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Legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Bob Pritchard and signed into law today by the Governor will help individuals who have aged out of the K-12 education system obtain an actual high school diploma.

Before this law, an adult over the age of 21 could not earn a high school diploma. Their only recourse for educational advancement was to pass a test to receive a General Education Diploma (GED).  However, for various reasons the number of people pursuing their GED has fallen significantly.
A group of 65 current and former state legislators from 8 different states united in an effort to end political gerrymandering. The group of bipartisan lawmakers joined together to submit a brief in Gill v. Whitford, a redistricting case that challenges the legitimacy of political gerrymandering.

In Gill v. Whitford, Wisconsin state officials are appealing a lower-court ruling that the state’s redistricting plan used extreme gerrymandering, violating First Amendment protections and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The brief, which was recently filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, details the harms caused by political gerrymandering and urges the Court to invalidate the practice of gerrymandering. A total of 26 Republicans and 39 Democrats from Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Maryland are included in in the brief.

State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) was one of five Illinois State Representatives to co-sign the Amicus brief.

“With redistricting approaching after the upcoming census, this case has the opportunity to have a major impact, not just for the future of the Illinois General Assembly, but nationwide,” said Pritchard. “Partisan gerrymandering has been pushed to the extreme, making bipartisanship difficult and threatening good government. As lawmakers, we are here to govern, and it is important that we represent our districts—not choose our constituents, and this brief expresses those interests.”

Pritchard added that Illinois voters want an end to gerrymandering and have tried unsuccessfully on two occasions to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. “This court case is our best hope to reform the system before the next redistricting,” according to Pritchard.

The case will be argued before the Supreme Court on October 3, 2017.

The DeKalb County Pheasants Forever Chapter was recently given a $1,000 grant to help improve the grassland on some 2,500 acres of habitat that will foster increased populations of wildlife. State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) presented the check on behalf of the Illinois Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus that raises funding for sporting, wildlife and habitat projects.

The DeKalb County chapter grant will be used to purchase burn equipment like shown in the picture to help control invasive weeds, shrubs and trees on conservation grassland. Burning is essential every few years to improve the habitat and help increase populations of wildlife including deer, rabbits, bobwhite quail, pheasants and waterfowl.

Over the years the DeKalb County Pheasants Forever Chapter has purchased seeding equipment that it loans to farmers to establish native grass species on conservation reserve program land. There are 150 to 200 landowners in DeKalb County who need and use this equipment.

The Illinois Legislative Sportsman Caucus holds an auction each spring to raise funding for projects like the Pheasants Forever Grant. Pritchard has been a member of the caucus since 2004 and is an avid supporter of wildlife and outdoor activities.
Shown demonstrating the burn equipment are DeKalb County Pheasants Forever members Clint Gwaltney, Mike Richolson--Habitat Co-Chair, State Representative Bob Pritchard, Dean Johnson--Habitat Co-Chair, and Richard Rappley.

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

September 1, 2017
In This Issue:
·         Historic School Funding Reform Becomes Law
·         Accountability Plan Also Approved
·         Illinois Offers Support for Hurricane Harvey Relief
·         Report Shows Advantage of Attending Illinois Schools
·         Governor Signs Act to Improve Safety
·         The Cost of Corruption
·         IDOT Recycling Efforts Making Impact
·         Budget Impasse Has Lasting Effects on NIU
·         More Bills Signed into Law
·         Activities of Legislators

Historic School Funding Reform Becomes Law
When Illinois celebrated its 100th birthday as a state, officials cut the ribbon for a new state office building near the Capitol called the Centennial Building.  The gift prepared by the cash-strapped legislature for our 200th celebration next year just might be the historic new school funding legislation signed into law this week. 
While voices opposed to parts of the compromised legislation can be loud, we must not overlook the bigger picture of moving our state toward paying a “majority” share for the cost of education, offering property tax relief, and lifting the underfunded districts up to the adequate level needed to help their students get a quality education.  With the law taking effect, schools will now get access to appropriations in the budget and avoid a funding crisis that would have caused some schools to be unable to pay staff next month.
The road to passage and signing of SB1947 into law began four years ago.  At first the attempt to improve adequacy and equity in funding education did not add new state money but rather just moved money around from a well-funded district to one that lacked basic resources. 
The Governor appointed a task force three years ago that fundamentally changed the discussion and proposed an evidence based model of best practices in programs and staffing.  The resulting law calculates the cost of educating the students unique to each district and then adding as much as $7 billion in new state funding to achieve that level of adequacy over the next dozen or so years.
The compromise needed to pass the legislation includes the state paying for Chicago Public School employee pensions much like it does for all other districts and reforms sought by school administrators and downstate legislators.  There are several ways for property tax payers to see relief, a streamlined school waiver process for responding to state mandates, and a tax credit for donations to a scholarship fund that will allow low-income students to attend private schools if the public school they attend does not meet their educational needs.

Accountability Plan Also Approved
The State Superintendent of Schools announced Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Education has approved Illinois’ plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.  The plan gathers, examines and responds to multiple indicators of school quality and student growth.
The long-term goals of the Illinois plan are for all students to attain by 2032: 90 percent or more of third-grade students are reading at or above grade level; 90 percent or more of fifth-grade students meet or exceed expectations in mathematics; 90 percent or more of ninth-grade students are on track to graduate; and 90 percent or more of students graduate from high school ready for college and career.  The Illinois plan can be found here. 

