I was proud to have six different bills I sponsored get signed into law in 2023, and some of them were among the new laws taking effect on January 1. My bills which became law included legislation to help in the state’s fight against Lyme disease, to support our rural fire protection districts, and to help the families of deceased military veterans.
There were quite a few more new laws enacted in 2023 which became effective on January 1. One of these will help with police department recruiting. Another will protect Illinoisans against misleading advertisements from mortgage companies. Illinois students will be able to get excused absences from school to attend work-based learning events for such groups as FFA and 4-H.
Medically-necessary cancer treatments which use proton beams to better direct radiation, thus reducing damage to neighboring cells, will now be required to be covered by insurance. Families of homeless veterans with school-age children will now have their military status taken into consideration when determining eligibility for benefits and supportive services. The new year also brings the creation of a Rural Education Advisory Council to serve rural schools and discuss the needs, challenges, opportunities and functions of the rural districts, while reporting back to the state with recommendations.
You can find more information about the new laws for 2024 by clicking here.
Spring session about to start
We will be heading back to Springfield next Tuesday for the beginning of this year’s spring session. The session is scheduled to run through late May.
There will be a lot to do this spring. We will have to agree on a state budget for the upcoming fiscal year – one that is truly balanced and which meets the needs of state programs without wasting taxpayer money. The federal COVID relief funds which have been used to plug gaps in the state budget over the past few years have all been appropriated, meaning that they will not be available to save us from the effects of overspending this year. Illinois does not have a great track record when it comes to responsible budgeting, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do better this year if we are willing to work together and make tough decisions.
The need for ethics reform in Springfield has never been clearer. Last year saw several more high-profile corruption convictions of state and local officials. This year will see the beginning of the corruption trial of former House Speaker Michael Madigan, one of the most powerful politicians in Illinois history. His trial was recently pushed back from April to October.
Last spring saw some talks on the issue of reforming the estate tax. Illinois’ estate tax places excessive burdens on family farms and small businesses and is in need of significant reform. Lawmakers were not able to reach an agreement last year, but we will continue to work toward a resolution this year.
Issues of public safety will continue to be priorities as we deal with the continuing fallout of the SAFE-T Act. We will also need to continue our response to the ongoing crisis at the southern border, as more than 28,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Illinois since the first bus from Texas arrived in August 2022. Until the federal government secures the southern border this is going to continue to be a challenge we will have to address.
I will be introducing several pieces of legislation in the coming weeks, including a bill to help educate parents on Lyme disease if a school nurse removes a tick from their student while at school. These are just a few of the many topics we will be working on this spring. Most likely, contentious issues won’t be taken up or discussed until after the mid-point of session.
Please feel free to reach out to me with your thoughts as the session rolls on.
Good news and bad news in latest revenue report
As we work to put next year’s state budget together, we will be looking closely at the revenue reports from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, which will inform us as to how much money the state will have to work with. Their latest report contained both some good news and some bad news.
Over the last six months, state general funds receipts were up by $753 million compared to the same period of the year before. Nearly all this increase came from personal income tax payments. This increase in tax receipts was important because it helped the state to keep up with the sharp increases in spending in the current budget.
But there is also much to be concerned about. While unemployment nationally stands at 3.7%, in Illinois it is a full percentage point higher. This signals a weaker Illinois economy and poorer prospects for consumer spending. Sales tax receipts during December were up only 1.6% from last year, far below the rate of inflation. These warning signs, combined with the expiration of some of the one-time revenue sources that were used to pay for the extra spending in this year’s budget, serve as a reminder of the need to be realistic and responsible when putting together the budget this spring.
***Courtesy of Representative Dan Swanson***