This May was one of the busiest final few weeks of a spring legislative session we’ve seen recently. While it was great to be back in the Capitol on a regular basis and doing the people’s work, unfortunately, it also meant Democrats took full advantage of their supermajorities to ram through some pretty one-sided legislation, like a budget filled with pork and terribly gerrymandered legislative maps. Below is a recap of some of the major things that happened as the session wrapped up, along with some related news since then.
Pritzker breaks fair maps pledge, lawsuit filed.
As a candidate for governor in 2018, and again since taking office, JB Pritzker pledged to “veto any state legislative redistricting map proposal that is in any way drafted or created by legislators, political party leaders and/or their staffs or allies.” On June 4, Governor Pritzker broke his promise to Illinois voters by signing into law partisan redistricting maps drafted behind closed doors and passed by House and Senate Democrats. He did so despite the objection of more than 50 good government groups who implored for maps to wait until the release of official census counts, which are expected by August 16, 2021. In response, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) and Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the legislative maps for violating the well established “one-person, one-vote” principles under the U.S. Constitution. Read More Here.
$42.3 billion budget full of pork, pay raises and higher taxes.
Minutes before midnight on the May 31 deadline, House Democrats passed a $42.3 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2022. Their budget adds a billion dollars in pork projects for Democrat districts, includes a $1,200 pay raise for legislators, and raises taxes on Illinois businesses by more than $650 million. House Democrats filed their first budget amendment after 12:30 AM on Monday, May 31 (Memorial Day). Their final budget amendment was filed less than an hour before the midnight deadline for passage. Democrats moved to suspend the House Rule 21 notice requirement so they could vote on the final budget prior to the deadline. Legislators and the public were given no time to review the budget before final passage. Read More Here.
Fighting state overreach into Capital Township.
Speaking out against Senate Bill 826, I called it what it is – a hypocritical partisan overreach by majority party Democrats to expand Capital Township and increase property taxes over the wishes of local residents. Fortunately, our efforts to fight the bill on the House floor prevailed and did not pass. Watch the Video Here.
Time to stop running state by Executive Order with Phase 5 full reopening.
This week, I sent a letter to Governor JB Pritzker calling on him to stop running the state by Executive Order after Illinois enters Phase 5: Illinois Restored of his COVID-19 reopening plan. After more than 14 months and 80 COVID-19 Executive Orders, if Illinois is truly open and “restored”, it’s time for the Governor to stop running the state by Executive Order. Read More Here.
House advances changes to gaming law, Senate action awaited.
Illinois’ current gaming law is based on big moves enacted in 2019. To meet consumer demand, Illinois legalized sports wagering, expanded video gaming machine numbers, asked the Illinois Gaming Board to look into legalizing several new casino locations, and authorized existing casinos to move from floating locations to land-based operations. New tax revenues from these expansions were dedicated to the Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure plan. Read More Here.
Small steps taken on ethics reform, but more needed.
Even though voices have been crying out for reforms that would address the rampant corruption that has plagued our state, only a limited reform package was permitted to come to the floor for a vote. Senate Bill 539 is an ethics omnibus bill. It creates a revised Statement of Economic Interest, which requires increased disclosure of assets, debts, creditors and income. It prohibits in-person fundraising on any day the legislature is in session, and the day before and the day after legislative session (in-person or virtual, covering the entire state). Read More Here.
Trailer fees reduced, vehicle trade-in cap eliminated.
In a rare victory for Illinois taxpayers, the General Assembly passed legislation that will sharply reduce trailer license fees and restore the full vehicle trade-in credit. In 2019, lawmakers raised the fee for licensing a small trailer in Illinois from $18 to $118 as part of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois capital infrastructure plan. Senate Bill 58 lowers the annual fee to a compromise $36, along with removing a $10,000 cap on sales tax credits on vehicle trade-ins. Read More Here.
Legislation passed to end student restraint and isolated “time outs.”
A November 2019 investigation, by the Chicago Tribune and by the freelance investigative service ProPublica, showed that in some cases, schools turned “time outs” into terrifying episodes of solitary confinement. In other cases, students were physically restrained by adults. After an extended discussion that included participation by many stakeholders, including teachers and parents at schools that specialize in teaching children with challenges, legislation was crafted aimed at protecting students and teachers by preventing misuse of these methods of discipline. A bipartisan agreed bill, which won unanimous support in the Illinois General Assembly, will almost completely ban the use of isolated child solitary confinement and physical restraints upon children. Read More Here.
Telehealth permanent under new law.
As approved by the General Assembly, HB 3308 gives health insurers the tools and legal standing to negotiate future contracts with medical care providers and employers to continue the use of telehealth services that began as part of the response to COVID-19. Under these future contracts, some of the contacts between a doctor or other health care providers on the one hand, and a patient on the other, can be done over a video screen. Read More Here.