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Springfield, IL... Senate Bill 740, sponsored in the House by Representative Pritchard, amends the Fire Hydrant Act to permit fire districts and municipalities to recover the costs for correcting a violation or non-compliance of the Act. This includes attorney’s fees and legal expenses. The bill was initiated to address instances where utility companies have placed boxes, landscaping, or trees in close proximity of a hydrant and have complicated access for firefighters. The bill permits fire departments/districts to contract for the removal of the obstruction and bill the responsible parties for the cost of the work.

Citizens can, by referendum, vote to dissolve a fire district. Senate Bill 781, also sponsored by Representative Pritchard, amends the Fire Protection District Act to provide that a Board of Trustees of a Fire Protection District must agree before taking on the responsibility to assume the fire protection services of a municipality after it has dissolved its fire department. This bill would help ensure that a district can successfully fulfill the additional duties when a municipal fire department dissolves with the intent of transferring its fire service to an adjacent fire district.

Both bills had no opponents and passed unanimously from the House today. They now head to the Governor for his signature. 
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com
May 18, 2015
In This Issue:
  •  Don’t be Distracted
  •  Budget Update
  •  House Praises Tornado Response
  •  Retiring Sheriff Honored
  •  Madigan’s Empowerment Zone Legislation Fails
  •  Freezing Property Taxes Not the Answer to Relief

Don’t be Distracted       
        If you’ve ever attended a magic show you have experienced the art of distraction. We are seeing the same sort of “show” in Springfield this year as week after week the House is distracted from dealing with the real issues and discussion of real solutions by the consummate magician, Speaker Madigan.
        This past week the Speaker choreographed a Committee of the Whole meeting that lasted nearly the entire day with testimony from victims of medical malpractice. Those testifying from other states said that caps on damages in their states didn’t allow them to receive what a judge and jury had awarded them. Incidentally, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that limits on damages awarded to victims of medical negligence are unconstitutional in Illinois. So what was the point?
        By distracting the legislature to just think about caps on damages, there was no discussion on real solutions to lower malpractice insurance rates like limiting shopping for court venues, restricting medical expense calculations to include amounts actually paid rather than billed, and allowing defendants to spread their liability to other parties.
        Not only is the Speaker directing the discussion, but he is also wearing down legislators in endless meetings and preventing debate on real legislation.

Budget Update 
       With just 14 days remaining before the legislature is scheduled to adjourn, we are seeing a real battle over who will shape the FY2016 budget—the Speaker of the House or the Governor. The Senate continues to watch the battle and adjourned early again on Thursday.
       Battles between the Speaker and Governor are not new; Speaker Madigan has perfected his powers and control over the last 15 years as he managed two rather ineffective Governors. This is a new day and Governor Rauner has a clear fiscal goal of balancing our budget and wants to participate in the process. While he proposed an austere budget, the Governor is open to compromise on both spending levels and new revenue.
       The Speaker, on the other hand, is resisting the “shared” governance model and any reductions in state spending. Each of the House Budget groups he controls will only discuss the impact of program cuts, not a prioritization for spending. He also refuses to even agree on how much revenue the state has to spend next year.
       The House did debate more amendments to HB4141 last week in an effort to build a human services budget from the bottom up. It appears even this is just an exercise and not a real attempt to draft a workable budget.

House Praises Tornado Response
        House Resolution 467 was approved this past week formally thanking the fire, police, and emergency medical providers from across our region who responded quickly and efficiently to the tornadoes on April 9th in Ogle and DeKalb Counties. The House further praised the efforts of individuals, businesses, organizations, and relief agencies for their generosity, supplies, and assistance in the recovery efforts.
        The House recognized the Long Term Recovery Committees in each county and their efforts to help the victims rebuild and recover. Donations and prayers are still needed for these families in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Retiring Sheriff Honored
Pritchard_and_sheriff.png       Retired Boone County Sheriff Duane Wirth (in the suit between Representative Brian Stewart and me) was recognized in the House last week for his 44 years of service and 36 as Sheriff. He is the second longest serving sheriff in Illinois and during his term saw the department grow from 12 deputies to over 100 employees, reserve volunteers and explorer scouts. Congratulations Duane!

