A TOUGHER PENSION AMENDMENT
I have asked House Speaker Michael Madigan to strengthen a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution to make it tougher for lawmakers to increase pension benefits for public employees.
I sent a letter to Madigan on April 13. In the letter, I wrote:
“I am supportive of your proposal, House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 49, to require a supermajority, three-fifths vote for passage of any legislation to increase pension benefits.
I would respectfully request, however, that you consider strengthening the proposal to also require that no such vote take place during any lame-duck session of the General Assembly. Achieving a three-fifths vote is a high hurdle, but the chances of garnering such a three-fifths vote might increase during the time between an election and the seating of the next General Assembly.”
The state’s 66 percent income tax increase, passed in January 2011 just hours before a new General Assembly was sworn in, is a strong argument for avoiding votes on important issues during lame-duck Legislatures.
I look forward to working with Speaker Madigan and other legislative leaders to advance the constitutional amendment and other solutions to the pension systems crisis.
SECOND HALF OF SESSION BEGINS APRIL 17
Senate lawmakers are scheduled to return to Springfield April 17 and will turn their attention to legislation introduced by House lawmakers, having spent the first half of the legislative session considering and voting on Senate bills.
The General Assembly now begins the second half of the annual process, as Senators review bills passed by the House of Representatives, while House members review measures passed by the Senate.
A bill must be passed by both chambers and signed by the Governor to become law.
LOCAL OFFICIALS SUPPORT ENTERPRISE ZONES
The bipartisan Special Senate Committee on Enterprise Zone Extensions wrapped up a series of statewide hearings April 9 in Peoria.
Employment growth and economic development were the focus of legislative hearings on proposed enterprise zone extensions. Testifying before the committee April 9 were local government and economic development officials, as well as representatives from central Illinois businesses, including Peoria-based Caterpillar Inc. Meetings were also held in recent weeks in Carbondale, Chicago and Rockford.
Participants overwhelmingly touted the success of enterprise zones in spurring economic development in communities throughout Illinois. Peoria city officials reinforced the effectiveness of enterprise zones, noting that several current projects have been put on hold because the incentives that come from being part of an enterprise zone can’t be absolutely guaranteed until the zones are renewed.
Representatives from communities not currently located in enterprise zones voiced their support for the creation of new enterprise zones, particularly for non-home rule communities where the zones would give officials a greater ability to promote economic growth and job-creation.
Illinois’ nearly 100 enterprise zones have been credited with creating more than 900,000 jobs and nearly $50 billion in associated revenue since first being established in 1982. In 2011 alone, the program created 8,980 jobs and nearly $2.5 billion in investments.
Several of the zones are scheduled to expire in the coming year unless lawmakers vote to extend the program. Legislation has been introduced that would extend the life of the zones by 25 years and would create up to 10 new zones over the next 10 years. Additionally, the legislation would implement greater transparency and accountability for these zones.
WEB SITE ENCOURAGES PUBLIC INPUT
Senate Republicans continue to encourage the public to visit their new Web site “By the People,” which allows the people of Illinois to suggest ideas for potential laws.
While citizens have a say in who they choose to represent them in the Illinois General Assembly, today’s technologies make it easier for citizens to participate in government on a more direct, ongoing basis.
By the People is an online legislative forum to allow individuals to offer suggestions for new legislation, comment and expand on the ideas of others, and suggest changes and repeals of current laws.
Legislative staff will review the forum proposals, and the public will be allowed to vote on the top suggestions. The final proposals will be chosen based on the amount of public support a suggestion received, as well as the likelihood that a proposal could realistically be approved by lawmakers and signed into law. The final proposals will be drafted into legislation that will be sponsored by a Senate Republican lawmaker.