Latest News

January 29, 2015
In This Issue:

  • Rauner Gets Reforms Rollin
  • General Assembly Begins Work 
  • Appointees to Lead State Government
  • Food Bank Looks for Food, Help
  • Board of Education Sets Priorities


  • Rauner Gets Reforms Rollin
    Governor Rauner’s campaign promise to shake up Springfield turned into action shortly after his inauguration with a torrent of executive orders.  We can expect to hear more of his agenda next Wednesday in his first State of the State address.  Here are some of the governor’s first steps:
    Executive Order 15-09 placed new requirements and prohibitions upon Executive Branch employees.  The order creates a one-year barrier between leaving an executive-branch position and accepting any compensation for lobbying.  It further expands the required annual Statements of Economic Interest by state employees to disclose non-state work, volunteer work, legal status, and property holdings.  Hear more about this executive order as reported by Springfield public radio station WUIS here.

    Executive Order 15-10 increases transparency for the hiring of individuals who are exempt from civil service protection.  In response to hiring scandals in the Quinn Administration, this order directs that all policy position hires be published on the existing Illinois Transparency and Accountability Portal.  They will be sorted by name of employee, name of employing agency, division within the employing agency, and the job title for which the person was hired.

    Moving beyond traditional “affirmative action” guidelines, Governor Rauner in Executive Order 15-12 called for hard numbers about the results.   He directed the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to gather data about procurement, apprenticeship programs, and trade union training programs.  He specifically requested data on participation of veteran-owned businesses and those owned and controlled by racial minorities, women, and persons with disabilities.  The Department is instructed to recommend solutions and methods to remedy any disparity in procurement awards.  Click here to read further details reported in the Chicago Sun-Times.

    Executive Order 15-11 rescinds seven decrees by Governor Quinn as he departed office.  Several of the former executive’s orders would have sharply increased the operating costs of state agencies in a time of budgetary crisis.  The legislature would be a more appropriate forum to debate these policies and necessary funding.

    The Executive Order freezing all non-essential spending by state agencies does not include $1 billion in Illinois Tollways construction projects.  Governor Rauner exempted the ongoing, rebuilding and widening projects of the Tollways since they are “self-financed” through toll increases paid for by toll road users.  These projects including work on Interstate 90 are expected to reduce traffic bottlenecks and increase the ability of toll road users to get to work and transport products.  The Chicago Tribune describes the tollway projects and Rauner’s decision here.

    The Governor has defined essential spending as contracts, grants or other spending that is determined by the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget to be necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the people of Illinois or to prevent serious disruption in critical state services.

    General Assembly Begins Work
    The 177 members of the 99th General Assembly who were inaugurated in Springfield earlier this month are a seasoned group of legislators with only 1 new senator and 14 new representatives.  Despite gains by Republicans nationally, the Democrats control a super majority in both legislative chambers.

    I appreciated a large group of local residents who traveled to Springfield to see the ceremonial beginning of the General Assembly, tour the capitol, and visit the offices of Governor and Comptroller.

    The legislature is taking this week to form committees, adopt rules and begin looking at several hundred pieces of legislation that already have been introduced.  We will hear the Governor’s official State of the State address on February 4 but he has already given indications of the changes he would like to make and the sacrifices that will be required to get our state back to sound financial footing.

    Many groups are already contacting me asking about the direction Governor Rauner will take and the looming financial crisis their local agencies face as the state funding runs out.  It has been clear since May that the legislature approved a budget that over estimated revenue and under estimated expenses.  The Governor has made clear those practices must cease.

    Appointees to Lead State Government
    There has been a flurry of announcements of people to lead various agencies in state government pending Senate approval.  Here is a brief introduction to some appointees.

    The Department of Revenue will be led by Connie Beard, current executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Tax Institute.  She brings more than 30 years of experience in state and local tax issues with 16 of them in various roles at Revenue.  An attorney, Beard understands tax policy and the impact of taxes on businesses.

    Continuing as Director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) will be Lisa Bonnett.  She has worked for the agency for nearly 20 years and served as Director since 2013.  Bonnett has streamlined the permit process and created a program for local governments to upgrade and expand aging water and sewer systems.

    Serving as Director of the Department of Agriculture will be Seneca farmer Phillip Nelson.  The former President of the Illinois Farm Bureau led the state’s largest advocacy organization for agricultural interests and was President of Country Financial, the state’s third largest auto and home insurer.  His experiences include grain inspection, international trade, biotechnology and consumer dialogue.

    Heading the Department of Natural Resources will be Wayne Rosenthal, a former State Representative and retired Brigadier General from the Illinois Air National Guard.  Rosenthal has experience in leading a large organization, managing a multi-million dollar budget, and working with wildlife advocates.  He operates a farm with emphasis on conservation, and has helped to establish a hunting and fishing preserve in his home county.

    Named to lead the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be Erica Jeffries, a former Captain in the United States Army and black Hawk helicopter pilot.  She is currently the chief inclusion and diversity officer of Exelis, a global aerospace, defense and information solutions company.  She has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency while serving in the White House Fellows Program.

    Felicia Norwood has been appointed to lead the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Service.  Norwood brings more than 20 years of experience in health care policy, care delivery and health business operations.  Most recently she was Regional President for the insurance company Aetna where she managed a budget of more than $6 billion.  Norwood led health care reform initiatives for Governor Edgar and served as human services policy advisor for Governor Thompson.

    Directing the Department of Public Health will be Nirav Dinesh Shah who holds both medical and law degrees.  He has been focused on the administrative and legal aspects of public health for clients around the world.  As a public health economist for the Minister of Health in Cambodia, Shah worked to address inefficiencies, and make the public health system more cost-effective.

