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State Representative Bob Pritchard has launched his 2nd Annual Legislative Art Contest.

Representative Pritchard has hosted this contest the last two years to show his support of the arts and the value the arts play in education.

The contest calls for middle school students from schools in his 70th district to submit their artwork for a chance to win, and have their art displayed in the Capitol building in Springfield. One winner and two runners up will be chosen.

The contest concludes April 20th 2018, when all entries must be delivered or mailed to Rep. Pritchard’s District Office in Sycamore. You can find the submission form, guidelines and more details about the contest here.
State Representative Bob Pritchard passed two bills in the House of Representatives this week, that both amend the school code.

HB4514 provides that only persons licensed and endorsed as a school counselor may use the title "school counselor." The Illinois Mental Health Counselors Association has found that some school districts are hiring unlicensed, non-school counselors to serve in this role. The IMHCA supported this legislation to ensure that if a school district hires a school counselor, they will have the credentials required of a licensed school counselor. These requirements were designated by the State Board of Education.

HB4409 will help ease the shortage of Illinois school psychologists. This bill ensures that Nationally Certified School Psychologists do not have to meet additional State-mandated tests to be licensed in Illinois. It is an initiative of the Illinois School Psychologists Association, who contend the national certification sets a high standard of training and further state requirements discourage qualified individuals from practicing in Illinois schools.

Both HB4514 and HB4409 passed unanimously in the House, and will now move forward to the Senate for further consideration.
March 11th is the 150th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the Illinois State capitol building in Springfield. Throughout our state’s history, Illinois has had 6 different capitol buildings in 3 cities. These have included Kaskaskia, the first capitol in 1809, Vandalia, the second capitol designated in 1818, and then Springfield in 1839. The current capitol building in Springfield is the second State House building in this city. The groundbreaking for this historic building took place on March 11, 1868, and it was completed twenty years later. In 2011, the building underwent a renovation to upgrade the building, but the building’s original architecture is still intact. 

Abraham Lincoln was instrumental in the movement to bring the state capitol to Springfield. This move was to help make the capitol more accessible to the entire state, bringing it to a more central location in 1839 when it was moved to Springfield.

The Illinois Capitol building is historic in that it is the tallest non-skyscraper capitol building. Its dome stands at 361 feet high, making it taller than even the U.S. Capitol building. A Springfield city statute even prohibits building taller than the Capitol.

This anniversary of the groundbreaking of our Capitol also serves as an important reminder of another landmark day coming up: Illinois’ 200th birthday. Throughout this year, the state’s bicentennial is being celebrated in communities all over Illinois. Check out to find out more about our state’s history, and the big celebration!

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to

March 5th, 2018
In This Issue:

·       Commission Provides Budget Outlook
·       Legislation Passed the House
·       Addressing the Teacher Shortage
·       Recognizing the Profession of Teaching
·       Celebrate Art Week and Competition
·        New Worker’s Compensation Manual Available

Commission Provides Budget Outlook
The Legislature’s financial watchdog—the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA)—essentially agrees with the Governor’s staff that the state will have less money to spend next year.  At a hearing in Springfield last week COGFA economists said anticipated revenues in FY2019 will be nearly $3 billion less than anticipated in FY2018.

Usually the revenue forecast opens discussions on a budget but in recent years the legislature has not limited spending to available revenue.  Several weeks ago House Republican Leader Jim Durkin sent a letter to Speaker Madigan urging an agreed revenue estimate as the first priority.  Durkin said this serves as a taxpayer protection, so we don’t spend more money than we have available, and cause a need for more tax hikes.   

The smaller revenue number came despite expected growth in income taxes of $545 million over FY2018 estimates and $179 million growth in sales tax receipts.  The economists foresee wage growth and inflationary pressures increasing retail sales in their predictions. 

The major factor in the lower FY2019 revenue number was a falloff of $1 billion in federal revenue, primarily due to less Medicaid reimbursements.  There was also a smaller estimate for fund sweeps that artificially raise the revenue forecast.

