New Bills for the Spring Session, More DCFS and Dial-a-Ride Info

Back at It, Sort Of 

Last week we were back in Springfield for the first week of the Spring legislative session. We got the same amount of work done as we did during the holiday break, which is none. 

In fact, we’re only scheduled to be in session for 12 days between now and March 19th, which is Primary Election Day. It happens every election year. The party in charge of setting the schedule certainly doesn’t want to have anything on the docket that gives voters an idea of what’s going to happen to them after the election. For anyone who is tired of the status quo in Springfield, the months leading up to an election is the time when we should be talking about what matters to the people in this state.  But no! We can’t have that because to do so might spark a debate about how to fix things around here, and they certainly can’t have that because in a fair debate, they just might lose. It just shows how little respect the majority party has for the people of Illinois. 

But fear not! Governor Pritzker just issued the following happy news:

“For the third year in a row, Illinois had record-setting growth for adult-use cannabis sales…We’re building the most prosperous and accessible cannabis industry in the nation – taking steps to repair the damage of the past and creating real opportunity for all Illinoisans.”

Damage of the past, indeed. Most of that damage was inflicted by the people who have long been and are now running the show. It seems that more and more people of Illinois are getting high to alleviate the pain his administration and willing toadies in the Legislature have inflicted upon us.

In this week’s newsletter, I’m going to highlight the new bills I’ve introduced for the Spring session and give you an update on the proposed rules for the firearm registration law that we dealt with in JCAR. 

Hot Topic of the Week

DCFS and our Child Welfare System

Pilot Program Proposal for Improving Child Welfare in McHenry County 

I long ago concluded that the solution to the problem of child abuse and neglect must be local. Since these cases ultimately end up in the local court system, I’ve filed H.B. 4349, which establishes a pilot program in the 22nd Judicial Circuit in McHenry County to see if a child welfare agency, unconstrained by the rigid forms and rules of a statewide agency and working within the limited boundaries of a judicial circuit as part of a multidisciplinary team can bring about better outcomes. 

This five-year pilot program, paid for from the DCFS budget, creates a local child welfare agency within the boundaries of the 22nd Judicial Circuit, which is entirely within McHenry County. This local agency would have the authority and duties of the state agency while being more integrated with local authorities and social service agencies. This local agency would also submit reports to the Governor and the General Assembly to show its efficacy. 

It is long past time for the General Assembly to get creative and rock the boat to fix our state’s broken child welfare system. This is just one solution that we should explore locally to improve our system, but statewide solutions should also move forward. Now is the time to get it done, even if it is an election year. 

DCFS Has a New Director 

Marc Smith, who has been Director of DCFS for the past four years, announced in December that he’d be leaving the agency. It’s hard to place full blame upon him for the agency’s failures, since so many who came before him failed as well. But after being held in contempt of court a dozen times, it was time for him to go. 

While I would have liked to have seen the new Director come from a state that takes a more local approach to child welfare, the Governor recently nominated Heidi Mueller, who has most recently served as the Director of the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, as the new Director of DCFS. From what I’ve read of her background and activity as director of IDJJ, she appears to have a commitment to developing community services which will strengthen the ability of local entities to examine and address the root causes driving young people into the justice system. If she carries that commitment to DCFS, I’ll do whatever I can to help her make that commitment a reality. She has a difficult job ahead of her, and I’ll work with anyone at DCFS to make it better. I hope for the sake of the children within the child welfare system that she is able to tell the Governor hard truths about the agency and take a new approach. 

Other Bills I’ve Filed

  • In the last session, a bill was passed and signed into law that attempted to shut down crisis pregnancy centers in Illinois on the basis of being in violation of consumer protection laws. (If you want an example of deceptive consumer practices, you need look no further than Planned Parenthood referring  to its abortion mills as “Women’s Health Centers”.) This bill was immediately challenged in court as being unconstitutional, and in December the Attorney General agreed to be permanently enjoined from enforcing it after a Federal judge ruled the law to be a “classic case of content and viewpoint discrimination”.

     Not wanting to see unenforceable laws clogging up our statute books, I filed H.B. 4490 to repeal Public Act 103-270.

  • After reading an article about a law in Missouri creating a transitional benefits program for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), I filed H.B. 4522.

It’s designed in such a way that a TANF or SNAP beneficiary will not experience an immediate loss of benefits should the beneficiary’s income exceed the maximum allowable income under the TANF or SNAP program. It provides that the transitional benefits offered shall gradually step down the beneficiary’s monthly benefit proportionate to the increase in the beneficiary’s income. 

The best form of welfare is still a good job. My bill is meant to create a pathway to financial freedom and prosperity by emphasizing the importance of a job. State public-assistance programs should be there to provide support in times of need but designed to emphasize the importance of a job in putting recipients on a pathway to self-sufficiency. 

JCAR Objects to Firearm Rules 

Last Tuesday JCAR met in Springfield. The main item on our agenda was the rules proposed by the Illinois State Police implementing the firearm registry and ban legislation that passed the legislature a year ago. The full law went into effect on January 1st even without final rules. The proposed rules that will now go into effect are still vague and some of our questions have been left unanswered. 

I voted to block the rule and to object to the emergency rule. Ultimately JCAR objected to the emergency rules but the permanent rules will go into effect, because even though all 6 Republicans on JCAR voted to prohibit the rules from going into effect, we couldn’t get 2 Democrats to support us, there being a requirement of 8 votes for prohibition. 

You can read more about the meeting here

This law is also being challenged in court and may come before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Local Happenings:

Transportation Services Are Available for Seniors and Disabled

MCRide Dial-a- Ride is a great way to get around McHenry County. Whether you need transportation for work, school, shopping, medical appointments or just to visit a friend, MCRide provides an affordable and flexible way to travel! It is one of the best kept secrets in McHenry County.

As a dial-a-ride program, MCRide service is a coordinated countywide paratransit service, and vehicles do not travel in a fixed route each day. Riders schedule their trips in advance and the vehicle provides curb-to-curb service from the rider’s desired pick-up and drop-off destinations. MCRide is a shared-ride service, so vehicles may make stops for other passengers.

Our office has fare cards available to District 63 residents, and it is our policy to make these cards available only to the disabled and senior citizen population. We can offer 5 cards per constituent per month at no charge. A fare card is good for a single-ride from one point in the MCRide service area to another point in the service area. MCRide fare cards are NOT valid on Metra, CTA, Pace fixed bus routes (e.g., 806, 807, 808, 550) or any other dial-a-ride program.

For more information on this program, including hours, fares and contact information, visit the McHenry County Department of Transportation’s website:

Click Here for MCRide

If you would like to obtain cards from our office, please call us at 815-880-5340.

Finally, I’m going to be holding “Mobile Office Hours” from 10:00 AM until Noon on Friday, January 26th at the Woodstock Public Library. Please feel free to stop by and talk about whatever is on your mind as it relates to state government. 

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