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Harmon

  • Automatic voter registration initiative becomes law (VIDEO)

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  • Automatic voter registration moves forward in Illinois (VIDEO, AUDIO)

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  • Few specifics, missed opportunities in governor's budget speech (VIDEO)

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  • Governor vetoes MAP, community college funding for Illinois students

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  • Harmon advances fair tax amendment in Senate

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  • Harmon advances landmark Illinois gun dealer licensing measure (AUDIO)

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  • Harmon advances measure to help bring broadband internet to rural Illinois

    harmon 050516Communities in rural Illinois would face one less obstacle in acquiring broadband internet access under a measure that Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) advanced Wednesday in the General Assembly.

    Senate Bill 2237, which passed in the Senate and now goes to the House for consideration, would allow broadband internet providers to use existing highway right-of-ways for laying fiber optic cable.

    These are the same right-of-ways that water and sewer utilities use for laying pipe. The property is not productive farmland, suitable for building or used for any purpose other than roadways, nor is it subjected to property taxes.

  • Harmon advances plan to get wind farm construction boomin’ in Illinois

    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 advances two-year ban on bobcat hunting in northern Illinois

    bobcatSPRINGFIELD – Illinois would halt bobcat hunting in most northern counties for two years to allow time for more scientific research about the animal’s population under legislation approved by the state Senate Monday.

    House Bill 3399 was sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and was the result of lengthy negotiations among Harmon, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Trappers Association.

  • Harmon calls on gun lobby, governor to do more to protect Illinois children

    Harmon03032016Senator Don Harmon is calling on the gun-rights advocates and Gov. Bruce Rauner to do more to help state lawmakers and local communities curb gun violence and protect the children of Illinois.

    Harmon, an Oak Park Democrat, is chairman of a Senate subcommittee on firearms, which heard testimony Tuesday about legislation that would restore local governments’ right to control the types of weapons and ammunition allowed in their communities. Local control over such matters was taken away in 2013 when the state passed its concealed carry law.

    As with so many other proposals designed to target gun violence and the illegal gun trade, gun-rights advocates are opposed to the measure.

    “Kids are dying, and these products are causing it,” Harmon said. “It’s a crisis. Find a way to help us protect everyone, including law-abiding gun owners.”

    Harmon, who favors greater accountability standards for gun dealers to stem the tide of illegal firearms flowing into Illinois, said that in the absence of Congressional action to deter gun violence and restrict access to weapons nationally, it’s up to state officials and local communities to protect residents themselves.

    It’s not about taking rights away from law-abiding citizens who own and enjoy firearms, he added, acknowledging the state’s regional diversity when it comes to opinions about guns.

    “In my time in Springfield I’ve evolved from someone who grew up in a house without guns to understanding my colleagues across the state who represent communities where guns are common and used responsibly. I respect them and the cultural differences more than I did when I started this job,” Harmon said.

    “But kids are dying on our streets because there are too many guns, and we get no help from the gun lobby. I’m begging them to find a way to work with us rather than block our efforts and pay lip service to what we’re trying to do. We’ll protect law-abiding gun owners in the process, but we need them to help us put the bad guys out of business.”

    Rauner this week signed Republican-backed legislation that increases criminal penalties for gun trafficking in Illinois. Harmon said the measure does not go far enough to curb gun violence, nor does it offer the local oversight that communities want.

    He called on the governor – an ardent proponent of local control of government – to express support for local gun laws and statewide violence-prevention measures, and to do more to bring attention to the public health crisis that guns are causing in Illinois.

    Harmon also appealed to gun-rights advocates to stop standing in the way of sensible restrictions that will protect people and that polling consistently shows the majority of Americans want.

    In Illinois, since 2013 the National Rifle Association and the Illinois State Rifle Association have objected to a host of legislation designed to reduce gun violence and protect potential victims. Proposals they’ve opposed include state licensing of gun and ammunition dealers, barring people on the terrorist watch list from obtaining FOID cards, creating a firearms registry, banning imitation and replica firearms, requiring gun owners to have liability insurance, creating a gun violence restraining order, strengthening the FOID card revocation process and barring the use of three-dimensional printers to create guns.

    Meanwhile, just over halfway through 2016, gun violence in Chicago is on pace to eclipse last year’s statistics. More than 2,700 people have been shot in the city so far this year; in all of 2015 just under 3,000 people were shot.

    Among the more than 50 victims of gunfire during the past weekend was an 8-year-old girl who was shot in the wrist as she attended a vigil for a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed early Sunday in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, which is in Harmon’s legislative district.

    “Meet us in the middle, for God’s sake,” Harmon said in a plea to gun-rights advocates. “How many children are going to have to die while the gun lobby stands by and watches?”

  • Harmon clears way for governor to sign House Bill 40

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  • Harmon disappointed by partisan vote against working families

    harmon jcar ccapSPRINGFIELD – In an effort to support working parents who cannot afford childcare State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) voted against Governor Rauner’s drastic new rules that have cut the Child Care Assistance Program for needy families. Harmon joined with the rest of his Democratic colleagues in support of these families at the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules hearing, but the deep cuts prevailed, however, when Republican members sided with the governor over working families.

    “It is extremely disappointing that not a single one of my Republican colleagues was able to stand up for working families today. These emergency rules, proposed by Governor Rauner, do not respond to an emergency, but they will create emergencies for people all across the state. The legislature should have the will to stand up to the governor and check this overreach of his powers,” said Harmon.

  • Harmon disappointed in same-day voter registration ruling

    Harmon03032016Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) issued the following statement today in response to a Republican-controlled think tank’s step toward curbing voter access in Illinois:

    “How disappointing that on National Voter Registration Day – a day intended to remind people of their right to register and vote in this country – a blatantly political effort to quell participation in Illinois elections was able to get a toehold in a courtroom.

