- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Illinois lawmakers kicked off the final two months of the spring session with a flurry of activity Monday, advancing measures to punish gun traffickers and expedite criminal hearings in Cook County for low-level offenses.

Before a Friday deadline to move bills out of committee, there was a long list of bills still awaiting votes, including regulation of daily fantasy sports betting and easing access to police video under the Freedom of Information Act.

But they’re no closer to resolving an epic partisan standoff over a budget that should’ve taken effect last July. Illinois is now the only state in the U.S. without a budget for the current fiscal year.

Here’s a summary of Monday’s legislative action.

GUN VIOLENCE

In an effort to combat gun violence in Chicago, lawmakers gave initial approval to a bill that would create a new felony offense for buying guns in other states to transport them for sale in Illinois.

Republican Rep. Jim Durkin, the GOP’s House leader and sponsor of the bill, said criminals are skirting Illinois’ background check requirements and mandate to have a license to purchase firearms by going to other states.

“This is absolutely horrible gun violence, gang violence,” particularly in Chicago, Durkin said.

The bill, which would impose prison sentences of 4 to 20 years for a first offense, now goes to the full House. Subsequent convictions would carry stiffer penalties.

SPEEDY HEARINGS

Last year, Illinois lawmakers passed legislation to expedite low-level drug cases through the Cook County docket, requiring resolution within 30 days instead of 120 days. A bill that moved out of committee and onto the House floor would expand that requirement to other low-level offenses, such as driving with a suspended license.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart testified in favor of the bill, telling lawmakers that sometimes defendants end up sitting in jail for months for minor offenses. Sometimes the defendants are in jail for months because they can’t afford bail, Dart said.

BUDGET GRIDLOCK

The House returned from a monthlong break with GOP leaders urging Democrats who control the Legislature to compromise on a budget with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Neither side is budging.

Rauner is calling for what he describes as business-friendly reform, including curbing the power of unions, before agreeing for a tax increase that many believe is necessary to close a multi-billion deficit.

Democrats say Rauner needs to move away from what they see as a union-busting agenda.

Christine Radogno, the Senate Republican leader, said getting a budget is more important now that public schools are deciding how many teachers they can afford to keep and students are choosing colleges.

The Senate, which has been on break since mid-March, returns to work Tuesday.

NO WARNING LABELS FOR MARIJUANA

Lawmakers in a House committee rejected a measure to require warning labels on medicinal marijuana about possible side effects. Legislators who opposed the bill said doctors already brief patients about what to expect when taking the drug before prescribing it.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Dwight Kay, argued that people who are not medical marijuana users but may come in contact with it should be aware about possible side-effects like dizziness, impaired thought, or delirium.

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Online: https://www.ilga.com

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Associated Press writer John O’Connor contributed.


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