Legislative News from Senator Don DeWitte

Sangamon County court ruling pushes back at Pritzker Covid mandates for schools
On Friday, a judge from downstate Sangamon County issued a temporary restraining order (TRO)against Gov. Pritzker’s school mitigations, claiming the legislature never gave the State Superintendent of Schools or the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) the authority to issue mask, vaccine, and testing mandates. I can attest that the legislature has been completely shut out of all decision-making regarding Covid mitigations and mandates and that we, as a legislative body, issued no such guidance. School boards held emergency meetings over the weekend to determine how they would respond to the ruling. Some went to mask “optional” or “recommended,” others kept mask mandates in place, and others took a wait-and-see approach.

Personally, I support any court ruling that puts Covid and mask decisions back at the local level, where local elected officials and parents are making decisions that are best for children and the community. I have said since the start of the pandemic that these kinds of decisions should be made locally, by people that truly understand the unique characteristics of their cities and towns. You can read the court ruling here.

The Attorney General is filing an emergency motion today to attempt to stop the TRO. Stay tuned.

 

‘Snowpocalypse’ forces a relocation of State of the State and Budget Address
This week, a massive winter storm swept across much of Illinois, dumping more than 10 inches of snow in some parts of the state and resulting in devasting road conditions. The so-called “snowpocalypse” arrived in the state Tuesday evening, the day before Gov. JB Pritzker was set to make his annual State of the State and Budget Address in front of Illinois legislators at the State Capitol.

Due to the extreme weather conditions that were being forecast for central Illinois, which included a snowfall ranging from 10 inches to 26 inches with 30 mph winds, the Majority Party canceled this week’s session and sent home lawmakers who had already traveled to Springfield. The cancellation of session cast some doubt on how the Governor would make his Address. Eventually, it was announced that the Address would still take place in-person, but would be relocated to the Old State Capitol in Springfield.

During the Address, the Governor unveiled his budget proposal, which includes a $2.5 billion government expansion and short-term tax relief that expires after one year. I have serious concerns about how the state will be able to afford the Governor’s permanent government expansion once the state runs out of federal stimulus money. Additionally, the people of Illinois deserve long-lasting tax relief, not election-year gimmick relief that the Governor proposed.

Click here to watch my video response to his speech.

That evening, I was the Senate Republican representative on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, where one member from each of the four legislative caucuses held a panel discussion about the speech.

Click here to watch the Chicago Tonight segment. The panel discussion is the second video clip on the page, so you’ll need to scroll down.

 

Still time to participate in Valentines for Seniors card drive
There are a lot of creative and artistic people in the 33rd District! Over the last few weeks my office has received many, many valentines that are sure to put big smiles on the faces of seniors in this area. Today marks the Feb. 7 deadline for dropping off or mailing valentines for my Valentines for Seniors Card drive. I wanted to make one last appeal, with hopes that we can collect a few more cards, poems, and well-wishes today (tomorrow is OK too). Items can be dropped off or mailed to my legislative office, located at 641 S. 8th Street, West Dundee, IL  60118. Please participate, and make this Valentine’s Day extra special for 33rd District seniors living in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and in long-term care settings.

 

Senate Republicans unveil pro-police, anti-crime package
Citing the urgent need to take swift action to stem the ongoing spike in violent crime across the state, last week the members of the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus unveiled an updated legislative package targeting violent crime and offering a critical lifeline to law enforcements efforts.

Members of the caucus held a press conference to announce their new legislative initiatives in the Capitol rotunda in front of the police remembrance wall, which is dedicated to honoring fallen police officers from the past year. This comes three months after they first held a press conference pleading for help from across the aisle to address crime.

The legislative package includes a “Fund the Police Grant Act,” which would provide targeted grants to assist law enforcement, provide additional training, and purchase much-needed equipment, including body cameras. The senators called for greater support for the men and women tasked with protecting communities across the state, noting that police officers and sheriffs were leaving the law-enforcement profession in unprecedented numbers. In many cases, officers leaving the profession have indicated that it was, in large, part due to provisions of the so-called “SAFE-T Act,” an anti-police package rammed through by a partisan vote in the late-night hours of a lame-duck session in January 2021.

The Republican senators’ legislative package also contains bills to keep violent offenders off of the street, help stop the flow of illegal guns to criminals, take serious action against carjacking, provide mental health treatment to detainees, and repeal the dangerous bail provisions of the anti-police “SAFE-T Act.”

The Senate Republican legislative package has the support of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association and the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, and members of their organizations attended the Tuesday press conference. To view the full text of the Senate Republicans’ package, click here.

 

Senate Republicans announce tax relief plan for Illinoisans
Senate Republicans are seeking to deliver Illinois families much-needed tax relief through their recently announced package of tax reform proposals. These measures will provide the citizens of Illinois with permanent, substantive relief, instead of the temporary relief proposed by Gov. Pritzker during his Budget Address on Wednesday

As part of our tax relief package, we are calling for reforms that help address the growing concerns of inflation and skyrocketing consumer prices. These changes include the elimination of the state’s one percent sales tax on food and prescription drugs.

Another section of our tax proposal is aimed at addressing the climbing price of gas, by lowering the overall amount consumers pay at the pump, while ensuring that critical funding necessary for road improvements remains the same. This proposal includes lowering the 6.25 percent sales tax on gas/gasohol to 5.25 percent, while also increasing the Road Fund disbursement from 32 percent to 53 percent.

Additionally, the tax relief package further helps Illinois senior citizens by increasing the income tax exemption that they can receive on their Illinois income tax from $1,000 to $2,000.

Senate Republicans are also taking on the issue of property taxes that has plagued the state for far too long, by calling for an increase in the state’s property tax income tax credit. Under this initiative, the tax credit would rise from 5 percent to 10 percent. The plan also allows voters who are subject to the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), the ability to go to referendum to lower their property taxes.

Illinoisans want and deserve true tax relief, not short-term gimmicks, and I am hopeful that the Governor and Senate Democrats seriously consider our proposals so we can make Illinois an affordable and more desirable place to live.

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