Springfield, IL... State Representative Bob Pritchard was appointed to the Utilization of Renewable Energy on State-Owned Properties Task Force today by Governor Rauner. The task force was created by House Bill 3560, an initiative of Representatives Pritchard and Butler, which was signed in to law today by the Governor as Public Act 99-155. The task force is tasked with considering the financial implications of installing and maintaining renewable energy facilities on State-owned property, the impact on property values and the community, and environmental factors relating to renewable energy. The task force is expected to present its report to the Governor and the General Assembly on or before September 1, 2016.
Springfield, IL… A bill aimed at helping veterans obtain jobs was signed in to law by Governor Rauner today. House Bill 3122, filed by Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore), creates the Illinois Veteran’s Preference in Private Employment Act. The bill was crafted with the input of the USA4militaryfamilies, Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

“Those that put their lives on the line and serve their country shouldn’t be forgotten when they take off their uniform and seek a job in the private sector,” Rep. Pritchard said.  “While many private companies may want to hire veterans for their leadership, job skills, and experience, they are cautious of violating laws against discrimination.”   

The act allows a private employer to 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. Current Illinois law already has a veteran’s policy for employment in the public sector.

“This is by no means a mandate,” Pritchard continued. “It simply gives companies guidelines, should they so choose, to adopt a pro-veterans’ hiring policy.” 

Representative Pritchard has sponsored numerous bills in recent years concerning issues important to military veterans and the USA4militaryfamilies organization.  
State Representative Pritchard along with freshman Representative Keith Wheeler, both representing parts of Kane County, hosted a successful coffee and conversation with locals on Saturday. 
DeKalb, IL... Scores of seniors perused tables at the senior fair hosted Thursday by local legislators and the Family Service Agency. The annual event, held at DeKalb High School, featured vendors representing services and products related to the elderly.

Read more about the event at the DeKalb Daily Chronicle
While Illinois faces $5 billion in unpaid bills and struggles to find the resources to pay for vital services, Legislative Democrats are again thwarting attempts to reject an automatic legislative pay raise that was enacted July 1st of this year.

On Tuesday, Illinois House Republicans, again, requested the immediate release from the House Rules Committee, a bill (HB 4225) that would prohibit 2% cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for State government legislative and executive elected officers and appointees for the FY2015 budget.

Read more here
House Bill 3721, originally filed by Representative Pritchard, was signed in to law today by the Governor. The bill expands the definition of "military service" to include any period of active duty by members of the National Guard who are called to active duty pursuant to an order of the Governor of this State or an order of a governor of any other state as provided by law. 
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

July 20, 2015
In This Issue:
  Ø  Hope To See You This Week
  Ø  Workers Compensation Report
  Ø  Temporary Budget Push Continues
  Ø  Whole House Discusses Budget Process
  Ø  State Has Another Symbol

Hope To See You This Week
Don’t forget two information-filled events this week.  On Thursday July 23 Senator Syverson and I will be hosting a health fair for seniors and their care givers.  We’ll have over 70 providers of services for the elderly to help them live more enjoyable lives.  Admission is free and so are the health screenings and refreshments.  It’s from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at the DeKalb High School, 501 W Dresser Rd.

My second coffee and conversation is this Saturday July 25 with fellow Kane County Representative Keith Wheeler.  We’ll discuss current issues in Springfield, provide background and answer your questions.  The coffee will be ready at 10 a.m. at the Campton Township Community Center, 5N082 Old LaFox Road, Campton Hills.  If you have questions about these events, call Jesse in my office.

Worker’s Compensation Report
In a recent letter published in the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Magazine, Chamber CEO Todd Maisch, explained that the worker’s compensation system has bloated beyond its original goal of helping legitimately injured workers with their medical bills and other payments.  As a result, the cost of the program has become another reason many businesses are leaving our state.

Maisch said our Worker Compensation System covers injuries not caused at the workplace with compensation levels that have become artificially inflated.  Employers, large and small, spend a total of $3 billion dollars a year on worker’s compensation in Illinois.

Last Wednesday the House Labor and Commerce Committee held a hearing on a recent report from the Worker’s Compensation Commission about the effects of system reforms in 2011.  The report stated that improvements and cost savings have occurred since 2011; however, the chairman of the commission, Joann Fratianni, explained that further improvements to the workers compensation system in Illinois are still necessary.

