Springfield, IL... Small business now has a stronger voice in Springfield, thanks to State Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego, and State Rep. Carol Sente, D-Vernon Hills, who recently formed the bi-partisan Small Business Owners Caucus in the Illinois House of Representatives. 

“Small business is the backbone of our state and local economy, accounting for over 60% of all new private-sector jobs created in America each year,” Rep. Wheeler said. “This new bipartisan caucus will bring together small business owners from every region of Illinois to formulate policy reforms that will make our state more competitive and help to attract and retain quality Illinois jobs for Illinois families."

The 20-member Small Business Owners Caucus has been created to bring together state legislators who are current or former small business owners to share similar entrepreneurial experiences. Activities will include caucus-backed legislative proposals and supporting individual caucus members' legislative ideas, as well as holding subject matter focused business discussions with the constitutional officers, agency directors, legislative leaders and pro-business organizations. Various business groups have already come forward with ideas of establishing an annual scorecard of pro-business legislation and nominating annual champions of the business community.

April 27, 2015

In This Issue:
  • Ø  IDOT Listening Tour
  • Ø  Bears in Fairdale
  • Ø  Legislative update
  • Ø  Budget Discussions with Governor 

IDOT Listening Tour
       The transportation network of Illinois distinguishes our state from all the others and provides an appealing asset for business retention and attraction.  It’s only natural then that a new Governor and a new head of the Department of Transportation (IDOT) would begin their terms of office by seeking local opinions about the critical needs and strategic priorities for this network of highways, rail, rivers, Great Lake, and air.

Acting Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn, and representatives from the Illinois Capital Development Board, invites community business, civic and elected leaders to take part in a series of informal public meetings being conducted throughout the state in the next month.  They will be looking for comments about the current state of the local transportation network, the most pressing infrastructure needs, and how targeted transportation investments can drive economic development and improve the quality of life for residents. 

         The tour includes stops at two locations in our area; Rockford on May 14th at 3 p.m. at the RMAP Headquarters at 315 North Main Street, and DeKalb on May 18th at 2 p.m. at the City Hall Council Chamber at 200 S 4th Street.  For more information about all the meetings and their locations, click here.

Bears in Fairdale
The response to the tornadoes that hit the Rochelle and Fairdale areas on April 9 has been nothing short of miraculous.  State, county, and local agencies, organizations, as well as hundreds of volunteers, responded quickly and have been providing relief.  There was even help from bears—Chicago Bears style--as players Blake Annen, Ryan Mundy and Will Sutton helped with debris cleanup and the team donated $100,000 to the United Way of the Rock River Valley.

The remainder of the four R’s of disasters--Recovery and Rebuild--will take years.  To help with those phases, a DeKalb County Long Term Recovery Committee (LTR) has been formed with the leadership of the DeKalb County Community Foundation and the Kishwaukee United Way.  The committee will bring agencies and organizations together to provide what is needed for the residents as they seek to put their lives back together.  Rochelle is attempting to form a similar LTR committee.

        In addition, a pass through disaster fund has been established to provide transparency, accountability and tax deductible benefits for what is hoped to be millions of dollars in donations for the long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts of residents.  Donations can be made to the DeKalb County Community Foundation and the Rochelle Community Foundation.  I’d like to give a big thanks to those stepping up to help form the LTR and to those donating to the remaining phases in the disaster recovery.

Legislative Update
This past week was a flurry of activity as legislators tried to meet the deadline for passing bills out of the House by Friday.  The following are some highlights of the bills that were passed.  This week, each chamber begins hearing bills that were passed by the other chamber.