The forecast also assumes that the state will continue to retain 10 percent of the Local Government Distributive Fund that should be distributed to local governments from net income taxes.  The retention of these LGDF monies was put into statute for FY 2018. To continue this practice would require legislative action or accept FY 2019 state General Fund Revenue to be reduced by approximately $130 million.

Taxpayers will benefit in 2019 from lower public utility taxes that are expected to decline $25 million based on anticipated normalized weather patterns, as well as the long term trend of falling telecommunications taxes. You can find the full briefing and revenue estimate here.

Legislation Passed the House
There was extensive debate last week on several pieces of gun legislation; here are some of the bills that passed out of the House.

HB1465: raises the age from 18 to 21, as the minimum age to purchase assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices.  The bill prohibits the sale, delivery, or possession of assault weapons, assault weapon attachments, and .50 caliber rifles and .50 caliber cartridges to a person under the age of 21. 

HB1467: bans bump stock and trigger crank modification devices for semi-automatics in Illinois.  These modifications are meant to increase the rate of fire achievable with the weapon.  This bill prohibits the sale, manufacture, purchase or possess of a bump stock and trigger crank.

HB1468:  imposes a 72-hour “cooling off” period between purchase and delivery of assault weapons.  This includes certain rifles, semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and semiautomatic pistols, and .50 caliber rifles.

HB 4163 Prohibits an employer from seeking the salary, benefits or salary history of a job applicant from the applicant or any current or former employer.

SB 193 Creates the Worker Protection Unit within the Office of the Illinois Attorney General to intervene in, initiate, enforce, and defend all criminal or civil legal proceedings on matters and violations relating to specified statutes.

SB1567:  Creates a gun dealer licensure system in Illinois even though there is a required federal licensure.  The bill requires every gun dealer to have a state license for the owner, a state license for the dealer and possibly a local license in addition to the federal license that is required.  The bill also mandates a video surveillance system and allows for the general public to pay a fee and get a list of names and addresses of all licensees.

SB 1573 and SB 1773 are a two-bill package that allows the continued assessment of hospitals for seed money to request matching funds from the federal government.  The new program reflects changes in health care and the health care professions. 

This legislation is slated to bring $3.5 billion in federal money into our State and its health care infrastructure.  Representatives of Illinois hospitals agreed to the specifications of the new assessment system.  The program provides enhanced funding for challenged Illinois hospitals, including rural and inner-city safety-net hospitals.  Of the money generated by these measures, 58 percent is expected to go to safety-net hospitals. 

Addressing the Teacher Shortage
It seems that it wasn’t that long ago that newly licensed teachers couldn’t find a job.  A survey of school Superintendents last fall, however, identified a wide-spread shortage of both teachers and substitute teachers.  While there seems to be a shortage of substitute teachers everywhere in the state, the teacher shortage is most acute in rural districts and Central Illinois.

The Superintendents reported the most difficult positions to fill are in teaching English to non-native speakers, Spanish, special education, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  Positions as school nurses and psychologists are also difficult to fill. 

Several groups have been meeting to identify the problem and offer solutions.  The House Education Licensing Committee, on which I serve, heard testimony from a few of these groups last week.  Those testifying pointed to problems in recruiting prospects to enter the field, failure to complete teacher training, and retention of licensed teachers. 

I have visited my school classes and witnessed the challenges of teaching.

Many likely candidates for teaching are apparently discouraged from pursuing that career due to lower pay compared to other professions, loss of prestige, uncertainty of state funding and benefits, and dissatisfied current teachers. 

Cost of a college education certainly discourages some from entering the field.  I have introduced a bill (HB4280) to help English Language Learners use their skills right after high school and work part-time as a paraprofessional while they are also working toward a teaching license. 

