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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

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.


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.