I hope this update finds you and your family well and enjoying the start of summer. We are all looking forward to a full reopening in Illinois with the lifting of all COVID-19 mitigations, scheduled to begin on June 11. It has been a long and challenging 15 months for many families in our community and I appreciate each of you that reached out for my office to help. We can rejoice to celebrate a summer of gathering with family, friends and neighbors once again, being mindful of taking joy in the simple moments many of us often took for granted before the pandemic.
I understand that you and your family are busy this time of year with a lot of demands on your time and work/life responsibilities to balance, so I’ll keep this update as brief as possible and easy for you to scroll through. It was a difficult and in many ways a disappointing end to the spring session of the Illinois General Assembly. I will get into more detail below but my frustration that is shared by many of you is the promised “new day” after Michael Madigan’s removal has not yet arrived as robustly as many on both sides of the aisle had hoped. You can always refer to our website for more detailed information on some of these or visit www.ilga.gov to look up the specific language or bill information. If you look up my profile under members you can see the bills I filed, those that passed and those that didn’t.
I have provided a recap of legislative activity from the end of session below. I hope you find this update to be informative and relevant to your family’s needs and concerns. As always, please feel welcome to reach out to my district office in Sycamore by phone or e-mail at any time with questions or feedback.
FY22 State Budget Passed Along Party Lines; Process Marked by Lack of Transparency
The Illinois General Assembly approved a $42.3 Billion spending plan along party lines earlier this week to enact the FY22 state budget, comprised of SB 2800 and SB 2017. The new budget takes effect on July 1 pending the signature of Governor JB Pritzker. It was a flawed process that led to passage of the budget; and the final product falls short of meeting the needs of Illinois families and job creators.
We began this spring session with a promise from the new Speaker of the House for a new day, the start of a new era marked by transparency and bipartisan work across the aisle. We took this promise to heart and our caucus participated in working groups and tried to engage in the process of crafting a truly bi-partisan and balanced budget for the people of Illinois. Unfortunately, Mike Madigan’s playbook proved hard to throw out, and Democrats once again ultimately crafted the budget behind closed doors and introduced it only hours before we had to vote on it, giving the public and the media as little time as possible to review and scrutinize it.
The new budget adds hundreds of millions in new discretionary spending, increases taxes by over $600 million on employers across the state when they can least afford it, raises lawmaker pay by $1100 and purposefully excludes Republicans and the millions of Illinoisans we represent when funding an additional $1 billion in capital grants using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. I am most disappointed that we did not see any honest attempt to address the need for property tax relief, which constituents tell me on a regular basis is still the issue they are concerned about most. Illinois families and taxpayers deserved better than this flawed process that inevitably produced a flawed outcome.
As the lead Republican member (Spokesperson to the Committee) on Higher Education Appropriations I was involved in heading our efforts to ensure proper funding for our higher education institutions, including Northern Illinois University. I fought to implement more accountability into this space through publicly measurable metrics and to tie those overall results more closely to how we appropriate dollars. In many of these instances, you should be proud, NIU consistently ranked near the top especially in graduation rates, year over year returning students and minority success. NIU was also one of the few higher education institutions we heard from that pro-actively and voluntarily reduced their administration salaries during COVID.
In the overall final hours – correction: within the final hour – of session on May 31st the final budget was dropped without regard to pledges from the Democrat Leadership to allow for transparency and an opportunity to review and discuss what was in the budget. I voted NO on this budget because at the end of the day it does little to reform the issues that plague Illinois finances and spending.
Gov. Pritzker signs gerrymandered maps into law
The Illinois House of Representatives voted along party lines on House Bill 2777 creating new legislative district maps for the next 10 years. Despite repeatedly pledging that he would veto any partisan-drawn maps, JB Pritzker signed the new gerrymandered map into law on Friday. Why does this matter to our community? I’ll give you my perspective.
Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, we all want a state government that is ethical, accountable, and truly representative of the communities it serves. When one political party controls the redistricting process, their number one priority is to draw boundaries that ensure they keep power with a majority of seats. To do so, they carve individual communities and local counties into multiple districts as a means of diluting the voting base of their opposition.
The new map slices and dices DeKalb County up in an unprecedented way, to the detriment of giving our local communities a strong voice in Springfield. Under the new map, most residents of DeKalb County will be represented by individuals who live far outside our county and who are not invested in our community. This is my biggest concern for the future of our area.
New maps drawn with partisan advantage as the driving force diminishes our ability to achieve goals like property tax relief, a healthy and growing economy, reforming the state’s broken unemployment system and protecting veterans in the state’s care. Democrats enjoy total control of state government today and all of these issues are being tragically neglected, in part due to a lack of accountability that partisan-drawn maps enable.
