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

November 13, 2017 
In This Issue:
·         Veto Session Concludes
·         Legislature Takes Action on Sexual Harassment
·         State Sells More Bonds to Pay Debt
·         The Fragile Future of Higher Education
·         Grant to Help Prepare DeKalb Students
·         Plan to Curb Opioid Epidemic
·         Modernizing Wireless Communication
·         Small Bean, Big Impact

Veto Session Concludes
The General Assembly recessed until January 23 last week after its second week of fall session.  Over the course of two weeks, lawmakers took a look at some of Governor Rauner’s vetoes of bills approved by the General Assembly in the spring session.  In addition, the legislators considered bills still waiting consideration on Second and Third Reading during the veto session.  Here are a few of the bills that were considered:

HB302 will require life insurance companies to be more aggressive in searching electronic records for any unpaid death benefits.  The veto of this bill was overridden in both chambers.

HB732 allows owners of business and commercial buildings to continue using employees to perform reroofing and repairs but they must now use a licensed contractor to perform dangerous techniques like torching.  The Governor issued a total veto yet his action was overridden by both chambers.

HB1252 mandates that every public elementary school include civics as a unit of instruction in middle school.  The bill passed in the House and will now be considered in the Senate. 

HB1262 will require any school mandate waiver request to raise the maximum local tax rate to come before the General Assembly rather than just be considered by the State Board of Education.  The bill passed the House and will now be considered in the Senate.

HB1277 amends the Illinois Insurance Code to require coverage for treatment for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections and pediatric acute onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANDAS/PANS).  The bill passed the House and is now under consideration in the Senate.

The Governor’s total veto of HB2462 was over-ridden by a large margin in the House but failed in the Senate.  The so called Equal Pay Act would have prohibited an employer from screening job applicants based on their wage or salary history, or requiring an applicant to reveal their prior wage amounts.

HB2977 mandates that public schools must include cursive writing in their curriculum by fifth grade.  Most schools have dropped teaching cursive writing with the advent of computers and pressure to teach other material.  Both the House and Senate over-road the Governor’s veto.

HB3216 would have placed extremely vague and arbitrary guidelines for when a state agency can enter into a third-party contract.  The bill did not receive enough votes to override the Governor’s veto.

HR527 instructs the House Committee on Revenue and Finance to study the current property tax assessment system in the State and offer improvements.  Specifically the committee is to look at equity, impact of Tax Increment Financing Districts, consolidation, computerization of data, and exemptions.

SB444 passed both chambers and goes to the Governor correcting two omissions in the Evidence-Based Model for education funding.  One deals with Property Tax Extension Limitation Law equalized assessed valuation (EAV) and the other with adjustments to real property EAV due to an abatement of taxes.

SB772 passed both chambers and is sent to the Governor to require any prescriber with a Controlled Substances license, to also register with the Prescription Monitoring Program.  This is an effort to help reduce narcotic drug abuse.

SB851 amends the Illinois Local Library Act so that a library board of trustees' statement of financial requirements be submitted to the municipality no less than 60 days prior to when the tax levy must be certified under the Property Tax Code.  The bill passed the House and now sits in the Senate.

SB1351 becomes law despite the Governor’s veto and provides more oversight of college student loans.  The bill sets up an ombudsman for student loans in the office of Attorney General, licensure of student loan servicers and authority to investigate deceptive practices.

Efforts to over-ride the Governor’s veto of SB1905 failed a second time in the House and now has ended.  The bill would have prohibited local units of government from enacting “Right to Work” zones in their communities.  The sponsor failed to remove harsh criminal penalties for any public official who tries to enact a right for employees to work without paying union dues. 

SB1462 directs the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to administer--subject to appropriation--an Entrepreneur Learner's Permit pilot program.  The goal is to encourage and assist first-time entrepreneurs starting new information services, biotechnology, and green technology businesses by providing reimbursements to those entrepreneurs for any State filing, permitting, or licensing fees.  The General Assembly over-rode the Governor’s veto that had wanted to make the program available to more types of businesses.

