Capitol Update 4-26-16

Higher Education stop-gap funding signed into law

I’m very pleased to report that emergency funding is finally on its way to universities, community colleges, and students waiting for their MAP grants. 

The new plan passed last week and signed into Law Monday is a bi-partisan effort that will provide $600 million from the Educational Assistance Fund to fund a four- month emergency appropriation to universities and one semester of MAP grants.  There is money available in that fund, and Comptroller Munger said she will begin processing payments immediately.

Republicans and Democrats were ultimately able to work together to provide this desperately needed funding.  Its passage is a testament to what is possible when rank and file members put politics aside and do what is best for our constituents. I will continue to work in a bipartisan manner to solve the budget impasse and get Illinois on the right track. The passage of this bill is a good first step towards hopefully finding a comprehensive budget solution.

Resolution advances aimed at returning state jobs to the Capital City

I am advancing legislation in the General Assembly aimed at bringing as many state jobs as possible back to the capital city.

With the help of Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, HJR 133 has cleared the House Executive
Committee and now awaits consideration by the full House. It calls on agencies under the Governor to compile a report listing the number of state employees in each county, their job description and a justification of why those positions, specifically upper and middle management, cannot be located in Springfield.  The resolution also urges state agencies to fill vacant positions in Springfield first.

As I’ve talked with local leaders and residents in the district, moving state government back to the capital city is a major priority.  In addition, now more than ever, we need to find ways to cut costs and improve efficiency in state government. This study and the resulting report will help provide a roadmap.

If approved, the reports should be completed by August 31.
Comptroller Munger issues order delaying lawmakers’ pay 

Based on the continued lack of a balanced budget for FY16, Comptroller Munger has directed her staff to move the issuance of paychecks for elected State officials from a group of bills that are paid immediately and on schedule, to a separate group of bills that are paid after a delay.  The move affects pay for all constitutional officers in statewide elective positions, including herself, and affects pay for the 177 members of the Illinois General Assembly – 118 House members and 59 senators.

Constitutional amendment would allow Illinois voters to abolish office of Lt. Governor
 Illinois has had a constitutional Office of the Lieutenant Governors since being admitted to statehood in 1818.  For almost 200 years, most Illinois Lieutenant Governors have served quiet terms without succeeding to the office of Governor or performing other significant tasks.  Seven U.S. states do not have a Lieutenant Governor. 

HJRCA 5 authorizes the people of Illinois to vote in November 2016 on abolishing the office of Illinois Lieutenant Governor.  If the amendment is approved, the elected Illinois Attorney General (who is the person next in line under existing law) would become the successor to the Governor who is first in line.  The measure was approved by the House on Friday by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote of  95-10-0. It now moves to the Senate for further consideration and debate. 

Pay –by-the-mile tax on motorists withdrawn

In recent weeks Senate President John Cullerton unveiled a plan to track Illinois motorists and then tax them by the mile. The plan proposed different per-mile tax rates depending on the level of “surveillance” the motorist agreed to. 

Public disapproval was strong and swift and last week President Cullerton withdrew the plan from consideration.

State Fair announces admission price changes
Our State Fair is such an important asset to Sangamon County, but it too has been struggling financially. To continue to provide a great event for families here and across the state,  it has been announced that the cost of a standard adult one-day ticket to the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, which was $7 for the 2015 state fair, will be increased to $10.  Children age 5 to 12 had to pay half price in 2015, but will be given free admission in 2016. This year’s fail will run from Thursday, August 11, through Sunday, August 21.
Made from scratch and school gardens

GenH Kids invited me to see a couple of programs they are helping with in schools in the 99th district.  I was able to talk to students and teachers at Glenwood Elementary about their school program that incorporates a lot of “made from scratch” items, as well as visit with the Garden Club and Benjamin Franklin Middle School about the vegetables they are growing right in the front yard of the school.