May 29, 2015
As I write this, I am in Springfield for the conclusion of our “scheduled” session days. I was hopeful at the beginning of this session we could come together on the state’s biggest issue, the budget, but unfortunately, Democrats walked away from the negotiating table and refused to compromise on critical reforms needed to fundamentally change Illinois for the better. So now, it looks like we will be returning this summer to get a real budget passed that will finally start righting our fiscal ship.
Instead of working with Governor Rauner and our side of the political aisle, Democrats instead are going it alone again, passing a budget that is about $4 billion out of balance, is unconstitutional, doesn’t make the critical reforms Illinois residents are demanding and voted for, and one that doesn’t serve the people of the state well. This is the same theme that has occurred over the past 12 years, a theme that has left our state and many of you in peril.
I am focused on reforming state government, cutting wasteful spending, balancing the budget, and changing Illinois’ course.That’s why I support legislation to freeze property taxes, improve Illinois’ jobs climate through workers compensation reform, and transform state government with term limits and redistricting reform. These are issues our citizens overwhelmingly support and strongly desire from their state government.
The people of Illinois voted for a bi-partisan government, to bring fiscal sanity back to the state, and advance the state forward. That didn’t happen this week because those in control would rather continue the status quo of failed budgets. It makes me frustrated, and I’m sure you are too. So, we are now in store for a summer session. I hope this summer goes better than this week.
I hope you have a great weekend.
State Sen. Sue Rezin
At the Statehouse
Top: Sue speaking with several mayors and village leaders during a teleconference call about issues in Springfield that could impact that back home.
Middle: After long debates on the Senate floor, Sue enjoys the company of friends from both sides of the aisle.
Bottom: Evan Turner from the Boston Celtics in the Senate Chamber with Sue.
Rezin legislation requiring infrastructure study for frack sand mining passes Senate
Springfield, IL – The effect of frack sand mining operations coming online in and around LaSalle County will be studied by the state, under legislation sponsored by State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Peru) and carried in the House by State Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley). The legislation passed by a unanimous vote in the Senate May 28 and now heads to Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk.
“It’s very rare to have deposits of very high quality northern white sand that has the technical specifications most desirable for frack mining operations, yet this sand can be found in LaSalle County and areas around it,” Rezin said. “Because frack sand mining is a plus for our area due to the good-paying jobs it creates and the money it injects into local economies, we must make sure our roads and bridges can handle all the trucks and heavy equipment used for mining. We also need to make sure the mining doesn’t impact our tourist attractions or citizens who live near these sites.”
Now heading to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk, Senate Bill 1803 directs the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to conduct a study on the effects of agricultural, manufacturing, mining, and other industrial operations in LaSalle, DeKalb, Kendall, Grundy, Livingston, Woodford, Marshall, Putnam, Bureau, and Lee counties. IDOT would then submit a report to lawmakers by Jan. 1, 2017, that includes:
- The impact of road usage and traffic pattern disruptions by sand mine trucking companies.
- The potential road improvement plans to alleviate the additional highway traffic caused by sand mine operations.
- The potential for adding new railway traffic caused by sand mine operations.
- The estimates of current and future tourism trends for the state parks and tourism areas in LaSalle County and the effects of sand mine operations on visitors to those parks and tourism areas.
- Recommendations to the General Assembly as to whether further legislation or rulemaking is needed to regulate sand mining in Illinois.
IDOT may consult with any agency it deems necessary to carry out the study.
“I look forward to IDOT’s report as it will give us a great roadmap on how we can maximize our resources in our area, while minimizing the impact on our citizens,” Rezin said. “We must take a proactive approach now to make sure the needs of these miners, the counties they are working in, and the citizens of those counties are met.”
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking,” is the process of using sand, water and sometimes gas mixtures to break into the underground rock formations hitting new oil and natural gas fields.
Memorial Day Remembrance Wall
As a way to honor loved ones and friends who have served in the U.S. Military, the Senate Republican Caucus has created a digital Memorial Day Remembrance Wall highlighting photographs and written remembrances of deceased veterans. The exhibit is currently on display in the State Capitol. For a video, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-pqpcOB95c
Senate Week in Review
Springfield, Ill. – With the May 31 scheduled spring session deadline quickly approaching but no budget compromise negotiated, State Sen. Sue Rezin says the ball is in Democrat lawmakers’ court. Republican lawmakers and Governor Bruce Rauner have consistently demonstrated they are open to working with their Democrat counterparts on a budget for Illinois, in conjunction with reforms that would generate jobs and boost Illinois’ sluggish economy.
