Senate Week in Review: April 9-13

Springfield – Senate lawmakers are scheduled to return to Springfield April 17 and are expected to turn their attention to legislation introduced by House lawmakers, having spent the beginning of the legislative session considering and voting on Senate bills, State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) explained.

The legislature now begins the second half of the annual process, as Senators review bills that were introduced and passed by the Illinois House of Representatives, while House members review measures that passed the Senate. A bill must pass both the House and Senate and be signed by the Governor to become law.

During the week, legislators caught up on work in their district offices, and the bipartisan Special Senate Committee on Enterprise Zone Extensions wrapped up a series of statewide hearings in Peoria on April 9. 

Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) joined Sen. Rezin on April 11 to tour several media outlets in Sen. Rezin’s district.  They visited Morris Daily Herald, WCMY Radio in Ottawa, LaSalle News Tribune, and WLPO Radio in Oglesby.  Sens. Radogno and Rezin spoke largely about what is expected to happen in Springfield as legislators return next week to finish up the spring session.  Reporters asked questions about Medicaid and pensions and the developments of proposals that would reform the two programs, both of which Sens. Radogno and Rezin said are works in progress still.  They also held a business luncheon at JJ’s Sports Pub and Grill in Ottawa.  During that time, they met with business owners and leaders to discuss the current business climate and ways to attract new business and create new opportunities within the community and throughout Illinois.

Employment growth and economic development were the focus of legislative hearings on proposed enterprise zone extensions. Testifying before the committee April 9 were local government and economic development officials, as well as representatives from central Illinois businesses, including Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc. Meetings were also held in recent weeks in Carbondale, Chicago and Rockford.

Participants overwhelmingly touted the success of enterprise zones in spurring economic development in communities throughout the state.  Peoria city officials reinforced the effectiveness of enterprise zones in attracting new projects, noting that several current projects have been put on hold because the incentives that come from being part of an enterprise zone can’t be absolutely guaranteed until the zones are renewed. 

Representatives from communities not currently located in enterprise zones testified that the creation of new enterprise zones would be good, particularly for non-home rule communities where the zones would give officials a greater ability to promote economic growth and job-creation.  Geneseo Mayor Linda Van Der Leest got a laugh from crowd after candidly declaring “If you’re looking for a place to house one, I volunteer!”

Illinois is home to almost 100 enterprise zones, which have been credited with creating more than 900,000 jobs and nearly $50 billion in associated revenue since first being established in 1982. In 2011 alone, the program created 8,980 jobs and nearly $2.5 billion in investments. 

Several of the zones are scheduled to expire in the coming year unless lawmakers vote to extend the program. Legislation has been introduced that would extend the life of the zones by 25 years and would create up to 10 new zones over the next 10 years. Additionally, the legislation would implement greater transparency and accountability for these zones.

Also, Senate Republicans continue to encourage the public to visit their new Web site “By the People,” which allows the people of Illinois to suggest ideas for potential laws.

By the People is an initiative of the Illinois Senate Republicans that encourages Illinois residents to become a direct part of the lawmaking process.

While citizens have a say in who they choose to represent them in the Illinois General Assembly, today’s technologies make it easier for citizens to participate in government on a more direct, ongoing basis. By the People is an online legislative forum to allow individuals to not only offer suggestions for new legislation but also comment and expand on the ideas of others. The intent of this forum is to also allow citizens to be able to suggest changes and repeals of current laws.

The Senate Republican staff will review the forum proposals, and the public will be allowed to vote on the top suggestions. The final proposals will be chosen based on the amount of public support a suggestion received, as well as the likelihood that a proposal could realistically be approved by lawmakers and signed into law. The final proposals will be drafted into legislation that will be sponsored by a Senate Republican lawmaker.

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