Illinois Offers Support for Hurricane Harvey Relief
Governor Rauner has mobilized the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) to help aid the relief efforts for the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.  IEMA will coordinate the Illinois’ response with the efforts of Louisiana and Texas.  In addition, the Illinois Red Cross has contributed resources to the areas hit the hardest by the storm and ComEd has deployed electrical repair teams to support infrastructure recovery. 
Our area certainly knows the importance of outside support following a natural disaster and it is heartwarming to see so many individuals offer financial help for the recovery through their favorite charities.

Special Session convened today in Springfield where lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted on SB1947, a bill to reform education funding in Illinois. State Representative Bob Pritchard was a chief co-sponsor of the legislation, which sought to provide historic funding levels to all schools state-wide.

The current school funding formula, adopted in 1997, has been largely inadequate. Lawmakers have continually worked to find the best way to both adequately and equitably fund education in Illinois, and today the Illinois House took major steps forward. Representative Pritchard served at the forefront of education funding negotiations, and voiced his support of the compromised bill, one that he believes will move Illinois forward.

 

SB1947 ultimately passed the House of Representatives today, with 73 lawmakers voting in support of the measure.
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

August 18, 2017
In This Issue:
·         Education Funding Reform Pressure Builds
·         House Resolution Condemns Domestic Terrorism in Charlottesville
·         Governor Rauner Signs Bills into Law
·         Uniformity in Property Tax Assessments Discussed
·         Concealed Carry Applications Declining
·         Annual Reading Program Concludes with Celebration

Education Funding Reform Pressure Builds
While schools are opening across the state, there is uncertainty about how long they can operate without state funding.  As you may recall, the state budget contained a provision that school funding could not be released until the new school funding reform bill--SB1--becomes law.  After delaying to send the bill to the Governor for nearly two months, the Senate finally acted on July 31 whereupon the Governor issued an amendatory veto.
The Senate returned to Springfield last Sunday to override the veto but the House now delayed action until next week.  All of these delays add to the anxiety of school officials, teachers, parents and legislators; and build pressure to accept the bill that was modified in late May to benefit Chicago Public Schools.
Until that time I was a major sponsor of the bill to improve the adequacy and equity of funding of all schools so every child receives a quality education.  Neither the Governor nor I could accept those changes and the manipulation of the Evidence Based Model for the benefit of one school district.
I believe the House will fail to override the Governor’s veto and SB1 will not become law.  A group of legislators have been meeting for weeks to negotiate a compromise and we have made significant progress.  The legislative leaders from the four caucuses will meet tomorrow to see if they can finalize an agreement for new legislation.  
Here is what I said on the House floor this week that needed to be changed in the legislation.  A new bill can be passed and signed into law yet this month if the Speaker and Senate President allow a resolution.  There is no reason to put schools through the same financial pressure that the legislature created for our colleges, universities, human service providers and others over the past two years.

House Resolution Condemns Domestic Terrorism in Charlottesville
House Resolution 569 was presented during legislative session this week, to condemn the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The Resolution specifically repudiates and condemns white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and any other group that espouses hate and seeks to undermine the ideals of Illinois and the nation.
The resolution had unanimous support from lawmakers, and referred to the incidents that took place in Charlottesville over the weekend as domestic terrorism.

Governor Signs Legislation into Law
Dozens of bills have been signed into law over the past month at ceremonies large and small around the state.  Here are a few of note.
HB1805--called the Drive for Life Act-- will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to express their wishes to be organ donors.  I was a co-sponsor of this initiative and believe it will help save lives.  This law will give hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents the opportunity to join the organ donor registry each year.  Just in Illinois there are more than 4,700 people on the waiting list to receive an organ transplant.  Being an organ donor can make a positive impact on so many other lives. 
Now that it is law, SB8 makes improvements in the state procurement process that will help reduce costs, red tape and frustration.  The changes were made following input from agencies, universities and individuals who felt the current law unnecessarily restricted purchasing and didn’t affect ethical oversight or transparency.
The criminal justice reform bill--SB 1413-- was signed into law, which allows men and women to receive a copy of their birth certificate without charge upon their release from the Department of Corrections.  This bill removes financial barriers for those seeking a fresh start and trying to get back on track after time in prison.

Uniformity in Property Tax Assessments Discussed
Property owners often question the work of Township Tax Assessors and the fairness and accuracy of their valuations.  The topic also came up this week in school funding discussions about the uniformity of the property assessment process across the state.
The work of local assessors is reviewed by the County Assessor and the Illinois Department of Revenue.  The Taxpayers Federation of Illinois recently released its monthly Tax Facts Report with an article about the uniformity of tax assessments.
The report, based on the latest data from the Department of Revenue, reveals a wide variation in property tax assessments across Illinois.  The conclusion is drawn by looking at the Coefficient of Dispersion (COD), which compares the assessment ratio for properties sold with the median level of assessment.  In simple terms the smaller the COD number, the closer to the median and more uniform the assessment.  A perfect score would be zero.
The 2015 data found that McClean County was the most uniform while Alexander County was the least uniform.  For our area, Kane County is ranked 6th most accurate in the state with a COD of 12.05, Boone 12th with a score of 18.27, and DeKalb 16th with a score of 19.29.  
The COD is not entirely dependent on the quality of the work done by assessing officials.  A low COD is highly correlated to the homogeneity of property within the taxing district.  It is easier to achieve a low COD in taxing districts with large numbers of similar properties than in districts which have a mix of properties or in areas where values are fluctuating. 
The report shows that the average assessment uniformity is trending upwards, and will continue to improve with aided stabilization in the real estate market.  The uniformity of assessments matters because without it, the property tax system cannot be fair.