Week in Review: Budget, Juneteenth, jobs & more


Democrats change House Rules to clean up their budget mess. On Memorial Day, in the middle of the night, Illinois House Democrats voted for a new State budget that included $650 million in tax increases, legislator pay raises and a billion dollars in pork projects for Democrats’ legislative districts.

House Republicans have long argued that one of the root causes of Illinois’ fiscal chaos is the lack of transparency in the budgeting process. Budgets should be thoroughly vetted through both chambers of the General Assembly with a mandatory period for public comment. What absolutely should not happen is what we saw at the end of May, when the final amendment to a more than 3,000 page budget bill was filed just minutes before the House vote. 
This budget was passed after midnight when Democrats hoped the world wasn’t watching, so they could ram through a $42 billion budget that include pay raises for legislators, new spending and hundreds of millions in new taxes on Illinois businesses.

The budget was so big, and so dense, that not even the people who drafted it knew what was in it before we were all asked to take a vote.

Only weeks later was it discovered that because of catastrophic drafting errors and the Democrats’ propensity to push this kind of stuff through in the dead of night – nearly half of the budget couldn’t be spent until June 1 of NEXT year.

In any other industry, a person who made a mistake of this magnitude would be fired, but in the Illinois General Assembly, Democrats just unilaterally change the rules to make it all ok.

This was a bad budget the first time we voted on it, and the fact that we had to come back in June to vote on it again is a huge embarrassment to the General Assembly and to the people we represent.

The Illinois House returned to Springfield Wednesday to debate Governor Pritzker’s amendatory veto of Senate Bill 2800.

At a Capitol news conference this week, Deputy Republican Leader Tom Demmer exposed the flaws in the FY22 state budget enacted by Democrats on a party line vote and Governor Pritzker’s failure to correct the problems using his amendatory veto power, other than to make technical changes to the effective date of various provisions. Demmer stated that Pritzker chose his own party over the people of Illinois.

“Not surprisingly, when the Democrats were focused on their pork projects and making sure they got raises, they didn’t make the budget effective until June of 2022, instead of July of 2021,” said Assistant Republican Leader C.D. Davidsmeyer.

“Democrats couldn’t even get enough of their members to show up in person to pass their budget fix, so they changed the House Rules to allow for remote voting in order to clean up their self-inflicted mess.”

Democrats needed every single vote they could get for their budget fix, because after May 31, legislation with an immediate effective date requires 71 votes to pass. Drafting errors are common in legislation, but nearly 50% of the State’s budget was drafted in error. Davidsmeyer stated that these errors could have been caught earlier if legislators and the public had more time to review the budget.

“The process was rushed because Democrat leaders wanted to pass pork projects and tax increases before anyone could read the 3,000 page bill,” Davidsmeyer said. “I have introduce House Bill 2441, the Taxpayers’ Fiscal Charter, which will require every budget to be posted online for 72 hours prior to any budget vote. My legislation will require transparency in the Illinois budgeting process, allowing not only legislators, but also every concerned citizen time to review it and share their concerns. Illinois Democrats continue to use the word ‘transparency’, while doing the exact opposite.”

During the House debate on the Governor’s amendatory veto of the budget, State Rep. Mike Marron ripped into the sham budget process used by the Democrats, drawing applause from his Republican colleagues. In the end, the House accepted the amendatory veto changes on a partisan vote of 71-44-1.

Environmental activists call for carbon power shutdown. Since the 1800s, the burning of carbon to make heat, boil water, and turn steam turbines has been a backbone of Illinois’ energy landscape. The state’s unique identity as the home of fertile soil and, below the surface, thick seams of heat-rich fuel helped make Illinois one of the ten largest states in terms of population. Until a few decades ago, Illinois also had one of the top-10 household incomes per capita.

Today, large quantities of Illinois electricity are generated from turbines. These electrical supplies are especially important in times of high demand, such as summer daytime hours, and in periods when no wind power is being generated. However, environmental activists are now demanding that all carbon-based, turbine-generated electricity within Illinois be placed on paths to shutdown. Different proposals call for different paths on different schedules, and advocates have not yet agreed on final language. After talks broke down this week in Springfield, it became clear that further negotiations would be necessary.

Facing the potential of being left out of any final bill are thousands of Illinois residents who mine and transport coal, or who work in carbon-based electrical generating plants. Two major coal-fired generating complexes, in Marissa, southwest of Belleville and in Springfield, burn coal at the Prairie State and CWLP generating complexes. All of the energy proposals now on the table would take steps to shut down the modern machinery of these two recently built complexes, with consequent impact upon jobs and the Illinois power grid. Older coal plants will also have to shut down.

Elected Chicago school board legislation advances. During Wednesday’s one-day session, the Illinois House debated and passed legislation that will fundamentally change the governance structure for Chicago Public Schools.

House Bill 2908 mandates a fully elected 21-member Chicago School Board, breaking with the current model that has governed CPS since the 1990’s.

After a month’s long impasse on this, the House was brought back to Springfield to give into the demands of special interests intent on taking over the Chicago School Board. This bill has been a power play to reward special interests since it was first introduced. It takes local control to an extreme that won’t truly benefit students or the trajectory of education in Chicago.

Education advocates who have spent years advocating for better public schools are opposed to this special interest takeover because they know we need to put kids before politics.

