Chesney Guest Column: First full term in House comes with both accomplishments and unfinished work

With an Election around the corner and a Fall Veto Session scheduled to start in the Illinois House two weeks following Election Day, I recently found myself reviewing the unfinished work I look forward to continuing when we return to Springfield, as well as what agenda points could be checked off the list as completed.

While many first full term legislators find themselves with little in the way of legislative successes, I was humbled and proud to have passed three bills out of the Illinois House in my first term.  I proposed and worked on 14 bills as Chief Sponsor and more than 50 additional bills as a Chief Co-Sponsor or Co-Sponsor.

All three bills I sponsored which passed related to natural resources, conservation and hunting, topics which draw at least some bipartisan support, despite Republicans status in the super-minority in the Illinois House.  Every bill that passes for members of the super-minority requires bipartisan support.  If it does not have it, the numbers simply aren’t there.  This “bipartisan” moniker is simply applied reality for Illinois Republicans.

Many bills that I co-sponsored were Democrat-led initiatives that I was proud to support- including legislation to reduce insulin costs, protect organ donors, and prevent and punish animal cruelty.  Many bills I co-sponsored were Republican-led initiatives as well.  Some of those bills went nowhere because Democrats would not support them.  Included in this category was my bill proposing fining members of the Illinois General Assembly who are found guilty of a felony committed in his or her official capacity as a member of the General Assembly a minimum fine of $100,000, as well as my bill proposing to prohibit political committees from making expenditures for payments to attorneys, expert witnesses, investigators, or others to provide a defense in a criminal case.  Unsurprisingly to many, even a topic like ethics reform can get easily get caught up in political rancor in Springfield.  Imagine that.

There were important public safety issues which I was humbled to have a hand in, as well.  Importantly, naming Trooper Brooke Jones Story Memorial Highway to help memorialize a local hero and raise awareness for roadway safety and Scott’s Law.  We stiffened penalties for Scott’s Law violators with bipartisan support.  The passage of these bills and sign dedication event were some of the most heart wrenching and humbling moments I experienced in the legislature.

Much of the work that dominated this Spring’s Session, and should continue to occupy the agenda for Fall Veto Session and next Spring, are Ethics Reforms issues, related to Executive Powers and COVID response, and encouraging the restoration of one of the best economies in our nation’s history before this pandemic set in. 

We can build it back, but it’s going to take extraordinary work.  Reining in executive powers which subvert the tried and true system of checks and balances is a must for Fall Veto Session.  Fair Business Treatment for small businesses as well as laws that protect local businesses from shop-shaming are initiatives we should legislate upon return.  Rebuilding our economy is the only path forward.  That work remains unfinished and I look forward to continuing to roll up my sleeves to bring common sense and Northwest Illinois values to Springfield.