Springfield, IL — In the district, I met with Chamber of Commerce members in Marengo and visited with a local radio talk show host. In Springfield, a new Administration transitioned into power this week with Governor J.B. Pritzker taking the Oath of Office Jan. 14.
The Marengo Chamber of Commerce invited local and State officials to give a report on the state of the community. Business owners are interested in the minimum wage issue. A $15 an hour minimum wage has been advocated by the new governor. What will be the impact on small businesses? Will this be a phased-in increase? I suspect these questions, and others, will be discussed in Springfield in the coming weeks and months.
I also spoke about local government consolidation. I favor consolidation but it must be done in a way that protects taxpayers. Before he left office, Gov. Rauner amendatorily vetoed a consolidation bill (HB4637) that directly impacts McHenry County. The legislation was flawed but the good news is, the former governor’s action gives us another chance to bring a more comprehensive bill forward that better protects taxpayers.
There are three key points I want to see in such legislation:
1. Only within the dissolving township boundaries are responsible for paying any debt transferred to the county.
2. All park and cemetery land, buildings and facilities within the geographic area of the dissolving township must be utilized for the primary benefit of the geographic area of the dissolving township. Furthermore, any proceeds from the sale of these assets after dissolution must be utilized for the sole benefit of the geographic area of the dissolving township.
3. We must ensure counties will receive Motor Fuel Tax dollars that were dedicated to a dissolving township based on lane miles. Under the flawed HB 4367, a dissolved township’s lane mile Motor Fuel Tax funding would be redistributed state-wide and not to the county or municipality taking over the road responsibility.
Star 105.5 Radio interview
I touched on a number of topics during an interview with Stew Cohen of Star 105.5 (WZSR). The interview will air on Northwest Spectrum heard every Sunday morning at www.star105.com. We discussed consolidation, homelessness, and big challenges facing state government such as pensions, public education and taxes. I spoke about the atmosphere of bipartisanship at the State Capitol too. There’s been a lot of talk, on both sides of the aisle, about working together. I hope the actions match the words. Time will tell. One controversial issue Stew and I discussed was the legalization of marijuana. Illinois has legalized medical marijuana but there’s a push to legalize marijuana for the broader population.
If you are more of a Libertarian person and want more personal freedom or personal privilege, it must come with an equal amount of personal accountability or responsibility. There are a lot of unanswered questions about legalizing the drug. There are legitimate concerns from law enforcement, the medical community and business owners. The impact of legalizing marijuana will go beyond the individual user to encompass our communities. We must be thoughtful in how the state proceeds. If Illinois is solely focused on legalizing marijuana because it wants the tax revenue it would generate, I feel we will probably get it wrong. We can’t let the desire for more tax dollars obscure the full ramifications of legalization.
Great turnout for Pioneer Center
I wanted to thank everyone for the great community turnout. We had good discussions that the Continuum of Care group will further build upon moving forward. The gaps in services available to the homeless population in our community was a big topic, and I support the efforts of Pioneer Center, and all providers to continue to expand their services. However, it is also important that we provide an opportunity to the people of the community to come and learn about the situations, and have a voice in any possible expansion of services funded by taxpayer dollars. The ultimate outcome of this effort will depend on the state grant the Pioneer Center has applied for, continued support of private donations, and the dedicated work of volunteers and all provider organizations working together.
Gun dealer licensing
During the week, Gov. Pritzker signed legislation creating another level of licensing for the state’s firearms dealers. Senate Bill 337 requires federally licensed gun dealers to also be licensed through the State Police and obtain a certificate. While gun violence, especially in the suburbs, is a major concern, I don’t think making it more costly for Illinois gun stores to conduct business is the answer. As federally-licensed dealers, Illinois gun stores are already required to meet strict regulations set forth by the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). We need tougher prosecution and stiffer sentences for gun crimes, and jail time for those who skirt firearm laws already on the books.
Pritzker assumes office
A new Administration took control of the Governor’s office this week with recently-elected Democrat Governor taking the Oath of Office on Jan. 14 and beginning his term in public office.
As Gov. Pritzker assumes office and prepares to deliver his first-ever budget address before the General Assembly on Feb. 20, Senate Republicans remain cautiously optimistic that compromise and bipartisanship will be encouraged. However, as members of the super-minority in the Senate, we underscore the need for Illinois to embrace reforms, encourage economic prosperity and provide for a balanced spending plan that does not add to the burdens placed on the shoulders of Illinois’ taxpayers.
Lawmakers return to the State House on Jan. 29 to resume spring session.