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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

April 23, 2018

In This Issue:
·     Legislative Initiatives to Combat Teacher Shortage
·     Independent Redistricting Reform
·     Bills Pass the House Last Week
·     Improving School Safety
·     Unemployment at Lowest Rate in More Than 10 Years
·     Youth Council Visits the Capitol

Legislative Initiatives to Combat Teacher Shortage
Our children’s education remains a top priority, which is why the growing teacher shortage in Illinois has been especially troubling.  To combat the shortage, several pieces of legislation have been filed by lawmakers and the topic continues to be debated in Springfield. 

The Illinois State Board of Education said the 2017-18 school year began with about 2,000 unfilled teaching positions across the state.  In addition, Regional Offices of Education report increasingly difficulty finding substitute teachers.  The teacher shortage is much more pronounced in rural districts while substitute teacher shortage concerns were most evident in the southern part of the state.  The most difficult positions to fill include bilingual, Spanish, special education as well as nurses and school psychologists.

The shortage can be tied to a combination of factors including: educators retiring, leaving Illinois, or the profession; compensation and benefits; the challenges of teaching today’s students; fewer students interested in teaching or able to pass the qualifying tests; and hurdles for out-of-state educators to be licensed in Illinois.

Legislative measures have been filed to address some of these challenges.  HB4167: Establishes a short-term substitute teaching license.  Applicants must hold an associate’s degree or have completed at least 60 credit hours from an accredited university.  Current law requires a bachelor’s degree for all substitute teachers.

HB4280 and SB2844: Establishes the growing future language-educator program.  It would allow high schools to hire high school graduates who are proficient in a language other than English and are pursuing an educator license, to mentor and teach English language learners.

HB4409: Addresses the shortage of school psychologists by removing the requirements that those who already hold a valid Nationally Certified School Psychologist credential must also take state-mandated tests.

HB4956: Requires every Illinois public university with an educator preparation program to offer a three-year degree completion program.  The sponsor seeks to reduce the cost of education and time learning material outside of the area of specialty.

HB5153: Streamlines the hiring process for educators at the Illinois School for the Deaf and Illinois School for the Visually Impaired.

HB5005: Assures salaries of teachers employed by the Department of Juvenile Justice are comparable with teachers in area school districts.  It also recognizes state teaching licenses without further testing. 

HB5627: Recognizes and removes hurdles for out-of-state licensed educators to teach in Illinois.

Independent Redistricting Reform
A House Resolution was filed last week calling for independent redistricting reform.  Legislative maps are redrawn every ten years following the U.S. census so that lawmaker’s districts will contain an equal number of constituents.  Drawing a fair map is important to help protect voter rights and create a more representative government.  The current process of redistricting has been skewed by partisan politics that only creates more polarization.

House Resolution 995 would produce a fair map.  It calls for maps to be drawn without regard to incumbency and partisanship, and allows voters the opportunity to choose a candidate based on the issues and policies most important to them. 

According to a poll from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, 72 percent of Illinois residents, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, support the creation of an independent commission to draw legislative district maps.  I have also placed a poll on my Facebook page to measure opinions regarding independent redistricting.

Bills Pass the House last Week
The House deadline for passing bills out of the chamber has been set for this Friday.  Consequently there was a flurry of legislative activity last week.  Here is a sampling of some of the bills that passed the House.

HB4104: An initiative of the Illinois Municipal League to overturn a ruling from the Comptroller that all municipal audits had to be made using the accrual method of accounting.  The bill will continue the practice of allowing both a cash and modified accrual basis of accounting.

HB4637: Provides a referendum process for voters to dissolve townships in McHenry County through petition or resolution of a township board.  The bill also requires townships in Lake and McHenry to dissolve any township road districts that maintain less than 15 miles of road.

HB5771:  Requires schools to document and report students with chronic absenteeism.  Some schools make little effort to see that students attend school.  Absenteeism has been correlated with dropping out of school.

HB4081: Provides a penalty of up to $10,000 for any call center business that leaves the state without providing at least a 120 day notice to the State Treasurer.  Many legislators have concerns that the language of the bill would include most businesses and points out the unfriendly business climate in Illinois.

HB4413:  Requires that any pension board meeting subject to the Open Meetings Act must be broadcast to the public in real-time over the internet. 

HB4846:  Seeks to improve public safety by imposing a fine for texting and using a hand-held cell phone while driving.   Violation of this offense will result in a fine of $75 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense, and $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.