    Finally, Brien Sheahan has been appointed Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission.  He has more than 20 years’ experience in managing government relations and policy making including being policy advisor to Governor Edgar.  Sheahan has worked as legal counsel for the commission and Deputy Executive Director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

    Food Bank Needs Food, Help
    How much food does it take to feed 71,500 people every week?  How many trucks traverse the 13 county area served by the Northern Illinois Food Bank to distribute food to local pantries and recover unsalable products from grocers and manufacturers?  I found the answers on Martin Luther King Day as I toured the Northern Illinois Food Bank in St. Charles and helped repackage some meat products.

    You can find the answers and ways you can help feed the hungry in our area at the website: www.solvehungertoday.org.  Volunteers are critical to inspect, sort and repackage the donated food items.  Food recovery comprises a large part of the inventory as bakeries, grocery stores, and manufacturers clear their shelves of food items nearing their expiration date or that may not meet their quality standards for sale.

    A large school group was helping to sort and package food items the day I was there.  This is an excellent community service investment of time for all ages. The Bank also needs funding for trucks, fuel, refrigerators and freezer, and yes, food purchases.

    Representative Ed Sullivan and I are joined by a family from Naperville and Food Bank staff as we toured the food depository.

    Board of Education Sets Priorities
    The State Board of Education has compiled its budget request for FY2016 well ahead of the Governor’s Budget Address.  Much of the request for increased funding is to fully fund the general state aid line which has been prorated in recent years.  While the budget document was compiled before the Governor’s hand-picked chairman took office, James Meeks has offered his support for the request.

    The board intends to conduct a standardized test that is aligned with the state’s learning standards for grades 3 thru 8 plus 3 years in high school.  This request will fund the ACT college admission test.  The board also requests $126.4 million in capital funds for infrastructure costs associated with the standardized test.

    Noteworthy in the budget request is the absence of any funding for legislator special initiatives including After School Matters.  There is a $50 million increase in funding for early childhood education.  Another area of focus is funding for alternative education, regional safe schools, homeless education and truant alternative education.

    Watch my Facebook page for news of the Governor’s State of the State address next Wednesday and my comments.  Best wishes,

    Bob
    Read the full text of the Inaugural Address by Governor Rauner on Monday.

