The ringing-in of the New Year on January 1st will also mark the start of 237 new state laws. In a legislative session marked by partisan differences on the budget, several of the new laws adopted highlight what members of the General Assembly can accomplish when they agree to work together. Laws scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2016 include: 


Right to Try (P.A. 99-0270, HB 1335) 
Gives terminally ill patients access to medicines that have passed Phase 1 of the FDA approval process but are not yet on pharmacy shelves.  Allows doctors to prescribe to terminally ill patients medicines currently being used in clinical trials.

Increased Penalties for Multiple DUI Offenders (P.A. 99-0296, HB 3533) Requires that repeat DUI offenders must have ALL of their vehicles equipped with Breath Alcohol Ignition Interlock Devices, better known as BAIID devices, for longer periods and also requires offenders to be disallowed from reapplying for a license with the Secretary of State’s office until first completing an extended period with a restricted driving permit.

Read the full list of new laws taking effect here.
To the editor:

The end of the year is a customary time to reflect upon what went right during the year and to make plans for improving what didn’t go so well.  Since I serve on a number of House Education Committees, I have been thinking about our educational system--from early childhood to college.  I will be holding one of my Educational Advisory Council meetings later in January to review of the year and invite you to participate in the discussion. 

Our family has a holiday tradition of taking the grandkids for a ride on the “Polar Express” in Waterman.  “At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent….Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.

As we approach a new year, I too believe we can rebuild Illinois to that wonderful place where people can work and afford to call home.  Thank you for helping me pursue that quest.  Have a blessed Christmas and a prosperous new year.

Bob Pritchard, State Representative

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced in September that in the absence of a state budget his office would suspend mailing out vehicle registration renewal reminders to the public.

In order to receive a reminder, you must sign-up to receive an email notice through the Secretary of State’s web site here. You will need your Registration ID and PIN number found on your current registration card. If you do not have your current registration card, please call the Public Inquiry Division at 800-252-8980 to obtain your Registration ID and PIN number.

When making the announcement, White noted that suspending this service would save approximately $450,000 per month, and allow his office to prolong the mailing of vehicle registration renewal stickers, titles, and license plates to vehicle owners. 

While those who receive emailed vehicle registration renewal notices will continue to have access to a pin number needed to renew their sticker on-line, those who do not sign-up for the electronic alerts will now have to renew their vehicle stickers in person at a Secretary of State office.

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 14th, 2015
In This Issue:
  Ø  AT&T Helps Fairdale
  Ø  Session Action
  Ø  Youth Council Offers Advice
  Ø  School Test Results Call for Discussion
  Ø  Efforts to Control State Healthcare Costs
  Ø  Be Prepared for Winter
  Ø  ComEd Microgrid Pilot Program Comes to Rockford
  Ø  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

AT&T Helps Fairdale
The DeKalb County Community Foundation received a large check recently from AT&T for its work in rebuilding Fairdale.  AT&T, through its “Investing in Illinois Award,” provides resources and recognition to organizations and programs that improve lives across the state.  
Jaci Kator of AT&T, Bob, Dan Templin—DeKalb County Community Foundation Executive Director, and Bill Nicklas—President of the DeKalb County Long Term Recovery Corporation 
I suggested the Foundation and specifically its fund to assist Fairdale residents for the $5,000 award last spring.  The Foundation helped create the DeKalb County Long Term Recovery Corporation to supervise the contributions and volunteers for rebuilding Fairdale after the April tornado.  While the events in Fairdale have faded from our newspaper headlines, help and volunteers are still needed.  
Sycamore, IL….Over two dozen youth from seven area high schools have been selected to participate in State Representative Bob Pritchard’s (R-Hinckley) Youth Advisory Council.  The juniors and seniors were selected by their teachers for their awareness of public issues, leadership skills, and interest in government and history.

During the next four months, the council will provide Pritchard with a youth perspective on current legislation and state issues, learn more about the operations of state and local units of government, be exposed to various careers in government and discuss ways to influence public policy.  The Council will conclude with a two-day visit to Springfield and meetings with various state leaders and staff.

Pritchard has sponsored a youth council each year since 2004 as a way to engage youth.  “The future of our democracy depends upon an informed and involved citizenry,” he said.
State Representative Bob Pritchard discusses the budget impasse's impact on higher education with WIUS:

"This is one of the biggest investments the state could make for job growth and the increase in earning ability of our citizens and therefore our natural growth in tax revenue," he says. "You know, you don't have to raise taxes; you just have to supply jobs and have people able to earn more at those jobs to generate more revenue for the state."

