Update from the Capitol 5-13-15

We're coming down to the wire in Springfield - just a little more than two weeks left in our scheduled spring session and we have a lot of work yet to do on the FY 2016 state budget and other critical issues. Events are unfolding quickly, but I will keep you updated on the latest happenings.

Tom

Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Pension Reform
The Illinois Supreme Court announced on Friday that SB 1- the Pension Reform Bill passed in December 2013 -  was found Unconstitutional and struck down.

In issuing the ruling, Justices stated the following, “The financial challenges facing state and local governments in Illinois are well known and significant. In ruling as we have today, we do not mean to minimize the gravity of the State’s problems or the magnitude of the difficulty facing our elected representatives. It is our obligation, however, just as it is theirs, to ensure that the law is followed. That is true at all times. It is especially important in times of crisis when, as this case demonstrates, even clear principles and long-standing precedent are threatened. Crisis is not an excuse to abandon the rule of law. It is a summons to defend it. How we respond is the measure of our commitment to the principles of justice we are sworn to uphold.”

 Whether you agree or disagree with the ruling, at least now the Court has spoken, and we can get back to working to rectify our State’s financial situation within the confines of our State Constitution

Democrats do an “End Run” Around the FY 16 Budget Process
Last week House Democrats did an “end run” around the state budget process for putting together next year’s budget by pushing for House passage of hundreds of pages of appropriations bills totaling billions of dollars without committee or public input.  I voted “present”.

16 amendments to HB 4141 were introduced in the House mere hours before the votes on Wednesday, denying Republican lawmakers, groups impacted by the funding, and the general public any opportunity to  read or offer input on the amendments before they were rammed through on a series of partisan votes.

There are currently three sets of working groups meeting and carefully discussing the very budgets the Speaker hastily pushed through the House last week.  This disingenuous move undermines the process, and undermines any attempt to work toward responsible, bi-partisan solutions.  Frankly, it was a sham and our families and our communities deserve better.

House Holds Day-Long Workers’ Compensation Hearing
 There’s no question that Illinois is having trouble competing for jobs with our neighboring states. Employers who choose to locate elsewhere tell us time and time again that one of the biggest factors in their decision is our state’s high workers’ compensation costs.

Last week the Illinois House met as a Committee of the Whole to take testimony on the issue. Over the course of the day and much of the evening we heard from more than 23 individuals, most of them workers who had been injured on the job in Illinois, Indiana or another state.  Each of their personal stories is important, and gives us valuable information as we work with the governor’s office on potential reforms.

I did find it odd and disappointing, however, that in our long list of witnesses there was only one scheduled by the Speaker’s office to give us the employers’ perspective on the issue. That’s hardly a balanced approach. Tuesday’s hearing was a starting point for discussion, but we need to hear all perspectives to move forward with reforms that will both protect workers and help ease the financial burden on job creators. House Republicans asked for a second hearing to hear from employers, but Speaker Madigan has instead scheduled a Committee of the Whole this week to discuss lawsuit abuse.

Around the District
My staff and I just completed our spring Town Hall meetings throughout the district. Thank you to everyone who came out to participate and share your ideas!

There are more opportunities to participate coming up. Last week we kicked off our Traveling Office Hours schedule with stops in El Paso, Minonk, Chebanse, Clifton and Ashkum. We will be scheduling additional Traveling Office Hours visits in the next few weeks, so watch for updates here and in your local newspaper.