I hope this legislative update finds you and your family well. As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your voice in Springfield, and take a moment in this newsletter to give you a brief update about legislative news from the fall Veto Session in Springfield.
If you have any questions about any issues in the newsletter please contact my district office if I, or a member of my staff, may be of assistance to you. You can reach us by phone at (773) 444-0611 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brad Stephens, State Representative 20th District
Police and Fire Pension Consolidation bill heads to the Governor’s Desk
The Governor’s bipartisan Pension Consolidation Feasibility Task Force met eight times throughout the past year. The task force issued a report in October recommending that downstate police and fire pension system assets be consolidated to achieve higher investment returns and lower the cost of managing the funds. The task force’s report estimates that over the next five years, consolidation could lead to an additional $800 million to $2.5 billion in investment returns alone.
Illinois has nearly 650 separate pension funds, the second-highest number of pension plans of any state in the country. These funds are held and managed separately, and they earn significantly lower investment returns than larger pension plans like the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF). According to most recently available estimates, Illinois’ 649 downstate and suburban police and fire pension funds are underfunded by a whopping $11 billion.
I supported the pension consolidation plan because we must do everything in our power to chip away at pension debt in Illinois. SB 1300 was approved by the House on Wednesday, November 13, by a vote of 96-14-3 and is currently awaiting the Governor’s signature.
House of Representatives approves legislation to cap some insulin copays
Over 1 million Illinois residents live with diabetes and take insulin to survive. Diabetics are reporting that they must pay high prices, and must make high co-payments, for essential insulin supplies. To fix this, I voted in favor of SB 667, which addresses prices of prescription insulin drugs that are covered by insurance programs regulated by the State of Illinois. The legislation imposes a co-pay cap of $100 per month on this insulin. Some health programs are covered by federal law, and are not regulated by the State and are not affected by this new law.
SB 667, as amended, was approved in the House on Wednesday, November 13 by a vote of 100-13-1. A Senate concurrence vote of 43-1-0 sent this measure to the Governor to be signed into law.
Vaping regulations moved to back burner during Veto Session
There have been 42 vaping related deaths nationwide, four of them in Illinois, and many more hospitalizations. The latest breakthrough from the CDC says that the lungs of 29 patients across 10 states contained Vitamin E acetate. While Vitamin E is the first potential culprit, other chemicals have not necessarily been ruled out as the cause. THC is also present in most of the samples tested by the Food and Drug Administration to date, and most patients report a history of using THC-containing products.
Although a topic of much discussion before and during veto session, no bills aimed at curbing electronic smoking devices and their flavors advanced out of the legislature. There was disagreement on exactly what kind of a ban Illinois should implement; the flavorings, THC cartridges, or e-cigarettes altogether. I look forward to working with my colleagues from across the aisle and the state to address this public health crisis.
Your feedback is important to me as we move forward. Please feel welcome to e-mail me at email@example.com or call my district office at (773) 444-0611 to let me know what your views are on the issue of vaping.
Ethics Reforms Update: IL General Assembly falls short on ethics reform
In response to the federal corruption probe that has widened further since two weeks ago, I signed onto a new package of legislation introduced at the end of last week.
The ethics package includes:
- House Bill 3954 will revise statements of economic interests to include more details similar to the information required for judicial statements of economic interest. This forces full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and provides greater transparency for members of the General Assembly;
- HJRCA 36 will require a special election to fill General Assembly vacancies through the same laws governing party primaries. This will prevent political powerbrokers from picking their preferred candidates for vacancies;
- House Resolution 588 will allow a Chief Co-Sponsor of any bill with five co-sponsors from each party to call it or an up or down vote in a substantive committee;
- House Bill 3947 would ban members of the General Assembly, their spouses, and immediate live-in family members from performing paid lobbying work with local government units. Currently, members of the Illinois General Assembly – state representatives and state senators – are prohibited from lobbying the State of Illinois, but are not prohibited from lobbying local government units, such as counties or municipalities;
- House Bill 3955 will create mandatory and publicly available documentation of General Assembly communications with any state agency regarding contracts.
Instead of providing true ethics reform, the legislation was filed in the middle of the night. This is not how the legislative process is supposed to work. I reluctantly supported these watered-down bills because they are a very small step forward. However, I stressed that much, much more work needs to be done to end the culture of corruption.
Illinois House of Representatives to reconvene in January
The Illinois House of Representatives is scheduled to return to Springfield on January 28, 2020 for the start of next year’s session. The Governor will give his annual “State of the State” address on January 29. As the legislative session progresses, I will keep you updated on what new bills I intend to file and their progress through the legislature.
I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read this update. Please do not hesitate to contact my district office if I, or a member of my staff, may be of assistance to you. You can reach us by phone at (773) 444-0611 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Representative 20th District