We’ve seen this play out far too many times: special interests have forced school closures through strikes countless times over the years and now they want autonomy to make those decisions which will only hurt kids even more.

If we reward special interests, it won’t help the situation at CPS, but will make matters worse: when schools are closed, students are the ones who pay the price.

There are no campaign finance protections included in this legislation. Consequently, the Chicago Teachers Union could very well elect 21 members aligned with their interest and not the interest of the students.

HB 2908 isn’t about the kids, academic growth, or even greater accountability. The students deserve better, and the significant changes this bill makes to how CPS is managed and run isn’t an improvement.

Illinois to hold “All In For The Win” vaccine sweepstakes. Getting vaccinated protects you from catching or spreading COVID-19 — and it’s our best shot at beating this pandemic and getting back to living our full lives. And now, getting the vaccine gives you a shot at winning up to $1 million. As an Illinois resident, if you’ve been vaccinated or are about to get vaccinated, you’re automatically entered in for a chance at part of our $10 million vaccine sweepstakes. Let’s go all in for the win.

Here's what you need to know:
  • $10 million is up for grabs in the All In For The Win vaccine sweepstakes.
  • All eligible Illinois residents will be automatically entered into two exciting programs:
  • Vaccinated adults are entered into a $7 million cash prize pool. Three $1 million jackpots and 40 $100k cash prizes are up for grabs.
  • Vaccinated youth are entered into a $3 million scholarship pool. Twenty $150k scholarship awards are being offered.
  • Getting vaccinated before July 1st gets you entry into every draw and the most chances to win a prize, including the first million-dollar top prize on July 8th. We’ll continue to check our records before each drawing.
The first drawing takes place on Thursday, July 8th and will continue through the end of August.

Major fire at industrial plant in Rockton, Illinois. The Chemtool plant is located near the junction of Illinois Highway 2 and Illinois Highway 75, in the northern Rockford area about two miles south of the Wisconsin boundary line. A massive fire at the plant on Monday, June 14, led to evacuation orders being posted for much of the Rockton area. Gov. Pritzker deployed the Illinois National Guard to assist with disaster recovery. Chemtool manufactures specialty lubricants and cleaning fluids used in production machinery and machine tools throughout North America. A statement from Chemtool indicated that although the fire produced a major emission of black smoke, the materials burned in the fire pose no health risk to residents of northern Illinois or southern Wisconsin.

Major changes to FOID/CCL system passed by Illinois House. In Illinois, persons who wish to legally own and possess a firearm are required to apply for, and receive, a Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) card from the Illinois State Police. An applicant for an FOID card has to fill out a form and pay a small fee. After a background check is completed on the applicant’s record, the applicant receives a State Police-issued FOID card in the mail. The FOID cardholder must be in possession of the card to carry or store a firearm on his or her property, and the card must be renewed every 10 years. Recently, there have been sharp increases in both the number of people seeking to register as gun owners, and the time required to carry out a record check on an applicant. This has led to long delays in the issuance of FOID cards. These delays are especially onerous for persons who are looking to renew their FOID cards.

It is important to note that most states do not impose a FOID card requirement on their residents. Our neighboring states, including Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin, do not require a person to carry around a card whenever they are carrying a firearm on their property. Some states, led by Texas, have abolished gun registration requirements altogether for some firearms. Illinois gun owners are a politically aware group who know what laws are in various U.S. states. There is currently litigation underway to try to strike down the Illinois FOID card law as an unconstitutional violation of the federal Second Amendment.

Aware of these card issuance delays, concerns about the FOID card system, and litigation, supporters of the FOID card pushed this week for new legislation to change the system. The new FOID application system will encourage, but not require, applicants to voluntarily submit fingerprints with their application. Many lawmakers believe that both the current and the proposed new application procedures are unnecessarily onerous to prospective and current firearms owners, and opposed the FOID card bill on that basis. Many believe the new FOID card law will be just as unconstitutional as the old one. The new FOID/CCL legislation was contained in HB 562, which was approved by the House on Wednesday, June 16.

Statewide unemployment rate unchanged, payroll jobs down in May. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced Thursday that the unemployment rate remained at 7.1 percent, while nonfarm payrolls were down -7,900 in May, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and released by IDES. The April monthly change in payrolls was revised from the preliminary report, up slightly from +300 to +1,600 jobs. The April preliminary unemployment rate was unchanged from the preliminary report, remaining at 7.1 percent.

In May, the three industry sectors with the largest over-the-month gains in employment were: Leisure and Hospitality (+6,300), Manufacturing (+2,000) and Educational and Health Services (+1,900). The industry sectors that reported the largest monthly payroll declines were: Government (-10,000), Construction (-5,600) and Financial Activities (-1,300).

The state’s unemployment rate was +1.3 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate reported for May, which was 5.8 percent, down -0.3 percentage point from the previous month. The Illinois unemployment rate was down -8.3 percentage points from a year ago when it was at 15.4 percent.

New State holiday. “Juneteenth” is a holiday of remembrance, created and named by African-Americans, to mark adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment and the act of ending American slavery in 1865. A nationwide movement has now made Juneteenth a federal and State of Illinois holiday. HB 3922, signed into law this week, provides that Juneteenth National Freedom Day shall be observed on June 19 of each year as a holiday throughout the state. Illinois was the first state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude throughout the nation.