Illinois General Assembly set to convene for start of 2024 spring session. The Illinois House of Representatives will reconvene on Tuesday, January 16. Primary business of the House during its first week of the 2024 session will be to hear newly introduced bills on “first reading” for assignment to House committees.
House members are pushing to get their bills drafted and introduced for consideration this spring. The House bill introduction deadline is Friday, February 9. Bills introduced by the deadline date can be assigned to standing committees.
After the bills are introduced, Governor Pritzker will present his FY25 budget and deliver a State of the State address to a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly. The State of the State/Budget Address day will be Wednesday, February 21. The House will then swing into a series of hearings for committee bill action. House bills are often amended extensively in committee before floor action. The Illinois House has posted its schedule for spring 2024.
Budget, credit woes mark Illinois down to 36th of 50 on U.S. News “Best States” list. The U.S. News website compiles a biennial, rank-ordered list of all 50 U.S. states. The states are ranked in terms of citizen quality of life, with particular attention to crime, the economy, education, fiscal stability, health care, infrastructure, natural environment, and opportunity. In the 2023 year-end list, Illinois dropped six spots to 36th. The Prairie State had been ranked 30th among the 50 states in 2021.
The four areas where Illinois was given its poorest grades were in its opportunity (35th), its natural environment (38th), its economy (39th), and its fiscal stability (50th). The bottom-level “U.S. News” mark for fiscal stability could be related to Illinois’ continuing status as the state with one of the lowest credit ratings of all 50 states. Illinois scored better in crime and in education (12th in both).
Of 2.5 million Illinois FOID cardholders, only 29,000 had registered their weapons by the December 31, 2023 deadline created by the Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA). The PICA law, passed by a lame-duck General Assembly in January 2023 and promptly signed by Gov. Pritzker purports to sharply restrict the ownership of so-called “assault weapons” in Illinois. PICA, which applies to almost all owners of privately possessed firearms, also applies to ancillary items associated with certain forms of rapid-fire weaponry.
A facet of the PICA law included language requiring owners of firearms seen as falling under the described categories of items covered within the law to register them with the Illinois State Police prior to January 1, 2024. However, many Illinois gun owners are opposed to this law. As part of their opposition, they also oppose the mandate within this law of registering individual weapons and related items with Illinois law enforcement. While the Firearm Owners Identification Card (FOID) Act requires firearm owners to register as named individuals with the State Police, nothing in the FOID Act requires FOID-registered owners to list or enumerate the firearms they currently own.
The PICA law remains under legal appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Plaintiffs assert that the 2023 law is an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment rights of Illinois residents and citizens. It is not known how many PICA-defined firearms are in Illinois hands, but the categories of firearms described in the law cover many types of firearms that are popular throughout the U.S. Many Illinois gun clubs offer members the chance to bring these firearms to a secure location, and to practice firing them. Based on gun club and social activities among firearm owners, there may be hundreds of thousands of these firearms in Illinois. However, only about 29,000 Illinois residents had submitted PICA registration forms to the Illinois State Police by the December 31. 2023 deadline. Observers believe this is only a small fraction of the total number of Illinois persons who possess firearms covered by the controversial new law.
The State Police has continued its efforts to generate rules to implement the Protect Illinois Communities Act. The rules will be on the agenda of a General Assembly committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), on January 16, 2024. It is believed that many people are waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to render a final judgment on the constitutionality of the Protect Illinois Communities Act.
Worsening migrant crisis spreads out to include many communities in northeastern Illinois. As of midweek, news stories and police reports indicate that the city of Chicago, and at least 12 other municipalities in northeastern Illinois, have received busloads of migrants bound for Illinois. Under the interpretation of U.S. federal law currently in place under the Biden Administration, persons describing themselves as “refugees” are granted the “temporary” right to live in the United States and to wait for their migrancy status to be adjudicated under due process of law. Current news reports indicate that there is an eight-year waiting time for migrant case claim adjudication.
Chicago has tried to stem the flow of migrants by adopting a home-rule ordinance against buses that make one-way passenger trips into the city, but the buses have found a loophole. In a typical migrant dropoff, a large number of passengers are unloaded at a Metra commuter train station that offers passenger service into Chicago. Other municipalities, such as University Park in South Cook County, are adopting ordinances that seek to control or prevent one-way passenger bus entries and dead-end drop-offs. Since December 1, an estimated 150 passenger buses have unloaded migrants at locations throughout northeastern Illinois.