Illinois has moved from the 3rd most costly workers compensation system in the country to the 7th, but proponents of Governor Rauner’s reforms claim that those merely touched the surface of much larger structural problems that went unaddressed in the last reforms.  

Opponents to worker’s comp reform say that the only reason why more substantial savings were not seen as a result of the 2011 reforms was because the insurance industry is keeping a larger share of the profits.  That argument seems unrealistic since Illinois has one of the largest and most competitive insurance markets in the country.  With over 300 companies competing for business one would expect considerable price competition.  

In the past two weeks at least four large manufacturing companies have announced their plans to close plants and relocate outside of Illinois due to the business climate in our state.  General Mills announced it is closing its West Chicago plant and taking 500 jobs with it; all told the job losses from the four companies will total around 1,300.  

Governor Rauner is attempting to make our business climate more competitive with other states through his five point turnaround agenda which includes worker injury compensation reforms.  Among the changes he would like to see are the creation of a workers' compensation public advocate who could assist injured workers, improvements in billing and computer support, reliance on AMA permanent injury guidelines and a more accurate reflection of the party that caused the injury.

Temporary Budget Push Continues
Rather than engage in a discussion about a full-year budget, the Speaker of the House continues to push for one-month spending authorization.  One bill covering what the Speaker considers tier one services is on the Governor’s desk while a second bill covering tier two services failed on a vote in the House.  Both bills base the one-month spending on a full-year amount that is nearly $4 billion more than revenue.

As the State of Illinois enters its fourth week of the new fiscal year, there are no signs the Speaker is willing to negotiate with the Governor over his demands for reforms that will make Illinois more competitive, create jobs, and limit spending to no more than available revenue. 

Whole House Discusses Budget Process
The House held another Committee of the Whole last week with the topic this time being the budget reductions to five more program areas.  I imagine the purpose of the nearly three hour exercise was to point out the witnesses’ experiences with the programs.  The testimony certainly didn’t add any new information to what had already been discussed in various committees.

What was new, however, was an admission by Majority Leader Representative Currie that people crafting the Legislative budget did not determine how much revenue the state would take in before they developed their spending plans.  Despite a constitution requirement, Illinois hasn’t had a truly balanced budget since 2001.  As a result, Illinois has had its credit ratings and reputation squandered, and built a considerable debt.

In 1991, Illinois faced a similar budget standoff with Governor Jim Edgar and, again, Speaker Madigan.  At that time the budget faced a shortfall of almost half of what it is this year.  A budget was finally passed three weeks in to July back then because both sides compromised.  The Speaker, 24 years later and with Illinois in even worse financial shape, has been unwilling to budge this time.

State Has Another Symbol
Just in time for eating, sweet corn has been named the official state vegetable.  SB800 was signed into law last week by the Governor after a strong lobbying effort by 4th graders at the Chatham Elementary School.  Now maybe “mom” can get the kids to eat their vegetables at meals.

Illinois' new state vegetable joins 19 other state symbols such as the state animal (white-tailed deer), state flower (violet), state insect (monarch butterfly) and state soil (drummer).  I have a coloring book of symbols if you would like one for your “little ones.”


I look forward to seeing you at one of our events this week. 
Campton Hills, IL…. State Representatives Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) and Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) are hosting a coffee and conversation next week in Campton Hills. They will discuss the Spring legislative session thus far, the 2016 budget, and recent bills which will impact the community and the state as a whole. The Representatives will also be taking time to hear from local residents about the issues that affect them. The format will be informal so that constituents can interact with legislators and express their ideas and concerns. 

“There are a lot of questions out there about what’s going on in Springfield and we want to meet with the community to keep local residents informed,” Rep Wheeler stated. 

“These informal coffee settings are great way for residents to communicate to us what we can do in Springfield to help them,” Rep Pritchard followed up.

Where: Campton Township Community Center, 5N082 Old Lafox Road, Campton Hills

When: Saturday July 25th at 10am

Sycamore, IL…State Representative Bob Pritchard, State Senator Dave Syverson, and the Family Service Agency announce their 2015 Senior Citizen’s Health Fair on Thursday July 23rd at DeKalb High School, 501 West Dresser Road in DeKalb from 9am – 12pm.  The fair is free and open to the public.

“I encourage senior citizens and their care givers to come to the fair and learn about the businesses, doctors, and non-for-profits that work to improve their lives,” said Pritchard.  “While at the fair, senior citizens can take advantage of the numerous screenings and tests that are offered for free.”