Read or listen to the rest of the interview here.
Rep Pritchard with Daniel Templin, Executive Director of DCF and representatives from AT&T
The DeKalb County Foundation was a recipient of AT&T's "Investing in Illinois Award". The AT&T “Investing in Illinois Awards” provide resources and recognition to organizations and programs that improve lives in their communities and the state.The foundation, nominated for the award by State Representative Bob Pritchard (R- Sycamore), was presented with a check for $5,000. The money will go towards DeKalb County disaster recovery efforts in Fairdale. The money will assist with the community's rebuilding efforts after being struck with a tornado in April of this year. 
Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, its time for ‪#‎GivingTuesday‬ and ‪#‎ILGive‬. #ILGive is a statewide, non-partisan movement to support nonprofit communities in Illinois by increasing individual giving. Last year, they raised over $4 million dollars. This year, over 500 organizations, individuals, and foundations from all over the state have joined the movement to provide creative ways for people in Illinois to give. 

For more information and a list of participating Illinois nonprofits, click here.
The 13th annual Conference of the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation was on Friday in Rosemont. The foundation, which was founded in 2002, provides college scholarships, seeks to develop leaders for the state's Latino community, and empower Illinois Latinos. The conference focused on examining the ways that the new digital age can help with access to resources and information central to Latinos in Illinois. Of the 19 scholarships that were awarded, three went to Northern Illinois University students. 
Rep Pritchard with NIU scholarship recipients

State Representative Bob Pritchard tours North Grove Elementary with Maggie Klein

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 16, 2015
In This Issue:
Ø  Reasons to be Thankful
  Ø  House Shows Signs of Compromise
  Ø  Economic Engine Running on Fumes
  Ø  NIU Helps Attract Federal Program to Rockford
  Ø  Governor Lifts EDGE Tax Credit Suspension
  Ø  Agreement Reached on Unemployment Insurance Reform
  Ø  Groups Challenge New Teacher Candidate Assessment
  Ø  PARCC Test Undergoes Changes

Reasons to be Thankful

As we approach a “day of thanksgiving” next week, I encourage you to take time to count your blessings and give thanks to your creator.  The holiday has its roots with the pilgrims who celebrated for three days their first harvest in 1621.  President Washington proclaimed a day of thanksgiving and President Lincoln in 1863 set the date as the last Thursday of November.
Among my blessings are a bountiful harvest on the farm and the ability to share the fixings for a thanksgiving dinner with those in need.  There are many food pantries, churches, non-profits and other organizations preparing meals for the hungry and help for the hopeless.  Remember them and share from your blessings this season of giving.

House Shows Signs of Compromise
A flurry of movement in the budget gridlock over the last few weeks by the governor and House and Senate members reflects a growing desire on all sides to pass a budget.  There were three significant votes in the House last week that give cause for some optimism even though the Speaker of the House continues to work against the Governor’s initiatives.
The first sign of compromise between the Governor and legislators was a roll back in the childcare emergency measures put in place when the fiscal year began without a budget.  Governor Rauner agreed to raise eligibility for childcare subsidies to families making up to 162 percent of the poverty level and return the ceiling to the old level of 185 percent of poverty once a budget was passed.  Additionally, the governor’s office said that it will establish a bipartisan, bicameral task force aimed at ensuring the long-term stability of the program.

The nonpartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability(CGFA), the in-house budget agency of the Illinois General Assembly, released their October 2015 fiscal report this week. The CGFA “monthly briefing” covers ongoing State revenues, particularly key State General Funds revenue numbers, and ongoing trends likely to affect future State revenues. For example, the October briefing includes a discussion, based on nationwide trends and economic models, of the likely health of the 2015 Christmas retail selling season and its expected impact on State sales tax revenues.

CGFA, working in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Revenue, uncovered continued dismal trends in State revenues this October. Illinois general funds revenues were $319 million lower in October 2015 (fiscal year 2016) than they had been in October 2014. General Funds revenues come from income taxes, sales taxes, and other sources. As in previous months, the decline was paced by a year-over-year shortfall in State personal income tax revenues and corporate income tax revenues. The accumulated deficit for the four months of FY16 so far experienced is $1,456 million. The current fiscal year began on July 1, 2015.

