SPRINGFIELD – The Senate is scheduled to reconvene in Springfield on Aug. 4, as Illinois enters the second month of the new fiscal year without a balanced state budget.
State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) is hopeful legislation will be on the agenda to reject a cost-of-living pay increase for Illinois legislators. House Bill 576 was approved by House lawmakers on July 28, and is now pending in the Senate.
In other news, a recently-released Illinois Department of Corrections’ quarterly report on Illinois’ prison population revealed that though still overcrowded, the prison population has dipped lower than it has been in almost five years.
While the prison population has declined, tourism is on the rise in Illinois, as the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Tourism reported 3.5 percent increase in 2014. With the annual Illinois State Fair just weeks away, this increase in visitors could mean big crowds in Springfield.
Pay hike rejected
After extensive criticism from Republican lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner, a two-percent pay hike for lawmakers that took effect on July 1 was rejected in the House on July 28 by a vote of 101-1. House Bill 576 has been sent to the Senate, and could be considered by Senate lawmakers when they convene on Aug. 4.
Because of the way that state law is written, legislators are automatically given a cost-of-living adjustment—essentially a pay increase—each fiscal year. Though lawmakers rejected these automatic pay increases in past years, the Democrat-controlled Legislature failed to stop the automatic pay increase from taking effect in Fiscal Year 2016.
In response, Senate Republican lawmakers joined together to sponsor Senate Bill 1083, which removed the cost-of-living adjustment; however, that bill was not called by Democrat leadership for a vote in the Senate.
Republican legislators joined Gov. Rauner in criticizing the pay hikes, and called for Democrats to take action on Republican legislation to eliminate the cost-of-living adjustment for the next fiscal year.
The original salary increase called for an additional $1,600 for cost-of-living expenses to be added to legislators’ base salaries. If allowed to go into effect, the automatic pay increase would cost the state approximately $283,200 per year.
State Fair returns to Springfield
In just a matter of weeks, Springfield will welcome tens of thousands of fairgoers, as the fairgrounds open for the annual Illinois State Fair. Scheduled to run from Aug. 13 to Aug. 23, the fair promises something for everyone to enjoy.
Started originally as a showcase of Illinois’ agricultural industry, the Fair has evolved throughout the years to include a variety of exhibits and activities. From the iconic butter cow to the fair favorites like the high-dive show and the agriculture tent, the State Fair has attractions for every taste and interest. For a full list of available attractions, click here.
The Fair is also host to a number of entertainment options such as tractor pulls, horse racing, the Twilight Parade and well-known performers on the Grandstand, including Rascal Flatts, The Fray and Austin Mahone. From 7 a.m. to midnight, visitors are welcome to come out and enjoy some good food, fun rides and great entertainment.
To read more about the daily schedule and pricing discounts for groups such as veterans, senior citizens and family day click here.
Prison population on the decline, still overcrowded
The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) is reporting its lowest inmate population in almost five years. Yet, facilities remain overcrowded and population numbers continue to be a concern as state resources are stretched.
According to the IDOC’s quarterly report, Illinois’ prisons had 47,483 inmates in custody as of May. Although a decline in population figures is promising, state prison facilities are only designed to accommodate 32,000 prisoners.
To combat overcrowded prisons, Gov. Rauner issued an Executive Order in February creating a commission charged with identifying ways to reform the criminal justice system of Illinois and reduce the prison population. The goal of the commission is to have the prison population drop by 25 percent over the next 10 years.
To read the full quarterly report, visit the Illinois Department of Correction’s website by clicking here.
Illinois sparks tourists’ interest
Illinois continues to welcome growing tourist numbers and their economic benefits for the fourth straight year in a row.
According the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Office of Tourism, Illinois witnessed a 3.5 percent increase in visitors from 2013, hosting approximately 109.4 million tourists in 2014.
These tourism figures and travel expenditures have been linked to the generation of more than $36.3 billion for the state’s economy, a total of $2.7 billion in state and local tax revenues and the creation of 5,000 new jobs throughout Illinois.
Sunshine paying dividends for farmers
Less rain last week enabled farmers to get back into the fields, while the sunshine is helping crops improve as well.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the state averaged just .57 inches of rainfall last week, .4 below normal. This offered farmers 5.2 days of days suitable for fieldwork, a major jump from recent weeks. Not surprisingly, the second cutting of alfalfa hay is now 73% complete, up from just 52% during the previous week.
The steady drop in crop quality is slowly beginning to reverse. Fifty-seven percent of corn and 49 percent of soybeans are now rated as good to excellent, just a tick above their ratings during the prior week. Eighty-nine percent of corn plants have reached the silking stage, with 32 percent now at the dough stage. Soybeans are progressing as well, with 72 percent blooming and 32 percent setting pods.
