Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) today called on Republican leaders in the General Assembly to focus on solutions to the state’s budget crisis rather than proposing such ill-conceived ideas as a state takeover of the finances of the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools.
“Illinois’ own well-documented fiscal problems deserve the full, undivided attention of GOP leaders and Gov. Bruce Rauner right now,” Harmon said. “If Illinois under Gov. Rauner’s leadership can’t find a way to fund basic human services and grants promised to needy college students, it’s certainly in no position to take over Chicago Public Schools.”
Harmon’s remarks are in response to a proposal backed by Republican leaders Sen. Christine Radogno and Rep. Jim Durkin that would allow an emergency takeover over the finances of the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools. The proposal also would give the city and the school district the ability to declare bankruptcy – a major component of Gov. Rauner’s controversial agenda for state and local governments.
Harmon noted the irony of Republican leaders who are defenders of local control touting a plan that would wrest local control from Chicago taxpayers.
“Notably, Republicans are the ones who put the control of Chicago’s public schools in the hands of the mayor back in 1995,” Harmon said. “The Republicans are strong proponents of local control except when they’re not.”
OAK PARK — State Sen. Don Harmon issued the following statement regarding Monday’s Senate vote to release $3.1 billion in local money that has been held up by the budget impasse in Springfield.
“Mayors and village leaders representing the communities in my district can no longer afford to wait for the release of money that the state collects but rightfully belongs to local communities – especially motor fuel tax dollars that are used to buy road salt and pay for snow removal,” Harmon said. “This money never should have been held up by the state in the first place.”
The legislation – Senate Bill 2039 – now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner for his signature.
Critical funding for winter road maintenance, domestic violence shelter programs and local shares of video gaming and motor fuel tax revenue are part of the package. Also included are:
• $1 billion to the Lottery for prizes.
• $582.5 million to IDOT for local governments share of motor fuel gas tax revenues.
• $43 million to the Community College Board for career and technical education activities.
• $45 million to the Department of Revenue so local governments can receive their share of video gaming proceeds.
• $3.1 million to the Illinois Math and Science Academy.
• $31 million to IDOT to purchase road salt.
• $2.5 million for breast cancer services and research.
• $28 million for nursing home licensing and inspections.
• $165 million for home heating bill assistance.
• $77 million for 911-related costs.
• $3.1 million to the Illinois Department of Public Health for the Tobacco Quitline.
Notably, however, a host of other programs and services remain in limbo because of the state budget stalemate. Public universities and community colleges are struggling to operate without budgets, and no money has been appropriated for student scholarships and grants.
In addition, human services programs are in jeopardy, including help for rape victims, the homeless, autistic children, at-risk youth, the poor and people in need of health care and mental health treatment.
“The fiscal year is nearly half over. It’s time to finish the important and long-overdue work of putting together a state budget so that we can offer universities, students and the state’s most vulnerable residents some peace of mind,” Harmon said.
SPRINGFIELD – 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.
SPRINGFIELD – A new law sponsored by state Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) will help keep communities and consumers safer by making it more difficult to sell items at pawnshops, if those items are missing serial numbers. The law also sets statewide minimum standards for how long pawnshops must hold onto items before they can sell or transfer them.
“A missing serial number – particularly on something dangerous like a gun or expensive like a phone or computer – is a real problem,” Harmon said. “I know most pawnshops don’t want to support criminal activity, but if you resell a major item that’s missing its serial number, you very well might be.”
The law explicitly prohibits pawnshops from accepting items where the serial number has been intentionally removed or altered. They will be able to accept items where a serial number has worn off because of normal use, but required to hold them for at least 15 days before sale.
The law also requires pawnshops to hold on to all items for at least 10 days before sale or transfer (even to another store owned by the same company). When Harmon was drawn to the issue of pawnshops due to local concerns, he discovered that communities throughout the state had wildly varying holding periods. For example, Chicago has a 30-day holding period, while Melrose Park only has a 24-hour holding period.
“After seeing the patchwork of holding periods throughout the state, we decided to establish a baseline of 10 days to give law enforcement long enough to track down stolen property,” Harmon said. “Cities like Chicago and Oak Park will still be able to set stricter requirements.”
The new law, originally Senate Bill 1820, takes effect January 1.
Senator Don Harmon
President Pro Tempore
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