The Senate voted 39-18 during the week to advance a Democrat plan to incrementally raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour – a plan that could have huge repercussions for employers across the board, including public universities, school districts, and not-for-profit organizations.
In other action, the Senate Republican Caucus hosted a press conference at the State Capitol February 6 to support a resolution to place a fair maps amendment on the next statewide ballot—and urged voters to join them in demanding a more transparent, fair and nonpartisan redistricting process.
Also during the week, key initiatives were introduced to target the issue of campaign fund corruption between lobbyists and legislators, and to save taxpayer dollars with government consolidation.
Minimum-wage hike would hinder business
On February 7, Senate Republicans voted against a Democrat initiative to incrementally increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next six years. Senate Republicans oppose the measure because the higher costs for public and private employers would be passed on to customers and/or taxpayers by raising prices or reducing services/products, or to employees by cutting hours, benefits or jobs.
Though I have sponsored minimum-wage increase legislation in the past, this bill goes too far, too fast. Forced to pay higher costs, employers will have to raise prices and cut the number of jobs for too many entry-level workers. A better approach would be to continue to boost the economy, as we are seeing nationwide, and allow wages to increase as a result of demand for good workers, coupled with a much more moderate minimum-wage increase.
Minimum-wage jobs are for entry-level positions, not for experienced workers who may have a family to feed. How will people enter the labor force if they can’t get those entry level jobs and experience, so that they can move up to higher paying jobs? For those who keep their jobs and get an increase in pay, this is great. But for those who lose their jobs, and for those who never get that first entry-level job, this is a disaster.
Senate Bill 1 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Senate Republicans push for fair maps amendment on ballot
With the U.S. Census and the redrawing of Illinois’ Congressional and General Assembly legislative maps fast approaching, the Senate Republican Caucus voiced their support Feb. 6 for a fair maps amendment on the upcoming statewide ballot.
The ballot initiative, which has garnered bipartisan support, would grant the control of the redistricting process to a nonpartisan, independent committee to draw the districts, rather than trusting the task to entrenched politicians.
Senate Republican lawmakers are giving the people of Illinois the opportunity to voice their support for fairer maps in Illinois by visiting http://senategop.state.il.us/ and signing the fair maps petition. A petition is also available on my legislative website at http://senatoroberweis.com/.
The politicians currently drawing new voting maps seem to have just two things in mind –protecting incumbents and helping their party win more seats. Districts are drawn so that the party who holds a seat is likely to continue to do so for the next 10 years (when maps are redrawn). The unfortunate result is that primaries become the main battlegrounds instead of general elections. Under this scenario, Democrat candidates take more extremely liberal positions to win the vote of their base in the primary while Republican candidates take more extremely conservative positions to win their party’s base. We end up with more extreme candidates on both sides and fewer in the middle to help negotiate reasonable compromises.
We have been working on this issue for many years, but the Democrat majority has not allowed a vote in either the House or the Senate. This is a Democrat initiative with strong Republican support. By reaching across the aisle and working together, we can get this on the ballot and let people decide.
Senate Joint Resolution-Constitutional Amendment 4 (SJR-CA 4) gives voters the opportunity to amend the Constitution to create a new, non-partisan system for drawing maps. It would establish an independent redistricting commission, increase transparency in the process and provide for public hearings to allow Illinois residents to weigh in.
Prevent campaign fund corruption between lobbyists and legislators
In an effort to target campaign fund corruption between lobbyists and state legislators, new legislation filed in the Senate aims to prohibit lobbyists with political campaign accounts from donating to members from that account.
Under current law, there are no regulations to prevent newly registered lobbyists who have access to a campaign account from donating campaign funds to members of the Illinois General Assembly. Senate Bill 128 would specify that donations to members from campaign accounts are strictly prohibited, and will remain forbidden for two years after the individual’s lobbyist registration expires.
The legislation is a preventive and precautionary measure to prevent retired legislators-turned-lobbyists—and new lobbyists involved with a Political Action Committee (PAC)—from misusing campaign funds to benefit their lobbying career, as well as help stop the corrupt flow of campaign money in the State Capitol.
Senate Bill 128 is currently awaiting a Senate Committee assignment.
Government consolidation could help reduce property taxes
Legislation to allow the dissolution of unnecessary drainage districts passed out of the Senate’s Local Government Committee during the week, which presents a proactive and valuable opportunity to reduce the property tax burden in Illinois.
Senate Bill 90 particularly targets suburban regions of Illinois that used to be farmland, and are now residential areas and paying taxes to both the municipality and the drainage district. These circumstances are costly and duplicative for the taxpayer, as the municipality is already taking on the drainage responsibilities for those areas, rendering the drainage district unnecessary.
By allowing municipalities to dissolve drainage districts, taxpayers should see significant property tax relief and a more streamlined government.
Senate Bill 90 now moves to the Senate for consideration.