Gov. JB Pritzker focused on the bipartisan achievements during his first State of the State address Wednesday. From an infrastructure plan to recreational marijuana, Pritzker noted that working together did more for the state of Illinois than partisan bickering had in the past.
State. Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, said that he was pleased about several things the governor mentioned during his address that have a local impact. Keicher's 70th District covers DeKalb County along with parts of Kane and Boone counties.
"As a personal point of pride, I was very pleased to see he specifically mentioned the mammogram expansion bill," Keicher said. Keicher sponsored the bill in the house and Pritzker signed the bill in August at the Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital Breast Health Center in DeKalb.
Keicher also said he was pleased the governor discussed the bipartisan passage of the state budget in May. A series of pro-business items in last year's budget - such as manufacturing credits, data center incentives, and the Blue Collar Jobs Act - are having a direct impact on the DeKalb-area economy and are part of the reason why DeKalb is being considered for large development projects such as Project Hammer and Project Ventus. Combined, the two projects could bring 1,000 jobs to the area.
In recent days, the governor has proposed various reforms to the criminal system, such as doing away with cash bail and recently signed a bill to eliminate drivers' license suspensions for unpaid fines.
State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said that while last year saw a concerted bipartisan effort, he had reservations about some of the criminal justice reforms of the governor.
"Going forward, some of the concerns clearly seem to be a focus on getting more protections to those who break the law than it is to protect law-abiding citizens," he said. He said, without consequences, there would not be an incentive to pay fines or come to court dates. "I don't know how that is going to make the community any safer."
Keicher also wanted to know about proposed reforms. He said he's spoken with law enforcement and people in the state's attorney's office.
"The impact that they're seeing in crime statistics is concerning," he said.
This coming year, Keicher said he wanted the governor's plan for a fair district mapping process to be bipartisan as well.
"Is it going to happen where voters decide who represents them or leaders decide," he said. "We'll see if the governor lives up to the commitment he made to get that done."
Two days after former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, was charged with bribery and tax fraud, Pritzker said he wanted to pass an ethics reform bill this year. He said Illinois should end the practice of "for-profit influence peddling."
"Elected officials shouldn't retire and immediately start lobbying their former colleagues," Pritzker.
Keicher said he was optimistic about the reforms.
"That doesn't mean its all rosy and shiny, but I know I have peers on both sides of the aisle that want Illinois to succeed," he said.
Paul Stoddard, a Democrat running against Keicher in November, said the proposals from the governor for ethics reforms were good ones.
"The people we elected should be there to serve the state and not themselves," he said.
State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, said legislators had been talking about the ethics reforms for months. He said corruption in Illinois is a culture issue.
"It's an area that shouldn't be a bipartisan issue," he said. "We have people in both parties saying we need to make some changes ... It's a long-running problem that has been stewing for decades."
Moving forward, Demmer said the next challenge for the governor, and for the legislature, will be to pass the budget, even if the state is experiencing a strong economy.
"Illinois not out of the woods yet in the financial challenges we face," Demmer said.