Here’s what State Rep. Mike Tryon has to say about the spring session:
The Spring Legislative Session concluded on May 31, and while I believe this was a very productive session regarding many key issues in Illinois, I am disappointed that the State’s number one issue- pension reform- remains unresolved. On many issues this year, I was pleased to see negotiation and compromise. When both sides of the aisle worked together, we accomplished good things. Here is a summary of our last week of session:
Most Illinoisans would agree that there is no single issue more important to the future of our state than pensions and the need to rein in that $98 billion financial obligation. The pension obligation grows by $17 million every day and crowds out other important areas of the budget, like funding for Education and for programs for our most vulnerable citizens. This year the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate both dug in their heels and refused to compromise on the issue of pension reform. The House approved four different pension bills between January and May, and all four were sent over to the Senate for their consideration. The main bill the House approved and sent to the Senate (SB01) was defeated soundly in a Senate committee and never called for debate on the Senate floor. Neither were any of the other pension bills called for a vote in the Senate. Similarly, the Senate approved a pension bill and sent it to the House for consideration. Speaker Madigan refused to call the bill for a vote. In response to the General Assembly’s inaction on pensions, Fitch Ratings dropped Illinois bonds from an “A” rating to an “A-” rating with a negative outlook. Legislators learned just today that Governor Quinn is calling legislators back to Springfield on June 19 specifically to deal with the pension issue. The Governor is right to call this special session and I hope the Speaker and the Senate President are able to set aside personal feelings and reach consensus on a bill that can move through both chambers and be sent to the Governor for his signature. I voted against SB01, but I would vote in favor of SB2404 if it comes up for a vote.
On the final day of session, the General Assembly sent a comprehensive Concealed Carry bill to the governor. HB 183 will make Illinois a “shall issue” state, with a legal presumption in favor of granting a $150, five-year license to carry a concealed firearm to every law-abiding and mentally-stable person who is 21 or older and requests one. The gun-control ordinances of the city of Chicago and other gun control home rule are nullified by this measure except for the provisions of assault weapons bans. Illinois is the 50th and final state to enact a law recognizing the concealed-carry rights of its gun-owning citizens. A federal court had placed the General Assembly under a deadline of June 9 to enact a concealed-carry law in compliance with case law and the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights. However, a few days after the bill’s passage in the House and Senate, Attorney General Lisa Madigan successfully received a stay of 30 days for enactment of the law, claiming Governor Quinn needed additional time to study the bill and determine if he would sign it, partially veto it, or veto it altogether. If any kind of veto is issued for HB183, I would expect lawmakers to override his veto. The votes for HB183 in the House and Senate on May 31 were both at levels that would successfully override a veto. I voted in favor of the concealed carry bill.
In a series of party-line votes throughout the final week of session, legislators approved a $35,446,000,000 State budget for Fiscal year 2014, which begins on July 1. Republicans criticized the spending plan, saying it increases spending in our financially-strapped state yet again. While Republicans were involved in very preliminary budget talks, we were completely shut out of the budget work groups that created the actual line items in the appropriations bills. The budget was contained in a package of seven appropriations bills (HB206, HB208, HB213, HB214, HB215, SB2555, and SB2556), plus the budget implementation bill (SB 1329). I voted against all of the budget bills since they increase spending and since Republicans were shut out of the process.
Legislators took a huge step toward major job creation in Illinois by legalizing the production of oil and gas through the modern technology of horizontal, chemical-enhanced drilling. Called “fracking,” and already in wide use in North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and many other states, these new technologies are the centerpiece of SB 1715. Approved by the House on Thursday, May 30 by a vote of 108-9-0, the measure could generate as much as $9.5 billion in additional Illinois goods and services produced by as many as 47,000 newly-employed Illinoisans. In addition, the oil and gas producers would pay a special severance tax to the State that would be used to oversee environmental compliance by the industry and reduce Illinois’ structural budget deficit. In an unusual nod towards compromise, the negotiations over the fracking bill brought together U.S. oil and gas industry compaies and representatives from some of America’s largest environmental-advocacy groups, such as the Sierra Club. The environmental protection provisions within SB1715 are the strictest in the nation. I supported the fracking bill.
