With less than two weeks left before the scheduled adjournment of the spring legislative session, Senate Republicans continue to work to pass a balanced budget, without another tax increase, by May 31.
In other action, Governor Bruce Rauner unveiled a major public safety initiative that reinstates the death penalty for mass murderers and cop killers. Also during the week, the United States Supreme Court announced a major decision on sports gaming.
Budget negotiations continue
A bipartisan group of Senate and House lawmakers continued its work on the budget, and the four legislative leaders met with Gov. Rauner during the week in an attempt to meet the May 31 deadline for passing a spending plan for Fiscal Year 2019.
What I find frustrating, as a long-time businessman, is the last-minute nature of these budget talks. At the beginning of each year, lawmakers know that they have to pass a budget for the next fiscal year. They know the scheduled adjournment date. And they can pretty well “guesstimate” what the spending priorities of the other caucus will be. We have had many months to get our ducks in a row, yet here we are again, with less than two weeks left, no budget but plenty of stalling tactics and delays. Do you love politics? I don’t anymore. It is time for everyone in the legislature to look at the greater good for the state of Illinois instead of looking for a chance to get a political advantage.
Presenting a truly balanced budget does not have to be such a difficult task. We need to handle our finances like hard-working men and women all across Illinois. Pay our bills first, before we commit to any new spending. If we work together, we can come up with a fair and balanced budget – without another tax increase – before May 31, but we need to get going. We need to start negotiating in good faith.
A recent major ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court May 14 striking down a 26-year old federal law banning commercial sports betting in most states is beginning to be felt here in Illinois. Legalizing sports betting in Illinois has been a topic of conversation in the General Assembly for years. Some legislators now want to move forward with legislation authorizing online sports betting.
Proponents argue it could be a way to generate more revenue for Illinois. Combined video and riverboat gaming generated more than $836 million in tax revenue for state government in 2017. However, opponents contend there are many negative societal costs to gaming, and legalizing sports betting adds to those costs.
Currently, there are several pending proposals at the Capitol about how Illinois could legalize sports gaming.
Addressing Public Safety
A multi-pronged approach to gun violence was unveiled by Governor Rauner on May 14. The public safety initiative includes steps to fill the regulatory loopholes exposed in recent mass shootings. His plan includes re-imposing the death penalty for mass murders and cop killers. It would also extend the current 72-hour waiting period for delivery of handguns to all gun purchases in Illinois.
It would ban so-called bump stocks and trigger cranks used to make perfectly legal semi-automatic weapons shoot like fully automatic military firearms. It includes restraining orders to disarm individuals deemed dangerous, makes judges and prosecutors more accountable by making them explain – on the record – why charges are reduced in plea agreements for violent offenders in gun cases, and provides new dollars to hire school resource officers and mental health workers to help intervene and prevent student violence before it occurs.
Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady said, “The Governor’s action recognizes the need for a multi-pronged approach to dealing with deadly assaults. Reinstating society’s most serious penalty for the most serious of violent crimes, with the proper safeguards, is an appropriate response to the horrific violence we have witnessed far too often in recent times.”
Senate Approves Gun Dealer Licensing
Meanwhile, the Senate approved a gun dealer licensing measure that would require Illinois gun dealers to obtain state certification, in addition to their federal firearms license. Senate Bill 337 would also require Illinois gun dealers to increase in-store security, including video monitoring, provide training for employees and establish electronic-based recordkeeping.
Proponents argue requiring firearm dealers to obtain a state certification simply treats them like many other categories of businesses that are licensed or certified by the state, and will help crack down on illegal gun trafficking, which is fueling violence in Chicago and the suburbs. Opponents say firearms dealers are already licensed and scrutinized by the federal government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and that anyone in Illinois purchasing a firearm must have a valid Firearms Owners Identification card, as well as pass a mandatory FBI background check.
Senate Bill 337 was approved by a vote of 35 to 18 and now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.