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.

Sycamore, IL... On Monday evening State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) and new State Superintendent Dr. Tony Smith talked to members of the community about his goals for education in Illinois, the PARCC test, and unfunded mandates. 

Read more about what was discussed at The Daily Chronicle

Rep Pritchard (Left) with Kingston Police Chief, George Taft (Center) and representatives from ComEd
Kingston, IL… ComEd, in conjunction with the non-profit National Safety Council, held a reception Tuesday (September 22) in Oakbrook, Illinois 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 Powering Community Safety grants.

“This grant is a well-deserved investment in the Kingston community and will help create a safer school zone” said State Rep Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore). “It’s great to see companies like ComEd taking the initiative as a force for safety and supporting efforts to better the communities in which they service.”

Police Chief George Taft accepted a check for $2800 which will go towards the purchase of a speed detection device for the police department.  It will be used to enforce the speed limit through the Village of Kingston and near the Grade School on Route 72. 

"These grants empower communities to reduce day-to-day risks by creating safer school zones, deploying AEDs and being better prepared to respond to emergency situations," said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. "We are proud of these Northern Illinois communities for investing in the safety of their residents so we can put an end to preventable injuries and deaths."

NSC is a nonprofit organization focused on saving lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes, and communities.  It will administer the annual Powering Community Safety grants with funding from ComEd.  Grants of up to $10,000 are awarded for each approved application.
To the editor,

It’s time for citizens to speak up!  I know you’re busy and speaking with elected officials is not something most people like to do.  However, the Legislature and Governor are at logger heads and you are the only force that can break the impasse.  They aren’t negotiating a budget or needed reforms to grow our economy.  As a result our state is sinking deeper in debt, the cost of programs keeps rising and some local providers are being forced to close their doors—perhaps forever.

You probably haven’t felt the fiscal crisis that has been brewing in our state since July.  Illinois is in the third month without a state budget but almost 90 percent of the usual annual expenditures are being paid through consent decrees, agreements, and court orders at rates we cannot afford.  As a result, the Comptroller’s office estimates that the state is on track to overspend anticipated revenue by $8 billion this fiscal year. 

Comptroller, DHS agree EI services fall under active consent decree 

Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger announced Wednesday that her office is setting up accounts and will immediately begin making payments to Early Intervention providers as soon as it receives vouchers from the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Munger learned from her Nonprofit Advisory Council last week that Early Intervention services were "slipping through the cracks" of consent decrees requiring payments during the budget impasse, and she contacted DHS officials to discuss what payment options were available. After looking more closely at several active consent decrees, DHS and the Comptroller agreed that Early Intervention services were covered and they immediately began setting up the processes for making payments to providers.

Read more on the caucus blog.
Sycamore, IL... Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) announces that Illinois State Superintendent of Education, Dr Tony Smith, will attend his next Education Advisory Council meeting on Monday September 21.  The meeting is open to the public for a discussion of current education issues and to meet the Superintendent. 

Representative Pritchard holds periodic Advisory Council meetings to discuss legislation, policies and issues affecting education across his district.  Parents, teachers, administrators and other interested citizens are welcome to share their opinions and ideas. Representative Pritchard sits on 5 House education committees concerned with elementary, secondary and higher education and is Republican spokesperson on two of them. 

Where: Sycamore High School Auditorium, 427 Spartan Trail, Sycamore, IL

When: Monday September 21st at 6 p.m.

I send out informative updates on what's happening in Springfield and in our area regularly. The newsletter is called "Pritchard's Perspective". Sign up to receive it in your mailbox!
Summer is ending, but roadway construction continues in to the fall. Work zone speed limits are in effect 24/7, so slow down whether or not workers are present.

Ongoing work includes:

  • Rebuilding and widening the eastern segment of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) between the Elgin Toll Plaza and the Tri-State Tollway (I-294)
  • Construction on Illinois Route 390 between Lake Street (U.S. Route 20) and I-290 as part of the Illinois Route 390 Project
  • Roadway resurfacing on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) between Illinois Route 251 near Rochelle and U.S. Route 52 near Dixon

See detailed information on projects here

Additionally, this summer has been a record breaker in terms of people on the road, as we head in to another holiday weekend, try to travel smart. If you can travel during non-peak hours: The best time to start your trip is Thursday before 1 p.m. or Friday between 10 and 11 a.m. or after 7 p.m. Find out what is on the road before you get on the road. The Illinois Tollway and its partners put information at your fingertips:

As the Governor's vetoes are starting to be considered in the House, here's some helpful information on the veto process.

The Illinois Constitution provides the Governor with four possible veto alternatives, below is a brief description of each:

Total Veto

The Governor can veto an entire bill by returning it with his objections to the chamber in which it originated. The General Assembly can override this veto by a vote of three-fifths of the members elected to each chamber.

Item Veto

The Governor can veto any item of appropriations in a bill by returning it to the chamber in which it originated. The General Assembly can override this veto by a vote of three-fifths of the members elected to each chamber. 

Read more on the Caucus Blog.
DeKalb, IL... State Representative Bob Pritchard and State Treasurer Michael Frerichs took part in a 16 person round-table discussion on college affordability at NIU on Monday. The treasurer was at NIU to talk with students, administrators, and community members about college costs and his 529 savings plan. 

The treasurer spoke at length about Monetary Award Program (MAP) funding, state aid to low income college students. MAP is a portion of the budget that is in jeopardy without a budget. Representative Pritchard acknowledged that state policy and spending regarding higher education was partly to blame for the skyrocketing costs of tuition over the past years. He supports increasing spending on MAP, but the piecemeal approach to budgeting is setting the state on a dangerous path towards gross overspending. 

“Unfortunately, the bill that would fund MAP ... is like so many other bills,” Pritchard said. “It’s looking at one or two programs without any recognition of how that fits into the overall budget.”

Rep. Pritchard admitted the state needs to do more to ensure better access to higher education for everyone, but he also spoke about how important it is that parents make an effort to save money for college early. The state operates tax free 529 saving plans through the treasurer's office. "Even small investments per year in a savings plan sends a strong message to students that college is possible." He continued. 

Read more about the discussion here.