Senate Week In Review: The Springfield Work Report
What happened at the Capitol? Any good news about the progress of budget talks? Are lawmakers addressing priority issues such as job creation? The quick answers are: not a lot; very little; and sorry, but no. However, there are some good things happening.
The Clock is Ticking
The General Assembly is in its final scheduled three weeks of the spring session. Time is running out to finish the peoples’ business, including a new state budget, my May 31. Hopefully the budget will meet constitutional requirements for government spending levels to equal government tax collections.
The Senate budget committees did not meet during the week, but we will meet on May 9 and 10. What I hope I don’t see this year is a repeat of the budget stalemate not settled until last summer. The budget is a basic function of state government. Yet, for nearly two years the best interests of the citizens of Illinois took a backseat to political disagreements and ideology.
There is uncertainty among some at the Capitol that cooperation on a new budget may be limited by politics and leave us again with a partial year plan just to get state government past the fall election. While there may or may not be a new governor, it raises the specter of partisan scheming. Our last experience with a partial budget, after not having a full-year budget for a couple of fiscal years, was not a good one. Many state agencies had to cut services, the backlog of overdue bills passed the $14 billion ($14,000,000,000) mark and public confidence in our state government was greatly eroded.
Priority: Job Creation
The Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) reported during the week that overall Illinois’ largest metro areas lost a combined 3,600 jobs during the month of March, the latest month for which statistics are available. Five cities posted job gains.
What Are Springfield’s Priorities?
At this point, you might wonder aloud; is Springfield addressing our lack of job creation? Remember the short answer I gave earlier? Sorry, but no. If you will recall from my previous recent reports, the majority party passed legislation imposing new costly regulations, pushed for higher taxes and continued their reckless spending practices. Combined these make Illinois an uncertain partner for business investment at the very least.
Here are a few examples of recent legislative priorities:
- Senate Bill 2386: Provides court time before a judge for reckless dog owners and their dogs.
- Senate Resolution 1593: Urges Governor Rauner not to send Illinois National Guard members to the Mexican border as requested by President Trump.
- Senate Bill 2380: Requires animal shelters to keep statistics of incoming animals and what happens to those animals. It also requires the Illinois Department of Agriculture to post those statistics for each shelter on the agency’s website.
- House Bill 4507: Designates the fifth day of March of each year as the “Day of the Horse,” to be observed throughout the State as a day to encourage citizens to honor and celebrate the role of horses.
- House Bill 4735: Designates the month of May as “Monarch Month” to be observed throughout the State as a month to honor the Monarch Butterfly.
- House Resolution 886: Urges the members of the U.S. Congress not to enact the President Trump’s infrastructure plan
While many people would find the above measures trivial, there are other seriously-minded proposals. Here are two backed by Republicans and Democrats:
- House Bill 5760: Rejects the scheduled 2.2 percent pay raise for legislators set to take effect automatically on July 1. With state government’s finances in shambles lawmakers should not receive a pay raise. Illinois’s current budget is more than $2 billion in the red and overdue bills top $6 billion. Given the tendency of state government for overspending year after year, I think this bipartisan measure, which I am cosponsoring, is an example of the behavior and decision-making taxpayers really deserve.
- Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 26: Adds an amendment to the Illinois Constitution drastically changing the way political boundaries are drawn in Illinois. The current system, which effectively leaves politicians in charge of picking their voters, would be replaced with a bipartisan 16-member commission chosen by the State Supreme Court Chief Justice and the next ranking Justice of a different political party. A commission would take partisanship out of the redistricting process and make it open and transparent, and return true elective rights to the voter. This is “good government” reform, which I am cosponsoring.
Redemption and Renewal
As I finish my last spring session at the Capitol, I had the pleasure once again to welcome a group of courageous and determined young ladies from Mercy Multiplied in St. Louis. Twenty six residents from Mercy spent May 3 in Springfield as guests of my wife Victoria and me. Mercy Multiplied is a non-profit, Christian organization helping young women with life-controlling behaviors and situations. Mercy’s services are free of charge. Victoria and I believe in this work. We believe in these young ladies who have the courage to step up and ask for help. They’re willing to allow God into their lives to change them and help them overcome. It’s been our pleasure to host them each year since 2010. In addition to a tour of the State Capitol and recognition by the Illinois Senate, the ladies visited the Abraham Lincoln Home and Old State Capitol. For information about Mercy Multiplied go to www.mercymultiplied.com.
As the spring session winds down, let’s hope lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who are truly working to serve others will dominate the process, help the General Assembly address our challenges and avoid the bitter partisanship that damages good government and disrespects taxpayers.
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, (1803 – 1882); American essayist, lecturer, and poet.