News from State Representative Dan Ugaste – November 20, 2023


House Republicans blast Gov. Pritzker for spending $638 million on Chicago’s migrant crisis. On Thursday, Governor JB Pritzker announced his plan to spend $160 million in taxpayer funds to provide shelter and job assistance to thousands of migrants in Chicago. Since 2022, nearly 25,000 migrants have come to Chicago while the State of Illinois has already spent $478 million on the migrant crisis.

House Minority Leader Tony McCombie released the following statement in response:

“For two weeks of veto session, legislative leaders were in Springfield and available to discuss any proposed solutions to this migrant ‘emergency’ House Republicans have been flagging for months, but instead are now just learning of these ‘big ideas’ for the first time through the press. The legislature and Illinois taxpayers deserve a voice in the policies and funding of migrant programs.”

With the surge in migrants coming to Illinois, State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer filed legislation last month to repeal the TRUST Act, ending Illinois’ status as a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants.

Representative Davidsmeyer blasted Governor Pritzker’s plan to take $160 million away from essential services provided by the Illinois Department of Human Services to assist with the migrant crisis in Chicago.

“DHS provides vitally needed services to our developmentally disabled community, senior citizens, and children in need of our support,” Davidsmeyer said. “We have children sleeping on the floors of state agencies because we can’t afford to place them in proper settings. Governor Pritzker wants to spend $160 million to resettle migrants in Chicago while Illinois children have no place to go. Once again, JB Pritzker and his Democrat allies are shortchanging our own citizens to pay for their sanctuary state policy. This is disgraceful!”

Governor Pritzker’s $160 million plan to address the migrant crisis includes $30 million to streamline intake procedures, $65 million to create additional shelter capacity in Chicago, and $65 million to expand case management to expedite migrant independence, including job assistance.

“$638 million in taxpayer funds to address the migrant crisis created by Chicago’s sanctuary city, Illinois’ sanctuary state, and the Biden Administration’s failure to secure the border. Illinois taxpayers are already on the hook for more than $2 billion in costs to provide free healthcare benefits to illegal immigrants. When is enough enough?” Davidsmeyer asked.

Deputy Republican Leader Norine Hammond criticized Governor Pritzker’s plan to take $160 million away from essential services provided by the Illinois Department of Human Services to assist with the migrant crisis in Chicago.

“Chicago is facing a humanitarian and budgetary catastrophe, due to its status as a sanctuary city,” Rep. Hammond said. “Nearly 25,000 migrants have been transported to Chicago from border states, costing Illinois taxpayers almost $500 million and counting. Governor Pritzker’s plan to shift around money within DHS’ budget to provide an additional $160 million to address Chicago’s migrant crisis puts the needs of migrants ahead of the needs of our own citizens. DHS provides essential services to the developmentally disabled, senior citizens, and children in need. Serving the citizens of Illinois is our responsibility, first and foremost. The Governor and his Democratic friends need to get their priorities straight.”

Representative Hammond serves as the chief budget negotiator for the Illinois House Republican Caucus. She has been a strong critic of policies enacted by the Pritzker Administration to provide free healthcare benefits for undocumented immigrants, at a cost of nearly $2 billion to Illinois taxpayers. Earlier this year, Hammond called for a moratorium on enrollment and expansion of the program.

“Illinois taxpayers cannot afford to pay for free healthcare benefits for undocumented immigrants, especially at a time when healthcare costs for our own citizens continue to skyrocket,” Hammond said. “We must do more to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants into Illinois. The federal government needs to take action to secure our borders and make it clear to our neighbors to the south that the U.S. border is closed!”

State Representative Steve Reick has been a long-time critic of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for its repeated failures to protect at-risk children. Reick believes that the money Gov. Pritzker is reallocating for migrant services should be going to the people Pritzker was elected to represent.

