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Freshman rep says open mind key to his first year

Ottawa Daily Times

Tuesday, June 11, 2019  |  Article  |  Derek Barichello

Completing his first go-round in Springfield, state Rep. Lance Yednock said he voted many times to reflect the majority of his district, sometimes going against his initial belief or the party line.

 

One example was his vote in favor of the legalization of recreational marijuana.

 

"It was a difficult (vote) for me to make, I was back and forth on it," the Ottawa Democrat said in an interview Monday at The Times. "Knocking on doors, I came across many people who were using marijuana anyways."

 

Yednock said regulating and safeguarding it is better than people buying it from the black market. He said money generated from marijuana revenue will go into community revitalization.

 

"There's still a personal responsibility to it," said Yednock, whose district includes La Salle, Bureau, Putnam and Livingston counties. "You can still be tested at work for it, and if you fail that, that's your problem. Not ours."

 

When it came to the Reproductive Health Act, which replaces the state’s current law with one backers and detractors agree will be the most liberal reproductive health statute in the nation, he sided with his district over party.

 

"In the last five months of taking phone calls and polling, it was 20 to 1 against the Reproductive Health Act," Yednock said of the district.

 

The representative said he met many people who identified as pro-choice who were not in favor of the bill.

 

He said he also sided with the district when it came to the proposed FOID overhaul. He believed the bill was too restrictive on law-abiding citizens, such as hunters, but he understood why some lawmakers supported it.

 

Yednock identifies himself as open-minded. He said he was visited frequently by fellow lawmakers and lobbyists from both sides of the aisle on a number of bills, trying to persuade him one way or the other.

 

"I'd tell them I'm 50/50 and take the opposite view they had, and make them get me to a 'yes' on their view," Yednock said of his approach.

 

He said that strategy helped him understand the full perspective of what he was voting on.

 

Yednock said it was easy enough for people to get upset about the doubling of the state's gas tax to 38 cents per gallon and an increase to driver's license fees, but he said many of those people also told him the roads and bridges are in bad shape.

 

The revenue from the gas tax will go to the "horizontal" capital plan for transportation projects. He said many of these projects will benefit the district at the township, city and county levels.

 

"It's better than the alternative of raising property taxes to borrow for emergency road repairs," Yednock said.

 

Passing a balanced budget was the biggest accomplishment of both the House and Senate, according to Yednock.

 

"Everyone wanted something to be done, and it will benefit business and labor to have consistency," Yednock said. "The chaos of the last four years left a sour taste."

 

In the budget, lawmakers' base salaries of $67,836 will rise by more than $1,600 on July 1 once statutory cost of living increases are applied. They also receive per diem reimbursements and some receive added pay ranging from $10,326 to $27,477 per year for committee chairperson and leadership positions.

The state rep said he was unaware of the pay raise for lawmakers put into the budget until the day after he got home from the House's adjournment, but he said even if he knew of them prior to voting, it was unlikely he would undo all the work that went into the balanced budget.

 

Yednock voted in support of the gambling expansion bill, which is expected to produce $660 million in its first year due to licensing fees and taxes. It adds six casinos, expands video gambling and allows sports betting. The money will fund the construction of college and community college buildings.

 

Again, he said most of his district was in favor of sports gambling, fielding calls from residents who said they wanted to see it pass, and even expand more into tip boards and other sports gambling.

 

He was happy to see his anti right-to-work zone bill pass, one he said was a big part of his campaign.

 

He said residents will get the opportunity to vote on the proposed graduated income tax in November. The House approved a rate structure that would lower the tax rate on any individual or joint-filing couple making less than $250,000, while raising the rates on those above that threshold.

 

He said middle- to lower-class residents pay a higher percentage of income tax than the richest people in the state. He believes the tax will balance that in an effort to fix the state's structural deficit.

 

"If it doesn't pass, we'll have to look at cuts of 10 to 15 percent across the board," Yednock said.

 

Yednock was most surprised by the bipartisanship spirit in Springfield. He said he expected it to be a little more polarized, and he didn't find that to be the case.

 

Reflecting on the progressive agenda that was passed under the guidance of new Gov. JB Pritzker and a Democratic supermajority, Yednock said Democrats outside of Chicago and the larger cities are sensitive to it.

 

"We have a middle-of-the-road district, the last three elections have gone different ways," Yednock said. "Will there be a backlash on Democrats downstate? It could, but if things get better, it may just change people's minds."