Jesse Huerta may be the shortest man in the building, but he walks tall across the factory floor at Tri-State Industries Inc. in Hammond, Indiana. Tri-State manufactures robotics, among other fabricated metal products. Huerta is the assistant plant manager.

“Every day I see people from Chicago moving out here,” he said. “It’s not because we’re a poor city, it’s not because the government doesn’t have our back, it’s because they know there’s work out here. They know you can still have a future out here.”

“And really that’s what everybody’s looking for, is a future.”

Read more from the Illinois Policy Institute about Illinois' declining manufacturing sector here.

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 2, 2015

In This Issue:
  Ø  High School Football Playoffs Underway
  Ø  County Preserves and Paths Benefit from ComEd Grants
  Ø  Governor Focuses on Economic Development
  Ø  UPS Hiring Local Seasonal Workers
  Ø  Changes Coming for Illinois’ Specialty License Plates
  Ø  Learn about Diabetes in November

High School Football Playoffs Underway
575 Illinois high schools are enrolled in the Illinois High School Association boy’s football program, but only 256 of them end up qualifying for playoff berths toward state championships.  Schools are divided into eight classifications depending on their enrollments, from 1A to 8A, with 32 teams in each classification bracket.
The first round of the playoffs began this past weekend with mixed results for area teams.  In 5A play DeKalb out-scored Hampshire, and Kaneland edged out North Boone in an exciting final few minutes.  In 6A competition, Nazareth Academy beat Sycamore and Woodstock outscored Belvidere.  And in 4A play, Chicago Phillips ended Genoa Kingston’s season.  
After a series of elimination games, the final eight playoff games to determine the champions of each class will be played at NIU’s Huskie Stadium on Friday and Saturday, November 27-28.  If you would like to join me and help staff the hospitality team for the games, volunteer at the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau 815-756-1336  

County Preserves and Paths Benefit from ComEd Grants

DeKalb County and Sycamore have benefited from three grants funded by ComEd in partnership with Openlands and the Clean Energy Community Foundation.  The first grant announced last week awards $10,000 to the DeKalb County Forest Preserve to continue the walking/bike path from Genoa to Kingston (shown on left).  Genoa won a grant from the same fund last year to start the path from Genoa to Russell Woods Forest Preserve.  The additional grant will continue the path to Pleasant Hills Road and one final grant would complete the path to Kingston.
Sycamore will receive money to connect the Peace Road Trail extension from the South Prairie Elementary School to the main trail next to Peace Road.  This new connecting trail will allow safer access to the trail north of Prairie Drive on Peace Road, increasing the enjoyment of all who use the trail.
DeKalb County also received another grant for the second year in a row to preserve open space for what has become Prairie Oaks Forest Preserve along Cherry Valley Road.  This is a 50 percent matching grant from ComEd through the Clean Energy Community Foundation.  Last year the County received a $200,000 grant to purchase the first 43 acres of grassland and timber.  This year’s grant of $122,000 will help purchase an additional 40 acres.
The local share of funding comes from the Property Tax Land Acquisition Fund, but the county continues to seek grants to add to its open lands inventory rather than relying on public funds for the entire cost.  Forest Preserve volunteer Tom Robbins plans to take photos once a month over the next year with the same view at Prairie Oaks Forest Preserve to illustrate the changing seasons. Here’s one from the end of the summer: 

Governor Focuses on Economic Development
Governor Rauner brought a message of hope and opportunity to the DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation’s annual dinner at NIU last week.  He called DeKalb County one of the best places to do business and credited the county’s agricultural and manufacturing base, rail access, higher education institutions and proximity to Chicago.  
He continued his theme of recent months that Illinois needs reforms such as in workmen compensation insurance and litigation, reducing state mandates and regulations, as well as bringing more local control to counties and towns.  He restated his call for nonpolitical legislative redistricting and term limits.  The Governor said he understands there will have to be compromises and even tax increases, but was insistent that there has to be changes that will improve the long term outlook for Illinois.   A meeting of legislative leaders and the governor is planned for November 18.
The NIU Student Senate, faculty members, and several local nonprofit organizations held a peaceful but loud rally outside the student center before the governor arrived.  A number of nearby colleges and universities sent representatives to join in speaking about the effects of the lack of a state budget for higher education and student MAP grants. 
In my comments, I thanked the audience for helping bring attention to the lack of funding for many important programs.  With 90 percent of the state programs being funded, those with no budget must speak up loudly and often.  The state can’t fund everything that people want so we must focus on the most vulnerable and programs like education that help individuals improve their lives.  The audience realized that the current gridlock is caused by legislative leaders as well as the governor who must engage in compromise and find long-term fiscal solutions. 

