I’m excited to present to you the third edition of “Schmidt’s Spotlight.” In this newsletter, I’m going to be touching on multiple issues, including public safety, budget, jobs, and legislation I’m working on for our District 114.
Thank you for making our district what it is. I’m grateful to be able to represent hard-working citizens like yourself who make our communities strong. We are in this together, and I will continue to share with you all the happenings in Springfield and locally as I work toward making Illinois a better place to live, work, and raise a family.
State Representative, 114th District
McCombie Fentanyl Bill to Combat Epidemic. This week, House Republican Leader Tony McCombie discussed the impact her legislation to combat fentanyl will have in saving lives across Illinois.
McCombie’s bill, HB 3203, passed unanimously out of the Health and Human Services Committee in the Illinois House last week and allows pharmacists and retail stores to sell potentially life-saving fentanyl test strips over the counter. Currently, test strips are classified as drug paraphernalia, which has made it impossible to make progress on identifying fentanyl in other drugs. The test strips will be able to identify if fentanyl is present in any drug, which is essential considering only a small dose (only 2 milligrams) of fentanyl can have fatal consequences.
At a press conference Thursday in the State Capitol, Leader McCombie stood with Republican lawmakers to talk about the fentanyl epidemic, its effect in Illinois communities, and how her legislation will help provide a solution to a problem that too many families are experiencing across the state.
“This bill will help save lives,” said Leader McCombie. “Fentanyl is a deadly drug that is taking far too many lives and as we continue to take steps to address the opioid epidemic affecting Illinois families, our priority with this legislation is to single out fentanyl.”
The legislation McCombie is backing will make a significant stride to protect kids from unintentionally ingesting a deadly drug. High schools across the state have had issues with fentanyl laced with other drugs like marijuana, which has spurred even more attention to the deadly consequences.
“As lawmakers, when we see a problem as deep as this one, it’s our public duty to try to solve it and I believe my bill is a viable first step forward in combatting this epidemic,” continued McCombie.
HB 3203 continues to gain bipartisan support as it proceeds through the legislative process and awaits further consideration in the Illinois House.
Illinois Supreme Court hears arguments on cash bail. Illinois courts have long had the power to require that a defendant post cash bail as a surety for their good behavior as they get ready for their trial date. The Illinois Constitution protects defendants by ordering that the cash bail be set at an appropriate level, and a wide variety of case law gives Illinois defendants a recourse when they face a request for bail as a condition of pretrial release.
Although cash bail has been, and continues to be, a significant part of Illinois’ criminal procedure, a case before the Illinois Supreme Court could soon end it. A major component of the Democrats’ so-called “SAFE-T Act” would eliminate cash bail as of this year. Law enforcement officials, including the overwhelming majority of Illinois state’s attorneys, filed suit to block the implementation of “no cash bail.” Oral arguments on the case of Rowe and Downey v. Kwame Raoul et al. were heard by the Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 14. State’s Attorney James E. Rowe and Sheriff Michael Downey, the lead plaintiffs, represented a bipartisan group of elected law enforcement officers from across Illinois. These public officials within law enforcement are fighting to retain cash bail as a tool of criminal procedure by the Illinois courts. The state high court’s decision will shape the future of pretrial detention in Illinois.
Key global credit rating firm grants Illinois a debt upgrade; still near the bottom of U.S. state governments. Moody’s Investors Service, one of the largest credit rating agencies, moved Illinois general obligation debt to a ‘single A3’ rating. This standing, while far below that posted by affiliate agencies of neighboring states such as triple-Aaa Indiana, could grant Illinois taxpayers some much-needed relief in terms of the interest payable on State debts. Illinois is continually borrowing more money, and its credit ratings from Moody’s and other credit rating firms help determine the comparative level of interest rates that Illinois bonds must pay when they hit the global debt marketplace. These interest payments, which are made on bonds sold by Illinois and its affiliate agencies, are payments that must ultimately be paid by Illinois taxpayers.
The Moody’s Investors Service ‘single A3’ rating is the lowest A-ranked slot on Moody’s chalkboard. While above the ‘Baa’ slots, it continues to signify standing within the lower half of the set of investment-grade bond ratings that Moody’s awards to borrowers. In a comment that accompanied the rating change, Moody’s noted the current “stable outlook” of the fiscal picture facing the State. The Moody’s Investor Service upgrade was announced on Tuesday, March 14.
In a time of sharply rising interest rates, Illinois must set aside more and more money every year to service its new and existing debt load. Moody’s decision could make this burden less crushing than it otherwise would have been for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins on July 1, 2023. Illinois House appropriations committees heard presentations this week on many facets of the FY24 budget picture.
Illinois metro areas show continued strong job outlook in January 2023. The statewide unemployment rate was 4.7% for the first month of 2023, and this week the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) worked with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to develop estimates of these rates within the major metro areas of Illinois.
In the highly-populated Chicago region, unemployment was 4.7% during this monthly period, the same as the statewide rate. Downstate metro areas posted numbers that were higher or lower than the statewide average. In many cases, the divergence from the mean was associated with a metro area’s orientation towards manufacturing industry, on the one hand, or tertiary services such as healthcare and higher education on the other. In higher ed/hospital-oriented Champaign-Urbana, for example, the January 2023 unemployment rate was 3.8%, signaling near-full employment. In nearby, historically industry-oriented Danville, the same rate was 5.7%. Other Illinois metro areas with high unemployment were Rockford, with 5.8%, and Kankakee, with 6.1%. Rockford-area jobless rates may bump up soon in association with the recent shuttering of Stellantis’ Belvidere motor vehicle assembly complex.
Day in the District
This past Monday, I was grateful to be able to have “A Day in the District,” where I visited various locations around my district: Rush Senior Gardens, Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, and Billie’s Donut Shop in East St. Louis., Sauget Fire House in Sauget, Custom Marble Inc. in Millstadt, and Life Changing Ministries, a Food Pantry in Cahokia Heights. It was wonderful to spend time speaking to the people I serve and seeing first-hand the hard work they are putting in to better our communities. Thank you to everyone who makes District 114 what it is! You can see pictures from the day here: A Day in the District (repschmidt.com)
HB2341 Bill Passes Committee: Local Mayors Testify
In October 2021, a multi-purpose building that housed the Washington Park Police and Fire Departments burned down. Since then, the Village has not had an adequate building to house those facilities. The Village has been able to secure capital funding in the State’s FY23 budget to help repair and rebuild, but they have not been able to access those funds yet in light of audit requirements that are no fault of their own. HB2341, if passed, would create an exemption for cities that do not have access to financial documents, either from fire, employee misconduct, etc. If they are unable to conduct an audit due to not having the information available, they would be allowed to submit a request to waive those audit requirements, subject to approval.
The link below will take you to a video of myself, joined by local mayors Leonard Moore of Washington Park and Fitzgerald Roberts of Dixmoor, speaking on this legislation and the reasons it has been filed. The bill has now passed committee and will move to be voted on in the house. Rep. Schmidt Bill Passes Committee: Local Mayors Testify – YouTube