       HB3122 creates the Veterans Employment Preference Act which allows private employers to adopt a policy giving hiring preference to veterans and avoid claims of discrimination.  This was one of my priority bills.
HB3126 promotes tourism by allowing an exemption from Illinois boating regulations for state or nationally recognized boat races.
HB173 bans the highly unpopular red light camera systems in non-home rule municipalities.
HB178 freezes for one year the township general fund property tax levies in townships which have populations of less than 100,000 and are subject to PTELL (Property Tax Extension Limitation Law).
HB218 reduces the penalties for possessing less than 15 grams of marijuana.
HB373 authorizes the construction of the Obama Presidential Library on public parkland adjacent to the President’s former residence in Chicago’s Hyde Park.  No state money was appropriated for the library.
HB494 allows school districts to hire persons with a non-violent felony conviction after 7 years and allows the hiring of people with convictions for possessing small amounts of cannabis.
HB574 reorganizes the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) into two groups.  One, a private nonprofit corporation, will promote economic development.  The other will continue many of its current functions in community development, assistance, and employment.  The bill also establishes the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum as an independent agency.
HB 735 will prohibit municipalities from using taxpayer funds to purchase advertisements that include the names of any elected officers.
HB306 and HR404, which both dealt with the PARCC standardized test in K-12 schools, never came to a final vote.  I will continue to work with the State Board of Education to improve and shorten the test before next year.
HB4025 provides that at least one semester of the required two years of social studies in high school be civics.  It also allows school districts to utilize private funding to provide additional teacher training.
Clinton Rosette Middle School in DeKalb visited Springfield last Friday as part of their civic education course.  I will return the visit--to their classroom--to discuss their impressions of the legislative process.

Budget Discussions with the Governor
       The five House appropriation committees have been meeting for weeks to discuss the FY2016 budget, but topics and witnesses have only dealt with the impact of cutting certain programs and agency budgets.  This week the Governor will try to refocus the discussion toward priorities in spending available revenue with the Budget Oversight Panel. 

The panel is a new 13 member committee comprised of just spokespersons from each party on each of the appropriation committees, Revenue and Finance Committee, and the majority party leader.  As Republican spokesperson on the Appropriation Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, I have been appointed to the panel.

Perhaps with a smaller group there can be more focused discussions.  In past years the spokespersons on the budget working groups have determined a revenue number, subtracted required “off-the-top” expenditures, and then allocated a share of the balance to each of the five appropriation committees. 

Using current estimates of revenue ($32 billion) and a maintenance budget from last year ($38.2 billion) results in a budget hole of $6.2 billion.  As I have mentioned before, I believe the FY2016 budget solution should follow the formula of the just completed FY2015 supplemental budget—spending reductions, reforms, and some additional revenue.  

Please continue to share your thoughts with me.

Springfield, IL... House Bill 3126 amends the Boat Registration and Safety Act for the purpose of improving tourism. Current state law requires boaters to obtain a boat safety certificate, which can be a lengthy process. This bill would exempt any person who is only temporarily using the waters of Illinois to participate in a boat racing event sanctioned by the Department of Natural Resources or an authorized federal agency.

The bill is now being considered by the Illinois Senate. 

House Bill 3122, filed by Representative Pritchard, creates the Veterans Preference in Private Employment Act. The act provides that a private employer may adopt and apply a voluntary veterans' preference employment policy if the policy is in writing, publicly posted with employment information, informs all applicants about the policy, and the policy is implemented uniformly for all employment decisions regarding the hiring, promotion, or reduction of force. 

The bill received large bipartisan support and passed with a vote of 110-0-4. It now moves to the Senate.
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com 
April 20, 2015
In This Issue:
Ø   Tornado Relief Moving to Recovery Phase
Ø  Tornado Property Tax Relief
Ø  Legislative update
Ø  Remembering Lincoln
Ø  Lieutenant Governor Visits District
Ø  State School Superintendent Appointed

