House works on Senate bills; revenue estimate needed for a budget

House begins work on bills which have passed the Senate
The Illinois House will spend most of mid-May considering Senate bills which have made it to the House. The Senate passed 345 bills over to the House, out of 2,209 bills filed in that chamber – that’s about one in six. The Senate bills were assigned to House committees for further discussion, hearings and debate. The Senate bills had to be passed through House committees by Friday, May 19, in order to get a House floor vote and possibly become law this spring. It is possible for Senate bills to be granted an extended deadline for more consideration, but this does not typically happen to very many bills. This week the Senate sent several budget-related bills over to the House for consideration. So at least the process is moving forward. I hope this is a good sign that an agreement may be on the horizon.

One other noteworthy Senate bill is SB 1029, which Senator Jason Barickman sponsored and was able to get through the Senate. Upon its arrival in the House I signed on as its lead sponsor. This bill creates the Illinois Natural Areas Stewardship Act, which would allow the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to make stewardship grants to conservation land trusts to conduct stewardship activities on eligible lands. This would include actions designed to maintain, preserve or improve the condition of native natural communities, diversity of species and ecological processes such as control or invasive species or other restorative practices.

The current status of all of these bills can be tracked on the General Assembly website, ilga.gov.

Revenue estimate is first step toward state budget
When making a budget, the first thing you need to do is determine how much money you have available. That holds true for households, businesses and state governments. In Illinois, the state legislature is required by law and the State Constitution to begin its part of the budgeting process by adopting a revenue estimate: a resolution which lays out how much money the legislature expects the state to have in the upcoming fiscal year. From that sensible first step, legislators can then begin the process of dividing up the available money to fund important programs. Click here for a two-minute guide to how our budget process works.

So far, the majority party in the legislature has not yet brought forth a revenue estimate. My colleague, Rep. Keith Wheeler of Oswego, has filed his own revenue estimate resolution in an effort to kick-start this process. I am pleased to join with him in this effort to finally get a budget moving. Rep. Wheeler wrote a column in the Springfield State Journal-Register a few days ago which explains this action further. Whether our estimate is the one that is taken up and used to craft a budget, or whether another one emerges, we need to get this process moving by taking this important first step.

Study finds more Illinoisans are giving up the job search
Though people often focus on unemployment rates as a measure of economic health, another telling data point is how many people are so discouraged with the job search that they're dropping out of the labor force altogether.

A newly released survey found good news: Fewer unemployed Americans are giving up looking for work. But that's not the case in Illinois, where more people seem to be throwing up their hands.

A survey conducted by Harris Poll for Express Employment Professionals, a staffing agency, in March and April found 44 percent of jobless people in Illinois said they had completely given up looking for a job. That's worse than the 41 percent who said the same last year and the 33 percent who said so in 2015.

Hearing officer finds Auditor General willfully violated campaign finance requirements
Illinois’ Auditor General Frank Mautino is currently under investigation. The allegations being investigated include reports that Mautino, a former state representative, used or allowed associates to use campaign funds for non-campaign purposes.

In order to protect the integrity of campaign funds, substantial reporting requirements are placed on campaign committees. These committees have to report substantially all of their larger contributions and spending. The reports are then required to be filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

As part of the overall investigation, questions have been asked about the reports filed by Mautino and his campaign committee during his years as a member of the Illinois House. A Board of Elections hearing officer officially found last week that Mautino’s committee willfully violated the informational requirements concerning at least one of these required filings. The Board of Elections considered the hearing officer’s recommendations and on Monday issued a $5000 fine against the committee.

The scope of the hearing officer’s investigation did not include the reasons for this alleged reporting violation. Why the campaign committee did not submit adequate information to nonpartisan authorities was not made clear. Other investigations continue.

Did You Know?
Rantoul was chosen as one of the centers for training pilots as America rushed to prepare for World War I. On May 22, 1917, the Chanute Aviation School was founded in Rantoul to help the new U.S. Army Air Corps get ready to enter the fighting in Europe. The first airmen arrived on July 4, and over the course of the war, 525 pilots would complete their training there. Chanute Air Force Base closed in 1993, and today the airfield’s history is commemorated at the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum.

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