The Illinois House has met more days than usual this year, but it has no accomplishments yet on the big issues – pensions, the budget and concealed carry of guns.
That’s the verdict of Rep. Tom Demmer, a Dixon Republican who was elected to his first term in November. At 26, he’s the General Assembly’s second-youngest member and represents the 90th district, which includes the southern part of DeKalb and much of south and western DeKalb County.
He’s not impressed with his and his fellow legislators’ progress on major issues, but he has tackled an issue brought to the fore in his district. In response to former longtime Dixon Comptroller Rita Crundwell’s conviction for stealing $53.7 million from the city over several years, he sponsored an anti-corruption package that passed the House. It awaits action in the Senate.
His legislation would require municipal and county officials to check state payments made to municipalities and counties on a semiannual basis, strengthen penalties for forging state documents, and provide stiffer penalties for official misconduct that illegally obtains property or monetary gains for personal advantage.
In an interview with Sauk Valley News, a sister publication of the Daily Chronicle, Demmer said he disagreed with proposals to require school districts, rather than the state, to pay for the employer part of teachers’ and administrators’ pensions.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to transfer unfunded liabilities to the districts for payments the state has skipped in the past,” he said.
At the same time, Demmer said he was open to proposals to curtail the custom of giving big end-of-career pay raises to teachers and administrators, which inflate pensions. These days, educators and their bosses typically get 6 percent annual hikes in their last years on the job.
Demmer said he would consider making districts pay all or part of the pension costs associated with the big raises. He also suggested basing pensions on a greater number of years of pay, which would reduce the size of the benefits.
He also defended the work of state Sen. Tim Bivins, a Dixon Republican who represents the south and western parts of DeKalb County. Bivins is negotiating with Democrats on a compromise to allow concealed carry of firearms.
That compromise would empower the state police to issue concealed-carry permits. Those permits would apply everywhere in the state except Chicago and Cook County, where people would have to get endorsements from local law enforcement.
The NRA criticized the compromise, saying it denies Chicago and Cook County residents their civil rights.
Demmer said he would like to apply the same rules around the state, but the reality is that supermajority support is needed for a concealed-carry law. So the controversial provision may be necessary for the larger goal of allowing concealed carry, he said.