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Sen. Rezin reflects on busy legislative session

Senator likes capital plan; disagrees with some of more progressive items passed

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, whose district includes Ottawa and Streator, was happy to see a $36 billion capital bill passed to address the state's roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, whose district includes Ottawa and Streator, was happy to see a $36 billion capital bill passed to address the state's roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

State Sen. Sue Rezin didn't support pieces of legislation that passed this session that she said were part of the progressive agenda.

She was happy, however, lawmakers moved forward with a $33 billion capital plan for roads, bridges and infrastructure updates.

In the past year, the Morris Republican, whose district includes Ottawa and Streator, has advocated for an updated infrastructure plan.

While the state's gas tax will double to 38 cents per gallon, Rezin said this revenue is in "a lockbox," meaning it must be spent on roads, bridges and other similar infrastructure updates. The plan also will provide more money at the county, municipal and township level for projects, she said.

"Certainly people have issue with (the gas tax)," Rezin said in a phone interview Thursday. "I understand that. I think if this bill had been passed before the end of the session, it would make more sense. There are many projects, roads that need repaved, bridges that need repaired, that this capital bill will cover, but since it passed with so many other things, it was tough."

Rezin didn't support the state's "vertical" capital bill, which is designed for college and community college upgrades, because she said those funds are not in a "lockbox."

"They could be swept up in future years to balance the budget," she said.

Gambling expansion was connected to the vertical capital bill. It adds six casinos, expands video gambling and allows sports betting. Gambling expansion is expected to produce $660 million in its first year due to licensing fees and taxes, which is designed to fund the infrastructure upgrades.

Rezin also opposed the budget bill, because it included raises for lawmakers.

She said the pay increases were slipped into the 500-page budget in the last hours.

Lawmakers earn base salaries of $67,836, a rate that would rise by more than $1,600 July 1 once statutory cost of living increases are applied. They also receive per diem reimbursements and some receive added pay ranging from $10,326 to $27,477 per year for committee chair and leadership positions.

Rezin didn't agree with increasing pay for lawmakers, when many fees and taxes were increased on citizens.

"I think it sends the wrong message," Rezin said. "Lawmakers already are paid well."

Additionally, Rezin didn't favor the legalization of recreational marijuana. She shared law enforcement's issue about enforcing DUIs of marijuana, among other concerns.

She said only 35% of revenue from recreational marijuana will go for the state budget, 10% will go to help pay the state's backlog of bills and the remaining revenue is flagged for social justice programs and issues based on data measuring tough crime areas. She believes most of that revenue will be used in the Chicago area.

The Reproductive Health Act, which replaces the state’s current law with one backers and detractors agree will be the most liberal reproductive health statute in the nation, was the most emotional vote for Rezin.

She called it an extreme measure passed on the last Friday of session, with debate occurring between 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.

"We leave decisions up to doctors working at the abortion clinic," Rezin said of the bill. " ... Allowing for late-term abortion is simply wrong. By the third term, they are human beings, not fetuses. An unborn child should have fundamental rights."

She said numerous questions were asked about late-term abortions and she believed answers given on the Senate floor by sponsors were vague.

Rezin was concerned with the data the Illinois Department of Public Health will keep. A number will be attached to each abortion for data collection, but it will not be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests and the information will be destroyed within two years.

"Once the paperwork is destroyed, it will be as if it never happened," Rezin said. "As you can imagine, it was a very emotional debate."

A bill passed that didn't get a lot of attention in Rezin's eyes was the sexual harassment in the workplace bill. It requires all employers to provide workplace sexual harassment training at least once a year and advises workers on steps they can take after reporting incidents of harassment or discrimination. The bill extends to the private sector many of the same increased workplace protections of a 2018 bill addressing sexual harassment policy in the Legislature.

"It goes on everywhere," Rezin said. "I saw firsthand behavior that was not acceptable, considered sexual harassment, but there was no process for reporting. I reported what I had. Reported to my peers. But there was no formal process. Now we do have a process that involves the inspector general. This was an important bill."

Despite not supporting many of the progressive items on Gov. JB Pritzker's agenda, Rezin said the governor was willing to listen to those in opposition.

"Even though we don't always agree, it's important to have an open door and listen to concerns," Rezin said. "I feel the governor listened to us. He made changes when he can, especially on the capital bill. He put a lot in there that we needed to see.

"Of course, with many other issues on the more progressive side we don't support, those happened quickly because Democrats have a supermajority."

The Times has scheduled an interview next week with state Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, to talk about his thoughts on this past legislative session.

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