The Illinois House has adjourned for a month. We return on April 9th. Speaker Madigan sets the schedule and all told the House has met for just 12 days this year.
We’ve yet to hold a single committee hearing to address the pension deficit or the budget or any number of the crises bubbling at the state level. The General Assembly has also yet to adopt a revenue estimate, a critical component of the budgeting process. The revenue estimate informs us budget makers how much money we will have to spend. The House has failed to adopt a revenue estimate for years now and has consequently run significant budget deficits leading to a current bill backlog of $8.9 billion dollars.
The reason why these major issues haven’t been addressed and are unlikely to be this year is that increasingly partisan politics means neither side wants to give the other a “win” in an election year.
Gun Control Legislation
I am a proud proponent of the 2nd Amendment. I am also the co-sponsor of numerous reasonable gun control measures, none of which have been given the chance for debate in a committee hearing. There was no bipartisan process over the past two weeks as legislation addressing guns in Illinois were voted on. Instead, the package of bills proposed by the majority party was haphazardly composed and in some cases amendments were filed mere hours before they came to the House floor. Here are some of the bills that passed out of the House:
Sent to the Governor
SB1567: Creates a gun dealer licensure system in Illinois even though there is required federal licensure. The bill requires every gun dealer to have a state license for the owner, a state license for the dealer and possibly a local license in addition to the federal license that is required. The bill also mandates a video surveillance system and allows for the general public to pay a fee and get a list of names and addresses of all licensees.
Awaiting Senate Action
HB1465: raises the minimum age to purchase assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices from 18 to 21.
HB1467: bans bump stock and trigger crank modification devices for semi-automatics in Illinois. These modifications are meant to increase the rate of fire achievable with the weapon.
HB1468: imposes a 72-hour “cooling off” period between purchase and delivery of so-called assault weapons. This includes certain rifles, semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns, and semiautomatic pistols, and .50 caliber rifles. The previous wait time was 48 hours.
Governor’s Mansion to Reopen
The Governor’s Mansion, originally built in 1855, is the capital city home of our chief executive and a key element of Illinois’ Abraham Lincoln heritage. The historic mansion has been closed to the public for two years for major, privately-financed reconstruction work. The last renovations took place in 1972.
The Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association has overseen the $15 million reconstruction work, which has fixed many urgent livabilities and structural issues affecting the historic site. The rebuilt mansion will have a new roof, new heating/air conditioning, and will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The reopened mansion will be the site of rotating art exhibits that will concentrate on Illinois history and heritage. The World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, held in Chicago, will be a feature of the first showing. Visitors will be able to see examples of the first true “World’s Fair” held in the United States, an event that became legendary for its presentation of America’s first Midway and Ferris wheel.
Regressive School Funding
A new report from the Education Trust has bad news for Illinois schools. The report claims that Illinois provides 78 cents to a low-income student for every dollar spent on a non-low-income student and our school funding system remains the most regressive system in the nation. The highest poverty districts receive $3,380, or 22%, less per student than the lowest poverty districts, putting Illinois dead last.
The new school funding formula passed last year should turn the tide for Illinois’ school funding, but it could be years before we see significant changes in the financial data of school districts.
Youth Tackle Football Ban Being Considered
The Illinois House Mental Health Committee has advanced HB 4341 to the House floor for further discussion and a vote. The bill would outlaw any child under the age of 12 from participating in organized youth sports tackle football. Similar bills have been introduced in the legislatures of California, Maryland, and New York.
The measure is explicitly limited to tackle football and does not cover any other sports or “pickup games” that children organize themselves. However, concerns were expressed in committee that this policy change could also be applied, in future years, to other recreational activities and ways that adults help kids organize themselves for sports. I voted no in committee and firmly belief that it is not the role of government to make choices on behalf of parents.
Good News for Illinois Job Growth
Illinois was named as one of the top states for businesses to relocate to by “Site Selection” Magazine. The magazine is a CEO-oriented periodical and database that compiles information on the relative activities of U.S. locations for business relocation and job growth. Illinois ranked third in the number of new and expanded facilities per capital tracked by the periodical database, in a ranking called the “Governor’s Cup”.
Commentators said Illinois was honored for its transportation infrastructure and relatively affordable real estate. More than 400 new and expanded facilities were tracked moving to or expanding in greater Chicago in the 2017 Governor’s Cup rankings. This benchmark, which made greater Chicago the #1 U.S. metropolitan area tracked by “Site Selection” with a population of 1 million or more, powered Illinois’ overall standings. In addition, three Illinois areas defined by the U.S. Census Bureau as “micropolitan areas,” population centers in predominantly rural environments with a population between 10,000 and 50,000, also scored highly; Ottawa-Peru, Effingham, and Rochelle. All three regions are places where transcontinental railroad service comes together with two or more U.S. Interstate highways.
Women’s Self Defense
On April 26th, I am again partnering with One Light to host a women’s self-defense seminar. Instructors will give a basic understanding of how to avoid becoming a victim and teach skills that can be used in the event of an attack. A follow-up, advanced class is scheduled for May 8th and is only available to those who have taken the beginner class. Space is limited and registration is encouraged, so email my office. While the class is free, donations to One Light are appreciated.