Senate Week in Review: Oct. 30 – Nov. 3, 2023

SPRINGFIELD – Senate Republicans are calling for Gov. JB Pritzker to “Think Illinois” and focus on current issues within his own Administration, such as continued mismanagement of several state agencies, instead of focusing on his recent “Think Big America” initiative.

In other news, the Illinois State Police are holding public hearings to discuss controversial and confusing aspects of the state’s recently enacted “assault weapon” ban.

And state lawmakers will return to Springfield Nov. 7 for the last three days of the annual Fall Veto Session.

Encouraging Pritzker to ‘Think Illinois’

At a Nov. 1 press conference, Senate Republican Caucus members highlighted the Pritzker Administration’s continued mismanagement and failures within multiple state agencies, while Gov. Pritzker has been on a national media tour to promote “Think Big America,” a new national political organization he started to support policies in other states.

State Sen. Jil Tracy (R-Quincy) says the Governor should refocus his attention on the job he was elected to do in Illinois. During Pritzker’s time in office, his embattled Administration has had a multitude of agency failures, including:

  • Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA): Recent investigative news reports highlighted several high-profile resignations/terminations at IEMA, along with egregiously high taxpayer-funded salaries, including one assistant who was being paid up to $60,000 PER MONTH.
  • Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR): Long delays in license renewals are negatively impacting many skilled professionals throughout the state including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, social workers, other healthcare workers, and business owners.
  • Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS): Long-running issues of mismanagement and neglect for Illinois’ most vulnerable children continue to plague the agency whose director recently announced his resignation following being found in contempt of court numerous times.
  • Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS): Analyses have shown that costs of the DHS Health Benefits for Immigrant Adults and Seniors program, which provides free healthcare to undocumented adult immigrants, would likely top $1 billion. Gov. Pritzker insisted he could keep the program within a $550 million budget. Despite being given the tools he said he needed to rein in spending, DHS is projecting the cost of this program to exceed its budget by more than 50 percent – to more than $800 million.
  • Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES): A recent audit called for by Senate Republicans showed Pritzker’s IDES made more than $5 billion in improper payments during the pandemic while many Illinoisans were still struggling to the get the benefits they were rightfully owed. Even more concerning, evidence shows the Pritzker Administration intentionally instructed employees to ignore red flags of fraud and other guidelines suggested by the federal government.

Tracy says these are just some of the major problems facing Illinois taxpayers that must be addressed. Senate Republicans will continue to call on Gov. Pritzker to take a break from chasing the national spotlight and take significant action to reform the Illinois agencies that have been flailing under his sole control.

On Nov. 7, the Legislative Audit Commission (LAC) will hold a hearing to review the most recent scathing audit covering IDES and the Administration’s handling of the state’s unemployment system during the pandemic. That audit was the result of a resolution filed by Senate Republicans.

At the LAC hearings, Republicans will be filing a resolution to perform a similar audit covering the staffing issues that have recently come to light at IEMA. They will also be filing legislation in the full Senate calling for a similar audit.

Illinois State Police hold hearings on gun ban rule

Illinois State Police (ISP) officials are holding hearings about a confusing and controversial aspect of the state’s new “assault weapon” ban.

The new law bans the possession of many different makes and models of firearms and firearm attachments, but it allows current owners to keep them if they were purchased before Jan. 23, 2023, and if the owners fill out an endorsement affidavit.

To implement the affidavit requirement, ISP filed an emergency rule to be reviewed by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR).  Lawmakers on JCAR reached an agreement with the agency to conduct hearings on the proposal before implementation.

The first hearing was held in Springfield on Nov. 2, and the second was in Chicago the following day. The final hearing is scheduled in Caseyville on Nov. 6.

Numerous individuals submitted comments and questions at the hearings, with much of the focus on conflicting and confusing language within the law itself regarding what specific models of firearms and accessories are affected. Many of them were not given answers at the hearing by ISP officials but were instead asked to submit their questions in writing and were promised answers at a later point.

Tracy says the confusion over the new rule is another reason that ban shouldn’t have been passed in the first place. As a supporter of the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners, Tracy says she voted against the ban and hopes it will be ruled unconstitutional by federal courts, where several court lawsuits are still pending.

Veto Session continues

With much left on the legislative agenda for the people of Illinois, lawmakers are gearing up for the final stretch of the Veto Session, beginning on Nov. 7.

The first week of Veto Session concluded without substantial action on the vetoed bills. Instead, the Senate chose to address alternative measures, which are now heading to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Senate Republicans are focused on using the last week of Veto Session to continue their efforts to save the Invest in Kids scholarship program, which provides tax credits for donations to scholarships given to low-income families to allow them to send their children to a school of their choice. Additionally, the Senators are pushing for a legislative solution to the Governor’s veto of a bill that would have ended the moratorium on nuclear power plant construction.

Jil Tracy

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