Legislative Update: December 13, 2016

Hays Participates in Inaugural Catlin Parade of Lights
On November 27 I joined hundreds of people from Catlin and the nearby area for the Inaugural Catlin Parade of Lights. This new event, which was themed “An Old Fashioned Christmas,” featured several colorful floats. The parade originated at Salt Fork High School and proceeded to the Village Hall. After the parade we enjoyed the annual lighting of the community Christmas Tree. I’m sure this event will grow in popularity as this new tradition takes hold in Vermilion County.

Illinois House Approves Constitutional Amendment for Lame-Duck Tax Increases
During our recent veto session in Springfield, I voted in favor of an initiative that would give Illinois voters the power to make it more difficult for lawmakers to raise taxes during a so-called “lame duck” session of the Illinois General Assembly. The amendment, if approved by the state Senate and adopted in the 2018 general election, would increase the voting margin required to increase an income tax rate or a sales tax rate during any lame duck session of the Illinois General Assembly. The General Assembly, under current law, can enact lame duck tax hikes by simple majority in both houses. If HJRCA 62 were to become law, the margin would increase to three-fifths – the same supermajority as is currently required to increase State general-obligation debt, approve amendments to the Constitution of Illinois, and approve amendments to the federal Constitution of the United States. Lame duck sessions are sessions after Election Day when retiring legislators are still in office. The Thursday, December 1 vote by the House to approve HJRCA 62 was 84-18-2. The Senate has not taken action on this measure.

Champaign County First Delegation Visits Lawmakers in Springfield
It was certainly a pleasure to meet with representatives from Champaign County First while in Springfield on November 30. Representative Bill Mitchell and I met with the group and discussed how we as legislators could assist with economic development in Champaign County. Champaign County First is a united countywide effort to identify projects and/or initiatives that, when successfully completed, will greatly benefit the citizens of Champaign County; spur economic development; and improve the quality of life in Champaign County. Champaign County First partners are committed to advocating on behalf of the identified projects at the local, state and/or federal level with one voice in order to transform Champaign County. Champaign County First is a partnership between the Chamber and the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation.

U.S. Department of Energy Grants $10.1 Million to Illinois State Geological Survey
The Champaign-Urbana geological think tank will study and develop technologies to enable the continued burning of fossil fuels in Illinois and around the world. Concerns have been raised about the emission of carbon dioxide when oil, gas, coal, and other fuels are burned, but geologists have long known that it is possible to gather carbon dioxide generated by fixed sources of energy (such as power plants) and inject them deep into the earth. The technology, called carbon “sequestration,” could be used to make it more attractive to burn coal and other fossil fuels for future energy.

The Illinois State Geological Survey has been asked to evaluate the feasibility of injecting more than 50 million metric tons of CO² into geological strata deep under Illinois. The study will build on previous core drillings and other empirical research that shows that much of central and southern Illinois lies on top of beds of impermeable shale. Hypothetically, carbon dioxide could be injected into or beneath the shale and would never come back to the earth’s surface.

Illinois House Posts Schedule for 2017 Spring Session
The newly-elected and re-elected members of the Illinois House will convene in Springfield on Wednesday, January 11, to take the oath of office. House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office has posted a session calendar for the House to follow when we introduce new bills next spring and debate them in committee and on the floor. The House will also consider bills sent over from the state Senate. The spring session is scheduled to end on Wednesday, May 31. 

In addition to the session work of the new 100th General Assembly, the 99th General Assembly may well have a few last things to do in January.  Two lame duck session days have been posted on the schedule for Monday, January 9, and Tuesday, January 10. It is not yet known for what purposes these days will be used.      

When we all take our oath of office on January 11, 15 Republicans who were not on the November 2014 ballot will be taking their oaths as members of the 100th General Assembly. Of these new members, five took their seats in the soon-to-be-completed 99th General Assembly as appointees following the departures of their predecessors. All five of them were elected last month to full terms in their own right. These five are:
  • Avery Bourne (95th District, south-central Illinois). Representative Bourne is a law student and a specialist in issues of agriculture and rural law enforcement. She serves on Illinois House committees that deal with issues involving agriculture, consumers, counties, transportation, vehicle safety, and veterans.
  • Tim Butler (87th District, Springfield area). Representative Butler is an experienced hand at constituent issues from his services as district chief of staff to two members of the U.S. Congress.  He serves on House committees that deal with issues involving the environment, tourism, roads, and vehicle safety.
  • David Olsen (81st District, central DuPage County). Representative Olsen is a skilled professional in financial investing and trading. He serves on House committees that deal with issues involving community colleges, schools, criminal law, public utilities, and renewable energy.
  • David Welter (75th District, northeastern Illinois). Representative Welter is the former chairman of the Grundy County Board. He serves on House committees that deal with issues involving agriculture, appropriations/public safety, schools, charter schools, energy, criminal law, restorative justice, and special needs services. 
  • Sara Wojcicki Jimenez (99th District, Springfield area). Representative Wojcicki Jimenez is a former journalist and Statehouse spokesperson. She serves on House committees that deal with issues involving agriculture, State universities, business and occupational licenses, economic development, and international trade and commerce.  

 In addition to these five now-experienced new members with committee assignments, 10 completely new House Republican members – representing districts from McHenry County on the Wisconsin border to Williamson County in far southern Illinois – will take their seats as the Springfield voice for their respective communities.  

Illinois Department of Transportation Shares Winter Driving Tips
A brief streaming video from IDOT includes warnings suitable for snow and ice conditions. Factors to keep in mind include the need to drive defensively when driving near snowplowing machinery, likely spots for road ice appearance and buildup, and items to be carried in a motor vehicle during winter. A standard winter survival-supply kit for winter driving will include blankets, a first-aid kit, reflectors, an ice scraper for windshields, jumper cables, and a cellphone. Motorists should keep in mind that not all sections of Illinois have continuous, seamless cellphone service.

Firearm Season Deer Harvest Down 8.5% in 2016
Although the late-season harvest numbers have not come in, the main firearm weekends are over. Tag numbers reported by licensed hunters to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) indicate that the number of deer taken this fall was down significantly from 2015. IDNR reports that firearm-season tag numbers were down 8.5% in fall 2016, from 86,847 deer in 2015 to 79,429 this year. Late-season deer activities will include a muzzle-loading weekend in December, an antlerless-only season in specified counties in late December, and the archery deer season through mid-January.

Annual Christmas and Holiday Display Available for Public Viewing
This year’s annual Christmas and Holiday display dedication ceremony was held on Tuesday, November 29 in the Capitol rotunda. The two-story tree, nativity scene and other items provide some much-needed positive holiday spirit during these difficult days for our State. The display is open to the public during normal business hours throughout December at the Capitol, located at 301 S. 2nd Street, Springfield. Area singing groups often volunteer to sing over the noon hour during the holiday season. If your holiday travels bring you near Springfield, please try to find time to see the display in the rotunda.