Committee Deadline for Senate Bills Approaches
The Senate returns to Springfield this week with an eye on the March 10 deadline for Senate Bills to have cleared a committee. While there are legislative loopholes that still allow some bills to advance past this deadline, for the most part, bills that do not receive a positive vote at the committee level by Friday, March 10 are considered “dead” for this session year. I personally have several bills that are pending before substantive committees, and I am hopeful all of them will receive hearings. It will be a very busy week in Springfield as legislators seek to move their bills through the legislative process.
Once a bill is approved by the substantive committee to which it has been assigned, the legislation then advances to the full Senate for consideration before being sent over to the House of Representatives, where the vetting process in the other chamber begins.
To find the Senate Committee schedule for the week and a list of bills to be heard, click here.
Senator Lewis Presents Honorary Resolution to family of Itasca Firefighter
Last week I had the privilege of attending the Itasca Fire Protection District’s Inaugural Firefighter Memorial Service. During the event, I was honored to present the family of firefighter Frank Nunez with an honorary Senate Resolution. Frank Nunez passed away on January 22, 2023, and you can read his resolution here (click on “full text”). In the photo, I’m shown on the left with the family of Frank Nunez, and on the right with Itasca Fire Chief Jack Schneidwind.
Others recognized at the March 2nd memorial service were Chief Alvin Leuth, Firefighter Robert Bobka Lodd, Chief Vincent Caravello, Lieutenant Terry Heinan, and Lieutenant Kenny Conrad.
Senator Lewis Asks Officials to Slow the Process for Approving the Canadian Pacific- Kansas City Southern Rail Merger
I recently had an opportunity to attend a press conference with a bipartisan coalition of mayors, legislators, and other elected officials, where we voiced our many concerns about the proposed merger of the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern Railroads. Six of the communities I represent would be affected by the merger due to a significant increase in freight traffic we would see in this area. For example, 8-11 new, mile-long trains would be crossing through the 24th District daily. My colleagues and I have significant safety and other concerns, and would like rail officials to slow down, re-evaluate data, and allow for an inclusive process where all affected parties can be at the table. Following the press conference, I issued this statement:
“The Biden administration and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg are currently dealing with one of the worst chemical transportation catastrophes our nation has ever seen. We cannot allow the Surface Transportation Board to ignore the many warning signs associated with this merger. In light of recent tragedies, we must stop and take time to review the conclusions put forth by the environmental impact study, and ensure issues related to safety, traffic disruption, and the environment are adequately addressed.
“Our federal delegation does not appear overly concerned with legitimate issues that have been brought forward. The addition of several new mile-long trains and the doubling or tripling of freight traffic has an undeniable impact on the communities involved. I have a responsibility to protect the safety of my constituents, and statements that the merger will have a net-zero impact on safety are false. Emergency response delays at rail crossings alone pose a great risk to public safety.
“If the train derailment in Ohio taught us anything, it is that we cannot be too careful when it comes to the safety of those who live or work in proximity to rail lines. There is no reason why we should not slow the process down and take the time to really understand the data and what it means to Illinois residents and business owners. Safety must be priority #1.
“I believe in supporting commerce for the State of Illinois, but commercial success should not be at the expense of people’s safety and well-being. I also support the rail industry, but the railroad companies have behaved more like bullies than as valued community partners with regard to this merger. I hope they will re-examine their approach moving forward.”
Governor Proposes $3 Billion Spending Increase During Budget Address
A few weeks ago, Gov. JB Pritzker proposed his fifth budget to the Illinois General Assembly during his annual Budget and State of the State Address. He painted an idealistic image of Illinois’ fiscal outlook, and outlined a spending plan that increases new, permanent state spending by $3 billion.
While Republicans and Democrats have some shared goals, like proper funding of early childhood programs and public safety initiatives, I hope we can work collaboratively on creating a sustainable budget that will not spend Illinois residents into a major tax increase. A larger conversation is needed about structural reforms that will allow the state to protect our future investments and prioritize spending within its means.
Following the Governor’s speech, I issued this official statement:
“Illinois is located in the heart of the nation. Illinois is a major transportation hub with state-of-the-art institutions and a remarkable and educated workforce. Our state is ripe for economic development, and we need to work in a bipartisan manner on policies that will grow our economy and create opportunities for future investment. Greatness is at our fingertips. We just need to ensure we have dedicated and existing funding streams to allocate toward policy ideals we all share, like public safety, education for kids, and providing services for the disabled, which have all been underfunded for years.
