With just two more days left before their scheduled adjournment for the summer, Illinois lawmakers advanced a variety of measures Saturday on hot-button issues.
But the fate of the biggest pieces of legislation remains up in the air. Lawmakers are still debating an energy package and ethics reforms. They also haven’t passed a state budget or addressed whether to allow an elected Chicago school board. That leaves those issues to be taken up — or not — in the final 48 hours of the spring legislative session.
This legislative session is the first one in decades not to have Michael Madigan in charge of the agenda for the House of Representatives.
The longtime House Speaker resigned earlier this year after several of his fellow Democrats refused to endorse him for another term amid a sweeping corruption investigation by the office of U.S. Attorney John Lausch. Madigan’s former chief-of-staff pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges that he lied to a grand jury as part of its probe into the Commonwealth Edison bribery scandal. Madigan has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.
With most of the higher-profile measures still on hold, the House of Representatives voted to require applicants for a state gun license to submit fingerprints. The bill would also require the Illinois State Police to establish a portal designed to track people whose Firearm Owner’s Identification cards have been revoked or suspended. And it also requires gun license holders to renew their license every five years instead of every 10 years.
The measure came in response to a workplace mass shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. facility in Aurora in 2019. The shooter lied on his FOID card application and was able to purchase a gun despite a violent felony conviction that should have made him ineligible for an Illinois gun permit. “As the Aurora shooting tragically illustrated, there are loopholes in Illinois’ gun laws that allow dangerous criminals to possess and use firearms, even after their FOID card has been revoked,” Democratic House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said in a statement. “This bill takes crucial steps toward preventing the ongoing plague of gun violence and mass shootings.”
Several Republicans and guns-rights supporters, however, argued the changes to the FOID card applications would only increase the burdens on law-abiding gun purchasers— but not stop criminals from buying guns.
The changes to the FOID law still need approval from the Illinois Senate and the governor. Some details in the legislation were expected to be changed in the Senate, said Rep. Maura, Hirschauer, D-Batavia, who sponsored the bill. Opponents warned that a lawsuit will be filed if Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker signs it into law, stalling the implementation of the bill.
In other matters, the House approved legislation to mandate public schools provide at least 30 minutes of unstructured playtime for most students between kindergarten and 5th grade.
Democrats, stressing the importance of recess to academic achievements, advanced the measure. Republicans didn’t dispute the benefits of recess, but argued the state does not mandate a certain amount of time spent on academic subjects like math or science, and that such a mandate could take away time from other classes.
The divisive issue passed the House with the minimum of 60 votes in favor and 52 opposed and still needs Senate approval before reaching Pritzker’s desk.
State representatives on Saturday also waded into the debate over whether student athletes should be compensated.
The House advanced a measure that would allow student athletes to be compensated for endorsing products or profit from the use of their likeness. State Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, argued that the NCAA has dragged its feet on the issue so state legislatures are left to address it.
Under the proposal, student athletes would be forbidden from endorsing products in certain industries, such as those related to gambling, sports betting, cannabis, tobacco, adult entertainment, performance-enhancing supplements or alcohol. Many of Illinois’ universities supported the bill, including the Big Ten’s Northwestern University and the University of Illinois.
Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him @tonyjarnold.