State Rep. Nathan Reitz (D-Steeleville) was only in Springfield for the final 16 days of the legislative session, but he still passed several bills and voted on numerous critical proposals.
“I enjoyed my time,” Reitz said. “It was quick. I got in there when there was a lot of legislation that had to be finished.”
Reitz was appointed on May 9 to replace former state representative Jerry Costello II after Costello got a job at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
His first day in the Legislature was May 14.
With the state moving on measures like legalizing recreational marijuana, a capital plan and a budget, Reitz pointed to that final item as a highlight.
“The best thing about the session, in my opinion, was that we passed a balanced budget,” he said. “It took a lot to get to that point.”
Reitz said the speed with which bills moved surprised him, singling out one proposal in particular.
“I was most surprised by how fast the capital bill ended up coming together when it looked like things weren’t quite going to get there,” Reitz said.
That legislation was introduced with about 12 hours to go in the General Assembly’s scheduled session.
All the activity may have helped Reitz, as he said he learned much about how the process works in Springfield.
“It takes a lot to make things happen,” he explained. “You don’t just write a bill and then voilà. I had been up there over the years, but I’d never sat on committee hearings and stuff like that to see how that process works. There’s a lot of give and take to make a good bill and end up creating something that everybody can vote for.”
The first-time lawmaker had some firsthand experience with that, as he sponsored or co-sponsored several bills that passed.
Those measures focused on several areas including closing government ethics loopholes, extending the deadline for the Southwest Illinois Connector Task Force to complete its report and creating a program designed to increase the number of agriculture teachers.
That latter initiative requires the creation of the Agriculture Education Pre-Service Teacher Internship Program to allow for better opportunities and programming for students interested in the agricultural field.
“This is an agricultural area,” Reitz said. “We have a lot of students who are into FFA. With this, it creates opportunities for scholarships that are definitely much needed in this area.”
On that bill, along with the task force measure and a bill that expanded youth hunting, Reitz joined forces with state Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo).
He also sided with Schimpf by advocating for a bill exempting the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta from certain gun control measures and denouncing one that would have made obtaining Firearm Owner Identification Cards more difficult and costly.
“I’m proud to have co-sponsored a bill that puts southern Illinois values first by protecting our Second Amendment rights,” Reitz said. “There is no clear or one-size-fits-all solution on the issue of guns, and it is important that we hold Chicago accountable for burdensome overregulation.”
Schimpf and Reitz diverged, however, on the graduated income tax.
Reitz voted in favor of sending that constitutional amendment to the voters next year.
If passed, the amendment would allow the state to tax different income levels at different rates.
Reitz acknowledged the proposal, which is unpopular with conservatives, may seem unacceptable to some of his constituents.
“There’s information that says it’s good, and there’s information that says its bad,” he noted. “At the end of the day, it’s either going to keep the same rates or lower them for 98.8 percent of people in this district.”
Reitz said the measure will appeal to more people, too, once the state finalizes plans to address rising property taxes as part of that proposal.
“Once they get that portion in there, I think it’s going to be easier for people to see it’s a really good thing for people in this area,” he predicted.
Overall, Reitz said he was happy with his first experience in Springfield as a legislator.
“It was a very good few weeks,” he said. “I look forward to veto session and next spring.”