    Good afternoon, Illinois. Great day, Illinois! Thank you so very much! Thank you so very much
    I want to begin by thanking my wife, Diana. She’s my partner she’s my best friend – and she’s going to be a tremendous First Lady.
    Thank you.
    Thank you to our six kids who have endured a lot over the last two years and will be having to put up with a lot more over the next four.
    I want to acknowledge Gov. Pat Quinn for his years of service to this state and the people of Illinois….. (acknowledgement of other officials and dignitaries)
    I’d like to express my very deepest gratitude to our veterans and our service men and women here today and around the world. God bless you. Thank you for your service to our country. As governor, I will do everything in my power to support you.
    I also want to say a very special thank you to our police officers, our corrections officers, our firefighters and all those who risk their lives to protect the families of Illinois. Thank you. I look forward to being an ally and advocate for you and working very closely together
    It is an honor to stand before you, before all the people of Illinois, today.
    I am humbled. I am honored. I am privileged. And I am excited.
    I love Illinois, and I want ours to be a great state, I want ours to be a great home for every family here. And I am ready to go to work for you.
    You know, as I’ve traveled our state over the last few years, I’ve met with tens of thousands of people; I’ve met with teachers and farmers. I’ve met with factory workers and coal miners, college students and retirees – the people who are the heart and soul of Illinois.
    In that process, I’ve met with thousands of small business owners.  And in our discussions, I’ve been stunned—I’ve been shocked, actually -- by how many of them are frustrated trying to build their businesses here and are thinking about leaving.
    I visited one company called Keats Manufacturing in Wheeling.
    Back in 1958, Bert and Glenn Keats started a metal stamping company in a storefront on Cicero Avenue in Chicago. Their father had never made it past high school, but both of them made it through college and they were eager to start out on their own.
    They had one employee and a couple machines. They worked long hours, a second job and sacrificed much, but they made it and their company took off.
    Today, Keats Manufacturing employs 110 Illinois workers and has nearly 75 machines running 24 hours a day, 5 days a week.
    The story of Bert and Glenn Keats was not an uncommon path in our state. And it wasn’t just Chicago, and it wasn’t just manufacturing.
    It was Peoria, it was Rockford, it was Decatur. It was agriculture, it was transportation, it was technology.  Illinois was a place where people like Bert and Glenn Keats from all over the country, and indeed, from all over the world, wanted to come, because Illinois was a land of opportunity, almost without parallel in America.
    Today’s Illinois is very different.
    The grandsons of Bert and Glenn Keats – I met with them – they tell me they couldn’t have started their company in Illinois today. When their grandfathers started the company, all its customers were in Illinois companies, they were all Illinois companies. They went door-to-door to find them.
    But today, none of their customers are Illinois companies – they have all left. And the grandsons told me that they, themselves, are feeling the pressure of high taxes and high regulation.
    Today Illinois is not able to compete with our neighboring states, our citizens are suffering because of it, and in many cases, they are up and leaving
    Last year, last year, we lost more people than any other state in America, and over the last ten years, we have ranked right near the bottom of all 50 states for out-migration to other states.
     People are leaving to find jobs, or because they run companies, and they’re taking their jobs with them.
    Our local businesses look in every direction and see states that are more appealing.   Lifelong Illinoisans look at their future and think maybe they can achieve more outside Illinois. 
    You probably know a neighbor, a co-worker, or maybe even a son or a daughter who has said, “I can do better somewhere else.”
     It breaks your heart, but you know it’s hard to argue with them.
    We need a booming economy that is pro-growth, pro-business, pro-job creation or we won’t have the resources to solve any of our other problems. 
    Our state must become competitive again.
    In the weeks ahead, I’ll be asking the legislature to work with me to pass a comprehensive jobs and economic package that will get Illinois working again.
    Let’s get our sons and daughters to return home! We’ll do it.
    One of the main reasons companies have been leaving Illinois is that they don’t have confidence in the financial condition of our state. We are in the midst of a government financial crisis that has been building for decades.
    Its roots lie in bad decisions, bad practices and bad management by state government. 
    It is not a partisan creation.  It is a truly bipartisan one.
    Our government has spent more than we could afford; borrowed money and called it revenue. Rather than responsibly budgeting the money we had, we implemented programs we couldn’t afford.
     In the face of a declining economy, we raised taxes.
     This hurt our economy even more, put more stress on our social safety net, and pushed more Illinoisans out of our state, leaving fewer taxpayers to support the government.
    As a result, today Illinois is not as competitive as we need to be and cannot be as compassionate as we want to be.
    Some in government will be tempted to once again take the easy road and leave the real problems for another day and the next generation.
    But we cannot do that because to do so, to conduct business as we’ve been doing it, would be morally corrupt.
    Instead, instead, we have an opportunity to accomplish something historic: to fix years of busted budgets and broken government; to forge a path toward long-term prosperity and a brighter future; to make Illinois the kind of state that  others aspire to become, a national leader in job growth and education quality.
    To achieve that will require sacrifice.
    Sacrifice by all of us – politicians and interests groups, business and labor, those who pay for government and those who depend on government’s services and need us and who we need to support.
    Each person here today and all those throughout the state will be called upon to share in the sacrifice so that one day we can again share in Illinois’ prosperity.
    We must all shake up our old ways of thinking
    I promise you, our administration, this administration will make our decisions based upon the next generation; not on the next election.
    I pledge to work on a bipartisan basis to drive results and get things done.
    We must be united by our willingness to sacrifice and do what is right even if it is difficult.
    We must accept the challenge and the sacrifice, knowing that it will lead us to something greater.
    We must forget the days of feeling good about just making; it through another year – by patching over major problems with stitches that are bound to break.
    Those stitches are now busting wide open and we must begin by taking immediate, decisive action.
    That’s why today, my first action as governor – first action today – I will be giving a directive,  every state – by executive order   every state agency will be asked to freeze non-essential spending.
    I will ask every agency to review and report on every contract that’s been signed since November 1.
    And I will follow through on my personal pledge to reduce my own salary to $1 and I will decline all benefits. We’re setting a new tone today.
    Our state’s crisis is not only financial. We have a moral crisis, an ethical crisis as well. We have a state government that too few have faith in; and that lack of faith is justified, it undermines people’s willingness to sacrifice and to what’s necessary to help the government in its mission.
    Illinoisans today see insider deals and cronyism rewarded.
    They see lobbyists writing bills for special interests and the taxpayers being left with the tab.
    They see government union bosses negotiating sweetheart deals across the table from governors they’ve spent tens of millions of dollars to help elect.
    That’s  a corrupt bargain, that’s a corrupt bargain, and the people of Illinois are left to wonder where do they fit in?  Who’s looking out for them and their families?
    Taxpayers’ money belongs to them; not the government.
    We have a moral obligation to minimize how much we take and to ensure what we do take is spent efficiently and effectively.
    Every dollar we spend unnecessarily inside government is a dollar we can’t put into classrooms and our social service providers, or leave in the pockets of entrepreneurs and homeowners and hardworking families of Illinois.
    To the people of Illinois, and the people outside of our state who’ve been reluctant to invest in Illinois because of the insider deals and cronyism, I say this:
    I’m nobody that nobody sent.
    And I’ve come to work for you. I’ve come to work for you and every family in our great state.
    I will send a clear signal to everyone in our state, and to those watching from outside our borders, that business as usual is over. It stops now.
    Tomorrow, I will sign an executive order that will improve ethics and accountability in the executive branch of state government. These actions and others to immediately follow will focus on regaining our state’s good name and reputation.
    We must prove every day that we have learned our lessons and we’ve changed our ways.
    Now, this is a very emotional, personal issue for me. In everything we do – everything we do -- we must ask ourselves, what does this mean for the next generation?
    For in order to thrive, we must prepare the next generation for success. 
    From cradle to career, the people of Illinois deserve world-class educational opportunities.
    From early childhood and K through 12 schools, to vocational and technical training, to community colleges and higher ed, we need to invest adequately in every neighborhood.
     Next to being a mother or a father, teaching is the most important job in the world, and we must support our many good teachers. That means putting more, that means putting more directly into the classrooms, reforming the education bureaucracy, rolling back costly mandates and giving more students access to great schools.
    A high-quality education is essential for higher lifetime earnings, a competitive, world-class workforce and strong economic growth.
    It’s the key to bringing back the American dream for every family in Illinois; for making the American dream a reality for everyone here; a truly better life for the next generation.
    If we work together, Illinois can be great again.
    We have everything needed to thrive – great location, the economic and cultural center of the Midwest, fertile farms, infrastructure, and, most importantly, wonderful, hard-working people – we need the policies and the leadership to make us the best we can possibly be.
    In just three short years – this is an exciting time – in just three short years, our great state will be celebrating its 200th Birthday.
    Yes, 2018 will be the Bicentennial of Illinois. What a perfect time, what a perfect time these next few years will be to return our beloved state to its rightful place as a leader among the states of America.
    A state that, as we prepare for our bicentennial, is ready to seize the future.
    A state where not only manufacturing companies like the Keats’ want to be, but where the next big things happen.
    A state where entrepreneurs want to be.
    A state where technology companies want to start.
    Where the next generation of manufacturing occurs.
    Where family farms that have made us the breadbasket for the world can pass from one generation to the next.
    Where young couples want to start their families.
    And their children are inspired in their schools.
    Illinois is a state that truly embodies all that is great about America.
    Since the days of Lincoln, we’ve stood as a beacon of freedom and justice.
    Now let us embrace all that is wonderful about Illinois, the reasons we love it here: our culture of hard work and responsibility, grounded, solid values, civic commitment and generosity – harness our values so that our next century is one of prosperity.
    We can do that if we work together, just as a family does when it faces tough times.
    Illinois is our home – right now our home is hurting
    But home and family are worth sacrificing for…worth fighting for.
    Together, let’s do the hard work to rebuild our home.
    I’m ready to go to work for you.
    I’m ready to fight for you.
    God bless you.
    God bless our great state of Illinois.

