Senate Week in Review: April 12-16

SPRINGFIELD – Facing the final seven-week push of the spring legislative session, and looming deadlines for the thousands of bills filed this year, the Senate has decided to utilize a bill procedure that State Sen. Brian Stewart (R-Freeport) says hasn’t been used in more than a decade.

In other action, Senate Republicans continued to oppose a redistricting process with politician-led map-drawing and the use of population estimates rather than certified United States Census data.

On April 13, Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health temporarily suspended the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, after an extremely rare blood clot issue was reported for a small number of women who received the shot.

Senators utilize ‘agreed bill’ list

This year, just short of 2,900 Senate Bills were filed by Illinois’ 59 Senators. In an effort to meet statutory deadlines for bill consideration, the Senate has decided to utilize a voting maneuver that has not been used for approximately 15 years— an “agreed bill” list. This procedural move will allow the Senate body to approve several bills under one sweeping vote.

Stewart says the agreed bill list, which was drafted together by Senate Democrats and Republicans, includes legislation that is determined to be without controversy or opposition. Still, a mechanism is in place for Senators to be recorded as a “no,” “present,” or “not voting.”

Gov. Pritzker urged to testify at redistricting meeting

Earlier this week, two Republican leaders on redistricting efforts sent a letter to Gov. Pritzker, asking that he or a high-level member of his administration testify at a joint Redistricting Committee meeting scheduled for April 19. State Sen. Jason Barickman and State Rep. Tim Butler specifically want to know if Gov. Pritzker plans to keep a campaign promise regarding the drawing of legislative maps.

When he was a candidate for Governor in 2018, JB Pritzker pledged to veto any legislative map that was in any way drawn by politicians. When a Springfield reporter asked: “Will you pledge as governor to veto any state legislative redistricting map proposal that is in any way drafted or created by legislators, political party leaders and/or their staffs or allies?”, Pritzker replied, “Yes, I will pledge to veto. We should amend the constitution to create an independent commission to draw legislative maps, but in the meantime, I would urge Democrats and Republicans to agree to an independent commission to handle creating a new legislative map.”

As redistricting committees and public hearings continue for the new legislative map, Stewart is advocating for Senate Bill 1325, which would place the map-drawing responsibilities in the hands of an independent commission.

The public is encouraged to sign Stewart’s petition in favor of an independent commission, in lieu of a politician-led process. The petition can be found at http://senatorstewart.com/News/852/Sign-my-petition-for-fair-maps/news-detail/

Johnson & Johnson vaccine use temporarily suspended

In response to guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), use of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose COVID-19 vaccine was temporarily halted on April 13, after reports that six women who received the vaccine developed a blood clot issue. According to the CDC, the rare clot issue occurred 6-13 days after vaccination in six women ranging in age from 18-48. On April 15, it was announced that a seventh woman has displayed blood clot symptoms after receiving the shot.

More than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the United States, and the April 13 suspension was announced just one day after Illinois officially expanded vaccine eligibility to all people ages 16 and older.

Preposterous Proposals at the Capitol

Included in the nearly 7,000 Senate and House bills that were filed this year are some measures that are strange, out of touch with reality, or just plain bad. These measures are being highlighted on the Senate Republicans’ list of “Preposterous Proposals.”

At a time when legislators should be focusing on critical issues like ethics and pension reform, and ensuring a balanced budget for the next fiscal year, lawmakers will also consider these two gems:

  • Senate Bill 2115: Expands early release by increasing sentencing credits to allow violent offenders to serve less time in prison.
  • Senate Bill 649: Applies Illinois’ $15 minimum wage law to prisoners.