Illinois Legislative Session Begins
The Illinois General Assembly kicked off the 2024 regular session on Jan. 15.
Lawmakers spent much of the week in meetings with constituents, other lawmakers, and drafting legislation that they plan to file.
The General Assembly is expected to take up a number of serious issues during the session, including the ongoing immigration crisis and its associated costs. So far, Gov. JB Pritzker has chosen to deal with the crisis through executive action, bypassing the legislature while spending hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars.
Senator Bennett says that Pritzker needs to be more transparent about how much is actually being spent on immigration services, and how much money is being taken away from programs designed to help Illinois citizens.
The regular legislative session resumes at the Capitol on Feb. 6.
Lawmakers Take Up Assault Weapon Ban Rules
On the same day that lawmakers returned to Springfield, the bipartisan and bicameral Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) met to discuss new permanent rules for the state’s “assault weapons” ban (AWB) proposed by the Illinois State Police (ISP).
Currently, the State is operating under emergency rules that ISP promulgated last year. These new permanent rules will replace those emergency rules and contain changes, additions, and clarifications that ISP has worked on since the emergency rules were first published.
Numerous concerns have been raised about the potential for confusion caused by both the emergency and permanent rules. Critics have said the rules are too vague and could leave gun owners struggling to understand exactly which firearms, parts, and attachments are illegal or need to be registered.
Republican members of JCAR filed a motion to prohibit the new permanent rules from being put into place, citing many of the same concerns, but the motion failed on a party-line vote. However, the Republican JCAR members were successful in filing a motion to object to the rules on the same grounds. ISP must respond in writing to the Committee’s objection before it can file the regulations with the Secretary of State’s Office to be adopted.
Recently, the Pritzker Administration announced plans to make significant cuts to funding for programs that help the developmentally disabled community. The specific cuts would amount to 2.5 million less hours that Direct Support Professionals (DSP) could provide services in group homes, where approximately 10,000 adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) reside. The reduction would total around $87.7 million dollars, affecting 90% of all group home residents.
In response, every member of the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus signed a letter calling on the Governor to rescind these cuts to one of the state’s most vulnerable populations. They also noted that these cuts come at the same time that spending for immigrant services has skyrocketed into the billions. Senator Bennett says that Gov. Pritzker needs to immediately rescind this proposal that would be devastating to people who are already some of the most underserved. He says that the Governor has already shorted the I/DD community half a billion dollars over the last five years by not implementing recommendations from a report by the independent Guidehouse Company.
IDNR Seeking Summer Instructors for 2024 Urban Fishing Program Clinics
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is accepting applications now for instructors for 2024 summer fishing clinics through the department’s Urban Fishing Program. The Illinois Urban Fishing Program was established in 1985 to teach people of all ages to fish, to provide better local fishing opportunities, and to offer participants an understanding of and a greater appreciation for natural resources. Fishing instructors are the department’s boots on the ground at free clinics hosted in communities throughout Illinois. These temporary positions are not to exceed six months, making them perfect for teachers, retirees, students, and others eager to help people learn about fishing skills and ecology. The deadline to apply is approaching quickly. To learn more about the positions, qualifications, and how to apply, visit https://bit.ly/IDNRjobs. Look for positions titled “conservation education representative.”
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $1,312,332,335.27 to state vendors, including 14,158 pending vouchers. 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. At the same time last year, the state’s accounts payable stood at a little less than $2 billion.
Did you know?
Illinois Cannabis Sales Set Record
Illinois set another record for recreational cannabis sales in 2023, with more than $1.63 billion in sales. While sales to out-of-state residents showed a significant drop as additional states joined Illinois in legalizing the adult use of cannabis, sales to Illinois residents increased by 14%. Overall, Illinois saw a 7% increase in retail cannabis sales, resulting in $417.6 million in cannabis sales tax revenue.
Recreational cannabis sales have increased each year in Illinois since legalization in 2020. However, Illinois has some of the highest cannabis prices in the country, along with some of the highest taxes, driving some customers out of state. Marijuana sold in Illinois, the third largest market for legal cannabis in America, ranks as the most expensive. Under the law, Illinois residents can have 30 grams of cannabis flower, five grams of cannabis concentrate, and no more than 500 milligrams of THC contained in a cannabis-infused product. Residents in the medical cannabis pilot program may have more than 30 grams of flower, but only if it is grown and secured in their residences under certain conditions.
This Week in the 53rd District
State Senator Tom Bennett – Working full-time to represent you