News from Senator Peter Roskam Senate Republican Whip
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For Immediate Release

Date:  April 15, 2005

Senate Week in Review: April 10 – 15

SPRINGFIELD, IL – Sobering statistics on the health of Illinois’ jobs climate topped Senate business this week, according to Senator Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton). Lawmakers also dealt with a host of gun and veterans-related legislation, while the Governor admitted his Administration’s miscalculations have created a major budget crisis.

On Thursday, April 14, Senate Republicans released a comprehensive analysis of Illinois’ recent employment record showing the state performed far worse than both national and regional averages. The study, based upon figures released by the U.S. Department of Labor, shows Illinois has ranked 49th in the nation in terms of job growth and economic recovery since the national turnaround in 2003.

Senator Roskam said Illinois’ dismal economic performance is a direct result of massive tax and fee increases passed by Democrats in 2003. At the time, Senate Republicans warned the hikes would chill the state’s economic climate and stall the recovery. The analysis released Thursday confirms those warnings.

Compared to neighboring states, Illinois’ poor performance becomes even more evident. Since January 2003, Missouri has gained 4,700 jobs, Iowa has gained 16,500 jobs, Kentucky has gained 21,300 jobs, Wisconsin has gained 40,000 jobs and Indiana added 54,400 jobs to its rolls. During the same period, Illinois lost 40,900 jobs.

Illinois’s employment record is also performing worse than the national average. If the state had kept up to national trends, Illinois would have gained more than 140,000 jobs since 2003.

Another consequence of the Democrat tax and fee hikes: rising welfare caseloads. After a decade of decline, the number of Illinoisans on welfare has risen 13 percent since Governor Blagojevich took office, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In the last year alone, the state has suffered 10 percent growth to its welfare rolls, while neighboring states have seen declines of one to three percent.

Also this week, the Senate debated the contentious issue of gun control, passing two common-sense gun bills and defeating several harmful measures. Senate lawmakers passed SB 2104, which helps law-abiding gun owners by providing a uniform law regulating the transportation of firearms. Right now, municipalities across the state have a wide-variety of restrictions regulating the transport of firearms, making it nearly impossible for gun owners to conform to local ordinances. This bill establishes a single standard currently found in state statute, which allows gun owners to transport their firearms as long as they’re unloaded and encased.

Another bill approved by the Senate, SB 56, closes the gun show loophole found in state law. The legislation requires background checks for all firearms sold at gun shows. It also prohibits any municipality other than Chicago from passing an ordinance that restricts the sale of firearms.

The Senate also rejected several pieces of anti-gun legislation that had earlier been defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a desperate attempt to pass the measures, the Democrat leadership moved the bills to the highly-partisan Senate Executive Committee, where they narrowly passed out on mostly party line votes.

SB 1330 allowed individuals injured by guns to sue firearms makers, while SB 1331 permitted towns to label gun shops “public nuisances” if they failed to stop customers from committing crimes with their purchases. SB 1332 limited handgun sales to one a month per individual.

None of the measures was able to attract more than 24 votes in the Senate, which requires 30 votes to pass legislation. The anti-gun bills were strongly backed by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, whose allies bring similar legislation to a vote every legislative session.

In other news, the Senate passed several bills this week that seek to help Illinois soldiers and veterans. On Thursday, the Senate unanimously approved the Illinois Patriot Plan (SB 2060), a Senate Republican initiative aimed at giving consumer protections to soldiers deployed overseas. Among other things, the bill gives soldiers the right to terminate their cell phone contracts without penalty, provides assistance with rent and utilities, and helps with the high cost of long distance phone coverage.

SB 776 assists active duty service members with mortgage life insurance payments; SB 328 provides vouchers for child care to Illinois families who have one ore more parents deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan; SB 323 provides loans to businesses which are negatively impacted by the deployment of an owner, manager or key employee overseas; SB 79 extends the time active duty soldiers have to pay their property taxes; SB 40 requires a state analysis of how Illinois veterans’ benefits compare to the veterans’ benefits provided in other states.

Also approved was SB 2032, which amends the Children of Deceased Veterans Act to allow private school students to receive the same education benefits public school students receive, such as help with tuition fees, board, supplies and books.

Finally this week, the Governor admitted his administration’s mishandling of the state’s budget crisis. In a meeting with the four legislative leaders, the Governor requested an additional $86 million to fund the Departments of Corrections, Aging and Health Services for the current fiscal year. The announcement flies in the face of previous assurances by the Governor and his fiscal team that his policies were improving the state’s fiscal health.

At the meeting, the Governor called for a supplemental budget to cover the $86 million shortfall, and said thousands of state prison and healthcare workers could be furloughed if the additional money isn’t found. Discussions on the supplemental budget will continue next week.

While Senate Republicans are ready to work with the Governor, the current shortfall underscores the Caucus’s longstanding position that the Governor’s fiscal policies are a house of cards. Two and a half years of one-time revenue gimmicks, increased spending and debt, and irresponsible fund sweeps have made a bad fiscal crisis worse. Republican lawmakers believe it is time to finally pass a budget that holds the line on new spending and meets the state’s current obligations.

The following measures passed the Illinois Senate this week, and now head to the House for further consideration:

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