UPS Hiring Local Seasonal Workers
UPS has announced plans to hire 95,000 seasonal workers to help with the anticipated surge of packages during the holidays.  While the jobs are seasonal they add extra cash for the holidays and can be an entry point for those seeing full-time employment with UPS.  The hub in Rockford will add over a thousand positions and DeKalb will be adding staff.
The positions include full time package delivery drivers, full time tractor trailer drivers, part time package handlers, and driver helpers.  If you are interested, you can find more information and apply at upsjobs.com.

Changes Coming for Illinois’ Specialty License Plates
Starting in 2016 a new law will change the design and display of specialty license plates in Illinois.  The change—HB1081 signed into law by the Governor last week—will use one design for a base metal specialty plate and then separate decals designed by the Secretary of State’s Office will be applied for each group or cause approved by the General Assembly.
As the number of approved specialty plates has increased to well over 100, law enforcement agencies have reported confusion over similar numbers on different types of plates.  Some specialty stamped-metal plates will continue to be issued such as for military service and for medals or awards. 

Learn about Diabetes in November
You will be seeing a lot of messages about diabetes during November as part of a national awareness campaign.  This year’s theme “Eat Well America’, focuses on how healthy eating habits can help prevent diabetes.  Eating fiber not only helps prevent heart disease, but it can also improve your blood sugar control and support weight loss by helping you feel full instead of overeating.  Studies suggest eating whole grains can also reduce the risk for diabetes.
According to the latest statistics, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population, have diabetes; 25.9 percent of those age 65 and older suffer from diabetes.  Another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type-2 diabetes.  Control of diabetes can prevent additional health concerns.  Visit: www.diabetes.org.


Bob
Sycamore, IL... The Department of Defense recently recognized State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) for his leadership in public policy changes that positively impacted service members and their families in Illinois. Pritchard has introduced nearly a dozen bills in recent years on a variety of issues that have been suggested by local veterans or the Department of Defense.  Most notable this year were HB3122, allowing private sector hiring preferences for veterans, and HB3721, which protects the jobs of National Guard members called to active duty. Pritchard said he was honored to support the veterans and their families who have made sacrifices and risked their lives to protect our freedoms.    

On Saturday State Representative Pritchard joined several rotary clubs in Rochelle as they planted 75 trees in the town of Rochelle. The area, including Fairdale and Rochelle, had been damaged by a tornado on April 9 that left two people dead. 
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 19, 2015
In This Issue:
  Ø  Time to Think College
  Ø  Colleges are Adopting Practices to Increase Graduations
  Ø  State Budget Impasse Affecting More Groups/Individuals
  Ø  Comptroller Warns of Pension Crisis
  Ø  License Registration Renewal Reminders Suspended
  Ø  Governor Announces Plans to Sell JRTC
  Ø  Private Partnership Benefits City Colleges

Time to Think College  
        October has been designated the time for high school seniors to begin making applications for the next step in their career preparation.  High schools and other organizations will be hosting over 350 events and activities regarding financial aid and college admissions in the next few months.
Burlington Central and Sycamore are among over 130 high schools around the state that have signed up to host college application events during October.  Kishwaukee College will be hosting FAFSA application nights in January and February. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the first step in applying for federal, state or college-provided financial aid.  In addition, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) will be part of a college fair at Northern Illinois University in March.
The college application process can be confusing and the idea of paying for a college education can be intimidating, but services are available to help.  ISAC was created in 1957 to help students achieve their higher education dreams, regardless of financial status.  It has a near-peer mentoring program with recent college graduates who come to high schools to offer advice. It also offers information about college costs, compares colleges, and much more at its website: www.ISAC.org.

Colleges are Adopting Practices to Increase Graduations
I recently had the opportunity to attend Complete College America’s annual conference and hear some of the best practices to increase graduation rates at colleges and universities.  The practices not only significantly increase the number of students passing their first courses, but also the number of students graduating in the expected 2 or 4 years.
Colleges and universities from across the country reported on their student success after incorporating one or more of the five research based higher education “game changers.”  In every case the reporting institutions first clearly stated their focus was to increase student completion.  Strategies to accomplish this included co-requisite remediation courses, encouraging students to carry 15 or more credit hours per semester so they complete on time, and structured class schedules especially for working students.  Other strategies included guided pathways to graduation and mentoring that included early warning for variation from the path to graduation on time.