Legislative leaders have said they will continue to meet together with Governor Bruce Rauner to negotiate a resolution to the current budget impasse. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President have said all options are on the table—however, as of May 29, Democrat lawmakers had rejected a number of job-creating, good government reforms introduced by Republicans, choosing instead to pass a budget that is $4 billion out of balance.
Dems pass status quo budget, ignore reform opportunities
Governor Rauner and Republican lawmakers have repeatedly offered to negotiate and compromise on the state’s fiscal issues, beginning with discussions centered on much-needed structural reforms to state government. However, repeated attempts to work in good faith with Democrat legislators have been rebuffed in favor of the same failed budget policies that have dominated Illinois finances for more than a decade.
Instead of working on a budget compromise, Democrats moved forward with an unconstitutionally unbalanced spending plan. Their plan calls for more than $36 billion in total spending, which is more than $4 billion over projected revenues of about $32 billion for the next fiscal year.
Democrats acknowledged their budget will not fully fund state government for an entire year, and have advocated for a tax increase as a way to fill the multi-billion dollar hole. Republican legislators, led by Governor Rauner, have consistently said that reform discussions must come before any conversations about new revenue.
The Governor has indicated that he has no intentions of signing the Democrats’ spending plan into law, and will instead push for a balanced budget in conjunction with much-needed reform policies.
Pro-jobs reform killed by Senate Democrats
Significant portions of Gov. Bruce Rauner and Senate Republicans’ pro-jobs reform agenda were stalled this week by entrenched opposition from Democrat lawmakers in control of the General Assembly.
Property Tax Freeze (SB 1046)
Illinois has the second-highest property taxes of any state, a distinction that a proposal considered this week sought to rectify by freezing property taxes until local voters approve an increase.
However, legislative Democrats blocked the effort to provide the people of Illinois with real property tax relief, and stymied the ability of local voters to control their own taxes.
Lawsuit Reform (SB 884)
Reform that would even the legal playing field and fix the state’s broken lawsuit system was stalled by Democrat lawmakers in a Senate Committee May 28. The compromise lawsuit reform legislation was intended to put a stop to the frivolous lawsuits that have pushed employers and jobs out of Illinois.
Ranking 46 out of 50 states, with one of the worst lawsuit climates in the nation, Illinois is home to two counties deemed “Judicial Hellholes” by the American Tort Reform Association.
The bill is the result of bipartisan working groups organized by Governor Bruce Rauner. The measure would limit the practice of venue shopping, where plaintiffs file lawsuits in courts based on where they are most likely to win regardless of where injuries actually occurred. The measure would have created a process where locations are prioritized based on the parties involved and location where the injuries were incurred.
The legislation would also limit the ability of plaintiffs to seek damages from wealthy businesses and individuals, even though they may have had significantly less involvement in causing the injury, as well as modifications to ensure a plaintiff only recovers the amount actually paid for medical bills.
Workers’ Compensation Reform (SB 994)
Pro-jobs workers’ compensation reform also failed to advance on May 27 when Democrat lawmakers voted against a major reform initiative that would have had a dramatic impact on the state’s economic health and jobs climate.
Illinois workers’ compensation rates are currently the seventh-highest in the nation, and are often cited as a reason companies choose not to move to or expand in Illinois. Employers testified in support of Senate Bill 994, saying the state’s high workers’ compensation costs have a significant impact on their bottom line and deter job creators from expanding or locating in Illinois.
Senate Bill 994 would have reduced workers’ compensation rates for businesses through a package of reforms, including a provision that would ensure the workplace is the major contributing cause of the injury.
Term Limits (SJRCA 14) and Redistricting (SJRCA 15)
Legislative Democrats refused to allow any public hearings on two constitutional amendments, one which would impose term limits on legislators and executive office holders and another which would have created a new independent commission to draw fair and balanced legislative district maps.
Democrats refuse reform with action AND inaction
Sometimes, a smaller anecdote can illustrate a larger truth – that’s the case with three bills flying below the radar during a hectic pre-adjournment week.
First, Democrat lawmakers pushed a proposal to expand the “Urban Weatherization Program.” Last year, the Better Government Association found the 2009 program “in disarray,” with more than 80 percent of the program’s $16 million spent going to administrative and training costs - not weatherization projects. In the program’s five years of existence, only 183 homes have been upgraded, well short of a 1,000-home goal. On May 26, Democrat lawmakers voted to expand the program: raising the per-home expenditure by more than 50 percent and quadrupling the cap for grant recipients to $2 million per year.
Democrat lawmakers’ quick approval of an expansion of this program is in stark contrast to their inaction on two Republican reform bills: one sponsored by Sen. Karen McConnaughay to fix political hiring by former Gov. Quinn at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), and another from Sen. Jason Barickman to address the scandal-plagued Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI). Both bills remain blocked by the Democrats in control of the Senate.