Legislative Update: December 22, 2015

Comptroller Munger to Expedite Payments for Domestic Violence Shelters, 911 Service
Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger announced last week that legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor will allow her office to swiftly process payments for local governments, 911 emergency phone services, Lottery winners and domestic violence shelters.

"I have directed our staff to process payments for domestic violence shelters, local governments, 911 services and Lottery winners as soon we receive the necessary vouchers," Munger said. "Domestic violence shelters have entered their sixth month without payments and are turning away women and children. Local governments also provide critical services to our families and communities. I am committed to ensuring these organizations and local governments are paid promptly so they can avoid further hardship."

Munger noted that payments for local governments, 911 services, and the Lottery can be made swiftly because the necessary dollars are set aside in independent state funds dedicated to those purposes. However, domestic violence shelter payments come from the state's General Revenue Fund, which currently has a nearly $7 billion bill backlog. To provide relief to those social service organizations, Munger has directed that domestic violence shelter payments be prioritized and paid upon receipt of a voucher from a state agency.

Munger encouraged shelters and other vendors with payment questions to contact the Budget Hotline she established at 1-855-IL-ASK-US. She applauded the General Assembly and Governor for reaching an agreement on the newly authorized funding, and encouraged all involved to build on that momentum.

Hays Joins area Lawmakers for Legislative Event for Champaign Area Chamber of Commerce
Last week on Monday, December 14, I had the privilege of speaking to a full room of business owners from the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce. I was joined on the panel by Senator Chapin Rose, Senator Scott Bennett and Representative Carol Ammons for a frank discussion about the budget impasse and legislative initiates that affect the area. Most of the time was spent, however, fielding questions from the chamber members. I appreciated the opportunity to connect with the local business community.

Madigan a No-Show at Most Recent Budget Meeting
Governor Bruce Rauner held another meeting last week with the four legislative leaders to discuss issues standing in the way of the enactment of constitutional balanced budget. While House Speaker Mike Madigan was in attendance for the first two meetings, he was a no-show at the meeting in Chicago on December 17.

The high-level meeting took place a few days after sharp criticisms were leveled against the Speaker, who told attendees at a recent gathering at the City Club of Chicago, that the State needed to look at re-instituting a 5.0% personal income tax rate on individual Illinois incomes. Madigan’s move in January 2011 to pass a bill to enact the first 5.0% individual income tax rate was the largest tax-hike law in Illinois history.

New Law could Allow for Digital Driver’s Licenses on Cellular Phones
The digital driver’s license would contain the same information as what is found on a plastic driver’s license. It would display as an app on the license holder’s smartphone. The Illinois move follows a policy push in the neighboring state of Iowa, where lawmakers have created a pilot program intended to push for the implementation of electronic digital driver’s licenses in the Hawkeye State as soon as 2016.

The Electronic Driver’s License Task Force, convened this fall to help Illinois to look into this technological possibility, was created this year by SJR 11, sponsored in the Illinois House by Rep. Steven Andersson. Any movement toward digital driver’s licenses will have to be implemented by the Driver Services division of the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State. If the resolution creating this Task Force is amended by SJR 36, the Task Force will be asked to report to the General Assembly on its findings no later than May 1, 2016.

Hays Participates in Wreath Ceremony at National Cemetery in Danville
I was honored and humbled last week to participate in laying wreaths on the graves of our wonderful Veterans at the National Cemetery at the VA in Danville as part the Wreaths Across America initiative. Over 2,200 wreaths were placed on the graves of heroes who serviced with extraordinary honor and distinction, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of a very grateful nation.

DNR Reports on 2015 Firearm Deer Hunting Season
Illinois’ wildlife management agency counted 86,771 tagged deer during the 2015 Firearm Deer Season, a seven-day event that closed on Sunday, December 6. This was an increase of 13% over the 76,575 deer tagged in the comparable season in late 2014. Secondary seasons, including the December 11-13 Muzzleloader Season, may lead to additional deer being successfully hunted in Illinois.

Safe Holiday Cooking
As Christmas approaches, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is once again distributing its online safety brochure, “Food Safety During the Holidays.” With a wide variety of foodstuffs being thawed and cooked for a typical family gathering, the Department is renewing its advice on safe conduct when things to eat are being handled or being processed at room temperature. The DPH brochure includes a chart showing minimum safe meat-thermometer temperatures for roasted meat and poultry, and a list of minimum standards to be followed in the use or disposal of leftovers.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
As we end 2015 and prepare to usher in 2016, I hope you are all able to spend quality time these next few weeks with family, friends and other loved ones. While this has indeed been a difficult year for the State of Illinois, we all have a lot for which we can be truly grateful. From my family to yours, I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a bright and prosperous new year!