    And God bless America.
    December 30, 2014
    Happy New Year!
    In This Issue:
    • You’re Invited!
    • Special Session is both Unconstitutional and Expensive
    • New Laws Take Effect
    • Yes Virginia, There is a Four-Year Degree
    • New Year’s Resolutions
    You’re Invited!
    Some of you may already be aware that the Illinois Legislature will be sworn into office on Wednesday, January 14th at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Public Affairs Center Auditorium.  I would like to personally invite you to be my guest at the inauguration ceremony.  You will be part of history as the 99th General Assembly is seated and organized.  Following the ceremony I will give a guided tour of the Capitol and host a luncheon.  If you are interested in attending, please contact my office for details at (815) 748-3494.

    Special Session is both Unconstitutional and Expensive
    With the holiday season upon us, you may not be following the news about filling the vacancy in the office of State Comptroller created by the death of Judy Baar Topinka.  Never in our 198 year history have we in Illinois faced the situation of a state office vacancy at the end of one term and beginning of another term.

    Governor Quinn has called a special session of the legislature for January 8 to pass legislation establishing a special election in 2016 to fill the State Comptroller position.  While such an election sounds reasonable and would follow how vacancies in some units of local government are handled, it violates our constitution for state office holders.  Therefore, I believe the goal of the special session is both unnecessarily expensive and unconstitutional.

    Not only is the cost of a special session unnecessary since the legislature could consider some action when it meets in regular session later in January, but also the cost of litigation over the constitutionality of this action would be great.  If we want to set up a different way to handle vacancies, let the legislature pass a constitutional amendment that citizens could ratify in 2016.

    As for the vacancy in Comptroller, why not combine the office with the State Treasurer and appoint the Treasurer to also be the Comptroller?  Many have proposed this idea for saving millions of dollars in the cost of running a separate office and the idea was supported by the late Judy Barr Topinka.  Then the legislature would have time to pass a constitutional amendment consolidating the offices.  This would certainly shake-up Springfield.

    New Laws Take Effect
    The legislature passed over 500 laws in 2014 and many take effect on January 1st.  For a full list of new laws, please visit my website at www.pritchardstaterep.org.  Here are a few of the more significant new regulations which I haven’t covered in earlier newsletters.

    PA 98-0650 (SB 3411) Ban Police Ticket Quotas
    The law prohibits county, municipal, conservation, and state police agencies from implementing ticket quotas.  Officers may still be evaluated on “points of contact,” including the number of traffic stops completed, arrests, written warnings and crime prevention measures.  This is an initiative to refocus law enforcement on public safety instead of revenue generation.

    PA 98-0698 (SB 3433) Boating Safety Certificates
    Provides that no one born on or after January 1, 1998 shall operate a motorboat with more than 10 horse power without securing a valid Boating Safety Certificate from the Department of Natural Resources or another approved agency.

    PA 98-0746 (HB 5895) Nighttime BiOptic driving permits
    Allows persons using non-traditional visual aid instruments, such as BiOptics, to apply for a special, restricted driver’s training permit.  Currently, no process exists for drivers who wear BiOptic lenses to practice driving prior to taking the nighttime road test.  BiOptic glasses are vision enhanced lenses with extreme magnification.

    PA 98-0774 (HB 5701) ‘Ban the Box’ bill
    Prohibits employers from seeking information regarding a potential employee’s criminal history until after an invitation to interview or a conditional offer of employment has been extended.  This is intended to allow job seekers with criminal history to be considered on their merits and experience rather than being dismissed out-of-hand for an offense.

    PA 98-0775 (SB 2636) Use of medical cannabis for minors
    Amends the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act to allow individuals including those under the age 18 to use medical marijuana for seizures and epilepsy.  The Illinois Department of Public Health may create rules saying minors must have parental consent, have the recommendation of two medical doctors and may not smoke the cannabis.

    PA 98-0870 (SB 2583) “Sign and drive” in Illinois
    This new law institutes “sign and drive” in Illinois by prohibiting the confiscation of a motorist’s driver’s license as bail when stopped and cited for a minor (no jail time) traffic offense.  Since 9-11, state-issued photo identification has become a necessity for such things as travel, gaining access to some buildings, obtaining health-care, and renting vehicles.  The driver’s license is still the standard, accepted form of photo identification.

    PA 98-0977 (SB 3506) Emergency Medical Treatment
    Seeks to avoid confusion in the type of care that a medical facility provides from the name it uses.  A facility may not use emergency or similar name unless there is an emergency room connected with the facility.  The Act provides that a person, facility, or entity is not prohibited from holding itself to the public as an “urgent” care center.

    PA 98-1050 (HB 8) Workplace Pregnancy Accommodations
    Provides that it is a civil rights violation if employers do not make reasonable accommodations for employees with conditions commonly related to childbirth or pregnancy.  Further, employers cannot require a job applicant or employee to accept accommodations; to require an employee to take leave for a medical condition related to childbirth or pregnancy; or to retaliate against a person who has requested, attempted to request, used, or attempted to use a reasonable accommodation.

    PA 98-1089 (SB 352) Internet sales tax collection
    Will allow the state to use an Internet “click-through” relationship as a way to demand that the Internet retailer collect and remit sales taxes to the State of Illinois.

