Two state legislators recently appeared before constituents in Northbrook to field questions on topics ranging from medical marijuana to new federal tax laws.
State Rep. Jonathan D. Carroll (D-Northbrook) and state Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) held a legislative update session Jan. 9 at the North Suburban YMCA to let people know what they will focus on when they return to Springfield later this month.
For Carroll, who took office Oct. 3 replacing Elaine Nekritz, this was a new experience. He said he participated in two veto sessions late last year, but when he goes to Springfield for the session starting Jan. 23 he plans to start introducing legislation.
After Carroll and Morrison introduced themselves and talked about how their offices can help residents on specific issues, questions came from the crowd.
Burt Ofsaiof of Northbrook wanted to know what the state legislators can do to blunt recent federal actions on environmental protections and medical marijuana.
“They have people who head agencies in Washington who are opposed to what their departments are supposed to do,” Ofsaiof said.
Carroll said when the federal government is not meeting the people’s needs, it is a chance for state, county and municipal legislative bodies to fill the void.
“This is one of those opportunities where local government can step up and help,” Carroll said. “You can work with local leaders.”
Marijuana, both medical and the possible legalization of recreational use, were on the minds of both the legislators and the crowd. Morrison said she is uncertain about her position on legalizing recreational use and wants to hear from her constituents. She did say she believes medicinal use will be approved for people using opioids for pain control.
Carroll said legalizing recreational marijuana requires a lot of study before there is a vote. For him, there are many unanswered questions on topics like the enforcement of laws prohibiting driving under the influence.
“We have to look at all the issues and how it works in states that have it,” Carroll said. “I had a state policeman tell me about his concerns about being able to easily test for it if someone is driving under the influence like you can with alcohol. We have to look at that.”
Another topic discussed was ways in which the state can blunt the impact of the new federal income tax laws. That legislation eliminates deductions of state and local taxes, including those on real estate, in excess of $10,000. Carroll said he was one of the people who paid his property tax bill before the end of the year to the extent he legally could.
“We’re learning more about it every day and we’re exploring all options,” Carroll said. “My accountant said he’s learning more every day. We want to do something to help the taxpayers and we’re going to figure out what to do.”
Morrison said there will be hearings and she believes there will be legislation, but “we don’t know what it will look like yet.”
Other issues discussed were the state budget, senior services, sexual harassment, abortion rights, the relationship between different levels of government and the rights of individuals with special needs.
Steve Sadin is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.