Act. The first act, among other things, provides that two independent investigators must investigate officer related deaths and bans the use of a chokehold unless deadly force is justified under the Justifiable Use of Force Act. The second aims to create model guidelines, to be adopted as rules by law enforcement agencies using officer-worn body cameras and the regulations surrounding recording. It does not mandate body cameras statewide.
This is your last chance to take my legislative survey and answer a few questions about the things that impact you. The results of the survey will be included in my end of session newsletter. Please take a brief moment and share your thoughts with me. You can fill out the survey by clicking here.
Kids are getting out of school for summer and it’s important that they keep not only their bodies, but their minds active. This year is the start of my annual summer reading club for local elementary school kids to help keep their minds engaged during the months away from school. This year’s theme is “Going Places with Reading” because when a child reads their imaginations are jump started and the possibilities are endless. Participants who read 8 books over the summer break are invited to an ice cream party in August they will receive an official certificate. Local libraries and schools have all been given a copy of the brochure with the appropriate form, so make sure your child gets theirs! Contact my office if you have any questions about the club or how to participate. The deadline is August 7th.