As lawmakers continued working during the week toward a scheduled May 31 adjournment of the General Assembly, the Illinois Supreme Court delivered a unanimous opinion May 8 striking down large parts of the 2013 pension reform bill.
The irresponsible decisions by past legislative leaders to skip the state’s public pension payments year after year have left us with a debt that is staggering and continues to use so much of our financial resources going forward. As a proponent of the 2013 plan, I believe we must get down to work and quickly find some reform options that pass constitutional muster.
Police Memorial held at Capitol Building
Hundreds of police officers from throughout the state gathered at the Capitol Building on May 7, for the 2015 Illinois Police Officers Memorial Ceremony.
The annual ceremony honors officers who have fallen in the line of duty.
The memorial statue, which sits on the Capitol’s west lawn, serves as a reminder to Illinois residents of the sacrifices made by the brave police officers who protect our safety.
Watch a video here about this year’s memorial service.
Resolution honors Powell brothers
A resolution honoring the seven Powell brothers from Greene County, all of whom served in World War II, unanimously passed the Senate on May 7. Senate Joint Resolution 2 names a section of Route 67 through Greene County the “Powell Brothers Memorial Highway.”
The seven brothers were scattered throughout the Western European, Russian, and Japanese theaters of combat. Arthur, Earl, Fred, and George Powell served in the Navy. Adrian, Everett, and Max Powell served in the Army Air Corps, the predecessor to the modern Air Force. Everett was shot down in his P-47 Thunderbolt over Belgium, and was held in a German prisoner of war camp for 18 months.
All seven brothers survived and returned home after the war. They were commended by the United States Senate in May 2014. The family’s hometown of Hillview erected a memorial flagpole in their honor in 1988.
Senate Joint Resolution 2 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Measure aims to stop expansion of taxing bodies
State Senators Michael Connelly (R-Wheaton) and Dan Duffy (R-Lake Barrington) are leading the charge against the expansion of taxing bodies in Illinois.
House Bill 228 will prevent the General Assembly from creating any new units of government or subdividing any existing ones. Illinois has units of government that focus solely on regulating things like mosquitos, tuberculosis, museums, hospitals, exposition halls, and airports.
Illinois leads the nation with 6,963-plus units of government, double the number of neighboring states Wisconsin and Missouri. Illinois’ other three neighbors – Kentucky, Indiana, and Iowa – combined have 1,000 less units of government. Illinois’ total is staggering when compared to California’s 4,425 and Texas’ 5,147, considering the relative size of Illinois’ population.\
House Bill 228 does not prevent two existing units of government from combining or eliminating and consolidating services into one taxing body.
Senate considers cannabis measures
Legislation to extend the state’s medical cannabis pilot program and decriminalize small amounts of cannabis advanced out of Senate committees this week.
Helping reduce the number of non-violent offenders in the state’s overburdened court and correctional systems is one of the primary objectives of House Bill 218. The legislation would reduce penalties for possession of 15 grams or less of cannabis, making the offense punishable by a maximum $125 fine.
However, opponents point out marijuana continues to be an offense under federal law, and a number of law enforcement organizations are concerned about the impact of a provision in the bill that establishes THC levels—the chemical responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects—that are allowable while driving. Additionally, challengers of House Bill 218 note that the state just approved the medical marijuana program and has not yet had the opportunity to analyze its impact of communities, let alone the impact of decriminalization of cannabis for recreational use. A further argument is that decriminalization does not open the door to taxing marijuana whereas legalization would.
On a related front, the sponsors of the state’s medical cannabis pilot program are asking for more time to analyze the program’s impact in Illinois. They’ve introduced House Bill 3299, which would extend the current January 1, 2018, repeal date of the program, changing it to four years after the filing of the first dispensary organize registration; likewise, patient registry cards would be extended from one year from that date.
Opponents say it’s too soon to extend the program, noting that at this time there is nothing to examine to see if it is worth extending. Registration for the dispensaries and cultivation centers have only recently been issued, and patients have not yet began using medical cannabis for treatment.
Senate action round-up
Action continued on the Senate floor and in committees this week. A full round-up of all the measures that passed in committees and on the Senate floor during the week is available on the Senate Action Page.
Much of the interesting activity of the week has been in the Governor’s Working Committees. I serve on a committee working on his reform agenda, specifically workers’ comp reform, unemployment insurance reform, lawsuit reform, minimum wage, and Worker Empowerment Zones. Pretty exciting stuff!