The Morrison Memo: February 29, 2016

Legislators are back in Springfield this week. We are scheduled to spend some time on the House floor Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, but most of our time will be spent in committees, where we will begin hearing the hundreds of bills that were filed for 2016.

In the House Personnel & Pensions committee, I am particularly interested in a 3:00 PM hearing today, when we will hear subject matter testimony on Representative Mark Batnick’s (R- Plainfield) HB 4417. This pension reform bill would offer pension system participants an opportunity to take a lump sum retirement payment equal to 75% of the value of their annuity at the time of retirement. I am a co-sponsor of this legislation. I believe the legislation is Constitutional, as it does not force pension system participants to accept the option. The hearing will be held at 3:00 PM in Capitol Room 118. If you would like to tune in and listen to the committee discussion, you may do so at http://ilga.gov/house/audvid.asp, and by clicking on the link for the audio or video for Room 118.

Morrison Files 2016 Legislative Agenda
This year I filed 11 bills as part of my 2016 legislative agenda. The bills touch on a variety of topics, including pension reform, taxpayer savings, protection of personal privacy and measures to improve the business climate in Illinois.

Just some of my new bills include:
  • HB 4474: Provides clarity and a statewide guideline for locker room and bathroom usage that protects the privacy of all school students. 
  • HB 4660: Changes the schedule for examinations of pension funds for downstate Police and Fire pensions. 
  • HB 4984: Amends the state universities and downstate teacher articles of the pension code and protects taxpayers from assuming the costs for pay increases beyond the rate of inflation. 
  • HB 4985: Allows school districts to drop unfunded instructional mandates if school state aid payments are delayed for at least one payment cycle. 
  • HB 5533: Creates the Limitations on Actions for Negligent Hiring Act and protects business owners from frivolous law suits in cases where they have chosen to hire an individual who has been found guilty of a nonviolent or non-sexual offense. 
  • HB 6097: Amends the IL Pension Code by requiring units of local government to provide an alternative retirement plan in lieu of or in addition to the existing plan offered to employees. 
  • HB 6141: Allows school districts to enter into a contract for drivers’ education services with a commercial driver training school without having to request a waiver from the State Board of Education. 
  • HB 6253: Sets registration fees for electric and hybrid cars to account for the fact that these vehicles do not pay Motor Fuel Taxes, which help to pave and repair our roads. 
  • HB 6255: Amends the Firearm Concealed Carry Act by eliminating the provision that prohibits firearms on any property under the control of the cook County forest Preserve. 
  • HB 6256: Repeals the Alternate Fuel Act to eliminate the state rebate for the purchase of electric or hybrid vehicles. 
District 54 Residents Visit Capitol for Governor’s Budget Address
On February 17, about a dozen of my constituents took advantage of a Springfield trip I offered to anyone from the 54th District who was interested to being at the Capitol when the Governor presented his Budget Address. It was an enlightening day even for those who’d previously visited Springfield, and I enjoyed spending time with group. Click here to watch some video remarks about the wonderful time we had. I am going to try to make this an annual event, so if you were not able to join us this year, please look for the information next February.

Rauner’s Plan Presents Two Paths Toward Balanced Budget in Annual Address
Governor Bruce Rauner addressed a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly for his budget address on February 17. In his address, the Governor called for “major structural reforms to lower the cost of government, while generating economic growth.” Workers’ compensation reform, lawsuit reform, State and local government consolidation, and reform to the processes used when the public sector negotiates with labor unions, continue to be key planks of the Governor’s Turnaround Agenda. The text of the Governor’s address can be found here.

I believe Governor Rauner has shown leadership in the midst of turmoil and shared power with the majority party in the legislature. He invited the General Assembly to work with him to approve a balanced budget alongside reforms, and he reiterated that he is willing to work across party lines in order to get it done. He laid out two clear paths for balancing the budget. He offered a comprehensive approach which included reforms, improved efficiencies and potential tax increases to make the numbers work. He also offered a proposal of deep cuts if reforms were rejected. It appears that either way Governor Rauner is ready to take the necessary steps to ensure a balanced budget for next year. You can watch my video response here.