House adopts flawed rules; Attorney General threatens state employee pay

House adopts Madigan’s rules
In a vote that very closely followed party lines, rules governing the 100th General Assembly were adopted by the House last week. The approved rules were written by the office of Speaker Michael Madigan. House Republicans expressed strong disappointment that the party in power in the House had refused to look at bipartisan proposals to guarantee an equal voice for all residents of Illinois. The rules give Speaker Madigan unprecedented power over the legislative agenda of the House. With that power and those rules, the Speaker is able to determine which bills are voted on and which are not. This impacts the bills, the votes, the policies and the direction that our conversation takes.

One way this occurs is under a rule which gives control over legislation to the five-member House Rules Committee. The Rules Committee is comprised of three Democrats appointed by the Speaker and two Republicans. The Rules Committee chooses which bills are allowed to see the light of day, and which ones are left to die without even getting a hearing. Another rule allows for only one hour of advance, public notice before House action on legislation – a rule which in the past has allowed multi-billion dollar spending bills to be rushed through the House without a reasonable time for review.

In contrast to the Speaker’s rules, House Republicans proposed common-sense reforms to the rules meant to open up the process and be more inclusive, collaborative and democratic.  House Republicans sponsored HR 47, a proposal intended to be bipartisan in its operation. For example, the proposal would have reduced the role of the Rules Committee by allowing members’ bills to be released from the committee by motion from the House floor and a vote of three-fifths of the House. If this rule had been adopted, it would have made it possible for every House member to have their bills heard and debated by their colleagues. Instead, the Rules committee can continue to bottle up legislation at will.

Attorney General Madigan seeks to stop state employee pay
Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a motion in St. Clair County court to stop paychecks to state employees at the end of February if no state budget is in place. A court order is presently in place directing that state employees will continue to be paid for the services they provide each and every day during the budget stalemate.

I was disappointed by the Attorney General’s action, as I believe that hard-working state employees should not see their paychecks cut off because of political bickering in Springfield. The Senate is negotiating a bipartisan compromise to end the budget stalemate which has lasted for far too long. We should be working together to move that process forward instead of threatening the well-being of state workers and those who depend on state services.

Still time to get a flu shot
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is reminding Illinois residents that there is still time to get a flu shot. IDPH says this is the annual peak season for flu transmission, which usually hits hardest between December and February.  “It is not too late to get a flu shot,” encourages IDPH Director Dr. Nirav Shah. IDPH is reminding people of its “Clean, Cover and Contain” strategy for avoiding spreading the flu: wash your hands frequently, cover coughs and sneezes and contain germs by staying home if you are sick.

Unemployment up slightly to end 2016
The December Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) report for 2016 included more bad news for the state’s economy. The state’s jobless rate moved upward from 5.6% in November to 5.7% in December. The increase in unemployment included an overall loss of 16,700 Illinois nonfarm payroll jobs in December.

Illinois has 6,002,600 nonfarm jobs – nearly half as many jobs as there are people in the state. Illinois continues to have more jobs than any other state in the Midwest, due to our larger population. But over 300,000 Illinoisans who would like to work say they cannot find employment. More than 80% of total Illinois jobs, and most of the new jobs being created, are in the service sector. Less than 15% of the total jobs created in Illinois are made up of the production or extraction of tangible goods, such as manufacturing, construction or mining.

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association describes Illinois’ atmosphere for manufacturing job creation as subpar when compared with other states in the Midwest. Our neighbors have been surpassing Illinois with plants and jobs over the last seven years. Wisconsin added 41,300 manufacturing jobs, Ohio 76,700, Indiana 90,800, and Michigan 163,700 jobs. In contrast, Illinois lost 1,600 manufacturing jobs. This is another reminder of how much work we have to do to improve our job creation climate in Illinois.

Illinois offers free tax preparation for low-income residents
The Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) is cooperating with tax assistance centers around the state to assist families with incomes up to $55,000 and individuals with incomes up to $30,000 with tax preparation for the upcoming tax filing season. While the centers will help Illinois taxpayers with their forms in advance of the April 18 filing deadline, persons wishing to take advantage of the assistance are urged to come in as soon as possible.

More information is available on the DHS website at www.dhs.state.il.us. Information on Illinois tax questions can be found at the Illinois Department of Revenue website: www.tax.illinois.gov.

Did You Know?
In response to the scandal following the throwing of the 1919 World Series by the Chicago White Sox, legislation was introduced in the Illinois House on February 8, 1921, by Rep. Norman Flagg to impose a two-year prison sentence for persons who gave or took a bribe to throw a baseball game. The eight players accused in the scandal had been acquitted at trial the year before, but were banned for life from professional baseball.

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