Harmon

  • harmon 031517SPRINGFIELD – The most meaningful reform Gov. Bruce Rauner can sign into law after two years of gridlock in Springfield is a balanced budget, Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) said.

    “Citizens and businesses in Illinois need predictability, stability and certainty, and Senate Democrats are offering that with a balanced budget,” Harmon said. “They’ll know what they are in for, they’ll know the state will pay its bills, and they’ll know that the state will be here to provide the services that everyone relies upon us to provide.”

    Harmon elaborated on a series of reforms the Senate passed last week in conjunction with a balanced budget at the behest of Gov. Rauner and others to make the state more business friendly. The reforms include workers’ compensation reform, procurement reform, local government consolidation reform and school funding reform. Senate Democrats also have indicated a willingness to enact a two-year property tax freeze.

    “Nobody likes property taxes. We’re proposing a freeze in property taxes. We’d like to hit the pause button so that we can implement state financial reforms and protect local property taxpayers from increase at the local level,” Harmon said.

    He noted that the Senate most recently enacted major reform of the state’s workers’ compensation system in 2011.

    “Those reforms are paying dividends, but we aren’t seeing those benefits being passed down from the insurance companies to the local businesses that buy their insurance,” he said. “The reforms we’re advancing this session will attempt to deal with that, will attempt to ensure that the premiums, the rates people pay for their workers’ compensation reflect the strides we’ve made in reforming the system.”

    Sen. Harmon talks about the budget:

     

  • harmon 052617SPRINGFIELD – It’s not the most provocative topic at the Statehouse, but the process for determining how new laws will be implemented by state agencies briefly took center stage in the Senate Thursday afternoon.

    Legislation sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) seeks to correct a few problems that have arisen in the General Assembly’s bipartisan rule-making review process, which is carried out by a 12-lawmaker panel known as the Joint Commission on Administration Rules – or JCAR.

    Harmon is a co-chairman of the commission. He said the legislation is a response to actual problems the commission has encountered, not a backdoor attempt to hamstring any governor – an accusation levied by at least one senator.

    But Harmon added that the commission wants to demand accountability of state agencies and increase efficiency and transparency in the rule-making review process.

    “There is nothing saucy here. These are ministerial and mundane things. This is simply an attempt to help us maintain balance between the executive and legislative branches,” Harmon said.

    “The executive branch has only the rule-making authority that the General Assembly delegates to it. This is not about Democrat or Republican, or about this governor or that governor. This is about the Legislature protecting its domain from executive overreach.”

    JCAR seldom gets much public attention, but its work is vitally important because it oversees how rules are promulgated by state agencies and it facilitates public comment about rules and regulations.

    The problems Harmon’s measure seeks to address include agencies asking for rules to be pushed through on an “emergency” basis when there is no emergency, just poor planning on their part; clarifying that JCAR may review standardized forms for policy content; and updating a guideline about how frequently JCAR may evaluate existing agency rules.

    The measure, House Bill 3222, passed 36-21 in the Senate Thursday.

  • Sen. Don HarmonSPRINGFIELD – Saying the governor needs time to reconsider his pledge to veto House Bill 40, legislation that protects women’s reproductive rights in Illinois, Senator Don Harmon Wednesday night slowed the bill’s trek to the governor’s desk.

    “This measure is too important to immediately put it in the hands of a governor whose public opinions about women’s access to safe, affordable reproductive health care have been inconsistent at best,” said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate.

    Harmon is the chief co-sponsor of House Bill 40. Senator Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat, is the lead sponsor. Gov. Bruce Rauner has threatened to veto the measure, even though he pledged to support it when he was a candidate for governor.

    “Wednesday night, in consultation with Senator Steans and the advocates, I filed a motion to reconsider the Senate’s vote to pass House Bill 40, which means we will temporarily hold the bill in the Senate,” Harmon said. “This motion merely allows the Senate to protect the bill from Gov. Rauner’s threatened veto until he comes to his senses. It does not jeopardize the bill’s ability to become law.”

  • Sen. Don HarmonSPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement today regarding his vote in support of House Bill 40, legislation that would ensure women in Illinois continue to have access to important reproductive health care:

    “It’s 2017. Women make up just over half of the population in Illinois, and 70 percent of them are in the labor force,” Harmon said.

