This is my ninth update to the citizens of the 111th district, as your State Representative. I’ve been in Springfield each week since February 15th, after having some January and early February session weeks cancelled. We are working to meet deadlines to get bills heard, amended and passed out of committees, therefore much of our time has been spent in committee meetings. Committee work has all been virtual since I took office, but I finally got to experience a few in-person hearings in the Capitol this month. The ability to quickly speak with our colleagues during meetings instead of texting, and not having to be on more than one meeting at a time, was a vast improvement over virtual meetings. In the House most committees are still virtual, but the Senate has had in-person committees more frequently recently.
The legislature plans to adjourn on April 8th this year. This is much earlier than the usual May 31st adjournment. Schedules have been compressed to get our work done quicker this year, and so far we have met the established deadlines. There are some issues and bills which are not subject to the deadlines, this is how controversial bills get through at the last minute with little notice.
One notable bill that passed on March 23rd and was signed by the Governor is SB2803, which uses $2.7 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to deposit into the Unemployment Insurance trust fund. Unfortunately, the deficit in the trust fund is $4.5 billion. I advocated using ARPA funds to fill the entire deficit. We now have no definitive plan to plug the remaining gap of $1.8 billion, plus reestablish the balance that existed before Covid lockdowns and job losses. Advocates from business and labor are negotiating how much will be charged to businesses in the form of higher employment taxes, and how much will be in the form of lower unemployment benefits to workers who lose their jobs in the future. I do not support either of these options since we still have additional ARPA funds available to pay off the full debt. This is now a lose-lose situation. Businesses and workers suffered through the pandemic and are beginning to recover, now is a terrible time to add additional taxes on every job.
Also notable to watch over the last two weeks of session will be legislation regarding public safety and police officer recruitment and retention. We have been working with police chiefs and associations to change some of the bad legislation that went through in the January 2021 lame duck session. We have been meeting in the public safety task force to bring some of the issues to the forefront. Democrat leadership may not allow any “penalty enhancements” to go through for a vote. I have a bill regarding penalty upgrades for fleeing and eluding police (HB4585), and it did not receive a committee hearing because it is a penalty enhancement. Many lawmakers have other public safety proposals that are not receiving a committee hearing. I am hopeful that an omnibus bill will be allowed to go to a vote that will encompass many of the proposals we are advocating with the support of our police.
Finally, former Speaker of the House Michael Madigan was indicted on March 2nd. That day, we were on the House floor working bills when House members began getting tweets and texts that he was to be the subject of the US Attorney’s press conference that afternoon. We soon adjourned session and went back to our offices to watch the press conference and there we learned the extent of the charges against Madigan. The case against him will take a very long time to proceed through the court system. Although he has denied any corrupt practices, after fifty years of his reign in the House, he will finally face the consequences of his alleged corrupt practices.
Please contact my office at 618-433-8046 if we can help you in any way, or visit my website at RepElik.com.
State Representative Amy Elik, 111th District