Capitol Update

Illinois General Assembly Concludes Fall Veto Session
Week two of the Fall Veto Session was characterized more by what the Democratic Supermajority failed to deliver instead of what they did deliver.

Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch refused to call the Invest in Kids renewal legislation for a vote, essentially killing the popular program that helps underprivileged students throughout Illinois.

Democrats failed to deliver a solution to Chicago voters eager to elect their own school board, showing those back home that they can only count on dysfunction from the legislators they send to Springfield.

The Illinois House, under Welch’s leadership, failed to take a stand affirming the State of Illinois stands with Israel and, tragically, remained silent on the terrorism perpetrated by Hamas.

And finally, not a peep was made by the politicians controlling the legislature in Springfield about corruption. In the middle of the Burke Trial and in a week that saw a top Pritzker-appointee plead guilty to charges related to mismanaging taxpayer dollars, Supermajority Democrats didn’t feel the need to even pretend they care about ethics reform anymore.

Despite the Democrats’ failure to address critically important issues such as Invest in Kids, bipartisan action passed several matters. A nuclear energy deal was passed to allow for future permitting and construction of small modular reactors (SMRs), helping to pre-plan for the energy crisis looming because Democrats have killed baseload energy production in Illinois.

For months now, House Republicans have been demanding changes to the way professional licenses are issued to help address crushing workforce shortages. Temporary assistance was given to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) to accommodate a portion of professional licenses terribly delayed. While not a permanent fix, any forward progress gets more Illinoisans to work more quickly.

A critical fix was delivered for farm mutual insurance policyholders. Rural farm mutual policyholders (those insuring large agricultural equipment like tractors and combines) were successful in advocating for one of the few bipartisan fixes delivered during the Fall Veto Session.

General Assembly Approves Construction of Next-Generation Small Modular Reactors
Since the 1980s, the startup construction of new nuclear power plants has been banned in Illinois. The ban was originally meant to be temporary, based upon the failure of the U.S. government to open a permanent facility for the disposal of high-level waste products generated by the operations of a nuclear reactor. Nothing in this ban has prevented the continued operation of full-sized (1,000 MW and up) nuclear power reactors and plants, such as those operating at locations such as Dresden and the Quad Cities, for which construction began before this ban went into effect.

I support this new, safer technology to produce nuclear power in our state. Our state desperately needs to have more options to produce enough energy to meet our energy demand. Electricity rates have gone through the roof. The option to construct new nuclear power technology is one solution to lower these costs. This legislation will help our state explore all options to meet our energy demand, produce low-cost energy, help boost our economy, and provide more jobs.

These small modular reactor (SMR) plants can be designed so they do not get hot enough to create a major nuclear meltdown, such as the events familiar worldwide at Chernobyl and Fukushima. In addition, a modular nuclear power plant is said to generate less radioactive waste, and in particular, they are said to generate much less high-level waste, than is generated by the same level of electricity produced by a traditional nuclear power plant. New legislation, HB 2473, authorizes the construction of new modular reactors in Illinois, with power outputs up to 300 MW, starting in calendar year 2026. The owners of the proposed new modular reactors that are authorized by this bill will have to have plans in place for reactor decommissioning, environmental monitoring, and emergency preparedness. The bill does not contain language authorizing the construction of full-size nuclear reactors in Illinois.

The House vote on HB 2473 was 98-8-0. The bill was approved on Thursday, November 9.

State Police Drafting Permanent Rules to Implement Statewide Ban on Certain Firearms
The objects under the ban include not only certain types and definitions of firearms, so-called “assault weapons” by pro-ban advocates, but also many objects associated with these types of firearms. The statewide ban on these firearms and associated objects was enacted by the Illinois General Assembly meeting in the lame-duck session in January 2023.

Under State law, the Illinois State Police has the responsibility to move administrative rules forward to implement this new statute. Even though the law has faced a series of court challenges, the State Police has drafted and published a series of temporary “emergency” rules, and proposed permanent rules, as guides to implementation. Second Amendment advocates have pointed out many flaws in these new and proposed rules. These flaws have created an atmosphere of confusion as to what firearms and other objects are banned under the new law. 

The State Police has created a webpage that tries to answer some of these questions, but many critics are not satisfied with the explanations and definitions provided by the enforcement State agency. A focus of discontent are the rules used to create the registration process that can be used by Illinois residents to register certain weapons and objects, and to affirm that they were legally owned prior to January 2023, the effective date of the new law. Concerned Illinois residents, including gun owners, can submit comments to the State Police on the new rules.

However, the State Police is not legally required to respond to comments submitted after a deadline date of Monday, November 13, 2023.

A bipartisan General Assembly panel, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, met on Tuesday, November 7, and won a commitment from the State Police that they would listen to and respond to concerns submitted by concerned Illinoisans. This pledge included informal language in which the State Police promised to listen to concerns submitted after the legal comment deadline of November 13. However, in addition to submitting comments and focusing on these rules, many supporters of firearm rights are continuing their legal fight to strike the Illinois law down altogether. This legal fight may include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Resolution to Audit Spending on Free Healthcare for Undocumented Immigrants Approved
With an estimated 450,000 undocumented immigrants living in Illinois and the ever-increasing costs forced onto taxpayers to pay for their free Medicaid healthcare benefits. On Tuesday my resolution was approved by the Legislative Audit Commission calling for an audit to ensure transparency on how much the State of Illinois is paying to provide free healthcare for undocumented immigrant adults ages 42 and up.

While individuals and families work hard each day to pay for their own healthcare costs, and seniors living on a fixed income carefully budget their monthly expenses, the taxpayers deserve certainty on how much the State is spending on free healthcare for undocumented immigrants. The audit I have requested will provide a transparent account of how our taxpayer dollars are being spent on this program.

On Tuesday, November 7th State Representative Amy Elik introduced a resolution (#165) at the Legislative Audit Commission’s November meeting to formally request an audit. Rep. Elik’s resolution requires the Illinois Auditor General to conduct a comprehensive audit of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) Medicaid Benefits for Undocumented Immigrants. The audit will also review the actual versus estimated number of enrollees and costs for the past three years.

The Legislative Audit Commission is responsible for the oversight of the State Audit Program and is tasked with reviewing the stewardship of public funds, and monitoring action to correct weaknesses disclosed by the audits of state agencies. The membership consists of Representative Amy Elik and 11 other legislators appointed by the General Assembly leadership and is equally apportioned between the two houses and political parties.

Need Assistance with State Government?
If you have an issue or need help navigating state government. My office is here to help you. If my office may be of assistance, please contact my district office in Alton at 618-433-8046.

-Rep. Amy Elik