Screenings offered at this year’s fair include: diabetic foot screenings, blood pressure, massage, vision, and hearing.  There will also be over 60 providers of services geared towards helping create better lives for seniors.
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com
July 13, 2015

In This Issue:
  Ø  Budget Stare Down
  Ø  State Employee Pay Update
  Ø  Governor Submits Pension Proposal
  Ø  Legislation Limits College Executive Benefits
  Ø  Fair Season Get Underway
  Ø  Health Fair for Seniors Next Week
  Ø  Upcoming Coffee and Conversation

Budget Stare Down
The gridlock over passing a state budget continues to focus on reforms.  The Speaker of the House refuses to talk about reforms before passing a budget while the Governor continues to hold fast to his belief that reforms will never happen once the budget is passed.  Last Thursday, the House debated for several hours a Senate version of a one-month appropriation it had defeated the week before.  This time, however, all 71 Democrat members were present and the bill passed along party-lines.  The Governor said he will veto SB2040.

While I support getting a budget as quickly as possible and helping at least the most vulnerable, the leaders must be engaged in the discussion.  There must be program reforms that reduce spending and improve operations, reforms that help employers compete and yes, new revenue.  I strongly oppose just spending one month of a budget that is $4 billion out of balance.  In addition the appropriation excluded a great number of important programs such as the Autism Project and domestic violence shelters in the Human Services area; court reporters as well as all of higher education to name a few things.

The governor addressed reporters last Wednesday saying that he was resubmitting his 5 ‘Turnaround Agenda’ proposals with some revisions based on debate in recent weeks.  Proposals for independent redistricting maps and term limits were resubmitted in the same language as in May because those issues have not been addressed at all by the House.  The governor continues to ask for reforms to change the way the state does business, make Illinois businesses more competitive with ones in other states, and to help expand the tax base.

State Employee Pay Update
A bill has been introduced to make state workers a part of the continuing appropriations just like judges and legislators.  HB4245 which could quickly pay workers is held in the Rules Committee and the Speaker refuses to hold a debate on it.  Meanwhile three courts have been asked to clear the air on the issue, but instead have muddied the water. 

Two circuit courts at near opposite ends of the state have given opposing views about whether the Comptroller without a budget can pay workers.  Due to the state's antiquated payroll systems, the Comptroller said she is unable to differentiate state employees in order to pay some the minimum wage as required by the federal Fair Labor Practices Act.  An Appellate Court has stopped any action to pay workers until they study the matter, hopefully by July 20. 

Governor Submits Pension Proposal
Governor Rauner unveiled a new omnibus pension proposal last week which took input from Chicago Mayor Emanuel, Cook County Board President Preckwinkle and Senate President Cullerton.  They believe the proposal sidesteps the Illinois Constitution’s iron clad prohibition of diminishing public worker benefits.

The proposal includes President Cullerton’s idea from several years ago to give public workers a choice between keeping cost of living adjustments to retirement income or having future wage hikes count toward pensions.  The bill would also give Illinois' local governments a route to Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy similar to Detroit, something they cannot do today.  The unit of government must undergo an evaluation by a third party or issue a declaration of a fiscal emergency.  Finally the proposal includes a much sought after city-owned Chicago casino with all of the revenues devoted exclusively to shoring up police and fire pensions.

Legislation Limits College Executive Benefits
A bill to limit the size and scope of community college severance agreements and buyout packages has passed both chambers and heads to the Governor.  The bill (HB3593) also limits employment contracts for college executives to four years.

The issue came to light when it was revealed that College of DuPage trustees granted an egregious severance package of $763,000 to its retiring president.  The college also allowed a practice of near automatic contract extensions with no board vote.  A Senate Democratic Caucus investigative report into the matter discovered practices of questionable financial management and issues at other community colleges and universities as well.

The bill limits employment contracts with a set start and end date to no more than four years with no provision for any automatic rollover clauses.  It also limits severance agreements to no more than one year salary and benefits.  Long-term contracts have become expensive for taxpayers in instances where an employee is underperforming and a change is needed.

Most often our college trustees do a commendable job and are fiscally prudent.  When exceptions occur that need to be addressed statewide, then legislation giving guidelines is appropriate.  