Other solutions are being discussed and will likely be written into legislation before the end of session this year.
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to

February 20th, 2018
In This Issue:
·         We Can’t Ignore Budget Pressures
·         Economic Forecast Finds Bright Spots
·         Another Tragedy as NIU Remembers
·         Free Testing for High School Students
·         Go Red For Women
·         Legionnaire’s Disease Uncontrolled
·         Planning for Art Contest

We Can’t Ignore Budget Pressures
If you were following the news about the Governor’s proposed FY2019 budget last week, you probably heard any number of legislators and citizens criticize the Governor’s plan.  It seems a majority of my colleagues are content to keep spending the way we have, ignoring ways to stimulate the economy and accepting the out-migration of college students and taxpayers.

Anyone in business, a non-profit organization or financially responsible household knows they have to set priorities, control spending and grow revenue to achieve a balanced budget.  Why not state government?

The Governor laid out his spending priorities, presented 19 structural reforms to change the status quo and proposed a path to restart Illinois’ powerful economic engine.  He pointed out the reasons he sees for our state lagging behind our neighbors in job growth, economic activity, growing population and increased worker pay.  You can read the full text of the Governor’s Budget Address here.

Now it’s the legislature’s turn to weigh-in on these issues, debate ways to growth the economy and revenue, and control spending.  Normally this debate occurs in April and May.  We cannot allow politics and the pressure of fall elections to delay passing a budget, making tough spending choices, and addressing reforms to stimulate economic growth.  These goals should be bipartisan objectives.

Governor Rauner stated that reforms must begin with pensions and state employee healthcare.  More money was spent for these items than on education last year.  The Governor proposed having school districts and state universities pay more of their teachers’ pension costs, in an attempt to connect who sets the salaries with pension liability.

The new state school funding formula adjusts how much state support a district receives based on its needs (adequacy target) and local resources.  It envisioned that schools would eventually be given responsibility for the pension cost. 

As your state representative, I will be engaged in the debate over pension cost shifts, equitable health care benefits, a capital bill and funding important state services.  Share your ideas with me.

Economic Forecast Finds Bright Spots
Despite the gloom that many businesses and individuals feel about Illinois right now, Moody’s Analytics found positives in their latest financial report.  The company released an economic forecast for the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) last week that concluded the passage of a state budget for 2018 has already helped the economy.  

For the first time in two years, no metro area in Illinois has been in a recession based on the state’s employment, factory output, homebuilding, and house prices according to the report.  Reliable employment growth is expected, especially in the areas of finance, professional and business services. 

Tourism will continue to be a big positive draw for our state’s economy, and in this area, Illinois actually exceeds the national level.  Service based industries of education and healthcare are especially important to the long term economic stability of downstate Illinois.  These sectors will continue to drive economic gains and are vital to future success.  Another positive point made in the report involves Northern Illinois.  This area remains the nation’s rail hub and will continue to benefit from this due to growth of online sales and increased transportation demand.

Nevertheless, the report noted that economic performance in Illinois still lags behind the rest of the country and especially the Midwest.  Illinois must get control of its spending and address population declines.  Illinois has declined in population for the fourth consecutive year, which goes against the national trend where states are annually gaining residents.  The state must overcome its political disagreements, pass a budget this year and be more competitive.

Ten years ago on this date, a tragic event occurred on the campus of Northern Illinois University. By today’s standards, it was a time of innocence and the event created shock. The tragic loss of 5 lives was international news; today such events with the loss of far more lives are all too common.

While NIU had an emergency plan, it had not been tested. Yet campus and city police, county sheriff department staff, fire and emergency medical responders reacted in a coordinated fashion. Kishwaukee Hospital nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel who were not scheduled for duty on that day rushed to the hospital to help as soon as they heard of the tragedy.

Hospital staff were nearly overwhelmed by the crush of family members, classmates, and news media seeking information, yet they managed to serve everyone’s interests with compassion and professionalism.

Those who responded, according to DeKalb Deputy Fire Chief Jeff McMaster “Went through all the stages of grieving: disbelief, bartering, denial, anger.”

