Representative Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) is sponsoring legislation (HB6111) that would provide one-half priced concealed carry permit fees for veterans in Illinois.

According to a statement released by Representative Bourne, the cost for a new license or renewal for Illinois residents is $150 for five years. The discount from the legislation would be applied to the cost of those new licenses and renewal fees.

“This bill is a way to give back to those who have served and sacrificed so much for our freedoms,” Rep. Bourne explains. WAND has the story.

Chicago – Pensions
Illinois Supreme Court strikes down latest attempt to reduce Chicago’s unfunded pension obligations. The decision, announced on Thursday, March 24, struck down a pending Illinois law (P.A. 98-641) aimed at reducing the unfunded pension obligations of the Chicago Municipal and Chicago Laborers Funds, which are separate funds that provide retirement benefits for two classes of employees in Chicago. A recent actuarial analysis showed that the Chicago Municipal and Chicago Laborers’ Funds were projected to become insolvent by 2024 and 2028, respectively. The law, which will not be allowed to go into effect, had been pushed to passage in 2014 by embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to address the severe underfunding of these systems. The measure would have reduced the retirement benefits of current and future Tier I retirees, mostly through reducing the compounded 3% COLA, in addition to requiring current workers to pay more towards their retirement. The Supreme Court’s decision was aimed at the section of this law that reduced benefits, which the court treated as a breach of the constitutionally protected status that vested public-sector pensioners enjoy throughout Illinois. Affected by this decision were pension funds that cover Chicago workers classified as city workers and city laborers.
Governor Bruce Rauner joined Acting Director of Agriculture Raymond Poe and other local elected officials to discuss his support for the Fairgrounds Foundation bill (HB 4990/SB 2903). The bill – that has bipartisan support – creates a foundation that allows private donors to support and maintain the fairgrounds in Springfield and DuQuoin.

“The Illinois and DuQuoin State Fairs are vitally important to our agriculture community and the local economies of both cities,” Governor Rauner said. “By creating a private foundation, companies and citizens will be able to donate directly to the fair to help maintain the grounds without any additional burden on the state.”
Budget – FY16 Budget Deficit, Unpaid Bills
As Illinois’ fiscal condition continues downhill, unpaid bill total nears $9 billion. The Ledger, a spreadsheet summary posted online by Comptroller Leslie Munger, now shows Illinois with almost $7.5 billion in unpaid bills. This includes not only the $3.68 billion in unpaid bills actually forwarded to the Comptroller for payment, but also an estimated $3.80 billion in past-due bills and invoices held at state agencies and not yet forwarded to the Comptroller.
With the Illinois House of Representatives in the midst of a month-long break, a group of Downstate GOP lawmakers want the House to return to session to work on a compromise to end the nine-month long budget impasse.

State Representatives Bill Mitchell, C.D. Davidsmeyer, John Cavaletto, David Reis and Avery Bourne held a press conference in Decatur Wednesday to urge Democrat leaders to call the General Assembly back into session.

“The sad fact is Illinois is broke. Our colleges, students and human services are suffering because of the Chicago politicians’ refusal to compromise on desperately-needed economic and spending reforms. We are nine months into Fiscal Year 2016 without a budget and the House has only been in session nine days this entire year. What are we doing? Speaker Madigan needs to end this month-long break and get back to work,” said Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth). Read more.
Budget – House in Recess; Republicans Protest
House Democrats take month-long vacation while budget impasse continues; Republicans file letter of protest. Illinois has moved well into its ninth month without a budget plan to control state spending. More than $7 billion in unpaid bills have piled up, but the Democrat-controlled Illinois House this week completed the first of what are expected to be four weeks of spring recess. House Republicans have rejected the recess motion made by the majority party and have lodged a demand that the lawmakers stay in Springfield to continue negotiations on a budget compromise.
A group of Central Illinois legislators gathered inside Normal’s Uptown Station Friday to call on House Speaker Michael Madigan to bring the Illinois House back into session.

The chamber isn’t schedule to return to Springfield until April 4.

State Rep. Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) said he’s proposed legislation to fund higher education and MAP grants, but that’s fallen on deaf ears so far.

“We cannot get those bills called if we cannot be in Springfield to do the work of the people,” Brady said.

State Rep. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) said it’s “amazing” they’re not in Springfield right now.

“We should be in Springfield until this is done. Things do not have to be this way,” said Bennett. “We may not get a budget, perhaps, until January of next year.” WJBC has the story.

Officials with the Illinois State Police (ISP) and the American Legion announce plans for the 44th Annual American Legion Youth Police Camp (ALYPC). The camp will again be held at the Illinois State Police Academy in Springfield, Illinois and will run from June 26 through July 1, 2016.

