The topic on everyone’s mind in Springfield continues to be the budget. The Senate, not in session last week, is scheduled to take votes this week on the bills that compose the “grand bargain”. It will then be up to the House if this effort is to move forward. The House has thus far made no efforts to throw its hat in to the budget ring. No House Appropriations committees have met and expected state revenues, a jumping off point for appropriating money, have not been discussed.
AFSCME Moves Closer to Strike
AFSCME, which represents 38,000 Illinois state government employees, stated that 81% of the workers who participated in a recent advisory ballot voted to authorize a possible strike. Around 28,000 members were eligible to participate in the authorization vote; most of the other workers are employed in jobs at state prisons and juvenile facilities and are prevented by law from striking.
The union’s leadership pointed to a partial freeze in State pay rates and cuts in employer-financed health care benefits as reasons for the strike vote. The Governor’s office responded that AFSCME workers currently enjoy many benefits that private-sector workers do not enjoy such as higher wages, a 37.5-hour work week, and platinum health insurance benefits.
The two parties entered a tolling agreement two years ago which provided terms for contract negotiations. The two sides met 67 times, made little progress, and have not met in a year. Therefore, a unanimous ruling by the ILRB in November said that the two sides were at impasse, opening the door for the Governor to implement his best and final offer.
The AFSCME vote does not make a strike inevitable, but authorizes the union’s bargaining committee to call one in the near future. The strike, if it occurs, would be the first ever statewide public-sector labor action against the State of Illinois.
I’ve filed a number of bills this year; below are just a few examples of the ways I’m fighting for the 37th district and Illinois (for the full list, click here):
HB450 will make the Research and Development tax credit permanent. The R&D tax credit expired in 2016 and has expired previously in 2004, 2009, and 2010. The unpredictability of the Research and Development Tax credit has negatively impacted its perception by businesses looking to expand in, or come to, Illinois. The importance of this credit is evidenced by its renewal time and time again and if utilized properly and made permanent it can be a real boon for the state’s economy.
HB528 requires the State Police to create a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system so that cases and evidence don’t get forgotten or lost as has been the case in the past.
HB529 requires all new school buses in Illinois to be equipped with 3-point seat belts. Our children’s safety is a top priority and we need to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like the one that occurred in Tennessee last year.
HB3056 is an effort to protect nearby wells that provide water to our communities by requiring groundwater testing near quarries that accept construction debris and dirt. Will County has at least nine such dumping sites. The Sun-Times has more on the issue.
March is National Youth Art Month and the perfect time to announce my first ever student art contest. Students in 6th grade through high school may submit a drawing or painting of their community, school, church, home or nature scene that represents the 37th Legislative District. The entries will be judged on beauty, uniqueness and fulfilled intent. One middle school winner and one high school winner will be selected. Winners will have their art displayed in my capitol office and be invited to Springfield to have their photo taken after it has been displayed. For more information call my office at (815) 277-2079.