In this issue:
- Session reaches halfway point
- Unemployment holds steady
- Illinois headlines
Thank you for reading my e-newsletter. For the latest news from state government or to share your ideas and opinions, please visit my legislative website at repbunting.com.
At halfway point of spring session, many bills have passed the House
The House was in recess this week for the Easter holiday and to allow members to spend some time in their districts. The break, which also includes next week, follows a busy couple of months in which more than 400 bills passed the House. Here is an update on some of the bills I was proud to support this spring.
Fighting against fentanyl: House Bill 3203 would allow pharmacies to sell fentanyl testing strips over the counter as a way of protecting Illinoisans from accidental exposure to this deadly drug. I was one of the co-sponsors of this bill, which is sponsored by House Republican Leader Tony McCombie. It passed the House unanimously.
Cracking down on deceptive mortgage practices: Many Illinoisans have gotten material in the mail from a business purporting to be connected to their mortgage company. Sometimes these mailers are part of a deceptive practice designed to take advantage of seniors or unsuspecting homeowners. Under House Bill 2094, no business may send marketing materials like these to a consumer unless they are an employee of the mortgage company or its affiliate.
Helping veteran-owned small businesses: House Bill 2288 will help veteran-owned small businesses have a better chance at competing for state contracts. It updates the existing Veterans Business Program to help more veteran-owned businesses qualify. Only about 15% of veteran-owned businesses in Illinois qualify for the program because its gross sales limits are set so low. The legislation doubles the limit so that more businesses would be eligible.
Supporting survivors of human trafficking: In many cases of human trafficking, the victims are forced by their trafficker to engage in unlawful activity. The resulting criminal record these victims receive can make it more difficult for them to recover from their trauma and pursue a normal life. Under House Bill 2418, the state will create a pathway to expunge the criminal records of those who were forced into illegal activity by human traffickers.
These bills are now awaiting action in the Senate. The House returns to session on April 18.
Unemployment rate holds steady at 4.5% in Illinois
The report on Illinois’ unemployment rate for February came in at 4.5%, unchanged from the month before.
Nonfarm payroll numbers increased by 10,700 during the month, but the overall labor force increased by the same amount, leading to no change in the unemployment rate. Illinois continues to have a higher unemployment rate than most other states and the nation as a whole. The national unemployment rate is 3.6%.
Jobs increased in most areas of the state compared with this time last year. The area surrounding Bloomington saw an increase of 4500 jobs and the Peoria area gained 6400, while Champaign’s region picked up 4000 jobs. The biggest declines in the unemployment rate occurred in the Chicago, Rockford and Decatur areas.
Our current bill backlog
When a vendor provides the state with goods and services, they submit the bill to the Illinois Comptroller for payment. The Comptroller processes the paperwork and pays the bill when funds are available in the state’s checking account. Currently the total amount of unpaid bills is $2,592,775,893. This figure changes daily. Last year at this time the state had $3.7 billion in bills awaiting payment. This only includes bills submitted to the Comptroller for payment, not unfunded debts like the state’s pension liability, which is well over $100 billion.