As we head toward the final stretch of the legislative session (which is scheduled to end on May 31st), I wanted to bring you up to speed on some major developments in the last few days.
RAUNER AUSTERITY PROGRAM REJECTED
On Wednesday, the House called an amendment, House Bill 4141 Amendment 1, that represented the Governor’s proposed human services budget. That’s the budget that contains huge cuts to mental health, drug treatment, services for people with autism, and much more.
I have fought against these cuts since the Governor’s budget was announced earlier this year. In these difficult times, we need to fund, not eradicate, programs to our most vulnerable neighbors. And we need to do so by finally asking the very wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes.
As such, I was proud to vote “no” on Amendment 1. In fact, the Governor’s austerity program received 0 “yes” votes — every Democrat voted “no,” and every Republican voted “present,” the equivalent of abstaining from a vote.
Now it’s our turn to present a sensible budget that funds our priorities and raises revenues from those who can most afford to pay. Stay tuned.
PENSION LAW OVERTURNED
Today, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a widely anticipated ruling overturning the pension reform bill passed in 2013. There are a few parts of that ruling, written by Justice Karmeier, that I’d like to highlight (emphasis mine):
"The financial challenges facing state and local government in Illinois are well known and significant. In ruling as we have today, we do not mean to minimize the gravity of the state's problems or the magnitude of the difficulty facing our elected representatives.
"It is our obligation, however, just as it is theirs, to ensure that the law is followed. That is true at all times. It is especially important in times of crisis when, as this case demonstrates, even clear principles and long-standing precedent are threatened. Crisis is not an excuse to abandon the rule of law. It is a summons to defend it.”
Indeed, just because our state is in difficult economic times, that doesn’t give us the right to take away the hard-earned and long-promised retirement benefits of teachers, nurses, police, firemen, and others, the vast majority of whom have no other retirement plan and don’t even get Social Security.
I’m proud to live in a state that respects the sanctity of our commitments to retirees. Now it’s time for the General Assembly to get serious about raising the revenues to make the payments that we owe, something that we haven’t done for a very long time.
MENTAL HEALTH PRIVACY
In “me” news, I passed this week an important bill that will expand privacy protections for people seeking treatment for mental illness and developmental disability. SB 818 closes a loophole in our mental health privacy laws, ensuring that anyone who seeks treatment for a mental illness can be confident that the records of that treatment will be completely confidential.
It’s the second bill I’ve passed out of the House. The first, HB 3552, strengthens the rights of transgender people — that bill is currently awaiting hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I’ll keep you all posted as things progress in Springfield. But don’t hesitate to reach out if you ever have questions or concerns! You can email me at this address, or just call our office at 773-227-9720. I’ll be in Springfield for the rest of the month, but Luis Klein, my district director, will be happy to help you out or pass your concerns along to me.
All my best,