Since I began my public career, I have supported, encouraged and co-sponsored Fair Maps for Illinois. We should not allow those that benefit from the maps to draw them to their greatest benefit. Many defenders of Democrats have shared that Republicans would have done the exact same thing and in fact do so in other states. This is precisely why we need to have Fair Maps implemented and something like the Iowa process has long been my preferred method.
Beyond all of the partisan issues the Democratic leadership and our Governor have decided NOT to follow the US Census recommendation that the data they relied upon isn’t intended to count people. The American Community Survey (ACS) is a rolling annual survey that is meant to gauge how we live, not where. You can visit the US Census website for more information on this issue. Additionally, the Democrats who drew the map admitted (Rep. Lisa Hernandez) they used voter data to decide where the lines should go to maximize their election performance.
My push for Fair Maps will not end here. It is a matter of equity and fairness for all our communities.
House votes to protect the privacy of human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking victims
Many survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking never come forward for fear of retaliation by their assailants. I introduced a bill this year to add human trafficking victims to the list of those survivors whose addresses and other personal information is kept confidential in public records, HB 625. A Democrat colleague of mine, Rep. Terra Costa Howard, filed a bill identical to mine. I signed up to be Chief Co-Sponsor of her bill, HB 3280, to help make sure that we pass this important protection into law, no matter who gets the credit. This law will mean that survivors can continue to rebuild their lives without fear that their attackers will use public records to track them down.
House votes to remove hurdle on school enrollment for military dependents
The General Assembly voted unanimously to pass a bill I introduced, HB 557, to allow students who are a dependent of active duty military personnel to enroll in school sooner than current law allows when the family relocates per military orders.
The new law provides that if, at the time of enrollment, a dependent of United States military personnel is housed in temporary housing located outside of a school district, but will be living within the district within six months, the dependent must be allowed to enroll and must not be charged tuition.
This initiative will allow military dependents to enroll in school districts earlier than current law allows if their parent or legal guardian is transferring to a new area per military orders. As often as some high school juniors and seniors have to move to a new high school, they may not be able to get access to classes they need to graduate on time if those are full; and stay on track for college. These students should be able to enroll earlier to ensure they can take needed courses in a timely manner.
Military dependents are often-times overlooked for the sacrifices they, too, make, and receiving school advance courses, aligned with their education plans, even though their military family arrived at a new duty station after class enrollment is completed, should not be another sacrifice. This is a small way we can recognize and say “thank you” to them.
Constituent-inspired bill passed into law; will allow minors who inherit funds from probate to have money deposited into a college savings program
Oftentimes the best ideas for a new state law or a helpful update to an existing law come from constituents. One such idea I was proud to bring forward, and pleased to report was unanimously approved by the Illinois House and Senate, was HB 814, an initiative to allow probate money for minors to be used in a 529 college savings plan. Passage of this new law provides an additional option that will allow a young heir to be able to use estate funds to save for college.
This is just one example of a constituent-inspired legislation I have brought forward. Back in 2019, the Governor signed into law a bill I introduced and passed to protect the privacy of victims of stalking and petitioners for an order of protection who operate a home-based business, by allowing them an alternative course to comply with state requirements on business owners to publish their address.
Specifically, that law stipulates that a person operating a business under an assumed name at his or her personal residence may list the address of their local county clerk as the default agent for service of process to meet the publication requirements, if specific conditions are met. This common sense adjustment to state law allows us to better protect those who are victims of stalking or covered by an order of protection. It will take all of us working together to put an end to the oppression and trauma that domestic violence causes; and I thank the courageous woman from DeKalb County who brought this issue to my attention.
If you have an idea for legislation, please feel welcome to call my district office at (815) 748-3494 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your suggestions and feedback on ways that we can make state laws more truly reflect the needs and priorities of our residents. Others in our community have inspired change. You can too.
Piecemeal progress on ethics reform, more action needed
Illinois is in desperate need of comprehensive ethics reform to end the culture of corruption in our state. In just the past two years, several current and former state legislators have been indicted on federal corruption charges. These scandals came to a head with the indictments of multiple Madigan insiders and the naming of former House Speaker Michael J. Madigan as “Public Official A” in the Commonwealth Edison Deferred Prosecution Agreement. Just last week, Madigan’s longtime chief of staff and former Clerk of the House Tim Mapes was indicted for lying under oath during the grand jury’s investigation of ComEd’s admitted bribery scheme benefitting Madigan.
For years, I’ve been proud that my caucus, the House Republicans, have been the loudest voice in Springfield for reforms that would address the rampant corruption that has plagued our state. Perhaps that comes from working with Madigan but we keep pushing. This week, we got some crumbs from the majority party whose members have been the subject of so many federal investigations. In essence the “Ethics Bill” that passed improves minor areas but doesn’t come close to providing the framework that is needed in Illinois.
