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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 bob@pritchardstaterep.com

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. 

Sycamore, IL—A select group of area high school juniors and seniors are meeting monthly with State Representative Bob Pritchard to share their views on legislation, learn about ways to influence public policy and gain a better insight into state government operations. The 25 students who comprise Pritchard’s Student Advisory Council were selected by their high school to represent their student body and expand their social studies education. The program concludes with a two-day trip to Springfield to observe the General Assembly in action.

“The feedback I receive at these meetings is essential to helping me represent the district’s youth,” said Pritchard. “I also feel a responsibility to help students take a deeper look into the workings of local and state government, and career opportunities in public service.” Pritchard has been sponsoring the Advisory Council for the past 14 years.

At a recent meeting the group discussed the roles of leadership and ethics in Illinois government. With much attention on leadership at all levels of government this year, the discussion focused on the students’ perspectives of effective leadership and ways to improve ethical behavior of public officials.

“In today’s climate we tend to forget that effective leadership is about influencing others, mobilizing action and reaching a desired goal,” said Pritchard. “Our discussion emphasized these ideas, which is important for these students who are approaching voting age, and must be able to choose among candidates for office.”

At future sessions the Advisory Council will discuss the merits of different bills, making priorities for a balanced budget, and functions of local units of government.

To learn more about Representative Pritchard’s Youth Advisory Council, contact his District Office by phone: 815-748-3494 or e-mail: Bob@PritchardStateRep.com.

Members of the Youth Council are pictured above (from the left): Haley Ackerman, Hiawatha; Josh Lederle, Burlington Central; Misty Villagomez, Genoa-Kingston; Griffin Nelson, Sycamore; Hailey Thurlby, Genoa-Kingston; Ali Thahab, DeKalb; Tyler Hull, Sycamore; Clay Ward, DeKalb and Zimar Siddiqui, Central. Also Tom Sestak, Hinckley-Big Rock; Hank Barnes, DeKalb; Reece Lynch, Hinckley-Big Rock; Noah Whitfield, Cornerstone; Riyana Soni, Central; Joy Ngum, DeKalb; Micah Nordmoe, Hiawatha; Kayla Taft, Hiawatha; and Pritchard. Not shown are: Kate Majerus, Sycamore; Breanna Hamrick, Hiawatha; Cliffton Hansen, Genoa-Kingston; Henry Robinson, DeKalb; Sabrina Groce, Cornerstone; Rachel Hodson, Emma May and Isabelle DiPiazza, all from Burlington Central. 







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

January 15th, 2017
In This Issue:
·         Local Libraries Receive Grants
·         Area Colleges Sign Innovative Agreements
·         ComEd to Pass Savings on to Customers
·         State Economic Growth Continues Poor Performance
·         Illinois  Falls to Sixth Largest State
·         Comptroller Releases Fiscal Responsibility Report
·          Student Advisory Council Discusses Leadership, Ethics
·         Celebrating MLK Day
·         Business Fees Lowered

Local Libraries Receive Grants
School libraries and two local public libraries are the recipients of state funding to expand their collections and complete capital projects.  The Governor released the funds and the Secretary of State, who oversees libraries, announced that DeKalb County schools will receive $16,338 and DeKalb and Sandwich Public libraries will get over $5 million.
The School Library Grant program was designed to help provide more library books and materials for the students of public schools in Illinois. The state legislature has authorized up to a $.75 per pupil expenditure for qualifying schools. The grant award is based on funds appropriated by the General Assembly and the official enrollment as of the previous September 30th per school district. All DeKalb County Schools received funding.
DeKalb and Sandwich Public Libraries received checks last week for the balance of the capital grants they were awarded under a 2009 state program.  DeKalb will hold a celebration reception on February 2 to which a number of state officials have been invited to see the fruit of the investment and thank local banks that provided bridge loans until the state money was provided. 
Honoring commitments that the state makes is important and why I have continued to work for these capital grants to be paid in full.

