Update from the Capitol – Budget, Committees, Bicentennial

Budget Priorities
On Wednesday the Governor gave his annual budget address to a joint session of the General Assembly. As you know, bi-partisan negotiations on a new budget have been progressing in the Senate over the past few weeks, and today the governor said that his basic requirement for a compromise deal approved by the General Assembly is that it must be good for taxpayers and job creators. Some notable points the Governor made include:
• We must control spending so state government can live within its means.
• New revenue will be considered if it is accompanied by changes to help create jobs and grow our economy.
It’s good news that Democrats and Republicans are now in agreement that some structural economic reforms are needed to grow jobs and repair our budget and our state economy, and I’m optimistic that a workable compromise will soon emerge from the ongoing negotiations.
Securing State Employees’ Pay
Efforts are continuing in the House to block Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s attempt to halt state employee pay while the budget negotiations continue. Legislation I’m sponsoring, House Bill 2803, now has more than 25 co-sponsors. It would make state employees’ pay a continuing appropriation this year and in future years to ensure workers will be paid for the work they do even when we disagree on the budget. We’re pushing for a prompt hearing in the House.
Tens of thousands of workers have been caught in the middle of our ongoing budget stalemate. It’s simply wrong for the Attorney General to attempt to use their pay as political leverage.
Committee Assignments
House Committee Assignments are now official.  In the new 100th General Assembly I will be serving on committees crucial to the economy of the 87th District. Key among these assignments are the  House Public Safety Appropriations Committee which has oversight of the Illinois National Guard and Illinois State Police; the Tourism, Hospitality and Craft Industries Committee which will have input on the important tourism industry as well as the burgeoning craft industry movement in Illinois; and the Museums, Arts and Cultural Enhancements Committee .
Tourism and history are major drivers of the economy in our area of the State. From the Lincoln sites and museum to the Route 66 attractions our history is not only an important part of the fabric of our communities it is a vital engine for our local economy. Additionally, the National Guard not only makes ours a secure State, but having the home of the Guard in Springfield is a great contributor to our economic well-being. Securing a spot on these committees ensures our area has a seat at the table throughout the process and allows us the ability to advocate for issues of importance to our Central Illinois communities.
I also garnered a spot on four other House committees that will play an important role in shaping Illinois’ agenda:  Environment; Elections and Campaign Finance; Public Utilities; and Transportation-Vehicles & Safety. My participation will ensure our local communities will have a strong voice on many of the biggest issues we’ll be facing.
Nearly 4,000 House Bills Filed by Deadline
Friday, February 10 was our deadline to file bills in the House that we want considered this spring.  By late Friday afternoon, 3,826 House Bills had been filed by members of both parties.
After the bill filing deadline, House committees will have six weeks to look at these measures and make determinations on which of them to send to the House floor for full consideration and debate.  In some cases, the bills will be amended in committee; a bill is often changed and improved between when it is filed and when it is approved by both houses and signed into law.  The deadline for House committee action will be March 31.
Bicentennial Planning Moving Forward
It was a pleasure to meet with Secretary of State Jesse White to discuss plans to commemorate the Bicentennial. As the keeper of the State Seal, Secretary White has been working with me on legislation to update the Seal to reflect the date that Illinois actually became a state, December 3, 1818. Legislation to make that change has advanced in the House, along with a pair of bills I’m sponsoring to commemorate December 3rd each year as Illinois Statehood Day, and August 26th as Illinois Constitution Day.
We have much work to do to get Illinois going in the right direction, but I’m hopeful we can celebrate our 200th birthday by laying the groundwork for a responsible, balanced budget to move us forward and create an Illinois that is once again a true leader among the states.
Celebrating Lincoln’s Birthday
Last weekend, I was honored to be among those celebrating President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday here in the 87th district with special events, including the annual pilgrimage to Lincoln’s Tomb organized by the American Legion, celebrations at the Presidential Library and Museum, and the Historic Mt Pulaski Courthouse and many other central Illinois locations. Happy Birthday, Mr. President!