Senate Week in Review: November 26-30
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois legislature's annual veto session is in high gear and several pieces of major legislation have passed in both the House and Senate, according to State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris).
In a relatively short amount of time, state lawmakers addressed issues relating to education, prisons and the sale of ammunition. However, for those looking for the desperately needed pension reforms, they will most likely have to wait until at least the lame-duck session early next year.
Senate, House Approve CPS Closing Plan Extension
The Illinois Senate voted unanimously on Nov. 29 to extend a deadline for the Chicago Public School (CPS) system to issue a plan for proposed school closings. Quick action was needed because of a looming Dec. 1 deadline. Under the legislation (SB 547), which has now been approved by House and Senate lawmakers, Chicago Public Schools would have until March 31 to issue the school closing report, Sen. Rezin explained.
The measure gives the school system more time to solicit input from the public, which officials say will allow them to proceed more thoughtfully and deliberately with a school closure plan.
School officials estimate 140 Chicago schools are at 50 percent capacity, and approximately 100,000 seats are without students. Additionally, CPS faces a $1 billion budget shortfall for the next fiscal year.
More Bureaucracy for Illinois Businesses
In yet another effort that could complicate matters for Illinois businesses, Senate Bill 282 was passed by the Senate without a Senate Republican vote. This bill mandates that all publicly traded corporations doing business in Illinois must disclose information about their net income and taxes paid. The information becomes available to the public after three years.
Sen. Rezin said the measure, which has yet to be approved by the House, is viewed by employers as yet another example of an anti-business attitude that has contributed to Illinois’ poor business climate. The Illinois Chamber of Commerce warned that employers fear the sensitive tax information could be used by politicians seeking retaliation against corporations that speak out on public policy issue. Furthermore, it can be seen as a door to eventually rewrite tax policy.
The legislation is now in the House of Representatives for consideration.
Victory for Illinois Ammunition Businesses
Senate Bill 681 was originally intended to allow Illinois residents to make online purchases of ammunition from Illinois-based businesses. An oversight in the existing law blocked Illinois residents from buying ammunition over the Internet from Illinois businesses, while allowing such purchases from out-of-state firms.
However, the Governor rewrote the proposal to ban semi-automatic firearms. Senators voted during the week to reject the Governor's changes and enact the measure as originally passed. If the House follows the Senate in rejecting the measure, the bill will go into effect without the Governor’s changes.
Lawmakers Fight against Prison Cuts and Closures
In an attempt to overturn the Governor's intent to reduce or eliminate spending for several correctional facilities, the Senate has overridden the alterations to Senate Bill 2474 by the Governor. If the House follows suit, the spending would be restored; however, there is no guarantee that the Governor would spend the money, even if authorization is approved.
Immigration and Driver Safety
The Senate Executive Committee voted 12-2 on Nov. 29 to offer the state’s temporary visitor’s driver’s license to undocumented residents (Senate Bill 957). Proponents view the measure as a safety issue, noting that there are already an estimated 250,000 undocumented resident drivers who are currently not trained, tested, licensed or insured. Opponents say the legislation offers an official sanction for persons in the country illegally.
Spring Valley Historic Association Museum wins a Governor’s Home Town Award
Sen. Rezin was on hand to congratulate the Spring Valley Historic Association Museum on Nov. 29 where they received an award as part of the Governor’s Annual Home Town Awards.
The Spring Valley Historic Association Museum won their award in the Division III category of “History and Historic Preservation.” Their award was based on the renewed interest in a defunct historical society and the subsequent preparations that led up to the City of Spring Valley’s 125th Anniversary. Their efforts led to a membership drive, a fundraising campaign, and purchase of a location where oral, written, pictorial and other physical memorabilia associated with Spring Valley is housed. Thanks to the donations, efforts, and many volunteer hours, the building and displays were open in time for the celebration.
“I congratulate the Spring Valley Historic Association Museum and applaud their efforts to make the 125th Anniversary of Spring Valley a unique and historic one,” Sen. Rezin said. “Their actions helped to enrich the celebration of their city, and they should be extremely proud of that.”
According to the Governor’s office, the Governor’s Home Town Award recipients are selected by volunteer judges who review and rank applications based on a variety of factors, including local need, volunteer participation, use of resources and the results achieved. The awards are administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.