    “Rather than seeking to scale back opportunities to register to vote in certain parts of Illinois, we should be working to expand access to the polls in all communities throughout the state.”

    Harmon was the chief Senate sponsor of the 2014 same-day voter registration initiative, which was challenged in court in August by the legal arm of a conservative political think tank that is backed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. A judge on Tuesday ruled in its favor and issued a preliminary injunction barring same-day voter registration in Illinois. It’s unclear if an appeal will be filed.

  • Harmon law allows Cook County drug field tests

    harmon pawnshopSPRINGFIELD – In 2010, Cook County released more than 5,000 defendants accused of drug-related crimes after determining there was no probable cause for their arrests. Many had been sitting in Cook County jail for more than 25 days awaiting their probable cause hearing. Each day these men and women sat in jail cost county taxpayers $143 – or more than $3,000 for a 25-day stay. It cost them and their families even more from lost time at work and the anguish of having a loved one in jail. Many of these offenders came from low-income families that could not afford to post bail.

    Why? Because law enforcement agencies in Cook County send recovered substances to the State Crime Lab to determine whether they are in fact drugs, which takes weeks. Police in every other county use a simple field drug test that costs little more than $1, which could have dramatically reduced the cost to Cook County and the suffering of these people and their families.

    The plan championed by Harmon creates a pilot program in Chicago to perform field drug tests for marijuana, cocaine and heroin. If it is successful, the field testing program could be expanded to the whole county. Establishing field drug testing in Cook County could also reduce pressure on the state crime lab, which currently analyzes all suspected drugs from the state’s most populous area.

    “Cook County deserves the opportunity to save taxpayer money and reduce prison crowding,” said State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), the measure’s sponsor. “This program works in every other county in Illinois. I have high hopes that it will work here, cutting costs and reducing unnecessary jail time.”

    The legislation is House Bill 356. It takes effect immediately.

  • Harmon measure giving ex-offenders fair access to employment, housing signed into law

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  • Harmon measure targets Illinois’ murky police property seizure laws

    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.

  • Harmon negotiates plan to slash costly government red tape

    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 passes legislation to fund fire, police line-of-duty awards

    Harmon03032016Scholarships for the children of Illinois firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty would be funded again under legislation that passed in the Illinois Senate on Thursday.

    Senate Bill 2051, sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), would appropriate $975,000 for college scholarships for children of deceased police officers, firefighters and correctional officers, as well as $5 million for payment of line-of-duty awards.

    The payments have been held up because of the state budget stalemate.

  • Harmon pro-business legislation becomes law

    harmon 050516Businesses will find it easier to operate in Illinois under legislation sponsored by Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) that was signed into law Thursday.

    House Bill 4361 is a broad, comprehensive modernization of Illinois’ Limited Liability Company Act, which last was rewritten in 1994. The law had been updated in a piecemeal fashion since then, but it was due for a sweeping update.

    The measure, which had bipartisan support in the legislature, is another effort to make Illinois a more business friendly state.

    “This update to Illinois’ LLC Act not only modernizes some of our laws, it also eliminates unclear or contradictory rules that can be frustrating for companies to navigate,” Harmon said. “It makes our laws more consistent with those of other states and enables Illinois to be a more attractive and inviting place for businesses to set up shop.”

    The legislation was the result of a six-year project by the Institute of Illinois Business Law to update the state’s LLC Act. The project was prompted by the 2006 publication of the Revised Uniform Limited Liability Company Act by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

    Joliet attorney Michael Hansen is past chairman of the Institute of Illinois Business Law, a group of about 40 corporate lawyers in Illinois who oversee the state’s business and corporate laws.

    “Limited liability companies are now the favored business entity,” he said. “The changes to the Act will mean the formation in Illinois of more LLCs, while still providing necessary protections to the members of the LLC.”

    Representatives Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Carol Sente (D-Vernon Hills) sponsored the measure in the Illinois House.

  • Harmon proposes stronger protections for Illinois bobcats

    harmon bobcatSaying the state lacks adequate information about Illinois’ recovering bobcat population, Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) has proposed a prohibition on trapping the animals and selling their pelts.

    Senate Bill 2143, which passed out of a Senate committee on Thursday, does not repeal recently enacted state law that allows hunting of bobcats.

    “If it was up to me, I would take bobcats off the list of animals that can be hunted in Illinois,” Harmon said. “But under this legislation, folks still can hunt bobcats in an effort to manage the population in a responsible and humane way. They just can’t trap them.”

    Currently, bobcat pelts have a market price of about $35 in Illinois. Harmon said he is concerned that Illinois is creating a market for the pelts of an animal that not long ago was a threatened species here.

    Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation in July 2015 allowing licensed hunters to kill one bobcat per season. The practice had been banned in Illinois for about 40 years because the population had dwindled. Bobcats were removed from the state’s threatened species list in 1999.

    The Illinois Department of Natural Resources estimates there are 3,000 bobcats in southern Illinois, 2,000 in western Illinois and 1,500 in other parts of the state. More precise figures and other data about the state’s bobcat population are unknown, though. The animals are nocturnal and reclusive.

    “We don’t have the numbers, and we don’t have all the facts. Let’s slow down and not create a market for pelts of an animal whose population is still coming back,” Harmon said.

    “If we’re going to kill animals, I would like for people to use all of the resources those animals provide. That’s the responsible thing to do. But it troubles me that bobcat hunting rules are rushed and without the benefit of having all the facts.

    “Let’s not inadvertently create the incentives to hunt for sport only animals that were recently endangered and may still well be threatened.”