Senate Bill 539 is an ethics omnibus bill that contains a number of provisions included in the Democrats’ ethics bill from the January lame duck session. 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).
The bill includes a six-month revolving door prohibition for legislators and executive branch officers and prohibits legislators from lobbying for compensation on behalf of a lobbyist or lobbying entity that is registered to lobby the General Assembly or Executive Branch. If they are not required to register to lobby the General Assembly, then the legislator may lobby a municipality, county or township.
SB 539 grants the Legislative Inspector General the ability to initiate an investigation without the approval of the Legislative Ethics Commission. It prohibits an individual who is appointed to a compensated position that requires Senate confirmation from having a candidate political committee or to be a candidate who is supported by that committee.
SB 539 passed the House by a vote of 113-5-0, with the Senate concurring on a vote of 59-0-0.
This legislation barely scratches the surface of what needs to be accomplished for ethics reform. Debate on the bill revealed that the revolving door prohibition outlined in the legislation would allow current members of the legislature to become lobbyists for the General Assembly one day after their retirement. This is not real reform. This is the status-quo!
While something is better than nothing, we must do so much more to close current loopholes in our state laws. To begin the work of restoring public trust back in our government, I supported this first step in the right direction. We are going to keep pushing for more reforms to tighten up economic interest disclosure statements, implement a true revolving door, and maybe, finally, one day, end corruption in Springfield and the State of Illinois. I voted YES because it moves us in the right direction, just not far enough.
2022 Illinois Primary moved to June, General Assembly makes partisan changes to state election laws
The Illinois General Assembly voted along party lines to pass an elections bill that will move the 2022 General Primary to June 28 (from March 15). This change was necessary because the U.S. Census data will not be released until August, thereby delaying passage of U.S. Congressional redistricting maps.
Senate Bill 825 contains a variety of other election law changes. In addition to moving the 2022 Primary date, Democrats added “vote-by-jail” language that will allow jails outside of Cook County to set up polling places in their facilities. The bill allows election authorities to create permanent vote-by-mail lists that voters may opt into, as well as accessible vote-by-mail procedures to enable a voter with a disability to independently and privately mark their ballot.
The legislation makes Election Day (November 8, 2022) a state holiday for schools and universities and requires closed schools to be available for use as polling places. It requires high schools to permit voter registration on premises and provide application information to students. It requires every county to have at least one universal voting center for the 2022 Primary and General elections. The legislation extends the county deadline for redistricting to December 31, 2021 (from July 1) and allows counties to use reasonable data including the most recent ACS 5-year data (currently, counties are required to use census data).
In a particularly egregious example of legalizing previously illegal activity, SB 825 allows political committees to use funds to make expenditures related to vehicles not owned or leased by the committee. This change was made after the current Auditor General’s former political committee spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on vehicle servicing and repairs during his decades in office as a state representative.
Senate Bill 825 passed the House by a vote of 72-46-0, with the Senate concurring by a vote of 41-18-0.
Illinois House advances major changes to State 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.
The 2020 pandemic showed that some of these changes will take time to fulfill. Others facets of gaming expansion jumped into existence almost at once, despite a challenging year. The sharp growth in Illinois sports wagering was a matter of particular note. New gaming legislation advanced by the Illinois House at the end of the 2021 spring session takes account of the new data that has come in since 2019. If the House language becomes law, Illinoisans will be allowed to place bets on Illinois college teams for the first time. The Chicago Sky WNBA team, through their use of Wintrust Arena, was added to the list of sports teams that will be allowed to sponsor sports wagering platforms.
Video gaming players are threatened by moves, in some Illinois municipalities, to enact local “push taxes” that will impose a small tax every time a video game button is pushed to start a play. The House’s bill, SB 521 as amended, bans enactment of “push taxes” by local governments. The measure also authorizes the meeting places of U.S. veterans, and the meeting places of fraternal organizations (such as the Elks Club or the Knights of Columbus) to apply for the right to host video gaming terminals in communities that do not have any machines right now.
The gaming bill language was included in SB 521, as amended in the House. When the House approved the measure on Tuesday, June 1 by a vote of 96-11-1, the vote sent the measure to the Illinois Senate for further debate and action.
No Final Action on FOID/CCL changes
Competing proposals in the House and Senate that would have made sweeping changes to Illinois’ gun laws were held up at the end of the May session. I’ve heard from many of you on this topic and I appreciate knowing where everyone stands.
