Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch’s Legislative Update: Bills Approved, Push Against Wasteful Spending

Chris Welch on House Floor
Photo courtesy of Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch.

Monday, June 2, 2014

(The following items were released by the constituent service offices of Rep. Emanuel “Chris’ Welch).

Budget Approved

The House of Representatives approved a third, middle of the road budget on Tuesday which has been sent to the Senate for approval.  The budget the House approved acknowledges the intense financial pressures the state is facing and does its best to prevent devastating cuts with the revenue the state is estimated to have during the next fiscal year that begins July 1.  This budget primarily holds funding for state agencies flat from the current fiscal year with some notable exceptions, such as a needed increase in education funding to help avoid damaging cuts to our schools.  This was very important to me as a former school Board President.  For the sixth straight year, this budget cuts legislators’ pay by requiring us to work several days without pay, and it also rejects automatic cost of living increases.

Capital Bills Approved

Two capital bills, HB3793 and HB3794, passed the House on Wednesday and Thursday.  Without the General Assembly maintaining the income tax, the capital bills are relatively small this year.  While some small projects in the district have been funded, we will be looking to Veto Session in November 2014 to fund larger projects.

Bill Approved to Hold Charter Schools to High Standards…I am very proud that my first, heavily negotiated bill, passed both the House and Senate and is now headed to the Governor’s desk for signature.  House Bill 3232 requires charter operators to give the public and parents a better understanding of how resources are appropriated and accounted for in the charter school.  Working with Senator Jacqueline Collins and gaining the support of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and the Illinois Education Association, the bill works to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent appropriately.  This is a win for transparency and accountability.

The House will likely adjourn for the summer some time today or early tomorrow.  We will reconvene for the Fall Veto Session in October or November.  I will provide more details in a detailed end of session report next week.

Finally, thank you for allowing me to share my weekly Legislative Report with you.  I enjoy taking a moment to recap the week with you.

Rep. Chris Welch Ends Spring Legislative Session With Push Against Wasteful Spending and Crime!

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – State Rep. Chris Welch, D-Hillside, passed legislation to improve standards for charter schools, repair local roads and protect healthcare services, before the end of the spring legislative session Friday.

“This year’s budget was complicated by the lives and safety that every dollar impacts, and I pressed the importance of education and healthcare services during budget negotiations,” Welch said. “As a member of the House Appropriations Committee on Higher Education, I listened to the concerns of parents, students, schools and interested parties to put forth the best possible budget, address inefficiencies and improve standards. There is still much work to be done to achieve solid fiscal health in our state, and I will continue to work towards building our economy and providing the programs residents depend on.”

Protecting seniors with limited resources in their retirement years, Welch backed legislation to increase the Senior Citizens Homestead Exemption to $5,000. Senate Bill 1894 passed both Houses with bipartisan support, and is now law.

“Seniors that depend on fixed incomes to cover healthcare costs, housing and basic needs deserve an opportunity to stay in their homes,” Welch said. “They shouldn’t fear losing their homes due to rising property taxes and this bill provides some financial relief for them to continue comfortably.”

Welch stood up for funding for road improvement projects in Forest Park and Maywood that will create jobs and repair local roads to improve safety, through the passage of House Bill 3794.

“The safety of my constituents is a top priority for me, and investments in road projects will help us to repave our streets and prevent accidents,” Welch said. “When we support projects to create much-needed jobs, taxpayer dollars are being put to good use here in our communities.”

Welch introduced House Bill 3232 to create guidelines for charter schools that provide a more fair and transparent process. The bill would require school lottery selections to be videotaped, direct the governing body of a closing charter school to refund any unspent public funds, and allows for quarterly financial statements for schools when necessary. The bill passed both Houses and awaits the governor’s signature to become law.

“We expect our schools to be equipped and able to provide the best education for our students, but that requires both support and oversight,” Welch said. “That’s why we should hold every school to a high standard, to ensure that our children are given an equal opportunity to achieve.”

Certain clothing recycling bins collect items that are later resold for a profit. To improve transparency in Illinois businesses, Welch spearheaded Senate Bill 3294 to require recycling bins to display whether or they are a for-profit or a not-for-profit business. The label must contain the name, address and contact information of the person business that owns or operates the bin.

“People that want to donate their belongings should be given basic information to allow them to make a clear choice,” Welch said. “When for-profit businesses have bins that look very similar to those of non-profit businesses, some donors have felt misled that their items were helping the homeless or poverty-stricken, when instead they were helping a company’s bottom line.”

Welch helped pass Senate Bill 741 to support healthcare services, maintain the Poison Control Center and to protect local hospitals from closing. This bill saves $2 billion in needed funds for local hospitals and protects services for some of the most ill patients.

“There is so much pressure by rising health care costs, but it’s wrong to allow that pressure to cause further harm to those most in need, or to create higher costs by delaying or denying basic care,” Welch said. “We can’t turn our backs on those that truly depend on these hospitals for the treatment that can save their lives. The Poison Control Center helps families across this state, particularly young children that are exposed to harmful materials, and I will continue to fight for the healthcare that maintains the health and well-being of Illinoisans.”

Welch has already begun planning local events, and encourages residents to attend his upcoming community job fair on Saturday, June 14, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Proviso Math & Science Academy located at 8601 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Forest Park. This event will be free and open to the public, and job seekers are encouraged to bring a resume. Any businesses who are currently hiring are asked to call Welch’s office at 708-450-1000 to register to participate.

Welch represents the 7th District which includes all or portion of Bellwood, Berkley, Bellwood, Broadview, Forest Park, Hillside, La Grange Park, Maywood, River Forest and Westchester. Welch encourages constituents to contact his district office for answers to any state-related questions at 708-450-1000, or by email at VFP

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