    PA 98-1052 (HB961) Faster Transfer of Funds
    Amends the State Revenue Sharing Act and the Illinois Income Tax Act by requiring the transfers from the General Revenue Fund to the Local Government Distributive Fund no later than 60 days after the State Comptroller receives the certification of the amounts from the Treasurer.  In the past, transfers have been intentionally delayed much longer.

    Yes Virginia, there is a 4-Year Degree
    In a parody of the child’s letter about Santa Claus, Complete College America wants to burst the myth that it takes longer than 4 years and mountains of debt to get a college degree.  On their web site (completecollege.org) they outline best practices of students and colleges to achieve the goal of an affordable college education.

    With college students home on break, it’s a good time to talk about progress toward a degree and the cost of an education.  For example is the full-time student taking at least 15 credit hours of classes per semester?  Are they following structured schedules to achieve their degree?  Too many students take more credit hours than necessary for the degree.  Are they using guided pathways to identify their career goal?

    Colleges and universities must continue to reduce their cost of operations and encourage students to accept the counseling and tutoring necessary to be successful.  For students ill-prepared for college, more universities and colleges should be offering co-requisite remediation course work.  Almost no students complete college when they just take non-credit remedial classes.

    A degree beyond high school is still essential for the jobs of the 21st century and a desirable income.  Then too students must be working for marketable skills and employment that will repay the cost of the education.

    New Year’s Resolutions
    As we approach the dawning of a new year there is reason for optimism despite huge fiscal problems facing Illinois.  Citizens elected Bruce Rauner their governor to bring some much needed change to state policies and procedures.

    Here are a few New Year’s resolutions for the Governor-Elect to get our state back on track.  Resolve to make Illinois a business-friendly state.  A recent Gallup poll gave Illinois an “F” in all things related to business.  Instead of favoring big business, why not help small businesses to succeed since they employ nearly half of the private-sector workforce and contribute two-thirds of the job creation according to a Chicago Tribune article.

    Resolve to balance the budget.  As I have worked on several appropriation committees over the last decade, I've seen first-hand the gimmicks to get a so-called balanced budget by overstating revenue and understating expenses.  Yes, we will have to cut expenses but that can be done with the suggestions of front-line workers, more efficient procedures, less fraud and by helping those who can to get off public aid and back to work.

    Illinois should also resolve to fix the pension pressure on the budget, school funding inequities and inadequacies, and how the state generates revenue.  These are all issues that have been facing us for years but the citizens want officials to throw out partisan politics and roll-up their sleeves to solve these issues.  There is a new governor who campaigned on changing the procedures; appointing people to agency management with experience and desire to operate more efficiently and effectively for our citizens.

    There is much more we could resolve but these are good places to start and the results would change the state’s reputation and outlook of our citizens.

    May the hope, joy, peace, and love of this holiday season remain with you through the New Year.  May your resolutions all come true.  And may the God of all creation continue to bless you, Illinois, and the United States of America.

    Bob
    The following list contains all the laws that will become effective as of January 1, 2015.  If you have any questions regarding these laws, please feel free to contact my office.

    PA 98-0519 (SB 1898) Increases minimum mandatory coverage for liability insurance policies
    The new law raises the required minimum coverage for 1) Bodily Injury or death to any one person from $20,000 to $25,000; 2) Bodily Injury or Death of 2 or more persons in any one accident from $40,000 to $50,000; and 3) Injury to or destruction of property from $15,000 to $20,000. Only apply to policies issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2015.

    PA 98-0528 (SB 1598) Collection of racial and ethnic data from arrests
    Acknowledging the disproportionality of arrests among racial and ethnic minorities, data will be collected for each adult and juvenile sentenced to the Department of Corrections and Department of Juvenile Justice for the following criminal justice contact points: arrest, referral, diversion, detention, petition, delinquency findings, probation, secure confinement, and transfer of juvenile to adult court.

    PA 98-0628 (HB 2317) Allows for property tax bill to be sent via e-mail upon request
    Permits County Treasurers to send property tax bills via e-mail if the property owner or taxpayer makes a request in writing. In addition, requires sales tax on leased vehicles to be collected on the monthly payments, as opposed to prior law which provided the tax be collected on the value of the vehicle at the inception of the lease.

    PA 98-0629 (HB 1584) Children’s Community-Based Health Care Centers
    Amends state law to eliminate conflict and confusion arising from two different titles referring to the same program by redefining "children's respite care centers" as "children's community-based health care centers”, thereby making it easier for Illinois residents to see U.S. Health and Human Services Dept. reports by requiring that Home Office Cost statements related to children’s community-based health care centers also be sent to DPH and for DPH to post them on the Department’s website.

    PA 98-0635 (HB 5815) Record Sealing/Expungement – Municipal Ordinance Violations
    This act allows an individual to have their municipal ordinance violations sealed or expunged, excluding minor traffic offenses and speeding tickets. As enacted, an individual over the age of 18 convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, other than a minor traffic offense, can petition the court to expunge the records of his/her arrests two years after the completion of their sentence.

    PA 98-0637 (SB 978) Expungement of Juvenile Arrest Records
    Eliminates barriers on young adults seeking to pursue higher education, secure employment, join the military, and/or obtain or maintain public housing by requiring the State Police to automatically expunge all arrest records (misdemeanor or felony) of a minor if the arrest did not result in charges being filed. The state would have to expunge arrests automatically when the minor turns 18 under specific conditions.

    PA 98-0638 (SB 2727) Ban Synthetic Microbeads in Cosmetic Products
    Prohibits the manufacture or sale of any cosmetic products that contains synthetic plastic microbeads, a pollutant composed of non-biodegradable solid plastic particle used to exfoliate or cleanse in a rinse-off product. Illinois is the first state to enact such legislation, aimed at protecting the Great Lakes and other bodies of water.

