The House is back in session this week and next before a three week break for the March primaries and Easter holiday. The deadline to introduce new bills was Friday February 16th. Committees have until April 13th to discuss and amend bills before deciding whether or not to forward them to the House floor for a full vote. Given the three week break, expect a flurry of legislative activity over the next two weeks. If you have any questions about particular legislation, visit ILGA.Gov or call my office.

Gun Legislation
Many of us are still reeling from the horrific school shooting that occurred in Parkland recently. I have heard from a number of constituents on the issue of gun control and want to share with you some legislative updates.

Current Illinois law provides that no person may acquire or possess any firearm or ammunition without a Firearm Owner’s Identification card. Any applicant for a FOID card must be at least 21 years old, submit a photo, and undergo a background check that includes screening for not just criminal activity, but mental health and other disabilities. Prohibited purchasers in Illinois include those with felony convictions, previous mental health facility patients, the developmentally or intellectually disabled and those addicted to narcotics, among many others.


Springfield, IL…. In the wake of scandals rocking the USA Gymnastics and Swimming programs, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has filed House Bill 5131 to strengthen the Illinois Child Abuse and Neglect Act. News investigations in to both organizations found that individuals within the programs failed to act when faced with accusations and evidence against coaches and others in power.
“In light of recent reports that shocked parents everywhere, but unfortunately were unsurprising to many involved in the sports world, this bill is vital to protect our children,” Rep. McDermed said. “It’s clear that there is a systemic problem in children’s athletic programs and a tendency towards covering it up instead of taking action.”
HB 5131 increases the criminal penalty for any person who knowingly violates reporting requirements of abuse or neglect from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony. It further states that anyone who does so as part of a cover-up or to protect a person from prosecution commits a Class 3 felony. The bill also requires recreational or athletic program personnel who are required to report child abuse to complete mandated training on recognizing and reporting child abuse.
"We are hearing far too often that victims were ignored and abuses were swept under the rug to protect a program’s image. That is unacceptable.” Rep. McDermed continued. “In a perfect world, no child is abused or neglected. However, if and when any inappropriate behavior occurs, it is the responsibility of those we entrust with our children to listen to them and to take action immediately. Children who pursue their passions and hobbies should be able to do so safely and without fear.”
HB 5131 has been filed in the Illinois House and is awaiting committee assignment.

Governor’s Budget Address
You can watch my immediate reaction here.

One of the biggest takeaways from the Governor’s budget address was a proposal to gradually shift pension costs to schools. In his address, Governor Rauner said, “if you separate the payment from the accountability, there is no accountability.” The reasoning is that costs unnecessarily balloon when the responsibility for picking up the tab is disconnected from those spending the money. While I agree we should work to help schools lower costs, work to bring more accountability to our finances, and to question the necessity of certain expenses, this proposal is unlikely to gain much traction in Springfield.

That being said, leadership and legislators need to get realistic about the state budget and the status of Illinois’ finances. Despite forcing a 32% tax hike on citizens last year, tax receipts are significantly less than expected and Illinois spending continues to climb along with pension obligations and debt service. It’s clear that tax hikes are not the answer to our budget woes. Common sense budgeting practices with an established revenue estimate and clear spending priorities are a good place to start. Illinois cannot afford any more last minute backroom budget deals that force rank and file legislators to choose between a bad deal or no budget at all. I'm worried that will be the case yet again this year as Speaker Madigan has cancelled 3 session days already. The House won't be back in session until February 27th.

‘Illinois Tax Reform Plan’
I am the co-sponsor of a recent taxpayer relief plan put forth by State Representative Breen to capitalize on the new federal tax legislation. This package of bills includes:


Last week the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) hosted local officials and residents at Joliet Junior College. The event was held to get feedback on a billion dollar 16-mile improvement plan for Interstate 80. The plan is designed to improve safety and reduce travel times, but the state is having difficulty getting together the resources needed to finance the project. Based on comments it receives, IDOT will select a preferred alignment and its interchanges this spring, conduct an environmental assessment in the summer, and develop a financing strategy by fall, which could likely include tolls.

You can see the plan here. IDOT is accepting written comments until February 14.

State Representative McDermed, who attended the event, is looking to hear more from constituents about transportation issues and financing. As the Republican Spokesperson on the House Transportation Committee, Rep. McDermed is eager to address constituent's safety and transportation concerns in Springfield. A brief survey is now available on her website. Click the button on the top right portion of her website to access the survey. 

State of the State
Governor Rauner gave his third state of the state address to a joint session of the House and Senate last week. He began by expounding on the great history and accomplishments of our state in celebration of this year’s bicentennial anniversary. He then turned to more somber issues like sexual harassment in Illinois politics and the legionnaires outbreak at the Quincy Veterans Home.
The 30 minute speech also touched on the historic school funding reform legislation passed last year and the need to unite under similar bipartisan circumstances to finally tackle out of control property taxes, term limits, and criminal justice reform.

You can watch my immediate reaction to the address here.

New Executive Orders
True to his comments in his State of the State Address, Governor Rauner signed an executive order that promises swifter help to victims of sexual harassment by creating a Chief Compliance Office that would review allegations in ten days or less. Right now this just applies to government employees, but the Governor hopes to expand that system statewide. The executive order also requires training on the best investigation practices by the end of this year and every two years thereafter. This executive order is potent, especially since it came to light that two dozen ethics complaints filed at the Legislative Inspector General’s Office went unaddressed because until last fall there had been no legislative inspector general since 2015.