Dozens of aspiring teens from across Illinois will discover career opportunities through training with police and military personnel. The primary purpose of the ALYPC is to establish an interactive and positive relationship between Illinois teens and law enforcement officers. The week-long residency camp is structured to promote educational and learning opportunities for youth ages 14-16 in the areas of law enforcement, military, leadership, cultural diversity, personal development, physical fitness, and social and interpersonal skills. The ALYPC Cadets will be honored at a graduation ceremony on July 1, 2016, and will receive a graduation certificate.
Illinois State Representatives Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) and State Representative Charlie Meier (R-Okawville) today reinforced their willingness to compromise on the issue of Higher Education funding, citing the numerous proposals House Democrats refused to debate prior to breaking for the entire month of March.

According to State Representative Dwight Kay, “There are four proposals to fund higher education and MAP grants, unfortunately the Speaker has not allowed the bills to be voted on in the legislature. This isn’t the time to dig our feet in politically, it’s time for us to come together and reach a compromise on a realistic plan that can fund SIUE, our community colleges, and MAP grants for college students.” Read more on
Stateline lawmakers are being told to stay home from Springfield for the next month and they're not happy about.

Rep. Joe Sosnowski (R) and Rep. John Cabello (R) called for a compromise on the issue of higher education.  They described the democratic majority as playing games with students' lives.  On Wednesday, they echoed the words of Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) on their disappointment that they won't be in session until April 4. Read more on

Illinois House Republicans, furious about the lack of a state budget and seemingly empty session calendar thus far this year, challenged House Democrat leadership today to not adjourn as scheduled for the entire month of March.
“It’s egregious that House Democrats would find it acceptable to take a month off during the heart of legislative session, especially given the challenges we face,” said State Representative Tom Demmer (R, Dixon).  “My motion to stay in session was legitimate, and was made completely in line with the House rules- the Democrats’ own rules.”

Rep. Demmer went on to explain that at the conclusion of session on Thursday, Republicans made a motion to bring the legislature back the following day.  The motion, despite being completely in line with the rules, was ruled out of order with Democrat leadership scurrying quickly from the chamber to prevent debate on the issue.  The video of this exchange can be viewed below.

The photos were taken shortly after the House Democrats cleared out of the chamber despite the requests from Republicans to keep working.

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who determines the session schedule, put in place a four week gap in the month of March for what many assume is political reasons.  The House is not set to be back in session until April 4th.

Do you agree with the House Republicans, given the challenges facing Illinois, that the legislature shouldn’t take a month long break during March? Tell us what you think here.

On the heels of the Senate’s override of the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 2043, House Republicans from across Illinois joined together to reiterate their willingness to compromise and arrive at a responsible solution to fund Illinois’ higher educational community.

“Today’s veto override in the Senate is unfortunate given we’re all here today to reiterate our willingness to compromise on this issue to bring about a reasonable solution,” said State Representative Dan Brady (R-Normal), who serves as the Minority Spokesman on the House Higher Education-Appropriations Committee.  “We can’t continue down the road of calling adversarial votes that don’t benefit students or universities.  It will only further the divide in Springfield.”
A bill sponsored by State Representative Christine Winger (R-Wood Dale) to increase the number of Veterans Courts in Illinois cleared its first hurdle. House Bill 5003 passed out of committee unanimously on Tuesday.

Veterans Courts focus directly on the needs of former and current members of the armed forces. Currently, there are 12 Veteran Court programs in Illinois. All are limited to veterans with non-violent records who are struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues. Veterans who qualify and successfully comply with court orders get the treatment they need and can have charges dismissed. As of 2014, problem-solving courts including Veteran Treatment Courts kept 1,200 offenders out of prison, saving the state of Illinois nearly $20 million. Read more.
State Representative Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) joined a bipartisan effort on Tuesday to reopen the shuttered Hardin County Work Camp in Cave-in-Rock. Bryant, who co-sponsored the bill, spoke on the House floor and voted in support of Representative Brandon Phelps’ HB 4326.

“I am happy to offer my support to Representative Phelps in the effort to reopen the Hardin County Work Camp,” Bryant said. “As a retired veteran of the Department of Corrections, I have seen first-hand the impact that the Hardin County work camp has had in assisting southern Illinois with flood and disaster cleanup efforts, to provide organically grown food to the homeless population in our state, and the effect it has on recidivism and prison overcrowding. I am proud to have joined in a bipartisan manner today with Representative Phelps and my colleagues from southern Illinois on this important issue.” Read more.
Four years ago former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced his plans to close the Warren G. Murray Developmental Center located in Centralia. The Governor scheduled its closure for the Spring of 2013. At that time, Murray Center served as the home to over 275 developmentally disabled residents and employed about 550 people.

The announcement caught many of us by surprise. We were disappointed that someone who has never stepped foot in the State Operated Developmental Center (SODC) would put politics ahead of the livelihoods of our most vulnerable citizens. Since the closure announcement was made in 2012, the Murray Parents Association, Rep. John Cavaletto, Senator John O. Jones, myself and hundreds of friends and family of Murray Center never gave up the fight to keep the state developmental center open. Read more by Rep. Charlie Meier.