Legislative Update

Legislative Update

Policy staff reports on the status of our policy initiatives.

The current debate about the federal budget negotiations and deficit-reduction strategies demands that we pay close attention to what’s going on in the U.S. Congress, especially since the results of those negotiations will have a dramatic impact on Illinois, given our long-standing fiscal crisis.

We had hoped that the June 22, 2011 special session of the IL General Assembly would bring a different conclusion to the not-quite-settled 2012 state budget. That, to our great disappointment, does not appear to be the case.

Legislative success is rarely a "sure thing," and we measure progress (or the lack thereof) on our priorities on a step-by-step basis. In these final seven days, we are optimistic that some of our bills are moving steadily toward passage, while others have stalled. Rest assured, our policy advocacy will continue until the session ends on May 31, 2011.

...when the 96th General Assembly adjourned on January 11th, they left one crucial bill on the table. The comprehensive plan to achieve fiscal stability had included not only new revenue but also the issuing of debt restructuring bonds, so that the state could pay back the billions of dollars it owes to agencies, hospitals, schools, and businesses. In fact, the tax increase legislation specifically designated a portion of the new revenue to go towards the paying back the debt-restructuring bond. Unfortunately, the House failed to pass the bill and thus, the Senate never even got a chance to consider it.

Illinois is just one signature away from becoming the 16th state without the death penalty. The General Assembly passed SB 3539 to repeal the death penalty on January 11, 2011. Now the legislation is awaiting final approval from Governor Quinn.

Everyone knows that it is hard to vote for a tax increase, but with its eleventh-hour decision to raise taxes, Illinois now joins 30 other states that have enacted revenue-producing measures to deal with the effects of the recession.

The legislation (SB 1381) that would made Illinois the 16th state to legalize medical marijuana was called for a vote on January 7 and fell just two votes short of passage.

SB 1381, if approved this week by the House would make Illinois the 16th state to legalize medical marijuana. PCG supports this bill as an act of mercy and compassion on behalf of individuals suffering from chronic or acute pain who can be helped on no other way.

The Constitution of Illinois identifies the elimination of poverty as one of the fundamental goals of state government. This official commitment stands in stark contrast to the 24% increase in the number of Illinoisans living in poverty since 1999. *Building a Pathway to Dignity and Work* gives us the opportunity to reduce that percentage dramatically.

The 2010 November General Election will long be remembered as a nation-wide referendum on taxes. Illinois' election, on the other hand, demonstrated that the tax issue was not a make-or-break factor in Illinois legislative races. You'll find John Cameron's analysis very interesting.

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