Welcome to the 101st General Assembly
On Wednesday I was sworn in along with 116 of my colleague to serve as State Representative for the 37th District (click here for a map of the district). It is my honor to serve you. 30 percent of the lawmakers who took the oath are different from the person who sat in the same seat two years ago. The past two years have seen a slew of resignations and retirements from House and Senate members, a number of whom have notably gone on to join lobbying firms (I will be filing a bill shortly to address this ethically dubious ‘revolving door’). Today it is Governor-Elect Pritzker and Lt. Governor-Elect Julianna Stratton’s turn to take the oath of office.
Keeping Politics out of the GA
After the House was sworn in the first course of action taken was to vote on who should be Speaker of the House. Unsurprisingly, Speaker Madigan was reelected to continue his historic tenure atop Illinois politics. Speaker Madigan has served as Speaker of the House for all but two years since 1983. I immediately announced my intention to refile a bill from the previous General Assembly that would seek to further separate electioneering from the business of lawmaking.
As Speaker of the House, Madigan controls the legislative process and sets the rules that ultimately dictate how a bill will become a law. In addition to this substantial power, Madigan has served as the Illinois Democratic Party’s Chair since 1998. State party chairmen dictate the message and strategy of their party. Perhaps most importantly, they also organize party members and control millions of dollars in campaign funds. According to Illinois Sunshine, the Democratic Party of Illinois has $10.8 million on hand and Speaker Madigan is the chairman of two additional campaign funds that total $29.1 million.
The role of a State Representative, especially a House Speaker, should be to represent the best interests of the state, not engage in politics. State party chairmen are focused on the next election and for those two roles to go hand in hand, naturally invites conflicts of interest and possible corruption. Wherever possible we need to separate politics from governance. Speaker Madigan is the only statehouse chamber leader, House Speaker or Senate President, in the United States to also hold the position as the head of his or her state’s political party. My legislation will bar members of the General Assembly from concurrently serving as the chairperson for a statewide political party.
For more information on the bill, visit my website. Now that the 101st is seated, I will be filing a slew of bills in the coming weeks. I will keep you posted via this Dispatch and through social media. As always, I work for you so if you have any legislative ideas, let me know.
Illinois Continues Pop. Decline
From 2017 to 2018, the only other state that lost more population than Illinois was New York. Here’s how the Midwest fared: MN: +43,024
To put it in perspective, Illinois essentially lost the equivalent of Elmhurst, Minnesota gained the equivalent of DeKalb, and Indiana gained the equivalent of Danville.
What does this shrinking population mean for Illinois’ political future? Illinois currently has 18 congressional seats and after the 2020 census, it is certain to lose at least one seat. With Democrats firmly in control of state government (the Governor’s mansion and both chambers of the GA with a supermajority in the House), the necessary redistricting that will play out means that you can expect a consolidation of districts now held by GOP lawmakers.
Not since President Lincoln was in office will Illinois have so few members in Congress. Not only will we have less sway when it comes to earning grants and monies from the federal government, but we will also become less important when it comes to selecting the president because we’ll also be losing an electoral vote.
Lameduck Session Passes New Legislation
In the waning days of the 100th GA last week, the House and Senate passed legislation to clean house at the Tollway Board and raise the salary caps for state agency directors.
The first bill ends the tenure of the current members of the Illinois Toll Highway Authority. All nine new members will be appointed by Governor Pritzker and must be appointed by February 28th. The board is required to have a mix of Republicans and Democrats.
The tollway has been experiencing some controversy following reports of potential political favoritism in handing out contracts. The Illinois Senate held a hearing over the summer to examine the board’s hiring and procurement procedures. In addition to ending the current members’ tenure, it reflects some of those findings and requires the Board’s by-laws to contain a process to override the Chairman of the Board’s veto and direct members to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
The second bill provides for an immediate 15% raise to agency directors and assistant directors at key agencies, so that “the state can attract the talent necessary to turn put Illinois back on track.” In addition, the legislation provides a mechanism by which we can, with the assistance and consent of the legislature, keep compensation competitive in the future.
I voted no because although our state agency directors are near the average in terms of compensation nationwide, Illinois state workers as a whole are the highest paid in the country and this is a slippery slope.
ICYMI New Laws
Click here for a look at the 253 laws that took effect on January 1st. This includes:
- Children under the age of 2 years old must be restrained in rear-facing car seats unless they weigh 40 or more pounds or are 40 or more inches tall.
- Every Illinois school will be required to conduct at least one law-enforcement led active shooter drill a year. School safety drills must be conducted within 90 days of the start of the school year.
- Nursing mothers, upon request, will be exempt from jury duty.
- Stalking laws expanded to include messages sent through social media. Additionally, businesses, places of worship and schools can seek restraining orders against stalkers.
- All children in kindergarten and the second, sixth, and ninth grades of any public, private or parochial school shall have a dental examination.