Legislative Update: August 24, 2015

Governor Signs “Federal Funds” Measure Pushed by House Republicans
The measure “holds harmless” essential State spending lines that are not burdens on taxpayers who pay income and sales taxes. SB 2042, as amended in the House on Wednesday, August 12, will “pass through” monies given to Illinois for programs mandated or strongly encouraged by Washington, D.C. Governor Rauner signed SB 2042 into law on Thursday, August 20.

Although SB 2042 was a Senate bill, the final language approved by the General Assembly and the Governor was developed in the Illinois House after pressure from House Republicans. Led by House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, the GOP caucus pointed out that the overall Fiscal Year 2016 budget impasse was holding federally funded programs “hostage.” Even though the underlying money to pay for these federally-funded programs had been paid by Illinois residents as part of their federal tax payments, Washington was not transferring funds for these programs to Springfield until the State’s government countersigned the transfer by assigning the money to legal appropriations line items. SB 2042, as urged and supported by House Republicans, created these line items and will enable this money to be transferred.

Before passing through the House, SB 2042 was carefully stripped of State taxpayer-funded items that will increase the State’s budget deficit. House Republicans continued to draw attention to the piecemeal FY16 Illinois budget taking shape, but noted that federal dollars should not be subject to the ongoing budget battle in Springfield. The House vote on SB 2042 was 98-0-0. Prior to the vote I expressed my opinion on the shenanigans that led to the ultimate vote to approve the federal-only money. You can watch a video of my remarks here.

Central IL House Republican is Lead Sponsor of New Law to Crack Down on Fly-By-Night Tire Dumps
SB 1590, sponsored by State Representative Reginald Phillips of nearby Coles County, directs the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to study any application for a permit to operate a storage site for the disposal of discarded motor vehicle tires. The bill was signed into law on Tuesday, August 18.

SB 1590 will require the IEPA to look at the prospective owner or operator of a tire storage facility, and if this person has a history of repeated violations of sage tire storage law, to deny a permit. Consumers of tires are required to pay a $2.50-per-tire user fee when a tire is sold, and this fee is supposed to cover the cost to the IEPA of regulating the waste-tire disposal stream and cleaning up past accumulations of disposed tires. Unregulated tire dumps often catch fire and generate significant quantities of sulphur and airborne particulates. Allowing the opening up of new unregulated tire dumps raises the possibility that this $2.50 fee may have to be increased in some future budget year. Denying a permit to these fly-by-night dumps, by contrast, will straighten out and reduce the flow of unregulated discarded tires and maintain the stability of the tire disposal system.

State Fairground Street named after Comptroller Topinka
The pedestrian street was named “Judy Baar Topinka Lane” in honor of the high-spirited public official’s handshaking and cheerful outreach activities. The lane is close to the physical center of the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Noted for her love of the Downstate fair, the Chicago-area statewide official died in office in December 2014. Topinka Lane is lined, during the eleven days of Fair activities, with stands selling State Fair celebration food such as corn dogs and skewered pork chops. Topinka was honored on Tuesday, August 18.

The 2015 Illinois State Fair opened on August 13 in Springfield and  continued until Sunday, August 23. A separate DuQuoin State Fair will be held in Southern Illinois from August 28 through September 7. Fair activities include entertainments, rides, races and other competitions, and festival food. Fairs have been held to honor Illinois agriculture and culture since 1853.

First 2015 Illinois Transmission to Humans of West Nile Virus Reported
A case of the mosquito-borne disease, diagnosed in Downstate’s St. Clair County, was reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health (DPH) on Wednesday, August 19. West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes as are malaria, yellow fever, and other dangerous illnesses. The mosquito type that carries these microorganisms is becoming acclimated to the Illinois climate, and mosquitoes can transmit West Nile in their bites. DPH recommends that Illinois residents and visitors use standard mosquito repellent and limit outdoor activities during mosquito-friendly dusk and nighttime hours.

West Nile has hit Illinois in previous summers. In 2014, state health officials reported 44 cases of West Nile virus in Illinois. In addition, other infections may have taken place that were not reported. In four of the 44 reported cases, the patient died.

John Baldwin Named as New Director of Department of Corrections
Governor Bruce Rauner has named John R. Baldwin as director of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). IDOC is the operational agency over more than 35 state prisons, work camps, boot camps, and transition centers, as well as office-based supervision of parolees in all 102 counties of the State.

Baldwin was named on Friday, August 14, and will serve as acting director pending confirmation by the state Senate. A former head of the Iowa Department of Corrections, he led our neighboring state’s 4,000-employee agency for eight years (2007-2015).