    PA 98-0650 (SB 3411) Ban Police Ticket Quotas
    The law prohibits county, municipal, conservation, and state police agencies from implementing ticket quotas. Officers may still be evaluated on “points of contact,” including the number of traffic stops completed, arrests, written warnings and crime prevention measures. Initiative enacted to refocus law enforcement on public safety instead of revenue generation.

    PA 98-0661 (HB 5716) Access to Digital Public School Emergency Crisis Response Plans
    Allows school boards to update public school building’s emergency crisis response plans and make them accessible in a digital format to allow emergency and crisis plans to be available to first responders, administrators and teachers for implementation through the use of applications on electronic devices, including, but not limited to, smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers.

    PA 98-0666 (HB 4418) Referendum to Dissolve Municipal Fire Department
    Requires municipalities with 500 or more residents to seek approval from the electorate in a referendum before dissolving a full-time fire department. This new law ensures greater public accountability and protects full-time firefighter staff in the event that a municipality considers going to an all-volunteer fire department.

    PA 98-0685 (HB 4083) Department of Corrections and Juvenile Justice Technical Changes
    Makes technical changes to the Juvenile Court Act of 1987. It enables the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of corrections to update administrative rules to clarify roles. The clarifications do not change current practice by either Department, but only better define responsibilities.

    PA 98-0689 (HB 4781) Contact Visits for Department of Corrections
    Amends the Unified Code of Corrections to clarify that the six month limitation on contact visits applies to the Department of Corrections, and not to the Department of Juvenile Justice.

    PA 98-0690 (HB 5410) Lead Poisoning Prevention
    Amends the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act to bring the Act into compliance with recent federal regulations, by requiring health care providers to report to the DPH when the provider has verified information of the existence of a blood lead test result for any child or pregnant person. Also provides that the prohibition on disclosure of information regarding lead testing does not prevent the DPH from using the information to prosecute an person who violates the Act.

    PA 98-0692 (SB 3443) Budgeting for Results Omnibus Bill
    Eliminates various boards, task forces and commissions and allows a number of required reports to be published online. Removes duplicative State agency functions and repeals obsolete programs.

    PA 98-0693 (SB 121) Changes to the African American Family Commission
    Makes changes to the Illinois African American Family Commission by requiring more state agencies to collaborate with, and obtain guidance from, the commission. Also changes the appointment structure from being made entirely by the Governor, to appointments being made by the Governor and the four legislative leaders.

    PA 98-0697 (SB 2731) Safety for Persons Towed by Watercraft
    Amends the Boat Registration & Safety Act to require operators of a watercraft towing a person to display an orange flag on their watercraft from the time the person prepares for towing until the person reenters the boat.

    PA 98-0698 (SB 3433) Boating Safety Certificates
    Provides that no one born on or after January 1, 1998 shall operate a motorboat with more than 10 horse power without securing a valid Boating Safety Certificate by the Department of Natural Resources or another approved agency.

    PA 98-0699 (SB 3434) Forfeiture and Seizure of Watercraft
    Provides that a watercraft used with the knowledge and consent of the owner for the commission of specified offenses may be seized.

    PA 98-0701 (SB 2922) Public Adjuster Rates
    Amends the Illinois Insurance Code by setting a cap on the amount a public adjuster may charge, agree to, or accept. Sets the cap at 10% of the amount of the insurance settlement claim paid by an insurer on a claim resulting from a catastrophic event unless approved in writing by the Director of Insurance.

    PA 98-0704 (HB 5949) Access to Birth Certificates of Adopted Persons
    Allows adult grandchildren to access birth certificates and other information regarding their deceased grandparents if the grandparent was adopted. Also allows a birth parent of an adopted child to receive a non-certified copy of an original birth certificate if certain conditions are met.

    PA 98-0707 (HB 671) Personal information of children
    This Act changes the Children’s Privacy Protections and Parental Empowerment Act to state that the sales or purchase of a child’s personal information without parental consent is not prohibited in the course of criminal and civil investigations. Current law states that the sale or purchase of personal information concerning a child without parental consent is prohibited.

    PA 98-0708 (HB 2544) Guidelines and protocols for laboratory testing
    The law creates the Accountable Care Organization Clinical Laboratory Testing Advisory Board. The Act says that every accountable care organization providing diagnosis and treatment for patients in this State must establish an advisory board to consider and recommend guidelines or protocols for clinical laboratory testing.

    PA 98-0717 (HB 4266) Protecting crime victims’ privacy
    This Act prohibits the Prisoner Review Board from releasing any name or address of the victim to anyone other than the law enforcement officer or the victim. This Act also prohibits the Attorney General from releasing personal information of any person registered to receive notifications to any other person except State or local officials.

    PA 98-0718 (HB 4336) Updating GED-related statutes
    Changes references relating to General Educational Development (GED) testing and certificates to high school equivalency testing and certificates throughout various Acts.

    PA 98-0719 (HB 4340) Updating statutes relating to the Illinois Community College Board
    Existing statutes are updated to change references from the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Illinois Community College Board to the Executive Director of the Illinois Community College Board.

    PA 98-0725 (HB 4417) Armed probation officers
    This Act states that probation officers may only carry weapons while in the performance of their official duties, or while commuting between their homes, places of employment, or specific locations that are part of their assigned duties, provided they have received the prior consent of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court for which they are employed, and they have received weapons training according to requirement of the Peace Officer and Probation Officer Firearm Training Act.

    PA 98-0726 (HB 4422) Secretary of State omnibus bill
    The omnibus bill for the Secretary of State makes the following changes: under the Illinois Identification Card Act, expands the definition of “disability” to include “oncological impairments” within Class 1A and Class 2A disabilities. It also amended the Illinois Vehicle Code concerning the Secretary of State’s discretionary authority to suspend or revoke the driver’s license or permit of military personnel. It removes the “J48 restriction” from statute. This restriction limits a driver to operating only a school bus and no other type of commercial motor vehicle.

