As the legislative session has reached a 2-week intermission, I’d like to update you on some items both I and the Republican Caucus have dealt with in the General Assembly recently, but first I am pleased to report I have been appointed to serve as conference chairman within the House Republican Leadership team, which will enable me to have an even larger say on issues important to the 102nd District. This appointment is truly an honor and I look forward to taking on the tough issues within my new role.
House Bill 3523 presented in Committee. Recently I presented legislation within the Renewable Energy & Sustainability Committee to create the Wind Energy Facilities Construction and Deconstruction Act. With the safekeeping of landowners and farmers in mind, my bill would require that operators of commercial wind energy facilities built after its effective date, and located on private property, must enter into an agricultural impact mitigation agreement with the Department of Agriculture to outline construction and deconstruction plans in order to help preserve the integrity of any land impacted. Agricultural impact agreements shall be entered into with the Department of Agriculture prior to any public hearing with a county or municipality to ensure that each commercial wind energy facility is planned with nearby land integrity in mind.
This legislation comes with the full backing of the Illinois Farm Bureau, and it does not in any way impede local control, but it does guarantee to local governments that any wind energy facility planned in their area takes into consideration the safekeeping of not only the land used by the facility, but land nearby the facility. It received unanimous approval in committee, and is moved to the House Floor for consideration once the legislative session reconvenes.
General Assembly takes steps to resolve FY15 budget shortfall. Faced with a $1.6 billion FY15 budget deficit, I stood with a majority of the General Assembly to enact legislation that will reorganize spending and enable the State to get through the fiscal year, which covers spending needs through June 30, 2015.
Without immediate action, the State would have been unable to make payroll at Illinois prisons, low-income working families would lose their child care assistance, court reporters would be laid off and money for services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled would run out. In addition, inaction would have further delayed and perhaps jeopardized critical categorical school funding and State aid payments.
After negotiations, the General Assembly agreed to language contained in HB 317 and HB 318. HB 317, an appropriations bill, made cuts and transfers in State spending. HB 318, a budget implementation bill, granted the Governor the legal authority to carry out and implement the cuts in spending and spending transfers made in HB 317. Together, these bills work to fill critical holes in the unbalanced FY15 budget signed by former Governor Quinn.
Approximately $1.3 billion of the moves occurred in the form of budget transfers from various funds, and approximately $400 million was in the form of an across-the-board budget cut. The HB 317-HB 318 package created $97 million in budgetary flexibility that can be used to respond to specific challenges, including the challenge of school districts that have run out of reserves.
The House vote on HB 317 was 72-45-0 and the House vote on HB 318 was 69-48-0, with all House Republicans voting in favor of the measures. The Senate followed up by approving both bills on Thursday, March 26, sending the measures to Governor Rauner for final action. The Governor, who pushed for and signed both bills into law, expressed a readiness to follow up on this work in alliance with House Republicans. The two bills became law as Public Acts 99-0001 and 99-0002, the first bills signed into law by the new Governor.
As I’ve stated before, actions such as these allow the General Assembly to protect vital human services for the most vulnerable among us, and ensure that the interconnected services stay sufficient. As your State Representative it was an obvious vote to approve of the necessary increases to programs that were underfunded in former Governor Quinn’s final budget, such as an additional $266 million to the Child Care Program and $25 million to mental health grants.
Champaign-Urbana medical school plans approved by board of trustees. Seeking to utilize its globally-ranked standing in materials research and development, the University of Illinois this month finalized plans to oversee the construction of a new medical school adjacent to its primary Champaign-Urbana campus. The plans were described on Sunday, March 22 by the USA Today.
Responding to researchers who see increasing challenges and opportunities in biomedicine, the University of Illinois sees the new medical school as a way to bring together the College of Engineering and the clinical resources of the nearby Carle hospital-and-health-system. The University’s trustees repeatedly assured staff and affiliated professionals at their existing medical school, the University of Illinois College of Medicine, that the decision did not signal any diminution of their support level for the existing UIC school, which is organized around a traditional urban teaching-hospital model and is affiliated with the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The new medical school will be located in Champaign-Urbana, at Carle’s flagship hospital and at campus locations to be determined. It will be the first medical school opened in Downstate Illinois since the creation in 1970 of the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield. I am happy to report that the first Champaign-Urbana medical school students will begin class work as soon as fall 2017.
As always, if you require my office’s assistance, it can be reached at 217-607-5104, or you can use the Contact tool at www.repadambrown.com.