SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Jil Tracy already was pursuing her legislative priorities before she was scheduled to take the oath of office at noon Wednesday in the Illinois Senate.
"I've downloaded a lot of the legislation I previously worked on in the House. I'm trying to refashion it and trying to make it ready to file in the Senate," said Tracy, R-Quincy.
First appointed to the House in 2006 and then elected four times, Tracy's tenure in the House ended in 2015 after she ran in 2014 for lieutenant governor, teamed with state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hillsdale. The Dillard-Tracy ticket finished about 3 percent behind Bruce Rauner and Evelyn Sanguinetti in that year's March GOP primary election.
In some ways, the Illinois Legislature has been in hibernation since then. There was no state budget in 2015, and there was only a temporary stopgap spending plan approved in 2016. That spending authority expired Dec. 31.
There have been some legislative accomplishments, but bitter budget battles have cast a pall over the Capitol, and many of the issues Tracy saw in 2014 are unresolved today.
"One of the bills I had worked on was on behalf of the Hunt Drainage District so levee districts have better control," Tracy said.
Hunt-Lima Drainage and Levee District officials wanted to use local resources to shore up their levee system in the Warsaw area several years ago and got permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but they then ran into problems from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
"They told us they'd take care of the problem through administrative rules, but that didn't ever happen, so I'm revamping the bill," Tracy said.
She also is looking at reworking bills that never became law to end "venue" shopping to file civil lawsuits in jurisdictions considered friendlier to plaintiffs, end unemployment payments to workers dismissed for serious misconduct, and tie Illinois workers' compensation claims to injuries caused by the job.
Tracy sees those business-friendly bills as a way to help stop some of the state's core problems.
"We've known for years we were headed for disaster -- losing population and high-quality jobs to other states and overspending," she said.
Although the top priority will be to pass a balanced budget, Tracy does not plan to wait on efforts to address other problems.
Tracy is encouraged by efforts in the Senate to move a bipartisan raft of bills to break the budget impasse.
She also expressed appreciation for the service of state Sen. John Sullivan, D-Rushville, who chose not to run for re-election in the 47th District, which she will now represent. Sullivan and Tracy had a good working relationship during her time in the House. Although they didn't always agree on partisan issues, they respected each other.
Tracy's husband, Jim, and some other family members planned to be in Springfield for her swearing-in ceremony.
Soon after Tracy's election loss in 2014 she was not certain whether she would run for political office again, saying she didn't know what the future might hold.
Now that she's re-entering the Legislature, she still can't tell the future but is committed to shaping a better future for the state and the 11 counties in her district.