Senate Week in Review: March 25-29, 2019

Senate Republicans offered a constitutional amendment during the week to give Illinois residents a stronger voice in proposed tax increases, as lawmakers acted on legislation that will provide cost-savings measures, and resolve issues with out-of-date mandates.

In other news, thousands of 2nd Amendment gun rights advocates came to Springfield for the annual Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day.

Also during the week, the Illinois Department of Public Health urged residents in and around flood zones in Stephenson and Winnebago counties to take precautions as the clean-up begins after historic flooding forced hundreds of people from their homes.

Senate Republican initiative to protect middle-class taxpayers

Members of the Senate Republican Caucus unveiled a proposal on March 26 that could give a stronger voice to Illinois voters regarding new tax proposals and potential increases.

Senate Joint Resolution-Constitutional Amendment 12, which I am cosponsoring, proposes an amendment to Illinois’ Constitution that would require any increased state tax or new tax or fee to be approved by a two-thirds super-majority vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Currently, legislators only need a simple majority to pass a tax increase or to implement a new tax.

A three-fifths majority vote of lawmakers is required to put Senate Joint Resolution-Constitutional Amendment 12 on the ballot in 2020. For the amendment to be adopted, voters must approve it on the ballot with three-fifths of those voting on the question or a majority of those voting in the election.

If placed on the ballot and approved by voters, the amendment would require 40 votes in the Senate and 79 votes in the House to pass any new state tax or any state tax increase.

2nd Amendment supporters march in Springfield

Thousands of people supporting 2nd Amendment gun rights marched in Springfield on March 27 as part of the annual Illinois Gun Owner Lobby Day (IGOLD).

I stand with these citizens as a strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights.

The advocates expressed their opposition to increasingly restrictive gun laws, as well as pending legislation seeking to further tighten regulations, which they say penalize law-abiding gun owners but do not stop criminals from getting guns.

Health and safety tips for residents affected by floods

After historic flooding in Stephenson and Winnebago counties forced hundreds of people from their homes, the State of Illinois is urging residents in and around the flood zones to take precautions as the clean-up begins.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is warning residents in these areas against the potential harm floodwaters and sewer overflows can bring, including bacteria, viruses and other organisms that may cause disease. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and IDPH provide important guidance for residents looking to return home and begin damage assessments.

More information is available on the state’s Ready Illinois Web site at https://www2.illinois.gov/ready/Pages/default.aspx.

Add ‘zipper merge’ method to Rules of the Road

Legislation that makes an effort to keep traffic flowing, prevent backups and promote safety passed the Senate during the week. Senate Bill 2038 would require the Secretary of State’s Office to add information on how to properly merge into one lane of traffic to its Illinois Rules of the Road guide.

Under the legislation, the “zipper merge” method would be required to be taught to drivers. Experts believe this is the proper and most efficient way to merge multiple lanes of traffic, as drivers utilize both lanes until they reach the point that one lane narrows. Drivers then take turns merging with the other lane of traffic, creating a zipper-like effect.

Proponents note that studies show that merging early only creates one single long line and slows traffic because it minimizes the amount of usable road. The “zipper merge” method, on the other hand, uses two lanes of roadway for as long as possible.

Stop exploitation of seniors, citizens with disabilities

Lawmakers are clamping down on those who financially exploit senior citizens and citizens with disabilities.

Senate Bill 69 would provide tougher penalties for those who prey upon our most vulnerable populations, and also make it easier to identify those with a history of this criminal activity.

The legislation expands the venue for the offense of “financial exploitation of an elderly person or a person with a disability,” to make it easier to prosecute perpetrators who live in a different state or facility than the victim. The bill also makes “theft by deception from a person with a disability” a Class 2 felony, which could carry prison time and penalties.

It also prohibits sealing the records of certain offenses where someone was convicted of a financial crime against the elderly, along with eliminating the “consent” defense if the defendant knew the elderly or disabled person lacked the capacity to consent.

Senate Bill 69 was passed by the Senate March 27, and now moves to the House.

Common-sense changes in recordkeeping

The state could soon save schools money by updating outdated regulations for record-keeping and the outlined process for destroying old records.

Under current law, schools are required to keep certain types of records for various periods of time—some for as many as 60 years. After that, they cannot be disposed of or transitioned to electronic format unless the district is able to contact the parent of the student and offer them a chance to first copy the information on record. Current standard practice is to attempt contact parents by mail or publish a notice in the local newspaper.

The proposed updates in Senate Bill 117 would allow the school district to instead, send notice via email with receipt confirmation and also allow the communications to go to the former student. Burdens in the current law often mean school districts are incurring unnecessary costs or forced to house records for much longer than necessary.

Senate Bill 117 was passed by the Senate March 27, and now moves to the House.