Capitol Update from Senator Craig Wilcox

IG Report Points to Massive Incompetence at Dept. of Veteran’s Affairs & LaSalle Veterans’ Home
The Illinois Inspector General’s report on massive failings within the state’s Department of Veterans Affairs with regard to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home was released on Friday. The detailed report reveals utter incompetence at nearly every level of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thirty-six veterans died as a result of widespread failures to first prevent, and then control, the spread of COVID-19 at the facility. As the Minority Spokesperson for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, this report is infuriating. We have a responsibility to look after our Veterans, and this report outlines failure after failure. You can read my official statement here.

In the independent investigation, the Inspector General found incompetence and mismanagement all the way from a largely absent and uninvolved Director of Veteran’s Affairs, to members of her staff, and down to facility leadership and employee level. The report states that while serving as director (and collecting that salary), then VA Director Linda Chapa LaVia “abdicated” most of her responsibilities to a Chief of Staff with no medical training or understanding, and who stood on the sidelines and allowed each of the state’s Veterans’ Homes to essentially manage itself. The report also points to widespread failures to follow strict COVID-19 regulations, the issuance of confusing and contradictory health guidelines, and a lengthy delay in seeking and accepting assistance from the IL Department of Public Health once the outbreak occurred and grew in scope. It took more than 10 days for IDPH to do a LaSalle site visit once the outbreak was identified. During those days, infections spread throughout the facility, ultimately leading to 36 deaths.

Chapa LaVia resigned in January, and her Chief of Staff, Anthony Kolbeck, resigned last week. Their resignations are not enough. This was a top-to-bottom failure; a complete lack of adherence to protocols and regulations. We must rebuild that department with top-notch, dependable public servants who will ensure the sloppy practices that led to 36 deaths are replaced with rigid safety measures that protect the health of our veterans.

Senator Craig Wilcox to host appreciation card drive for local police officers
National Police Week is May 9-15, and I am seeking assistance from residents throughout the 32nd Senate District to send a hearty thank you to law enforcement for their work in keeping our communities safe. These dedicated public servants put their lives on the line daily without hesitation, and are deserving of our deepest gratitude.

To show our thanks, I’m asking residents to submit cards, stories, drawings, etc. by Thursday, May 13 to my McHenry office (5400 W. Elm Street, Suite # 103, McHenry, 60050). My staff and I will personally deliver the notes/drawings to police officers throughout the 32nd District.

In addition to participating in the card drive, I am also encouraging residents to display blue outdoor house lights during the week of May 9-15, and to extend a verbal thank you as they encounter police officers during the course of their day.

Court rules FOID card law unconstitutional
A Southern Illinois Judge has ruled Illinois’ FOID card law unconstitutional, paving the way for the Illinois Supreme Court to take up the issue. The case is The People of Illinois vs. Vivian Claudine Brown. Four years ago, Brown was accused of possessing a firearm without a FOID card. On April 27, Judge T. Scott Webb dismissed the charges against Brown, and also ruled the FOID card unconstitutional.

In his ruling, Judge Webb stated:

“A citizen in the State of Illinois is not born with a Second Amendment right. Nor does that right insure when a citizen turns 18 or 21 years of age. It is a façade. They only gain that right if they pay a $10 fee, complete the proper application, and submit a photograph. If the right to bear arms and self-defense are truly core rights, there should be no burden on the citizenry to enjoy those rights, especially within the confines and privacy of their own homes. Accordingly, if a person does something themselves from being able to exercise that right, like being convicted of a felony or demonstrating mental illness, then and only then may the right be stripped from them.”

Pritzker chooses political insiders over Illinois families
Last week I joined my Senate Republican colleagues in renewing our call for Governor Pritzker to make good on his campaign promise to support an independent redistricting process. Public polls have shown more than 75 percent of Illinois voters support an independent process that puts citizens in control of drawing election districts instead of politicians.

Pritzker has publicly stated his support of independent redistricting on numerous occasions. Senate and House Republicans have introduced the People’s Independent Maps Act that would create a truly independent commission to draw maps and take insiders out of the process. Senate Bill 1325 uses identical language from SJRCA 4, a constitutional amendment for an independent redistricting commission introduced by State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) in 2019. That resolution garnered 37 co-sponsors in the Senate, including 18 Democrats. A similar independent commission amendment co-sponsored by House Speaker Chris Welch (D-Hillside) passed the House in 2016 with 105 “Yes” votes.

The Chicago Tribune has also added its voice to the call for an independent redistricting process instead of what it terms “The unsubtle duping of Illinois voters on redistricting reform.” In its April 21 editorial, the Tribune notes “Get ready because sometime before they adjourn on or around May 31, you can bet the Democrats who control the General Assembly will pop a new map of legislative districts onto the House and Senate floors for a vote. The map will heavily favor their reelection prospects.”

Read the Tribune editorial here …

Continued population loss means Illinois will lose seat in Congress
Years of population decline mean that Illinois will lose one of its 18 United States House of Representative seats for the next decade. Illinois’ population, as determined by the 2020 decennial census, dropped in the past decade from 12,830,632, to 12,812,508. That’s a loss of 18,124 between the 2010 and 2020 census.

Not surprisingly, many of the factors that cause people to leave Illinois are related to its government. According to a 2016 survey by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, “Taxes are the single biggest reason people want to leave, the weather is next, followed by government and jobs. Specifically, 27 percent cite taxes as the motive for departing, 16 percent say weather, 15 percent cite government and 13 percent name jobs and education.”

Based on Census data, six other states will also lose a seat in Congress, including California, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. States that will be gaining seats are Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas.

Skepticism over Pritzker’s proposed tax changes
A bipartisan group of senators on April 23 pushed back against portions of Gov. Pritzker’s budget proposal to eliminate several business incentives—many of which he signed into law and championed during his first year as Governor.

In February, Pritzker outlined changes he would make to the corporate tax code, which he says would generate $932 million in revenue for the state. Some of his proposed tax changes include implementing new caps on corporate net operating, reversing the 2019 repeal of a corporate “franchise tax” and removing a tax exemption for manufacturers.

During a joint hearing of the Senate Revenue and Appropriations committees on April 23, both Democratic and Republican members voiced concerns about the Governor’s plan.

State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) was critical of Pritzker for his plan to eliminate a manufacturing and equipment exemption the Governor had included in the 2019 Blue Collar Jobs Act. Democrat senators joined in on the concerns specifically mentioning the benefits of the machinery equipment tax exemption, proposed changes to the corporate franchise tax, and the “add on income tax credit” for construction job payroll expenses. Now is certainly not the time to be hitting businesses, which are already struggling to recover from the pandemic and government-ordered shutdowns.

Preposterous Proposals at the Capitol
Thousands of new bills are filed every year by lawmakers in Springfield. Some of them feature popular, widely-accepted ideas to make the state better, while others seem a little more out of left field.

Every week, the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus is highlighting legislation that is outlandish, not very well thought out, or just plain bad for the people of Illinois. The Caucus’ latest Preposterous Proposals are:

  • House Bill 3447:Decriminalizes possession of certain amounts of illegal drugs such as methamphetamines and cocaine, heroin and fentanyl, and opioids.
  • Senate Bill 148:Allows individuals with Class X drug felonies to serve on Chicago School Councils. This bill would allow a person who was convicted of street gang criminal drug conspiracy to be allowed to serve on a local school council in Chicago.

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