Tornado Relief Moving to Recovery Phase
It’s amazing what hundreds of volunteers can accomplish in a week.  The small community of Fairdale was a beehive of activity as Governor Rauner, Senator Syverson, Representative Keith Wheeler and I visited last Friday, just one week after an F4 tornado slammed through the area.  The financial generosity, volunteering to clean up, and donation of equipment and items of all sorts to help someone in trouble are classic American culture.
As we know by now just in the town of Fairdale, 34 homes were destroyed, 16 suffered major damage, and another 22 suffered minor damage.  Two people lost their lives-- Jacqueline Klosa and Geraldine Schultz, a dear friend.  They are being remembered as loving, caring “neighbors” so typical of this community. 
       While the area was declared a state disaster, no federal aid and only modest state grants are expected.  The Governor believes that the recovery can be fully funded by private donations and he gave $100,000 to relief efforts as an example.  State Comptroller Leslie Munger reminds state employees and retirees that they can donate a portion of their paychecks to the Red Cross’s disaster relief efforts for the victims through a convenient website.  Simply go to this website and follow the instructions
We are learning the stages that people go through in a major natural disaster: relief, response, recovery and rebuilding.  Taking lessons from other regions affected by natural disaster, DeKalb County has formed a Long Term Recovery Committee (LTR) that will function for years to help people rebuild their lives and homes.  Lead by the DeKalb County Community Foundation and the Kishwaukee United Way, the LTR will collect tax deductible financial donations, assure transparent accountability for their use, simplify case management for the victims, and assign LTR member organizations different tasks to help victims.  LTRs have proven invaluable to provide the unmet needs of victims, especially after insurance and government aid run out. 
Visit the Village of Kirkland website for updates and to find out what you can do to help. I want to express my sincere appreciation for all those who have been so generous with their time and resources.  I am always blown away by the way our state comes together to help those in need.  
Sue Meyer stands in front of her damaged house gaining comfort from a shrine built by volunteers
Tornado Property Tax Relief
        Following the tornadoes that struck Illinois in 2012 and 2013, legislation was passed to provide property tax relief for affected businesses and families after they rebuild.  The Natural Disaster Homestead Exemption creates an assessment freeze for properties containing a residential structure that has been rebuilt following a natural disaster.  Rebuilt structures must be completed within two years of the disaster and be no larger than 110 percent of the original structure.  The assessment freeze continues at the same amount until the taxable year in which the property is sold or transferred.  
Another change to the Property Tax Code provides a tax abatement for commercial and industrial property that is damaged by a tornado.  The abatement diminishes each year for 15 years.  Laws like these help spur the rebuilding effort, as owners don’t have to fear property tax spikes.  Visit with your County Assessor for more details.

