Springfield, IL. – Legislators spent much of their time in committees this week as a series of “subject matter only” hearings were held on elements of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget proposal. Gov. Rauner has consistently advocated for a multi-pronged approach to getting Illinois to a balanced budget, stressing that a combination of budget cuts and reforms to fix Illinois’ broken system would have to be in place before even considering asking taxpayers to pay more. Senate Republicans remain committed to working toward a truly balanced, sustainable budget, and encouraged Senate leaders to keep working on a compromise plan.
The state’s bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability released new economic numbers showing the economy had slowed more in the last quarter of 2016 than originally expected. These lower economic numbers deepen the projected budget hole, further adding to the difficulty in working out a final budget solution.
Also during the week, the Senate Criminal Law Committee heard testimony on a controversial criminal justice reform proposal that combines elements of the City of Chicago’s “mandatory minimum” firearms sentencing bill with drug penalty reductions.
Illinois got some good news on March 8, when the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition (ISTC) reported an increase in entrepreneurial activity at Illinois’ universities. Over the past five academic years, students and faculty at the state’s universities have created more than 800 startup companies.
State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) is also reminding residents to set their clocks an hour ahead at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, as daylight saving time begins March 12.
Several Illinois communities continue to clean up damage left behind after strong storms and tornadoes came through last week. Several local organizations, including the Starved Rock Country Community Foundation and the Southern Illinois Community Foundation, have stepped up to aid in these efforts.
Senate Criminal Law Committee hears controversial legislation
On March 9, the Senate Criminal Law Committee heard testimony on Senate Bill 1722. A key component of this measure is a request by Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson that would impose stiffer sentences for felons convicted of gun crimes, which Supt. Johnson believes would hold repeat gun offenders accountable
Senate Republican committee members, recognizing the importance of this request, raised concerns about other provisions tacked onto the legislation, such as a provision that would ease penalties for some drug-related crimes including possession of 100 grams or more of cocaine, heroin, or fentanyl. This concern was shared by Supt. Johnson who told the Chicago Sun-Times that “…the drug trade is what drives gang violence in Chicago and lessening the consequences for high level narcotic dealing and possession makes me very uncomfortable.”
Due to these concerns, Senate Republicans voted against the bill in hopes a clean bill will be presented to address these important concerns.
In addition, another piece of controversial legislation was introduced that would lessen the penalty for retail theft by raising the limit from $300 to $2000 before a theft could be considered a felony.
Senate committees approve legislation
Senate committees approved nearly 60 pieces of legislation during the week on topics ranging from insurance and education, to pensions and criminal law. The deadline to pass substantive Senate bills out of committee is March 17.
Read more about the legislation that cleared committee this week at the Senate Action Page.
Illinois innovation index reveals good news
Illinois has experienced record growth in entrepreneurial activity at its universities according to the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition (ISTC), which released its Illinois Innovation Index on March 8. The Illinois Innovation Index reports on key metrics of the state’s innovation economy.
The ISTC attributes the increased startup activity to efforts at Illinois’ universities to provide students and faculty with resources like classes, programming, competitions, and mentorship, which facilitate entrepreneurship. According to the index, students and faculty at Illinois universities have created 804 startups through technology licensing, entrepreneurship programs, competitions and other university initiatives during the past five academic years.
Remember to ‘spring forward’ for daylight savings this weekend
It is once again time to “spring forward” as daylight saving time begins at 2 a.m. on March 12. Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead by one hour before you go to bed on Saturday. The jump forward in time delays sunrise and sunset by one hour, which marks the transition from dark winter nights to the start of light spring and summer evenings.
While many smartphones, tablets, computers and digital devices update automatically, you may want to double-check that the change has been completed successfully or set up a back-up alarm just in case.
Illinois communities continue to recover from tornado damage
It has been just over a week since a line of strong storms and tornadoes caused damage to several Illinois communities. As the residents of these cities continue to recover, there are several ways to offer support and aid in relief efforts.
The Starved Rock Country Community Foundation continues to accept cash donations that will assist with disaster relief in LaSalle County. For more information visit their website at http://srccf.org/donate/disaster-relief-fund/ or call 815-252-2906.
The Southern Illinois Community Foundation is also collecting donations through its regional disaster fund to assist with clean-up in the communities of Ava, Vergennes, Elkville, and Dowell. Visit http://www.sicf.org/ for more information on how to donate.