Fair Season Gets Underway
County fairs are an important aspect of Illinois tradition and fun part of summer.  Besides the tasty “fair” food and entertainment, you can encourage and celebrate the hard work and skills of our youth as they learn to care for animals and dozens of other projects. 

The Kane County fair opens Wednesday and runs through Sunday in St. Charles.  The DeKalb County 4-H general project fair is July 15-16 in Sycamore and the Livestock show July 31-August 2 in Sandwich.  Then there is the Boone County Fair August 11-16 in Belvidere.

I had the chance to speak with representatives from the local county fairs earlier this year in Springfield and they shared the significant economic and educational impacts of county fairs.  It was a real burst of memory from my years in 4-H and showing projects at the county fair.  Come to the fair and encourage our youth.

Health Fair for Seniors Next Week
The Senior Health Fair I organized 12 years ago has grown into a wonderful array of information, health screenings and opportunity to visit with nearly 70 health providers.  State Senator Dave Syverson, the Family Services Agency and Voluntary Action Center will be joining me in hosting the Fair on Thursday July 23rd at DeKalb High School Cafeteria (501 W Dresser Road) from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Admission is free and so are refreshments and a number of health screenings. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about local, regional, and state service providers who can help improve wellness and make life more enjoyable.  Professionals will be on hand to answer all of your questions. 

Upcoming Coffee and Conversation
Circle Saturday July 25th at 10 a.m. on your calendar and plan to join me for the second of four planned Discussions Over Coffee.  This one will be held in Campton Hills along with fellow Representative Keith Wheeler (R, North Aurora).  Please stop by the Community Center, bring your neighbors and join us for a lively discussion of the current issues in Springfield and your concerns.

Have a wonderful week.  I will be in Springfield on Wednesday ready to work on reforms and a balanced budget.  Call the office if we can be of assistance or you want to share your comments.
Bob


Springfield, IL.... State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) joins other legislators in asking Speaker Madigan to bring House Bill 4245 to the floor for debate.  The bill creates a continuing appropriation for state worker salaries just as is done for the legislative branch. 

"In this budget crisis, state workers and public university employees should be paid on time and in full just like legislators," Pritchard stated.

As part of the budget implementation last year, the legislative branch was added to the list of continuing appropriations which can be paid even if a budget is not yet approved. The budget year began July 1 without a balanced budget proposal.  Representative Pritchard added he is urging legislative leaders to allow the legislature to work on a balanced budget and the reforms necessary to move our state forward.

"In the meantime I also support a one month budget appropriation that is reflective of available revenue and not assume some make believe revenue amount," Pritchard added.  "The one-month budget bills before the legislature do not fund all of the state's essential services and they continue the pattern of overspending available revenue."
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com 
July 6, 2015
In This Issue:
  Ø  Pay Stops; Work Doesn’t
  Ø  Temporary Budget Fails in House
  Ø  Determination of Need Debated
  Ø  Campuses Go Smoke Free
  Ø  Forum for Veteran Owned Businesses
  Ø  Local Government Task Force Issues Report

Pay Stops; Work Doesn’t
As the state’s fiscal year begins without a budget, courts are being asked again which bills can be paid and which have to wait for a legislative appropriation.  The Attorney General is arguing in a Chicago court that state employees cannot be paid while the Governor thinks they can.  It’s also in question whether group homes for the developmentally disabled that depend upon state funding for even one resident can shut down.
The Governor sent a letter to all state employees on June 29 stating all state employees are expected to work their normal schedules, should not expect any lockout or strike, and that services provided pursuant to federal consent decrees should continue.
The letter went on to say the Governor would be pursuing everything within his power to ensure workers don’t miss a single pay check.  He added that his lawyers would be fighting any effort to overturn the precedent set in 2007 to pay workers even without a budget.  Attorney General Madigan and Speaker Madigan are seeking just such a court order to temporarily block paying state workers.
The Governor also indicated he is working with financial institutions to extend temporary bridge loans to employees without interest if the court precedent is overturned.  Credit Union 1, with offices throughout Illinois as well as Indianapolis and Las Vegas, will be offering no interest loans to state employees to get through the shutdown.
Some Republicans, including myself, have asked the State Comptroller to withhold our paychecks if state workers can’t get theirs.  Legislator pay is classified as a continuing appropriation — a budget item that state law mandates be funded like debt, pensions and retired employee health benefits even in the event of a government shutdown.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has reportedly gotten a federal court order requiring continuation of services to people with physical and psychological disabilities.  The state must continue to fund programs mandated by federal consent decrees which includes children who are wards of the state.  ARC of Illinois adds that some attorneys believe these decrees mean a group living facility must continue operations even if only one of its residents is covered by such a decree.
I continue to press legislative leaders to work with the Governor to reach a compromise on the budget and related reform proposals as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately there are indications the legislative leaders will wait months to reach an agreement so pressure will mount on the Governor to abandon all of his ideas to turnaround Illinois.

