Take My Legislative Survey!
As the 2020 legislative session gets underway, I would like to invite all residents of the 95th House District to complete my 2020 Legislative Survey. The survey can be accessed digitally here. Paper copies are available at the district office at 106 E. Columbian Boulevard North in Litchfield, and can also be mailed by calling the office at (217) 324-5200.
The survey includes several multiple choice questions and one open response area where additional concerns can be shared. I will read every one of them, and look forward to seeing the results. Survey responses will be accepted through March 1. In addition to taking this survey, I encourage people to email me or call me to share their views on legislative issues.
General Assembly Returns to Springfield for 2020 Session
Lawmakers returned to Springfield on January 28 for the start of the 2020 legislative session. On the second session day, January 29, Governor JB Pritzker presented his State of the State Address. During the 45-minute speech, the Governor gave a recap of many of the progressive policies the democrats passed on a partisan basis last year that Pritzker considered his biggest achievements. However, I am glad that he highlighted pro-business incentives in his list of accomplishments for 2019. House Republicans pushes for several key business reforms that will grow jobs and boost the economy that were finally passed last May. These reforms include:
- Creation of the Blue Collar Jobs Act- to attract large-scale construction projects
- Creation of a Data Center Tax Incentive- to enhance the state’s ability to locate data centers in Illinois by providing tax incentives
- Reinstatement of the Manufacturer’s Purchase Credit- to encourage further investments in manufacturing in Illinoi
- Elimination of the antiquated Illinois Franchise Tax
- Elimination of the cap on the Retailer’s Discount
During the speech, I was also glad to hear the Governor call for swift action on ethics reform to end the culture of corruption. Pritzker’s words need to be followed by decisive action, because the dark cloud hanging over State government will only dissipate if the legislature takes bold action. I was disappointed that the Governor was silent on the issue of fair maps. Make no mistake- there is a direct correlation between how political insiders draw legislative maps to protect themselves, and the deep-rooted corruption that has undermined our entire system of state government. Following the speech, I spoke on camera and provided my reaction to the speech. You can watch my remarks here.
The Governor returns to the House podium on February 19 for his annual budget address. It is at this time that the Governor outlines his recommended spending plan for the state’s next fiscal year. I’ll be looking for a balanced spending proposal that includes a full pension payment and no new taxes.
State Gun Owners’ Advocacy Groups Sue State Police over FOID Card Backlog
The lawsuit by the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA) and the Second Amendment Foundation was filed on Monday, February 3. Many gun owners have noticed that the State Police is getting slower and slower at responding to Illinois applications to get and renew a Firearm Owners’ Identification (FOID) Card, a required document when purchasing a gun from a registered gun dealer. The FOID Card law has been in place for more than 30 years.
The ISRA/Second Amendment Foundation lawsuit alleges that there are currently massive problems with the routine application process, the routine FOID card renewal process, and the processes of FOID card enforcement and reinstatement. In recent years, the State of Illinois has “swept” $29.5 million from the dedicated State funds that were supposed to support FOID card issuance and enforcement, and has taken the money to be spent on other things. This has meant that the back office that examines applications, issues the cards, and reissues the cards to persons who have won reinstatement has been starved of necessary funds. I am sponsoring legislation this year that would prohibit these fund sweeps so that money paid to the State Police for use in processing FOID card applications and renewals remains with the agency. This is an issue of accountability and making sure that our fundamental rights guaranteed in the 2nd Amendment are protected.
Rep. Bourne Announces Constituent Coffee Events
As the spring session gets underway in Springfield, I am hosting a series of Coffee & Conversation events across the 95th District. The outreach events are free and open to the public. Please stop by an event that is convenient for you, so we can have a discussion about the issues that are most important to you. I’ll provide the coffee. All you need to do is bring your questions. Coffee & Conversations are scheduled for the following dates and times:
Tuesday, February 11
7:00 AM: Yellow Dog Café, 124 E. Wall Street in Worden
8:30 AM: Blackbird Bakery, 123 E. Main Street in Staunton
Thursday, February 13
7:00 AM: B&K Bakery, 107 E. Main Street in Mount Olive
8:30 AM: Hardees, 201 School Street in Hillsboro
Friday, February 14
7:00 AM: Gotcha Latte, 102 S. Macoupin Street in Gillespie
8:30 AM: Hawthorne Tree, 217 Hoch Street in Carlinville
Friday, February 21
7:00 AM: Brewin’ Hope Coffeehouse, 38 Oak Street in Pana
8:30 AM: Talia’s Bakery, 110 S. Main Street in Taylorville
If you have questions about these events, please call my Litchfield office at (217) 324-5200.
House Committees Begin Hearing Bills
Last week House committees held a full schedule of meetings as bills began to move through the review process. Fifteen separate hearings were posted by various committees. The full list of House committees can be found here, and you can follow my personal legislation here.
For 2020, I will serve as the Republican Spokesperson for the Elementary & Secondary Education- Curriculum Policies Committee and also on the Appropriations- Elementary & Secondary Education, Counties & Townships, International Trade & Commerce and Special Issues Committees.