Whereas current law allows voters to register to vote in person at an election office, by filling out paperwork in the presence of a deputy registrar, or by submitting a form by paper mail, HB 2418 makes significant changes to Illinois elections law, such as allowing for full, on-line voter registration and requiring early voting in high-profile locations on all campuses of Illinois public universities. Most House Republicans could not support the changes, which appeared to be aimed at encouraging favored groups to vote in as large a number as possible. I voted against this heavily-partisan bill because I do not think there are proper controls in place to prevent voter fraud.
Just 12 months after the House approved a two-year moratorium on any expansion to the program, the majority party voted last week to expand Medicaid in a way that will allow hundreds of thousands of additional Illinoisans to be added to the rolls. The expansion is an optional component of President Obama’s Federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the program, the federal government claims it will fully fund the expansion for the first three years (using federal taxpayer dollars), and then reduce the funding level to 90% after that. In that fourth year, the estimated impact of that 10% on the Illinois budget is $1.5 billion. Many Representatives voiced concerns about the uncertainty of the costs and the ability for the State to prevent fraud and abuse within the expanded system, especially in light of the fact that they system is already rife with fraud today. Depending upon which report is to be believed, somewhere between 350,000 and 700,000 new people will be signing up for Medicaid services as a result of the expansion. An additional layer of uncertainty exists due to a possible decision at the federal level to reduce the government’s level of funding during debt limit talks this fall. I voted against the Medicaid expansion because we simply do not have the money.
South suburban airport
On session’s final day, legislators approved a bill to construct first phase of a south suburban airport. The language included in SB20 authorizes the Department of Transportation (IDOT) to work with the global private sector to build an airport in southeastern Will County, east of Interstate 57 and southeast of Monee. I have serious concerns about the construction of a new airport, especially since the airport in Gary, IN is closing and the airport in Rockford, IL is under-utilized. SB 20, as passed by the House, also contained many controversial features affecting development and tax rates in specific locations throughout Illinois, including language authorizing the construction of a $200 million arena/multiuse facility adjacent to Chicago’s McCormick Place. I voted against this bill.
Other notable bills that were approved during the final week of session:
HB1247: Hand-Held Cell Phone Ban
Beginning January 1, 2014, Illinois will prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones on Illinois roadways. The use of hands-free phones in addition to one-touch dialing while driving still would be permitted. I voted against this bill.
SB1307: Lowers the Compulsory Age for School
The compulsory age for when children must be in school was lowered from age seven to six. Five-year-olds who would turn six by September 1 would need to start school prior to turning six. I voted against this bill because I believe parents know best when their child should start school.
SB1470: Prevailing Wage for Private Clean-up Projects
SB1470 requires the use of prevailing (union) wage requirements for clean-up projects within the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) program. I voted against this bill because it is yet another business-unfriendly bill forced onto business owners in Illinois.
SB1625: Evacuation drills for suspicious persons
Schools will have to start doing mandatory safety drills that mimic a response to a school shooting. Attempts must be made to include law enforcement personnel on site for the drills. I supported this bill.
SB492: Diversion of Corporate Personal Property Taxes
SB492 permits the permanent use of Corporate Personal Property Tax Replacement Fund (CPPRT) money to pay for various clerk stipends, the Regional Offices of Education (ROE), and the expenses of the Educational Labor Relations Board. I voted against this bill because it takes money away from local communities.
Aside from the June special session, the legislature will stand in recess until October 22, when we return to Springfield for veto session. I will be spending the next few months working from my Crystal Lake office so I can tend to the local needs of my constituents in District 66. If I, or a member of my staff, may assist you in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact my Crystal Lake office at (815) 459-6453, or at email@example.com.