High school students join Schimpf in Carbondale to try their hands at proposing legislation
Dozens of high school students spent the day on the campus of SIUC taking a deep dive into the processes of governance and law-making on April 8th. The event was part of State Senator Paul Schimpf’s (R-Waterloo) Youth Advisory Council.
“The idea is to encourage some of our outstanding high school students to consider a career in public service,” said Senator Schimpf. “Whether it’s local government, whether it’s elected office, whether it’s just giving back to society, I think it’s important that kids understand that they have a duty and an opportunity to serve.”
Schimpf’s Youth Advisory Council invited students from high schools across the 58th Senate District to come together in Carbondale for the day. Students heard from local leaders, government officials, as well as a retired Navy Vice Admiral (Nancy Brown).
“I thought it was a great opportunity to find something that I’m more interested in,” said Webber Township High School student Ciara Taylor, who noted that she believes she will be watching the news more closely now. “Now that I’ve been here and seen and actually heard, I really do care because it pertains to me.”
“I think doing stuff like this is a way for us to serve, I do think that this is really good for everyone that is involved,” said Carbondale Community High School student John Patton, who hopes the event will help him in his future career. “I definitely would like to be involved politically.”
During the afternoon, students broke up into random groups to work together on crafting ideas for new legislation. The ideas covered everything from education funding proposals to creating a tax on plastic shopping bags. In the end, they voted for a plan to undue the recent changes to the minimum wage.
“This is an opportunity to engage students in government and let them try their hand at proposing new laws,” said Schimpf. “This not only gives our next generation of leaders a head-start on serving the public, but it allows me to hear directly from them on issues they find important.”
On Thursday, Paul was able to visit with Tina Carpenter and Juriah Coleman from the Boys & Girls Club of Carbondale.
Senator Schimpf had the honor of attending the Waterloo High School FFA's 79th Annual Banquet and to present the Chapter Star Agriscience Award to Sedona Kolmer.
Paul has saved some space on the Capitol office walls for our district art contest winners. High school students from the 58th District, don't miss the opportunity to showcase your talent! The deadline is May 1st. The 2019 “Inspired Southern Illinois” High School Art Competition is designed to encourage high school art students to create an original piece of artwork exploring the people, cultures, communities, landscapes and all that inspire them as residents of Southern Illinois.
Senate Republicans Oppose Graduated Income Tax, Which Offers No Protections From Future Tax Increases
This week, the majority party in the Illinois Senate advanced out of committee a proposed graduated income tax that provides no protections for middle-income families and would give those lawmakers the ability to raise taxes in the future.
The measure, Senate Joint Constitutional Amendment (SJRCA) 1, would place a referendum on the 2020 General Election ballot asking voters if they support moving Illinois from a flat tax to a graduated tax structure.
Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady, who like his Senate Republican colleagues opposes a graduated income tax, noted that the crafters of Illinois’ current constitution chose a flat tax, which the people of Illinois embraced, because the flat tax provided middle-income families better protections from politicians.
And while the measure advancing in the Senate deals with putting the question on the ballot, there is no legislation showing what future tax rates would be if it’s adopted.
In March, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced his proposed rates; however, Pritzker’s rates are yet to be introduced in legislative form. Testifying before the Senate Executive Committee, when asked for a commitment the administration wouldn’t seek to raise income tax rates down the road, Deputy Gov. Dan Hynes was unable to give middle-income taxpayers any assurance that these rates would remain level in coming years.
In hopes of providing some protections for Illinois families, Senate Republican lawmakers have offered SJRCA 12 to require a two-thirds super-majority vote in both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly to increase any tax or fee. Currently, legislators only need a simple majority to pass a tax increase or to implement a new tax.
Despite having declared “let the people vote” on the graduated income tax, when asked during a press conference this week if he would support the Senate Republican’s amendment to protect middle-income families from future tax increases, Gov. Pritzker said “…the future is unknown, and so you want to make sure they have the options are available in this constitution.”
Senate Republicans are also calling on the Administration to let the people have their voice heard on other important issues, such as term limits, pension reform and fair maps.
Senate Approves Bill to Increase School Safety
The Senate passed legislation during the week aimed at letting Illinois schools utilize an affordable and easy-to-use option for locking classrooms to protect students in case of an intruder or other threat to students’ safety.
Senate Bill 1371 allows school districts to use door locking mechanisms that attach to the door and are lockable and unlockable from the inside of the classroom without a key. The mechanisms must be unlockable from the outside by a key or tool, and police and fire departments would be informed of the locations of the locks.
The legislation offers a way for teachers and students to lock their classroom securely from the inside in the event of an emergency.
Current regulations prevent schools from investing in such locking mechanisms. The legislation’s sponsor, State Sen. Chapin Rose, noted that his legislation corrects this “ridiculous” policy while increasing student and teacher safety.
This legislation was a suggestion of Rose’s constituent Tuscola School Superintendent Mike Smith. It’s a good example of what can be accomplished when concerned citizens actively participate in the legislative process.
Bill to Address Teacher Shortage Passes Senate
Legislation aimed at helping to relieve the current teacher shortage also passed out of the Senate during the week.
Senate Bill 1809, sponsored by State Sen. Don DeWitte aims to help students enter the teaching field, by expanding the eligibility of MAP grant recipients to include students who have already received bachelor degrees or have 135 credit hours, but are seeking to earn their teaching certificate through an educator preparation program.
The bill also requires that the recipients must teach in Illinois for three out of the next five years, and states that they can only be eligible to receive the grant for one academic year.
Senate Bill 1809 passed with a 56-1 vote and now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Worker-Protection Legislation Passes
The Illinois Attorney General’s office may soon have a dedicated team of lawyers working to combat wage theft and other unsafe conditions for employees.
Senate Bill 161, which passed the Senate unanimously on April 11, establishes the Worker Protection Unit and the Worker Protection Unit Task Force within the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. These new additions would be focused on ensuring that employees are properly paid and have safe workplaces. The ultimate goal is to eliminate unfair competition from businesses that aren’t following the rules.
The legislation, sponsored by State Sen. John Curran, was an initiative of Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who testified in committee on behalf of the proposal. The bill is now headed to the House for a vote in that chamber.
Legislation Exempts School Lunches from Sales Tax
Legislation to exempt school lunches also cleared the Senate during the week. Under current law, sales tax is only exempt if the school itself provides meals to the students. If a school has outside businesses provide food directly to students, however, those sales are subject to sales tax.
Under Senate Bill 1755, the lunches from outside providers would also be exempted from sales tax. The goal is to put schools on a more even ground, even if some school don’t have the ability provide meals to students.