Legislature Takes Action on Sexual Harassment
Charges of sexual harassment in government are being made across the country.  It’s not just unwelcomed sexual advances or comments, sexual harassment also occurs when a victim feels “uncomfortable” in the work environment.
Illinois lawmakers have responded to the problem through legislation, sexual harassment training, and by appointing a Legislative Inspector General.
Notably, the position of Legislative Inspector General was finally filled after a change in heart from Speaker Michael Madigan.  He had blocked the appointment to the position for over two years after the prior Inspector General criticized the Speaker for questionable ethical actions.  The position oversees the Illinois Legislative Ethics Commission which handles ethics violations—including sexual harassment complaints—within the General Assembly. 
The Legislature also passed a package of bills to further address sexual harassment behavior in government and change the culture that breeds sexual harassment.  SB402 amends the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act to prohibit sexual harassment and require training to recognize such behavior. 

State Sells More Bonds to Pay Debt
The State recently sold $4.5 billion in general obligation bonds to further pay down a portion of Illinois' roughly $16.7 billion backlog of unpaid bills.  Combined with a prior bond sale, the proceeds of this sale will be used to cut the State's backlog approximately in half by June 2018.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza will begin paying the state’s bills, and prioritize ones eligible for federal matching funds and bills that are earning a high late payment penalty.
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

October 16, 2017
In This Issue:
·         Veto Session to Debate Bills
·         Providing Mental Health Counseling in Education
·         Superintendents Discuss School Funding/Accountability Laws
·         Residents See Benefits from Smart Grid Law
·         Local Park Districts Receive Recognition

Veto Session To Debate Bills
While the legislature’s fall session that begins October 24 is intended to consider bills “vetoed” by the Governor, it usually considers other legislation as well.  As of this writing, the Speaker has not indicated what bills will be considered but there are a few pieces of legislation vetoed by the Governor that are sure to come before the body.  
HB3649 is the Debt Transparency Act, an initiative of the State Comptroller Susana Mendoza.  This bill requires state agencies to submit a financial report of outstanding bills to the comptroller’s office every month and detail which of those bills are subject to late payment interest fees.  While this bill initially passed in the House with 70 votes, Governor Rauner vetoed the measure and called it an unnecessary oversight.
HB302 calls for life insurance companies to search electronic records for any unpaid death benefits dating back to the year 2000.  This bill, sponsored by State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, is meant to encourage life insurance companies to be more aggressive in searching for beneficiaries following the death of policy holders.  Frerichs’ office discovered more than $550 million in unclaimed death benefits between 2011 and 2015.  The Governor issued a partial veto of this bill, which prevents the Treasurer from bringing in auditors to check insurance company records. 
This year the Attorney General sponsored an initiative to help address the growing crisis with defaults on college student loans.  SB1351 would require loan companies to tell borrowers about all of their repayment options. 
The Equal Pay Act, HB2462, prohibits employers from asking job applicants for their prior wage information.  It prevents a person’s future employer from basing salaries off wages at previous jobs.  The Governor vetoed the bill because the bill includes compensatory damages, special damages of up to $10,000, and attorney fees.  He urged the legislature to pass a bill modeled after Massachusetts’ “best-in-the-country” law.
HB2778 allows Fire Protection Districts to annex property that is not currently assigned fire and EMS service.  The district must notify the property owner, hold a hearing and vote to annex the property.  This bill would end some properties getting free service at the expense of other taxpayers.
HB732 allows owners of business and commercial buildings to continue using employees to perform reroofing and repairs but they must use a licensed contractor to perform dangerous techniques like torching.  The occupants of these buildings and neighboring buildings are put in unique danger when a fire originates on a roof.  Fires can spread quickly on a roof and neither smoke alarms nor sprinkler systems will quickly detect a roof fire.
Finally, a bill is expected to be introduced to “clean up” errors in the school funding bill SB1947.  The changes being drafted will allow the counting of prekindergarten students who are required to receive English language services and continue the current accounting method for determining the value of property in certain (PTELL) tax limited districts.