Problems Continue with Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) System
Automatic Voter Registration was set up to make it easier for people to register to vote while interacting with a state agency like getting a drivers license at the Secretary of State’s Office. However, in recent weeks we’ve seen many reports of serious problems with the AVR system. These include persons old enough to drive, but too young to vote, whose names were put into the voter-registration system; persons with the legal right to live in Illinois and to drive on our roads, but not citizens, who were given voting cards; and persons who specifically asked NOT to be registered to vote, but who were registered anyway.
In addition to these wrongful registrations, we also learned that state election officials had to intervene and halt the automatic registration of 4,700 16-year-olds whose information was wrongly sent to the State Board of Elections by the Secretary of State’s office. Nowhere in our laws do we allow 16-year-olds to vote. Furthermore, through an investigation, we now know that not only are there issues with the AVR program itself, but AVR is being implemented outside of the lawful process that requires legislative approval of agency rules. I have called for the temporary suspension of AVR until we get answers and until all issues are rectified. So far these calls have fallen on deaf ears.
With these and other problems in mind, the House Executive Committee held a Springfield hearing last week on the AVR program. Assistant Republican Leader Tim Butler, who has taken the lead in gathering ongoing oversight information on this program’s problems, worked with his colleagues to question Secretary of State personnel on the program and its current failings.
Joint Commission on Ethics & Lobbying Reform Meets in Springfield
The bipartisan and bicameral Joint Commission on Ethics & Lobbying has met twice since the start of the 2020 session. On Thursday, January 31, the group met to discuss an important area of transparency- the statement of economic interest that lawmakers must file annually. In theory, this document provides for the full disclosure of where elected officials receive outside income not tied to their job as a member of the House or Senate. Unfortunately, the forms utilized for the General Assembly are vague and outdated, and provide very little real information about legislators’ outside financial interests.
On February 5, the commission met a second time. At this meeting they reviewed the State Employees and Officials Ethics Act and the Illinois Governmental Ethics Act. Additional meetings will be held, and the group will present its findings to the General Assembly by March 31. House Republicans are pushing a package of reforms that include banning legislators from also serving as paid lobbyists, measures that strengthen the information that must be provided on statements of economic interest, an a “revolving door” policy, which would prohibit legislators from becoming lobbyists immediately upon leaving office.
The House Republican representatives on the commission include Representatives Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) and Patrick Windhorst (R-Harrisburg). The two lawmakers sat down recently to discuss the importance of ethics reform in Illinois. You can listen to that podcast here.
Illinois State Police Offers Testimony to General Assembly on DNA Testing Backlog
In action taken in 2019 by the Illinois General Assembly, the State Police was instructed to look at its storage shelves containing months of untested genetic material. This is material that is of potential value in bringing cases to trial and even solving unsolved criminal cases, including cases of criminal sexual abuse and criminal sexual assault. Representative Margo McDermed took the lead in the House in demanding that the State Police take action. McDermed was the lead House sponsor of SB 1411, a measure to push forward the chains of evidence in Illinois cases involving sexual assault evidence tracking. The Illinois General Assembly appropriated new funds in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget to the State Police to implement the new law.
Some movement is taking place at the State Police to deal with their untested inventory. In testimony offered to a state Senate committee recently, State Police Director Brendan Kelly and forensics division leader Col. Sean Cormier offered disclosures on the current state of the backlog. Kelly and Cormier told the panel that the State Police’s moves to increase the priority of moving its testing chain forward has reduced the backlog by 16% since last year. The State Police now has the resources to hire chemists and technicians to conduct testing work at a pace that is reducing the backlog.
The State Police also indicated that the current revolutionary changes taking place in DNA testing technology are increasing the burdens on their crime-lab chemists and technicians. New ability to match minimal crime-scene evidence to an individual criminal’s DNA is highly valued by courts of law, turning this evidence into gold-standard evidence and increasing demand for the trained personnel whose services are necessary for the work. Popular video entertainment plotlines, which show “impossible” law enforcement triumphs achieved by DNA forensic technology, further increase this burden by placing high expectations upon the people who do this work.
Increased Number of U.S. Coronavirus Cases Reported
Wuhan 2019-nCoV coronavirus appears to be highly contagious, and a long latency period means that its patients can sometimes spread the virus before they feel sick or seek medical care. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is tracking all of the cases so far reported in Illinois, and seeks a complete list of patients. The agency strongly urges everyone who: (a) has been in mainland China during the past two weeks, and (b) has symptoms of respiratory illness, to contact their health care provider immediately to seek assessment and diagnosis. The IDPH also extends this advice to everyone who: (i) knows someone who may have coronavirus, and (ii) has symptoms of respiratory illness.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. Thousands of cases have been reported from China, with discussion that the magnitude of the outbreak may be being underreported in that country. The White House has issued an executive order to control entry into the United States of persons who pose a risk of transmitting coronavirus.