DIXON — Three state lawmakers laid out the Republican agenda during a town hall attended by nearly 100 people Tuesday night at the Dixon Elks Lodge.
The key issues were opposition to the redistricting results, the criminal justice reform package and Gov. JB Pritzker’s handling of the pandemic through executive orders.
A crowd of nearly 100 filled the hall listened quietly and politely for the duration of the presentation.
State Sen. Sue Rezin of Morris drew the first applause of the night when she called for local decision-making in response to the pandemic. She said mitigations should be in the hands of school boards and county boards based on local conditions. Moreover, the state legislature should be involved.
“He’s forgotten there are three branches of government. We’ve been locked out of the process,” said Rezin. She is co-sponsor of Senate Bill 103, which amends the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act. “We can’t even get this bill called.”
It was state Sen. Brian Stewart’s turn to host one of these stops along the GOP listening tour. But Stewart was ill, so state Rep. Tom Demmer of Dixon served as substitute host instead.
State Sen. Win Stoller of Germantown Hills, himself a small-business owner, brought up the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which is nearly $5 billion in debt. He says the state should use what’s left of the federal COVID recovery funds — some $3.6 billion — to replenish the fund.
“This could have an enormous impact on the small business owner,” he said.
It was a chance for people in Dixon to take their measure of Stoller, who represents the 37th district that touches southern Lee County.
But under the currently proposed redistrict maps, the 37th district would reach up and encompass Dixon. Stewart’s 45th district is redrawn to occupy the state’s northwest corner.
The issue of redistricting was explained by the panel, which gave a review of the process from the Republican perspective. Both Demmer and Stoller pointed out that the realignment of the 38th district, which Rezin represents, has been redrawn to look like an inverted T.
Demmer said Republicans, the East St. Louis branch of the NAACP and the Chicago-based Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund have all challenged the configuration, with oral arguments likely to begin in December.
Stoller gave a brief rundown on Republican opposition to the criminal justice reform bill. Main points of contention are the requirements for body cameras are unfunded, it limits police officers’ use of force, it eliminates cash bail and it diminishes offender provisions.
Lawmakers answered submitted questions in the town hall portion. Even as members of the “super minority” Stoller and Rezin both gave examples of how lawmakers do work across the aisle on regional issues.
“If you approach people right, you can get something done,” said Stoller, who said he had success gaining Democratic support for a tax measure.
Rezin cited bi-partisan success in getting a bill passed that kept Exelon’s nuclear generating power stations near her and the one in Byron operating. “I’m very proud we got it passed at the 11th hour.”
In other subjects brought up from the floor:
Forensic audit: Demmer said increased oversight of executive spending is absolutely essential. His bill would require notification to the legislature of all executive spending.
Mask mandates: Stoller explained that the courts have supported Pritzker’s uses of executive orders, but that beyond the initial emergency of the early months, it’s time for legislative debate on the handling of the pandemic. Rezin said the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a bipartisan legislative oversight committee, has been able to push back against the Illinois State Board of Education in areas of enforcement concerning private schools.
Illinois Parental Notification Act. The state eliminated this provision that required parents of minors to be notified before a minor child can have an abortion. Stoller, Demmer and Rezin all expressed opposition to the new law. Rezin said of the Democratic majority: “The party in control has an agenda. … The progressive side of the party has gone too far.”
Firearm Owners Identification Cards. Stoller and Demmer were in favor of eliminating them as a requirement for entry.
Lone Star Quarry. Rezin expressed her support for equestrian-only trails and dedicated trail access for persons with disabilities and seniors for the 2,400-acre addition to Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks near Utica.