Lawmakers discuss spring session
by JASON MEREL
Some Northwest side legislators discussed what was accomplished in the General Assembly during the spring legislative session and what remains on the to-do list at a virtual forum Wednesday, June 23, sponsored by area business groups.
The forum featured state representatives Eva-Dina Delgado (D-3), Will Guzzardi (D-39), Lindsey LaPointe (D-19) and state Senator Robert Martwick (D-10).
Guzzardi said legislators were bracing for a difficult budget year since the pandemic affected many traditional sources of revenue the state usually relies on. "A lot of those challenges, I’m glad to say, were relieved and really a lot of the relief came from the federal stimulus that we saw," Guzzardi said.
He said the stimulus checks put money in people’s pockets and got them out spending money to support the economy, which generated sales tax revenue. He said unemployment insurance, business relief and direct cash payments to the state from the American Rescue Act also helped to stabilize the budget.
"Our goal on this year’s budget was to keep funding intact for all the vital services that our communities are relying on and to make a few targeted increases to areas that really need it," Guzzardi said.
We’ve committed over the years to increasing our funding for public education by $350 million every year. We wanted to meet that commitment. There were some obligations that we were hoping to meet with the community of people with developmental disabilities and a number of other increases that we wanted to give to communities in serious need right now."
He said that in order to meet those goals, the state was $600 million short. Guzzardi said that to close that gap, legislators looked to corporate tax loopholes that were mostly instituted during the Trump administration that allowed corporations to take advantage by off shoring funds. He said the state’s decoupling from these tax loopholes would not affect small businesses.
Some legislators also discussed bills they’ve been working on.
Guzzardi said he has been working to pass a bill to create a prescription drug depository for unused and unexpired medication, a bill that allows incarcerated people that are terminally ill or medically incapacitated to receive an early release from prison and a bill that school sports uniform rules allow the wearing of hijabs.
Delgado said she has been working to pass a bill to create a low interest property tax loan program for participants of the Home Equity Assurance program and a bill that automatically recertifies minority enterprises and women-owned-business enterprises previously certified by the city of Chicago or Cook County. Delgado also highlighted House Bill 1871, which funds secure collection sites for mail-in voting. "Unlike some other states across the country, it actually expands voting access," Delgado said.
LaPointe said she worked on expanding access to mental health, expanding opportunities for kids and adults with developmental disabilities and supporting workers.
"We have a cliff of support for young people with disabilities," LaPointe said. "The current reality is that we pull the rug out from under our young people right when they turn 22."
LaPointe also highlighted ethics reform that would create a 6-month waiting period before former legislators can become lobbyists.
Martwick briefly discussed the elected school board legislation expected to be signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker despite scrutiny from Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Martwick instead highlighted a bill that would provide retirement security to many Illinois residents.
The Secure Choice savings program would create a state retirement savings program for all employers with 5 or more employees.
Enrollment in the program would not cost employers anything and Martwick said it would help avoid the moral dilemma of workers that go into retirement unprepared and without adequate savings.
He added, "every major business group supported this."