Senate Week in Review: October 23-27, 2017
SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Senate was back at the Capitol on Oct. 24 and 25 for the first week of the fall Veto Session. We tackled an important workers’ protection bill, and I had a conversation with our state Transportation Secretary about a highway project that could be a huge economic win for southwestern Illinois.
One of the biggest issues to come before lawmakers during the week was Senate Bill 1905. The legislation would prohibit the creation of local Right-to-Work zones. I supported the bill when it first came up for a vote in the Senate last April. After it passed the General Assembly, it was vetoed by the Governor. The Senate voted Oct. 24 to override the Governor’s veto. On Oct. 25, the House failed in its attempt at an override, so the veto stands.
I voted to override the veto for a number of reasons. “Right-to-Work” is actually a misnomer. Workers already have a right to opt out of joining a union, and they also have a right to opt out of having their union dues used for political purposes they oppose. But what they don’t have a right to be a freeloader accepting the benefits of collective bargaining and not paying for them through dues.
Senate Bill 1905, prohibiting local jurisdictions from imposing Right-to-Work laws, simply brings Illinois into line with federal law. Federal law states that if you’re going to pass Right-to-Work legislation, you have to be a state or a territory. Senate Bill 1905 would also give our job creators some level of certainty by not worrying about navigating different local workplace regulations. I come from a union family. Unions are an important part of the fabric of our southern Illinois values. That’s why I stood for the worker protections that were included in Senate Bill 1905.
Southwest Illinois Connector?
I had an extensive conversation with IDOT Secretary/Director Randy Blakenhorn Oct. 25 about the long-proposed four-lane highway project to connect Carbondale with the St. Louis Metro East area. There’s more to being a State Senator than working on legislation. While passing good legislation and defeating bad legislation is important, what each of us can accomplish for our districts rates higher. One of the issues I am very interested in is getting the state to move forward on a major highway project for southwestern Illinois, one that I believe will be the stimulus for future economic growth and job creation.
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale is the largest employer in the 58th Senate District. In order for the University to remain a leader in quality higher education, attract students and build on its highly-regarded research capabilities, we need to improve the region’s transportation system. Connecting the campus with the Metro East will help ensure SIU-C has a bright future. Such a roadway would also greatly benefit the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, a world-class facility.
While there is no final proposal for the highway, the general idea is to expand and upgrade some of our existing state highways from two-lane roads to four-lanes. In the past, there has been some opposition to such a project, but support is on the increase. I commend the Four-County Coalition for its recent work, including developing support for the highway. Obviously, this isn’t a construction project that can start immediately. There would be a lot of planning and engineering work. A project of this size will take a few years of preliminary efforts before construction could begin. It would also have to receive state approval, which it currently does not have, to move forward.
If southwest Illinois is going to be economically vibrant, and remain a great place to live and raise a family, we need the prosperity a major highway could stimulate. Realistically, we can have all the support possible from local leaders and communities, and Springfield, but the real challenge will be finding the funding for such a project. While there are not a lot of state dollars available, and some might argue none are available, that doesn’t mean we can’t work on the project. We need to increase support for the highway and do the research that I believe will show the economic benefits for the region so we are ready to make the case at the proper time. At some point, whether it’s a year from now or longer, Illinois will have a new capital construction program for public projects. We need to be ready to tell state transportation officials, southwestern Illinois is ready to go.
The Senate wrapped its first week of Veto Session on Oct. 25. We are scheduled to be back in Springfield on Nov. 7.