    PA 98-0728 (HB 4687) Fees for shipping radioactive material
    For truck shipments of less than 100 miles in Illinois that consist entirely of cobalt-60 or other medical isotopes or both, the $2,500 per truck fee shall be reduced to $1,500 for the first truck and $750 for each additional truck in the same shipment.

    PA 98-0730 (HB 4707) Out-of-state CPA licensees awaiting Illinois licensure
    Any individual who is the holder of a current and valid license as a certified public accountant of any state who has properly applied to the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation for licensure by endorsement may perform accountancy activities until the expiration of 6 months after the filing of the application or until the denial of the application by the Department, whichever occurs earlier. This Act further provides several changes to the Illinois Public Accounting Act in regards to the licensure of certified public accountants.

    Ground was broken for the remodeling and expansion of Stephens Hall at Northern Illinois University. No machinery: just people power! The project has been at the top of Northern's construction list for over a decade.
    Want a Job?
    A recent article in State Legislatures magazine focused on the inability of companies to fill many of their jobs even in a slow economy and despite high unemployment. The Wall Street Journal found 43 percent of small businesses struggling to expand because of job vacancies and in another study, 79 percent of manufacturers told a consulting firm they had trouble filling skilled positions.

    This so-called “skills gap” is affecting many sectors of the economy such as health care and manufacturing, and primarily hits jobs which require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree.  According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce these “middle skill” jobs will make up one third of all U.S. jobs by 2020.

    Some companies are partnering with community colleges and technical schools to prepare future workers for jobs in those companies.  We have several examples of this in my legislative district.  The goal is to give the potential employee the precise training they need while still in high school so they graduate ready to move immediately into not just the general workforce, but into a specific job.

    As part of this effort, some state governments have started creating programs to revamp their workforces and better target training for employees in these fields.  In Tennessee, the state created the Labor and Education Alignment Program to do just that.  Tennessee’s program was made that much more urgent when a major manufacturer brought 400 new jobs to the state and received thousands of applications for them, but found very few qualified applicants.

    Maryland, Oregon and Michigan have taken similar approaches.  Maryland introduced a series of programs to help properly train workers, including a “manufacturing boot camp” and a program which helps match up aspiring computer code writers with paid IT internships in writing mobile health apps for hospitals.

    In our area we have the examples of Custom Aluminum Products in Genoa and South Elgin and an initiative of the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation in working with high school students to understand the job opportunities and skills necessary for local employment.  Then too there are many examples of community colleges working with local businesses to train and retrain workers for changing job skills.

    I attended a recent ceremony at Custom Aluminum Products where they recognized 8 individuals who had completed their Custom University training program.  The courses were specifically focused on skills necessary in their business and would provide advancement opportunities.  Several Genoa-Kingston high school students participated as part of a unique paid internship program the company has with the school.

    Senator Dave Syverson and I presented Custom Aluminum President Steve Dillett with a check for $13,909 from an Illinois program which reimburses companies for up to half the cost of training workers. We also witnessed a demonstration of a 3-D printer the company was donating to the local school.

    What brings all these programs together is that they are collaborative efforts usually between government, community colleges and private business to help improve skills and create jobs. You can read the full magazine story here.

    Helping residents avoid foreclosure
    Next Saturday, September 27th, several state agencies will have representatives in DeKalb to counsel homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages. Senator Dave Syverson and Representative Joe Sosnowski are joining me in hosting this free mortgage relief program which includes seminars and one-on-one counseling from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Community Outreach Building, 2500 North Annie Glidden Road, DeKalb.

    The Mortgage Relief Project is a program designed to provide information about ways to lower your mortgage payments, avoid foreclosure and keep your home. Important facts about avoiding fraud will also be available to those who attend. Participating will be representatives from the Illinois Housing Development Authority, Illinois Department of Employment Security, Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and the Illinois Attorney General.

    Far too many Northern Illinois families are still being affected by the mortgage crisis and are struggling to make mortgage payments and keep their homes. The Illinois Foreclosure Prevention team will provide counselors, explain the foreclosure process, offer information about state programs and give suggestions on avoiding costly foreclosure.

    Those attending are encouraged to bring their mortgage statement, tax returns for the past two years, two months of recent pay stubs and bank statements, documentation of other income, recent utility bills and your budget of household expenses. Even if you do not have all of these documents on hand, the counselors can still help you get the process started.

    Governor fails to correct legislative error
    Last month, Governor Quinn signed legislation (SB 3324) which the Illinois Department of Insurance now says will raise taxes on Illinois job creators by an estimated $100 million. Neither the sponsor of the legislation nor the legislature had any idea that the department would use the legislation to close so-called “loopholes” to increase tax revenue.

    When the General Assembly unanimously passed this legislation in the spring, it did so on the understanding that it was a mere technical change to existing law. The Department of Insurance’s own fact sheet about the bill made no mention of a tax increase or closing loopholes. When the potential for a tax increase became clear, the sponsor of the bill tried to persuade the Governor to veto the bill, especially since the tax only applied to Illinois businesses.

    Instead of working with the sponsors on an amendatory veto, Governor Quinn signed a law which increases the cost of doing business in Illinois thus making it harder for companies to succeed, expand and hire more people. With unemployment in Illinois of around seven percent, this is the last thing state government should be doing.

    The bill applies to companies who in their business have unusual or very high risks like manufacturers and even nursing homes. These companies self-insure for some of the risk and then buy insurance policies for the balance of the potential risk. The Department of Insurance already taxes the insurance policies but now proposes to tax the amount companies are self-insuring. This could amount to millions of dollars of additional taxes for our larger manufacturers like John Deere and Boeing. I have joined with dozens of my colleagues in drafting legislation to repeal this latest tax on the hard-working businesses of Illinois.

