This Week in Springfield:
The Illinois House was away from Springfield for the first two weeks of April but reconvened last week from Tuesday through Thursday.
With just five weeks of legislative session in Springfield remaining on the calendar, last week we started taking up Senate bills in our House committees. We’re also beginning to turn our attention to the budgeting process. The five Appropriations Committees (HHS, Elementary & Secondary Education, General Services, Higher Education and Public Safety) have begun meeting to hear testimony from state agencies requesting funds and outside organizations which have previously received state funding or are asking to in the future. Over the next couple of weeks, I will give you more information about the state budget process, my priorities in the state budget, and where the budgeting process stands.
Hot Topic of the Week:
Child Abuse Prevention Month
This Child Abuse Prevention Month we remember AJ Freund and all the children across our state who have been failed by the system. DCFS needs to be overhauled to ensure our state’s most vulnerable children are protected.
Adoption & Child Welfare Committee Hearing: Illinois Family First Program
The Adoption & Child Welfare Committee held a subject matter hearing in Chicago on April 14th focusing on bills that have been introduced in the House as well as hearing testimony from the Casey Foundation about the Family First Prevention Services Act.
For background, the Family First Program is a state program approved by the federal government with the goal of supporting families and keeping children safely at home and out of foster care. This program also comes with funding from the federal government. You can read more about this program at the Family First website. While the funds that come from the federal government must be administered by a child welfare agency such as DCFS, it was made plain in the committee hearing that the services themselves do not have to be administered by that agency. In fact the entire aim of the act is to provide services that would help keep families from having to deal with DCFS. I had a very productive conversation about this very point that you can watch by clicking here.
As I have mentioned previously, I introduced a bill this year to have the services available through Family First be provided by an agency other than DCFS. First of all, there are other agencies within state government which are better able to provide these types of services, and let’s be frank about this: if the first contact a family in need has is with DCFS, they’re going to be immediately on the defensive and in most cases unwilling to avail themselves of services which can help them avoid instances of abuse and neglect of their children. By establishing a helpline that families can call to get the kind of services they need, DCFS may never have to be involved at all. We wanted to ask DCFS about the testimony we heard but even though they had 10 people at the hearing, they refused to come to the table and answer our questions. My bill has been assigned to committee and granted a deadline extension, so I am working to get it passed this legislative session.
Chicago Mayor-Elect Visits Springfield
In a rambling, self-absorbed speech on the House floor last week, incoming Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson outlined his priorities for the city he will soon lead, and to no one’s surprise, he promised a lot to every constituency that put him in office while giving short shrift to the folks whom he expects to pay the bill. He told us that “there’s enough for everybody”.
To quote the great Thomas Sowell:
“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”
Coming from a guy who’s probably never signed the front of a paycheck, it’s not surprising to think that he sees the taxpaying part of this equation as something to be tethered rather than included as an equal partner.
While he spoke of the two-way street that must exist between Chicago and Springfield, he spent an awful lot of time talking about what Chicago needs and not very much time talking about how Chicago can work to dig itself out of the hole it’s in many ways dug for itself. He seemed to assume that the business community will ignore what it sees going on around it in terms of rising crime and rising costs and continue to provide the resources for what promises to be a continuation of failed progressive policies. He invoked the word “progressive” in his speech a lot. That word is a dog whistle for many things, none of them pointing to real solutions.
His call for dialogue between Chicago and Springfield also fell flat, as he was effusive in his praise of the Senate President and Speaker of the House, while ignoring the Republican leaders who were sitting in the room. While he took the time to meet with the Black, Latino and progressive wings of the House Democratic caucus, he made no effort to speak with us on the Republican side of the aisle. When the House Republican Leader told him that she was disappointed in not having been given the courtesy of a conversation, his response to her was “we have time”. His total disdain for us speaks volumes about the direction he intends to go and is a good indication of what’s in store for the next four years.
The Week Ahead:
- The House is scheduled to meet this week, Tuesday, April 25th through Friday, April 28th.
- April 28th is the deadline to pass Senate bills out of House committees.
Stay Up To Date:
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