Newly appointed state Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago) and the Illinois General Assembly on Tuesday concluded their spring legislative session and Smith played a role in addressing significant state issues, including helping to pass landmark reforms to the state’s education system and imposing greater fiscal discipline on state spending. “This spring the legislature showed greater fiscal responsibility in crafting and passing a bipartisan budget,” Smith said. “The tough decisions are far from over, but this is an important step in the right direction to improve the financial condition of the state that is crucial to creating and retaining jobs and helping our economy recover.”
Earlier this year, the House unanimously approved a measure setting an amount of estimated revenues for the upcoming fiscal year. The estimates were based on the existing sources of revenue, not on forecasts for revenue sources not yet realized. Smith pointed out the importance in establishing this estimate early on in the year to make sure the state did not spend more money than it was taking in. “This resolution helped us be more fiscally responsible, which is crucial if we are going to get the state’s financial affairs in order,” Smith said. “In the past, budgets have been based on projected revenues that we can no longer rely on in this volatile economic climate.
Many difficult decisions had to be made in passing the state budget this year, but if our state is to return to prosperity, we have to be better stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.” Smith also successfully sponsored and passed his first piece of legislation, a measure to protect consumer’s identity. House Bill 700 limits the use of social security numbers when state agencies license professionals. “Federal and state statues require handling social security numbers in the most confidential manner,” Smith said. “The distinctiveness of social security numbers to identify individuals makes them increasingly vulnerable to exploitation. Identity theft and compromised personal information are a growing concern for many institutions.”
The Legislature also passed a comprehensive education reform package that is targeted at improving student performance. Senate Bill 7 streamlines the process for dismissing poorly-performing teachers and provides that only teachers who consistently receive positive performance evaluations over a four-year period are able to receive tenure. “The state of our children’s education is at stake and instituting these reforms will help ensure that our children will be taught by the best educators,” Smith said.