HB4645:  Extends the repeal of the Health Facilities Planning Act and Certificate of Need program until 2029.  The act was intended to avoid duplication of healthcare services and ensure public accountability surrounding health care facility operations.

HB5513:  Requires the Department of the Lottery to offer a special instant scratch-off game to benefit State police memorials.

HB4870:  This bill requires every school to allow a parent or guardian to administer medical cannabis infused products to their student on school premises, unless it would cause a disruption to the learning environment.  Current state law prohibits the use of medical cannabis on school grounds even when the student has a prescription for the medication. 

HB5109: Creates a forgivable loan to students studying Community Behavioral Health Care when they practice in underserved areas following graduation.  The sponsor believes this will help address the need for mental health and substance abuse professionals.

HB4745:  Allows the Department of Public Health to avoid procurement delays in purchasing the equipment and technology necessary for Newborn Metabolic Screening.

HB5021:  Provides the Board of Higher Education with authority to confiscate student records from an institution that proposes to discontinue operations.  Such records are the only proof of classes taken, grades and other information about the student’s educational experience.

HB5267:  Requires law enforcement to provide a full report of the investigation of the crime to the Attorney General’s Office within 15 days of a request for the report. The following information can be redacted from reports: names of confidential sources and informants, locations from which law enforcement conduct surveillance, and information related to issues of national security the law enforcement agency provided to or received from the United States or other federal law enforcement agencies.

HB4944:  Reduces in half the number of safety tests needed each year for vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds to 26,000 pounds (flatbed trucks and step-vans).  The owner will save time and money.

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

April 9, 2018

In This Issue:
·     Legislature Returns to Work
·     Evidence Based School Funding Released
·      FY2019 Budgeting Process Has Begun
·      IDOT Releases Funds for Local Roads
·      STEM Program Launched
·     Agriculture Photos Sought

Legislature Returns to Work
After a four week break for the primary election, the Legislature returns to Springfield this week to consider hundreds of bills.  The Speaker scheduled only 16 session days in the first 3 months of this year and 33 days in the next two months.

For a bill to continue in the process toward passage into law, it must be voted out of committee by Friday.  That means debate will be limited on each bill and committees will be pressured to pass along some bills that should be held for further amendments and input from groups affected by the legislation.

This schedule is one of the reasons that bad legislation is often passed into law and people may be surprised by the unintended consequences of a new law.  Nevertheless, the process does help prevent some ill-conceived bills from being passed. 

I will comment on many of the bills as they move through the process in the next few weeks.  Of course, always feel welcome to share your views on legislation with me by contacting Jesse in my district office or Shelly in Springfield.

New School Funding Released
The long awaited extra funding for education will start flowing to school districts on Tuesday.  The Comptroller said the $395 million will be divided among six payments and distributed by July.  Schools in my legislative district will receive nearly $8.6 million in additional funding.  The amount each district will receive depends upon the needs of their students and their currently available resources.  The complete calculations for the funding formula by school district can be found on ISBE’s website here.  

According to the formula, schools in my legislative district are short about $59 million of what they need to provide an adequate education while all districts across the state are short about $7.2 billion.  The Indian Creek School district has over 100 percent of its adequacy target while most local districts are 57 to 73 percent funded.

The formula identifies the different types of staffing recommended for the needs of the students in the school, salaries for different types of staff and then adjusts the figures based on the regional cost of living.  Districts are still free to determine staff hiring, salaries and other services but they are encouraged to look at the 27 practices in the formula for producing the best student outcomes.

FY2019 Budgeting Process Has Begun
The five House appropriation committees have been holding hearings on various expenditures in the state budget for several weeks.  When I first joined the legislature more than a dozen years ago, the budgeting process always began by determining available revenue and using that as a spending target.   

The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) still starts from the revenue side in developing its three-year budget forecast for the legislature.  Their report which was released in recent weeks takes into account the State’s economic opportunities, expenditures, threats to anticipated revenues, and concludes with potential three year budget scenarios.  The full report can be found here.

The legislative agency estimates that revenue will drop slightly from FY2018 and then grow by 2 to 3 percent in the next two years.  Part of that revenue growth is dependent upon convincing companies to invest in Illinois, expanding the sales tax to more items, and legalizing and taxing recreational cannabis.

On the spending side, COGFA said that reducing the interest rate paid on unpaid bills and paying bills in full were major opportunities for balancing the budget.  The agency noted that continuing to limit spending to the rate of income growth was key to eliminating unpaid bills.  They said the state in recent years is headed in that direction.

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.