There is just about a week to go before the scheduled end of the spring legislative session and yet a number of major
issues remain unresolved, according to State Sen. Kyle McCarter.
“In the past week, the issues have been about more government regulations on business and job creation, marijuana, sex
education and how you tie your dog up in the yard. Meanwhile, a budget to run state government for the next fiscal year, a federal mandate for a concealed carry law, reform for public pensions to solve a $100 billion debt crisis and addressing a serious disparity in how the state funds downstate schools are issues up in the air,” said McCarter (R-Lebanon).
Sen. McCarter said apparently even one-party control of the government hasn’t helped the Governor and the House and Senate Democrat leadership to be able to solve these problems in a more timely manner.
As of this report, no state budget draft has been produced, not for review by legislators or the public.
“I have a feeling that like in the past, the budget, the spending blueprint for state government will be dropped in our laps with a mere handful of hours or minutes left to review before votes are taken,” said McCarter. “With less than a week to go, I still don’t have a budget to look at.”
There is a June 9 federal court ruling for state government to pass and enact a law providing for the Right-To-Carry a concealed firearm for personal protection. A number of proposals have been introduced and a few have been debated and even passed by one chamber but not the other.
The latest version is contained in Senate Bill 2193, which did pass the House Friday on a vote of 85 to 30. Because the House amended or changed the original Senate legislation to carry the Concealed Carry language, the bill must come back to the Senate for final approval. Some of the key components of the measure are:
- Statewide “shall-issue” licensing standard.
- Strictly preempts authority of local governments to regulate firearms.
- License issued by State Police
- Must be at least 21 years of age, have a currently valid FOID Card,
- Must successfully complete 16 hours of training including live firing exercises.
- The application fee is $150 for residents, but the license is good for 5 years.
- There is no reciprocity or recognition of licenses issued from other states.
- Applications are to be available within 180 days of becoming law. Application must then be processed within 90 days
- Duty to inform police that you are carrying if stopped.
Sen. McCarter said there is still the matter of an appeal of the ruling, which was filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. She was given until June 24 to present the appeal to the Federal courts. That has effectively left the June 9 deadline intact. Obviously, the outcome of an appeal two weeks later can’t be predicted.
“My support of the Right-To-Carry has never waivered since I first came to the Senate to succeed Senator Frank Watson,” said McCarter. “A Concealed Carry law that comes out of the Legislature must reflect the true intent of the Second Amendment to our US Constitution. It must be a “shall” issue law not a “may” issue and it should be a law that provides the same right to every person in Illinois , whether they live in Bond County or Cook County . That law must reflect the tradition and intent of the Second Amendment that each of us has the right to defend ourselves, our families and our property from those who would do us harm.”
No Pension Reform
With an estimated public pension debt that tops $100 billion, Sen. McCarter said he’s disappointed that there appears to be a stalemate between competing plans from the Senate and House.
“The final plan must be fair and affordable,” said McCarter. “We have about 700,000 current employees and retirees who made public service a career and earned, through their hard work, the promises made to them but we must also be aware of the harsh reality of a pension debt which has grown beyond the taxpayers’ ability to afford.
Sen. McCarter has introduced a number of pension reform proposals. He said pension reform must be
Constitutional, no reduction of benefits to current retirees including no threat of losing access to healthcare and there must be assurances the Legislature will set aside the money needed to make pension payments moving forward. McCarter said for the sake of taxpayers, the state must get out of the pension business and instead provide employees with a retirement plan that is not unlike those in the private sector. He favors a new Tier 3 hybrid plan, which would be a combination of Social Security and 401 K-style retirement savings plan.
Education Funding Unfairness
Earlier this year, a Senate Republican staff analysis of public school funding showed a wide disparity in how the state funds schools in Chicago compared with suburban and downstate schools.
“I am a cosponsor of a resolution creating a legislative task force to look into this problem,” said McCarter. “Unfortunately, the task force isn’t expected to make its findings known until early next year.”
The analysis revealed that while the Chicago Public School system educates about 18 percent of Illinois public school children, it receives nearly 50 percent of all of the property tax adjustments and poverty grants and 30 percent of Special Education funding.
“My schools and the schools which educate the vast majority of students in the suburbs and downstate can’t wait for the task force report while the unfairness and inequity in funding continues,” said McCarter. “Unless we start acting to fix it now, the unfairness and inequality will be built into the new state budget, which takes effect July 1, a full eight months before the report is expected.”
Other Pending Issues
Other major issues before lawmakers in the final week are the expansion of gambling and same-sex marriage.
Although a major expansion of gambling, including a Chicago casino, cleared the Senate May 1, the House has not taken up the measure. Similarly, although the Senate President muscled passage of a same sex marriage bill on Valentine’s Day, it remains on the sidelines in the House.
In other news this past week, a national legislative research organization, looking at the level of government management in Illinois , ranks the state 47th in the nation in Economic Performance and 48th in Economic Outlook.
The its sixth edition of “Rich States, Poor States,” the American Legislative Exchange Council and co-author respected economist Arthur Laffer, ranked states by their economic performance based Gross Domestic Product, Absolute Domestic Migration and Non-Farm Payroll Employment. Illinois ranked 42nd for Gross Domestic Product, then fell to 48th in both Domestic Migration (which measures whether more people are leaving the state than are coming to the state) and Non-Farm Employment, which measures job growth.
The Legislature has one more week of work and is scheduled to conclude its spring business on May 31.