|State of the State
Despite the current political climate, Governor Rauner gave an upbeat State of the State to the entire Illinois General Assembly last week. In his third annual State of the State Address, he indicated that he is optimistic about the future of Illinois and used the opportunity to talk about Illinois’ accomplishments, as well as the work that still lies ahead.
The Governor said he recognizes the state’s challenges, but “with great challenges comes great opportunity”. He is optimistic these challenges can be solved by working together to improve the future of Illinois. He discussed the administration’s accomplishments including ethics reform, record education funding, job creation and making government more efficient. The Governor also encouraged the General Assembly to pass legislation allowing voters to weigh-in on fair maps and term limits.
House Rules Adopted
The new House Rules governing the 100th General Assembly were written by the office of Speaker Michael J. Madigan, and were adopted along partisan lines. Each Illinois House district contains more than 100,000 residents, but the new Rules of the House contain a wide variety of provisions intended to enhance the ability of Speaker Madigan to maintain complete control of the House.
Here are some examples of how undemocratic the rules are:
· Gives total control over legislation to the five-member House Rules Committee, “The Ultimate Gatekeeper”, comprised of three Democrats and two Republicans, with the Democrats being appointed by the Speaker on the basis of their complete fealty to him. The Rules Committee decides which legislation is allowed to be considered, and which bills are left to die without even a hearing.
· Current House Rules provide for only One-Hour Advance, Public Notice Prior to House Action on legislation.
· Current House Rules give the Speaker complete control of the daily agenda of the House Calendar.
In contrast to Speaker Madigan’s Rules, House Republicans advocated for common-sense reforms to the House Rules that would open up the legislative process to be more truly inclusive, collaborative and democratic. House Republicans jointly sponsored HR 47, an alternative Rules proposal meant to be bipartisan in its operation, but never received a vote.
AG Madigan Files Motion to Block Employee Pay
At 7:30 PM on Thursday night, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion in St. Clair County Circuit Court to stop state employee pay by the end of February. Despite lacking the appropriation authority due to the lack of a budget, the state has continued to pay employees anyway after a judicial ruling on the matter. If a judge rules that employee pay must stop, it would put undue harm on thousands of state workers and put tremendous pressure on the current bipartisan effort to get a budget done.
New Leadership Illinois
If you know of a female college student interested in pursuing a career in public service, they may be interested in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s NEW Leadership Illinois program. The program provides college leaders opportunities to network with and learn from many of Illinois’ most prominent female leaders. NEW Leadership Illinois is a yearly bi-partisan program that strives to educate and empower the next generation of female leaders.
This expenses paid program includes leadership education, hands-on training in public policy, and networking opportunities with leaders from every level of government. The 2017 program will be held June 5-9 in Chicago. Students from all backgrounds and in all majors are encouraged to apply. Students should attend a college or university in Illinois or should be an Illinois resident, and must have junior or senior standing in June 2017.
Tax Season Almost Here
Illinois free tax preparation for low-income residents for the 2016 tax filing season will be offered by tax assistance centers across Illinois in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS). It is targeted towards families with incomes up to $55,000 and individuals with incomes up to $30,000. The service offices will help Illinois residents fill out and sign their forms in advance of the tax filing deadline of April 18, 2017, but eligible Illinois residents are urged to come in as soon as possible.
People whose incomes make them potentially eligible for this benefit can find the tax assistance centers that offer this free service. They should visit this website and enter their zip code to find a center close to where they live. This service is being targeted towards individuals and households that are potentially eligible for federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs).
Senior and Senior Freeze Exemption renewal applications for Cook County have been mailed out. Under Illinois law, you must reapply annually for both these exemptions in order to continue to receive the deductions on your Second Installment Property Tax Bills. The application deadline is February 8th. For Will County, the deadline is July 1st. For more information visit the Will County website and the Cook County website.