Senate Week in Review: January 28-February 1
SPRINGFIELD, IL – All eyes will be on Gov. Pat Quinn February 6, when he delivers his annual State-of-the-State message before a joint session of the legislature, State Senator Rezin (R-Morris) said.
At this time, little is known about the direction Quinn’s message will take. Lawmakers are anxious to hear if Quinn will finally unveil his own plan for pension and budget reforms or offer a roadmap for fixing the problem. Republican lawmakers have pledged to work with the Governor and with Democrat super-majorities in the House and Senate to find solutions, Sen. Rezin said.
Republican legislative leaders have consistently supported reform and one bipartisan pension proposal won approval in the Senate last year with significant Republican support, but was never called for a vote in the Illinois House. The Senate President has filed his own proposal, which was scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Executive Committee Feb. 5.
The state’s daunting fiscal challenges prompt concerns from Sen. Rezin that the Governor will take advantage of new Democrat super-majorities in both the Senate and House, and attempt to revive efforts to borrow additional revenue to finance state spending. In past years, Republican lawmakers have successfully blocked new borrowing schemes because a super-majority vote is needed to increase state debt. However, Democrats now hold super-majorities in both chambers and could push through a borrowing plan without Republican support.
Opponents, including Senate Republican lawmakers, view more borrowing as simply an attempt to push today's costs onto future generations and lock Illinois into a state of permanent financial crisis.
Still, with Illinois’ pension obligations threatening to overwhelm available state revenues the push for pension reforms is expected to overshadow almost every other issue. Lawmakers are anxious to hear how the Governor proposes to address the problem.
There is also speculation that the Governor may devote a significant part of his speech to promoting gun control. Major new restrictions on semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips failed to get off the ground in the January lame-duck session.
At the same time, a court ruled that Illinois must join 49 other states in allowing its citizens some form of right-to-carry firearms legislation. Balancing the conflicting interests of gun control and Second Amendment advocates will likely prove difficult during the coming spring legislative session.
With the many challenging issues facing Illinois, lawmakers and the public are anxious to hear the Governor's plans when he steps to the podium Feb. 6.
Sen. Rezin named Minority Spokesperson of Senate Energy Committee
Sen. Rezin has been named as the Minority Spokesperson of the Illinois Senate’s Energy Committee, an appointment she sees as an opportunity to promote the energy-heavy industry in the 38th District and across Illinois.
In addition to her responsibilities on the Energy Committee, Rezin will also serve on the Education, Transportation, Local Government, and Financial Institutions Committees.
“I’m excited for the opportunity given to me to chair the Energy Committee on behalf of the Senate Republicans,” Sen. Rezin said. “With three nuclear plants, an oil refinery and countless wind farms, our district is one of the leading producers of energy in the nation. I look forward to working on legislation that will improve the business climate for these industries and others like them around the state to help get our economy moving again.”
Sen. Rezin said she also looks forward to working on Education and Transportation issues in the state.
“As a member of the Education Committee, I look forward to working with all the different groups that have a stake and an interest in Illinois’ education system,” she said. “Our education system is facing some challenges with budget restrictions and other issues, but I hope to be able to address those issues and more in the committee.”
Sen. Rezin has a 100 percent voting record against cuts to education funding, voicing her opposition to appropriation legislation that included budget reductions to education. Throughout her time in the Senate, she has been concerned and vocal about other areas of the budget that have taken money away from education funding. She hopes that through her involvement and work with this committee, funding for education can begin to be restored.
“Concerning the Transportation Committee, I anticipate legislation that will enhance the resources and the systems that we currently have in place. Illinois is a transportation hub for the Midwest and nation,” she said. “I think we have a real chance to further improve our transportation systems and draw more economic activity to the state.”
Sen. Rezin will assume her new assignments once the General Assembly reconvenes on February 5.
Rezin attends transportation symposium
Sen. Rezin recently attended the William O. Lipinski Symposium on Transportation Policy and Strategy at Northwestern University. The day-long event sought to explore the characteristics of public-private partnerships for financing transportation infrastructure in Chicago, Illinois and the nation.
Sen. Rezin was recently named to the Illinois Senate Transportation Committee and said that the symposium was insightful as she prepares to do work in Springfield.