Madigan’s Empowerment Zone Legislation Fails
        Speaker Madigan filed legislation last week to allow local voters, through the petition process and referendums, to decide if they wanted to see union membership in their community become voluntary. An “empowerment zone,” would make it unlawful to condition employment on the obligation to join a union or pay union-related dues within that zone. After a long debate—with singing, chanting and weeping—the bill failed with no “yes” votes. The Governor has often spoken of allowing local areas to determine for themselves whether they would like to create such employee empowerment zones, or right to work zones, as a part of his Turnaround Agenda. He has not meant this as a stand-alone concept, and instead combined it with workers compensation reform, lawsuit reform and other tools for economic growth.
        I certainly don’t question the value of unions and instead feel we should be discussing the real goal which is to create more good paying private sector jobs. This is a goal on which unions and businesses can agree. Certainly union skill training programs are state-of-the-art and they have helped greatly to improve job safety and worker productivity. 

Freezing Property Taxes Not the Answer to Relief
       HB695 was one of four property tax freeze bills that appeared on the House calendar last week without any real public hearing or committee debate. No one denies that government relies too much on property taxes to pay for services, but a freeze is not the answer for real property tax reduction as was revealed in the floor debate.
       Imposing a freeze on property tax increases sounds desirable, but taxes would still be allowed to increase under these plans due to new construction, bond repayment, and legal obligations. These bills did nothing to shift any of the cost of education back to the state where it belongs according to the constitution. Education makes up about 60 percent of most property tax bills. Nor did these bills encourage consolidation of units of government or agreements to improve efficiency in their operations.
       The bills did nothing to relieve local units of government from state unfunded mandates that have been driving up the cost of local government. In addition, a freeze would require a local referendum every time there needed to be a tax increase for example to pay for storm damage or increases in salaries to teachers, firemen, or other government workers.
       Missing in these bills were the tools that Governor Rauner has been mentioning that would reduce the cost of local government and therefore allow property taxes to decrease not just be frozen. The Governor’s ideas are actually being blocked by those who want to continue the high cost of property taxes and government operations.
        The tax freeze amendment to HB 695 received only 37 “yes” votes out of 118, but was adopted. This was just another exercise to create campaign mailers telling how some legislators aren’t interested in property tax relief.

I will continue working for real property tax relief and solutions that will help rebuild Illinois.  Have a great week.
Once again the Democrat-controlled House brought sham legislation to a vote for the sole purpose of putting Republican lawmakers in a trick bag and embarrassing the new Governor.

House Republicans have long worked to provide Illinoisans with much needed and deserved property tax relief. Each year members of the House Republican Caucus introduce legislation that would deliver property tax relief and each year the Democrats block those measures. The real roadblock to property tax relief has been the Democrat-controlled legislature...

Read more on the Illinois House Republicans Caucus Blog




School is almost over, which means its time for another year of Representative Pritchard's summer reading club for elementary school students. Reading keeps children's minds active during the summer months and helps jump start their imagination! This year the theme is 'Read to the Rythm'. Participants who read 8 books over the summer break are invited to an ice cream party in August where there will be drawings for prizes. Local libraries and schools have all been given a copy of the brochure with the appropriate form, so make sure your child gets theirs! Contact the office if you have any questions about the club or how to participate. The deadline is July 20th, so start reading!



Springfield, IL.... House Resolution 467 was approved by the House today. The House formally thanks the fire, police, and emergency medical providers from across the region who responded quickly and efficiently to the tornadoes on April 9th. It further commends the individuals, businesses, organizations, and relief agencies for their for their generosity, supplies, and assistance in the recovery efforts.

"I saw firsthand the damage that occurred, but I also saw firsthand the valiant work being done by first responders and people from around the state and country" Representative Pritchard said. "This is just one small token of the appreciation my district, the Illinois government, and the entire state feels."

The House resolves to keep the victims and community members in our hearts, minds, and prayers in the weeks, months, and years ahead as they recover and rebuild their communities and their lives.

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com 
May 11, 2015
What a Week!
  • Budget Update
  • Court To Legislature: do your Job
  • Worker’s Compensation Reform
  • Play Ball!
  • Advice on Helping Wild Animals
  • Youth Demonstrate Technology
Budget Update
        While it may not appear that the legislature is moving very quickly to craft a budget for FY2016, there are a number of working groups hammering out proposed reforms and items in the budget. However, that process was bypassed entirely on Wednesday morning when 16 budget amendments were unexpectedly introduced to House Bill 4141 dealing with human services. House Speaker Madigan reverted to his old style of introducing budget amendments that had not been vetted in appropriate committees where legislators and the public could read the proposals. Then within hours the amendments were called for votes. This is an example of bottom up budgeting, where you start with a list of the things you want to do and then add the costs to get the total budget. With a legislature that has an appetite for spending taxpayers’ money, this is not a method to reach a balanced budget. Most likely this was just a political message to tell the Governor that his reforms and budget cuts were not going to pass. House Republicans voted ‘Present’ to highlight this irregular and purely partisan disruption of the budget process and a waste of valuable time.

