Senate Week in Review: Sept. 9 – 13, 2019

McHenry, IL. — Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, recreational marijuana sales will be legal in Illinois. With less than four months to go before the new law takes effect, dispensaries have several regulations to abide by, such as taking part in health and safety training, before opening their doors. 

Also, in this report, is an update on an issue covered in last week’s column regarding the state’s most recent financial report. Additionally, I spoke at Mercy Harvard Hospital on the 18th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks to highlight the dedication and sacrifice of our first responders. 

Recreational marijuana update
The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has approved 26 businesses as “Responsible Vendors,” who are tasked with providing mandatory health and safety training to those employees who will be dispensing or selling marijuana. 

All medical marijuana dispensing agents currently working in Illinois must receive training from an approved Responsible Vendor by Nov. 30, 2019, to ensure they are trained before adult-use sales begin on Jan. 1, 2020. Any newly hired dispensary agents must also receive training within 90 days of their hiring date. 

Meanwhile, local governments across the state are deciding whether to allow recreational pot sales within their cities and villages. The new state law allows anyone who is at least 21 to consume it privately, but towns have the option of prohibiting legal sales and other types of marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions. 

Another point of view
My last report contained information from the Illinois Comptroller’s office about state government’s deficit, but there are other points of view on the issue that disagree with the Comptroller. I present it here in the spirit of full disclosure.

In the last Senate Week in Review, I noted that The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report released Aug. 29 by the Illinois Comptroller’s Office shows Illinois cut its general funds deficit by $6.849 billion — from a deficit of $14.612 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 to a deficit of $7.763 billion in Fiscal Year 2018.  

Subsequently, the Champaign News Gazette’s Jim Dey took the Comptroller’s report to task suggesting in an editorial that taxpayers were not being told the whole truth about “Illinois’ disastrous financial situation.” 

Dey cites Yvette Sheilds at The Bond Buyer – a publication about government finance – who wrote in her report, “Illinois’ overall fiscal condition continued to deteriorate in fiscal 2018, according to the overdue comprehensive annual financial report.” 

Dey also cites an analysis by Mark Glennon of Wirepoints, an online financial research group that focuses on Illinois’ economy and government. Glennon wrote, “The State of Illinois recently reported its biggest annual financial loss ever. Instead of clear reporting on that, we’ve seen perhaps the most glaring example yet of how the state’s finances can be misunderstood, misreported and intentionally distorted.” 

The real number the critics say taxpayers should focus on is the state’s negative net position, which fell to -$184 billion from -$137 billion. That $47 billion loss is the largest annual financial loss in the state’s history. These figures represent the amount of outstanding debt over assets. 

Most of this dramatic increase in overall debt can be attributed to the inclusion of public employee healthcare costs (future costs for retired state employees), which were not included in the figures prior to 2018 when calculating the state’s negative net position calculation. 

However, regardless of the cause of the debt increase – which now stands at -$184 billion – Illinois is drowning in red ink. 

Remembering 9/11 and first responder heroes
On September 11, I spoke at Mercy Harvard Hospital during a ceremony remembering 9/11, to pay tribute and honor First Responders, who played such a huge role that day in a heroic rescue attempt (pictured right). 

Here’s a portion of what I said

“We’ve all grown up knowing about the contributions our police and firefighters make to the cities and towns we live in. 

Our parents taught us to hold them in high regard for their daily heroism and self-sacrifice, and their willingness to put their lives on the line for people they’ve never met. We admired them as kids, and wanted to be like them when we grew up… 

On that terrible day, as a nation, the understanding and recognition of the true dedication of these heroes was undeniable… 

When the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center fell on September 11th, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives. 

Among those were 343 firefighters, including a chaplain and two paramedics; 61 police officers and eight EMT’s and paramedics from private emergency medical services… 

While September 11-style attacks are rare in the United States, there are – sadly – daily assaults on peace and tranquility in every city, town and village. 

There are tragedies on our streets, roads and highways too. In urban areas or the countryside, you’ll find first responders ready to act – ready to defend… 

Annually, September 11th is a day that reminds us of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend and save the lives of their fellow citizens on American soil. 

But, it also calls to mind the tens of thousands of men and women of the U.S. Military who traveled overseas to fight the terrorist enemy on their home turf, before the terrorists could do more harm here at home. Many thousands gave their lives in defense of our nation. 

On the grounds of the State Capitol, close by the west entrance to the Statehouse, there are two memorials honoring fallen police officers and fire fighters. 

There’s an inscription on the Illinois Fire Fighters Memorial that eloquently describes the honorable service of all first responders: 

‘Since the beginning of time man has never engaged in a more noble purpose than that of protecting, prolonging and rescuing the lives of his fellow man.'”


Craig Wilcox

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