On Wednesday, January 11, I stood with House Republicans and Democrats from across Illinois as we were sworn in to office for the 100th General Assembly. The two-hour inauguration ceremony was held at the University of Illinois Springfield campus. As my first vote of the 100th General Assembly, I voted for Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) to serve as Speaker of the House for 2017-2018. While all 51 Republicans supported Durkin in the House Speaker vote, 66 of the 67 Democrats voted for Mike Madigan to retain his position of power. As a result, Speaker Madigan will now become the longest-serving Speaker of the House in the history of our nation. While disappointed with the final choice for Speaker, I look forward to working in a bipartisan fashion with all members of this new General Assembly.
Jim Durkin will continue in his role as House Republican Leader. In his inaugural remarks, Leader Durkin redoubled his call for budget reforms to end the current fiscal crisis facing the State. Durkin also demanded that urgent attention be given to the current wave of homicides and violent crime in Chicago. In this new General Assembly I will also be continuing in my role as Assistant House Republican Leader. It is my pleasure to be a part of the 10-member leadership team that sets the House Republican agenda and determines how our caucus will respond to damaging legislation that would be harmful to Illinois taxpayers.
The House Republican Caucus contains 10 new members who attended their first session days last week. These are freshman members who were elected by their neighbors throughout Illinois, including the Chicago area and Downstate, to fight for economic growth and a taxpayer-friendly government that can live within its means. After the ceremony I was interviewed and asked about my goals and hopes for the new 100th General Assembly and also about rumors of a budget package taking shape in the Senate. You can listen to that interview here.
New Law Requires Testing of Many Illinois School Buildings for Lead in Tap Water
SB 550, signed into law this week as Public Act 99-0922, creates a statewide system for all school systems, other than Chicago, to test the water of each school building. The Chicago Public School system says they have tested their schools already. Other school systems that have already tested their water would also be exempted from this state mandate and lead testing results would have to be made public.
Studies show that Illinois has one of the largest number of lead service lines in the United States. A lead-in-water scandal in Flint, Michigan has earned substantial news coverage throughout the Midwest. Both Illinois and Michigan underwent fast economic development and boom conditions in the first three-quarters of the 20th century. During this period lead pipes and fittings were standard building supplies in building projects of all sorts, including school buildings.
The cost of testing, which would be borne by school districts, would be from $500 to $5,000 per school building. 2,500 elementary schools and 11,000 licensed day care centers and homes would be covered by the legislation.
General Assembly Passes Bill to Extend Life of Job-Creation Program
During the “lame duck” session of the 99th General Assembly last week, I was pleased to support a short extension of the Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) program until April 30, 2017. The passage of SB 513 was necessary due to a sunset date of the original program of December 31, 2016. Creation of a new sunset date of April 30, 2017 means that the program has come back to life and can be used once again to create new Illinois jobs. During this time the legislature will also review the program and make some changes before approving any possible extension beyond the end of April. One proposal calls for replacement of EDGE by a new job-creation tax incentive program, to be called THRIVE. The provisions that could become part of the new THRIVE law will be discussed in the spring 2017 session. The EDGE program extension law was approved by the House and Senate on Tuesday, January 10. The House vote was 101-12-0. The extension bill is awaiting the signature of the Governor.
Hays 2017 Legislative Agenda Taking Shape
So far, in this first week of the 100th General Assembly, House members have already filed more than 450 bills for the new General Assembly to consider. Two of my own bills are included in this initial grouping. While I still have a few other initiatives that are not yet in final form for filing, the following bills are awaiting assignment to a substantive committee for initial consideration:
- HB 275: Requires every toll booth in Illinois to have a “cash” lane where motorists may use coins to pay tolls. This bill addresses a current issue for people who do not own an IPASS.
- HB 304: Imposes longer sentences for those who are found guilty of killing a person under the age of 18 when the cause of death was related to child abuse.