“The governor said in his press conference that the state was stepping in with additional resources so that migrants would not be ‘lost in a bureaucracy.’ If it weren’t so tragic, it would be funny. How long has it been that we’ve been reading about kids sleeping on the floors of DCFS offices and being kept in psychiatric hospitals long beyond medical necessity simply because they were ‘lost in a bureaucracy’ that couldn’t find an appropriate place for them to stay? The latest statistics from DCFS show that between January 1st of 2023 and July 2nd, 355 kids had slept on the floor in DCFS offices. In addition, over 100 kids were being kept in psychiatric hospitals beyond medical necessity. Over the past year we saw DCFS director Marc Smith being charged with contempt over and over again because of the failure of his agency to find proper placement for these kids,” said Rep. Reick.

“We have a responsibility to take care of our own. Kids who suffer from abuse and neglect have a higher priority than someone who just stepped off the bus. The neighborhoods in Chicago which are seeing money going to people camping out in front of their houses but are left scrambling for money necessary for economic development are justifiably angry at these misplaced priorities, which are more focused on keeping the Governor in the conversation for national office than taking care of the people he took an oath to protect.”


Illinois House distributes schedule for 2024 spring session. The schedule will govern the activities of the House in the first half of calendar year 2024.

After the holiday break, the Illinois House will convene on Tuesday, January 16. The House will remain in session for six legislative days to enable bills to be filed for the 2024 spring session. Friday, February 9, will be the deadline day to file bills in the Illinois House for consideration during the Spring 2024 session. The House and Senate will then have three and a half months to discuss and debate legislation and budget bills for the year. The House has posted its 2024 spring schedule online.


Illinoisans will soon see even higher natural gas bills. The chief suppliers of natural gas to Illinois businesses and households all applied, in the fall 2023 rate hike cycle, for the right to charge higher rates for natural gas. Under law, these rate requests are heard by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), a nonpartisan State panel with authority over electricity providers, natural gas utilities, and many other segments of the State’s economy.

The ICC decided to grant slices of these requests, and to deny other slices. The applicant utility firms got between 50% and 75% of the rate hikes for which they requested. The specific percentages granted by the ICC ranged from approximately 50% of the rate hike request in the case of Ameren, to approximately 75% in the case of Peoples Gas. Peoples Gas serves natural gas customers in the city of Chicago, while Ameren has a wide-ranging natural gas service area in many parts of Downstate Illinois. Rate hikes were also granted to Peoples Gas’s related firm North Shore Gas and to gas utility Nicor. Nicor and North Shore Gas, which received about two-third to 70% of the rate hikes for which they requested, serve suburban Chicago customers.

The ICC decisions were handed down on Thursday, November 16. In a series of announcements that accompanied the issuance of these decisions, Doug Scott, the ICC’s chairperson, stated that it is the long-term goal of Illinois under the Pritzker administration to move away from carbon-based energy. All four natural gas utilities with rate cases before the ICC this fall asked for more money to speed up their return on the capital they have already invested, and continue to invest, in natural gas pipes and lines. This means that even if the price of natural gas at the well goes down, the price of natural gas as delivered to billed Illinois customers will continue to go up. The approved hikes will show up in Illinoisans’ natural gas bills this winter.


Firearms rights advocates seek relief from full federal appellate court. Illinois’ so-called “assault weapons” ban, enacted in January 2023 by a lame-duck session of the Illinois General Assembly, continues to be the subject of court action. Firearms rights groups and plaintiffs have filed a series of lawsuits to try to strike down the new law on constitutional grounds.

A “grandfather” clause allows certain firearms to continue to be legally possessed if they were owned in Illinois prior to January 10, 2023, the effective date of the law. However, to qualify for this allowance, gun owners are required to register their firearms with the Illinois State Police. Registration must be complete by December 31, 2023. The State Police has promulgated an emergency rule to create a fast-track registration process, and they are also working on a permanent administrative rule to enable and enforce the new law. The permanent rule will be scrutinized by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), a bipartisan panel of the Illinois General Assembly. Many Illinois firearms owners oppose the new gun ban, oppose the current and pending rules of the State Police, and are highly reluctant to register any of their firearms with law enforcement.

