Hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday!
Constitutional Amendment Deadline Passes
Saturday was the cutoff date for constitutional amendment proposals to pass the General Assembly for the November ballot. Of the 59 House proposals, only one constitutional amendment question, to protect road funds from being used for other purposes, will be seen this fall. If approved by the voters in November, this amendment will put all revenues from transportation taxes and fees into a “lockbox” that can only be used for road construction and repair, enforcing traffic laws, and paying off transit-related debt. HJRCA 36 was a response to the lack of a balanced budget and concerns that money from this fund could be swept to pay for General Revenue Fund expenditures.
The House’s attempt to alter the legislative redistricting to remove the General Assembly from the process, passed overwhelmingly from the House (105-7), but failed to make it out of committee in the Senate. The Senate proposal, much different from the one in the House, was never heard in committee. However, there is hope for redistricting. A separate citizen-sponsored petition drive to get “Independent Maps” on the ballot dropped off about 600,000 signatures (more than twice the minimum) at the State Board of Elections on Friday. Given the legal difficulty of getting a constitutional amendment on the ballot, a court challenge is likely. A lawsuit was filed against the 2014 map effort and a judge threw it off the ballot.
The proposals to eliminate the state’s flat income tax were never brought to a vote in the House or Senate by their respective sponsors. The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) released a requested fiscal note to the bill that would have set the graduated tax brackets (HB 689), which estimated that the rates would discourage entrepreneurial, job-creating activity in Illinois and lead to the loss of 20,000 Illinois jobs. Last week, the Chicago Tribune reported over 3,000 people with assets over $1 million have already left the state.
The proposal to abolish the Lt. Governor, which overwhelmingly passed the House, was squashed in the Senate after that chamber’s sponsor attached an amendment to ensure that gubernatorial succession would remain in the same political party instead of falling to the Attorney General regardless of affiliation.
Governor Signs Executive Order
Governor Rauner recently signed an Executive Order to begin a pilot program in an effort to reduce the backlog of administrative hearings in Illinois. The order will create the Bureau of Administrative Hearings at Central Management Services to analyze current administrative procedures to improve government efficiency and services for Illinois residents. More than 100,000 hearing requests are filed in Illinois every year by businesses and taxpayers, and many agencies have a significant backlog.
To reduce and eliminate the backlog of hearing requests, the pilot will explore the creation of a centralized panel of adjudicators to conduct hearings for multiple agencies. A central administrative hearing model is used in 30 other states, and many cities, including the City of Chicago.
Lawmakers Renew Call for Answers From Mautino
I joined 19 other lawmakers in signing on to a third letter asking for clarification and answers regarding questionable campaign fund expenditures from former State Representative, and current Auditor General, Frank Mautino. The Better Government Association and other government watchdogs reported dubious accounting by his campaign fund, including $214,000 to a single vehicle service station over a 10 year period, back in January. Previous letters have been met with requests for “more time” from Mautino, but given his position as the financial watchdog of the state, we are owed answers.
I was one of only 10 House members who voted against Mautino’s confirmation as Attorney General. I felt that we needed someone who wasn’t so entrenched in the Springfield political culture. Mautino served as one of Speaker Madigan’s deputies from 2009 until last year when he took over the office from Bill Holland who retired.
Legislators Remember Fallen Officers
Thursday, May 5th, members of the House and Senate gathered around the Illinois Police Memorial to pay tribute to the two officers from Illinois and 33 nationally who had died in the line of duty in just the first four months of the year. We listened to stories about the officers’ lives, the families they left behind and the importance of state pensions to those families. Unfortunately, disability payments and death pensions are not being paid without a state budget. We owe our men and women in uniform a debt of gratitude. It is inexcusable that we are adding a financial burden on families that are in mourning.
Bill Would Remove Statute of Limitations
The Illinois political world was rocked recently by former US Speaker of the House, and Illinois Representative, Dennis Hastert’s recent admission of sexual assault while he was a high school wrestling coach three decades ago. Hastert was recently sentenced for a separate crime and cannot be charged because of the state’s statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors. Last Friday, Rep. Wheeler filed, and I have signed on to co-sponsor, HB 6559, to remove said statute.