Faced with the worst tragedy in NIU’s history, President John Peters was adamant from the outset that “NIU will not be defined by this tragedy.” And it hasn’t been. Over the past decade, NIU has turned its focus from questioning how and why something so terrible could happen, to affirming the importance of living bravely and meaningfully- and recognizing the power of love. We have moved Forward Together Forward.

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to

February 5th, 2018
In This Issue:
·         Slow Progress on Extra Funding for Education
·         Governor Outlines Actions to Restore Citizen Confidence
·         Call for Companies to Share Tax Savings
·         Comptroller Impressed with the DeKalb Library
·         Adult Redeploy Program Changes Cycle of Crime
·         Pension Debt Payment Proposal Receives Scrutiny

Slow Progress on Extra Funding for Education
The legislature took action last week to remove one more barrier to releasing $350 million in new funding for the state’s K-12 education system.  However, the State Board of Education (ISBE) is still reviewing data from school districts that will determine how new money will flow to the districts.  ISBE estimates they will have accurate numbers in another month or two and can then start releasing the extra funding.
The General Assembly took action last week to over-ride the Governor’s veto of SB444 which corrected some errors in the new school funding reform bill.  The corrections were passed overwhelmingly by both chambers in November but the Governor vetoed the bill in an effort to make more private schools eligible for the new student scholarship program.  
The Governor’s office reached a solution with ISBE to allow private schools to be eligible for the program as soon as they met certain qualifications instead of having to wait a year.  Some legislators tried to say the Governor’s action slowed release of the new funding.  In a committee hearing on Monday, ISBE stated the delay was because of their due-diligence of school data and not the veto of SB444.  
I urge the approximately 97 school districts who are the subject of the review and ISBE to complete this review quickly.  School districts across the state are counting on the extra funding to improve the equity and adequacy of state funding for education.

Governor Outlines Actions To Restore Citizen Confidence
The Governor’s annual State of the State Address received the usual partisan criticism but it offered plenty of ideas to restore citizen confidence and stem the outmigration from our state.  It remains to be seen if Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton (shown in the background) will accept the olive branch or continue the government stalemate. 
Governor Rauner cited the great assets and resilience of Illinois as building blocks to find future success for our state.  Part of believing in our state’s potential is restoring the public’s trust in Illinois government.   He noted several reforms that he believes are necessary to help improve citizen confidence in government. 
Among the reasons people and businesses are leaving the state, according to the Governor, are high property taxes.  He called for reforms in the assessment process, the right of residents to have a referendum for lowering taxes, and, I might add, increased funding for education that would relieve the property taxpayers’ burden of paying a state obligation.
Another reason to invest in education according to the Governor was to stimulate our state’s economy.  Investing in education and entrepreneurship can help keep Illinois businesses thriving, creating jobs and give our students and our state the means to compete.  
Perhaps the most important part of the Governor’s speech was when he promised to submit a balanced budget proposal later this month.  A balanced budget would involve cutting spending, getting our pension payments under control, reducing prison costs, streamlining government with technology, and working to eliminate fraud.  He noted that $450 million of taxpayer dollars were saved this year due to the increased investigation into Medicaid fraud.  
The Governor acknowledged the challenges in this election year of working with the legislature to create the environment that attracts and keeps jobs, grows the economy, and yields personal income growth which will bring success to our state.  He said, however, that it’s time to do what the people of Illinois want. You can read the full speech here.

Call for Companies to Share Tax Savings
The Illinois Attorney General believes that with the passage of the new federal tax plan, companies-- especially public utilities-- should share tax savings with consumers.  The tax rate for corporations dropped with the new tax law from 35 to 21 percent.
Because these companies are saving more money with the lower tax rate, the amount they charge customers—since it includes federal taxes—should be decreased.  The Illinois Commerce Commission is in charge of regulating public utilities, and they have ordered 22 companies to reduce their rates.  ComEd is currently seeking approval to pass along approximately $200 million in tax savings through rate cuts to its customers in 2018.