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Senate Week in Review: October 23-27, 2017

Lawmakers returned to the Capitol October 24 for the beginning of the Fall Veto Session with several controversial matters to consider.

Among the legislation that had been vetoed by Governor Bruce Rauner earlier this year was a bill banning local right-to-work zones, and a bill increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.  I supported the Governor’s veto on both bills.

It was a mixed bag on the legislative attempts to override Governor’s veto of legislation that banned local governments from establishing right-to-work zones.  The Senate overrode the Governor’s veto by a 42-13 vote, but the House of Representatives fell one vote short of overriding the veto with a 70-42-1 vote.  So for now, the legislation banning right-to-work zones is going nowhere; however, the issue will likely resurface during the second week of veto session, which starts November 7.  Madigan will not likely let a failure to override by one vote stand.

Also awaiting further action is legislation vetoed by Rauner in August that would increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.  In his veto message, Rauner cited a recent study by the University of Washington that found Seattle’s increase of its minimum wage to $13 an hour, part of a planned hike to $15, led to reduced employment for those workers and cut hours for those who kept their jobs.  This veto is likely to stand.  Many Democrats who voted for the issue did not really want it to become law and personally told me so.  But they believe it is good politics for them to vote for it, knowing it will never become law.  Quite frankly, those types of games disgust me.

In other action during the week, some lawmakers in both chambers introduced new gun control legislation, and the Legislative Audit Commission released its second audit of the troubled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI).

Bills banning bump stocks introduced

Just weeks after the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, several bills were introduced during the week to address growing concerns of gun safety while still preserving the rights of gun owners.

Filed in the Senate on October 24, Senate Bill 2247 would make it illegal in the state of Illinois to sell, purchase or possess bump stocks—a device attachment for a semiautomatic firearm that allows it to fire more quickly, operating similarly to a fully automatic rifle.

Unlike other gun safety measures being reviewed by the General Assembly, Senate Bill 2247 is limited in scope and focuses on specifically prohibiting bump stocks.  The measure would not prohibit lawful trigger modifications for common sporting rifles for legal gun owners—upholding Second Amendment rights.  Notably, the bill would give current owners 120 days to sell or otherwise dispose of bump fire stocks, rather than turning them into overnight criminals; other versions of this legislation would institute an immediate ban.

Another more expansive bill targeting bump stocks and other trigger modifications (House Bill 4117) failed in the House of Representatives, reflective of criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who said the measure was much too broad.  Opponents said such far-reaching legislation could make criminals out of legal gun owners, such as legal owners who modify their firearms to compete in shooting competitions.

The sale and use of bump stocks have recently come under scrutiny after several were found at the scene of the recent national tragedy in Las Vegas, which resulted in more than 50 fatalities and hundreds injured.

Audit Commission: Problems continue with troubled program

I am a member of the Legislative Audit Commission (LAC) that met October 24 and reviewed the second of two scathing audits of the controversial Neighborhood Recovery Initiative (NRI) program.

Created under Governor Pat Quinn’s administration, the NRI and its successor programs were oft-criticized for mismanagement and the possible abuse of taxpayer funds.  The LAC has finished reviewing the second audit of the NRI, a process that confirmed that even after concerns were raised about the program and its implementation, many of the same problems remained after Governor Quinn moved the program to a different state agency.  Notably, guidelines and rules were often simply not followed and significant amounts of NRI funding may have been misspent. In addition, the second audit included statements from participants that someone from former Governor Quinn’s office told them to not file required reports.

The first scathing NRI audit was released in 2014, which found that the $54 million violence prevention program known as NRI had pervasive deficiencies in planning, implementation and management.  In fact, auditors questioned 40 percent of the spending they reviewed in the NRI program.  It was also revealed that while billed as a violence prevention program, some of the city of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods were not included.

The Legislative Audit Commission is responsible for monitoring action to correct weaknesses disclosed by the audits of state agencies, oversight of the State Audit Program, and review of the stewardship of public funds.

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