The symposium included expert panelists that discussed benefits and risks of public-private partnerships (PPPs) for transportation, described examples of successful PPPs, and suggested conditions, actions, and policies for maximizing the value of these arrangements for ensuring effective and efficient transportation systems.
DePue Superfund Site meeting held
Sen. Rezin said a DePue Superfund Site meeting was held recently to give area officials and residents a yearly update on the site. Charlene Falco, an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Illinois EPA and Project Manager for the DePue Superfund Site, discussed the five operating units and areas of remediation. Progress is being made to clean up the site and keep the public informed. DePue Mayor Eric Bryant was also present and gave a brief overview of the overall plans for residential and public properties to protect residents from harmful effects.
Sen. Rezin thanks those who attended the meeting, as many are working together to make this clean up project possible.
New legislation introduced
Hundreds of legislative proposals have also been filed as the Senate approaches its deadline for introducing new measures. Among the bills recently introduced were the following:
Aggravated Battery (SB 1249) – Increases the penalty for aggravated battery to a Class 2 felony when the battery causes permanent disability or disfigurement.
Firearms Lawsuits (SB 1195) – This gun control measure would make sellers of firearms liable for any damages done in the future by the gun or ammunition buyer if the buyer is not legally authorized to own a firearm, has bought the weapon on behalf of another person or if the seller has reason to know the firearm will be used for illegal purposes.
Grandparents Raising Babies (SB 1190) – Requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid family medical leave a year to workers who care for a newly born or adopted grandchild.
Grow Your Own Teacher (SB 1220) – This Democrat-sponsored measure would earmark $2 million to the failed "Grow Your Own Teacher" program. One study found that the program spent more than $19 million in its first six years and produced only 29 teachers – at an average cost of $662,000 per teacher.
Implied Consent (SB 1234) – Expands the list of chemical tests used to detect the presence of drugs or intoxicating compounds in the state's implied consent law to allow police to test a driver's saliva.
Injured Workers (SB 1245) – Clarifies that under the state's Public Safety Employee Benefits Act a "catastrophic injury" requires that the injury must permanently prevent an individual from performing any gainful work.
Lawsuits for the Homeless (SB 1210) – Creates a new "Homeless Bill of Rights" and allows homeless persons to sue governments, businesses and individuals for violating those rights.
Local Government Pay Hikes (SB 1222) – Counties, Townships and Municipalities would be required to hold a public hearing before increasing the pay of any officer or employee by more than six percent a year.
Pension Reform (SB 1224) – Ends the practice of using unused vacation and sick time to increase pension benefits or to establish service credit. Applies to new hires only. Affects the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF), Cook County, State Employees, State Universities, Downstate Teachers, and Chicago Teachers Articles of the Illinois Pension Code.
Private Gun Sales (SB 1171) – Regulates the sale of firearms between two private parties, including imposing fees and requiring the sale take place at a licensed firearms dealer's place of business. The firearms dealer would be required to conduct a background check on the buyer and follow all other applicable federal, State, and local laws as if he or she were the seller of the firearm.
School Choice (SB 1248) – Creates a 10-year School Choice pilot program in Chicago, allowing students in low-performing Chicago public schools to attend a nonpublic school of their choice and receive a voucher to help offset the cost.
Senior Drug Benefits (SB 1193) – Would essentially resume the state's "Circuit Breaker" program of drug benefits for seniors and the disabled. The program was ended due to the state's financial problems. This measure would create a new program, but with the same purpose.
State Spending (SB 1223) – Limits state spending increases by requiring a three-fifths vote of the General Assembly and a vote by the public to spend more than an annual increase based on inflation and population growth. Also requires that the first payment the state makes each year must be to fund the state's unfunded pension liabilities.
Student Athletes (SB 1274) – Seeks to increase awareness of and help prevent Sudden Cardiac Arrest involving students participating in school sports or other activities. Requires the Department of Public Health and the State Board of Education to develop materials to students, parents and coaches about the warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest. Also provide that students who exhibit signs or symptoms must be removed from any sporting activity until evaluated and cleared for a return.
Workers' Compensation (SB 1253) – Creates a legal presumption that any firefighter who develops Parkinson's disease is presumed to have developed the disease as a result of his or her employment. This would likely cause a significant increase in workers' compensation costs for local governments and goes against recent reform efforts that have sought to assure that injuries are actually linked to an employee's work.