The 1970 Constitution of directs lawmakers to come back to Springfield twice each fall for veto session. The first week was held the week prior to Thanksgiving, and the second week was held from Tuesday, November 29 until December 1. During this fall session, legislators reconsider bills that received either a partial or a full veto by the Governor during the spring session. These days marked my first session days in Springfield as the State Representative for the 81st District.
Of the many bills that were brought back for reconsideration, only one, SB 440, received the supermajority vote required to override the Governor’s veto. SB 440 amends the Chicago Police and Firefighter Articles of the Pension Code to address Tier II survivors’ annuity and issues related to cost-of-living adjustments, widow annuities and other death benefit provisions. I was proud to support this bill.
Rep. Olsen Votes Against Energy Bill, Citing “Too Much Risk” for Rate Payers
Illinois lawmakers approved a comprehensive energy bill on Thursday that will allow nuclear energy plants in Clinton and in the Quad Cities to remain operational as part of a broad package of measures that support clean energy in the state. SB 2814 was approved in the House and Senate in the final hours of veto session, and Governor Bruce Rauner has said he will sign it.
I support clean energy initiatives, but voted against the bill due to its scope and because the costs associated with the massive bill will be absorbed by rate payers. Additionally, I have concerns with any policy initiative that chooses winners and losers. Rather than creating more regulations, we should be reducing regulations so that the electricity market can work and we can benefit from lower rates in a truly market-driven system.
While I was disappointed that the energy bill was the focal point of our veto session when we have no budget and social service agencies aren’t getting paid, I was pleased with the bipartisanship and compromise that was shown by the legislative leaders and Governor in crafting an agreed bill. We need to insist that the same process be extended to the creation of a balanced budget with necessary reforms, once and for all. Now that we know that compromise legislation like the final version of the energy bill is possible, there is no excuse for the ongoing budget stalemate.
Lawmakers Sent Home until January 9; 1 ½ Weeks After Stopgap Budget Expires
After observing bipartisanship and compromise in action on the energy bill, I was extremely disappointed that House Speaker Mike Madigan sent us home before a budget deal was reached. Emergency stopgap spending is in place only until December 31, at which point there will be no spending authority for many critical budget areas as we head into 2017. Upon our adjournment on December 2, the Speaker said we will return for a lame duck session on Monday, January 9. In a recent interview I was asked to weigh in on the Speaker’s decision to send us home rather than continue to work on a budget. Click here to hear that interview.
Annual Bonfield Express Thanksgiving Race a Huge Success in Downers Grove
Every Thanksgiving morning I join thousands of runners from across the region as we run or walk through the streets of Downers Grove for the Bonfield Express Thanksgiving 5K. This annual event is sponsored by the Bonfield Express Foundation, a local charity that works to build character and community commitment in high school students. The group provides scholarship assistance to high school seniors to help build future community leaders. Through the generosity of donors, the Foundation has distributed more than $300,000 in scholarships and has begun funding programs for local grade school students.
Governor Rauner Renews Call for Compromise and Bipartisanship
With substantial segments of Illinois state spending scheduled to run dry with the expiration of the stopgap State budget on December 31, on Friday I joined several of my colleagues and Governor Bruce Rauner at a press conference in Chicago, as the Governor renewed his plea for an agreed budget deal that includes money-saving and job-creating reforms. Up to this point, meetings between Governor Rauner and the four legislative leaders have not yet succeeded in achieving the level of agreement necessary for a balanced budget with necessary reforms to move forward.
Illinois House Approves Constitutional Amendment
The amendment, if approved by the state Senate and adopted in the 2018 general election, would increase the voting margin required to increase an income tax rate or a sales tax rate during the so-called “lame duck” session of the Illinois General Assembly. I voted in favor of this amendment. The General Assembly, under current law, can enact “lame duck” tax hikes by simple majority in both houses. If HJRCA 62 were to become law, the margin would increase to three-fifths – the same “supermajority” as is currently required to increase State general-obligation debt, approve amendments to the Constitution of Illinois, and approve amendments to the federal Constitution of the United States. Lame duck sessions are sessions after Election Day when retiring legislators are still in office. The Thursday, December 1 vote by the House to approve HJRCA 62 was 84-18-2. The Senate has not taken action on this measure.
DuPage County Mayors Visit Rep. Olsen in Springfield
Last week I had an opportunity to visit with several DuPage County mayors, when they stopped by the Capitol for a quick meeting representing the DuPage Mayors and Managers Conference. I’m shown in this picture with Mayors Rich Veenstra (Addison), Rodney Craig (Hanover Park), Jeff Pryun (Itasca) and David Brummel (Warrenville). This group of community leaders is doing great work on behalf of the people they represent, and it was a pleasure to see them in Springfield.
The Capitol at Christmastime
As legislators returned to the Capitol last week we were able to enjoy the State Christmas Tree and other holiday displays in the first floor rotunda. This year’s dedication ceremony was held on November 29. The two-story tree and other items certainly provided some perspective during these difficult days for our State. The display is open to the public during normal business hours throughout December at the Capitol, located at 301 S. 2nd Street, Springfield. Area singing groups often volunteer to sing over the noon hour during the holiday season. If your holiday travels bring you near Springfield, please try to find time to see the display in the rotunda.
Legislators will spend the remaining days of 2016 in their home districts tending to the needs of their constituents and I hope you see you around the 81st District. The House and Senate are both scheduled to return to the Capitol on Monday, January 9 for two days of lame duck session prior to the swearing in of the 100th General Assembly on Wednesday, January 11. However, I will continue to urge leadership to bring the legislature back to session earlier to address the budget before the stopgap expires at the end of the year.