Capitol Report from Senator Craig Wilcox

Illinois Supreme Court Denies Pritzker Appeal of Appellate Court Emergency Rule Decision
Late in the day on Friday, the Illinois Supreme Court denied Gov. Pritzker’s petition to appeal the Appellate Court decision on his school mask, vaccine, and testing mandate. The state’s highest court also vacated (eliminated) the Circuit Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) that was in effect, deeming it moot. Additionally, the Court also denied the Governor’s stay on the TRO since it is moot. Following the high court’s decision, I issued the following statement:

“All three layers of Illinois’ judicial system, plus the legislature’s bipartisan and bicameral Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) have weighed in on Gov. Pritzker’s mask, vaccine, and testing mandate for schools. Yet we still have a Governor who is unwilling to acknowledge that his actions represented an abuse of his authority. In fact, he actually claimed the decisions represented a ‘victory.’

“This entire situation is an example of what happens when one man tries to unilaterally control every decision relative to how Illinoisans live and work during a pandemic. It was nothing short of an uprising by parents when they had had enough. They knew their rights were being violated and stood united against the Governor’s overreach.”

Read the decision denying the petition to appeal and to vacate the TRO here. Read the decision denying the request to stay and TRO here.

 

Bipartisan legislation to protect citizens when local officials are charged with felonies sails through Senate
Legislation that would sideline local elected officials charged with work-related felonies while their cases are adjudicated received unanimous approval in the Senate on Friday. I am a Chief-Co-Sponsor of Senate Bill 3460, and was proud to work with my nearby colleague Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Cherry Valley) on its passage.

SB 3460 gives local governments the tools to protect citizens in cases when elected officials have been charged with crimes that put the public at risk. It creates a process to remove elected officials who are charged with a crime and placed on administrative leave until the courts can render a decision on their case. A State’s Attorney can appoint a special State’s Attorney if there is a Conflict of Interest.

Unfortunately, a late amendment to the bill limited the provisions to counties with a population of fewer than 500,000 residents. This excludes Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, and Kane Counties. Majority party Democrats that live predominantly in the above excluded counties insisted on the change. In my view, strong ethics should apply across the board and no county should be carved out.

SB 3460 now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Senators Unveil Legislation to Empower Parents and Increase Opportunities for Students
Senate Republicans unveiled a new legislative package last week aiming to help Illinois parents not feel voiceless and in the dark when it comes to their children’s education.

Members of local school boards are held accountable to the families of their districts via elections. Even though the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) makes decisions on rules and guidelines that affect all public schools, the State Board is made up entirely of members who have been appointed by the Governor.

To give parents a greater voice on statewide education decisions, the Senate Republicans want to add five new elected positions to ISBE. These members, elected from each of the state’s five judicial districts, would be directly accountable to the parents and families who elect them. That legislation was filed as Senate Bill 4180.

Another component of the package, Senate Bill 4179, seeks to bring greater transparency to school curriculums. Under the legislation, schools would be required to publicly post on the district’s website, at least twice per year, all the learning materials and activities used for student instruction, as well as the policies and procedures for review and approval of the materials and activities. This would ensure that parents can find out what their children are being taught so that they can work with their school board members regarding any concerns.

The Senators are also working to strengthen and make permanent the “Invest in Kids” program, which helps disadvantaged students in struggling schools by offering them scholarships to private schools. The program is funded by private donations that qualify for state tax credits. Republicans identified two major issues with the program that create uncertainty for participating families, including a pending expiration for the entire system, along with concerns that students who receive a scholarship one year may not receive it the following year. Senate Bill 4181 eliminates the expiration date while creating an award preference for existing recipients.

The final piece of the legislative package, Senate Bill 4182, updates the Invest in Kids Program’s tax credit language to better align it with existing federal tax credits, allowing donors to maximize existing federal tax benefits while channeling more private funds into scholarships for underprivileged children.

Wilcox Legislation Honoring Families of Deceased Veterans Advances to House
A measure that honors the families of fallen military heroes received unanimous support in the Senate last week and now awaits action in the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 3031  and Senate Bill 3459 are nearly-identical bills that provide for a showing of gratitude and respect for family members of Illinois servicemen and women who perish during active duty. I am the Chief Sponsor of SB 3031 and the Chief Co-Sponsor of SB 3459. The SB 3459 version of the bill was brought to the floor of the Senate on Feb. 23, where it received unanimous support.

The men and women who answer the call to serve in the military deserve our deepest respect and appreciation. But it is not just these brave men and women who deserve our thanks. The families that send their sons and daughters into service are a special group of people. Through SB 3459, the Military Code of Illinois would be amended to state that when a member of any branch of the military dies while on State Active Duty or while serving in duty or training statuses, the Adjutant General, the Assistant Adjutant General for Army, the Assistant Adjutant General for Air, or a military designee shall present a State flag to the next of kin of the deceased.

 

Mask Mandate Expires for Most on February 28
Masks officially become optional on Feb. 28 in most settings in Illinois. Gov. JB Pritzker announced the policy change recently following similar moves from governors in other states.

Last week Chicago’s Mayor announced the city would be following suit, dropping both its mask mandate on Monday, as well as its more-strict proof-of-vaccination mandates.

In the meantime, mask requirements will remain in place after Feb. 28 for healthcare facilities, public transit, and congregate facilities such as prisons.

Legislation Advances to Allow DCFS Workers to Protect Themselves
Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) workers may soon have a new option to protect themselves while working. Senate Bill 1486 would allow DCFS employees who receive proper training to carry mace or pepper spray while on the job, and it received unanimous support in the Senate on Friday. I am a proud co-sponsor of this bill.

This bill was filed in response to the recent brutal killing of Deidre Silas, a DCFS investigator who was in the process of checking the welfare of a child, and Pamela Knight, who died in 2018 from injuries received while attempting to take a child into protective custody.

 

Encouraging the Purchase of Cars Made in Illinois
Consumers in the market for a new car or truck may soon be eligible for a modest rebate on the title fee if they purchase a vehicle made in Illinois.

The Senate passed bipartisan legislation to provide a $25 rebate toward the title fee for cars and light trucks manufactured in Illinois. The proposal was initially filed by State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg). The Senate passed a new version of the bill, Senate Bill 3609, on Feb. 23.

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