Rep. Wheeler's Weekly Roundup: January 12

Budget – Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter
·        House Republican lawmaker files bill to create Illinois Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter.  If enacted into law the new bill, filed by Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer, will impose controls on the currently out-of-control Illinois budget process.  It will freeze all discretionary, taxpayer-paid State of Illinois spending until the State gets its payment cycle to vendors below 30 days.  The bill bans enactment of new State programs until a full pension payment, based on actuarial requirements, is made.  It will move the State of Illinois towards Pay as you Go budgeting, prohibit the imposition of unfunded mandates, and create a sunshine procedure for future State budgets. 

Rep. Davidsmeyer calls for all legislators who file legislation that creates new spending to file, as part of their bill to create the new program, legal language to raise taxes or cut spending to pay for the new program.  The lawmaker represents a west-central Illinois district centering on Jacksonville.  The Taxpayer’s Fiscal Charter bill was filed on Tuesday, January 9, as HB 4229.

Census – Exodus from Illinois
·        Illinois loses 88,000 people during economic recovery.   The U.S. Census’s ongoing study of American population growth and movement patterns indicates that Illinois’ population is shrinking in size.  The Land of Lincoln has about 88,000 fewer people than in 2013.  Should these trends continue, Illinois will be on track to relinquish at least one and possibly two congressional districts after the 2020 census.  Illinois currently has 18 U.S. representatives, down from 26 as recently as 1953. 

Illinois’ shrinking population is attributed to high taxes, disproportionate non-tax burdens on employment such as workers’ compensation and the cost of medical care, and an increasingly aggressive eagerness by states to develop a pro-business climate.  A study in 2016 by the nonpartisan Paul Simon Institute found that nearly half of the Illinoisans surveyed expressed a desire to leave Illinois.  For many other states, including neighboring states such as Iowa and Wisconsin, this percentage is below 10%.

Crime – Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act
·        New law, now in effect, increases penalties for repeat gun offenders.  The Safe Neighborhoods Reform Act went into effect January 1.  Enacted with support from law enforcement and prosecution professionals, the new law doubles the sentencing guidelines for offenders found guilty, for a second time, of illegal possession of a firearm.  House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, the lead House sponsor of SB 1722, hailed the new law upon its effective date.  Although the bill was signed into law by Gov. Rauner in June 2017, the effective date of the new measure was set for January 1 to give prosecution teams a chance to familiarize themselves with the new law.

In addition to the unlawful use of a weapon language, SB 1722 also expands the use by first-time firearm offenders of the First Time Weapon Offender Program.  Leader Durkin and the General Assembly are fighting to increase penalties for serious gun offenders, many of them gang members, while at the same time providing a second chance to first-time gun offenders who undergo a serious program of rehabilitation and behavioral change.  Under SB 1722, the Director of the Illinois State Police is authorized to create a multi-jurisdictional Violent Crime Intelligence Task Force to further study violent and gang-related crime and make additional recommendations for legislative action.      

Drugs – Opioid task force
·        Task force visits Carbondale treatment center.  The Governor’s Opioid Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force visited the Gateway Foundation in Carbondale this week.  The residential-care drug treatment center is challenged by the significant influx of opiate drugs into southern Illinois.  Chairing the task force visit, Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti talked with professionals, caregivers, and residents of the facility on Tuesday, January 9.  

Illinois has taken steps to face the growing threat of opiate drugs and drug overdoses.  The General Assembly enacted House Bill 1 in 2015, a bipartisan measure to increase the availability of emergency and long-term pathways to help.  HB 1 became law, and has since been backed up by subsequent bills also aimed against the opiate epidemic.  This law and subsequent bills have sharply increased the supply of naloxone (Narcan) and other opiate-agonist drugs in the hands of pharmacists and first-responders in medical emergency settings.  When administered to an overdosed patient, Narcan can reverse the effects of an overdose, including a lethal overdose, and sometimes save a patient’s life.  However, since 2013 keepers of statewide actuary statistics have charted a sharp increase in the number of opiate-related deaths throughout Illinois.  Sanguinetti and the Task Force are seeking advice and testimony on how to further increase the timely availability of Narcan to first responders and caregivers.

Heroin is no longer the only deadly opiate drug.  Between 2013 and 2016 the number of Illinois drug overdose deaths increased by 50%, heroin deaths increased by 100%, and the number of opioid overdose deaths that include opiates other than heroin has increased by 300%.  Gateway professionals and officers of law enforcement point to non-heroin opiates such as fentanyl.  Most advocates believe further action is necessary to increase the availability of effective drug treatments for patients.

Veterans – Gov. Rauner
·        Governor spends extended time at Illinois Veterans Home.  The Illinois Veterans Home (IVH), built after the Civil War in Quincy, has been an Illinois-based home for U.S. veterans with health challenges for more than a century.  With changing medical conditions and trends in senior health, the IVH has come to specialize in the care and residence of veterans with two or more severe and chronic health conditions.  Concerns about the health of IVH residents have led the Governor, joined by his wife Diana, to himself take up residence at the facility and spend seven days of time there ending this week.

As a result of his inspection and stay at the facility, Gov. Rauner pledged that the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA), the operator of the facility, will upgrade the plumbing systems of the Veterans Home with the latest materials and technologies.  The upgrades will include the phased installation of point-of-use faucet filters, and immediate planning aimed at finding a new water source for the water used by the facility’s residents and caregivers.  Gov. Rauner pledged that he did not support closing the facility, and that he looked forward to working on a bipartisan basis to make investments in necessary upgrades.

Bicentennial in Illinois
·        List of Illinois’ sports heroes narrowed down to top 10.  Illinois news outlets this week marked the Bicentennial Year by celebrating a “Top 10” list of Illinois’ greatest athletes.  Figures on the list, compiled by the Chicago Sun-Times’s Mark Potash, were persons who had not only dominated their sports at the time of their plays and meets, but had expanded these games to make room for additional players in future generations. 

After leaving the University of Illinois football team, Wheaton’s Red Grange signed with George Halas’s Chicago Bears.  This gave East Coast residents the chance to see the star player.  Pro football games began to draw paying fans, putting the NFL on its way to becoming America’s most-watched sports league.  East St. Louis’s Jackie Joyner-Kersee entered track and field in a time when the Summer Olympics included fewer events for women than for men.  By dominating on the track, she helped push for gender equality in international sporting events.  These were only two of the ten immortal figures on the list.

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