Legislative Update
The Speaker has set this week as the deadline to pass House bills out of the chamber so there will be long hours of debate for the 400 or so bills awaiting action.  Bills passed last week were mostly non-controversial.  Here are a few highlights:
HB 1446 provides the guidelines by which a person who has had their driving license revoked for multiple “driving under the influence” offenses (DUIs) may obtain the right to drive again.  This bill was an initiative of the Illinois State Bar Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.  These groups argued that a lifetime revocation is too harsh for those who have been rehabilitated and for many people who want to work and need transportation to get to the job. 
HB 152 requires public schools to install carbon monoxide alarms where ever there is open combustion just like the current law for residential homes.  The alarms can be inexpensive battery operated units and paid with life-safety or other funds.
HB1335, colloquially known as the “Right to Try” Act, allows terminally ill patients to use unapproved medications.  Patients who have exhausted all other treatment options and have only a short time to live can “try” drugs still in their clinical trials.  The normal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug approval process takes years.  Eligible drugs must have successfully passed Phase 1 testing, but have not yet been approved for general use. 
HB303 amends the Illinois Freedom of Information Act by banning a government body from concealing the terms of a severance agreement funded by tax-payer dollars.  The bill provides protection for trade secrets, proprietary information, or other exempt information.  The impetus for the bill comes from a generous severance agreement between the College of DuPage board and the College President which has been sealed.
HB3143, a bill I sponsored in response to an accident in the district, amends the vehicle code regarding seizures.  Drivers would have to report to the Secretary of State any seizure among other medical conditions that would cause a loss of ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.  In addition, the bill provides that a person who has experienced a loss of consciousness or a seizure within the past 6 months commits reckless driving if they drive without controlling the condition by medical treatment or medication.
HB208 tries to create a new image for the state by adding pumpkin pie to our long list of state symbols.  According to the sponsor there is good reason to recognize the pumpkin since the state produces nearly 90 percent of the pumpkins grown for commercial sale in the United States.  This pie is good for the economy and tourism, especially in the region around Peoria.
Remembering Lincoln
Last Wednesday was the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s death.  A onetime state representative, Abe was honored on the House floor with speeches and remembrances of his impact upon the state and country. 
Lincoln is Illinois’ most favorite son and consistently ranks in the top 3 of most respected presidents in history.  He is a man who is remembered as having embodied the principles of this nation and who stuck by them despite fierce opposition and the country seemingly falling apart around him.  His legacy lives on as the liberator of slaves and the savior of the Union.
While Lincoln was focused on the war yet he was instrumental in many other significant policies.  He signed the Homestead Act which encouraged settlement of farms and increased food productivity.  He signed the Morrill Act which created land grant public colleges like the University of Illinois to educate citizens for the industrial age.  He was also instrumental in the first transcontinental railroad and the National Banking Act.
In preparation for the commemoration, I reread Lincoln’s second Presidential Inauguration Address and found some interesting correlation to our current state challenges.  In the speech the President sought to explain the factors leading up to the Civil War, efforts to avoid it and reasons for the suffering and resulting pain.  He asks if the war was the consequence for allowing slavery and concludes “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”  I wonder if Lincoln would say our current financial pain, program cuts and deteriorating economy are judgments for years of irresponsible budgeting, over promising and misplaced priorities.
Members of the House of Representatives lay a wreathe
at the Lincoln statue outside the capitol

Lieutenant Governor Visits District
Over the past few weeks the Task Force on Local Government Consolidation and Mandate Reform continued to hold meetings and gathered input from local units of government including schools in my district.  Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti talked with officials and students at Northern Illinois University and listened to comments from a sampling of local officials assembled to visit with her. 
We discussed local examples of sharing services between units of government, sharing facilities and in general avoiding duplication of services.  Many unfunded state mandates were discussed and the cost they add for local taxpayers.  The Governor and Lt. Governor are dedicated to the cause of reducing waste, increasing efficiency and relieving the burden of property taxes.

New State Superintendent Appointed
A new State Superintendent of Education was selected by the State Board of Education last week and now must be confirmed by the Senate.  Dr. Tony Smith, who assumes duties on May 1, brings considerable experience in education management in both the public and the private sector.  He currently works as executive director of the Stone Foundation which awards grants for children’s development and education.
         Smith has held a wide range of educational leadership roles, mostly in his native state of California, where he led the Oakland Unified School District.  There he helped to improve academic outcomes, district finances, family engagement and organizational coherence during his four-year tenure.  
Smith replaces Chris Koch, who served as State Superintendent since 2006 and is one of the nation’s longest serving chiefs.  Koch has held various leadership roles at the state’s K-12 education agency for 21 years, many dealing with students with special needs.
      I worked closely with Koch on many educational reforms including teacher and principal preparation and evaluation, learning standards, licensure and funding.  He was very accessible, cooperative, and focused on student outcomes.  

Have a great week; Spring has arrived, I think.

This past week the House of Representatives commemorated the 150th Anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s death.  References were made to the hundreds of books that have been written about this man and the lessons we can learn from his life.  One lesson that is particularly important for our society and especially Illinois today comes from his death and how to handle differences of opinion.

John Wilkes Booth was no deranged gunman who shot the President for fame or some random act of violence.  Booth was a successful renowned actor who came from a prominent family of actors.  When it came to real life situations and expressing his political beliefs, however, he didn’t know how to act.

