New marijuana plan finds support from Oberweis

Lawmakers' move this week toward decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois was done with a handful of Republican supporters.

Among them: state Sen. Jim Oberweis, a Sugar Grove Republican who voted against a previous version of the plan last year but is in favor of Illinois' law to legalize medical marijuana in 2013.

"We found out back in the '20s and '30s the prohibition of alcohol didn't work very well," Oberweis said.

The legislation, which now moves to the Illinois House, contains some changes requested in Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto last year. The bottom line is possession of fewer than 10 grams of marijuana (about a third of an ounce) would be a civil violation, not a criminal act. It would come with a fine, and local governments could impose additional fines above what's in state law. Dealing, growing and possessing lots of pot would still be criminal.

The Illinois Senate approved this week and sent the plan to the House.

The future

The point, Democratic state Sen. Mike Noland of Elgin said, is trying to make sure a charge of possessing small amounts of pot doesn't prevent people from getting jobs or scholarships.

It's been suggested Illinois' latest move could be a step toward full legalization someday, like what's been done in Colorado.

Oberweis says he's looking for middle ground when it comes to marijuana issues. What's his take on eventual legalization?

"I'm not convinced it's the right thing to do," he said. "Nor am I convinced it's the wrong thing to do."

The governor

Rauner's office, on the latest decriminalization plan: "We are encouraged to see the General Assembly on a path to accept the governor's changes, and will continue monitoring the legislation as it moves forward."

No more mailings?

This column last week reported that amending the state constitution can be costly. The Illinois secretary of state's office is required to send a mailing notifying every resident about proposed amendments on the ballot. In 2014, that mailing cost $2.4 million, according to a spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White

This week, state Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican who proposed amending the constitution to abolish the Illinois lieutenant governor job, filed legislation to waive that mail requirement.

Lawmakers spent a lot of this week trying to amend the constitution, but it's unclear whether any of the proposals will be approved and hit November's ballot.

Considering the convention

Since U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk's decision not to attend the Republican convention this summer, his opponent Rep. Tammy Duckworth told the Chicago Sun-Times she'll be going to the Democratic convention.

Others remain on the fence.

Democrat Brad Schneider, who didn't go to the 2012 convention in Charlotte, hasn't made a decision, his campaign manager says.

His opponent, U.S. Rep. Bob Dold, a Kenilworth Republican who has denounced Donald Trump, similarly hasn't decided, a spokesman said.

First day

State Sen. Dan McConchie, a Hawthorn Woods Republican, was in Springfield Thursday morning a few hours after being sworn in to replace retiring former state Sen. Dan Duffy Wednesday night.

"We've had to address everything from what do you want to put on the walls to what's being voted on this afternoon," he said.

A long, long time

The state budget fight has gone on for what seems like forever and lately includes a constitutional fight over taxes.

Now, there's a miscalculation that has caused the state to give local governments too much money and ask for it back. The error was blamed on a tax traced back to previous changes in the Illinois Constitution.

Here's how the state describes the Personal Property Replacement Tax: "revenues collected by the state of Illinois and paid to local governments to replace money that was lost by local governments when their powers to impose personal property taxes on corporations, partnerships, and other business entities was abolished in the 1970 Constitution."

Bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana goes to Rauner

Rauner uses veto to further restrict pot decriminalization

Research firm: Illinois marijuana market forecast is gloomy

Illinois medical marijuana sales continue to grow

Urbana officials lower marijuana possession fine to $50

A look at marijuana laws around the US and the globe

A student holds a marijuana cigarette at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In Illinois, lawmakers are moving toward possibly decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Associated Press/April 2005
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