Brian's Column 05-08-2015

Supreme Court Strikes Down Pension Bill
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled against a 2013 law that sought to fix Illinois’ pension crisis. Senate Bill 1, which was passed in the House by a vote of 62-53-1, aimed to reform the way we fund our states’ pension system.  The court ruled that the measure former Governor Pat Quinn signed into law violates the Illinois Constitution. When I read SB 1 back in 2013 I believed that the bill was unconstitutional and that is why I voted “No.”  The legislation prohibited pension benefits from being “diminished or impaired,” which is exactly what the Illinois Constitution states in order to protect employee’s pensions.  We have to reform the system, but we have to make sure that we do it while abiding by the Illinois Constitution.

Workers Compensation Reform
House Speaker Michael Madigan called a Committee of the Whole on Wednesday to hear arguments for and against Governor Rauner’s planned workers’ compensation reform.  The session included testimonials by workers affected by workers’ compensation in Illinois and some surrounding states. Out of the nine panels that provided testimony, only one was allowed to represent employers who actually pay for workers’ compensation.

Illinois ranks number 7 for highest workers’ compensation rates, and, while some reform took place after a 2011 bill, most employers have not seen the improvements they were promised when the bill was passed. Additionally, employers can end up being responsible for injuries that resulted from a previous job or that are only partially a result of the employee’s current position.  We need reforms that will root out the fraud and abuse within the system.  To allow businesses to flourish in Illinois and to keep them from moving to other states, Illinois must find a way to ensure creating jobs doesn’t mean unnecessary financial burdens for businesses.

FY16 Budget Games
Leaders from the House, Senate and Governor’s office have been holding budget working group meetings that have been going on for weeks now.  Both sides are discussing possible solutions and trying to find common ground for a bi-partisan budget.  However, Speaker Mike Madigan decided to show his party’s dominance in the House after ramming through budget bills while undermining the budget process. Sixteen multi-billion dollar appropriation amendments were filed just hours before they were called for a vote.  These amendments were never talked about in the budget working groups and they were never heard before a committee.  Hundreds of pages of new spending, no debate on where the revenue was coming from or how we were going to actually pay for it, and I had to decide in mere hours how to vote.   

All Republicans took a stand to vote “present” in response to the disingenuous political games that were being played.  We face at least a $4 billion dollar deficit in the FY16 budget.  We need to work together as we were elected to do and find a bi-partisan solution to fix the fiscal crisis. Unfortunately for Illinois, the partisan politics I saw at play this week concerning the budget will do nothing to help our fiscal crisis.  Spending reductions have to be made to put our state back on sound financial footing.

Illinois Peace Officers Memorial Day
This past Thursday was Illinois Peace Officers Memorial Day honoring law enforcement officers who have given their lives in performance of their duties.  Today, over 900,000 law enforcement officers serve and protect us across America.  Last year alone, 126 officers were killed in the line of duty and so far in 2015, 42 officers have been killed in the line of duty.  I give my heartfelt and sincere thank you to the families of those officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe.

Mothers Day
This Sunday, we celebrate Mother’s Day.  I, for one, am thankful for all the hardworking mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers throughout our region who have raised children with a strong work ethic, character, and determination.  I know I would not be where I am today without the influence of my mother, and so many throughout our area are no different.  English poet George Herbert once said that “one good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters.” Mothers, you have the most important job in the world—you teach your children to know right from wrong, to value hard work over laziness, to develop strong character.  While every child needs a good father and an army of fantastic teachers, you, moms, teach the most.  Thank you for the effort you put into raising great kids.

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