While the Illinois House was not in session, it was an active week for the Illinois Senate. A number of legislative measures were approved including several sponsored by Sen. Kyle McCarter.
The Senate also gave final legislative approval to a number of House bills, including a measure to help the City of Salem move forward with the sale of the Salem Armory. House Bill 2381 was sponsored by McCarter in the Senate and originally introduced in the House this year by State Representative John Caveletto. The Senate approved the measure on a vote of 54 to zero. It takes effect immediately allowing the sale to go through as planned.
McCarter also cosponsored two other measures that won approval this week.
Senate Bill 1820 would allow the gambling winnings of parents who owe back child support to be captured and given to the custodial parent. More than $3 billion in back child support is owed by non-custodial parents, which causes financial hardships not only for the recipients but on state programs and services, which are called upon to take up the financial slack. The measure was approved on a vote of 54 to zero.
Senate Bill 2356 would increase the speed limit on Illinois ’ interstate highways from 65 miles per hour to 70 miles per hour. Suburban counties in the Metro East and Chicago areas would be allowed to opt-out of the higher speed. The Senate approved the bill on a vote of 41 to 6.
Both measures will now be sent to the House for consideration.
Sen. McCarter opposed another Senate measure this week that would create a pilot program giving certain community colleges the ability to create a “standby tax” to pay off borrowed money associated with a private-sector job creation project.
“This is not good government,” McCarter told colleagues in debate. “…You can’t just add ‘jobs’ to a bill and say it’s good.”
McCarter argued that Senate Bill 2305 gives the community colleges too much authority without voter input.
“You’re going to allow a taxing body to pass a resolution to incur debt on its taxpayers in the name of jobs…the board can vote to incur debt without asking the people, who have the responsibility to pay it back,” said McCarter.
The measure provides for no limit to the borrowing and gives the community college up to ten years to pay off the debt.
The Senate voted along party lines with Sen. McCarter and 18 Republicans voting no and 31 Democrats voting yes. The measure now heads to the House.
Community college districts included in the pilot project are, Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville , the Blackhawk College and Illinois Eastern Community College districts and the College of Lake County.
Sen. McCarter receives a steady stream of inquiries about a Concealed Carry law. While there has been a lack of progress in the House in recent weeks, discussions are still taking place among leading members of the Illinois Senate.
“Negotiations are underway in the Senate to craft a Concealed Carry law that reflects the true intent of the Second Amendment to our US Constitution; that each of us has the right to defend ourselves, our families and our property from those who would do us harm,” said McCarter in a statement released this week.
There has been some talk that an eventual Concealed Carry law might exclude citizens in Chicago and Cook County but Sen. McCarter said that is unacceptable.
“I am working to pass a Concealed Carry law that specifically says it SHALL apply to all counties in Illinois . The Second Amendment of the Constitution applies to all citizens, including those in Chicago .”
In other legislative activity this week, the Senate approved four measures designed to improve school safety. The proposals are in response to school shootings in other states, most notably Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton , Connecticut .
The measures would:
- Require that school safety drills include a “shooting incident” drill which would be coordinated with local law enforcement agencies. Drills would include both evacuation and “reverse-evacuation” drills, in which students are moved to a safe place within the school confines. (Senate Bill 1625);
- Create a School Security and Standards Task Force to study the security of Illinois ’ schools, make recommendations and draft minimum standards for use by schools to provide a safer learning environment for students. (Senate Bill 1931);
- Require school boards to consult with law enforcement and security experts in the design and planning of any new school building or major remodeling. (Senate Bill 1932); and
- Establish a School Crime Watch program modeled after Neighborhood Watch Programs (Senate Resolution 91).
The Senate also took action on a measure (Senate Bill 1005) to combat the growing problem where social media and electronic communication are being used to gather a “flash mob” to commit batteries, robberies and thefts. The bill provides that using electronic communications to solicit or commit the offense of mob action may be used by the court to impose an extended term sentence upon conviction.
Another measure approved this past week deals with the problem of drunk boating on the state’s rivers and lakes. Under Senate Bill 1479, the concept of implied consent for driving under the influence (DUI) would be extended to include persons operating boats or other watercraft, similar to the laws which govern DUI involving automobiles. Anyone involved in a serious personal injury or fatal boating accident shall be deemed to have given consent to blood alcohol level test. The measure only applies to motorized watercraft, thus excluding canoes, kayaks, etc.
In other news from the Senate this week, a Senate Committee approved legislation to increase public transparency and accountability in the area of state school funding.
Senate Bill 1984 requires that allocations of the state’s General State Aid (GSA) and its primary components—Foundation Level grants, Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) adjustments and Poverty grants—must be clearly described in the state budget and thus available for public review.
The proposal was an outgrowth of a school funding report unveiled in March by Senate Republicans that took aim at claims by some Chicago lawmakers that downstate and suburban schools in Illinois receive a “free lunch” because of the state’s contribution to their teacher retirement funds. The study found that was clearly not the case and in fact, Chicago actually receives an unequal share of state school funding.
If some of Illinois ’ wealthiest investors are more nervous about this state’s economy than their counterparts are about their own states, would that give you pause for concern?
A recently-released poll by Morgan Stanley Wealth Management indicates that 93 percent of high net worth investors in the Chicago area are worried about the state’s well-being, with 80 percent “very concerned.” Fifty-eight percent felt the Illinois economy will worsen by the end of 2013. Meanwhile, only 22 percent of high-end investors in Atlanta , Boston , New York , Denver , Houston , Los Angeles and San Francisco felt the same way.
Of those Illinois investors polled, the top issues of concern were Illinois ‘ pension funding crisis, the state’s budget deficit and taxes.
Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry was in Illinois this past week seeking businesses who would like to relocate to the Lone Star State . Not only did Perry make a personal visit to Illinois but he also launched an $80,000 advertising campaign suggesting Illinois employers “Get out while there’s still time.”
Media reports this week quoted Illinois Governor Pat Quinn as saying Perry or any other governor attempting to lure Illinois companies to their home states were “showboating.” The Associated Press indicates that “at least five governors have recently tried to lure away Illinois businesses,” including Florida Governor Rick Scott who sent a letter to Illinois ’ top companies encouraging them to check out opportunities in his state.
“Our unemployment rate, which remains well above the national rate is an indication that Illinois suffers from an anti-business climate,” said McCarter. “ Illinois Workers’ Compensation rates are higher than just about any other state and very little has been accomplished to change the system. Additionally, over the last ten years, tax increases, more regulations and higher fees, have also damaged our state’s competitiveness and the ability of our employers to maintain or expand hiring.
Sen. McCarter said there is still plenty of time left in the spring legislative session to reverse the poor policies of the past that rob people of opportunity.