Legislative Update: May 5, 2016

Lawmakers returned to Springfield this week for what is traditionally the final month of the spring session—the “second half” of legislative work. In the House, we are spending the majority of our time considering Senate bills that were successful in that chamber earlier in the year. Similarly, House bills that received an affirmative vote on the House floor are now being considered in the Senate.

One of the bills that recently advanced from the House to the Senate is my House Bill 5684, which would create the “Local Government Wage Increase Transparency Act.” It garnered a diverse bipartisan group of cosponsors, and the measure passed 100-3. Across the state, taxpayers are suffering because of the practice of pension spiking, which occurs when longtime public employees with large accrued balances of sick time and vacation time are allowed to cash out those balances outside the usual 90-day look-back period before retirement. We can’t ban those payments but through HB 5684, we can require local municipal boards to hold open meetings, with full disclosure to the public of exactly how a retiring employee’s salary would be affected, before any pension spiking can even be considered. This sort of public notice (and shaming in some cases!) will hopefully put an end this practice, saving municipalities and taxpayers substantial amounts of money.

”Charlie Brown” Moment as Democrats Kill Reform to Remove Political Influence from Legislative Map-Drawing
This morning, Senate Democrats killed a constitutional amendment to remove the legislative map-drawing process from the hands of legislators. The House approved the amendment almost unanimously on Tuesday, in hopes of ending the every-decade practice of drawing legislative maps gerrymandered to protect incumbents and special interests. Today, it became clear that Speaker Mike Madigan only allowed HJRCA 58 to proceed in order to allow his vulnerable House Democrats to cast a fake vote for reform, knowing full well that it would never make it to the ballot for consideration by the voters, who would almost certainly approve such mapping reforms. HJRCA 58 would have put redistricting in the hands of an independent commission appointed together by the Illinois Supreme Court’s chief justice and the most senior justice of the other political party.

When this constitutional amendment was first debated a few weeks ago, I filed a proposal to include congressional remapping to ensure real and total reform of gerrymandering, once and for all. When that request was refused, I had an indication that the “fix was in.” During our debate on the measure on Tuesday, I warned about the people of Illinois being treated like Charlie Brown by Illinois Democrats. Today’s action by the Senate, on the heels of a 105-7 vote in favor of HJRCA 58 in the House, proves the blatant insincerity of the Illinois Democrats on remapping reform. You can listen to my floor comments on the bill by clicking on the image above.

Breen Argues Against Bill that would Require Free Abortion Pills Without a Copay
Just the other day, we had a heated debate over a bill that would enshrine in Illinois state statute a version of the Obamacare HHS “abortion pill mandate,” which has been in the news these past couple years. This Illinois version would actually be an expansion of and worse than the federal mandate. It would require insurance companies to provide roughly 40 different types of abortion pills, sterilizations, and contraceptives, mandating 12 month supplies, with no copay. You would still have to pay a copay for your sick child's amoxicillin or your heart medicine, but under this bill, abortion pills would be totally free. If you'd like to see my floor debate on this topic, you can click on the picture above.

Senate Bills Now Move through House
When Senate Bills are approved and move to the House for consideration, I carefully choose a group of bills that I will champion in our chamber of the General Assembly. This year I signed on as the Chief House Sponsor of seven Senate Bills. They include:

SB 2174: This bill is part of a package of bills that respond to financial abuses that occurred at the College of DuPage. It would require that every voting member of the governing board of a public university complete four hours of professional development training within two years of taking office, and every two years after that. I presented the bill to the House Higher Education Committee on Wednesday afternoon, and it received a unanimous favorable vote.

SB 2279: This initiative seeks to strengthen Free Speech rights of college students by requiring state-sponsored institutions of higher learning to adopt policies protecting the First Amendment rights of student-athletes.

SB 2286: This initiative would expand our current laws as they relate to posting requirements for our state’s human trafficking hotline. SB 2286 requires that notices be posted to ensure that employees of hotels and motels are aware of the hotline and the fact that help is available to get them out of a trafficking situation. On Wednesday morning the House Judiciary-Civil Committee voted unanimously in favor of the bill.

SB 2512: When children are in a situation where temporary guardianship or temporary custody must be arranged, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) is supposed to make a reasonable effort to identify and locate a relative who is able and willing to care for a child who needs placement. Unfortunately, since this process is not codified through the statute, courts often receive incomplete information about extended family members, who would have been available to provide a temporary safe home for a child. Without these family members, such kids may be unnecessarily put in temporary shelters. Through SB 2512, courts will be required to ask parents/guardians all known names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the child’s living adult relatives who could possibly care for the child. I presented the bill on Wednesday morning before the House Human Services Committee, where it received unanimous support.

SB 2524: This bill would amend the Illinois Identification Card Act to remove the current $10 fee for a first state identification card for wards of the state who are between the ages of 16-21. This is a common-sense reform to ensure that kids who are already our state’s responsibility will get proper identification. The bill received the unanimous support of the House Juvenile Justice & System-Involved Youth on Tuesday.

SB 2799: Similar to my HB 5930, SB 2799 would end the practice of requiring paper letters to be requested and sent to employers of certified nurse aides. All of this can be done electronically, saving money for the employer and state, and getting certified nurse aides hired and working faster. (My original identical bill, which was previously passed out of the House unanimously, is now moving in the Senate, so this Senate version may not move in the House.)

SB 3047: This legislation fixes a problem in our Illinois sales tax where some items used in cancer treatments are not being treated like prescription drugs and other medical treatment devices, which are currently taxed at 1%. SB 3047 will ensure that these items, which the FDA recognizes as Class III medical devices, are taxed at a consistent level with those other medical treatments.

Per the House calendar, all Senate Bills must move through the committee process by next Friday, May 13. I’m glad to have four of my seven Senate bills passed out of committee so far, and I’ll let you know if I’m able to get any more through in the next week.