Last week the Illinois House met to finish votes on bills vetoed by the Governor. In his first two years in office the governor was only overridden once. This year, including the vetoes of the out-of-balance budget and tax hike from this summer, the General Assembly overrode the Governor 18 times. The House does not meet again until January.
Vacancy filled, Sexual Harassment Bills Passed
Amidst the furor over sexual harassment revelations in Springfield recently, glaring holes in the system were brought to light. Sexual harassment is not currently listed as a violation in the Illinois Ethics Act. In addition, the General Assembly has been without a legislative inspector general for over two years. The legislative inspector general is responsible for “investigating complaints of violations of any law, rule or regulation or abuse of authority or other forms of misconduct by members of the General Assembly and state employees under the jurisdiction of the legislature”. This vacancy has left a backlog of at least 27 complaints against members of the General Assembly. Last week the Legislative Ethics Commission voted unanimously to appoint a former federal prosecutor, Julie Porter, as the temporary inspector general. It shouldn’t have taken over 2 years to fill this position, but this is all too common in Springfield. Often real issues aren’t addressed until they reach crisis level or a scandal occurs.
Legislatively, the House acted on several measures to address the culture of sexual harassment in Illinois government. The House passed a comprehensive measure brought forth by Speaker Madigan to amend Illinois’ ethics law. The bill adds sexual harassment to the ethics code and requires that the executive branch, legislative leaders, members of the General Assembly, the auditor general and higher education boards establish procedures for individuals to report allegations of sexual harassment and spell out disciplinary action for violators. Lobbyists also would be required to complete a training program and to develop their own sexual harassment policies. In addition, the House voted to create a Task Force on Sexual Discrimination and Harassment.
It was a pleasure to welcome Brandon Banbury, chief brewer and owner of Hailstorm Brewery to Springfield last week. I congratulated Brandon and Hailstorm on the House floor and presented him with a resolution honoring his small business’s national recognition. The brewery’s Prairie Madness IPA beat out 407 other beers to win the American Style IPA category at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver last month. It was the single most competitive category in the festival’s history. Hailstorm also won silver in the bock category for thier Rock Out with Maibock Out. The craft brewery market is exploding in Illinois, it is estimated that industry directly employs 4,500 people and has a $2.6 billion economic impact across the State.
“Property Tax Reform”
Yet another fake property tax reform measure was debated in the House last week. The bill passed the House, but unsurprisingly, didn’t receive a vote in the Senate. This is a common tactic by Speaker Madigan- his members can say they voted for property tax reform or some other big idea (minimum wage, etc) and yet nothing ever actually happens. You can watch my latest video message from Springfield for more information on this bill here.
Governor Rauner’s veto of a bill to require teaching cursive in Illinois schools was surprisingly overturned by the House and Senate. Mandates imposed on Illinois schools by the General Assembly and US federal government have been growing exponentially over the last two decades.
Student Loan “Bill of Rights”
This attempt to address the student loan crisis was an initiative of the Attorney General’s office. The Governor vetoed the bill stating that while the bill was laudable in its intent, it would encroach on the responsibilities of the federal government relating to existing federal law and add confusion to the complex student loan process. The bill imposes some of the most stringent regulations in the nation on student loan servicers.
The Illinois Student Loan Bill of Rights will require loan servicers to properly process payments, require servicers to inform borrowers that loans can be forgiven because of disabilities or problems with the college they attended, and to provide specialists who explain to borrowers all of their repayment options, like income-driven repayment plans.
Holiday Diaper Drive
Last year’s diaper drive was incredibly successful. I am bringing it back this year to again address an underserved, but important need. In Illinois 52% of births are covered by Medicaid and 23% of families live below the poverty line. Unfortunately, there are no government subsidies to help purchase diapers and wipes, products which are taxed at the highest sales tax rate. My office will begin collecting diapers, baby wipes, and diaper rash cream next Monday, November 20th and the drive will run until Wednesday, December 20th. Please donate what you can.
Family Reading Night
Join me for this fun and educational night!
Saturday was Veterans Day. I hope you took a moment to thank a veteran for their invaluable service.
My office sponsors a flag exchange program. Veterans may come to my office to obtain a new flag to fly at their home or business. This opportunity is available while supplies last. The program is free of charge and provided at no cost to taxpayers. In addition, residents wishing to turn in an old US flag for proper disposal may bring their used flag to my office.