Second Week of Veto Session, Will We Get More Done Than Last Week (Which Was Nothing) 

Legislative Update: 

Last week the House met in Springfield for two days and is set to return next week for the final week of Veto Session, where a number of controversial issues await us.  

During the first week of Veto, the only bill we voted on was Speaker Welch’s bill to allow legislative staff to form a union. As you’ll remember, this is the bill that Welch was initially reluctant to pass as he spent all summer rebuffing his staff’s attempts to unionize. They apparently wore him down and the bill passed the House on a party line vote. He certainly didn’t sound convincing when he presented the bill to the House.

Since there was little legislative action last week, I’ll give you an update this week on what we can expect next week of Veto Session and my comments on the House Floor about the Governor’s newly proposed early childhood state agency. 

Hot Topic of the Week: 

A New State Agency? How About We Fix the Agencies We Have. 

Two weeks ago, a former DCFS child welfare specialist in McHenry County was found guilty of child endangerment, conduct which led to the death of A.J. Freund in Crystal Lake. Following A.J.’s murder, we learned of the multiple opportunities that DCFS had to rescue him from harm. Our state’s child welfare system is failing children in every part of the state and must be reformed. As I have written to you about many times before, this is my top legislative priority. 

Then, last week the Governor announced his plans to create a new state agency dealing with early childhood education. In the midst of unprecedented failure at DCFS and major shakeups at every human services agency in the state, rather than commenting on these issues or working to make real improvements at the existing state agencies, the Governor is choosing to create yet another bureaucratic agency, and again he is going it alone. 

This new proposed agency would take over childcare licensing from DCFS, something I have long advocated. It’s a start, but that one change does not fix this agency. Much more work must be done to protect our most vulnerable children. 

On the House floor I once again reminded the legislature that this Governor must stop going it alone on the important issues. The task of protecting our most vulnerable children is too important to leave it to just a small echo chamber that has the ear of the Governor’s staff. He must work across the aisle, with stakeholders across Illinois, and with experts throughout the nation to fix our broken child welfare system. The legislature must be consulted, real issues must be addressed and both Republicans and Democrats must be involved. You can view my floor  comments here

Pension Bill? Nuclear Plants? Invest in Kids? 

While the House only passed one bill last week, the Senate was busy, passing several measures and there are other more controversial topics awaiting action in the House. 

Throughout the last several months the Personnel & Pensions Committee has held meetings on the Tier 2 pension plan and what changes must be made for that plan to meet the federal requirements for pension plans to not participate in social security. There is consensus that something must change in order to meet these requirements, otherwise known as the safe harbor provisions. While there is consensus that there must be action taken, there has not been consensus on final legislation. No action was taken in the last week of veto session, and it appears that this issue will get punted to the regular session in January or beyond. 

One topic that cannot be left up to the regular session in January is the veto of legislation ending the nuclear power plant moratorium in Illinois. Though the legislation passed with broad bipartisan support, Governor Pritzker vetoed a bill that would end the moratorium on building any new nuclear power plants in Illinois. If the Governor is serious about clean energy, he should take the brick off of this bill and allow a vote to override this veto next week. 

The most controversial topic that we could see next week is action on the Invest in Kids Scholarship Program. This program, which provides private donor tuition to private schools for children from low-income families is set to sunset at the beginning of next year. There is also broad bipartisan support for this program and legislation has been filed to extend the program. I support keeping the program and it is my sincere hope that we are able to see a vote on legislation renewing the program sometime next week. 

Happenings Around McHenry County:

After one of the most spectacular autumns that I can remember, it’s hard to believe we’re already in November. But the snow on Halloween (an annual tradition) reminds us that the holidays will soon be upon us.

If you’re into old movies and old-fashioned drive-in theaters, head over to the McHenry Outdoor Theater on November 10 or 11 for a Christmas Classic double feature: the 1938 versions of “White Christmas” and “A Christmas Carol”.

The fourth Friday of the month is the official kickoff of Christmas, with Crystal Lake’s Festival of Lights Parade and the annual Lighting of the Woodstock Square. Come on out to McHenry County, where we do the holidays right.

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