Be Safe on the Roads During Cold Weather Months
Cold, winter weather has arrived, and the snow and wind that is common this time of year often makes travel difficult and dangerous. Please be safe in your Christmastime travels. You can use this link to access alerts about current road conditions that could make travel challenging.
What to Expect in 2021
I am in the process of finalizing my 2021 legislative agenda, and once the 102nd General Assembly is sworn in on January 13, I’ll be filing a comprehensive set of bills that address both local and statewide issues. Measures that protect taxpayers, ensure election integrity, and limit the Governor’s authority during a health crisis will highlight my 2021 filings. I will also be filing bills that promote economic growth, fiscal responsibility, government transparency, and state agency accountability. I will round out my 2021 legislative agenda with a measure that ensures developmentally disabled and autistic young adults receive appropriate and necessary skills training, even during a health pandemic.
My hope is that the General Assembly will be meeting in person in 2021, but if the majority party refuses to allow face-to-face session days due to COVID-19, we must devise a plan for conducting state business remotely and virtually. We must have the ability to provide checks and balances to the Governor’s ongoing executive orders and emergency rules. Ensuring the involvement of the legislative branch in future pandemic decisions is my top priority as we frame the new session year.
Are Mike Madigan’s Days as Speaker Numbered?
For 2021, the question of whether Mike Madigan will have enough votes to retain his position as Speaker of the House remains unanswered. The 19 House Democrats who came forward at various points during 2020 to announce they will not support Madigan have reaffirmed their belief that it’s time for a new Speaker, and recently sent this letter to their colleagues. With 73 Democrats set to take office in January, if these 19 stand together, Mike Madigan is six votes shy of the 60 votes he needs to remain Speaker.
No one knows how the race for Speaker will end and who will ultimately garner the requisite number of votes required to assume the Speakership. This type of stalemate has occurred a few times in our state’s history, and during those times the body voted as many times as was necessary until one person eventually hit the 60 vote threshold. According to state law, the Secretary of State presides over the House of Representatives until a Speaker of the House is elected, but the body cannot conduct any official business until the Speaker’s seat is filled. It could be a long start to the 102nd GA!
New Minimum Wage Rates Set to Take Effect on New Year’s Day
In accordance with legislation signed into law by JB Pritzker in 2019, the minimum wage in Illinois will increase to $11 an hour on January 1, 2021. This latest increase to $11/hour is part of a multi-year phase-in that will bring the minimum wage to $15/hour in 2025. The youth minimum wage rate will gradually rise to $13 an hour by 2025. I voted against this legislation when it came before the House in 2019.
This increase will further devastate small business owners who are barely holding on due to restrictions put in place by the Governor that severely limit their ability to conduct business. This wage hike also affects tens of thousands of state workers and places tremendous pressures on an already out-of-balance budget.
102nd GA Faces Huge Budgetary Challenge
In May, House and Senate Democrats approved a budget that increased state spending by 6.8%. In the midst of a health pandemic when they knew revenues were falling off a cliff, they irresponsibly approved the largest spending plan in state history. The expenditure side of the ledger outpaced anticipated revenues by $6 billion and relied on costly borrowing, hopes of a federal bailout, and a presumption that the Pritzker-Madigan graduated income tax ballot question would pass. A bailout has not materialized, and as you know, the graduated tax question failed by a large margin. The economic devastation from COVID-19 has also affected revenues.
2021 will be a year of tough decisions. Republicans have been asking for fiscal restraint and budget cuts for years, and it appears that majority party lawmakers will finally have to consider cutting some unnecessary spending. Step one should be a review of 6% in budget cuts that each department was asked to generate a year ago. To date, this list of potential cuts has not been shared with legislators- at least not with Republicans. That list is a good starting point for constructing a balanced, responsible budget that relies on real revenue figures.
When presenting an initial list of $700 million in cuts, Governor Pritzker suggested the state’s budget problems are the fault of Republicans. I couldn’t disagree more. Republicans were not allowed to help negotiate the budget, and our calls that Democrats not rely on phantom money to fund programs were ignored. Not one House Republican voted in favor of the majority party’s irresponsible budget. With regard to the Governor’s claim that Republicans caused the failure of the graduated income tax question, I would point certified election results from throughout the state that showed a clear disparity between votes for Biden and votes in favor of the graduated tax question. In county after county, Biden received a higher number of votes than the tax question. Illinois Democrats own this budget problem. It was of their making. For JB Pritzker to point a finger at Republicans is ridiculous.
Don’t Let Your Holiday go up in Smoke
The State Fire Marshall urges citizens to enjoy the holiday season but to take precautions to avoid fires. Holiday decorations that include live Christmas trees with lights, paper decorations and candles may look pretty but they bring the potential for home fires and loss of life.
Remember, a candle is an open flame, which means that it can easily ignite anything that can burn. These tips are from “Candle with Care” according to the National Fire Preventions Association:
- Never leave a child alone in a room with a burning candle
- Keep matches and lighters up high and out of children’s reach or in a locked cabinet
- Blow out all candles when you go to bed and consider setting an alarm on your phone as a reminder
- Avoid the use of candles in the bedroom and other areas where people may fall asleep
- Keep candles at least 12 inches away from anything that can burn
- Use candle holders that are sturdy, and won’t tip over easily
- Put candle holders on a sturdy, uncluttered surface
- Light candles carefully. Keep your hair and any loose clothing away from the flame
- Don’t burn a candle all the way down — put it out before it gets too close to the holder or container
- Never use a candle around someone who is using an oxygen tank
- Have flashlights and battery-powered lighting ready to use during a power outage
Counting Down to Christmas
The countdown to Christmas is well underway! You can use this NORAD Santa tracker on Christmas Eve if you would like to follow Santa’s trip around the globe.
And finally, as we end 2020 and prepare to usher in 2021, I hope you are able to spend quality time these next few weeks with family, friends and other loved ones. While this has been a difficult year for the State of Illinois on many fronts, we have very much for which we can be truly grateful.
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to serve as your legislative voice during these unprecedented times, and from my family to yours, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a bright and prosperous new year!