Capitol Update

Capitol Update

Senate votes to override veto handgun bill

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate on Tuesday voted to override the governor’s veto of legislation intended to legally protect people who violate local gun laws by shooting an intruder in their home.

Sen. Edward Petka, R-Plainfield, sponsored Senate Bill 2165 after Hale DeMar of Wilmette shot a man who had twice broken into his home. Wilmette officials charged DeMar with violating a local ban on handguns, and he challenged the constitutionality of the ordinance.

Petka’s bill would permit anyone in a situation like DeMar’s to argue self-defense.

The General Assembly approved the bill last spring, but Gov. Rod Blagojevich vetoed it. He said he thought it would encourage people to buy handguns and hide them if they live in a community that bans the weapons.

Sen. George Shadid, a Peoria Democrat and former Peoria County sheriff, supported the effort to override Blagojevich’s veto.

“Maybe this will send a message throughout the state of Illinois that you’re not going to break into someone’s home without repercussions,” Shadid said. “You might lose your life.”

But Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, an Evanston Democrat whose district includes Wilmette, opposed the override effort. He said state law should not be changed because of a single case.

Tuesday’s Senate vote was 40-18. The measure now heads to the House, where 71 votes are needed to override the governor’s veto.

Senate votes again to hike semi speed limit

SPRINGFIELD -Illinois senators voted Tuesday to make the speed limit on rural interstate highways 65 mph for trucks as well as cars.

The Senate voted 41-17 to override Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s veto of Senate Bill 2374.

“There is no increase in the accident rate for states that have the same speed limit for cars and trucks,” said Sen. George Shadid, D- Peoria, sponsor of the bill. Shadid said it is safer for all traffic to move at the same speed.

The speed limit for trucks is now 55 mph, while cars can travel 65. Forty other states have uniform interstate highway speed limits for cars and trucks.

Blagojevich said he vetoed the bill for safety reasons. Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said he thinks trucks already travel 65 mph and will go even faster if the speed limit for them is raised.

The House must still vote to override Blagojevich’s veto before the law will take effect.

Rent-subsidy program OK’d by House

SPRINGFIELD -The Illinois House on Tuesday passed by a 73-42 vote a proposal to create a rent-subsidy program for low-income residents.

Sponsored by Rep. Julie Hamos, D-Evanston, Senate Bill 520 would create a rental support program that would pay subsidies directly to landlords who rent to residents earning 30 percent or less of the state’s median income – or $19,000 for a family of four.

The proposal originally called for a new $10 fee to be levied on real estate documents, raising an estimated $30 million for nearly 5,500 families. An amendment increased the fee to $11, leaving $2 with the counties.

The measure is timely because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently changed how Section 8 rent subsidies are calculated, resulting in cuts in some of the vouchers that participants use to pay rent and utilities.

SB520 now moves to the Senate.

Senate votes to let state fund ATV trails in sparks

SPRINGFIELD -The state Senate voted 40-14 to allow state-funded construction of all-terrain vehicle trails in Illinois state parks.

The Department of Natural Resources is currently prohibited from using Off-Highway Vehicle Trails fund money to build ATV trails in state parks. Blagojevich vetoed Senate Bill 2272, saying it is inappropriate to start constructing them.

The OHVT money is supposed to be used to build trails on property owned by entities other than DNR. However, local opposition has stopped construction in all but five locations since 1999.

The House must also vote to override the veto before the bill will take effect.

Tree memorializes slain Capitol guard

SPRINGFIELD – A crowd of about 100 gathered Tuesday on the east lawn of the Capitol to dedicate a tree planted in the memory of William “Bill” Wozniak, the 51-year-old Capitol security guard fatally shot in September.

The 18-foot Marmo maple tree – a cross between a red and silver maple – stood against a brisk wind in the November sun as family, lawmakers and constitutional officers, both past and present, paid homage to the man who cheerfully performed his duty for 18 years.

“I can’t think of anything more appropriate than a tree that will stand here and guard over the Capitol and greet visitors to the Capitol for many years, just as Bill did for many years,” said keynote speaker former Gov. Jim Edgar, who served as secretary of state when Wozniak was hired.

Security guards at state offices are hired by the secretary of state’s office.

Wozniak died from a single close-range shotgun blast to the chest allegedly fired by Derek W. Potts, 24, of Olney just inside the Capitol’s north doors on Sept. 20.

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