AROUND THE DISTRICT
On November 8, I was pleased to honor nine men and women at the Red Cross’s Saluting Our Heroes Breakfast in Bloomington. Among the nine heroes honored was Normal Community High School teacher Derrick Schonauer who prevented tragedy September 7 when he subdued and disarmed a student who wielded a gun in his class. Congratulations and thank you to all nine of the people who went above and beyond in their service to others.
Later in the day on November 8, I went back to school, but experienced it from the “front office” this time. I served as “Principal for a Day” at Olympia West Elementary School in Minier and at Tremont Grade School. It was an amazing experience and I thank the students, faculty, staff and administrators for letting me share their school day. Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is definitely a good experience.
TWO DIFFERENT OUTCOMES ON BALLOT MEASURES
Illinoisans rejected a proposed constitutional amendment on pensions, while concealed carry got a boost from voters in some counties, when Illinois voters cast their ballots November 6.
‘CONCEALED CARRY’ PASSED BY 10 COUNTIES
The move to end Illinois’ status as the only state that makes it a crime for residents to conceal and carry legal firearms got a boost on Election Day when at least 10 Illinois counties overwhelmingly approved advisory referenda on the issue.
The advisory questions all passed with substantial margins, with the closest margin in Rock Island County, where the proposal was approved 57 percent to 43 percent. The strongest support was in Schuyler County, where the proposal received 81 percent of the votes cast.
Other counties that carried the question included Henry, McDonough, Mercer, Warren, Adams, Bond, Stephenson and Randolph counties. Last spring, Pike County placed a similar question on its primary election ballots, where it passed with 85 percent of the vote.
The wording varied from county to county, with some simply asking if the General Assembly should adopt concealed carry, while others asked voters if the county ought to go ahead and adopt a local ordinance that would legalize conceal and carry within the county, regardless of what the state might say.
The movement to allow Illinois residents to legally carry a concealed firearm has been growing on a number of fronts. In addition to the advisory votes, the McLean County State’s Attorney drew headlines in August when he announced he would no longer attempt to enforce violations of the state’s ban on concealed carry. Concealed carry would allow individuals to apply for a license to carry a firearm or keep a firearm in their vehicle. The firearm could be concealed or could be visible. Applicants would have to undergo firearms training and licenses would be issued by the Illinois State Police.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT DOES NOT PASS
Also on Election Day, Illinois voters shot down a proposed amendment (HJRCA 49) to the state’s Constitution that would have made it more difficult for a public body, such as the state Legislature and local governments, to increase pension benefits. If approved, the amendment would have required a three-fifths majority vote to increase someone’s pension, instead of the current simple majority vote that is now required.
However, the proposal failed to meet the two criteria that would have secured its passage. To pass, the amendment could have received either an affirmative vote from 3/5 of those who voted on the proposal, or at least 50 percent of the total votes cast in the election. Almost 5 million Illinoisans voted in the election.
With 99 percent of the precincts reported, the amendment had received about 58 percent of the “yes” vote—not the 60 percent needed for passage and less than 48 percent of total ballots voted in favor of the amendment.
Though HJRCA 49 received almost unanimous support from state lawmakers looking to make it more difficult to increase retirement benefits in the face of Illinois’ pension funding crisis, it received backlash from several different groups. “Good government” groups panned the amendment as weak reform, saying a more comprehensive overhaul of the state pension system is needed. Similarly, union representatives, employees and retirees spoke out against the proposal; however, they objected to the limitations that would be placed on employees’ future contracts and, possibly, current employees’ pensions.
NEARLY 500 VIDEO GAMING LICENSES APPROVED
In other news, the Illinois Gaming Board reports that a month after video gaming terminals became operational in Illinois, almost 500 licenses have been approved.
During its monthly meeting on October 17 and 18, the Illinois Gaming Board approved 154 additional licenses, bringing the total number to 495 licensed establishments, fraternal and veterans’ organizations, and truck stops. These establishments and organizations are allowed to install up to five licensed video gaming terminals—a potential 2,475 machines for those licenses. However, according to the Gaming Board, only 500 machines are actually up and operating.
At this time, there are more than 3,300 applications for video gaming licenses pending, and a Gaming Board representative said they have seen a surge in applicant submissions since video gaming commenced on October 9. All applications will be processed and investigated in the order they were received.
However, some communities aren’t willing to gamble on video gaming. The Gaming Board knows of between 340-350 communities that have a gambling prohibition ordinance at this time. Communities are not required to inform the Gaming Board if they have passed a video gaming ban, which is why an exact number is difficult to determine.