    In previous newsletters I discussed what can happen when state governments create a climate that is friendly to job creators: that state’s economy grows and jobs are created. We have seen this in neighboring states but not Illinois. The policies promoted by the Speaker and Governor take the opposite approach: higher taxes, unreasonable regulations and delays that have resulted in economic stagnation and jobs fleeing to those neighboring states.

    Ask any Illinoisan who is looking for work or hoping that their children and grandchildren will not have to leave the state to find jobs; they will tell you that our state is following the wrong track.

    Recognizing our agricultural heritage
    Hybrid corn has been called one of the most amazing advancements of the last century, if not of all time. Hybrid corn breeding revolutionized the farm economy around the world and dramatically increased the farmer’s ability to feed a growing world population.

    The commercial success of hybrid corn has its roots in DeKalb County and the DeKalb Agricultural Association. In 1925, Tom Roberts Sr. and Charlie Gunn began work to develop hybrid corn on a plot west of DeKalb. The exact location of the plot was forgotten until recently when the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association researched the location and erected a road-side marker on Nelson Road just north of U.S. Route 38.

    The DEKALB brand of hybrids is still being developed today on research fields in DeKalb County just north of Waterman. The winged-ear of corn logo with the word DEKALB can be seen by fields of DEKALB corn.

    The Heritage Association is planning other markers to commemorate significant developments in agriculture including the first Illinois county Farm Bureau and the home of the first county “farm advisor.” You can learn more about the agricultural innovations that occurred in the DeKalb area at the Heritage Association’s museum located at 111 South Second Street, DeKalb.

    Research is critical to innovation and we in Illinois have benefited from the public investment in research at such institutions as the University of Illinois. It is one of our nation’s Land Grant Universities created by Congress and signed into law by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. It is disconcerting that public policies in recent years have decreased research investments dramatically, especially in Illinois.

    Fracking rules delayed, again
    Last year when a tough law permitting hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Illinois was passed, many thought the rules would be written quickly and exploring for oil and gas would begin by this year. Environmental groups and businesses agreed to the bill. Since then not only did the Department of Natural Resources take nearly a year to write the rules, post them for public comment and then to analyze the thousands of responses, but it has also written final rules that nobody likes. The legislative oversight committee now wants more time to get the parties to some agreement.

    Southern Illinois holds a large area, called the New Albany Shale formation, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas. Companies are ready to explore the potential when the rules are written. The rest of the state stands to benefit from industrial production for fracking firms and the additional tax revenue such production would create.

    Proponents of fracking claim that the new rules impose limitations which are not included in the law, and that the rules might actually serve as a deterrent to such drilling. The current opponents have never wanted fracking in Illinois so when they failed to stop the legislation they now focus on the rule making.

    New legislation helps cooperatives
    Legislation which loosens controls on the amount of money individuals can invest in cooperatives was signed into law last month. Senate Bill 3438 makes it easier to raise the startup funds needed to organize a new cooperative in Illinois.

    The legislation was focused on food-related consumer cooperatives which, for example, could buy a small piece of land, erect a chicken house or plant a garden, hire a few workers, and provide eggs or produce to members.

    State revenues fall despite heavy tax burden
    The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) reports that state revenues for the first two-months of the fiscal year are down $279 million compared to a year ago. Federal payments are down $95 million, gross corporate income taxes are down $17 million, personal income taxes declined $14 million, and even riverboat gambling transfers are down $19 million.

    These reductions in revenue come at the same time as another COGFA report found that Illinois residents pay some of the highest income taxes in the nation. According to COGFA, Illinois’ income tax revenues on a per person basis are the 10th highest in the nation. Illinois collects $1,284 in income tax for every man, woman and child in the state. All five of our neighboring states impose a lower income tax burden on their residents.

    More laws, vetoes
    In the spring session of the 98th General Assembly, the House and Senate passed 511 bills–-268 originating in the House and 243 originating in the Senate. Exactly 500 of these bills were approved by the Governor over the summer, the last one just a few weeks ago. They now become law on the effective date in each bill, usually either immediately or on January 1.

    Eleven bills were vetoed by the Governor. Unlike the U.S. President, an Illinois Governor has a variety of veto options. He can issue a total veto, which rejects a bill in its entirety; he can make an amendatory veto, which allows him to cross out certain lines of the bill and sign the remaining parts into law; or he can submit a reduction veto, a tactic employed in spending bills to reduce a certain item of spending. This year, the Governor issued six total vetoes, four amendatory vetoes and one reduction veto.

    The fate of those eleven bills is not fully decided just yet. Under our state constitution, the lead sponsor of each of those bills has the option of moving to have the vetoed bill reconsidered when the legislature convenes for the fall session on November 19.

    Throughout the summer I have told you about some of the 31 bills which I sponsored or cosponsored as they were signed into law. Some other new laws which I sponsored or co-sponsored included legislation to help dislocated workers obtain MAP grants for higher education, a bill which speeds up transfers of funds from the state to local governments, a requirement that students complete more math and computer science classes before graduating high school, and legislation to fight underage drinking.

    The full list of new laws can be found on the Illinois General Assembly’s website at www.ilga.gov. The new laws are Public Acts 98-626 through 98-1125.

    Upcoming events
    Besides the Mortgage relief program on September 27 that I mentioned earlier, circle your calendar on October 15-16. I am joining with the DeKalb County Farm Bureau and Country Companies Insurance in hosting a defensive driving course at the Center for Agriculture at 1350 West Prairie Drive in Sycamore. For more information, contact the Farm Bureau at 815-756-6361.

    September 22 marks the official beginning of fall. Crop harvest is starting across the district so be alert for slow moving equipment and vehicles pulling out of fields.