Legislative Update: February 11, 2016

Due to the continued budget stalemate, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has now suspended the mailing of vehicle emissions test notices. While normally an Illinois emissions “pass” is required for renewal, Secretary of State Jesse White has announced that he will temporarily allow license plate renewals for vehicle owners who have not yet taken the IEPA emissions test, citing the unfair burden to Illinois citizens.

That’s a great step, but we still need to fix this process. To that end, yesterday, I refiled my bill to put an end to “late fees” for license plate renewals, unless folks first get notice that their renewal is due. The bill was bottled up in the Rules Committee last year, but I hope that we’ll be able to get the bill moving this year. Please click on the link if you’d like to read my House Bill 5685. The budget impasse is no excuse to charge Illinoisans extra for their license plate renewals.

President Obama Addresses General Assembly
Yesterday, President Obama addressed a joint session of the Illinois House and Senate in an hour-long speech. It was a bipartisan call for civil discourse and compromise, which was welcome: I observed afterward that I could have delivered 90% of the President’s talk. I was particularly pleased to hear the President speak in favor of redistricting reform, or “fair maps.” He criticized today’s process where technology allows the party in power to “precision-draw” districts to protect incumbents and pack the other party’s voters into as few districts as possible. Here’s the thing: that same technology can be used to draw fair, nonpartisan maps.

“Once the next census rolls around and we have the most up-to-date picture of America’s populations, we should change the way our districts are drawn,” he said. “In America, the politicians should not pick their voters. Voters should pick their politicians.” I fully agree with this stance.

My hope is that the President’s call for engagement will bring hesitant lawmakers back to the negotiating table to work on our state’s biggest problems, especially with regard to the approval and enactment of a balanced budget.

Bill to Reform State Procurement Process
Last week, I co-sponsored important legislation that would overhaul Illinois’ procurement practices. It is estimated that the reforms included in HB 4644 could save the State of Illinois up to $514 million per year.

The reform package would provide both the State as well as individual agencies increased flexibility and efficiencies in purchasing and procurement thus increasing the opportunities for savings. This includes the creation of a pool of pre-qualified vendors for supplies and services, as well as allowing State and local governments to enter into purchasing consortiums in hopes of leveraging buying power. In addition, it would carve out procurement code exemptions for an array of instances including service contracts, trade shows and units of higher education.

Looking Forward
Today is the deadline for the filing of bills to be heard during the 2016 legislative session. We’re told this is going to be a tough session, where “nothing will move.” To that end, I have introduced six focused bills intended to draw bipartisan support—including the license plate renewal fee bill I mentioned above—that I’ll tell you about in the coming weeks.