Area Colleges Sign Innovative Agreement
NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman and Kishwaukee College President Laurie Borowicz recently signed an innovative nursing agreement to expand their academic partnership.  The RN to B.S. Degree completion program is a customized academic pathway that allows students to take classes simultaneously at both institutions and complete with a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree. 
The program meets the increasing need in healthcare for nurses who hold a BSN in a way that is time- and cost-efficient for students. The program includes on-line courses and avoids the all too common problem of course transfer from community college to university. I believe higher education across our state should emulate this spirit of cooperation in other subject areas that will help more adults have the credentials needed to good paying jobs, make higher education more affordable and help address the declining enrollments in Illinois institutions. 
NIU Acting President Lisa Freeman (left) and Kishwaukee College President Laurie Borowicz sign the new nursing agreement and continue a history of collaboration.

ComEd to Pass Savings on to Customers
A state law passed in 2015 ensures that ComEd will pass federal tax savings on to its customers in 2018.  The company has filed a petition with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) seeking approval to pass along $200 million in federal tax savings to its customers this year.
The Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which became effective on January 1st, decreased the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, reducing the amount of federal income tax ComEd will have to pay.  That rate change, in addition to the investment ComEd is making in its equipment and transmission lines through the Smart Grid Law passed in 2015, provides cost savings that can be passed onto ComEd customers.  In Illinois we should celebrate every tax reduction.

State Economic Growth Continues Poor Performance
The December 2017 State revenue report from the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) documents sputtering economic growth and urges the legislature to do something about it.  The report, on the 10th anniversary of the Great Recession, shows that State Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose by only 3.8 percent from 2007 to 2016.  This rate compares with 9.1 percent for the rest of the Midwest and 10.7 percent nationally.
Illinois GDP grew approximately $25.4 billion during the period led by growth in the Agriculture, Forestry and Hunting sector; the professional, Scientific and Technical Services sector; and Health Care and Social Assistance sector.  The Construction sector shrank 19 percent and the manufacture of durable goods dropped by $6.7 billion.  One bright spot was the manufacture of nondurable goods (chemical, petroleum and coal products) which outperformed both the Midwest and the U.S. averages.
The Commission’s economic team continues to call the General Assembly’s attention to areas of weakness within the economy and, by inference, alter its policies that would create a more robust economy.  During this election season, citizens should challenge candidates for details about their ideas and efforts to grow the economy and make Illinois more competitive.

With the arrival of the New Year comes a series of new laws enacted by the State of Illinois. This year, over 200 new laws will take effect on January 1. These include bills for small technical corrections as well as major pieces of legislation.

Click here to read through a recap of these new laws which will be on the books next year. 

For more information on all the bills in the General Assembly, visit www.ilga.gov.


Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com
December 18, 2017


In This Issue:
·         Making Progress Toward Real ID
·         Illinois Losing Out on Tax Dollars from Online Sales
·         The Bicentennial: Make it more than a Birthday Party
·         10 Reasons to Hire a Vet
·         Aging and Disability Issues
·         Unfunded Pension Liability Continues to Grow
·         Business Continues to Invest in Kishwaukee Education
·         New Laws for the New Year

Making Progress Toward Real ID
Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, Congress passed the Real ID Act in an effort to increase airplane security and set minimum standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.  Illinois has satisfied 90 percent of the federal requirements and is on track to meet all of the requirements by January 2019.
While many states have already complied with these standards, Illinois’ progress was hampered by lack of funding and legislative interference.  A House Resolution in 2007 called for Illinois to ignore the unfunded federal mandate.  However, the General Assembly authorized Illinois to comply with the federal law with Public Act 99-0511. 
Renewing a drivers’ license or state ID will now take longer so background checks can be completed.  A temporary secure paper driver’s license or ID will be issued at the time of application and the permanent license or ID will arrive in 45 days.  Until Illinois is fully compliant with all Real ID standards, current Illinois Drivers Licenses and State IDs continue to be acceptable forms of identification for such things as boarding airplanes and entering federal buildings. 