Legislation introduced to limit ‘pension perks’
In an effort to address what many consider excessive compensatory abuses and practices within the public sector field of post-secondary education, Senate Bill 2162 has been introduced to eliminate housing or vehicle allowances from being calculated into the “earnings” of a member of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, State Universities, and the Downstate Teacher Pension funds for pensionable purposes.
The legislation would restrict the pension benefits to the member’s salary only.
This measure came about after a recent Senate committee exposed how the “perks” enjoyed by higher education administrators becomes part of their final pensionable salary, resulting in bloated compensation packages.
The measure was introduced on July 28 and awaits assignment to a Senate Committee.
Bills signed into law
Gov. Rauner took action on a number of bills throughout the week. For a complete list, please visit the Senate Action page of the Senate Republican Caucus Web by clicking here.
The following bills signed into law during the week are sponsored by Republican Senators.
- Scott’s Law Day (HB 246/PA 99-0146): Designates Dec. 23 of each year to be “Scott’s Law Day,” to honor public safety workers and serve as a remembrance to motorists to utilize safety when passing stopped emergency vehicles.
- Update to Records Act (HB 362/PA 99-0147): Amends the State Records Act and the Local Records Act to update statute to reflect usage of "digital material." Initiative of the Secretary of State (to address JCAR recommendations) to update the records statutes in respect to current technologies.
- Dental Insurance (HB 2677/PA 99-0151): Allows dental insurance companies to enter into reinsurance contracts approved by the Department of Insurance.
- DNR Land Vacation (HB 3622/PA 99-0156): If DNR feels it is in the best interest of the public to vacate any plat of subdivision, street, roadway, or driveway, the DNR may do so with approval from the Governor; land title is moved unless there is an easement or action instructing otherwise.
- Information Release (HB 3909/PA 99-0159): Allows the Fire Marshal and the Department of Insurance to prohibit the release of certain information to insurance companies if it would endanger the life of physical safety of law enforcement personnel or any other person.
- False 9-1-1 Call (HB 3988/PA 99-0160): Requires reimbursement where a person makes a false 911 call knowing there is no reasonable ground for making the call or transmission and further knows that the call or transmission could result in the emergency response of any public safety agency. Caps reimbursement at $10,000.
- Hospice Medicine Transportation (SB 689/PA 99-0163): Clarifies that an advanced practice nurse, practical nurse, or registered nurse who provides hospice or home health services to a person may lawfully possess controlled substances prescribed for the patient when acting as an agent for the patient.
- State’s Attorney Investigators (SB 1734/PA 99-0169): Allows State’s Attorneys to use their employee investigators for service of process and assess, and to collect the same fee for service of process that the Sheriff collects.
- Road Funds (HB 182/PA 99-0171): Allows funds for township and road districts to come from other road district sources, but funds cannot exceed the amount that would be allocated under the motor fuel tax fund formula.
- Advance Practice Nurses Prescriptions (HB 421/PA 99-0173): Lowers the requirements for a collaborative agreement between advanced practice nurses and physicians. Allows advanced practice nurses to prescribe controlled substances. Allows certified registered nurse anesthetists to deliver anesthesia services without a physician, dentist, or podiatrist being physically present.
- Centralia Animal Disease Lab (HB 1744/PA 99-0175): Authorizes transfer of Centralia Animal Disease Laboratory to Kaskaskia College to be used for educational purposes.
- Jurisdiction Involuntary Treatment (HB 2673/PA 99-0179): Gives the circuit court jurisdiction over all persons alleged to be in need of involuntary administration of psychotropic medication and electroconvulsive therapy, whether or not they are charged with a felony. The prohibition on filing involuntary commitment petitions regarding persons charged with a felony is retained.
- Child Long-Term Care (HB 2755/PA 99-0180): Moves the governance of long-term care facilities for individuals under age 22 from the ID/DD Community Care Act into the new MC/DD Act.
- Equity Crowdfunding (HB 3429/PA 99-0182): Allows companies, particularly start-ups, to build capital by soliciting small amounts of money from many investors over the internet for the purchase and sale of securities. Investors may be accredited or non-accredited. Secretary of State is allowed to establish rules pertaining to issuance of securities, fees, and notice requirements.
- DuPage Fair and Exposition Authority (HB 3747/PA 99-0183): Eliminates the Fair and Exposition Authority in DuPage County that was established in 1999. It is a defunct organization that no longer serves any use.
- Serial Number Modification (SB 1820/PA 99-0188): Provides for additional record keeping for all items purchased for resale or loan regardless of the source. All material purchased for resale or collateral must have an unmodified serial number.
State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington) held an education roundtable discussion with McLean County Superintendents, the State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tony Smith, ROE #17 Superintendent Mark Jontry, and Representative Tom Bennett (R-Watseka).