This Week in Springfield:
This week, the Illinois House met Tuesday through Friday in Springfield. Our main emphasis was on committee meetings, as Friday originally marked the deadline to get house bills passed out of committee. There were over 400 bills that passed out of House committees this week, including two of my proposals:
- House Bill 1248 that passed out of committee provides for more trustee representation from fire protection districts on local Firefighters’ Pension Investment Boards.
- House Bill 3620 is a proposal I wrote about last week that gives authority to law enforcement professionals to select members of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board.
Both bills passed with unanimous bipartisan support in committee and both bills prioritize representation from subject matter experts and professionals rather than political appointees or elected officials.
Below, I’ll give you a closer look at some of the bills I am co-sponsoring that passed committee this week. As always, if there are issues that are important to you, or bills you would like me to sign on to as a co-sponsor, please let me know. You can find a list of the current bills I have introduced here.
Hot Topic of the Week:
Legislation I am Co-Sponsoring That Advanced This Week:
House Bill 1079 – This proposal reverses the decades long ban on construction of new nuclear power plants in Illinois. As Illinois faces rising energy prices and a commitment to cleaner energy sources, allowing for the expansion of all clean and safe energy options is important. This bill passed committee with bipartisan support.
House Bill 1197 – This legislation relieves the paperwork burden that small charities face while still guaranteeing the transparency that donors expect.
House Bill 2773 – In Illinois, and across our nation, we have seen that children are struggling to learn to read. Research shows that an emphasis on phonics and decoding words is crucial to children learning how to read and understand written text. House Bill 2773 provides that school districts shall teach students to read using phonics. This is just one of many pieces of legislation the General Assembly is working on to address literacy in early grades. This bill also passed with broad bipartisan support.
House Bill 2805 – This proposal passed the Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously. It establishes Post Traumatic Stress Injury Day in Illinois as June 27th. The goal of this day is to bring awareness to the brave men and women who received post-traumatic stress injuries while risking their lives to protect our freedom, health, and welfare. It also aims to recognize those who have suffered PTSI for their gallantry, commitment, devotion, and sacrifice to our communities.
House Bill 3218 – In our ongoing effort to improve our child welfare system and protect children from abuse, this proposal adds that April of each year will be designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month across the state of Illinois. This month will be observed to promote awareness and prevention of child abuse.
DCFS Budget Hearing
This week, the Department of Children and Family Services appeared before a House Appropriations Committee to detail their budget request and answer questions about their spending. Traditionally in appropriations hearings, agencies will give detailed testimony on their past spending, plans for proposed increases, and can give detailed answers to questions from lawmakers.
For a department that has been in the spotlight recently, I was expecting that the agency would come more than prepared. However, my colleagues and I were disappointed at the brevity of their testimony and the lack of detail and forthrightness in their answers. For many of us, we were left with more questions than answers following their testimony.
The Governor has proposed a $54.6 million increase for DCFS in this upcoming budget for a total of $2 billion of funding for the agency as a whole. As I mentioned in my e-mail to you following the Governor’s Budget Address, I am also interested in working towards a budget increase for the agency. In order to reform our child welfare system, increased investments are a part of the solution.
This level of investment in DCFS demands transparency from the agency and detailed answers to questions. Additionally, there are many stakeholders who are funded through programs within DCFS and who provide services for DCFS and our child welfare system who must also be a part of the appropriations hearing process.
In the coming weeks the Adoption and Child Welfare Committee, of which I’m the minority spokesman, will hold a subject matter hearing, where DCFS will be called on to go deeper into its budget, and where stakeholders will be given a chance to testify.
The Week Ahead:
- Next week, the Illinois House is scheduled for legislative session Tuesday, March 14th through Thursday, March 16th.
- The Adoption & Child Welfare Committee, where I serve as the minority spokesperson, will hold our second substantive subject-matter
- hearing on DCFS Training.
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