The new State law remains under challenge by ongoing litigation. This week, a plaintiff group announced plans to present their case against the Illinois statute to the full Seventh United States Court of Appeals, the federal court that meets in Chicago. This presentation to a full appellate court, called an “en banc” hearing, will give plaintiffs an opportunity to present the federal Second Amendment, and case law buttressing this Amendment, to all of the judges of this appellate court.

In addition, State Representative Dan Caulkins has petitioned the United States Supreme Court to review the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision on Illinois’ assault weapons ban law on due process, equal protection, and Second Amendment grounds. Learn more here.


Unemployment rate up in October. The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced Thursday that the unemployment rate increased +0.2 percentage point to 4.6 percent, while nonfarm payrolls decreased -15,000 in October, based on preliminary data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and released by IDES.

In October, the industry sectors with the largest monthly payroll job declines included: Professional and Business Services (-6,700), Manufacturing (-5,300), Financial Activities (-2,900), and Educational and Health Services (-2,900). The industry sectors with the largest over-the-month job gains included: Government (+4,200), Leisure and Hospitality (+1,500), and Construction (+700).

The state’s unemployment rate was +0.7 percentage point higher than the national unemployment rate reported for October. The national unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in October, up +0.1 percentage point from the previous month. The Illinois unemployment rate was unchanged from a year ago when it was also 4.6 percent.


First weekend of firearm deer season. The 2023 season for non-muzzleloader Illinois firearm deer hunting runs from November 17 through November 19, and November 30 through December 3. These are the active dates during which standard breechloading firearms are used by most hunters to harvest deer in Downstate Illinois. The Illinois deer hunting season is overseen by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

The IDNR requests that successful deer hunters report their harvests. Reporting can be done by phone (866-452-4325) or online. After the end of the 2023-24 deer hunting seasons, IDNR will report to Illinois on how many deer were taken.


General Assembly passes bill to get professional licensing back on track. One area of currently failing government metrics is in the transition from paper-based professional licensing to safe, secure electronic licensing procedures. More than one million Illinoisans need licenses to do the jobs they are trained to do. In Illinois, most State licensure procedures are handled by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (DFPR).

For many decades, professional and workplace licensure was a paper-based process. With changes in technology, it has become essential to move this process to a safe, secure set of electronic platforms. Under ideal circumstances, a license holder or license applicant should be able to communicate with an online database using a unique identifier or set of nested identifiers. Moving to this new paradigm has been a challenge for DFPR. The Department is currently operating with very old licensing software, which makes rapid turnover of license applications and renewals almost impossible. Hard-working professionals sometimes must wait weeks or months to be licensed or renewed. In some cases, this leads to potential challenges related to liability and legal standing.

During the 2023 Veto Session, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation to reform the licensing process. The new measure demands that DFPR fast-track its procurement process to purchase, and build out, a new computer software system. HB 2394 includes a series of deadlines. DFPR must have a new system, sufficient to handle the more than 100 separate professions that are licensed by the Department, purchased within 90 days of the bill’s effective date. The new system must be hackproof, secure, and operational within 180 days of the bill’s effective date.


Disaster loan window opens for 2023 summer storms. The summer storms of 2023 created major property damage throughout Illinois, especially Central Illinois. Derecho storm fronts on June 29, 2023, through July 2, 2023, caused damaging winds to blow over Illinois. These winds damaged roofs, uprooted many trees, and knocked out power for many Central Illinois residents.

The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) has admitted the June-July 2023 Illinois storm to eligibility for disaster loan activity under the SBA disaster loan program. Small businesses and nonprofits that took on added expenses for repairs or replacement are eligible. Property eligible for loans are business-related or operations-related real property, and moveable tangible goods, which the business, nonprofit, or church had to repair or replace due to the storm.

A separate provision within the Disaster Loan Program helps private individuals and households that were negatively affected by the storm. They can apply for a loan to repair or replace, or cover the cost or repair or replacement, of disaster-affected real property and personal property. A typical home disaster loan applicant is a person whose motor vehicle was damaged or destroyed when a tree fell on it during the disaster.