Attending the Conference from Illinois was the Governor's new post-secondary Education Manager Niketa Brar.
Illinois is one of 33 states that have joined Complete College America’s Alliance of States taking bold actions to significantly increase the number of adults successfully completing some certificate or degree after high school.  The focus is on achieving degrees and credentials with value in the labor market and closing attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented students.

State Budget Impasse Affecting More Groups/Individuals
While nearly 90 percent of state programs are being funded without a state budget, those groups and individuals in the remaining 10 percent are feeling the consequences.  Now a third of the way into the budget year, the 10 percent group has used any reserves they may have had and are being forced to cut back their services or close their programs. 
In most cases the ones being cut are not the ones a rationale person would choose to cut if the state spending was prioritized to the most vulnerable and valued programs.
Several colleges and universities who allowed students to attend classes this fall without the money from their state supported Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) have decided the students must pay their full tuitions next semester.  Undoubtedly numerous students may have to drop out of school without the MAP funding.  In addition, at least one college has indicated it will close its adult education program to help students attain their general education degrees (GEDs) because of the lack of a state budget.
We are also hearing more about the mental health services, meals-on-wheels and other support programs for seniors that have been cut due to no budget.  Another impact in higher education is the loss of students and key faculty since institutions are not receiving state support.  Presidents of the state’s nine public universities recently wrote a joint letter to the Governor and legislative leaders pointing out that many of their students and faculty are questioning whether they can afford school and whether Illinois is the best place to teach. These institutions are economic engines around the state that together have an estimated $28 billion economic impact upon the state each year through their graduates and research.
Calls to my office ask “how long can we continue with no budget or priority to what is being spent?”  My answer is when legislative leaders and the Governor agree to compromise and allow our legislative budget process to work. 
I believe citizen pressure on legislators to in turn pressure their leaders continues to be the only solution to the current budget gridlock.  Calls, letters, e-mails, letters to the editor, and face-to-face discussions hold the key in my view. 
Then too we must also be willing to set priorities, cut spending, make reforms and, yes, pay extra taxes as long as it will be used to pay our debts and highest priority programs.  President Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  It’s time we all ask that question in Illinois. 

Comptroller Warns of Pension Crisis
State Comptroller Leslie Munger announced last week that the state would not be able to pay its $560 million pension payment for November.  The statement had been expected since the automatic payment of money into state-managed pension funds is not required by any of the court orders affecting state spending.  However, pension payments out of the same funds are protected by court orders and case law.
Even with this action the state’s list of unpaid bills is expected to grow from the current $6.9 billion backlog to $8.5 billion by the end of December.
The Comptroller stated that payments to pension beneficiaries will be made on schedule by selling pension fund assets and utilizing investment capital.  These actions will eventually deplete the retirement accounts and mean pensions will not be able to be paid without annual state appropriations of over $1.6 billion. 

License Registration Renewal Reminders Suspended
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced recently that, as a result of the budget impasse, his office will suspend mailing out vehicle registration renewal reminders to the public. White said that suspending this service will save approximately $450,000 per month and allow his office to prolong the ability to mail vehicle registration renewal stickers, titles and license plates to vehicle owners for a few months longer before the postage account is depleted.
The Secretary of State’s office has created an electronic notification process to replace the mailed forms.  Those who sign up for an electronic notification can complete their renewal on-line; everyone else will have to renew their vehicle license in person at the state driver’s license office.  Failing to renew on time will probably result in a citation from a police officer.
To sign-up for the electronic notices, go to the Secretary of State’s website and type in the registration and pin numbers located on your current vehicle Registration Identification Card.

Governor Announces Plans to Sell JRTC
          In an effort to cut state operating and building maintenance costs, the Governor has started the process to sell the James R Thompson Center, the seat of state government in Chicago.  The building, constructed in 1985 and named after the governor at the time, is a unique architectural structure featuring a large glass atrium and offices for several state agencies and all constitutional officers.  Employees could be relocated to existing offices in Chicago and Springfield.  
House Bill 4303 has been introduced to start the lengthy process to sell a state building.  Former Governor Blagojevich also proposed selling the Thompson Center, but his intentions were to expand state spending not reduce them.