    “But today, rather than paving the way to lift women out of poverty, close the gender wage gap, make child care more affordable or enable all parents to take time off to care for sick kids, the Illinois Senate had to debate whether it’s appropriate to reassure the women who live and work in our communities that they are legally entitled to access the medical care of their choosing without government interference.

    “How 1960s of us.

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  • windenergySPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon’s effort to correct ambiguous language in the Rauner administration’s massive Exelon bailout bill could have a profound positive effect on Illinois’ economy – to the tune of at least $2.2 billion in the short term.

    By striking seven words in the Exelon bill, Illinois can clear the way for continued investment in wind energy in the prairie state – projects already permitted but that are on hold because of the murky language. That investment includes:

    • $2.2 billion in Illinois wind farms,
    • 650 new wind towers, and
    • 1 million hours in construction work.

    Significant additional projects await the permitting process if the ambiguity in state law can be eliminated through Senate Bill 71, said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and a longtime proponent of renewable energy and clean jobs. The legislation represents the kind of sensible, business-friendly legislation that can spur economic investment in Illinois.

    “The Exelon bill created significant uncertainty that prevented investment in Illinois by the wind industry, which makes no sense,” Harmon said. “Once we learned of the problem, I knew we would need to resolve it as quickly as possible because we want Illinois to retain its place as a national leader in wind energy.”

    The legislation has bipartisan support and passed unanimously in the Senate’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee last week. Proponents include the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Illinois Environmental Council, the Laborers’ International Union Midwest Region, the Citizens Utility Board, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and others.

    Twenty-five Illinois wind farms supply power to about 1 million homes. The first wind installation in the state went online in 2003.

    According to a 2016 report by the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University, wind farms support about 870 permanent jobs in rural Illinois, generate $30.4 million in annual property taxes and produce $13.86 million in yearly income for landowners who lease their land to wind farm developers. Wind farms have a total economic benefit of $6.4 billion over their lifespans, according to the analysis.

    “Economic development isn’t as difficult as Gov. Rauner wants people to believe it is. As we watch demand for renewable energy increase in the coming years, it’s important that lawmakers foster the industry’s growth in Illinois and seize opportunities to protect it from unnecessary government meddling,” Harmon said.

    “These are the kinds of things that will make Illinois a business-friendly state and help us to get the economy ‘boomin’,’ as Gov. Rauner likes to say. I look forward to his support on this legislation.”

  • harmon 032817SPRINGFIELD – Illinois requires less accountability be a gun dealer than a dog groomer, Senator Don Harmon said Tuesday while defending a commonsense proposal to license gun dealers at the state level in an effort to curb Chicago violence.

    Harmon’s Senate Bill 1657 would allow Illinois to license gun dealers and encourage better business practices while holding corrupt dealers accountable as authorities try to get a handle on the violence epidemic that continues to plague Chicago neighborhoods. Gun dealers also must be licensed by federal authorities.

    The proposal passed out of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee Tuesday in a 7-5 vote after a great deal of debate about whose responsibility it is to monitor gun dealers and find solutions to gun violence.

    “Gun violence in Chicago is a huge problem. For people to sit around in the Capitol and say, ‘Let someone else take care of it and enforce the laws on the books,’ is incredibly frustrating,” said Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat. “Twenty-six other states license gun dealers. This is not breaking new ground. It’s a modest proposal. It’s harder to be a dog groomer or a hair stylist in Illinois.”

    Senate Bill 1657 would establish two types of licenses: dealer and dealership. A dealer would be any person engaged in the business of selling, leasing or otherwise transferring firearms; a dealership would be a person, firm, corporation or other legal entity that does the same.

    Applicants for each license would have to meet a series of requirements before receiving a state license. Violating the terms of the license can resulting in penalties.

    The legislation also would establish a gun dealer licensing board to recommend policies, procedures and rules under the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which would license gun dealers.

    “I want to be clear: There is no evidence that the gun violence problem is being caused by law-abiding gun owners. We need to focus on the real problem, which is illegal guns getting into the wrong hands,” Harmon said. “Somewhere between a gun manufacturer and a crime scene is a person who is pretending to be a law-abiding gun owner but is not. That is the problem this legislation seeks to address.

    “Senate Bill 1657 does nothing more than impose industry standards for best practices that should be observed by every gun dealer already but unfortunately aren’t.”

