This week in the Illinois Capitol, a Task Force recommended building a new facility to house veterans, Senate Republicans pushed a bill to prohibit pay increases for lawmakers, and the Senate passed legislation that lets motorists register their vehicles for more than a one-year period.
The Senate also approved a bill to protect the integrity of the non-profit grant process. And there is renewed interest in a state Constitutional Amendment I am cosponsoring to change how legislative districts are drawn.
New facility for Quincy veterans
The Combined Veterans’ Capital Needs Task Force has submitted a final report to the Governor and General Assembly with long-term solutions to improve the safety and health of veterans at the Quincy Veterans Home. Created by Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Task Force provided four recommendations for continued remediation efforts at the home and notes that “anything less than complete reconstruction will fall short” of its full support.
The report calls for building a new, state-of-the art skilled nursing care facility that could house up to 300 residents at a cost of between $202 million and $245 million. The project requires the approval of the General Assembly. The report is available on the Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs website.
Republican Senators push legislation prohibiting pay raise
My Senate Republican colleagues and I are pushing legislation prohibiting a pay raise for lawmakers. Under House Bill 5760, lawmakers would not receive their scheduled Cost of Living Adjustment increase to their salary set for July 1. They would also not receive any increase in their per diem pay while working legislative session days in Springfield, and their mileage reimbursement rate would remain in check.
During a fiscal crisis of the magnitude facing Illinois, it would be a slap in the face to taxpayers for lawmakers and other elected officials to accept a pay increase. Many times this year, I have asked my colleagues to look at bills based on their merit, not just partisan politics. If it is a bad bill, vote against it. If a bill makes sense, vote for it. House Bill 5760 makes sense.
The legislation would also prohibit automatic raises to statewide constitutional officers, and State’s attorneys, among others. House Bill 5760 passed the House April 18 with an overwhelming majority and is now in the Senate.
Bipartisan effort toward redistricting reform
Support is growing for a proposed state constitutional amendment I am cosponsoring to change how legislative districts are drawn each decade after U.S. Census Data is released. Senate Joint Resolution-Constitutional Amendment 26, often called the Fair Maps Amendment, was introduced in the Senate in March. Last month, legislators championing the bill, both Republicans and Democrats, were joined by a number of groups, including members of the Illinois League of Women Voters and local members of the Glenview/Glencoe chapter of the league, Better Government Association and other groups in lobbying for the bill’s passage.
Multi-year vehicle registration
Legislation giving motorists the option to register their vehicles for more than one year at a time, would provide a convenience and save the state money. Senate Bill 2293, which passed the Senate May 1, would allow motorists, beginning in 2020, to register their vehicles for one or two years. It would also allow owners of trailers to register their trailer up to five years. The price per year would be the same but an individual would be able to pay it up front and not have to change their sticker every year.
Senate passes bipartisan legislation to protect taxpayer funds
Legislation aimed at protecting the integrity of the non-profit grant process has passed the Senate. Senate Bill 2540 makes a multitude of changes to the current grant process, including new restrictions on fund transfers, including a prohibition on transfers of money from appropriated funds to non-appropriated funds. This restricts Governors from transferring money into other state funds to be used for purposes other than what the Legislature intended, and without legislative oversight.
The bill also creates a mechanism to allow the Comptroller to stop payments if there are serious issues or concerns about a particular grant program or recipient. The legislation also creates a blackout period before elections during which members of the General Assembly and/or state constitutional officers would not be allowed to make announcements of grants. Senate Bill 2540 is now headed to the House for consideration in that chamber.
Lawmakers should pay for health insurance coverage
Beginning next year, state lawmakers would no longer automatically get free healthcare when they retire, under Senate Bill 2292 that was approved unanimously by the Senate. The legislation requires any member of the General Assembly after January 2019, who retires as a participating member of the General Assembly Retirement System, to be responsible for 50 percent of the applicable premiums, charges, or other fees for the basic program of group health benefits. Senate Bill 2292 also allows retired lawmakers who served prior to January 2019 to choose to pay 50 percent of their healthcare insurance costs upon retirement.