Eye On Illinois: More than 500 bills scheduled for committee hearings this week

Lawmakers are definitely busy.

Though most work is being done online, several legislative committees met this week. On the Senate side more than 40 bills were scheduled for hearings, while the House had 470 pieces on the docket.

During a House Revenue and Finance Committee meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. today, one of 32 bills to be considered is House Bill 238, which would amend the State Finance Act and the School Code.

Under the Finance Act is creation of a Trauma Response Fund. All ammunition sold in the state would be subject to a new 1% surcharge; that money would populate the fund. Under the School Code is a requirement for school boards to develop a protocol for responding to traumatic events that take place on campus. This includes shootings, but the legislation stipulates the protocol would cover any type of shocking event. Plan facets would include responses by hospitals, trauma intervention professionals and community engagement.

Many school districts already have similar plans in place and cooperate with medical and emergency response professionals to prepare for extreme circumstances. This change takes things extra steps by both requiring schools to have a plan and paying for that work through a grant program.

Such changes might seem uncomplicated, but the bill also makes related changes to six other established laws: the University of Illinois Hospital, Hospital Licensing, Use Tax, Service Use Tax, Service Occupation Tax and Retailers’ Occupation Tax acts.

Rep. Sonya Harper, D-Chicago, filed the bill on Jan. 22. Chief co-sponsors are Reps. Denyse Stoneback, D-Skokie, and Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia.

The Illinois Federation for Outdoors Resources appears to oppose the plan, linking it in a website post titled “And It Begins…” to HB 438, which also uses a 1% ammunition surcharge to generate revenue for a new Mental Health Services Fund. Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford filed that bill on Feb. 1, and on Tuesday the Rules Committee assigned it to Revenue and Finance, though it isn’t yet on the agenda for today’s meeting. IllinoisCarry, a nonprofit gun rights organization, has both bills at the top of its list of “Bad House Bills and Resolutions.”

When considering more than 500 legislative proposals came up for hearing in just a few days, it’s worth remembering some of the bills — including the Trauma Response Fund plan — are repeated attempts to pass measures that didn’t advance in earlier sessions. Keeping track of everything, especially when bill numbers change, can be tricky.

The mass of activity is why it’s essential for elected officials to offer steady communication. Voters can do their parts by subscribing to mailing lists and social media feeds. Lawmakers won’t be fully aware of every active bill, but constituent input remains powerful.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Local News Network. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.