Cullerton: COLA repeal is “blatantly unconstitutional”; and more from INN Radio

Cullerton: COLA repeal is “blatantly unconstitutional”
It’s been a full month of the new fiscal year and there’s still no budget in place, but lawmakers could soon find around $200,000 in savings in a budget of over $30 billion. Despite the proposed bill reducing lawmakers’ Cost of Living Allocation being quote “blatantly unconstitutional” the leading Democrat in the Senate will call a vote for its repeal next week. Senate President John Cullerton tells the Chicago Sun-Times that he will call and support the measure even though he knows it’s unconstitutional, but he doubts anyone will challenge the law if it passes. The Illinois Constitution explicitly says quote “changes in the salary of a member shall not take effect during the term for which he has been elected.” The Comptroller’s office indicates they have already processed the first round of paychecks for legislators that includes the COLA of 2 percent. Speaker Michael Madigan suggested lawmakers not wanting that increase could return it to the state treasury.

Bourne: Donating COLA to charity to cut out government middleman
The youngest and one of the newest legislators in the Illinois House plans on donating her Cost of Living Allocation directly to charity, not back to the state treasury. Republican Representative Avery Bourne, tells WMAY Springfield she disagreed with the COLA and joined other Republicans in urging passage of their COLA repeal before regular session expired at the end of May. However the House ultimately voted on a Democrat-backed measure this past Tuesday, after the deadline of when lawmaker pay increased because of the COLA.

“Our checks have already been processed with the COLA increase included for this month, so whether or not it gets voted on in the Senate and it’s processed differently for the next month there will be an increase on this check no matter what.”

Bourne, who was appointed to a vacant position in the Illinois House earlier this year, says that she won’t take Speaker Michael Madigan’s advice of donating the COLA back to the state treasury. Instead, she’ll donate the COLA directly to charity. Why?

“Well, I think the state’s a middleman in helping people so I think I’ll just take that out and give it directly to them.”

The House voted nearly unanimously for the COLA repeal and the Senate is expected to vote when they return to Springfield next week.

Redfield: Lawmakers waited too long to address their COLA
A longtime political observer says it’s too late to change legislator pay and have it be considered constitutional. The measure to repeal Cost of Living Allocation increases for state legislators was originally brought forward before the end of regular session in May by House Republicans but it was blocked by Democratic leadership. University of Illinois at Springfield Politics Professor Kent Redfield said if the original measure would have passed before May 31st the constitutionality question would be irrelevant.

“The problem is that you had to deny this cost of living increase under the statute before the first of July. Now that it has taken effect it is probably unconstitutional to reduce it.”

But Democrat majorities in the House blocked the Republican bill before the end of May and called their own version which passed nearly unanimously Tuesday. Only one Representative, Democrat Will Davis, voted “no”. Redfield says if the measure was challenged it could take a couple of years to make its way through the courts. Governor Bruce Rauner criticized the increased pay saying that Illinois lawmakers are already among the highest compensated in the country and they haven’t done their job of putting together a balanced budget a full month into the new fiscal year.

DCFS Director: Transparency best way to disinfect
Being transparent is one way to ensure wrongs are righted at the state’s child welfare agency. That’s according to the Acting Director of the Department of Children and Family Services. During the Legislative Audit Commission hearing Wednesday, Director George Sheldon heard about the findings from last December showing more than 3,000 wards of the state went missing in one year. Sheldon said the records needs to be opened.

“Because that’s the only that you’re going to be able to re-evaluate the system, whether it was a fault of somebody within the agency or not, I think sunshine is the great sanitizer.”

Sheldon went on to say that too many children are dying in Illinois, in particular they’re infants and toddlers. Most are from drowning and cosleeping and also have not had previous contact with the department, according to DCFS, who say it will take years to meet the Auditor General’s recommendations for the Department.

Governor signs new laws
Except in cases of misconduct, a corrections or other law enforcement officer or agency can’t be held liable for prohibiting or preventing inmates in jails or prisons from having medical cannabis — regardless if the inmate is a medical cannabis card holder. The measure, signed by Governor Bruce Rauner, also allows for officers to be held harmless if they keep a parolee or someone on mandatory supervised release from accessing medical cannabis. While the law is effective immediately there is still no medical cannabis available. Meanwhile the Governor has yet to act on a measure to extend the medical cannabis pilot program for four more years or a measure to relax laws penalizing marijuana possession. The deadline for the Governor’s actions on those measures is August 19th.

Beginning next year if you park your non-electric vehicle in a spot meant to charge electric vehicles, or EVs, you can expect a minimum fine of $75. The law, which takes effect the first of the year also allows parking lot authorities to remove any non-EVs parked in EV designated spots. The Governor signed House Bill 198 earlier this week that, aside from allowing for the fine and tow, requires municipalities to post signs for the EV charging station parking spots.

Beginning next year if you’re looking to find a pawn shot to take that item with the serial number removed, you’re out of luck. Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1820 that prohibits pawnbrokers from accepting items that have the manufacturer’s serial number, make, model, PIN, or other identifying marks removed or altered. The law also says no personal property purchased by a pawnbroker can be sold or removed from the shop or even transferred to another store within a period of 10 days. The law takes effect the first of the year.

Report: Government barriers don’t help upward mobility of poor
Governments can help people of lesser means outside of offering up more taxes in hopes of redistributing to those in need. That’s according to a new report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University titled “Breaking Down the Barriers: Three Ways State and Local Governments Can Improve the Lives of the Poor”. Report author Steven Horwitz says that there are three major steps state and local governments can take to help poor people climb the economic ladder. The three things are reduce or repeal certain taxes Horwitz calls regressive, relaxing licensing regulations to encourage entrepreneurs to start their own businesses, and repealing zoning regulations that restrict business opportunities.

“And often times those roadblocks serve no public purpose, rather they’re just there to protect the profits of incumbent firms. So think, we just need to be more creative. We need to think more thoroughly about these barriers to upward mobility instead of just thinking of terms of say taxation and redistribution.”

Horwitz says removing these barriers is a no brainer for economists, but not so much for policymakers who may see redistribution as a path to upward mobility instead of looking more at existing government regulation and taxation and how they make upward mobility more difficult.

The Illinois News Network is a service of the Illinois Policy Institute.