Key supporter backs away from mileage tax proposal

The proposed mileage tax, floated a couple of weeks ago by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), to charge Illinois motor vehicle owners a mileage-based tax for use of Illinois roads, appears to be going nowhere.  The Senate Democratic leader stated that he did not plan to move forward with the proposal this spring.  Cullerton described his proposal as a trial balloon intended to start discussions on funding for road construction and maintenance.

Bipartisan compromise reached on higher education funding

The news has been filled lately with stories of the hardships that state universities, their students and staff have encountered due to the ongoing budget stalemate. In fact, Chicago State University officials stated that their school would run out of money and close on April 30 if something wasn’t done.

This week, rank-and-file legislators from both parties worked together to come up with a compromise that would get some desperately-needed funds to state universities, community colleges and students who rely on MAP grants for their education. Governor Rauner and leaders from both parties came on board with the agreement, and on Friday the House passed the compromise bill.

I was proud to vote with the majority on a bill which, though it did not solve the problem in full, was the first major step in the right direction. This fully-funded lifeline keeps our higher education institutions running through the rest of the fiscal year, and represents the kind of bipartisan cooperation that we sorely need to see much more of in Springfield. I hope this is the beginning of the end of a budget standoff that has gone on for far too long.

SPRINGFIELD – A pair of bills sponsored by State Representative Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) passed the House this week; House Bill 5651 which assists Illinoisans in renewing their license plate registrations, and House Bill 4558 which protects the rights of law-abiding deer hunters.

The State of Illinois has now gone for 10 months without a budget. Services have been cut. People have lost jobs. Public Health Departments and Soil & Water Conservation Districts are quickly running out of money. Now, universities, colleges and community colleges are in fiscal crisis.

If legislators were feeling the same pain that others are feeling, I believe that we would have passed a budget a long time ago. If you agree with me that legislators should not get paid until we get a budget,
click here to sign our petition.

I have been a co-sponsor of this bill since July 31, 2015. Thank you State Representatives David McSweeney, Mark Batinick and the four other House members who are co-sponsors of this bill.

Fire Fighters Memorial Fund license plate bill passes House

On Wednesday the House passed my bill to allow motorcycles to carry the Illinois Fire Fighter Memorial Fund license plate, proceeds from which go to provide scholarships to children and spouses of firefighters killed in the line of duty, and to maintain the Illinois Firefighters Memorial at the Capitol. This specialty plate already existed, but it currently cannot be carried by motorcycles. Under my legislation, motorcyclists who wish to support the Fire Fighters Memorial Fund may request one of these license plates from the Secretary of State. The bill is House Bill 5649 and it is now pending in the Senate.

Local government bill passes House

A bill I am sponsoring to reduce the paperwork burden on county governments and public defenders passed the House Judiciary Criminal Law committee Monday and cleared the full House on Thursday. HB 4603 gives public defenders in smaller counties the option of making a report to the county board quarterly instead of every month. In less populous counties with a smaller caseload for public defenders, this bill will give the county board the flexibility to require fewer reports, and thus reduce the workload and paperwork. It would give each county board the flexibility to decide whether or not to require these reports monthly or quarterly. The bill passed the House 113-1 and is now awaiting action in the Senate.

Several bills in committee this week

The House is scheduled to be in session April 4-8, with Friday being the deadline for legislation to advance out of committee. If it has not cleared committee by then, the bill is most likely dead until next year.

I have several bills in committee this week. House Bill 4603 eliminates a requirement for public defenders in small counties to make a report to the county board every month. Instead, they would report quarterly. This issue was brought to my attention by the Livingston County Board as a way to reduce unnecessary paperwork by setting a more appropriate interval for public defenders to report upon. House Bill 4558 would clarify some parts of the Wildlife Code dealing with deer hunting to allow authorities to prosecute repeat and excessive violators of the law.