I also enjoyed talking with a group from Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) in Bloomington, who came to the Capitol March 3.
Dr. Kathryn Cavins Tull, Vice President of Student Affairs; Carl Teichman, Director of Government Affairs and Community Relations; Ted Delicath, Vice President of IWU Student Senate; Divya Mani; Steve Lessaris, President of IWU Student Senate; Sara Schaller, Student Senate Advisor; and Siji Song were in Springfield for the Federation of Independent Colleges and Universities lobby day.
I am proud to say I am an IWU graduate.
OPPOSITION TO RELEASING F.O.I.D. INFORMATION
A decision by the Attorney General to make information available to the public about citizens with Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) cards incited a firestorm of controversy during the week at the Illinois Capitol.
State law enforcement officials and lawmakers alike oppose a decision released February 28 by Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office that the names of FOID card holders are considered public information. The ruling came in response to an Associated Press Freedom of Information Act request for information on Illinois’ FOID card holders.
The Illinois State Police have refused to release that information, citing public safety and privacy concerns, and reportedly plan to challenge the Attorney General’s opinion in court. Many Senate Republican lawmakers are pushing for passage of Senate Bill 27, which would restrict public disclosure of the names and information of people who currently possess or who have applied for a FOID card.
Opponents say that FOID card information could be used by criminals looking to burglarize homes in search of firearms, or criminals seeking to target homes without firearms. Others said that the decision, if upheld, could lead to more straw purchases of guns or total non-compliance with firearm registration requirements. Concerns that the information would be used by commercial solicitors were also raised.
NEW STATE SENATOR FROM PEORIA
On March 1, Darin LaHood of Peoria was sworn in to represent the 37th Senate District, replacing retiring Senator Dale Risinger.
The ceremony was held at the Peoria County courthouse at 8:15 a.m. and by 10:00 a.m. Senator LaHood was in Springfield, where he got right to work attending committees and preparing to vote on legislation.
MONKEN APPROVED AS I.E.M.A. DIRECTOR
Senate lawmakers spent much of the week in committee hearings, considering testimony and voting on proposed legislation. The Illinois Senate also acted on pending gubernatorial appointee Jonathon Monken, voting March 1 to approve his appointment as Director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA).
The appointment confirmation comes two years after Governor Pat Quinn initially appointed Monken to head the Illinois State Police. Lawmakers never confirmed that appointment, citing Monken’s lack of law enforcement experience, so he served as Acting Director.
In approving Monken as IEMA Director, lawmakers said his background as a war veteran better suits him to head the state’s disaster response and preparation agency.
AUDIT REVEALS OLD, COSTLY FINANCIAL REPORTING SYSTEM
An audit of the state’s financial reporting system continues to generate controversy. Last month, the Auditor General’s office reported that the state’s extensive and unwieldy system of reporting fiscal information is both “antiquated” and “costly to operate.”
According to the report, Illinois has more than 260 individual financial reporting systems for tracking state dollars. Half of the systems are more than 10-years-old, and only 16 percent of the systems comply with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. More than 50 percent of the money tracking systems are not interrelated, so employees are forced to manually enter financial information when data is transferred, which is time-consuming and prone to human error.
Though the total cost of maintaining the systems could not be determined, estimates show that maintaining only 56 percent of the state’s systems costs approximately $24 million.
The report concluded that the lack of a centralized financial reporting system negatively affects Illinois’ ability to access timely and accurate reports on the state’s financial position. This information void makes it difficult for legislators and other oversight bodies to effectively oversee the state’s finances. It also has a negative affect on the state’s bond raiding and places federal funding opportunities in jeopardy.