The McDermed Dispatch for Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, an important day for our nation to be thankful and grateful for those that gave their lives for us and this beautiful country.

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The House was in session yesterday and will be today as well because this is it. The final stretch. Spring session is scheduled to adjourn on Friday at midnight.

As the House and Senate careen towards the end of session with a staggering amount of the governor’s legislative priorities still left to be discussed and debated, the House has seemingly done away with a number of proper procedures in the name of expediency. I took to the House floor last week to lambast the bullying tactics often used by the majority party to push their legislation through. You can watch the video here.

FOID Card Legislation Advances

Do we need to make our communities safer and ensure our kids are protected in school? Absolutely. Is punishing FOID card holders the way to do it? No. It is wrong to paint all gun owners with a broad brush. That is exactly what this sweeping, super-regulatory, last-minute legislation, SB1966, does. It was filed as an amendment on an unrelated bill to get around the House committee hearing deadline and was voted on less than a week later. It deserves more discussion and negotiation than that. This bill potentially impacts Second Amendment rights, Constitutional protections for speech, and illegal search and seizure. I have reservations about the constitutional issues with the State of Illinois maintaining a massive statewide database of law-abiding gun owners’ fingerprints. No other constitutional rights require a fingerprint. I also strongly question the argument that the increased fees in the bill are needed to pay for enforcement. Fees required for concealed-carry permits alone have brought in $78 million in the last 10 years, but Illinois has a history of moving money around and using it for purposes other than they were intended…

I voted against the bill in committee and plan to vote against the bill should it come to the House floor.                                         

In response, Republicans filed HB3839, which contains all of the safety provisions of SB1966, but none of the FOID card overreach like fingerprinting. It includes the portions about FOID revocations, the Illinois State Police firearm recovery task force, and the parts designed to create better communication between local and state law enforcement agencies. I am a co-sponsor of this safety legislation and would happily vote for it, but the majority party will not let it see the light of day, instead pushing only their own bill.

Graduated Income Tax Advances in House

Early last week in the House Revenue and Finance committee the sponsor of SJRCA1 refused to say for certain what the rates would be and what the additional money would be used for. The sponsor claimed that was unrelated to his goal of “putting the question to the voters” as would be achieved by passing this bill. Illinois’ history of broadening taxes and poor spending makes those questions very relevant. Here’s my statement after the committee passed the constitutional amendment to remove Illinois’ flat tax on a party line vote:

“I’ve only been in office for five years, but during my short time the Illinois General Assembly has shown little restraint when it comes to taxing and spending. Less than two years ago we raised the income tax and now they want to do it again. Calling a graduated income tax a fair tax is disingenuous. A state that makes no effort to live within its means will continue to try to tax its way to prosperity, an effort that will always end up hurting the middle class. My constituents are sick and tired of the tax and spend culture that permeates Springfield. Why should they have to pinch pennies and tighten their budgets because we here in Springfield can’t do it ourselves? Today’s vote was based on empty promises to tax the rich. The reality is that this amendment will remove one of the last remaining protections for all Illinois taxpayers and small business owners.”

I will vote against the bill if it comes to the floor. If and when SJRCA1 passes the House, it will be signed by the Governor and placed on the 2020 ballot for a public referendum. If 60% of the voters approve, the constitution will be amended.  

In addition to a new graduated income tax, Governor Pritzker has proposed new taxes/fees or hikes on existing taxes/fees on the following items: managed care organizations, sports gambling, recreational marijuana, video gaming, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, plastic bags, retailers, gas tax, vehicle registrations, ridesharing (i.e, Uber/Lyft), streaming (i.e Netflix), satellite TV, alcohol, parking garages, and real estate transfers. This has brought out some interesting characters in opposition:

“Reproductive Health” Act Revived

The Reproductive Health Act:

  • Provides that every individual has a fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about one’s own reproductive health.
  • Provides that every individual who becomes pregnant has a fundamental right to continue the pregnancy and give birth or to have an abortion, and to make autonomous decisions about how to exercise that right.
  • Provides that a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the law, of this State.
  • Provides that a party aggrieved by a violation of the Act may bring a civil lawsuit.
  • Repeals the Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act, and the Abortion Performance Refusal Act, which specifies that a medical professional who declines to recommend or perform an abortion procedure cannot be held liable for damages.

The RHA never received a hearing before the House Committee deadline two months ago. The bill was able to circumvent normal deadlines by gutting and replacing a Senate Bill with a floor amendment yesterday. Since Senate Bill 25was already on 3rd reading, the amendment was posted only 1 hour before it was heard in committee on the Sunday night of a “holiday” weekend, severely limiting the ability of Illinoisans to appear or testify before the committee. Despite being a substantive bill, it was heard it the Human Services Appropriations Committee where it passed along party lines 12-7.

Where’s the Budget?

One issue that has been the talk of the town for the last four years, but this year seems to have been lost in all the noise surrounding other legislative issues, is the budget. The budget took up a lot of time and legislative air under Governor Rauner because he refused to sign an unbalanced budget. In Springfield it’s clear that they decide what to spend before they ask themselves how much they have to pay for it all. This year with one party controlling a supermajority in both chambers as well as the Governor’s mansion, the budget process has been smoother, but no more fiscally sound. The majority party has thus far ignored our calls to work together to craft a bipartisan budget and seems determined to cut us out of the process. Since the budget for fiscal year 2020 has yet to be officially filed in a bill, I will have more specifics in next week’s Dispatch.

Energy Bills Put on Back Burner

Another big ticket item, but one that’s not on the Governor’s immediate agenda before the end of session, is an ambitious package of energy market reforms. These bills collectively could have a major impact on the Illinois clean energy market and your monthly bill. However, because there are a number of groups and businesses that want to have their say, those have officially been put on the back burner until the General Assembly returns in the fall for veto session.

Other Legislation

A few bills that have passed the ILGA in the past week:

SB1941 establishes the Safe Schools and Healthy Learning Environments Grant Program and SB1658 allows ISBE to give out grant funds to be used specifically for school security improvements, including professional development, safety-related upgrades to school buildings, equipment, including metal detectors and x-ray machines, and facilities, including school-based health centers.

SB1601 is yet another micro-managing mandate on school instruction, requiring history classes to include a section on Illinois history. The new mandate will be inserted into state education law right after the portion that reads the study of history shall include the “role and contributions of African Americans and other ethnic groups including but not restricted to Polish, Lithuanian, German, Hungarian, Irish, Bohemian, Russian, Albanian, Italian, Czech, Slovak, French, Scots, Hispanics, Asian Americans, etc., in the history of this country and this state.”

SB1699 forbids the police, with some exceptions, from publishing booking photos on social media.

HB3343, known as the Restaurants Meal Program, gives the elderly, disabled persons and those who are homeless the option to purchase prepared meals from restaurants with SNAP benefits. Those populations were selected because of the difficulties they may have when preparing meals.

HB423, a bill to address the teacher shortage, would put a test required for teacher licensing that many argue has contributed to the state’s shortage on hold until July 1, 2025. People applying for teaching licenses must still pass 2 other tests, one covering their content area and one covering teaching practices and standards, known as the edTPA.

HB2189, which prohibits companies that provide direct-to-consumer commercial genetic testing such as ancestry.com and 23andMe, from sharing any test results with health or life insurance companies without the consumer’s consent.