Despite the talk of how little the Legislature accomplished in its spring session, local officials praised a bill to boost chances of a Chicago-area airport for rural Will County.
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, was the primary sponsor of a bill that combined a new Peotone-area airport with state funding for an arena near the McCormick Place convention center and a fertilizer plant near rural Tuscola – all of which were paired together under the premise they create jobs.
Among Hutchinson’s co-sponsors on the bill was state Sen. Napoleon Harris, D-Flossmoor, while a third area state senator, Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, voted to support the bill.
While in the House of Representatives, area legislators Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City; Will Davis, East Hazel Crest; Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights; Al Riley, D-Olympia Fields, Elgie Sims and Marcus Evans, both D-Chicago, were among the 14 co-sponsors.
As for the proposed new airport, the bill will give the Illinois Department of Transportation the authority to enter into legal agreements with private companies for the development and construction of the facility.
Jones called the proposed airport an “economic engine” for the south suburbs as a whole because of the 11,000 construction and 14,000 permanent jobs it would create.
Davis said in a prepared statement: “Our communities need job opportunities to work their way out of these challenging economic times. Supporting development projects was a priority for me, so that we can attract and sustain businesses to our area and sustain businesses for the future.”
That bill is pending before Gov. Pat Quinn, who has not yet signed it into law, but praised the Legislature for approving the measure.
“The agreement is a major step forward to develop the South Suburban Airport, which will ensure Illinois’ place as the transportation hub of the nation,” he said in a prepared statement.
In other activity, Jones said he believes the General Assembly provided adequate state funding for public schools. He said the final state budget being considered by the governor provides a $156 million increase for education funding.
Jones also co-sponsored a measure by state Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago, that doubles the tax credits offered to businesses that hire former prison inmates, while also tripling to three years the amount of time those tax credits are in place.
Jones also sponsored a resolution urging Sears Holding Corp. to repay any tax incentives it received during 2012 and 2013 through an agreement with the state to encourage Sears to keep its corporate headquarters in Illinois.
Jones has said he is upset about the number of stores Sears plans to close across the state, including the store in Calumet City that is scheduled to close today. That resolution is pending in the House Rules Committee, which has yet to assign it to a legislative committee for substantive review.
Davis also supported a measure by state Rep. Silvana Tabares, D-Chicago, that allows a parent or guardian of a person with disabilities to request consumer reporting agencies to place a security freeze on that person’s credit reports to protect them from the potential for identity theft.
He also backed a bill by Harris that requires schools to offer catastrophic insurance coverage for their student-athletes. Those measures are pending before Quinn.