Providing Mental Health Counseling in Education
The DeKalb County Mental Health Board celebrated its 50th anniversary last week by noting the growth in mental health treatment yet recognizing that the sigma of mental illness still exists.   Executive Director Deanna Cada told an audience that mental illness is similar to physical illness and friends need to help the patient get treatment.
This message paralleled the testimony at a joint House Committee held on October 2 to discuss expanding mental health services in education.  Those testifying said communities with the highest levels of need for mental health counseling often have the least amount of resources. 
School counselors and organizations providing mental health services for youth reported that there is a significant and unmet need for mental health services in schools.  Children are experiencing violence on the streets and in their homes, physical abuse, parents with drug addiction, and social media bulling.  These students can’t focus on learning when there are mental and emotional issues.   
Children’s Home + Aid, an organization that provides community-based, behavioral health services to students in Rockford and the Chicago area, said research shows one in every ten students in Illinois suffers from mental illness severe enough to cause impairment.  Only about 20 percent of these students receive treatment.
The organization has found that putting mental health professionals inside schools provides easier access to mental health treatment, and shows a greater success rate in treatment.  Providing such services before, after, or during school hours also helps lessen the burden on parents who may not otherwise be able to get the child to the necessary appointments for treatment.            The new school funding formula will provide more mental health resources for schools over time.  In the meantime, school boards and staff must recognize the needs of their students.

Superintendents Discuss School Funding /Accountability Laws
I invited State Superintendent Tony Smith to DeKalb recently to give local school administrators and board members a change to ask questions and gain insight into the benefits and requirements they will see from two new education laws.  The State Board of Education (ISBE) is developing rules about implementing these laws and input now as the rules are developed is most beneficial.
Smith said ISBE plans to implement the two laws together and try to simplify school district reporting.  Districts will be given additional resources over time and expected to use the funding on best practices to improve student learning.  Gaps in learning among minority, low income and English Language Learners must be addressed and closed.  Spending and outcomes must be reported by building and district levels.
The State Superintendent said ISBE has set the following goals for every school district:  90 percent of students in 3rd grade reading at grade level, 90 percent of 5th graders doing math at grade level, 90 percent of 9th graders on track to graduate, and 90 percent of high school graduates ready for college or getting a job.  While students at a few Illinois schools are already at these levels, only about 30 to 40 percent of local students are at these reading and math levels.
Tony Smith, State Superintendent, and Robert Wolfe, ISBE Chief Financial officer, explain goals
Residents See Benefits from Smart Grid Law
It’s been five years since the legislature passed the Smart Grid Law with the goals of modernizing the electric delivery system, reducing outages and duration of outages, and giving customers ways to stabilize costs.  I got to see the fruit of that law last week as ComEd installed my smart meter and shared its results since 2012. 
So far, ComEd has installed more than 3.6 million smart meters throughout northern Illinois and is finally installing them in DeKalb, Western Kane and Boone Counties.  The smart meter technology involves a digital electric meter that uses two-way radio communications to collect usage information from consumers and notify ComEd when there is a service outage.  Customers are able to track their electric usage by time of day and modify their usage to when hourly electricity prices are lower.
I recently had a smart meter installed at my home and learned how technology is improving my electric service
The technology also provides smart switches to re-route electricity when there is a downed or broken transmission wire.  As a result, ComEd has avoided 7.6 million customer interruptions since 2012.  The program also provides inspection and replacement of utility poles, and replacement of underground cables.  As a result, electric outages have been reduced by 44 percent and the duration of electric outages has been reduced by 48 percent.  
Customers can also set up apps on their phones to receive messages when their power is interrupted, view electric prices so they can manage when they use electricity and easily access their electric bills.
ComEd will be sending area residents more information through the mail about smart meters and the installation process.  In the meantime, if you would like more information, visit ComEd’s website at www.ComEd.com/smartmeter.

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.