Legislative Update: April 10, 2017

The Illinois House of Representatives adjourned for its spring recess on Friday, April 7. I returned home to the district where I will spend the next two weeks tending to constituent needs. When session resumes on Monday, April 24, legislators from the House and Senate have just five days to pass their bills and send them to the other chamber. Any bill that has not cleared its chamber of origin by Friday, April 28 will be essentially dead. In May, we will take action on Senate Bills that successfully passed in that chamber and Senators will take action on legislation sent to them from the House. 

It is my greatest hope that in May we will also come to bipartisan agreement on a balanced, compromise budget. With session adjournment for summer scheduled for May 31, we still have time to pass a budget and I stand ready to work with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle on this most important task. Adopting a balanced budget prior to May 31 is my first priority.

Democrats Ignore Republican Plea for Compromise Budget; Push Through New Stop Gap Measure
Thursday was a disappointing day in Springfield, as members of the majority party pushed through a new $800 million stop gap measure to channel funds to social service agencies and institutions of higher learning.

Obviously I believe these agencies and institutions deserve to receive their funding, but this stop gap measure only sends very limited funding to specific programs and does not bring us any closer toward a full compromise budget that would end the uncertainty and suffering for these groups. For example, the spending plan includes only 36% of the funding for domestic violence shelters, only 36% for infant mortality programs, and only 38% for the senior meals program. To make matters worse, the plan was also filled with errors. It would spend $1.5 million on a program in Chicago that is no longer in existence, and more than $500,000 on two programs that are currently ineligible to receive funds due to noncompliance issues with reporting of how state funds were previously spent. In spite of the inefficient funding levels and the multitude of errors in the bill, HB 109 passed in a party-line vote of 64-45-1.

We need a budget that provides state agencies and institutions with predictability that extends beyond more than just a few months. During the last few weeks, two different full budget proposals have been filed in the Illinois Senate, yet rather than work toward bipartisan agreement on one of those plans, the House floor action on Thursday suggested the majority party leadership has little interest in working together in a bipartisan fashion to reach an agreement on a full budget.

Because I remain a trustee for the College of DuPage until y term expires later this month, I voted “present” on HB 109 due to a potential conflict of interest. This bill seeks to appropriate dollars to the Base Operating Grant for community colleges, which is directly passed to the institutions, including the College of DuPage. As a Trustee at COD, I have a direct interest in that appropriation and thus it creates a potential conflict of interest. After speaking with the House ethics officer, I determined that a “present” vote on HB 109 was the appropriate course of action.

Olsen Visits with College of DuPage Students During Recent Lobby Day
It is always nice to visit with local constituents who visit Springfield. On Wednesday I was glad to see College of DuPage Student Trustee Luzelena Escamilla and Student Leadership Council President Kiley Pooler, who visited my Springfield office as part of the College of DuPage student lobby day. We discussed a variety of issues related to higher learning and how members of the General Assembly could best assist Illinois’ colleges, community colleges and universities.

Property Tax Relief Bill for Seniors and Veterans Gains Wide Bipartisan Support in IL House of Representatives
This year I am co-sponsoring a bill that provides property tax relief to seniors, veterans and disabled persons. On Thursday, HB 156 cleared the Illinois House of Representatives with wide, bipartisan support. People are aging in place more frequently, and this bill helps seniors stay in their homes. I hear regularly from seniors who are being taxed out of their homes and this bill provides tangible relief for this growing segment of our population. You can listen to my House floor comments on the bill here.

Specifically, HB 156 would amend the Property Tax Code to provide property tax relief in the following ways:
  • Creates an assessment freeze homestead exemption for persons receiving federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits and have a maximum income limitation of $55,000. 
  • Provides that the maximum amount of the senior citizens’ homestead exemption shall be $6,000 (currently, $5,000). 
  • Provides that the maximum amount of the general homestead exemption (GHE) is $8,000 in all counties (currently $7,000 in Cook County and $6,000 in all other counties). 
  • Provides that the standard homestead exemption for veterans with disabilities also applies to veterans who are 75 years of age or older and these senior veterans become eligible for an exemption of $2,500;
  • Provides for a revised tier system regarding exemption amounts; currently, the base level includes a $2,500 exemption for veterans with a level of disability between 30%-50%; this bill would lower this threshold to include veterans with a 20%-50% level of disability. 
  • Makes changes concerning the definition of "surviving spouse." 
  • Amends a section concerning erroneous homestead exemptions in Cook County to make conforming changes to reference to the standard homestead for veterans with disabilities and veterans 75 years of age or older. 
  • Creates a statewide long-time occupant homestead exemption for qualifying homeowners that have lived in the same home for eight or more years; benefits are based according to length of occupancy range from 25%-60% of the GHE. Currently, there is a similar program in Cook County only. 
The bill would also increase the senior citizen estate tax deferral to $6,000 (currently $5,000). The vote to approve HB 156 was 108-1.

