Senate Week in Review: January 13-17

A variety of state policy issues were in the news during the past week, including workers’ compensation reform, school funding fairness, redistricting reform, environmental protection and the latest in what often seems like an endless supply of bad economic news for Illinois, state Senator Sue Rezin (R-Morris) said.

A recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court highlights Illinois’ failing workers’ compensation system and the need for legislative reforms, according to Sen. Rezin.

Employers won a small victory from the state’s Supreme Court in December, which clarified the law in regards to workers who suffer injuries while traveling.

Before the Supreme Court ruling, State Senator Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) introduced Senate Bill 2622 limiting compensation to injuries sustained while an employee is actively involved in the duties of the job and clarifying a range of issues that have developed in recent cases, including the “traveling employee” question which the high court took up.

Major Reforms Introduced

Senate Bill 2622 is the first of a series of major reforms that also includes Senate Bills 2623, 2624, 2625 and 2626.

The chief measure in the package is SB 2624, an omnibus bill with Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) as the lead sponsor. It incorporates several major reforms designed to address issues identified both in a major report from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and in a 2012 report to legislative leaders from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. (Read More)

Rezin Attends Heroin Forum, Named to Heroin Task Force

On January 15, the Grundy County State’s Attorney’s Office, No Tolerance Task Force, Coal City Police and Coal City Community School District 1 hosted a heroin forum as a part of an awareness campaign concerning the increasing presence of heroin in the county. 

The forum topics included discussion about the abuse of heroin, its side effects, treatment and the penalties for possession and distribution of it. 

Sen. Rezin said she learned a lot of information and feels it is important for parents to be educated about the increased presence of the deadly drug in order to combat the epidemic. 

The day after the forum, Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) appointed Sen. Rezin to serve on the Young Adult Heroin Use Task Force.  The task force was created by legislation passed last session in response to the growing threat of heroin use and deaths around the state. 

No Solution yet on School Funding Inequity

A special Senate Committee formed last year to review inequities in school funding held their latest meeting Jan. 13, in the southwestern Illinois community of Waterloo.

The committee, formed in response to a Senate Republican report last year that revealed major problems with the way schools in Illinois are funded, has held numerous hearings across the state. But, as the 2014 legislative session gets underway, neither legislation nor a consensus of how to address the problem has emerged from the committee.

“Education funding in Illinois is inequitable and serious reforms are needed in order to ensure our schools are being funded properly and fairly,” Sen. Rezin, who is a member of the Senate Committee, said.  “We shouldn’t be funding our schools based on one geographic location or the other.  These hearings have only confirmed our findings from last year and strengthened the argument that reform is needed.” (Read More)

Reminder: Rezin’s Office Open to Help Submit Concealed Carry Applications

Sen. Rezin is reminding constituents that her district office is open to help individuals submit concealed carry applications online since the Illinois State Police are not accepting paper applications at this time.
Sen. Rezin said the response has been great so far and the office has been able to help several people submit the applications. 

Please ensure that you have completed all the items under the “checklist prior to applying” section on the Illinois State Police Concealed Carry website and then call the district office at 815-220-8720 to set up an appointment.  Sen. Rezin’s district office is located at 103 Fifth Street in Peru. 

Redistricting: ‘The Not-So-Silent Killer of Democracy’

The Daily Herald Newspaper has dubbed partisan redistricting “the not-so-silent killer of democracy in Illinois for more than a century.”

Redistricting has become a political tool by those in power to entrench their power.  After each census, the state is charged with redrawing the legislative boundaries for House and Senate districts. 

In a recent series the Daily Herald highlighted the redistricting process in Iowa and described the stark differences between their system and the one in Illinois. (Read More)

EPA Wants New ‘Petcoke’ Rules

The State’s Environmental Protection Agency wants to crack down on industries they say are polluting the southeast side of Chicago with petroleum coke, also known as “petcoke.”

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency announced they will submit new rules to the Illinois Pollution Control Board setting statewide standards for any facility that manages or stores petcoke. The new rules call for complete enclosure of petcoke during its transport, processing and storage. (Read More)

More Moving Out than In

More residents are packing up and leaving the Land of Lincoln than are moving in—that’s the conclusion of two recently released migration studies conducted by two well-known national moving companies.

United Van Lines placed Illinois at Number 2 on its list of top “Outbound” states for 2013; only New Jersey rated above Illinois on the United Van Lines list at Number 1. United Van Lines has been tracking national state-to-state migration trends, based on its household moves for nearly four decades, grouping states into categories of “Outbound,” “Inbound” and “Balanced” based on whether the majority (55%) of moves are out-of-state or in-state.

Meanwhile, Atlas Van Lines also lists Illinois among its list of Outbound states, which includes states that have more than 55 percent of their total shipments moving out of the state. According to Atlas Illinois has consistently experienced a greater number of out-bound moves than in-bound moves for the past eight years.  Based on company statistics, Illinois would rate Number 8 with 57.4 percent of moves out-of-state. (Read More)

One-Third of Illinois Homes “Deeply Underwater”

A report released by RealtyTrac says almost one-third of Illinois homes are “deeply underwater.”  The organization, based in Irvine, California, said only Nevada and Florida fare worse than the Land of Lincoln. 

The report, which used data from December 2013, defined deeply underwater to mean that the loan to value ratio of a home is 125 percent or above, meaning the homeowner owes at least 25 percent more than the estimated market value of the property.

Tax Hike Anniversary

January 13 marked the three year anniversary of the largest income tax hike in state history. On January 13, 2011, Governor Quinn approved the tax hike which had passed in the middle of the night during a lame-duck legislative session over Republican objections.

The 67 percent increase took roughly a week’s pay away from hard-working Illinois taxpayers. Although it was promoted as a way to reduce the state’s multi-billion dollar bill backlog, the “problem solving” tax has generated revenues—but without reaping the promised benefits. The state currently has nearly $7.6 billion in backlogged bills and the budget remains chronically unbalanced with spending continually outpacing available revenues. (Read More)

Mental Health Database for Concealed Carry Applicants

Illinois’ Department of Human Services wants mental health professionals to be aware of their responsibilities under the state’s new Concealed Carry Act.

A critical component of the new Act is background checks of concealed carry applicants to identify persons with serious mental health issues. The background check will include a new state database of individuals with serious mental health issues. (Read More)

Subcommittee Hears Testimony on DCFS Improvements

Safety and child-protection issues at the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS) were the focus of a Senate subcommittee hearing Jan. 13. This was the fourth public meeting where lawmakers heard testimony and engaged in panel discussion on how to improve DCFS services and child welfare in Illinois.

A record high 104 child deaths were reported in Fiscal Year 14 (which ended July 1, 2013), prompting public hearings to discuss the best ways to reduce the growing number of child abuse and neglect cases.  (Read More)

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