Storms this week in much of Illinois have caused flood conditions throughout the state. Please be safe and make sure to check on road conditions if you must travel! Click here for updates on road closures and conditions. For a list of shelters click here. More on the developing situation can be found on the Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s Web site at www.ready.illinois.gov.
SIX YEAR TRANSPORTATION PLAN UNVEILED
This week the state’s $2.4 billion fiscal year 2014 state transportation improvement plan was unveiled. The program will begin July 1 as part of a six-year $9.53 billion plan to upgrade Illinois’ roads.
Illinois’ transportation infrastructure, and its maintenance, is critical to the state’s employers, given the state’s central location and vast network of railways, waterways, and airports which remain some of the most important routes in the nation.
While the first year of the plan is encouraging, the last five years, as they currently stand, will average a little more than $1.4 billion per year, a number that is significantly less than the almost $3 billion that IDOT officials project is necessary to maintain roads at 90% acceptable or good repair, and bridges at 93% acceptable or good repair.
A listing of transportation improvement projects that are scheduled to be completed in the 44th Senate District can be found by following this link.
TEXAS GOVENOR TAKES AIM AT ILLINOIS COMPANIES
This week Texas Governor Rick Perry became the latest in a line of Governors from others states looking to poach business from Illinois. While Illinois’ central location and extensive transportation infrastructure provide vital resources to Illinois businesses, other challenges the state faces have prompted Perry to actively encourage companies to relocate or expand in Texas.
The campaign to lure Illinois’ employers to Texas kicked off with an ad in Crain’s Chicago Business titled “Get out while there’s still time.”
While the ad, which was anything but subtle, may have ruffled some feathers among state and city leaders, a recent editorial in Reboot Illinois points out that Perry’s critique of Illinois’ business climate isn’t too far off base.
The Reboot Illinois editorial echoed many of the concerns raised by Senate Republican lawmakers specifically pointing out:
- “We raised our corporate income tax rate in 2011 from 3.25 to 4.8 percent (Texas has no personal or corporate income tax);
- Our public pension system costs are out of control, creating an unstable environment in which no one knows what the tax picture will look like in 2015; businesses hate this kind of unpredictability;
- Despite reforms, Illinois’ workers compensation costs for employers remain among the most expensive in the country (Perry notes in his ad that Illinois’ workers comp costs to businesses are roughly triple those of Texas).
LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE WEEK
In Springfield this week several interesting proposals made waves in the General Assembly including legislation to increase the speed limit, legalize medical marijuana, outlaw the use of drones for surveillance without a warrant, and more.
Higher speed limit coming to Illinois?
One interesting piece of legislation currently working its way through the Senate is SB 2356 which would increase the state’s maximum speed limit on interstates and toll highways to 70 miles per hour. Currently, Illinois has one of the lowest speed limits in the nation. In the Midwest only Illinois and Wisconsin have a 65 mph speed limit. The bill has already won the support of a majority of the Senate with 30 sponsors currently signed on.
A controversial measure to legalize medical marijuana passed in the Illinois House on April 17 when House lawmakers voted 61-57 to advance the measure to the Senate.
House Bill 1, which drew sharp criticism from both legislators of both parties, also found support on both sides of the aisle with Republicans and Democrats voting to pass the measure. If HB 1 passes in the Senate and is signed into law, Illinois will become the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana.
Under the legislation a four-year pilot program is created that will allow patients diagnosed with one of 33 specific illnesses or medical conditions to qualify for the special identification card that would be necessary to purchase restricted amounts of medical marijuana. Individuals could be prescribed up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana over a two week period.
Proponents of legalized medical marijuana argue that this would be the most restrictive program in the country with very stringent conditions on qualifying illnesses, physician approval, and production of the drug.
Opponents, including those in law enforcement, members of the health care community and the federal government, raised concerns about the impact medical marijuana consumption could have on drivers. Concerns were also raised that this measure would pave the way for recreational use and send the wrong message to children and teens about the acceptability of drug use.
No Drones without a Warrant
Senate Bill 1587, which passed the Senate this week, would prohibit police from using airborne drones to gather evidence without a search warrant. The bill applies to the use of drones over private property with exemptions included for emergency situations.
Former Meth Labs
One measure approved by the Senate takes steps to protect mobile home buyers from purchasing a unit formerly used in the production of methamphetamines (meth). SB 2101 requires owners and operators of mobile parks to disclose to a potential buyer if the unit for sale was used as a meth lab.
Making Government More Accountable
Government accountability and transparency were also in focus this week as several bills to promote more responsible and efficient government worked their way through the Senate. One of these measures, SB 2105, would require that within 30 days of the state adopting its annual budget, the budget must be published, in its entirety, online. Additionally, the Governor’s office would be required to publish online a list of each sweep or administrative charge-back required to implement the budget.
Another measure, SB 337, would send electronic receipts to taxpayers when they file their tax returns online that include graphs detailing spending categories including information about spending versus revenue.
SB 2381, which is poised for passage in the Senate, would shed light on grants awarded by the state. This measure grew out of a CNN investigative report that exposed grant abuses under Governor Quinn during his 2010 election campaign.
Finally, a measure that would shrink the size of government, and do away with duplicative, outdated and obsolete state laws advanced this week in the Senate Executive Committee. SB 1415 creates the “Board of Repealers,” and entity funded by private donations instead of taxpayer dollars, to streamline government and increase efficiency.
These are just a sampling of the legislation that moved this week in the Illinois Senate. For a full listing follow this link.