Happy New Year: 2024’s First Legislative Update!
Good Morning and Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed a couple of quiet weeks with your loved ones. In this report, I will try to catch you up on some of the top news stories you may have missed over the holidays and on some of the work we did in our office over the past few weeks.
Since my last Reick Report, there was another guilty verdict in a high-profile political corruption trial. Also, I’ve taken on a new role in the legislature and have had meetings throughout the state as I try to reform our broken child welfare system. The new year also came with a number of new laws which went into effect. Let’s get to it.
Hot Topic of the Week:
The Migrant Crisis is Getting Worse
Between August 31, 2022, and January 5, 2024, nearly thirty thousand individuals and families seeking asylum have arrived in Chicago from Texas with little to no notice. McHenry County has not been immune from this inflow, as busloads of migrants have been dropped off in Fox River Grove, Crystal Lake, and Woodstock. This has been done to avoid the penalties that have been imposed by Cook County and the City of Chicago on bus companies that make unscheduled dropoffs within the city limits. In response, several of our local municipalities have passed ordinances allowing for the bus companies to have their vehicles impounded and drivers fined if they make unscheduled deliveries of migrants. Given that local communities do not have the resources necessary to take care of these people, they have little choice but to protect their communities from the cost of doing so.
This comes as a direct result of the state declaring itself a sanctuary state and offering itself up as a place for people who cross the border illegally to come and avail themselves of state services. The crisis at the border is a federal problem and we can’t expect Texas to pick up the entire tab of the Federal government’s failure to control our border.
In September of 2022, Governor Pritzker issued the first of a series of disaster declarations dealing with the migrant crisis. His most recent declaration issued on January 5th is his 18th, and they give the Governor extraordinary power to unilaterally suspend provisions of the law that deal with procurement of certain contracts without the consent of the Legislature. Just before Christmas, Pritzker’s office announced more spending for migrants to stay in hotel rooms and eventually a shelter at a former CVS in Chicago. Funding for the recently announced operations comes from an additional $160 million Pritzker announced in November.
Rumor has it that when we go back to Springfield on the 16th of January, we’ll be presented with a supplemental appropriations bill allowing for continued payments to support the migrant influx.
The governor has gotten quite used to doing things on his own through the issuance of disaster declarations. We can all remember the 40-some declarations that he issued during the COVID crisis, which went on long after it became obvious that the damage being done to our school children and our economy far outweighed the risks associated with the pandemic. Now we have this example of unilateral governance, and it’s quite obvious that it’s not going to stop, at least until after the Democratic National Convention being held in Chicago adjourns in July.
The feckless decision to declare Illinois a sanctuary state may have sounded good and high-minded at the time, but now the true cost is coming home to roost. The state has already spent nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer funds on the crisis, and more spending is certainly on the way. This is your money folks, and I’d be thinking hard about that as I head toward the voting booth in November.
Chicago Corruption Trials Continue and My New Role in the Legislature
As you have likely seen in the news, the newest corruption conviction came out of the Federal District Court in Chicago. Powerful former Chicago alderman Ed Burke was found guilty on federal corruption charges after nearly 50 years in Chicago politics. As the chairman of the Finance Committee, Burke was found guilty of using his government office to benefit his personal business along with other corruption charges. The jury found him guilty of racketeering, attempted extortion, and other public corruption charges on Thursday, December 21.
This is just the newest conviction in a long string of public corruption trials, and it is leading to the trial of former Speaker Mike Madigan that is now scheduled to begin in October.
It is clear that much more must be done to enact strong anti-corruption laws in this state. The current lax ethics requirements are not cutting it and only serve as a weak political excuse when those in the majority are challenged on the rampant corruption problem in the state.
A couple of weeks ago, I was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Illinois Legislative Ethics Commission, a bipartisan, bicameral commission of legislators tasked with reviewing ethics complaints in the legislature. Originally intended to be a form of self-policing in the legislature, recent complaints of protectionism have called into question whether the current jurisdiction and roles of the Legislative Ethics Commission and Legislative Inspector General are enough to truly keep legislators honest. In this role on the LEC, I will be working to hold legislators accountable and to see where we need to enact stronger anti-corruption reforms.
New Laws Go into Effect
As I’ve written to you about before, many of the good ideas for new laws last year were not allowed to be advanced. But, on January 1st, sixty-four new laws took effect. These new laws range from making video conferencing illegal while driving, to a new Italian-American heritage month and make it easier to access at-home saliva cancer screening tests. I’m sad to report that nothing was done to reform DCFS or fix our broken pension system, because that would take hard work.
You can read more about these laws here.
Illinois’ Financial Future Maybe Not So Rosy
For anyone who has paid even a little bit of attention to Illinois’ finances, it is not a surprise that the outlook is not great. However, those in the majority have been pretending throughout the pandemic and post-pandemic inflation that the increase in one-time funding from the federal government is not going to last forever.
A couple of weeks ago a report came out forecasting an almost $1 billion dollar deficit for the upcoming Illinois budget. Spending increases in recent budgets have outpaced revenue increases. That is not sustainable over the long term.
This comes as there is increasing spending pressure with the influx of migrants and more spending promises from Governor Pritzker. I’ll keep watching the finances and projections closely as we approach the Governor’s scheduled Budget Address in February.
Improving Child Welfare System
I have been quiet on this newsletter but busy in our district and throughout the state working on how we can improve our child welfare system. I recently visited Caritas Family Solutions in Belleville and Hoylton Ministries in Washington County to discuss the state of our foster care system and their suggested improvements. In December I also met with Lutheran Family Services and the Illinois Collaboration on Youth about an exciting initiative in New Mexico that we may be able to apply here in Illinois which might keep at-risk families from having to enter the state’s child welfare system and deal with DCFS.
Successful solutions for our child welfare system will need to involve local stakeholders and new creative ideas. As always, this will be my main priority in the legislature in the new year. Look out for a newsletter next week highlighting my legislative approach and some new proposals for 2024.
Happenings Around McHenry County:
January is generally a slow month out here in McHenry County, and even more so when there is not enough snow for snowmobiling. However, if you and your family are interested in visiting some of Chicago’s world-class museums, my office has a museum pass to use for free admission for selected Chicagoland locations. Any resident of the 63rd District can reserve our Constituent Education Resource Card on a first-come, first-serve basis, to visit any of the following museums in 2024:
- Adler Planetarium
- The Art Institute of Chicago
- Brookfield Zoo
- Chicago Botanic Garden
- Chicago Children’s Museum
- Chicago History Museum
- DuSable Museum of African American History
- The Field Museum
- Lincoln Park Zoo
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- Museum of Science and Industry
- National Museum of Mexican Art
- National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture
- Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
- John G. Shedd Aquarium
The pass is provided to by the Museums in the Park Organization. Only one group of up to four (4) can reserve the pass at a time. The pass must be picked up and brought back to the district office. Constituents need to call for an appointment to come to the district office to pick up the pass before visiting the museums.
It is strongly recommended that families utilizing the card contact the museum they plan to visit to learn if pre-registration is required to visit.
Please contact my office at (815) 880-5340 and provide your name and address along with the dates you are requesting (can be used for up to 3 days in row) to reserve the Constituent Education Resource Card for your use.
Stay Up to Date:
Like what you see? Please share this update with your friends and family. If someone forwarded this e-mail to you, please sign up for my newsletter or send me a message by clicking here: https://www.ilhousegop.org/contactreick. With this weekly Reick Report, I aim to give you a quick and easily digestible update on what is happening at the State Capitol, the top issues in our local area, and how you can get engaged.