With just two weeks remaining for House members to move their bills out of a substantive committee, last week we spent most of our time attending committee meetings where we vetted hundreds of bills. We are now also beginning to take votes on the House floor on the initiatives that have successfully cleared a committee. Most of our time will continue to be spent in committees through the end of the month, and during the first two weeks of April we will be taking final action on House Bills on the floor.
Olsen Legislation to Increase and Standardize Requirements for Elected Official Pensions Clears Committee
I hear regularly from constituents who are taxed to their limit and looking for relief. A key part of my legislative agenda this year is an effort to ease the financial pressures placed on taxpayers who fund local government pensions for elected officials. HB 291, which passed unanimously out of the House Personnel & Pensions Committee on Thursday, increases the number of hours per year an elected official must work to become eligible for a pension through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF). Today, state law only requires an elected official to work 600 hours per year to become pension-eligible, but the new rule would require 1,000 hours per year for eligibility. This is not a full solution, but it is a definite step in the right direction.
IMRF rules currently require each unit of local government certify the elected positions which meet the hour threshold biannually. HB 291 would set a uniform standard across the state that all eligible elected positions work 1,000 hours. HB 291 will now move to the floor of the House for full consideration and a vote. To hear a portion of my committee testimony, click here.
Pierce Downer Home Receives Landmark Status at Downers Grove Ceremony
On March 11 it was a privilege to attend a ceremony held at Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, where the plaque and certificate of historic landmark status was presented for the Pierce Downer Home which was built by the founder of Downers Grove circa 1840. The day also featured many informative presentations from a variety of stakeholders regarding the importance of advocating, educating and celebrating historic preservation in the village and across the region.
House Republicans Promote Free Solution to Web Site Translation Issue
Last week we spent over a half hour debating a bill on the House floor that would have authorized an expenditure of about $1.5 million to translate portions of the www.ilga.gov web site into Spanish. My colleague State Representative Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego), spoke up during the debate and asked why we would spend $1.5 million in taxpayer funds to address an issue when free Internet software is available that would produce a more effective and inclusive result. Rep. Wheeler pointed to Google Translator, an Internet tool that can translate any web-based text into several different languages at the click of a button. Best of all, this solution is free; it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime. Anyone with access to the Internet can now find a translated version of www.ilga.gov in any of the most common languages spoken in Illinois simply by clicking on the links below:
Chinese (Simplified) 中文简体
Chinese (Traditional) 中文繁體
The Illinois General Assembly website contains legislator profiles, full text of all legislation introduced in the House of Representatives and State Senate, live audio and video feeds of legislative session and committee hearings; and a wide variety of other legislative information and support services.
Lawmakers Share Springfield Update at District 58 Schools’ Legislative Breakfast
Last week I joined my colleague State Representative Patti Bellock (R-Hinsdale) at the annual Legislative Breakfast for Downers Grove Elementary School District 58. We provided an update about key legislation in Springfield, discussed the budget impasse, and had a robust discussion of current issues affecting public education. The breakfast was held at O’Neill Middle School in Downers Grove.
House Bills Begin to Move to the Senate
Bills that have been successful at the House Committee level and on the House floor are beginning to arrive in the Illinois Senate for consideration. While I expect to bring some of my own bills to the House floor this week, several initiatives for which I serve as a Chief Co-Sponsor or Co-Sponsor have already made their way across the hall to be considered by our colleagues in the Senate. Some of those bills include:
- HB 373: I am a Chief Co-Sponsor of this bipartisan bill which seeks to amend the Illinois Local Library Act. The bill would require library boards of trustees to submit financial documents that relate to their annual levy to the governing board of the local municipality no less than 60 days prior to when the tax levy is certified. This legislation is an initiative of village public libraries, and will improve public disclosure of anticipated library tax levies by moving the disclosure date closer to when a levy must actually be approved.
- HB 528: This bill creates a tracking system and develops more detailed guidelines for sexual assault evidence tracking. It also expands the current chain of evidence custody procedures to include hospitals, victims and law enforcement. Survivors of sexual assault often turn to hospitals and local law enforcement for help and many victims volunteer to have professionals collect a sexual assault evidence kit to preserve physical evidence. Through the bill, the Illinois State Police may phase in initial participation in the new tracking system by region, volume or other appropriate classifications, with all who have custody of sexual assault evidence kits fully participating by July 1, 2019.
- HB 1805: This legislation would allow the Secretary of State Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices to offer to each applicant for issuance or renewal of a driver's license or identification card who is 16 years of age or older (rather than 18 years of age or older) the opportunity to have his or her name included in the First Person Consent organ and tissue donor registry. The bill also includes a provision that upon the death of a donor who is an unemancipated minor, the parent or guardian of the donor may amend or revoke the anatomical gift of the donor's body.
- HB 3161: In an effort to address the growing opioid abuse problem in DuPage County and across the state, this bill would require the Department of Human Services to create and maintain a website to educate the public on heroin and prescription opioid abuse. At a minimum, the website would have to include:
- Information on the warning signs of heroin and prescription opioid addiction
- Helpful hints for parents on how to discuss the dangers of heroin and prescription opioid addiction with their children
- Information on available treatment options and services
- A listing of the toll-free number established by the Department to provide information and referral services for persons with questions concerning substance abuse and treatment
- Links to flyers and resources for download
Earlier this month it was my pleasure to meet with families from around the state who were in Springfield lobbying for support for loved ones afflicted with rare diseases. I am the House Republican designee to the Illinois Rare Disease Commission, and we will meet at least four times this year (without compensation). We will study issues such as prescription drugs and innovative therapies for children, adults and any specific sub-population with rare diseases, with a focus on providing assistance on health care coverage and responsibilities associated with promoting quality care for individuals with rare diseases. The panel will also recommend legislative solutions to improve care and treatment, screening for newborns and other issues as the commission deems appropriate. The commission will submit an annual report to the General Assembly no later than December 31 of each year until the commission disbandment date of January 1, 2020. I am enjoying this commission assignment and am honored to provide patients – many of whom are too young or sick to speak for themselves – a voice in Springfield.
Mark Your Calendar for Upcoming Mobile Office Hours
I enjoy the outreach events that allow me to visit face-to-face with the constituents I represent in Springfield. My next mobile office hours event is set for this Friday, March 24, from 10:30 AM until noon at the Downers Grove Public Library, 1050 Curtiss Street, Downers Grove. Additional dates and locations will be added throughout the spring and summer. Visit www.repolsen.com for more information as dates are finalized.