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Senate Week in Review: July 21-25, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF

A $1.1 billion plan to accelerate road construction was signed into law July 22, putting in place the final piece of the state’s annual budget.


House Bill 3794, which received bi-partisan support in May, will allow the state to accelerate its multi-year road construction plan. All of the projects affected are “shovel ready” and were selected by the state’s transportation department.


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With the additional road funding program, the majority of about 200 projects are expected to involve resurfacing short segments of roads throughout the state, as well as some bridge repairs. The Capital infusion includes $1 billion for State roads and bridges and $100 million for local governments.

 

 S&P Issues “negative” outlook


 Coincidentally, a major credit rating agency changed their outlook for Illinois credit from “developing” to “negative” the following day.


 Standard & Poor’s decision to issue a credit warning was not related to the road construction legislation and was not an official downgrade in the state’s credit rating of A-. But it does signal that the company believes the state’s financial management is headed in the wrong direction and a downgrade is likely to occur in the future. Ultimately, it could cost the state more in interest payments when financing road and other construction projects.


Illinois has long held the worst credit rating in the country among the three major bond agencies and Governor Pat Quinn has seen more downgrades under his administration than all previous Illinois governor’s combined.


Medical marijuana, school closures and more


A number of other measures have been signed into law in recent days as well, including SB 2636, which extends the state’s medical marijuana pilot program to add seizures to the list of "debilitating medical conditions" that medical marijuana may be used to treat.


Also approved was HB 3199 that encourages schools that are used as polling places to either close or hold a teachers’ institute day on election day, so that no students would be in attendance. Proponents argued that it is difficult, if not impossible, for a school to maintain security and simultaneously allow easy public access to the school building for voters on election days.


Another measure, SB 2780, is aimed at making it easier for local governments to take on clean water projects. It eliminates a local government's 30% (of total project cost) matching requirement on grants given by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for public water supply facilities. It also allows more types of water pollution control projects to qualify for financial assistance including storm water runoff and treatment systems, industrial waste systems, and combined storm water and sanitary sewer systems.


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