Booth supported the Southern way of life and strongly disagreed with the changes that President Lincoln found necessary during the Civil War.  Not only did he oppose the emancipation of the slaves, Booth also disagreed with the expansion of powers by the federal government, implementation of an income tax, use of a military draft, and the occasional suspension of citizens’ legal rights.  

The actor could have opposed Lincoln’s policies by voicing his opinions, enlisting as a soldier for the Confederacy or helping campaign for one of the other presidential candidates in the 1864 election.  Unfortunately, many times dissent and frustration with policies are demonstrated through destructive actions such as rioting, looting and, yes, even killings.

The final lesson from Lincoln’s life for us today is that being silent, sitting on the sidelines or even violence against the President didn’t change the outcome of the war or any of the policies that Booth detested. 

In the coming weeks as we in Illinois face tough policy decisions--not unlike the ones Lincoln made--to save our state from financial ruin, provide for those most in need and preserve individual freedoms, let us take lessons from Lincoln’s Presidency.  Involve everyone, even the opposition, in the decisions.  Listen to the people as they express their views in public meetings, letters and peaceful demonstrations.  Seek what is moral, fair and right for all citizens.  Avoid violence that tears us apart.  Lincoln is still an excellent teacher after more than 150 years.

Bob Pritchard
State Representative 
State Representative Pritchard's bill regarding seizures and driving, HB3143, passed the Illinois House of Representatives today. The bill provides that a person commits reckless driving if he or she knowingly drives a vehicle when that person has, within the preceding 6 months, experienced a loss of consciousness or a seizure that would interfere with his or her ability to safely operate a vehicle, unless the person's condition is controlled by medical treatment or medication. The bill is now sent to the Senate for consideration.
Today is the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's death. As a one time member of the Illinois Statehouse, his legacy and impact was commemorated on the House floor. He is arguably our nation's greatest president and I would encourage everyone to read more about our 16th president and the lessons you can learn from him.

ROCKFORD, IL —The American Red Cross is partnering with Ogle and DeKalb Emergency Management Agencies, State of Illinois, and other local disaster assistance organizations to open two Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARCs) in Rochelle and Kirkland for residents of both communities affected by the tornadoes.

Representatives from state and local government, nonprofit, and faith-based organizations will be available at the one-stop-shop to assist disaster victims. At either resource center, individuals or families can meet with Red Cross caseworkers and members of other organizations to determine long-term recovery needs. 

These locations will be open:
Wednesday, April 15 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 16 from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Ogle County Location
Beacon on the Green Banquet Center
531 S. 7th Street
Rochelle, IL 61068

DeKalb County Location
First Lutheran Church
510 W. South Street
Kirkland, IL 60146

Assistance may include providing the means to pay for groceries, new clothing, rent, emergency home repairs, transportation, household items, prescriptions and medications, and tools. 

Residents should bring some form of identification showing their address in the affected areas. There is no charge for any disaster assistance. 

Since the tornadoes hit April 9, the Red Cross provided meals and snacks in the affected communities. The Red Cross opened a 24-hour shelter for two nights, and operated two emergency aid stations at Rochelle High School and the Kirkland Fire Department. Volunteers are driving trucks through neighborhoods and handing out relief supplies such as gloves, trash bags and cleaning supplies. Mental health workers also continue to provide emotional support to comfort people coping with loss.
In the town of Fairdale, 34 homes were destroyed, 16 suffered major damage, and another 22 suffered minor damage.

Volunteers are needed to help clear fields of debris before planting can begin in the next few weeks. If you're interested in helping, click here.

Right now money is the biggest need, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and other organizations need help. Find out more here.

Together Illinois is strong. The Village of Kirkland has need for certain items which you can find listed here.
In light of the recent storms please review some important safety precautions and facts about tornados here