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Senator Syverson’s Week in Review: October 23 - 27

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Lawmakers returned to the Capitol this week for the Fall Veto Session with some controversial matters to consider.

In addition to consideration of gubernatorial vetoes, lawmakers in both chambers introduced new gun control legislation and the Legislative Audit Commission released its second audit of the troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI). The Senate also honored a Navy Seal and two policemen tragically killed in the line of duty.

In other news during the week, the state’s Comptroller released mandated categorical funds for schools across the state, money considered critical to keep Illinois schools operating; and 170 women signed a letter this week to call attention to the issue of sexual harassment in Illinois politics and government.

Bills Banning Bump Stocks Introduced

Just weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, several bills were introduced this week that aim to address growing concerns of gun safety while still preserving the rights of gun owners.

Senate Bill 2247 was filed in the Senate on Oct. 24, the first day of 2017 Fall Veto Session. Under the legislation, it would become illegal in the state of Illinois to sell, purchase or possess bump stocks—a device attachment for a semiautomatic firearm that allows it to fire more quickly, operating similarly to a fully automatic rifle.

Unlike other gun safety measures being reviewed by the General Assembly, Senate Bill 2247 is limited in scope and focuses on specifically prohibiting bump stocks. The measure would not prohibit lawful trigger modifications for common sporting rifles for legal gun owners—upholding Second Amendment rights. Notably, the bill would give current owners 120 days to sell or otherwise dispose of bump fire stocks, rather than turning them into overnight criminals; other versions of this legislation would institute an immediate ban.

Another more expansive bill (House Bill 4117) targeting bump stocks and other trigger modifications, failed in the House of Representatives, reflective of criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who said the measure was much too broad. Opponents said far-reaching legislation could make criminals out of legal gun owners, such as legal owners who modify their firearms to compete in shooting competitions.

The sale and use of bump stocks have recently come under scrutiny after several were found at the scene of the recent national tragedy in Las Vegas, which resulted in more than 50 fatalities and hundreds injured.

LAC Confirms Continued Problems With Neighborhood Recovery Initiative

The General Assembly’s Legislative Audit Commission (LAC) met this week, and reviewed the second of two scathing audits of the controversial Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) program.

Created under Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration, the NRI and its successor programs were oft-criticized for mismanagement and the possible abuse of taxpayer funds. The LAC has finished reviewing the second audit of the NRI, a process that confirmed that even after concerns were raised about the program and its implementation, many of the same problems remained after Quinn moved the program to a different state agency. Notably, guidelines and rules were often simply not followed and significant amounts of NRI funding may have been misspent. In addition, the second audit included statements from participants that someone from former Gov.  Quinn’s office told them to not file required reports.

The first scathing NRI audit was released in 2014, which found that the $54 million violence prevention program known as NRI had pervasive deficiencies in planning, implementation and management. In fact, auditors questioned 40 percent of the spending they reviewed in the NRI program. It was also revealed that while billed as a violence prevention program, some of the city of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods were not included.

The Legislative Audit Commission is responsible for monitoring action to correct weaknesses disclosed by the audits of state agencies, oversight of the State Audit Program, and review of the stewardship of public funds.

Comptroller Releases Critical School Funding

This week, the Illinois Comptroller’s Office released $421 million, the last and final quarter payment for fiscal year 2017 mandated categorical (MCAT) payments to schools —the most delayed payments from the previous school year, 2016-2017. If they have not already, school districts should receive payment in the next few days.

MCAT payments were significantly delayed the entire year and school districts have been highly anticipating this funding, which is used by schools for transportation and special education services.

The school funding reform plan passed this summer transfers some of the payments that have been part of the quarterly categorical funding into the General State Aid to school payments that go out twice a month and which are now current. The most recent General State Aid payment of $276 million was sent to schools around the state on Oct. 20.

I-PASS reminder

Senator Syverson is reminding residents that use the I-PASS system that on January 1st they will want to have a transponder in each of their cars that use the tollways. The tollway authority will no longer give discounts to drivers that do not physically have a transponder in their car, which will double the price of the tolls.

MyRA program ending

The federal myRA program will be ending soon. The program was launched by the Obama administration as a retirement savings program for individuals who do not have a similar program available through their employer. A total of 20,000 accounts in the program have had $34 million contributed to them, with 10,000 more accounts that were opened with no contributions yet. The cost of managing the program so far has exceeded $70 million.

myRA participants should be notified soon about how they can shift their savings into a Roth individual retirement account.

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