Legislative Update: April 27, 2015

Third Reading Deadline Passes in House and Senate
During what is typically one of Springfield’s busiest weeks, the House and Senate finished considering legislation that originated in their respective chambers. That means any House bills that have not been approved by the House are now dormant for the remainder of this year’s spring legislative session. Similarly, Senate bills that did not come up for a vote last week are ineligible for action for now.

From here on until the end of the 2015 spring session, the House will be dealing with Senate bills, and vice versa. House Republicans will closely scrutinize these Senate bills. As of the morning of Friday, April 24 (deadline day), the Senate had sent 251 bills and one joint resolution to the House for further action. The House has sent 331 measures to the Senate. This reflects almost three-quarters (331/444) of the 444 House bills let out of House committee for floor consideration. As the end of session gets closer, bill actions may move faster and break quicker than they did earlier in session. Check out The Caucus Blog for frequent updates on Illinois House legislative action.

Small Business Owners Caucus Forms in General Assembly
A Bipartisan group of legislators has formed a new caucus that is focused on drafting legislative policies and suggesting changes that spur economic development in Illinois. The 20-member caucus brings together lawmakers who share similar entrepreneurial experiences, and activities will include caucus-backed legislative proposals and the support of individual caucus members’ legislative ideas. The group also intends to hold pro-business discussions with the state’s constitutional officers, agency directors, legislative leaders and with pro-business organizations throughout the state. It’s an honor to be a part of this new group of legislators and I look forward to our important work.

Statewide Discussion on Capital Spending Begins
Governor Bruce Rauner announced on Tuesday, April 21 that he is launching an infrastructure Listening Tour in which the Governor will talk to local leaders in at least 30 separate Illinois communities to hear their needs for additional help in maintaining vital local infrastructure. At the same time, Illinois House budget working groups will be meeting on FY16 budget challenges, including issues of public infrastructure. I will be attending two sessions in this area and invite you to join me at the session that is most convenient for you. The first local session will be in Champaign today (April 27) at 1:00 PM at Champaign’s Hilton Garden Inn, 1501 S. Neil Street. I’ll also be attending a session next week in Danville on May 7. The Danville session is at 9:30 AM in the Vermilion County Building’s Board Room on the second floor of the County Annex, 6 N. Vermilion Street in Danville.

Deteriorating roads and bridges are expected to be a particular focus of the Governor’s tour and Illinois House discussions. Current projections, based on existing trends on motor fuel consumption and taxes paid, have looked at the current six-year Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) planning program. Current trends indicate that by the end of this six-year program 40 percent of Illinois highways, and one in seven Illinois bridges, will be in unacceptable condition.

Most of the money raised by motor fuel taxes is deposited in the state’s Road Fund and used for road and bridge repair and replacement. Illinois transportation infrastructure work will continue in the 2015 construction season, but IDOT has reported to the Illinois House that the State’s asphalt infrastructure is depreciating faster than moneys are being deposited in the Fund.

General Assembly Takes Action to Restore Funding for Autism, Early Childhood and other Programs
SB 274 authorizes Governor Bruce Rauner to move $26 million from certain restricted State accounts. The Governor would use the money to partly reverse cuts imposed on certain hard-hit State programs. The list of cuts that were announced last month was troubling, and I took your concerns to heart when you emailed my office. SB 274 received wide support in the Senate and is now pending in the House of Representatives. If Speaker Madigan calls this bill I will be supporting it. Funding for critical services such as early childhood intervention and autism and epilepsy programs are very important, and I will continue to do what I can to preserve funding for our most vulnerable citizens while also working toward a balanced budget for FY16.

House Moves Bills to Reduce Marijuana Penalties/Extend Medical Marijuana Program
HB 218, a bill negotiated with input from prosecutors and law enforcement, makes changes to the penalty schedule for possession of small quantities of marijuana. The bill creates a Uniform Cannabis Ticket and a fine (rather than a misdemeanor charge) for possession of not more than 30 grams of marijuana. Reductions in penalties are made for offenses of quantities of not less than 30 grams and not more than 500 grams. HB 218 does NOT make marijuana legal.

While I voted against HB 218, I do agree that streamlining the rules and penalties for marijuana use and possession is a good idea. More than 100 communities in Illinois had already taken steps to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and a key component of the bill is that the rules are now the same throughout the state.

Lawmakers in the IL House also voted last week to extend the life of the medical marijuana program. The program, which has granted limited numbers of permits to grow cannabis and dispense cannabis-based substances, is intended to provide small quantities of medical cannabis to patients upon the recommendation of their doctors.

General Assembly Moves Bill to Encourage Construction of Obama Presidential Museum/Library
Last year the House Republicans successfully stopped an effort by the controlling Party in Springfield to allocate $100 million in taxpayer funds toward the building of an Obama Presidential Library and Museum in Illinois. While most people agree that Illinois is the proper location for our current President’s future museum and library, we felt it was fundamentally wrong to ask the taxpayers of Illinois to foot the bill.

HB 373 was amended last week to add language authorizing the construction of a presidential library on public parkland in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office and the University of Chicago, where Obama worked as a lecturer in constitutional law, have submitted a bid to construct the library on parkland space adjacent to Obama’s former residence in Hyde Park, Chicago.

The most important element of this new bill is the no taxpayer money is tied to the project. An Obama Presidential Library/Museum, if constructed and operated in a manner similar to the Clinton Library or the two Bush Libraries, would be built with private-sector funds. Gifts from the private sector and admission fees, not State money, would be used to operate much of the museum section of the Library.

Features of the Obama Library bill could also strengthen the legal position of Emanuel’s office in his separate fight to build a museum on Chicago’s lakefront honoring filmmaker George Lucas. Language within the bill exempts museums and aquariums affiliated with the city of Chicago from requirements that reclaimed Lake Michigan bottomland be protected if it was reclaimed for public use. The Lucas Museum plans include an expectation that the museum will charge a significant admission fee. The bill, which does not allocate any taxpayer dollars toward the construction of the museum/library, was approved in the House and Senate and now awaits the signature of the Governor.

Funds Raised to Offset costs of Summer Music Enrichment Program
This last weekend I had a great time at a great event that supports the Danville Area Community College for Kids Program. The College for Kids program has been in place since 1980, and provides educational opportunities for children during the summer months while helping students grow accustomed to life on a college campus. The philosophy of the summer enrichment program is to provide fresh and fun subject matter to motivate children and keep them challenged and active during the summer. The program accomplishes the following:
  • Provides hands-on, in-depth exploration in specialized fields of knowledge
  • Provides opportunities for children to reach levels of intellectual stimulation which exceed those normally acquired in a regular classroom setting
  • Provides challenging experiences and necessary tools to develop the special interests in the subject areas offered
  • Exposes children to the college atmosphere of learning which will increase the probability that they will direct their energies toward fulfillment of their highest potential
I’m shown in the photo with Pete Goodwin, Judge Mark Goodwin, Steve Strader and Rick Rotramel at Wolf Creek Golf Club.

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