Illinois lawmakers continued to meet with representatives from the Rauner Administration during the week, trying to find common ground on the state’s most pressing issues, with roughly two weeks until the scheduled May 31 adjournment.
State budget talks are ongoing, and Senate lawmakers have spent much of their time moving legislation through the committee process and on the floor.
Political games continued during the week as the House of Representatives voted downa “Right to Work” bill put forth by Speaker Mike Madigan. The bill was not drafted by the Governor’s Office so the debate and the vote were pure political theater, panned by lawmakers from both parties.
Firefighter Memorial held at State Capitol
Hundreds of firefighters from across the state gathered outside the State Capitol May 12 for the annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial and Medal of Honor Ceremony. The event honors those who have given their lives in the line of duty, and those who heroically serve with courage, pride, and honor.
The Fallen Firefighter Memorial monument, which sits near the southwest lawn of the Capitol, was erected at the direction of the Illinois Fire Services Association in 1993 to serve as a reminder of the sacrifice and bravery made by firefighters who save lives on a daily basis.
A video of the memorial service is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS0oJKEGsXI
Senate Republicans Pay Tribute to Fallen U.S. Military Heroes
Memorial Day is a time to honor fallen heroes across the nation and the state of Illinois. The Senate Republican Caucus will pay tribute to U.S. Military members who have passed away, with a Memorial Day Remembrance Wall. The Remembrance Wall will be displayed in the State Capitol Rotunda from May 25 through May 30.
Senate Republicans are asking Illinoisans to submit a photo and written remembrance to MemorialDay@senategop.state.il.us by May 22 to honor a loved one or friend on the Memorial Day Remembrance Wall. Participants are asked to include the following information: name, military branch and conflict served. Military photos are preferred, but not necessary.
Weatherization program raises concerns in Senate Committee
A 2009 program intended to “create jobs in low-income areas and improve energy efficiency” sparked debate in a Senate Committee May 14, when Senate Republican lawmakers raised concerns about problems within the state’s Urban Weatherization Program, recently identified by the Better Government Association (BGA).
The BGA found that the Urban Weatherization Program was “in disarray,” noting that of the $16 million spent, $13 million had been spent on administrative and training costs, instead of actual home improvement repairs. Additionally, the program fell significantly short of its 1,000 home improvement goal, having only upgraded 183 homes since the program was created in 2009.
Senate Republicans on the committee voted against House Bill 3194, which would have increased grant awards for the Urban Weatherization Program from the current $500,000 to $2 million, and upped the amount spent to improve homes from $6,500 to $10,000. They expressed serious concerns about the amount of money being directed into a program that has failed to meet its initial benchmarks, particularly when the state is facing a serious financial crisis.
Chicago’s credit ratings drop
Early in the week, several bond-rating agencies lowered Chicago’s bond ratings. Moody’s Investors Service lowered the City of Chicago’s rating to one step below the investment grade—considered “junk bond” status. S & P lowered the city’s A+ rating two steps to A-, still considered investment grade. Lower credits ratings translate into higher costs associated with future borrowing, as investors demand higher interest payments due to the increased risk they are taking. Chicago is the second lowest-rated city in the U.S., behind only Detroit. Moody’s also downgraded the credit rating of the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District during the week.
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.