It was very good to be back home these last few days after a crazy end to the legislative session. The intensity of the last week was insane. You have all heard me complain this whole year about how we’ve spent a lot of time doing nothing all session. As I feared, that was an intentional move by the Speaker. He crams all of the big ticket and important bills into the last seven days of session. This included a 1,500 plus page budget that was presented to us around 3pm Friday afternoon with a midnight deadline to pass both Chambers of the General Assembly.
Although the budget looked like it contained some good items, I voted no. I did not feel comfortable voting on something that I didn’t have time to fully read and analyze. Looking back, I’m glad I voted No. One thing the budget didn’t contain was the language stopping an automatic pay raise for legislators. Given the current situation in the State and the lack of trust the public has in us, it is insane that we would have a pay increase. Consequently, since there is no way to stop the pay raise, which amounts to roughly $1,600/year, I will be donating that amount to charity. I feel like it is only the responsible thing to do.
It is great to be back in district talking to people in Vermilion and Champaign Counties. I tried to get out and about as much as I could this week, attending several events, doing some radio interviews, and holding traveling office hours in Rantoul. I want to let people know what went down at the capitol, both the good and the bad. It is my goal to be completely upfront and brutally honest about what happened. I will always be happy to share with you the reasoning on my decisions, even if you disagree with me.
In addition to talking to constituents, I was able to attend a workshop about a DCEO program providing capital funding for minority owned businesses. This is a program that could be utilized to great effect in several of our communities. After the workshop, I got the opportunity to tour Lincoln’s Challenge Academy for troubled youth in Rantoul.
Lincoln’s Challenge Academy is a great program that is based on military protocol that is taking kids off the street and giving them hope for a good life. The highlight of the tour was getting to speak to an assembly of cadets that will be graduating from the program next week. They are inspiring young people, who despite facing challenges at home, made the tough decision to dedicate themselves to self-improvement through this rigorous program. These young people will continue to face serious challenges in life, as we all do, but they have a great opportunity in front of them and can go as far as they want to in life.
Summer is finally here and I’m glad to be home. I look forward to seeing many of you as I travel the district providing updates and gathering your feedback on ideas for the Fall Veto and next Spring Session. If you know of any students who would like to serve as a “Page-for-a-Day” in the House, please contact my Springfield office at 217-477-0104. Have a great summer and we’ll see you soon!