General Assembly has much work to do; several Bennett bills pass both houses



As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com.

General Assembly wraps up regular spring session with much work left to do
After five roller-coaster months, the Illinois House of Representatives reached its scheduled adjournment date on May 31. Some important work got done, some important work did not get done. Major issues are still unresolved; some are years overdue; and our state is in one of the most difficult moments in its history.

This year, I have heard from many of my constituents from across the 106th district on a wide variety of the issues we have faced this year. I have heard the pros and cons of many different bills and proposals. I have heard frustration, anger, confusion and an abundance of other emotions. Throughout the year I have met with local employers, school districts, labor representatives, farmers, veterans, gun owners, seniors, students, local officials, state employees and everyday citizens who have talked to me about many of our most pressing issues. But in one way or another, nearly all had the same worry: state government is not working as it should, and people are suffering because of it.

The fact of the matter is that it all boils down to a lack of trust inside the Capitol. Without trust, we don’t have a budget or a resolution to any of the major issues the state faces. There is plenty of blame and finger-pointing and a lack of will to solve the problems, which are only going to get worse the longer it takes for us to act. There are some who blame the Governor for our situation. There are also those who would blame the Speaker of the House. Whatever the cause, the General Assembly has to fix this.

The General Assembly is diverse – just like our state. Legislators come from large cities and small towns; they represent all races, ideologies and socio-economic groups. Every year, the legislature has to strike a balance between all these diverse constituencies to come together and pass legislation that benefits the people of state as a whole. But without trust, that coming-together cannot happen – and that is how we have gotten to where we are now.

We saw a few glimmers of hope during the session: legislators from both sides of the aisle came together to get much-needed motor fuel tax money to the local governments which depend on it; we were able to pass a stopgap appropriations bill to throw a lifeline to higher education institutions and students; bipartisan working groups of rank-and-file members worked together on a budget agreement that was submitted to leadership. If we could see more of that kind of cooperation, we could solve even the toughest problems confronting state government.

The constituents of the 106th district who have expressed their frustrations to me about state government are correct. I haven’t been in the House long, barely eighteen months, but I know that we haven’t had that necessary trust and balance in a long time. We have too much theater, too many shams, too many false promises and too much finger-pointing. No one is blameless. The bottom line is that we need to fix this before it is too late.

The future of our state is hanging in the balance. It is a privilege to represent you in the House of Representatives, and I want to thank you for granting me that honor. I pledge to continue to work tirelessly on your behalf toward bridging these divides. I welcome your continued feedback as we continue to try to solve these pressing issues and restore trust in our state.

Stopgap legislation to fund schools, service providers proposed
As the regular session came to a close without a budget agreement, Republicans proposed short-term legislation, House Bill 6585, to make sure schools open this fall and to fund colleges and universities, government operations and prisons through December 31. This would give working groups and negotiators more time to come to an agreement on a budget for the full year, while removing the threat of schools not being able to open their doors for the new school year.

Obviously, this is not our preferred course of action. I would rather see a real, year-long balanced budget passed. But in the absence of an agreement, the responsible thing to do is to take action to avoid hurting schools and their students while legislators work toward a solution to the budget standoff. I hope the House and Senate will act quickly on this short-term budget, and then move to pass a balanced budget for the full year.

Legislation to streamline county board processes has passed both houses
Members of the Livingston County Board presented me with an idea to reduce paperwork for county governments by allowing them to direct the county public defender to file a report quarterly, rather than monthly. Their idea became House Bill 4603, which passed the House earlier this year.

This month, the Senate added an additional feature: language allowing county boards to adopt a consent agenda, or a method of passing several agreed agenda items with one vote. Someone with an objection to a consent agenda item could still object and pull the item out for a separate vote if they so choose.

On Tuesday, the House agreed with the Senate’s change and passed the bill. It now goes to Governor Rauner for his signature.

Three more bills headed to the Governor’s desk
Overall, four of my bills, including the one mentioned above, passed both houses and are now awaiting action by the Governor.

House Bill 4558 protects the rights of law-abiding deer hunters by giving law enforcement more options in punishing repeat egregious offenders of state hunting laws.

House Bill 5649 allows motorcyclists to display the existing Fire Fighter Memorial Fund license plate in order to support that fund, which helps the families of fallen firefighters.

House Bill 5651 gives Illinoisans the option of selecting their birthday as the date of their license plate sticker renewal. Now that the Secretary of State has stopped sending reminders and more drivers have forgotten to renew (some of whom are now getting citations and fines), this legislation would let people set an easy-to-remember date for their renewals.