Springfield, IL. – This past week, a bipartisan effort continued in the Illinois Senate to develop a balanced budget, with spending cuts and structural reforms, which will get the state moving forward again. And while progress continues to be made, Senate Republicans say more work needs to be done before the entire budget package should be voted on in the Senate.
State Budget Update
The Senate voted Feb. 8 on four of 13 measures that make up the budget framework Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and Democrat Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) have been negotiating. Opposed to taking a piecemeal approach, Senate Republicans held firm in their call for the budget package to be voted on in its entirety, not as individual pieces of legislation.
Republicans also noted that while significant progress has been made on the package, there is still substantial work to be done on key parts, including workers’ compensation reform that will help make Illinois competitive again, and education funding, which is vital to get done right.
Despite the Senate casting these votes on individual measures, and given there is not yet agreement on the package as a whole, Senate Republicans say negotiations should continue and be completed before a final vote on the comprehensive budget package.
‘Advice and Consent’
In other action, the Senate approved 19 individuals nominated by Gov. Bruce Rauner to serve on a variety of state boards and commissions. Under the Illinois Constitution, one of the Senate’s duties is to give “advice and consent” to gubernatorial appointments. Legislative activity during the 2017 spring session is also beginning to pick up with more than 1,000 Senate bills introduced during the week.
Newly filed bills
Notable bills filed by Senate Republican this week include the following:
• Senate Bill 869 – Requires a State and FBI fingerprint-based criminal history record check as a condition of eligibility to participate in Illinois’ child-care assistance program.
• Senate Bill 874 – Bans controversial automated “red light” traffic cameras from DuPage County.
• Senate Bill 930 – Extends the life of Eastern Illinois University’s “Panther Promise” tuition discount program, from July 1, 2022, to July 1, 2026.
• Senate Bill 1301 – Recognizes concealed firearm permits from other states, provided the permits have similar licensing and education requirements.
• Senate Bill 1356 – Allows local communities to adopt stricter laws on video gaming.
• Senate Bill 1380 – The “Blue Lives Matter” legislation adds law enforcement, fire fighters, corrections officers and EMTs to the state’s protected class of citizens under the Illinois Hate Crimes Act.
• Senate Bill 1409 – Provides new legal tools for authorities to prosecute cases involving the financial exploitation and identity theft involving elderly persons and persons with disabilities.
• Senate Bill 1708 – Requires applicants for initial eligibility for public aid benefits to pass a drug screening.
• Senate Bill 1862 – Gives municipalities the authority to exempt themselves from one unfunded government mandate per year if compliance with the unfunded mandate creates an undue financial burden.
Long Range Transportation
State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) said the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is asking for additional input from the public in developing its Long Range Transportation Plan. Feedback and comments can be provided at AllOurIdeas.org/IDOTideas. It’s an interactive site allowing participants to vote for ideas to improve transportation in Illinois or submit new ideas. The site is available through March 8, 2017. The responses will be considered as the agency develops future transportation policies, goals and investments.
Last year, IDOT received more than 700 survey responses during the initial comment period. More than a quarter of respondents indicated that safety was their top priority. Concerns were also expressed about maintaining Illinois’ transportation infrastructure and the critical part it plays in the state’s economy.