“The Governor presented some laudable goals today, but overall he proposed increasing permanent, year-to-year spending by $3 billion. As we head toward a likely recession, I was hoping to hear a speech that focused on controlled spending and fiscal restraint. Unfortunately, what we heard was a list of spending priorities that do not align with Illinois’ fiscal realities.
“I fear the Governor’s budget priorities are setting the stage for a massive tax increase in the very near future. My constituents are desperate for tax relief, and what I heard today was a recipe for a tax hike. Still, today’s speech is a starting point for discussions on the Fiscal Year 2024 budget. I look forward to a respectful give and take of ideas so we can come together on a spending plan that benefits all Illinoisans.”
Senate Republicans Deliver a Combined 60,000 Valentines to Seniors
In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, Senate Republicans delivered more than 60,000 Valentines and well-wishes to senior citizens living in assisted-living facilities and nursing homes across the state. Students from public and private schools, church groups, scouting organizations, students in park district programs, National Honor Societies, and other groups joined Illinois families in creating homemade cards. It was a tremendous outpouring of support for seniors who often experience periods of loneliness in nursing home settings.
Specifically, in the 24th Senate District, my office collected and distributed more than 1,000 Valentines to 10 different assisted living centers and nursing homes. Seniors were all smiles as large bags of cards were delivered throughout the district. The response exceeded every expectation, and the well-wishes really made seniors feel special, appreciated, and cherished. Here is a short video of the deliveries in the 24th District. Thank you to everyone who participated in this project!
Lewis Partners on Legislation to Protect Municipalities from LGDF Sweeps
I am keenly aware of the importance of the Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF). This is money that is raised locally through income taxes, sent to the state, with 10% returned to the community of origin. This year I am partnering with a Senate colleague to ensure local communities receive the full share of LGDF money they were originally promised.
Municipalities rely on these funds to help balance their budgets. Several years back an agreement was made that local governments would have 10% of the collected LGDF money returned to them, but in recent years the State of Illinois has been shortchanging communities and sending them lesser amounts. When the Governor sweeps those funds, he places an additional financial strain on local communities, and the ultimate burden falls on property taxpayers.
Through Senate Bill 2206, the Illinois Income Tax Act would be amended to ensure that an amount equal to 10% of the net revenue realized from the State income tax each month would be transferred from the State General Fund to the Local Government Distributive Fund.
With money transferred monthly, I believe communities will be better protected from fund sweeps. We need to protect taxpayers and communities by enshrining the 10% LGDF promise in our statutes once and for all. By doing so, budgeteers in every Illinois community can have confidence and reliable revenue figures when they work through their local budget processes.
Illinois Supreme Court Sets Hearing Date for the SAFE-T Act Appeal
On March 14, the Illinois Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments on whether the no-cash bail provision of the SAFE-T Act is constitutional. In late December, a judge in Kankakee County ruled in favor of more than 60 State’s Attorneys as it declared the controversial provision violated the Illinois Constitution.
The no-cash bail system was set to go into effect on Jan. 1; however, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an order on December 31 that halted the implementation of the no-cash bail system following the lower court’s ruling. The Supreme Court’s ruling was issued to make sure different pretrial detention rules weren’t being used in various counties while the court case moved forward. In its order, the Illinois Supreme Court said the ruling was to “maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois” as 65 counties were included in the lawsuit while the other 37 counties were still planning on implementing the no-cash bail system.
While Illinois’ high court determines the fate of the no-cash bail system, other portions of the SAFE-T Act are already being implemented, including requiring body cameras for law enforcement, more police training, and new guidelines for the decertification of police officers.
IMA Contest Underway for ‘The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois’
In February, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA) opened its fourth annual Makers Madness contest. In a search to find and declare “The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois,” residents are allowed to nominate and then vote on their favorite product made by Illinois manufacturers.
Nominations for “The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois” were collected through February 19, and the first round of voting just ended. The top 16 entries will be announced soon, at which point the second round of voting will begin.
The winner of the title of “The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois” will be announced on March 29. Last year’s winner of the popular contest was the all-electric R1T truck made by Rivian, which is located in Normal.