Legislators return to the Capitol Nov. 12

Senators and Representatives return to the Capitol November 12-14 for the second and final week of the fall Veto Session. Nearly two dozen committee hearings are scheduled for the week on a variety of issues including: red-light cameras, minimum wage, education, public health, taxes and the environment.

Ethics reform continues to be the hottest issue before lawmakers. A number of proposals have been introduced since well-publicized allegations and indictments against several legislators involving corruption began making headlines. Those measures remain on the front burner and could be the top action item.

Among the proposals addressing ethical shortcomings at the Capitol is legislation I am sponsoring. Senate Bill 2297 would authorize the Legislative Inspector General (LIG) to investigate complaints against legislators and issue subpoenas without having to first seek approval from the Legislative Ethics Commission (LEC), a panel of Senate and House members. Taking politicians out of the equation gives the LIG the independence necessary to do his or her job.

This dynamic reform seeks to end the current “fox guarding the henhouse” process when it comes to investigating allegations of wrongdoing. It gives the Legislative Inspector General true watchdog authority.

Tax Amnesty Program deadline is November 15

Individuals with unpaid tax liabilities need to act quickly to take advantage of the state’s Tax Amnesty Program. The deadline is November 15, 2019, to make full payments on outstanding tax debt without penalties.

Taxpayers who did not file their state taxes during the original filing period will be required to file an original return in addition to paying the full tax due. Residents will also have the opportunity to report changes to previously filed returns by submitting an amended return and paying the tax debt in full. This is a one-time amnesty program.

The Tax Amnesty Program covers taxes owed from July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2018. More information about the program can be found at the Illinois Department of Revenue website: https://www2.illinois.gov/rev/research/news/Pages/2019-Illinois-Tax-Amnesty-Program.aspx.

Winter Preparedness

While winter doesn’t officially start in the Northern Hemisphere until December 21, some parts of Illinois have already seen snow and that’s a good reminder to prepare for winter weather. November is Winter Weather Preparedness Month in Illinois and several state agencies are teaming up to provide valuable information and tips to keep warm and stay safe at home or on the road.

To help you prepare for winter the Illinois Emergency Management Agency has developed a winter weather preparedness guide. The 10-page guide is available on the Ready Illinois website at https://www2.illinois.gov/ready.

State Fairgrounds improvements

The state will be spending $3 million on improvements to Illinois’ State Fairgrounds. The two-phase plan will focus on Fairground roadways. Work begins this fall, weather permitting, with about $500,000 in resurfacing that the Illinois Department of Transportation hopes to complete before the Thanksgiving holiday. Phase two will begin next spring with $2.5 million in road improvements planned.

Money for the projects comes from the Capital Construction Program passed by the General Assembly earlier this year. Next year’s State Fair runs August 13-23.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, please visit my website at www.senatorstewart.com and use the form to send me an e-mail.

Brian Stewart

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