Week-in-review: January 28- February 1

Senate lawmakers braved the cold in Springfield this week as they returned for their second week of session starting Jan. 29. The Senate convened again Jan. 30-31, despite the Governor issuing a disaster proclamation due to the onslaught of artic temperatures.

Plus, a program aimed at helping families save for future college costs could be in deep water, and tax season is warming up in Illinois. Filers can head online to access free and easy to follow forms. That and more in this week’s Senate Week in Review.

Joint committee discusses future of College Illinois!

A tax-advantaged college savings plan designed to encourage families to set aside funds for future school costs is up for discussion at the Statehouse. A joint hearing before the state Senate Appropriations II and Higher Education committees was held Jan. 29.

Eric Zarnikow of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISEA) gave a presentation to committee members, outlining the College Illinois! program and sharing what he claims it could need in order to stay afloat. Zarnikow said the unfunded liability by the end of the fiscal year last year was more than $300 million. He believes the state will need to provide $81 million before 2026 in order to meet the moral obligation clause.

Deer hunting season results are in

Illinois hunters harvested a preliminary total of 151,577 deer during all 2018-2019 archery and firearm seasons, which concluded on Jan. 20, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The total preliminary deer harvest for all seasons compares with a total harvest for all seasons of 147,695 deer in 2017-2018.

During the 2018-2019 deer seasons, hunters took 45 percent does and 55 percent males. See the full report and breakdowns at illinois.gov.

2019 Illinois Tax Filing Season Begins

The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) is now accepting 2018 state individual income tax returns. The Revenue Department is reminding taxpayers that filing tax returns electronically and requesting direct deposit into a checking or savings account is still the fastest, most secure way to receive a refund. Direct deposit refunds could be issued around four weeks from the time an error-free electronically-filed return is submitted.  

Taxpayers can file their Forms IL-1040 for free using MyTax Illinois. Individuals may also utilize the site to make payments, check the status of their Illinois Individual Income Tax refunds, and more.

Life-threatening cold bites Illinois

A disaster proclamation was issued this week for the entire state, ahead of the severe winter storm that blanketed Illinois with life-threatening wind chills. The declaration meant a variety of state resources would be made available to communities, if needed. The state opened the State Emergency Operation Center and mobilized personnel and assets to help local governments with disaster response and recovery.

The National Weather Service indicated wind chills could reach -55 in northern Illinois, -35 in central Illinois, and -25 in parts of southern Illinois.

Opioid Alternative Pilot Program Launches

Individuals looking to register for the Opioid Alternative Pilot Program (OAPP) can now do so online through the Illinois Cannabis Tracking System. The OAPP, which is part of the Medical Cannabis Pilot Program (MCPP), was created through the Alternative to Opioids Act of 2018.

The program allows access to medical cannabis for individuals who have or could receive a prescription for opioids as certified by a physician licensed in Illinois. It was designed to provide people with an option to manage their pain. Opioids can be highly addictive in a very short period of time and this program offers qualifying individuals an alternative. Potential participants can register on entellitrak. More information about the OAPP and the MCPP can be found on the Illinois Department of Health website.

Fired up over firearm bills

Some Republican Senators are sharing concerns over recently introduced legislation (House Bill 888) that would force law-abiding citizens to give the state access to their personal social media accounts for merely considering exercising their constitutional right to own a firearm.

Also, just as alarming is Senate Bill 107, which calls for a ban on the sale or the unregistered possession of dozens of semi-automatic firearms, dubbed, “assault weapons.” The Senate bill would also force law-abiding gun owners to pay additional fees and consent to a massive government registry simply for owning these firearms, otherwise risk penalties such as steep fines and hard time.

Numerous types of widely-owned semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns are included in the bill based solely on their appearance rather than how they function. Both pieces of legislation can be viewed at ilga.gov.

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