Budget negotiations continue
Budget negotiators from both sides of the aisle, and from both chambers, continued work toward a balanced budget this past week. As those negotiations continued, the four legislative leaders met with Governor Rauner all in an attempt to meet the May 31 deadline for passing a budget. Republicans remain committed to ensuring the state passes a balanced budget without another tax increase.
A recent major ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court May 14 striking down a 26-year old federal law banning commercial sports betting in most states is beginning to be felt here in Illinois. Legalizing sports betting in Illinois has been a topic of conversation in the General Assembly for years, including legislative hearings. Some legislators now want to move forward with legislation authorizing online sports betting.
Proponents argue it could be a way to generate more revenue for Illinois. Combined, video and riverboat gaming generated more than $836 million in tax revenue for state government in 2017. However, opponents contend there are many negative societal costs to gaming and expanding legalization to include sports betting adds to those costs.
Currently, there are several pending proposals at the Capitol about how Illinois could legalize sports gambling.
Addressing Public Safety
A multi-pronged approach to gun violence was unveiled by Governor Rauner. It includes steps to fill the regulatory loopholes exposed in recent mass shootings. The public safety initiative includes re-imposing the death penalty for mass murders and cop killers. It would also extend the current 72-hour waiting period for delivery of handguns to all gun purchases in Illinois.
It would ban so-called bump stocks and trigger cranks used to make perfectly legal semi-automatic weapons shoot like fully automatic military firearms. It includes restraining orders to disarm individuals deemed dangerous, makes judges and prosecutors more accountable by making them explain – on the record – why charges are reduced in plea agreements for violent offenders in gun cases, and provides new dollars to hire school resource officers and mental health workers to help intervene and prevent student violence before it occurs.
Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady said, “The governor’s action recognizes the need for a multi-pronged approach to dealing with deadly assaults. Reinstating society’s most serious penalty for the most serious of violent crimes, with the proper safeguards, is an appropriate response to the horrific violence we have witnessed far too often in recent times.”
Senate Approves Gun Dealer Licensing
Meanwhile, the Senate approved a gun dealer licensing measure that would require Illinois gun dealers to obtain state certification, in addition to their federal firearms license. Senate Bill 337 would also require Illinois gun dealers to increase in-store security, including video monitoring, provide training for employees and establish electronic-based record keeping.
Proponents argue requiring firearm dealers to obtain a state certification simply treats them like many other categories of businesses that are licensed or certified by the state and will help crack down on illegal gun trafficking, which is fueling violence in Chicago and the suburbs. Opponents say firearms dealers are already licensed and scrutinized by the federal government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and that anyone in Illinois purchasing a firearm must have a valid Firearms Owners Identification card as well as pass a mandatory FBI background check. The legislation was approved by a vote of 35 to 18 and now moves to the House for consideration.