Illinois Legislative Session Begins
The Illinois General Assembly kicked off the 2024 regular session on Jan. 16, and lawmakers spent much of the week in meetings with constituents and other lawmakers, and drafting legislation that will be filed. The General Assembly is expected to take up a number of serious issues during the session, including the ongoing immigration crisis and its associated costs. So far, Governor JB Pritzker has chosen to deal with the crisis through executive action, bypassing the legislature while spending hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars. The Governor needs to be more transparent about how much is actually being spent on immigration services, and how much money is being taken away from programs designed to help Illinois citizens. The regular legislative session resumes at the Capitol on Feb. 6.
Senator Wilcox Continues to Collect Valentines for Seniors
Valentines are continuing to be dropped off at my Woodstock office, but there is still time to deliver valentines, poems, drawings, and other well-wishes for this year’s Valentines for Seniors program. Between now and February 5, my office is collecting items that will be distributed to local nursing homes, assisted living centers, and long-term care facilities in the 32nd District.
Cards and other items can be dropped off at my Woodstock office Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 4:30. There will be a bag on the door for off-hours drop-offs. They can also be mailed to the office. The office is located at 209 N. Benton Street, Woodstock, IL, 60098. For additional information about this program, please call my office at 815-455-6330.
Lawmakers Take Up Assault Weapon Ban Rules
On the same day that lawmakers returned to Springfield, the bipartisan and bicameral Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) met to discuss new permanent rules for the state’s “assault weapons” ban (AWB) proposed by the Illinois State Police (ISP).
Currently, the State is operating under emergency rules that ISP promulgated last year. These new permanent rules will replace those emergency rules and contain changes, additions, and clarifications that ISP has worked on since the emergency rules were first published.
Numerous concerns have been raised about the potential for confusion caused by both the emergency and permanent rules. Critics have said the rules are too vague and could leave gun owners struggling to understand exactly which firearms, parts, and attachments are illegal or need to be registered.
Republican members of JCAR filed a motion to prohibit the new permanent rules from being put into place, citing many of the same concerns, but the motion failed on a party-line vote.
However, the Republican JCAR members were successful in filing a motion to object to the rules on the same grounds. ISP must respond in writing to the Committee’s objection before it can file the regulations with the Secretary of State’s Office to be adopted. The successful objection by Republican JCAR members does not prohibit the rules from taking effect, they simply require ISP to respond with additional clarification of the final rules.
Wilcox Demands Pritzker Rescind Proposed Cuts to Service Hours for Vulnerable Illinoisans
Last week I joined my Senate Republican colleagues in demanding that Governor Pritzker reverse course on a plan to significantly reduce service hours for Illinois adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities (IDD) who live in group homes. Governor Pritzker and his Administration’s Department of Human Services have proposed cutting service hours by 2.5 million in the upcoming Fiscal Year 2025 budget.
These alarming cuts would affect about 10,000 of our most vulnerable citizens who rely on their state government for assistance. It equates to an approximate $87.7 million cut in state funding for this population of residents.
In a letter dated January 17 to Governor Pritzker, Republican Senators pointed out that the cuts equate to a nearly 10% drop in service hours for the IDD population in group homes at a time when the Governor is channeling hundreds of millions of dollars toward services for noncitizens. Per the letter, “It’s very difficult to ignore that you’ve increased funding for noncitizens by over a billion dollars across the board, seemingly while your Administration is pushing this rate cut for the developmentally disabled. It’s obvious your priorities are not with the citizens of this state who are the most underserved.”
In a bipartisan effort, legislators from both sides of the aisle successfully advocated for a $2.50 per hour wage increase for Direct Support Professionals in the FY2024 budget, and this proposed decrease in service hour funding more than wipes that additional budget funding away.
My office has received several calls and emails from family members who fear for their loved ones’ ability to access the service hours they need. Every lawmaker in Springfield should be outraged over this. We all need to work together and ensure these cuts do not happen.
You can read the Senate Republicans’ letter here.
IL Tollway Switching Away from IPASS Transponders, Adopting Sticker System
The Illinois Tollway has announced it is replacing traditional I-PASS transponders with stickers this year. The stickers will be available by the end of January.
According to Tollway officials, sticker tags are being adopted by toll agencies across the country and by the Illinois Tollway as they provide a convenient, reliable, and less expensive travel experience for customers. The sticker tags use radio frequency identification to communicate with toll collection technology. They will be available at customer service centers at the Tollway’s headquarters and oases. Officials said they will also be at Jewel-Osco stores and Road Rangers locations (Rockford area) at some point in February. Attendees of next month’s Chicago Auto Show (Feb. 10 through Feb. 19) will have a chance to buy the stickers as well.
Existing transponders will continue to work through their expiration dates, and customers will not be required to switch to the I-PASS sticker tag until then. Officials are asking customers to dispose of old transponders “in an environmentally sound way, not discarded in the trash.”
There is no deposit fee for the I-PASS Sticker Tags. The $10 transponder deposit will be applied to the I-PASS customer’s account once a new I-PASS Sticker Tag is registered to the account for current transponders.
IDNR Seeking Summer Instructors for 2024 Urban Fishing Program Clinics
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is accepting applications now for instructors for 2024 summer fishing clinics through the department’s Urban Fishing Program. The Illinois Urban Fishing Program was established in 1985 to teach people of all ages to fish, to provide better local fishing opportunities, and to offer participants an understanding of and a greater appreciation for natural resources.
Fishing instructors are the department’s boots on the ground at free clinics hosted in communities throughout Illinois. These temporary positions are not to exceed six months, making them perfect for teachers, retirees, students, and others eager to help people learn about fishing skills and ecology. The deadline to apply is approaching quickly. To learn more about the positions, qualifications, and how to apply, visit https://bit.ly/IDNRjobs. Look for positions titled “conservation education representative.”