House Bill 1091, backed by anti-gun House Democrats, would ban private transfers of firearms, require fingerprints for FOID applications and renewals, double the application fee of a FOID to $20 while halving the duration to five years, and increase the processing time for FOID cards. These proposals would make it more difficult and expensive for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights. HB 1091 narrowly passed the House by a vote of 60-50-0, but was held in the House by a parliamentary motion to reconsider the vote.
House Bill 562, as amended in the Senate, would incentivize voluntary fingerprinting for FOID applications and renewals, provide for the automatic renewal of FOID cards for people that have voluntarily supplied fingerprints to the Illinois State Police, combine and synchronize FOID/CCL into one card, and require background checks for the private transfer of firearms. HB 562 passed the Senate by a vote of 40-17-0, but was not called for concurrence in the House prior to adjournment.
Illinois House demands that Pritzker administration reopen State unemployment offices
Taxpayer-funded offices, operated by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), are supposed to help unemployed Illinoisans navigate the notoriously cumbersome process of applying for unemployment benefits, including unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Visitors to the offices also get advice on how to work towards new employment, including career changes when necessary. However, since March 2020 these IDES offices have been closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic
The Department has tried to replace the services traditionally provided by their now-closed offices with a set of telephone banks and help lines. However, Illinoisans have told legislators that they often have to wait long periods of time to talk to IDES personnel on the telephone. Furthermore, filing a valid UI application often requires the applicant to produce paperwork, such as identification paperwork and documentation of proof-of-prior-employment. Senior IDES personnel have issued vague promises and assurances that they would reopen their network of in-person service offices, but they have not been able to set any date to actually implement this reopening.
House Republicans have repeatedly called out the Department for their failure to commit to a reopening timeline. With constituent pressures rising for all Illinois lawmakers, the Illinois House adopted a resolution this week to urge Gov. Pritzker to reopen the IDES service offices immediately. Representative Joe Sosnowski sponsored House Resolution 226 to pressure the Governor and the IDES to reopen local offices throughout the state for in-person services to assist Illinois residents with unemployment claims. In floor debate, Sosnowski pointed out that many other facets of Illinois state government, headed by the Secretary of State’s drivers’ license offices, have successfully reopened. On Saturday, May 29, HR 226 was approved by the House by a vote of 108-0-1.
Also with unemployment topic, my bill HB3329 passed the House unanimously but stalled in the Senate. My bill would have changed so that the Department of Employment Security may not use a person’s social security number in the Department’s correspondence. Requires the Department to develop a system of identifying information to be used instead of social security numbers. My bill was picked up by a Democratic Senator who sat on it and didn’t move the issue forward in committee despite it’s wide bipartisan acceptance in the House.
Constitutional amendment on workers’ rights to be placed on November 2022 ballot
The language of SJRCA 11 applies to the Bill of Rights within the Illinois Constitution. The amendment, if approved by voters in 2022, would provide that employees shall have the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work. The proposed constitutional amendment would ban right-to-work laws and ordinances at the state and local level.
The right of an employee to join a union and participate in its organizing work is already protected by existing law, and critics pointed out the taxpayer expense of putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot, calling the exercise unnecessary. The House vote on SJRCA 11, held on May 26, was 80-30-3.
Illinois 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.
As reported by Capitol News Illinois: The Illinois House passed a bill that would lower small trailer license fees from $118 to $36, which lawmakers said on the House floor Sunday could remedy an issue that has resulted in an uproar of complaints from their constituents.
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, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, lowers the annual fee to a compromise $36, along with removing a $10,000 cap on sales tax credits on vehicle trade-ins. Multiple proposals for lowering the trailer fee were filed this session, including House Bill 36, sponsored by Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Collinsville, and House Bill 636, sponsored by Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Morrisonville.
Both of these proposals were held up in the House Revenue and Finance Committee as lawmakers worked on a compromise.
Stuart and Bourne’s bills would have lowered the fee back to the previous cost of $18. But the Transportation for Illinois Coalition – a group of statewide and regional business, organized labor, industry, governmental and nonprofit organizations which lobbied for the capital bill’s passage in 2019 – warned that lowering the fees would take revenue away from state construction projects.
Lawmakers reached a compromise by raising the certificate title fee by $5, from $150 to $155, to replace the revenues lost from the lowered trailer fee. The certificate title fee is only paid when titles are transferred for registered vehicles.
Rep. Bourne also clarified with Rep. Evans that individuals could keep their same license plate and simply renew it under the bill.
SB 58 also restores the full credit trade-in rates that had been capped at $10,000.
Thank you for taking the time to read my e-newsletter. It is a tremendous honor for me to serve as your voice in Springfield. If you have any questions or concerns about any information contained in this newsletter or other state issues, please feel welcome to contact me.