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Senator Bush

June 1, 2013

Dear Friends,

 

As many of you know, the Illinois Senate and the House adjourned late in the evening May 31 – without passing any pension reform legislation. If I am this angry, I can only begin to imagine how disappointed you must be.

 

Many of us watched with heavy hearts as session wound down on May 31, and we realized the Speaker of the House would not allow pension reform to get done.

 

For those of you who enjoy the details, here is a brief chronology:

• Jan 9– Freshman class of legislators is inaugurated, serves notice to leadership they want pension reform done this session
• Jan 10 – May 8th, 2013 – Successful negotiations finally occur
• May 9 – Illinois State Senate passes negotiated, bipartisan pension reform 40-16 (Senate Bill 2404)
• May 10 – Senators wait for pension reform with known bi-partisan support to be called in the House
[In the days that follow, House colleagues admit in conversations with Senators that SB 2404 would pass the House with bipartisan support]
• May 13 – 17 – Senators wait for any debate on SB 2404 in the House
• May 20 – 24 – Senators continue to wait for any debate on SB 2404 in the House
• May 27 – 29 – Senators are sure there would HAVE to be debate on SB 2404 in the House before session ends
• May 30 – Senators make final public plea for the House to call SB 2404 for a vote
• May 31 – Early Friday evening, Speaker Madigan adjourns the House with the Senate still in session and still waiting for the pension bill to be called

 

The fact that 2404 was not voted on smacks of tired Springfield politics and is simply inexcusable. Illinois’ credit rating has suffered for it, and so has our reputation. I have called the governor and urged him to bring us back for a special session, with a commitment to keep us there until we can come to an agreement on pension reform.

 

*LATEST UPDATE: Late last week, the governor heeded my advice to get lawmakers back to the Capitol to continue debating pension reform. A special session of the General Assembly will convene on June 19. I sincerely hope the governor will listen to us and support a responsible plan that recognizes, rather than demonizes, hard-working teachers, public sector employees and retirees.*

 

END-OF-SESSION ROUND UP

 

Concealed Carry

 

On the final day of regular session, I voted for and aided in the passage of concealed-carry legislation. The passage of this legislation was a product of six months of hard work and compromise, and brings us one step closer to providing concealed carry to the residents of Lake County. The bill now waits for the governor’s signature.

 

Responsible Budgeting

 

Senator Bush with a class of studentsLast year, those that took profits on stock sales created unanticipated revenues for the state. Because of this, we were able to allocate $876 million in 2013 and $650 million in 2014 to pay down overdue bills. Because the governor’s budget called for disastrous cuts to K-12 education, the unanticipated tax revenues allowed us to restore K-12 education funding to 2012 levels and not cut it even further. Additionally, there is no cut to school transportation in our budget, as was also originally proposed by the governor. We were also able to hold the line on General State Aid by adding $155 million above what will be spent in the current state budget. And finally, we collectively fought for and restored full funding to the Local Government Distributive Fund.

 

While I understand that our fiscal crisis is severe, I strongly opposed any attempts to balance our state’s finances on the backs of children, local governments or those most in need.

 

Fracking

 

This session also saw the passage of fracking regulations in Illinois. For those who are not already aware, “fracking” refers to high-volume oil and gas drilling that is especially effective in Southern Illinois.

 

Although I preferred a moratorium on fracking until a final Illinois Environmental Protection Agency study is released in 2014, I am pleased that the bill that passed includes some of the strictest protections and environmental safeguards in the country. These protections will help us conscientiously encourage an industry that will provide extraction jobs and low-cost energy to Lake County refineries and manufacturing plants. Fracking also requires steel tube and pipe, which could enhance the Illinois steel industry and put steelworkers around our area back to work.

 

Energy

 

We were also able to pass legislation that creates the Offshore Wind Energy Economic Development Policy Task Force. The task force will report back with an analysis and evaluation of opportunities for renewable offshore wind energy. It is my hope that success with wind energy will aid in a cleaner and greener Illinois for generations to come.

 

The Economy

 

Senator Bush presents a billIn hearings I attended across the state, the message we heard over and over again was that Illinois needed a strategic statewide economic development plan. This idea spurred on legislation to create a public-private partnership tasked with forming such a plan. Lake County used a similar concept to great success, creating jobs through a public-private partnership called Lake County Partners. House Bill 1544 will help Illinois replicate Lake County’s successes by putting our own business leaders in the driver’s seat of our state’s strategic business plan. I truly believe a unified plan written in cooperation with the public and private sectors will create new business opportunities and sharpen Illinois’ economic development agenda. It would help set state economic development policies and strategies, giving the state clear, measurable goals for future economic success.

 

Election Reform

 

The General Assembly passed a package of election reform changes that do a number of important things, such as allow absentee voters to register online. As a whole, I was a huge proponent of the reforms. Unfortunately, the bill included a provision that created a five-member Lake County election commission to effectively take over the election duties of the county clerk’s office.

 

This piece singled out Lake County for a separate and unrelated unilateral change in the elections process, without our constituents’ consent. In my mind it was unneeded interference with local government and potentially wasteful duplication. Despite my “no” vote, the bill passed both houses and is currently in the governor’s hands.

 

Gaming Expansion

 

The Senate passed a gaming expansion bill on May 1. I voted "no," because this particular gaming bill diverted almost all its revenue to special interests. It is simply a continuation of the culture that I vowed to fight when I came to Springfield. If we are to pass gaming expansion in Illinois, it needs to be done responsibly – which means taking the revenue generated from gaming and directing it to education funding and debt relief. Although the legislation passed the Senate without my support, it has since stalled in the House of Representatives.

 

IN THE DISTRICT

 

Everyone knows we live in tough economic times, but for many who are currently without employment, these times are especially painful. Knowing where and how to look for a job is often the first step on the path to recovery.

 

Early in July my office will be partnering with the Illinois Department of Employment Security, among others, to host a job fair for the residents of the 31st District. The fair will be free and open to all residents. More details to follow in my next newsletter.

 

Another terrible consequence of the economic downturn is an exponential increase in the number of home foreclosures – Lake County currently ranks fourth in the state. This is a crisis for every affected homeowner and family member.

 

Fortunately, there are many organizations that can help bring relief to homeowners affected by foreclosure. In July we will be partnering with the Illinois Attorney General’s office and other active groups to host a Mortgage Relief Workshop in the 31st District. As before, details will come in my next newsletter.

 

Thank you to all who have called and emailed thoughts and concerns over the past few months. I very much appreciate your input. Please know that you may contact me at any time (www.senatormelindabush.com) with all state or district matters.

 

Sincerely,
Senator Bush
Senator Melinda Bush
31st District – Illinois

 

 

District Office

34121 US Highway 45, Suite 224 • Grayslake, IL 60030

847-548-5631 (Phone)

 

Springfield Office

M122 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706

217-782-7353 (Phone)

 

www.SenatorMelindaBush.com/

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Contact Me

Springfield Office:
121C Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
Phone: (217) 782-7353

District Office:
10 N. Lake St., Suite 112
Grayslake, IL 60030
Phone: (847) 548-5631