AROUND THE DISTRICT
On November 30, I was pleased to spend a few hours with students at Normal Community West High School.
The AP government class and the AP international relations class talked with me and shared their insights about the issues facing our state.
It was a great morning!
VETO SESSION GETS UNDER-WAY
Illinois lawmakers returned to Springfield November 27 for the start of the annual two-week veto session and addressed issues relating to business, the sale of ammunition, prisons and education.
The second week of the veto session starts December 4. A number of issues still need to be addressed, including driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, medical marijuana, and gambling expansion.
Several days have been added to the lame-duck session in January, so any bills that are not acted on during the second week could be called for a vote then.
A vote on pension reforms will most likely not occur until the lame-duck session.
SENATE PASSES TAX DISCLOSURE BILL
In yet another effort that could complicate matters for Illinois businesses, Senate Bill 282 was passed by the Senate.
This bill requires all publicly traded corporations doing business in Illinois to disclose information about their net income and taxes paid. The information becomes available to the public after three years.
The measure, which has yet to be approved by the House, is viewed by employers as another example of an anti-business attitude that has contributed to Illinois’ poor business climate.
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce warned that employers fear the sensitive tax information could be used by politicians seeking retaliation against corporations that speak out on public policy issue.
SENATE BLOCKS SEMI-AUTOMATIC FIREARM BAN
In other action, the Senate blocked an attempt by Governor Pat Quinn to rewrite an existing bill so that it would ban semi-automatic firearms.
Senate Bill 681 was originally intended to allow Illinois residents to make online purchases of ammunition from Illinois-based businesses. An oversight in the existing law blocked Illinois residents from buying ammunition via the Internet from Illinois businesses, while allowing such purchases from out-of-state firms.
However, the Governor rewrote the proposal to ban semi-automatic firearms. Senators voted during the week to reject the Governor’s changes and enact the measure as originally passed. If the House follows the Senate in rejecting the measure, the bill will go into effect without the Governor’s changes.
SENATE RESTORES SPENDING FOR PRISONS
In an attempt to overturn the Governor’s intent to reduce or eliminate spending for several correctional facilities, the Senate has overridden Governor Quinn’s alterations to Senate Bill 2474.
If the House follows suit, the spending would be restored; however, there is no guarantee that the Governor would spend the money, even if authorization is approved.
TEMPORARY LICENSES FOR UNDOCUMENTED RESIDENTS
The Senate Executive Committee voted 12-2 on November 29 to offer the state’s temporary visitor’s driver’s license to undocumented residents.
Proponents view Senate Bill 957 as a safety issue, noting that there are already an estimated 250,000 undocumented resident drivers who are currently not trained, tested, licensed or insured.
Opponents say the legislation offers an official sanction for persons in the country illegally.
MORE TIME TO PLAN CHICAGO SCHOOL CLOSINGS
Also on November 29, the Senate voted unanimously to extend a deadline for the Chicago Public School (CPS) system to issue a plan for proposed school closings.
Quick action was needed because of a looming December 1 deadline. Under the legislation (SB 547), which has now been approved by House and Senate lawmakers, Chicago Public Schools would have until March 31 to issue the school closing report.
The measure gives the school system more time to solicit input from the public, which officials say will allow them to proceed more thoughtfully and deliberately with a school closure plan.
School officials estimate 140 Chicago schools are at 50 percent capacity, and approximately 100,000 seats are without students. Additionally, CPS faces a $1 billion budget shortfall for the next fiscal year.