Private Partnership Benefits City Colleges
City Colleges of Chicago and ComEd recently celebrated a 10 year partnership to train people for good paying jobs in the electrical transmission field.  Shown with me are Chancellor Cheryl Hyman (left) and ComEd President Anne Pramaggiore (right).  The program, conducted at Kennedy King College in Chicago, attracts people from Northern Illinois and many low-income neighborhoods of Chicago for an intensive 6 month training and employment at graduation.
Roberto Celestino, Sycamore, was one of the graduates of the Dawson Technical Overhead Electrical Line program who was recognized at a special luncheon in Chicago.  He is employed by ComEd and working toward additional training in this well-paid career path. 

 The House is back in session this week for the first time in almost a month.  Action is expected on several pieces of legislation and subject matter hearings.  Legislation on waivers for K-12 school mandates and spending for certain programs will be heard in committee on Tuesday morning.  
State Representative Pritchard attended the annual conference in Colorado for Complete College America, a group that aims to raise graduation rates across the country. Over 250 higher education leaders, state legislators, and faculty from around the country from around the country. The conference which ran October 12-13th featured panels from states that successfully implemented higher education "game changers". Illinois is one of 33 states that have joined Complete College America's Alliance of States taking action to increase the number of students successfully completing college. Also attending from Illinois was Niketa Brar, Governor Rauner's point person on post-secondary education. 


Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced recently that, as a result of the budget impasse, his office will suspend mailing out vehicle registration renewal reminders to the public.

White said that suspending this service will save approximately $450,000 per month and allow his office to prolong the ability to mail vehicle registration renewal stickers, titles and license plates to vehicle owners for a few months longer before the postage account is depleted.

If you want to receive a reminder, sign up to receive electronic notices through the Secretary of State’s website. While those who receive emailed vehicle registration renewal notices via email will continue to have access to a pin number needed to renew their sticker online, those who do not sign up for the electronic alerts will now have to renew their vehicle stickers in person at a Secretary of State office.

Find out more vehicle registration information on the Caucus Blog
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

September 28th, 2015
In This Issue:
  Ø  Our Legacy
  Ø  Education Advisory Council Questions Superintendent
  Ø  Early Intervention Funding Released
  Ø  Governor Supports Childcare Program
  Ø  Budget Still at an impasse
  Ø  Kingston Receives ComEd Safety Grant

Our Legacy
In our busy lives few people spend much time appreciating the gifts of health and life.  The legislature was confronted with the fragileness of these gifts last week with the death of State Representative Esther Golar, Chicago, from cancer.  I had the pleasure of working with Esther on a number of educational initiatives and came to appreciate her calm though passionate manner and untiring persistence.  She proved that despite ideological differences, she could work across party lines to reach compromise.  
Despite the popular myth that most legislators don’t represent their constituents, Esther continually reflected on the needs and concerns of her neighbors.  She brought life experiences and unique skills to the process of policy creation.  She, too, was impatient with the current budget gridlock and the lack of being able to interact and reach a compromise.
House Resolution 785 is an expression of mourning for her death but it also reveals the legacy of Esther Golar that I hope will be adopted by legislative leaders, Governor and all of us.  She would want to get down to business, reach a compromise and remember who she was elected to serve. 

Education Advisory Council Questions Superintendent
Last Monday, I held a public meeting where my Education Advisory Council and the public could meet the new State Superintendent Dr. Tony Smith and raise questions about the future of education in our state. 
It was encouraging to hear his five goals and philosophy.  Backed by the State Board of Education, Smith will encourage competency based learning, access to quality education for all, adequate and equitable funding, local district autonomy, and the role of schools as centers of healthy communities.
His focus on reducing state mandates and giving districts more flexibility in fulfilling their mission received general approval.  Smith mixed no words in stressing that our state and nation need to be teaching the new learning standards and creative thinking.
Measuring progress toward those goals will take time.  He said the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) will continue to be modified and improved.  He acknowledged the test this spring was too long and there’s a wide disparity in the accessibility and familiarity with school electronic devices used to take the test.  
Partial state results from the first PARCC testing were released last week amongst frustrations with the delay and still lack of school level results.  Smith called the test a new method of discovering what students are learning and how they compare with students in other states and nations. 
The low test results were not surprising--less than 4 in 10 Illinois students met or exceeded grade level expectations in math and English language arts.  Smith pointed out that the test was measuring the new learning standards and teaching methods despite schools only relatively recently shifted to using them.  Three quarters of the tests were given on electronic devices that were unfamiliar to many students and created testing interruptions.   
If you would like to watch the discussion in full, you can view it here.

