Employee pay. Bills moving. Local business.

Grand Bargain
While the House was in recess last week, Senators made another attempt to pass several bills included in the budget “Grand Bargain” they have been negotiating for the past several months. As you know, all of the bills included in the package must be passed and signed into law for any to take effect. There has been some difficulty in recent weeks in securing the votes needed to pass some of the measures through the Senate, but I am encouraging members of both parties and the Governor to continue negotiating a bi-partisan compromise solution.

State Employee Pay
I was proud to stand with my colleagues this week urging bipartisan support for a bill that would
ensure that state employees continue to get paid for their work, as Attorney General Lisa Madigan takes to the state Supreme Court her push to halt employee pay during the budget impasse.

I am a chief co-sponsor of House Bill 2803 which would make state employee pay a continuing budget appropriation, making sure employees would be paid for the work they do despite our budget difficulties. The legislation could receive a hearing in the House State Government Administration Committee on March 15th.

Locally-Initiated Bills Advance
It’s been a busy week with many bills in committee on a variety of issues. Three of the bills I am sponsoring this session passed in committee and advanced to the House floor.

• HB 2782 passed out of the Labor and Commerce Committee. This bill will transfer the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force to the Department of Human Services from the Department of Employment Securities.
• HB 2998 passed out of the Agriculture and Conservation Committee. This bill will allow the Department of Agriculture to electronically file rules and amendments under the Illinois Diseased Animals Act on-line rather than in print form.
• HB 3899 passed out of the Special Needs Services Committee unanimously. This bill is designed to promote economic opportunities for persons with significant disabilities. Among other provisions, the update requires the State Use Committee to develop a strategic plan for increasing the number of products or services purchased from qualified agencies that employ persons with significant disabilities.

In addition, my bill to designate shelter dogs and cats the official State Pet of Illinois passed the House unanimously. A constituent brought this idea to me and it aims to raise awareness for the important work that animal rescue organizations do every day across our state.  HB 812 encourages more pet adoptions from animal rescue facilities and could take pressure off of county animal control and ultimately save local taxpayers money.

Open Primaries
One important bill that has not yet received a committee hearing is legislation I’m sponsoring to make the primary election process more open and voter-friendly by ending the current multiple-ballot system that requires voters to publicly declare which political party they support.

As voters, we are guaranteed that our vote is confidential, but having to declare our political party preference in order to receive a primary ballot may actually discourage some from voting at all. Many residents in Sangamon County have talked to me about their concerns about declaring their party. 
Under my legislation , House Bill 3655, all eligible primary election candidates will appear on a  single ballot allowing voters to keep their party preference confidential, and also allowing them to vote for candidates of different parties for different offices if they so choose. The top two vote-getters for each office will advance to the General Election, regardless of party.

If you agree with me that this bill should be given a fair hearing, please click here to sign the petition.

Business Advisory Group
I was glad to host our local Business Advisory committee in the office this week to learn more about their concerns with state government and ideas on how to make things better. Thanks so much for coming Paula Staab Polk, Megan Brown, Tracy Knust Formea, Mike Pittman, Doug Knight, Mike Murphy, & Susan Danenberger (not pictured).

Sangamon County Farm Bureau
This week Representative Butler and I met with members of the Sangamon County Farm Bureau to discuss issues that are happening in the state that impact our number one industry. It is so important that we have policies in place that allow our agriculture industry to grow and thrive in Illinois. As a member of the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee, I will continue to speak out on behalf of our farmers in the 99th district as they work every day to ensure a strong agriculture industry in the state of Illinois.

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