    A recent study showed that 40 percent of guns used in crimes between 2009 and 2014 came from Illinois and that nearly 17 percent – or roughly 3,000 – of all guns used in crimes in Chicago were sold by just three of the Illinois’ more than 2,400 gun dealers. All three are near Chicago.

    The Gun Dealer Licensing Act would sunset on Jan. 1, 2027, under Senate Bill 1657.

  • Harmon02082017SPRINGFIELD – As the Trump administration rolls back important environmental oversight, such as a ban on the use of lead-based ammunition on federal lands, it will be up to state and local leaders to ensure wildlife, public lands and people continue to be protected, Senator Don Harmon said Thursday.

    Harmon is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1985, which would bar the use of lead-based ammunition for hunting in state parks and natural areas in Illinois to curb the accidental poisoning of wildlife.

    “I am pleased to help Illinois lead the way on this reasonable and very important public health initiative,” Harmon said. “Research indicates that bans on lead-based ammunition have a positive impact on wildlife and human health.” 

    In January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Obama administration outlawed the use of lead ammunition and fishing sinkers on 150 million acres of federal lands, including national parks, wildlife refuges and other public property.

    However, the Trump administration overturned the ban last week.

    Research shows that a single shotgun pellet can cause organ failure and brain damage that affect an animal’s neuromuscular, auditory and visual responses. Furthermore, there is evidence that lead poisoning causes lethargy, blindness, paralysis of the lungs and intestinal tracts, seizure and death in animals.

    An estimated 10 million to 20 million animals are killed every year by ingesting lead shot.

    In addition, experts say lead-based ammunition causes elevated lead exposure in gun users and can be incorporated into processed meat for human consumption.

  • harmon 031517SPRINGFIELD – As Illinois’ finances deteriorate and gridlock prevails in Springfield, dark money groups spend millions of dollars to influence elections and public policy without disclosing the sources of their funding.

    That frequently leaves taxpayers and elected officials in the dark about a group’s true motivations for supporting or opposing legislation or policies.

    Senate Bill 2089, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would require greater transparency of politically active dark money groups by requiring them to register as political committees and disclose their donors.

    “Accountability for political donations is vitally important in our system of government and elections,” Harmon said. “For too long, dark money groups have been able to hide behind the cloak of their nonprofit status and conceal the true intent of their work, which is to raise unlimited amounts of money and peddle political influence, unbeknownst to the average voter and taxpayer.

    Harmon noted that the groups in question are not the charities and civic organizations for whom tax-exempt status was intended.

    “These are political groups organized specifically to take advantage of nonprofit protections and hide their political activity,” he said.

    Harmon added that as Illinois continues to see unprecedented spending by candidates and outside groups seeking to influence elections, it’s important for voters that the General Assembly closes loopholes that allow runaway spending by dark money groups.

    “I think nearly all of us can all agree that a flood of secret political donations by billionaires and corporations is not good for our state,” Harmon said.

    Senate Bill 2089 advanced out of the Senate’s Executive Committee in an 11-3 vote Wednesday.

    Numerous good-government organizations indicated support for the measure, including the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, the Better Government Association, Illinois PIRG, and the 2,700 members of the League of Women Voters of Illinois.

    Only two organizations indicated they are opposed to the measure, although they did not send representatives to Wednesday’s hearing to explain why: the Illinois Policy Institute and Americans For Prosperity. Both are dark money groups that would be required to disclose their contributions and expenditures when they bill becomes law.

  • Harmon02082017SPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate, issued the following statement regarding revelations about mismanagement of contract paperwork by Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office and hiding the source of deputy governor Leslie Munger’s $138,000 yearly salary:

    “Now that it’s come to light that Gov. Rauner can’t manage his payroll records correctly, I find it even more clear why he’s been unable to manage a state budget for two years.

    “Gov. Rauner has the right to hire whatever staff he believes he needs to properly run his administration, even in this period of historic fiscal distress for state government. But surely he can understand the terrible impression it creates when he hides a six-figure salary in state accounts designated for paying medical providers who have been waiting months for payments from the state of Illinois.

    “The governor pledged to be transparent and to manage the state’s affairs better than his predecessors. He’s failing.”

  • harmon 021717SPRINGFIELD – Illinois taxpayers, public universities and state agencies would benefit from a bipartisan plan to streamline the state’s purchasing rules that was negotiated by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

    The legislation, Senate Bill 8, was approved in the Senate on Tuesday.