Olsen Signs on as Chief-Co-Sponsor of Anti-Hate Crime Legislation
On Friday I signed on as a Chief Co-Sponsor of HB 2390, an important piece of bipartisan legislation that strengthens penalties for those who commit hate crimes in Illinois. Two weeks ago I stood with Governor Bruce Rauner and lawmakers from both political parties as we announced that Illinois will be working with the Simon Wiesenthal Center to expand anti-hate education for Illinois K-12 students. HB 2390 takes additional steps to address hate crimes. The bill increases the amount of damages for which a defendant can be held liable and includes language that ensures that sentences for multiple convictions will be served consecutively rather than concurrently. HB 2390 also includes an educational provision, so that rather than just being penalized for their crime, defendants will face an educational sentence so they may learn why their actions were wrong.

Olsen Meets with DuPage County Board Members in Springfield
Last week it was nice to see DuPage County Board Members Janice Anderson and Liz Chaplin in Springfield. We had a productive discussion about local government funding and the pressing need for a balanced Illinois budget. While not shown in this photo, DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin and several other county board members were was also in Springfield and I was glad to take time to speak with them.

Rep. Olsen Increases Township Recycling Opportunities through Passage of HB 2427
A recycling bill that will save townships money received unanimous support in the Illinois House on Wednesday. I am the Chief House Sponsor of HB 2427, which seeks to amend the Township Code to allow for the recycling of brush, wood chips and leaves within unincorporated areas of a township. Current law provides for the collection, transport and disposal of the materials gathered through land maintenance, but there is no provision for recycling.

When township highway departments take down dead or diseased trees, the wood is processed into wood chips that many like to use as landscape material. Unfortunately, current statutes do not provide for the recycling of, or free delivery of woodchips or other materials. In Downers Grove Township the highway department spends up to 20% of its budget to dispose of the waste materials. With the passage of this bill, the township will be able to deliver the wood chips directly to facilities or places for a much lower cost than what they currently spend on disposal.

Local Hospitals Participate in IHHA Lobby Day in Springfield
On Wednesday the first floor of the Capitol was lined with booths staffed by representatives from hospitals and healthcare facilities from across the state who were in Springfield for the Illinois Health & Hospitals Association lobby day. I was pleased to have an opportunity to visit with representatives from facilities located in and around the 81st District. I’m shown in this photo with a group of nurses from Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, with whom I was able to meet outside the House chamber.

Mobile Office Hours Tour Continues in 81st District
While the legislature is on its spring recess, I will be hosting my next public mobile office hours event in the 81st District. April Mobile Office Hours are set for Wednesday, April 19, from 6:00 – 7:30 PM at the Naperville Public Library, 2035 S. Naper Boulevard in Naperville. My staff and I will be available to hear your concerns and address issues related to state agencies and services. Additional mobile office hours events will be added throughout the year. Visit www.repolsen.com often to learn about these and other community outreach events.

Summer Events Schedule Taking Shape
During the summer months when legislators spend the majority of their time in their home districts, I host a comprehensive series of outreach events in and around the 81st District. The following events are included on my 2017 summer/fall events calendar:
  • Teletown Hall Meeting: Joint event with House Republican Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs): Date and time TBD
  • Children’s Health & Safety Expo: Saturday, June 3, 9:00 AM until noon, Lakeview Junior High School, 701 Plainfield Road, Downers Grove
  • Senior Fair: Thursday, June 29, 10:00 AM until noon, Lincoln Center, 935 Maple Ave, Downers Grove 
  • Document Shredding Event: Saturday, July 15, 9:00 AM until noon. Sharing Connections, 5111 Chase Ave, Downers Grove
  • Jobs Fair: Wednesday, August 9, 9:00 AM until 12:30 PM, CORE Fitness Center, 6028 W 127th St, Lemont
  • Veterans Resource Fair: Saturday, November 4, 9:00 AM until noon, American Legion Post 80, 4000 Saratoga Ave, Downers Grove
  • Understanding & Appealing your Property Tax Bill: Date and time TBD
All events are free and open to the public.

Enjoy the Spring weather, and best wishes for a happy Easter!

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