Update from the Capitol: Redistricting, Budget, Cybersecurity

Redistricting Reform
Several of my House colleagues and I have called on Speaker Madigan to respect the wishes of Illinoisans by allowing redistricting reform, HJRCA 17, to be called for a vote immediately.  

The measure would allow voters to decide, by statewide referendum, to amend the Illinois Constitution to create the Independent Redistricting Commission for the purpose of drawing legislative districts. A poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute last fall found that 72% of voters, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, supported the creation of an independent commission to draw a legislative district. You can view my comments from the press conference below. 

House Appropriations Committees continue to take testimony on the Governor’s proposed budget. Over the past two weeks, more than 30 of the Governor’s funding proposals for agencies have been heard in committees with testimony from the agency directors.  The hearing process will take two or three more weeks before legislation emerges on these proposals.

Discussions are also continuing on the so-called “Grand Bargain” budget bills in the Senate, but there was no floor action this week on bills that comprise the plan. So far, about half of the bills involved have been passed. All of the bills in this package would need to be passed and signed into law for any of them to become effective.

Meanwhile, this week the non-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) added a new challenge to the discussions, reporting that revenues are currently falling short of projections by approximately $800 million.

Education Funding Reform Task Force
The new Education Funding Reform Task Force has held its first meeting. The 26-member bipartisan panel has been asked to develop proposals that can be offered to the General Assembly to implement the recommendations of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission. Earlier this year the Reform Commission proposed that Illinois take steps to reduce our schools’ dependence on property tax revenues.

Another key issue Task Force members will be looking at is the current “set aside” of supplemental monies for Chicago Public Schools.

Enhancing  Cybersecurity
In response to exponential increases in the numbers of “hacking” and “phishing” assaults mounted daily upon Illinois state workers and systems, the new Department of Innovation and Technology (IDIT) is planning steps to improve the informational security of Illinois databases and electronic technology.

The challenge is significant, and it isn’t just information that could be vulnerable. For example, many Illinois prisons have cellblock doors, external doors, and security gates that open and close electronically.  Click here to read more about the new proposed cyber protections.

Agriculture Day
This week we celebrated National Agriculture Day, and I want to send out a big “thank you” to all those who provide the food and fiber for our nation.  Agriculture is the heart of our economy in Illinois.  We are a leading producer of grain, livestock and specialty crops. It is an honor to represent a district which is home to some of the best farmland in the world.

To help support our local farmers, I have introduced House Resolution 212 that urges Congress to adopt a farm bill that promotes the development of local and regional food systems.