Legislative News from Senator Don DeWitte

Senate Republicans Push for Extension of Invest in Kids Act; Democrats Refuse to Call the Bill

Democrats refused to take action during the fall Veto Session to extend the Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship program, so thousands of low-income Illinois families will be left scrambling when the program ends on December 31. For most, that means their children, who benefitted from full tuition scholarships that allowed them to leave struggling public schools, will have to return to the school setting that failed them. Lifting the sunset deadline for this vital program was the Senate Republicans’ top priority for the fall Veto Session this year.

On November 7, our caucus held a press conference and called on Governor Pritzker and his legislative allies to help save Invest in Kids. We noted that instead of being focused on Illinois, the Governor was out of state in Florida trying to increase his national profile.

Since the inception of the Invest in Kids program in 2017, more than $308 million in private donations have been made to a tax credit scholarship fund that has provided more than 38,000 scholarships that helped low-income K-12 students in struggling schools optimize their chances for academic success by attending a school of their choice. 

Upon adjournment, I issued the following statement about the Democrats’ choice to allow the program to expire:

“Legislation was filed with plenty of time to spare that would have saved this program by lifting the December 31 sunset. This legislation was never even granted the courtesy of a hearing, let alone an up or down vote in the Senate or in the House. It is important that people understand that every Republican in the Senate and House wanted Invest in Kids to become permanent. Many of us would even like the program to be expanded so that more kids have access to these transformational scholarships. It is the Democrats who blocked this bill.”

Despite the setback, I will continue their fight for the return of the program during next year’s spring session.

Senate Extends Law to Hold Repeat Gun Offenders: House Refuses to Take Action

On November 8, I voted to extend a criminal penalty enhancement designed to keep more repeat felons convicted of gun crimes behind bars and off the streets. House Bill 1440 passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, but Republicans learned later that day that the House of Representatives never had any intention of calling the bill, deeming it “dead on arrival” in the House.

This political gamesmanship allowed most Senate Democrats to claim they were “tough on crime,” while it appears they knew all along the bill would stall in the House and die. Through this stunt, the criminal penalty enhancement for repeat felons convicted of gun crimes will sunset at the end of this year.

The statute was originally passed at the request of law enforcement to help them keep violent repeat offenders and gang members behind bars. The partisan games used to kill the statute will make the state less safe, by allowing violent gun criminals to be back on the streets sooner.

Lawmakers Pass Bill Paving Way for Next Generation of Nuclear Reactors 

State lawmakers took an important step toward creating a stronger and more reliable power supply for Illinois by passing legislation to end the moratorium on new nuclear reactor construction.  

House Bill 2473 lifts the ban on next generation nuclear reactors less than 300 MW beginning January 1, 2026, allowing for the construction and development of next-generation Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). The Illinois Emergency Management Agency Office of Homeland Security will be directed to establish rules for reactor decommissioning, environmental monitoring, and emergency preparedness by January 1, 2026. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will provide consultation.  

House Bill 2473 also authorizes the Governor to commission a brand-new study to research the state’s role in guiding the development of new nuclear technology and makes conforming statutory changes, including updating references to IEMA-OHS in preexisting Illinois law. 

Passed by the Senate with a 44-7 vote and by the House of Representatives with a 98-8 vote, House Bill 2473 will be sent to the Governor’s desk for consideration.  

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