Rep. Wheeler's Weekly Roundup: February 10

State Government – State Employee Pay
·         Bipartisan bill would protect employee pay.  With Illinois continuing to operate without a budget, the paychecks of Illinois state employees are coming under threat.  HB 2803, sponsored by Rep. Avery Bourne and more than two dozen House colleagues, would protect these paychecks while State employees are on the job.  The bill would provide for a continuing appropriation for each State agency to meet personnel expenditures for each payroll period without a conventional budget.   The measure has been referred to the House Rules Committee. 

Criminal Law – Intensive Halfway House
·         New intensive halfway house to prepare Illinois inmates for life after prison.  The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) Life Skills Re-entry Center is located in Kewanee, Illinois in western Illinois.  It represents the adoptive re-use of a former State juvenile detention center.  The Re-entry Center will begin taking in inmates in mid-February.

The new IDOC facility will teach skills to inmates and help them get ready for civil society.  Examples include technology familiarization and employment search.   Many inmates find looking for a job to be especially challenging, but the harsh odds they face if trying to “go straight” is matched by the dismal prospects if they do not make this effort.  Nearly half of inmates who are released from the Department’s custody are convicted of new prison offenses within three years.

Energy – Smart Meters 
·         Smart electric meters quadruple in American Midwest.  The “smart meter” devices are different from traditional electric meters in that they also possess a telecommunications link with the supplier of electric power.  The smart meter is constantly telling the utility how much electricity the customer is using, enabling the supplier to better plan for demand spikes.  The need for redundant generating capacity, especially on hot Midwestern days, is a key element driving the need of Illinois power suppliers for additional generating capacity and higher electric rates.  In addition, the use of smart meters increases the usability of generating capacity that cannot turn “on” and “off,” such as solar power and wind power.

A report published this week in Midwest Energy News indicates significant progress in placing smart electric meters across the interconnected electrical grid that supplies power to customers in the U.S. Midwest.  The number of Midwestern smart meters has increased from 2.2 million in 2010, when this technology was in its infancy, to 10.2 million such meters in use by 2015.  States leading this trend, with more than 1.5 million new smart meters each, were Illinois and Michigan.       

Gambling – Scratch-Off Lottery Tickets
·         House Republican introduces resolution calling for investigation and audit.  Recent investigative reports have revealed that many “scratch-off” tickets for Illinois State Lottery games are pulled from public retail store counters and shredded before the prizes printed on the tickets have been awarded.  In response to these reports, Rep. Christine Winger has sponsored HJR 26, which asks the Office of the Illinois Auditor General to audit the ticket-sale cycle and report to the General Assembly, no later than January 31, 2018, on whether buyers of Illinois game tickets are getting the prizes promised.    

General Assembly – House Bills Filed
·         Deadline this week to file new House bills for 2017 spring session.  As of Friday, February 10, 3,826 House bills had been filed by members of both parties.  After the bill filing deadline, House committees will have six weeks to look at these measures and make determinations on which of them to send to the House floor for full consideration and debate.  In some cases, the bills will be amended in committee; a bill is often changed and improved between when it is filed and when it is approved by both houses and signed into law.  The deadline for House committee action will be March 31.

Transportation – Older Drivers
·         Illinois is first state to impose tougher retesting requirements on older drivers.  Illinois requires drivers over 75 to renew their licenses every four years, and to pass a road test with each renewal.  These intervals are reduced to 2 years when the driver is over age 80, and reduced to 1 year for drivers over age 87.  These requirements are unique to Illinois law.

Because of the importance of mobility to all Illinoisans, especially senior citizens, voices of concern have been raised about whether this law is necessary and appropriate.  Now, the national Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has released a report that indicates that the law is reducing the risk of motor vehicle crashes in Illinois, thereby making our highways safer for all drivers and passengers. 

The report, which is based on comprehensive data from all over the state, will provide data to firms in the motor vehicle insurance industry as they decide whether to maintain or increase their market presence in Illinois and issue policies to Illinois owners of motor vehicles.           

Transportation – Vehicle Registration Notices
·         Illinoisans may soon see advertising in vehicle registration reminders.  Under State law, owners of motor vehicles registered in Illinois must take the initiative to renew their registration every year.  Traditionally, the Office of the Secretary of State has mailed out annual reminders to vehicle owners to remind them to complete the form and mail payments.  The renewal notice program costs approximately $450,000 in annual postage costs.  Due to Illinois’ budget crisis, these reminders were recently suspended over a period of time starting in October 2015.  This suspension created significant concerns among Illinois motorists who missed the reminder notices.

The Secretary of State’s office renewed mailing the reminders in 2016, but to do so they utilized temporary funding that has since expired.  With a renewal of the October 2015 situation on the horizon, the office has offered a new proposal: a pay-for-itself registration renewal reminder program funded by advertisers.  The State of Illinois’ mailing list of 9.6 million renewal notices is a valuable resource that could be monetized to create operating funding for the program.  

Week in Review

·         Get the Week in Review emailed directly to your inbox!  Sign up today to get a first-hand look at the continuing legislative and fiscal challenges facing policymakers in Springfield.

No comments :