Capitol Report from Senator Craig Wilcox

Sangamon County court issues temporary restraining order against school Covid mandates
On Friday, a judge from downstate Sangamon County issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Gov. Pritzker’s school mitigations, claiming the legislature never gave the State Superintendent of Schools or the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) the authority to issue mask, vaccine, and testing mandates. I can attest that the legislature has been completely shut out of all decision-making regarding Covid mitigations and mandates and that we, as a legislative body, issued no such guidance. School boards held emergency meetings over the weekend to determine how they would respond to the ruling. Some went to mask “optional” or “recommended,” others kept mask mandates in place, and others took a wait-and-see approach. You can read the court ruling here.

Upon learning of the TRO, I issued the following statement:

“For two years now, we’ve had a Governor who insists on ruling through Executive Orders and Administrative Rules. In his effort to force his worldview on the residents of Illinois, he has done everything in his power to bypass any semblance of due process. Enough is enough. Illinoisans are fed up with authoritarian control and are fighting back, and I support them as they stand up to Governor JB Pritzker, and for what is right for their children and their communities.

“The people of Illinois need discussion and discourse, not mandates and rules. They need legislative and community engagement, not dictator-style governance. They need democracy, not tyranny. I have said all along that all decisions regarding Covid-19 should be made locally, by those who live and serve in our communities and understand each city and town’s unique characteristics and circumstances. And now that the courts are exposing the Governor’s abuse of authority, I hope we are approaching the end of this terrible chapter in our state’s history.”

 

‘Snowpocalypse’ forces relocation of State of the State and Budget Address
This week, a massive winter storm swept across much of Illinois, dumping more than 10 inches of snow in some parts of the state and resulting in devasting road conditions. The so-called “snowpocalypse” arrived in the state Tuesday evening, the day before Gov. JB Pritzker was set to make his annual State of the State and Budget Address in front of Illinois legislators at the State Capitol.

Due to the extreme weather conditions that were being forecast for central Illinois, which included a snowfall ranging from 10 inches to 26 inches with 30 mph winds, the Majority Party canceled this week’s session and sent home lawmakers who had already traveled to Springfield. The cancellation of session cast some doubt on how the Governor would make his Address. Eventually, it was announced that the Address would still take place in-person, but would be relocated to the Old State Capitol in Springfield.

During the Address, the Governor unveiled his budget proposal, which includes a $2.5 billion government expansion and short-term tax relief that expires after one year. I have serious concerns about how the state will be able to afford the Governor’s permanent government expansion once the state runs out of federal stimulus money. Additionally, the people of Illinois deserve long-lasting tax relief, not election-year gimmick relief that the Governor proposed.

Click here to watch my video response to his speech.

 

Still time to participate in Valentines for Seniors card drive
The generosity of the people of the 32nd Senate District never ceases to amaze me. Cards continue to arrive every day for this year’s Valentines for Seniors card drive. Today marks the Feb. 7 deadline for dropping off or mailing valentines for the card drive. I wanted to make one last appeal, with hopes that we can collect a few more cards, poems, and well-wishes today (tomorrow is OK too). Items can be dropped off or mailed to my legislative office, located at 5400 W. Elm Street, Suite #103, McHenry, IL  60050. Please participate, and make this Valentine’s Day extra special for 32nd District seniors living in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and in long-term care settings.

 

Senate Republicans unveil pro-police, anti-crime package
Citing the urgent need to take swift action to stem the ongoing spike in violent crime across the state, last week the members of the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus unveiled an updated legislative package targeting violent crime and offering a critical lifeline to law enforcement efforts.

Members of the caucus held a press conference to announce their new legislative initiatives in the Capitol rotunda in front of the police remembrance wall, which is dedicated to honoring fallen police officers from the past year. This comes three months after they first held a press conference pleading for help from across the aisle to address crime.

The legislative package includes a “Fund the Police Grant Act,” which would provide targeted grants to assist law enforcement, provide additional training, and purchase much-needed equipment, including body cameras. The senators called for greater support for the men and women tasked with protecting communities across the state, noting that police officers and sheriffs were leaving the law-enforcement profession in unprecedented numbers. In many cases, officers leaving the profession have indicated that it was, in large, part due to provisions of the so-called “SAFE-T Act,” an anti-police package rammed through by a partisan vote in the late-night hours of a lame-duck session in January 2021.

The Republican senators’ legislative package also contains bills to keep violent offenders off of the street, help stop the flow of illegal guns to criminals, take serious action against carjacking, provide mental health treatment to detainees, and repeal the dangerous bail provisions of the anti-police “SAFE-T Act.”

The Senate Republican legislative package has the support of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, and members of their organizations attended the Tuesday press conference. To view the full text of the Senate Republicans’ package, click here.

 

Senate Republicans announce tax relief plan for Illinoisans
Senate Republicans are seeking to deliver Illinois families much-needed tax relief through their recently announced package of tax reform proposals. These measures will provide the citizens of Illinois with permanent, substantive relief, instead of the temporary relief proposed by Gov. Pritzker during his Budget Address on Wednesday.

As part of our tax relief package, we are calling for reforms that help address the growing concerns of inflation and skyrocketing consumer prices. These changes include the elimination of the state’s one percent sales tax on food and prescription drugs.

Another section of our tax proposal is aimed at addressing the climbing price of gas, by lowering the overall amount consumers pay at the pump, while ensuring that critical funding necessary for road improvements remains the same. This proposal includes lowering the 6.25 percent sales tax on gas/gasohol to 5.25 percent, while also increasing the Road Fund disbursement from 32 percent to 53 percent.

Additionally, the tax relief package further helps Illinois senior citizens by increasing the income tax exemption that they can receive on their Illinois income tax from $1,000 to $2,000.

Senate Republicans are also taking on the issue of property taxes that has plagued the state for far too long, by calling for an increase in the state’s property tax income tax credit. Under this initiative, the tax credit would rise from 5 percent to 10 percent. The plan also allows voters who are subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), the ability to go to referendum to lower their property taxes.

Illinoisans want and deserve true tax relief, not short-term gimmicks, and I am hopeful that the Governor and Senate Democrats seriously consider our proposals so we can make Illinois an affordable and more desirable place to live.

 

Mark your calendar for upcoming utility bill savings event
Mark your calendar for a Tuesday, Feb. 22 utility bill clinic that could help you save money! On Feb. 22 from 5:30pm until 6:30pm, you can join a FREE online meeting where experts from the Illinois Citizens Utility Board (CUB) will advise residents on how they can reduce their electric and gas bills, and landline/cell phone bills.

During this virtual event, each participant will have an opportunity to speak one-on-one with a CUB counselor to review their bills. CUB presenters will also present information on how to spot unnecessary charges on gas, electric, and phone bills, discuss energy efficiency programs and rebates, and walk people through gas and electric bills so people can spot errors and avoid scams.

Registration is required for this online event, and the webinar link will be sent to participants prior to the Feb. 22 clinic. To reserve your spot, either click here, or contact Keith at kwoodruff@sgop.ilga.gov.

NOTE: Participants will want to have bills in front of them during the event.

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