Senator Syverson’s Week in Review: May 1 – 4

This week in the state Capitol, police departments from across the state came to Springfield to remember their fallen comrades, a task force recommended building a new facility to house the 300 veterans at the Quincy Veterans Home, Illinois Senate Republicans pushed a bill to prohibit cost-of-living increases for lawmakers, and the Senate passed legislation that lets motorists register their vehicles for more than a one-year period.

The Senate also approved a bill to allow the use of cannabidiol, an oil that has become popular in helping people manage pain and epileptic seizures, as well as another measur eaimed at protecting the integrity of the non-profit grant process.

Police memorial

Every year, police departments from across Illinois come to Springfield to add the names of fallen comrades to the Capitol complex Police Memorial. This year was an especially solemn event as Rockford Officer Jaimie Cox was honored for his sacrifice.

Cox was killed on November 5th, 2017, during a traffic stop.

Task force report recommends new facility for Quincy veterans

The Combined Veterans’ Capital Needs Task Force, created by Gov. Bruce Rauner to analyze infrastructure needs and develop key strategies on how to improve the health and safety of residents at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy (IVHQ), has submitted a final report to the Governor and General Assembly.

The Governor and his administration have been working to develop long-term solutions to improve the safety and health of veterans at the Quincy Veterans Home.

The Task Force provided four recommendations for continued remediation efforts at the home and notes that “anything less than complete reconstruction will fall short” of its full support.

The report calls for building a new, state-of-the art skilled nursing care facility that could house up to 300 residents at a cost of between $202 million and $245 million. The project requires the approval of the General Assembly. 

The task force is recommending construction of a new, underground water loop that feeds existing buildings and new construction, the development of an alternate water source and improvements to the existing water treatment facility as necessary, and the purchase and renovation of the closed, off-site nursing facility to provide a safe and comfortable temporary living environment for up to 180 residents. The facility could hold up to 90 residents permanently.

The report is available here, on the Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs website.  

Republican Senators push legislation prohibiting pay raise

Senate Republican lawmakers are pushing legislation prohibiting a pay raise for lawmakers, saying that as the General Assembly works toward a balanced budget, legislators need to lead by example.

Under House Bill 5760, lawmakers would not receive their scheduled Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase to their salary set for July 1. They would also not receive any increase in their per diem pay while working legislative session days in Springfield, and their mileage reimbursement rate would remain in check.

Senate Republicans stressed that while it’s a small amount in the big picture, prohibiting a pay raise for lawmakers through a COLA and not allowing per diems and mileage reimbursement rates to increase is the right thing to do, especially considering Illinois’ dire financial situation.

House Bill 5760 passed the House April 18 with an overwhelming majority and is now in the Senate.

The legislation would also prohibit automatic raises to statewide constitutional officers, and State’s attorneys, among others.

Decades ago, a law was passed giving automatic annual cost-of-living raises every year to legislators.

Cannabidiol/industrial hemp bills pass Senate

Cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD oil, would become legal in Illinois, under legislation unanimously passed by the Senate April 25.

The oil is becoming more popular in helping people manage pain and epileptic seizures.

Senate Bill 2772 would legalize and regulate the sale of CBD oil that has a THC content of 0.3% or less.

The measure is now in the House of Representatives for consideration.

The Senate also passed Senate Bill 2298, which allows farmers to grow industrial hemp.

Senate Bill 2298 passed unanimously and is now in the House for consideration. 

Bill allowing multi-year vehicle registration passes Senate

Legislation giving motorists the option to register their vehicles for more than one year at a time, would provide a convenience and save the state money.

Senate Bill 2293, which passed the Senate May 1, would allow motorists, beginning in 2020, to register their vehicles for one or two years. It would also allow owners of trailers to register their trailer up to five years. The price per year would be the same but an individual would be able to pay it up front and not have to change their sticker every year.

Currently, 10 states give individuals the option to register their vehicle for longer than one year.

Senate passes bipartisan legislation to protect taxpayer funds

Legislation aimed at protecting the integrity of the non-profit grant process has passed the Senate.

Senate Bill 2540 makes a multitude of changes to the current grant process. The most significant changes involve new restrictions on fund transfers, including a prohibition on transfers of money from appropriated funds to non-appropriated funds. This restricts Governors from transferring money into other state funds to be used for purposes other than what the Legislature intended, and without legislative oversight.

In addition, the bill creates a mechanism to allow the Comptroller to stop payments in cases where there are serious issues or concerns about a particular grant program or recipient.

The legislation also creates a blackout period before elections during which members of the General Assembly and/or state constitutional officers would not be allowed to make announcements of grants. The goal of this change is stop the elected officials from attempting to create grant programs to help boost their political exposure or benefit their campaign.

Senate Bill 2540 is now headed to the House for consideration in that chamber.

Measure advances requiring lawmakers to pay for health insurance coverage

Beginning next year, state lawmakers would no longer automatically get free healthcare when they retire, under Senate Bill 2292 that was approved unanimously by the Senate.

The legislation requires any member of the General Assembly after January 2019, who retires as a participating member of the General Assembly Retirement System, to be responsible for 50 percent of the applicable premiums, charges, or other fees for the basic program of group health benefits.

Senate Bill 2292 also allows retired lawmakers who served prior to January 2019 to choose to pay 50 percent of their healthcare insurance costs upon retirement.

Dave Syverson

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