After weeks of meetings with legislative Democrats and Governor Bruce Rauner in an attempt to find common ground on pressing issues, Senate and House Republicans filed legislation May 22 implementing major portions of Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda.
The legislative package introduced in the Senate would: freeze property taxes; enact term limits; eliminate partisan gerrymandering; and advance pro-jobs economic reforms.
Underscoring the need for continued progress less than two weeks from the General Assembly’s scheduled May 31 adjournment, Republican legislative leaders stressed the need for bipartisan budget negotiations and an end to “business as usual” gamesmanship.
Governor’s reform legislation introduced in Senate, House
With the end of the 2015 session looming, a major package of legislation was introduced on May 22 that would freeze property taxes, improve Illinois’ jobs climate, and transform state government with term limits and redistricting reform.
The legislative package would:
• Freeze Illinois property taxes: currently the second highest of any state
o Supports local control: option to increase through local referendum
• Improve Illinois’ business climate: recently ranked third worst in the country
o Workers’ compensation reform
o Lawsuit reform
• Reform State Government: Illinois called “worst-run state in the country” last year
o Constitutional amendment establishing term limits for legislators and executive officeholders – Illinois would join 15 other states with term limits
o Redistricting reform – Constitutional amendment to create an independent commission for fair and balanced districts
Instead of participating in good-faith negotiations repeatedly offered by Governor Rauner and Republican lawmakers, Democrat leaders have stalled, played political games, and used the approaching end-of-session deadline as a negotiating tactic to support the same type of bloated, broken budgets they’ve advanced over the last 12 years.
I have been serving on the Governor’s Working Group committee, consisting of two Republican and two Democrat Senators as well as two Republican and two Democrat Representatives. While the committee meetings were generally cordial and many suggestions were incorporated into our proposed legislation, it was very difficult to get the Democrat representatives to agree to compromise on the issues. As a result, we filed the appropriate legislation today, and I am one of the sponsors of all five pieces, SB884, SB994, SB1046, SJR14, and SJR15. The next couple of weeks (or months) will be very interesting.
‘Right-to-Try’ legislation on way to Governor’s desk
On May 19, the Senate passed the Illinois “Right to Try” Act to help terminally-ill patients. House Bill 1335 would give terminally-ill patients access to clinical-trial, experimental medical treatments and medications. “Right to Try” offers hope to citizens afflicted with HIV, ALS, cancer or a litany of other serious conditions.
Typically, the federal Food and Drug Administration has a five-year trial period for the testing of medical and pharmaceutical products and procedures, which to some patients could represent a life-threatening delay. This bill removes that bureaucratic hurdle for patients and their families.
On May 21, after much debate, the Senate passed legislation that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. House Bill 218 would eliminate any criminal penalties or treatment requirements for possession of 15 grams or less of cannabis. Under this bill, a person could be caught with 15 grams of cannabis dozens of times and the toughest punishment that could be given is a $125 fine. In addition, the arrest and records would be automatically expunged each year.
Proponents of the legislation said it creates a uniform penalty throughout the state, and was crafted with input from prosecutors and law enforcement. They also noted that by eliminating the option for police to arrest people carrying small amounts of cannabis, the bill will help relieve an overcrowded court system and ensures that future education, job, and housing prospects would not be jeopardized for low-level marijuana violations.
Opponents raised concerns about public safety, social implications, and the negative message it sends to our youth, pointing out that 15 grams of marijuana makes over 35 joints. They emphasized that the legislation replaces criminal sanctions with a civil fine of as little as $55, and expressed concerns that drug dealers will take advantage of changes in the law by only carrying 15 grams or slightly less on their person to prevent breaking any law. They also expressed concerns about the lack of zero tolerance driver’s license sanctions by the Secretary of State, and noted that regardless of whether states decriminalize cannabis or allow for medical cannabis, using marijuana continues to be an offense under Federal law.
While I believe that it’s important to reduce the number of drug incarcerations, I do not believe this was the best bill to do that and I voted against it.
Vaccination legislation advances to Governor
Legislation that protects small children from exposure to fatal diseases now advances to the Governor for final approval.
Senate Bill 986 requires all daycare workers who care for children younger than seven to present proof of measles, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccines or immunity. This legislation is an effort to protect young children from exposure to these potentially fatal diseases and was introduced in response to a recent measles outbreak in Cook County. Senate Bill 986 passed the Senate 52-2-0 and the House 112-3-1 and has been sent to the Governor to sign.
Senate action round-up
Action continued on the Senate floor and in committees this week. A full round-up of all the measures that passed in committees and on the Senate floor during the week is available on the Senate Action Page.