Illinois Losing Out on Tax Dollars from Online Sales
Online retail sales are increasingly more popular with shoppers, especially during major holidays, but local units of government are seeing lost tax revenue.  The Taxpayers Federation of Illinois in a recent newsletter reported that online retail sales result in a loss of $635 million in local sales and use taxes.  You can read the full article here.
Online sales account for at least 8.5 percent of total retail sales in the United States.  This has been a significant change in recent years and has made things more complicated for local governments and local tax rates.  “Sourcing” for sales tax purposes determines where a sale occurs, which determines who gets the local share of the state sales tax.
Illinois is an origin rather than destination sourcing state, which means the applicable tax rate is where the purchase originates and not its final destination.  According to the Federation’s report, Illinois does not have a true sales tax on retail sales.  Instead, the state’s sales tax is comprised of four different taxes: the Retailer’s Occupation Tax (ROT), Use Tax (UT), Service Occupation Tax (SOT) and the Service Use Tax (SUT).
Amazon, the country’s largest internet retailer, provides an interesting example.  The company has a physical presence in Illinois and is now collecting tax on its sales to consumers in Illinois.  The report estimates that there has been an annual increase of some $200 million in state and $52 million in local UT collected as a result of this one company establishing nexus (physical presence in state) and collecting taxes. 
I have introduced legislation similar to a Colorado law that levels the taxes paid for on-line versus brick and mortar stores.  Action on the bill has been delayed while a court case that could resolve the issue moves to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Bicentennial: Make it More Than a Birthday Party
As a society we love parties and celebrations but how can we make more out of Illinois’ bicentennial?  The clock started the count-down to our 200th birthday as a state on December 3 with flag raising ceremonies around the state.   
I am certain that during the next year libraries will feature books and discussions about how the land was settled, our ancestors and public policies that have shaped how we live and work.  There will even be building projects to restore life to historic buildings like what the Hinckley Historical Society is doing, but I doubt anyone can afford a new building such as the Centennial Building the state constructed in 1918.
It will also be productive in the next year to think about where we want our state and its citizens to be in the next 100 years.  Perhaps we can reflect upon the writings of Thomas Jefferson who helped to frame our liberties, James Monroe who unleashed growth and innovation, and Abraham Lincoln who sought to unite our purpose.
At my Youth Advisory Council meeting last week I distributed an article about author Doris Kerns Goodwin’s focus on our Presidents and the qualities of leadership.  Perhaps in the next year we might have a public discussion about the qualities of leadership we desire for the future, how we are developing those qualities in our young people, and electing people with those qualities to lead our state and nation.

On December 3rd we in Illinois began a year-long celebration leading to our bicentennial.  It is a time to reflect upon the past 199 years since Illinois became a state.  On our way to December 3, 2018 we have the opportunity to study and discuss the people and events that have shaped who we are today.  It is a time to reflect upon our achievements and failures; our resources and their use; our melting pot of cultures and dreams; and the opportunities we still share today at the crossroads of America. 

Our state has become the fifth most vigorous economy through the creative ideas of entrepreneurs and efforts of our workers.  From an agrarian society to the industrial age, and now information technology, biotechnology and bioinformatics we have innovated and changed.

An educated workforce has been a critical element to our success and is key to growing our economy and improving the human conditions for all our residents.  The legislature recently made a fundamental shift in the adequacy and equity of funding for elementary and secondary education and thus the ability for our educators to serve the needs of their students.  A group of us legislators is now beginning to focus on higher education and the affordable structure for lifelong learning.

Clearly a number of important policy issues confront our citizens and political leaders as we embark on the next century for Illinois.  Many question the future growth potential for our state and whether they should continue to live and work here.  As daunting as some of the challenges appear, Illinoisans can take heart in the natural and human resources we have been blessed to possess, and we must exhibit the same resilience and creativity as was shown by our forebears.   


Our libraries, historical museums, schools and units of local government can play an important role during our bicentennial year in helping residents to reflect upon our history and renew our confidence and optimism for the future.  Let us all become involved in the Illinois 200 celebration and build upon Illinois’ legacy.