Court to Legislature: Do Your Job
       The Supreme Court ruling Friday on the unconstitutionality of the 2013 public pension changes was no surprise to many. The court had given signals of its opinion in earlier rulings on health benefits. The ruling in protecting the benefits promised to workers blew a bigger hole in the FY2016 budget and slapped the hands of legislators for making promises and then not providing the funding to pay for them.
       While agreeing that the pension issue was a crisis, the courts held that the legislature had other solutions to solve the funding issue and should do it in a constitutional manner. The court denied that the state could use its “police powers” in an emergency to change pension benefits protected in the constitution. In so many words, the court said if the legislature breaks the law in this instance, we cease to be a state governed by law.
        Now the legislature will be forced to look at other means to address the pension underfunding which is estimated to be over $104 billion. Perhaps the parties will come together to make changes in the pension contract to protect it from bankruptcy. Perhaps the pension debt can be amortized over a longer period of time to lower annual payments. Perhaps more revenue will be raised from taxpayers to pay for the missed annual payments of the past. Perhaps other services will be cut further to make the pension payments now estimated to be a quarter of general fund spending.
        These are all tough choices by themselves but certainly exacerbate the budget and policy debates between the Governor and legislature.

Worker’s Compensation Reform
        One of the chief reforms promoted by the Governor, and thought to be achievable this session, are changes to reduce the cost of Illinois worker’s compensation insurance. The Speaker of the House made it clear this week that he was not in favor of any changes. He convened a ‘Committee of the Whole’ that ran over seven hours and was dominated by injured workers and people opposing any changes to our law.
        Illinois’ Worker’s Compensation System was reformed back in 2011, but businesses were promised much greater savings than have actually materialized which has prompted calls for further reform. Worker Compensation is considered by businesses in and outside of Illinois to be the number one barrier to doing business here and is the seventh costliest system in the country (a drop from 3rd before the 2011 reforms).
       There were seven panels of witnesses who talked about cuts to worker’s compensation in other states that aren't even being proposed here in Illinois. Only three speakers really got to address the problems in Illinois but by that time many weary representatives had left the chambers. Many considered the hearing to be merely a political move by the Speaker to discourage any reforms and to put faces on the need for worker’s compensation.
        Among the real issues we should address to our compensation system are the often lengthy process that awards damages, the unnecessarily costly litigation, and the causes for injuries. There are serious issues that need to be addressed with Illinois’ system and businesses need to be consulted while ensuring that worker’s do not lose benefits and are treated with proper compassion. More of the best practices to prevent injuries should also be incorporated at some businesses.

Play Ball!
softball_2.jpg
         After a long session on Wednesday, the House and the Senate let off steam by playing in their annual softball game. The game was tied for a bit until the House ran away with it in the 3rd inning and never looked back. The House won the game 16-10 and took the trophy back from the Senate. The competition proved again that baseball is a young person sport.

Advice on Helping Wild Animals
       Recently, a man was put on trial for taking possession of two young bald eagles against the advice of conservation officers. The case raised the question of what should citizens do when we come upon wildlife and when to be a Good Samaritan. The House passed HR367 last week to encourage the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to provide more public education on the issue and awareness for wild animal rehabilitators in the state. I cosponsored the resolution and provide some wildlife tips on my website.

Youth Demonstrate Technology
        The Capitol was filled with young innovators last week as they participated in Tech 2015. Sponsored by a not-for-profit organization the event raises awareness of the critical role technology plays in preparing students to succeed in today’s world and to show the need for increased funding for classroom technology. Students from Hampshire and DeKalb were among the hundreds demonstrating different technology. Here I am learning about Powtoons from Clinton Rosette Middle School students Grace Flemming and Alondra Gamez with their teachers Katie Schnabel and Amanda Baum. Powtoons are animated video presentations used to explain steps for mathematical algorithms.
tech_2015.png

Thank you to all the Mothers who hopefully were honored this past weekend.

Bob 
A resolution I sponsored, which expresses support for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources' public education campaign that informs the public about the exact steps to take if a sick, injured, or orphaned animal is encountered in the wild, was adopted by the House yesterday. Here is some important information to know: