Senate Week in Review: July 14-18, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

A legislative panel reviewing Governor Quinn’s failed anti-violence initiative put off testimony from subpoenaed former Quinn administration officials until October 8, complying with a request from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

James Lewis, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois, asked the Legislative Audit Commission not to interview witnesses for 90 days, so as not to impact any ongoing criminal investigation conducted by his office.

Read the expanded version of the Senate Week in Review

 Grant transparency legislation

 As the panel got underway, Quinn sought to deflect criticism of the management of the program he started in 2010, by signing a measure intended to increase accountability in state grant awards.

House Bill 2747 (PA 98-0706) creates the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act, which would basically adopt federal uniform rules for grants issued by state agencies. 

While applauding the intent, critics raised concerns because the legislation allows the Governor to appoint the members of the board that is supposed to oversee the actions of the Governor’s administration.

Moved to labor department?

Grant awards have been at the heart of the controversy over the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, with regular news stories detailing questionable and, in some cases, fraudulent activities related to grants handed out under the program.

Although the Governor has publicly tried to put the program behind him, lawmakers point to $20 million in new spending shuffled off to the state’s Labor Department that they say could be used to fund a re-branded version of the same failed program.

The cost of corruption

Researchers from Indiana University and City University of Hong Kong recently released a study that attempts to put a dollar figure on public corruption. Illinois was among the state’s studied and the professors said that in the 10 most corrupt states (with Illinois among those 10) taxpayers pay an average “corruption tax” of $1,308 per person.

Concealed carry

In an announcement related to the state’s new concealed carry law, which was approved last year, the Illinois State Police said persons who have a permit denied because of an objection from local law enforcement authorities, will now have access to the reasons behind that denial and have an opportunity to refute the reasons for the denial.

As of mid-July about 64,000 concealed carry permits have been issued in Illinois.

Medical marijuana

Illinois also continues to move forward on medical marijuana. The legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules signed off on proposed regulations July 15, which detail how state agencies will comply with the legislation and administer the program.

State pension funds get settlement

Illinois’ troubled pension funds will get a small boost from a national settlement over problematic home loans that fed the 2008 nationwide financial crisis.

Illinois is scheduled to receive $84 million as part of a national $7 billion settlement with Citigroup Inc., over risky mortgage-backed securities, with about $44 million going to compensate state pension funds that invested in the securities and the remaining $40 million to consumers.

Bills signed into law

Dozens of measures were signed into law recently and hundreds more are likely to be approved over the coming weeks as the annual deadline for Governor’s action approaches. Each year the General Assembly has 30 days to send legislation to the Governor’s desk and he has 60 days to act on the bills. Because the legislature adjourned at the beginning of June, that means that all measures must be either approved or vetoed by the end of August.

 Go to the expanded Week in Review for the full list of bills signed recently and more details on other stories