Update from Senator Bennett: January 13

Governor Signs Assault Weapons Ban

In the Lame Duck Session this week, a controversial “assault” weapons ban was passed by both chambers of the General Assembly, with the vote split mostly along party lines. While there were a few concessions made from some of the earlier proposals that had been filed, the new legislation still creates significantly extreme restrictions on gun owners, dealers, and manufacturers. Governor Pritzker, who has long pushed for increasing gun control laws, immediately signed the bill after it passed.

I believe this legislation goes much too far and is more likely to harm otherwise law-abiding gun owners than it is to reduce crime.

2nd Amendment advocates are expected to file lawsuits against the law very soon.

In addition, numerous sheriffs across the state have questioned the constitutionality of the new law and have announced that they will refuse to enforce it, at least until courts are able to rule on the matter.

Abortion Bill Passes in General Assembly, Awaiting Governor’s Signature

On Tuesday both chambers passed a new abortion/transgender bill designed to increase access to abortion and gender reassignment procedures. The legislation is designed to protect people undergoing these procedures and those performing them in Illinois, including those traveling from other states where the procedures may be illegal. Additionally, the bill will also expand on who can perform these procedures and will expedite the licensure process for medical professionals coming from other states. Lastly, the bill will target insurance companies and compel them to provide coverage, if they already provide pregnancy coverage, for certain abortion medications.

According to sponsors, the bill was written and filed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade.

In cases of individuals (traveling to Illinois for abortion procedures) being charged with breaking abortion laws in other states, this new legislation would prevent the Governor from extraditing those being charged.

Opponents of this bill cite multiple concerns with the legislation. One concern is that by allowing non-doctors to perform certain abortion procedures, it will potentially increase danger to those receiving procedures. Another concern is that prioritizing abortion licensure will result in delay in approving other licenses of medical professionals who specialize in another areas, including those who practice in areas such as cancer or cardiology.

Inauguration Ceremonies Herald the 103rd General Assembly

This week saw multiple inaugural ceremonies, as first statewide elected officials were sworn in on Monday. Members of the General Assembly were sworn in at two different, simultaneous ceremonies on Wednesday. The Senate’s ceremony was held inside the Old State Capitol while the House of Representatives travelled to the Performing Arts Center at the University of Illinois at Springfield. In the Senate, Republicans elected a new Senate Republican leader, Senator John Curran (41st District, from Downers Grove).

I was honored to take the oath of office for the first time as the State Senator for the 53rd District. While I enjoyed my time in the Illinois House, I am excited to get to work with my Senate colleagues as we tackle the important issues facing Illinois, and to travel my new district, meeting and getting to know the people I will be representing and learning more about their communities.

One of my last acts as a State Representative was to pass a resolution honoring the life and service of my nephew, State Senator Scott Bennett. You can see video of my floor speech on the resolution at: https://fb.watch/i1jJgr6gtg/.

How much do we owe?

As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $1,400,719,085 in unpaid bills to state vendors. One year ago, the backlog stood at $3.8 billion. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be more than $139 billion.

Did You Know?

On January 11th, 2023, the Illinois Senate held its inauguration for the 103rd General Assembly. The ceremony was held in the historic Hall of Representatives of the Old State Capitol in Springfield. This is the same room where Abraham Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech in 1858. On May 3rd and 4th, 1865, Lincoln’s body lay in state in the hall as a crowd estimated at 75,000 filed through the chamber to pay their last respects.

After construction of the current Capitol, the Old State Capitol was sold to Sangamon County where it served as the courthouse until 1966. During its time a as courthouse, the county raised the entire structure and added an additional floor underneath it. Beginning in 1966, the state once again took ownership of the building, and completely disassembled it, before reassembling it, brick by brick, to match the layout of the building in 1860.

Tom Bennett

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