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Demmer: April legislative report

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 10:51 a.m. CDT

The flood waters are finally receding and while some folks in our area saw some property damage, we’re lucky we didn’t bear the brunt of the flooding like the Peoria area or communities along the Fox River and the Des Plaines River. In the 90 th  District, both LaSalle County and DeKalb County were declared disaster areas by Gov. Quinn. The official designation for those counties will bring additional state resources for recovery and repair efforts. If you live outside a disaster area but still saw some personal property damage from the floods, you may still be eligible for a low-interest recovery loan through the state treasurer’s office. Look for details on http://treasurer.il.gov

This week, the House reconvenes in Springfield for an intensive session before our May 31 adjournment. We still have a number of big issues to address: the state budget, pension reform, concealed carry and a proposed expansion of Medicaid, among others.

All residents of the 90 th  District will soon receive a survey in the mail. In the mailer you’ll find contact information for my district office and have the opportunity to share your opinions on several key issues. I believe it’s important that elected officials ask questions of constituents and listen to the replies. That’s why I’m hopeful you’ll complete the survey and mail it back in. In order to be a good representative for you in Springfield, I need to listen to your opinions, concerns and perspectives. That’s just what this survey helps me do. If you’d like, you can also visit www.tomdemmer.com and complete the survey online.

Over the past week, several of my colleagues joined minority leader Rep. Tom Cross in support of a package of bills for welfare reform. The bills make common sense improvements to the welfare system by adding a photo ID to LINK cards to ensure that the user of the card is the rightful owner. Another bill would prohibit using government cash assistance to buy alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets, tattoos and other items that are not what the assistance is intended to fund. The other bills prevent incarcerated inmates from obtaining welfare, and prohibit those with outstanding criminal warrants from receiving benefits.

These welfare reforms are not only responsible safeguards, they protect the integrity of the program. Programs for food and cash assistance are designed to be a safety net for people inneed. Every dollar spent inappropriately is a dollar taken away from those who truly need it.

Switching gears to firearms legislation, we still face a ticking clock toward the court-imposed deadline of June 9 for passage of a law that allows for concealed carry. A restrictive, “may-issue” proposal offered by Rep. Kelly Cassidy was soundly defeated 31-76 after a lengthy debate on the House floor. The following day, a permissive, responsible concealed carry bill offered by Rep. Brandon Phelps and supported by the NRA gained 64 yes votes, but failed to reach the necessary 71 votes for passage. The Senate is weighing several proposals too. I suspect more votes to happen in the coming weeks, but our action so far demonstrates the difficulty of getting 71 members of the House to agree to any proposal. The bar is set high, and we’re working hard to protect our Second Amendment rights and gain the votes necessary for passage.

We’re also faced with a significant challenge on the budget. I sit on the Appropriations for Human Services Committee, which oversees half the state budget and allocates funding for Medicaid, developmental disability care, mental health care, the department on aging and a variety of social services. Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard testimony from providers and users of all these services. We have a steep curve in finding adequate funding for needed services while trying to do things more efficiently and in a less costly way.

The month of May will be a long and busy month. I’m hopeful we’ll find responsible solutions to some of our problems, and begin to take steps to correct the course that led Illinois to the situation we’re in today.

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