The House convened for the first time in four weeks and as we prepared for a busy next two months, lobbyists and other interested parties began their yearly trips down to Springfield to see how the process works and share their views on legislation. Meeting with these groups is an important part of the job in understanding how bills will impact different groups of people and organizations. Representatives visit our offices every day lobbying for their causes (i.e. veterans), their fellow workers (i.e. Nat’l Assoc. of Social Workers), and their rights (i.e. I-GOLD gun owners). For most groups, the prominent topic of conversation of course was the desperate need for a budget, unfortunately there remains little movement on the subject even as we enter our 10th month.
Busy Bill Week and Legislative “Hot Topics”
The deadline for bills to pass out of committee was last Friday. As a result much of the week was spent in hearings instead of on the House floor. In committee we substantively debated some of the thousands of bills that have been filed since January. Here are some highlights from the week:
- HB 5809, which would have allowed pharmacists to prescribe birth control to women over 18, did not pass out of committee.
- After a lengthy debate, HB6164 also failed to move out of committee on an 11-11 vote. The bill was an initiative from Lt. Governor Sanguinetti’s unfunded mandate task force and would have lessened restrictions on a school contracting with a 3rd party to provide “non-instructional” services like driver’s education. It would have also allowed additional excuses for pupils to opt out of physical education. The legislation was estimated to save school districts $200 million annually.
- One bill that I have been hearing a lot about from constituents, HB432, did not come before committee and is instead still being worked on by the sponsor. The bill is a response to Attorney General Madigan’s ruling last year that fantasy sports contests constitute gambling and are therefore illegal and would legalize fantasy sports with limited regulation.
- HB4227 passed out of committee and dictates that public schools require 181, instead of 176, days of actual pupil attendance.
- HB4212 was prompted by the death of Eric Garner who was killed in the process of being arrested for selling “loose cigarettes” in NY. This bill would make the sale of such cigarettes a fine-able offense as opposed to a criminal one and it passed the full House.
As always I would encourage you to follow legislation on ilga.gov and contact my office to share your views on current legislation.
New Proposal to Fund Social Services
Both sides of the aisle acknowledge that social services are at their breaking point in this state. Unfortunately, bills thus far proposed by the majority party merely extend IOUs instead of offering reliable and legitimate funding. Senate and House Republican leaders presented a new proposal last Wednesday to properly fund services.
Under this new proposal, parts of the cost of these payments would be met by transfers from other State funds and part would be met by a proposal requiring public schools and universities to cover the pension costs for salaries they pay above $180,000 a year. The Governor also wants to implement a plan that would phase in changes to state contributions caused, for example, when the pension systems cut the rate of return they expect to receive on their investments. The administration thinks the changes will save $780 million a year. This measure joins a number of pension proposals being discussed this spring prompted by the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the 2013 pension reforms.
The $1.3 billion dollar appropriation proposal would restore services including screenings for lead poisoning, services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and home care for elderly residents. The areas covered by these definitions are community public-health-related services, traditionally performed by locally-based nonprofit private sector entities that rely on grant support from the State of Illinois. The failure of the State to enact a FY16 budget has forced many of these service providers throughout Illinois to carry out significant layoffs.
Identity Theft Event
This morning I hosted an identity theft seminar with the Attorney General’s office and members of local law enforcement. I will have a link to the powerpoint that was shown during the seminar on my website by tomorrow.
What other types of constituent service events would you like to see us offer over the summer/early fall?
National Google Science Fair
Google, in partnership with National Geographic, LEGO Education, Scientific American, and Virgin Galactic, is currently taking applications for their 6th annual Google Science Fair. This is an opportunity for bright young minds ages 13–18 to share their big ideas about how to make something better using science and engineering. Submit a project by May 18th for a chance to win a 50,000 college scholarship or other prizes.