WSIL – Illinois House lawmakers met in Springfield on Monday for the first time in a month. While there, southern Illinois representatives said a budget is their main priority, but they are still pushing for various bills during what is the last week to make it through committee.
State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, is narrowing in her focus on just a few bills for now, five of which she hopes will make it through the week.
“My top piece of legislation is going to be Molly’s law. So we’ve had to put a few amendments in on that, remove the opposition for it. Going in, when I first filed it I thought, ‘well, who would have opposition to this?’ But of course you know, you can’t see every possible scenario,” Bryant said.
The idea for Molly’s law came about after a southern Illinois woman, Molly Young, was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Young’s father believes she was murdered and has filed a wrongful death suit.
Most of Molly’s law is in House Bill 6083. The bill amends the Freedom of Information Act, significantly increasing penalties for government bodies that intentionally do not meet court compliance. Also, the statute of limitations is pushed back.
“Previously, it was two years from the time of death. Now it’ll be five years from the time of death,” she said.
And that legislation could get bi-partisan support from Democratic reps. John Bradley of Marion and Brandon Phelps of Harrisburg.
While Bradley is interested in the bill, he could not stress enough his desire to get a budget.
“I guess my three top priorities would be the budget, the budget and the budget,” Bradley said.
Bradley did say his other concern right now is some coal legislation, but he could not yet give specifics.
“The things that I’m going to be working on in this legislative session will be trying to protect the resources in southern Illinois,’ Bradley said. “Our public education system, our human service system, and the coal industry.”
Phelps agrees the budget is important, but knows he must get other bills out of committee.
“This is the committee deadline week so there’s a lot of bills that have to go to committee before they come to the House floor so we can vote on them,” he said.
With a deadline in five days, many bills are likely to be called this week, including some of his.
“The back pay bill for all the state employees, that you know, should have that money already. We shouldn’t even have to take this bill to the floor. Governor Quinn should have already taken that off the table and paid these people because it’s their money,” he said.
Last month, the Illinois Supreme Court gave a ruling that the back pay is not something the state is required to do.
Regardless of independent legislation, all want a budget, and soon.
“Well, we’d like to have a budget today if we could, but we’re not going to be able to do that,” Phelps said.
Bradley said he is optimistic it can get done soon.
“We can do more with less in our area, more than any other area I’ve ever been to or been around, and so I always think there’s hope,” he said.
And while there are rumors of lawmakers holding off on a budget until after the November election, Bryant said that is not what she wants.
“I don’t want to speak for Governor Rauner, because I don’t really know what his plan is for it. I know that it’s not my plan,” Bryant said.