The McDermed Dispatch for June 1st

The House and Senate went late in to the evening over the last two days to no avail. The May 31st session deadline has come and gone yet again without a budget.
This special Thursday end of session edition of the Dispatch is a long one, so I’ve broken it down to the bad news, the good news, and the local news:

Bad News
Senate Passes Tax Hike Budget
Last week Senate Democrats passed a $37.7 billion dollar budget with $5.4 billion dollars in tax increases. The new taxes included a 32% income tax hike, from 3.75% to 4.99%. The Senate came as close as they could to a deal on the major issues that made up the grand bargain, but then gave up and essentially punted the issue to the House, which refused to deal with many of them, including the budget. 

Budget Still Nowhere to be Seen in House
The normal session deadline (where the requirement for bill passage is only 60 votes) ended last night with a total of 480 bill passing both chambers. 292 originated from the House and 188 from the Senate. However, before 1pm on the last day of session, House Leadership called for a continuous session throughout the summer, thus making it clear that no budget bills would be debated or called for a vote. A few weeks ago I joined my colleagues in writing to Attorney General Lisa Madigan requesting that she use her authority to force the House to adopt a revenue estimate. Knowing how much we have to spend is an important step in crafting a budget and something that has been absent during my time in office. The House spent more time in session over the last 3 days than in the last three weeks combined. But none of that floor discussion touched on a revenue estimate or the budget. Believe it or not, instead we dealt with things like a bill to require truth in advertising for catfish at restaurants and a bill to reign in feral cat populations. 
My statement on the session’s adjournment is below:
I took office at the same time as the Governor; I have been a firsthand witness to the kind of political games being played over the budget. Time and time again the House has snubbed its constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget or even adopt a revenue estimate from which to base that budget on.  Speaker Madigan has said that we will hold hearings on the budget in June and I have to wonder when he finally realized that the House needs to start work on a balanced budget. Should the Speaker be interested in calling us back to Springfield to work and negotiate to try and rectify this situation before the end of the fiscal year, I stand ready and willing.  
There is still time to make a deal before the end of the fiscal year on June 30th, but it will be much harder since 3/5ths of both chambers must now approve any legislation.

Property Taxes
Despite overwhelming support for the issue on both sides of the aisle, both chambers failed to pass property tax reform together and send it to the governor. The governor has insisted that someone should be looking out for taxpayers and he would not sign any tax increases without at least a corresponding property tax freeze.

Businesses Warn of Cold IL Climate
Yesterday, business organizations like the IL Manufacturing Association, the Chicago Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business held a joint press conference to say that the 2017 session was the worst sessions for employers in recent memory. They lamented the “continuous effort to tax, over-regulate, mandate and constrict employers at every turn by lawmakers in both chambers which has created one of the most crushing business climates in the nation.” One of the bills they cited as anti-business was the $15 dollar minimum wage hike passed by the House and Senate. This would be an almost 100% increase over the current minimum wage of $8.25. Illinois already has a higher minimum wage than neighboring states. I spoke out on the floor against this bill, because while the intent of the bill is laudable, it won’t help Illinois families who lose their jobs and small businesses that will be forced to go under. You can watch an excerpt of my floor speech here.

Good News
AVR Passes with More Support
Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) is legislation to automatically register people to vote when they interact with state drivers’ facilities and other state agencies. Potential new voters have the option to opt out. A similar bill was vetoed last year by the Governor over concerns about the details in the implementation of the legislation and the potential it opened up for voter fraud. This year the legislation was edited to address these concerns and passed both chambers unanimously. 

Procurement Reform
In a rare moment of bipartisanship, one element of the Senate’s ‘grand bargain’, overwhelmingly passed both chambers. Senate Bill 8 reforms the way in which the State procures, or purchases, items. The reforms are designed to streamline the red tape laden process to allow for cost savings, while still maintaining oversight and transparency. The language in the bill that tied it to the other elements of the Senate’s grand bargain’s passage was removed before it passed the House. 

Domestic Violence Funding 
Last year the House passed a stopgap bill to keep essential government and human services running until January 1st. Through human error, critical funding for domestic violence shelters across the state was left out. A bipartisan effort passed both chambers to rectify this error and appropriate the $18 million owed to these shelters. The funds utilized to appropriate this money is already available to the state without the need for additional revenue.

Sexual Assault Evidence Tracking System
I received unanimous support in Springfield for my measure to empower sexual assault victims through the creation of a statewide sexual assault evidence kit tracking system. It also creates a commission to help the Illinois State Police develop the guidelines related to the tracking system. A critical part of ensuring justice for victims of sexual assault is the proper handling, and transparency in the processing, of evidence kits. For more information on the bill, click here.

Government Consolidation Takes Small Step Forward
Illinois has over 2,000 more units of government than the next state, Pennsylvania. Almost all of these units are taxing bodies and part of the reason why Illinois has one of the highest overall tax burdens in the country. We took a step in the right direction in easing the process to consolidate townships by passing Senate Bill 6. Still missing was an important element that would empower citizens to take these efforts in to their own hands. It is unlikely that bodies of government, even redundant ones, will willingly write themselves out of existence. Many members on the floor encouraged the sponsor to include a so called “trailer” bill which would include that component.

Local News
Summer Reading
It’s time for my 3rd annual Summer Reading Club. This year’s theme is “Stories Under the Sea”. Brochures have been delivered to local schools and libraries. You can also view it by clicking here. After a summer reader has read 10 books, a parent or guardian must sign the form by August 11th and return it to my office to earn the ice cream party and official IL House of Representatives certificate.

Upcoming Events
Please join me next Tuesday, June 6th for an informative senior driving seminar put on by the Secretary of State’s office. This is a great opportunity for senior citizens to refresh their memory of the written driving test when renewing their licenses. The two hour seminar will be at 10am at the New Lenox Police Department (200 Veterans Pkwy). It is free of charge. More information on the event can be found here.

For the second year in a row, I’m pleased to host a women’s self-defense class. Based on last year’s successful events, I am again partnering with One Light Self Defense to offer this class on Wednesday June 21st at 6pm at the Lions Community Center. The class is free, but a donation to the non-profit One Light group is appreciated.

Please contact my office by email or by phone (815) 277-2079 if you would like more information or to register for either of these events.

I want to thank everyone that took the time to answer my spring legislative survey. Your answers were very helpful and informative to me over the course of the last few weeks in Springfield. You can see the survey results here.