Early Intervention Funding Released
One more state program is being funded without a state budget due to a broader interpretation of a court order.  Comptroller Leslie Munger recently announced payments are being made for childhood early intervention programs as part of a judicial consent decree.
Many early intervention providers have been contacting my office to say their work with infants and toddlers who have learning and physical disabilities cost a lot less and are more successful than work when the child is older.  Funding for these programs costs about $262 million. 
Well over 90 percent of state programs are being paid without a budget or any recognition of the state’s revenue.  Current estimates are that the state is spending at the rate of $38 billion with anticipated revenues of only $32 billion.

Governor Supports Childcare Program
As I’ve mentioned in previous Perspectives, the governor has used emergency rules and spending reductions to mitigate our growing debt.  One program hit especially hard was the subsidized childcare program where new applications have been reduced by nearly 90 percent.
I have been very supportive of this program since it helps low income families with the cost of quality childcare while the parent(s) works or goes to school to improve their skills and employability.  During a private meeting with the Governor last week, I reviewed with him how this program has helped families get off welfare, helped prepare at-risk children for kindergarten and increased the confidence for countless young families that they can obtain a better life.
The Governor was well aware of the high quality childcare industry that has developed because of this program and how it might be permanently dismantled with the drastic cut in participating children.  He assured me that he would rescind the executive order limiting eligibility once the state has a budget and spending priority can be given for programs that make a significant difference in our economy. 
Everyone concerned about the lack of funding for valuable and successful programs should do everything possible to get the legislative leaders and Governor to resume budget negotiations.  I know the Governor has called meetings to discuss a balanced budget and reforms that will grow the economy but the House Speaker and Senate President have refused to attend.  It is becoming very apparent that the only way to break the current log jam is for an uprising of voters demanding action and pressuring legislators and their leaders to negotiate. 
You can read the commentary I recently submitted to local papers on the need for citizens to speak up here.

Budget Still at an Impasse
During the House session last week I could not find a single sign of progress toward a balanced budget.  There have been no budget negotiating sessions among legislative leaders and the Governor or even one scheduled.  No bills were moving to increase revenue by natural growth or through new taxes and fees.  Gaming bills that some feel would generate billions in new taxes are gathering dust.  Any proposal to make government more efficient or reduce expenses gets sidetracked.
Only bills to increase spending beyond anticipated revenue receive committee hearings and floor debate.  On Thursday, the House Executive Committee passed a $3.8 billion spending bill without even discussing if there was revenue to pay for it.  The House did not take up SB2046 or SB570 to fund child care assistance.
There was another Committee of the Whole to discuss the need for mental health programs and police training.  Debate on SB4150 to fund these and other programs failed to garner enough votes for passage.  Surprisingly there are no bills or debate to fund higher education, MAP grants for low-income students, or state worker/retiree health care.
It appears several factors may be contributing to the lack of negotiations.  First, there is no crisis—state workers are being paid, government offices are open and schools are holding classes.  Providers and clients of non-funded programs are not making enough noise.  Second, any revenue increase would take a super majority vote for passage until January 1 when only a majority vote is needed.  And third, attention is focused on filing for the primary election and how many contested races there will be.

Kingston Wins ComEd Safety Grant
ComEd, in conjunction with the National Safety Council, held a reception last week in Oakbrook to recognize and award safety grants to municipalities across Northern Illinois.  Seventeen municipalities, including the Village of Kingston, were recognized and awarded a total of $137,000 through ComEd’s Powering Community Safety grants.                         

Kingston Police Chief George Taft (center) accepted a check for $2800 which will be used to purchase a speed detection device for the police department.  It will be used to enforce the speed limit through the Village of Kingston including the Grade School on Route 72.
Every community in the ComEd service area is eligible to apply next year for a grant of up to $10,000 to improve public safety.  More information and application are available here.

Harvest season is here so watch out for slow moving farm machinery on roadways.  Be patient in trying to pass, watch for turn signals of equipment turning into fields and yards, and move to the side of the road when passing the wide equipment.  Enjoy the fall colors, pumpkins and town festivals.