Capitol View 8/14/15

The budget stalemate is dragging on in Springfield, but there was a bit of good news this week with passage of a “Federal Funds” budget that will allow for the spending of approximately $5 billion in federal funding to provide some temporary relief for vital program and services.

I’ll keep you posted,


Democrats bow to pressure on pay increases

For months, my House Republican colleagues and I have been working to stop the automatic pay increase for members of the General Assembly scheduled to go into effect this month. The Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate for months blocked all attempts to stop their pay increase, but in the past two weeks both finally bowed to pressure from you, the taxpayers, and  voted down their raise.

House Bill 576 freezes cost-of-living adjustments and other benefit compensations for General Assembly members and other high-ranking elected and appointed State officials in FY16. The bill received final General Assembly approval on Wednesday, August 5, and was sent to the Governor who is ready to sign it into law.

Federal funds budget will meet some emergency needs

While the state budget stalemate continues, there may be a bit of good news on the horizon. The Illinois House and Senate have now approved legislation to appropriate the federal funds allocated to Illinois in FY16 for spending and use. These federal funds, which total nearly $5 billion, are separate from the money paid by Illinois taxpayers to the State.

Programs that operate senior centers, Women, Infants and Children supplemental nutrition efforts, adult education programs, and home weatherization assistance offices are among the programs funded by federal grants that are funneled through the State. These programs may be able to maintain some of their operations during the stalemate with the help of this bill.

While the House Democrats initially pushed to derail the measure, they eventually came to their senses and worked with us to provide a bipartisan stopgap relief. The measure now returns to the Senate for concurrence, and could be sent to the Governor as soon as next week.

Governor Rauner declares area Counties Agricultural Disaster Areas

This week Governor Rauner declared both Mclean and Livingston Counties Agricultural Disaster Areas due to crop losses caused by the recent rain and flooding.

Farmers who believe they may be eligible for assistance should contact their county Farm Service Agency office. Loan applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions you should contact the state FSA office at 217.241.6600. More information is available here.

A big month for bill signings

Over the past few weeks, I was honored to have three bills that I guided through the House signed into law.

House Bill 233 sets new guidelines governing coroners’ handling of evidence in homicide cases that will protect the quality of evidence specimens and the chain of custody while reducing time-consuming mandates on local coroners. The new guidelines require a faster release by coroners of the evidence in homicide investigations (30 days instead of 45 days), and allow for the police to pick up the evidence rather than wait for the coroner’s office to deliver it.

House Bill 3137 ensures Illinois seniors and others living with chronic eye conditions will be able to obtain more timely refills of their needed eye drop medications. It requires insurance companies to refill eye-drop medications before the anticipated refill date for those with a chronic need as long as 75% of the prescription period has passed. The legislation was initiated by local ophthalmologist Dr. Catharine Crockett and the Illinois Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.

House Bill 4120 helps facilitate life-saving organ donation procedures. In a process where every minute matters, this legislation allows for a permit signed by a licensed funeral director to serve in place of  more time-consuming documents issued by a registrar to transport a deceased organ donor out of Illinois for up to 36 hours to complete the donation procedures where they are needed.