    Harmon said it became clear to lawmakers that the state’s procurement rules are ready for an overhaul. The legislature enacted a series of strict procurement reforms in the aftermath of the George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich administrations because of questions over how they handled contracting, bid-letting and transparency for state business.

    But the rules may have gone too far, sacrificing some efficiency and savings in an effort to deter corruption, Harmon said.

    “We heard from universities, in particular, that the state’s purchasing rules have caused real headaches for them,” Harmon said. “Rather than save money for the state, the rules frequently have caused them to waste more money and time than an average business would.”

    Harmon sponsored the legislation with Republican Senator Pamela Althoff of McHenry.

    The measure is a key part of the Senate’s so-called “grand bargain” compromise deal that Gov. Bruce Rauner is relying upon to achieve a balanced budget for the state. Rauner has pressed for procurement reform as one cost-savings measure.

    Among other things, Senate Bill 8 does the following:

    • removes inappropriate restrictions on the procurement of specialized purchases, including database licenses and food for resale on campuses;
    • creates a pilot program modeled after one in California for the efficient purchase of heavy fleet vehicles, special equipment and off-road construction equipment;
    • requires state agencies to respond promptly in writing to inquiries and comments of the Procurement Policy Board;
    • streamlines the procurement code and protects lowest bids from disqualification for minor or technical issues;
    • permits informational communication between vendors and the state, while still requiring that the inspector general be notified of any collusion or anticompetitive procurement practices; and
    • creates a special committee on procurement efficiency in purchasing that will study ways to further streamline the process; study procurement laws about contracting with minority-owned, women-owned, disabled-owned, and veteran-owned businesses; and study ways to purchase additional goods and services from Illinois companies.
  • harmon 021717SPRINGFIELD – The controversial practice of “policing for profit” in Illinois would come to an end under a massive overhaul of the state’s civil asset forfeiture law sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).

    Senate Bill 1578 would require more accountability of law enforcement agencies that seize property while investigating possible crimes and more transparency on behalf of innocent property owners who want to get their belongings back.

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  • harmon 020817SPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat and president pro tempore of the Illinois Senate, issued the following statement regarding today’s movement toward a grand bargain budget deal:

    “Governing is messy. So is negotiation. Yet, today we passed three good-government measures, negotiated by both parties, in our drive toward a budget grand compromise. Saying yes to government consolidation, procurement reform and financing relief for municipalities all in one day is no mean feat.

    “Clearly, the Senate has more work to do on this bipartisan grand compromise of ours, but I cannot stress enough that time is of the essence. We need to pass the remaining components of the deal as soon as possible, because the fallout from the state’s fiscal crisis will continue to worsen.

    “Every day, Gov. Bruce Rauner spends $11 million more than the state has available to spend. I hope he will stop his allies from opposing our compromise, engage in honest negotiations and begin to use his office to lead – not to interfere with the Senate’s efforts.”

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  • afscme3SPRINGFIELD – Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and a bipartisan group of Springfield lawmakers today called for renewed contract negotiations between Gov. Bruce Rauner and the union that represents 38,000 Illinois state workers.

    Harmon noted his support of a measure that would have allowed interest arbitration in the event of an impasse between Rauner, whose anti-union sentiments are well documented, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

    “Twice I passed a bill that would provide for interest arbitration. Twice the governor vetoed that bill, and twice the General Assembly failed to override the veto,” Harmon said. “The governor’s rationale at the time was that he was willing to stay at the bargaining table and negotiate a deal. That sentiment appears to have vanished.”

    AFSCME – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – is the largest union representing state government employees. No contract negotiations between the Rauner administration and the union have occurred since Jan. 8, 2016, when the administration claimed the parties were at impasse.

    More than 30 state lawmakers of both parties and both houses of the Legislature gathered for a news conference Wednesday to show their support for continued good-faith negotiations between the administration and union representatives to avert a labor disruption and bring about an acceptable compromise.

    “I think it is critically important to the people of Illinois that we try to reach an agreement that is fair to everyone and enables us to continue to provide vital services,” Harmon said, adding that Gov. Rauner is not practicing what he preaches when he refuses to participate in negotiations.

    “The governor is demanding that the legislative leaders join him at a bargaining table every day to discuss his agenda and its impact on our state budget,” Harmon said. “I would hope that he would hold himself to that same standard in negotiating with the union and return to the bargaining table immediately.”

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