New director named for embattled DCFS. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has a wide-ranging set of responsibilities that center on monitoring children at risk and keeping them safe. With a variety of data points showing measurements of social breakdown in all too many Illinois households with children, this is a serious burden on the Department’s local personnel and offices. The top leadership of DCFS, appointed by Gov. Pritzker, has repeatedly been accused of failing to support Illinois children at risk, and failing to support Illinois’s child welfare field service personnel. At one point, DCFS Director Marc D. Smith had more than ten separate findings of contempt of court against him, based upon acknowledged situations of child endangerment, inappropriate housing, and inappropriate treatment. Embattled Director Smith will step down at the end of January 2024.
Governor Pritzker recently announced that he is transferring his director of Juvenile Justice, Heidi Mueller, to head DCFS. The Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice is the custodial guardian of troubled youth who have been committed to the State by Illinois courts. Most of the committal actions that send young people to this Department are actions by juvenile courts, and these actions are triggered when the young people are adjudicated for acts that, if they were committed by an adult, would be criminal offenses.
A recent report by the DCFS inspector general shows that the children looked after by DCFS faced continued challenges in the most recently concluded State operational and fiscal year, FY23. During this twelve-month period, 160 Illinois children died under the watch of DCFS.
“A change in leadership at DCFS is a step in the right direction, but will not solve its systemic problems,” said House Minority Leader Tony McCombie. “House Republicans want to work with the new director to implement good ideas to keep children safe in state care, but will also continue to hold the administration accountable for every day that passes without meaningful reform.”
Brutal cold snap last weekend. Weather forecasters were tracking a massive low-pressure cell moving eastward across North America. The winds of this low-pressure cell were scheduled to bring below-zero temperatures to many parts of Illinois early this week.
Many resources exist for the people of Illinois, including senior citizens, who face life challenges that are impacted by extremely cold weather. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) operates a website to locate warming centers in state facilities across Illinois. Illinoisans are being good neighbors and are checking in on their acquaintances to make sure they are doing okay during the cold snap.
NOMIATE A BUSINESS
I am looking to honor local businesses throughout the 89th Legislative District. Each month I will choose a business to highlight, visit, and present them with a special certificate of recognition from the Illinois House of Representatives. This new program will help promote the great business community in northwest Illinois and encourage area residents to shop locally.
While I have recognized businesses in the 89th District throughout my time in office, this year I would like to hear input from constituents as to which businesses should be highlighted. We have so much to offer in this corner of Illinois and I am curious to find out which businesses are favorites amongst area residents.
Residents can nominate a business of their choosing to be recognized through an online form: https://repmccombie.com/local-business-highlight-submission-form/.
This will be an ongoing program in the 89th District which includes all of Carroll and Jo Daviess counties, as well as parts of Stephenson, Winnebago, Boone, Ogle, and DeKalb counties. With questions, constituents can contact Leader McCombie’s Office at (815) 291-8989.
UPCOMING OFFICE HOURS
We are starting the year strong by offering three upcoming office hours events so constituents can get their questions answered! I encourage anyone who needs assistance with state agencies to stop by when we are in your area.
Reaching every corner of her legislative district remains a priority, and I look forward to making the services of my office accessible to everyone at the upcoming events:
- January 18th in Leaf River: 1:00-2:00 pm at Leaf River Village Hall, 605 Main Street
- January 18th in Mt. Morris: 11:00 am-12:00 pm at Mt. Morris Senior and Community Center, 9 E. Front Street
- January 18th in Forreston: 3:00-4:00 pm at Village of Forreston Public Library, 204 1st Avenue
BLOOD DRIVE: FEBRUARY 9
We have an ongoing blood shortage in Illinois, which makes any donation a valuable step in helping save lives. I am hosting an upcoming community based blood drive event to help boost our blood supply.
The event will be held with the City of Savanna and the Savanna Fire Department on Friday, February 9th from 10:00am-2:00pm at the Savanna Fire Department Truck Bay, 101 Main Street, Savanna.
I encourage anyone who is able to sign up and donate blood! Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins are welcome. To make an appointment to donate, please call the Red Cross at 815-632-7384 or go to redcross.org.
To streamline your donation and save up to 15 minutes, you can visit RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass to complete your pre-donation reading and questionnaire on the day of your appointment.