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Harmon: The most meaningful reform is a balanced budget (AUDIO)

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: Rule-making review must be protected from executive overreach

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.

Harmon: Debating women’s reproductive health care? How 1960s of us.

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.

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.”

Senator Don Harmon

harmon-2014-150

President Pro Tempore
39th District
 
Years served:
2003 - Present

Committee assignments: Assignments (Vice-Chairperson); Executive (Chairperson); Judiciary; Committee of the Whole.

Biography: Attorney; born 1966, in Oak Park; graduated St. Ignatius High School; B.A., Knox College; J.D. and M.B.A., University of Chicago; married (wife, Teresa), has three children: Don, Frances, and Margaret.

Associated Representative(s): Kathleen Willis, Camille Y. Lilly