Rep. Lou Lang Backs Bi-Partisan Push to Cut Lawmaker Salaries 10%, Eliminate Raises

(Springfield, IL) — March 31, 2011. Illinois House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie) is backing a bi-partisan effort by freshmen and veteran House lawmakers to permanently cut legislative salaries by 10% and abolish future cost-of-living raises.

Lang is sponsoring legislation, House Bill 2891, which was approved, 14-2, by the House State Government Administration Committee on March 2, 2011.

“In the current economic crisis, tens of thousands of Illinois workers have had their salaries frozen, cut or hours reduced  and have been forced to cut their household expenses while continuing to pay their taxes,” said Lang. “Lawmakers should lessen taxpayers’ burden by also cutting government expenses and share the same burden as regular workers by cutting our own salaries.”

“We should all be in this together.”

The bill’s chief sponsor is freshman lawmaker State Rep. Michelle Mussman (D-Schaumburg),

In addition to Lang and Mussman and House sponsors include State Reps.: Keith Farnham (D), Karen May (D), Richard Morthland (R), Dwight Kay (R), Adam Brown (R), Wayne Rosenthal (R), Fred Crespo (D), Jack Franks (D), Daniel Biss (D), Emily McAsey (D), Kenneth Dunkin (D), Michael Unes (R), Norine Hammond (R), Darlene Senger (R), Jason Barickman (R), Pam Roth (R), Thomas Morrison (R), Jil Tracy (R), Sandra Pihos (R) and Sara Feigenholtz (D)

The bill faces the full House for consideration.

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The Southern Editorial Board Backs Lou Lang’s Bill to Add Slots at Illinois Horse-Race Tracks

(Skokie, IL) — The Southern newspaper editorial board yesterday ran an editorial endorsing House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang‘s legislation to add slot machines at Illinois horse-race tracks to boost the industry’s declining fortunes due to out of state track competitors which have slots.

Our View: Slot machines should be allowed at horse racing venues in Chicagoland to keep gambling revenue in Illinois and to revive a threatened horse racing industry.

Gambling generates significant revenue for the state of Illinois and host communities, but there are legitimate questions about the resulting financial and social costs of legal wagering – bankruptcies, foreclosures, broken families and ruined careers for problem gamblers.

Is it worth the cost? That’s a debatable point and, for that reason, this newspaper generally hasn’t championed plans for expanded gambling in Illinois. But there is a piece of legislation pending in Springfield that would both expand gambling opportunities, though not to a great extent, and is worth supporting.

House Bill 3107 would allow horse race tracks in the Chicago area to have slot machines. A similar bill failed last year, but the same sponsor, state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, is trying again. Lang believes the plan would create up to 1,500 jobs and rake in up to $400 million for the state.

Read the rest of editorial here …

House Committee Approves Slot Machines at Illinois Horse-Race Tracks

(Springfield, IL) — March 18, 2011. An Illinois House committee on Thursday approved legislation that would permit slot machines at the state’s six horse-race tracks while it would lower existing riverboat taxes and grant those casinos additional gaming positions.

The House Executive Committee voted 6-5 to allow, among other provisions, a total of 6,000 slot machines at the tracks. Arlington, Hawthorne and Maywood would be permitted to purchase 1,200 slots each and Balmoral, Fairmount and Quad Cities would each be permitted 900.

The proposal, House Bill 3107, sponsored by House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie) would also add 8,000 more gambling positions at existing casinos and would give a $200 million tax break to the 10th river boat casino currently under construction.

Of the money raised, the state would direct 25% to the state’s capital construction fund and use the other 75% to pay the state’s overdue bills.

Additonally, Lang is seeking to rescue Illinois’ financially troubled horeracing industry and the 35,000 agri-business-linked jobs by helping to draw people back to the horsetracks, which have been witnessing declining attendance.

“The horse-racing industry is dying on the vine,” said Lang. “We can save those jobs in Illinois and revive Illinois horseracing if the legislature passes this bill,” Lang said.

Lang said the state’s horse-racing industry is suffering from unequal competition from other states that have slot machines at their horse-race tracks.

In addition to boosting horseracing, Lang’s plan also seeks to assist existing river boats whose revenues have slumped during the economic downturn. The bill would reduce the state’s gaming tax from 50% to 40% by July 1, 2013. Additoinally, casinos would get a tax break for table-games.

“My goal is to add jobs within the gaming industry and in local communities,” said Lang.

The bill now moves to the full House for consideration.

House Committee Approves Illinois Medical Marijuana Bill

(Springfield, IL) – March 9, 2011. An Illinois House panel today voted to approve the use of medical marijuana for individuals who suffer from chronic pain and debilitating medical conditions, such as Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, and cancer.

The Illinois House Human Services Committee voted 6-5 on the legislation, House Bill 30, to allow patients to posses 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana for a 14-day period in which the need has been certified, in many cases, by two, separate doctors.

“This legislation is intended to alleviate pain in people suffering debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, and I know a majority of lawmakers recognize the underlying medical benefits of medical marijuana,” said State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), the measure’s chief sponsor.

“My goal is persuade a majority of lawmakers to vote their knowledge and their conscience.”

Under the proposed three-year pilot project, the Illinois Department of Public Health would administer the program and would identity cards to patients with debilitating medical conditions to allow them to purchase medical marijuana at registered, non-profit medical cannabis organizations.

Gov. Pat Quinn has said he would consider signing the legislation if it reaches his desk.

Under Lang’s legislation, a patient would have to submit to the Illinois Department of Public Health a physician’s written certification that the patient would be likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from cannabis and that the patient has a qualifying medical conditions, such as: alzheimers, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, hepatitis C, epilepsy, etc.

A CBS-TV nationwide poll, conducted January 27-30, 2011, found that an overwhelming of Americans, 77%, back the use of medical marijuana. The poll breaks down support by age group:

  • 86% – 18-29
  • 74% – 30-44
  • 82% – 45-64
  • 63% – 65+

Lang said. “No one should be denied a health care treatment that might improve their quality of life.”

Other House sponsors include State Rep. Angelo “Skip” Saviano (R-Elmwood Park) and State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago).

Rep. Lou Lang Drops Legislative Scholarships, Sponsors Bill to Abolish the Lawmaker Tuition Waivers

(Springfield, IL) — March 7, 2011. As a cost-cutting measure, Illinois House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie) today announced he would no longer grant Illinois General Assembly scholarships to constituents, and that he had joined a legislative push to abolish the scholarships.

“While I am proud of the students to whom I have granted scholarships to enable them to pursue a college education, the budget crisis that continues to beset state government demands that lawmakers deepen our efforts to cut costs,” said Lang. “The scholarships are a luxury Illinois can no longer afford.”

Lang is also co-sponsoring legislation, House Bill 2868, to strip the ability of each of the state’s 177 legislators to nominate students who live in their district for either two four-year tuition-waivers, four two-year tuition waivers or eight one-year waivers at a state university.

“Illinois universities must fully bear the costs of a legislative scholarship, cutting purchases of computers, laboratory equipment, research materials elsewhere in their budgets,” said Lang. “Additionally, the state has not paid universities in six months or longer in some cases. Lawmakers can’t add to their burden.”

Last year, Lang backed a House bill that successfully passed the chamber to abolish the scholarships, but the Senate refused to consider the plan.

Gov. Pat Quinn supports the elimination of the legislative scholarship program.

Lang joins a growing lost of lawmakers who have forsaken the tuition waiver program. Last year, 28 lawmakers refused to grant their legislative scholarships, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.