Temporary Budget Fails in the House
Instead of working to fix the unbalanced budget or avert a government shutdown, Speaker Madigan had House members spend two days last week listening to testimony of what could happen if the government shuts down.  Then on Wednesday, the Speaker introduced a one-month budget that ignored many essential services while continuing others at current levels well beyond expected revenue. 
That bill (HB4190) needed a supermajority of 71 votes to pass so that it could be implemented immediately, but it failed to garner the necessary support.  Meanwhile the Senate was passing its own version of a one-month budget that now comes to the House and may be voted on this week.

Determination of Need Debated
Illinois uses an assessment test called the Determination of Need (DON) to decide eligibility of the elderly and disabled for state programs.  The test evaluates the individual’s mental and physical ability to do normal daily tasks around the house and the amount of family assistance available.  The higher the score, the more services the individual is eligible to receive whether they stay in their home or move to a nursing or assisted living facility.
The legislature raised the DON score to be eligible for services to 37 as a part of the SMART Act in 2012 but the Governor never implemented the higher threshold.  While the legislature wanted to reduce eligibility, Governor Quinn didn’t.  Now Governor Rauner is proposing to implement the higher score which has set off a real debate not only among legislators, but also clients who might lose services and providers who might lose clients. 
AARP for one feels Illinois is serving too many individuals in nursing homes that have a low level of need.  The governor is focused on rebalancing the system and ensuring that individuals who are receiving state supported services actually need that level of support.

Campuses Go Smoke Free

The Illinois Smoke Free Campus Act took effect July 1 and now all college campuses must be smoke free.  Like previous laws regarding smoke free public buildings, the purpose of this act seeks to benefit public health and mitigate the secondary negative effects of smoking.
The prohibition includes using or carrying any kind of lighted smoking materials.  Research shows that smoking is the top cause of avoidable death in the United States, and by establishing a smoke-free environment, the hope is to reduce exposure to carcinogens and asthma triggers.  Smoke free environments encourage smokers to quit at a rate 84 percent higher than average.  You can learn more by visiting niu.edu/smokefree.

Forum for Veteran Owned Business
Any business owned by a veteran is invited to attend a forum about how to do business with the state.  The General Services Chief Procurement Office is hosting a public forum on July 22 from 1:30pm-3pm regarding state contracting with veterans.  Individuals may participate in person at Chicago or Springfield sites, or by conference call.  Central Management Services Director Tom Tyrrell is scheduled to attend to discuss legislative initiatives, review the Veteran Owned Business Program, and listen to public input and concerns.

          The meetings will be at:
Stratton Office Building, 401 South Spring, Room 349C, Springfield, Illinois

James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph, Room 14-612, Chicago, Illinois

Or you may attend the meeting via phone by calling:
1.888.494.4032, Access Code: 895 083 2216

Local Government Task Force Issues Report
Members of the Local Government and Unfunded Mandates Task Force, created by Gov. Bruce Rauner and chaired by Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, passed eight non-binding proposals on June 23 to help streamline and consolidate local governments to make them more effective and efficient.
The Task Force was charged with the responsibility of developing ways to reduce the size and cost of Illinois’ nearly 7,000 units of government.  These proposals were overwhelming supported by all members of the bipartisan task force:
·        Enact a 4-year moratorium on creating new local governments.
·        Expand DuPage County consolidation powers to all 102 counties.
·        Empower Illinois citizens to consolidate or dissolve local governments via referendum.
·        Repeal or reform prevailing wage.
·        Modernize public notice mandates.
·        Provide third-party contracting mandate relief.
·        Implement physical education mandate relief.
·        Provide drivers education mandate relief.

“Today a diverse group of state and local leaders joined together in support of proposals to structurally reform state and local government,” said Illinois Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti.  “I sincerely hope our leadership in the General Assembly puts politics aside and considers these needed reforms."

I hope you had an enjoyable celebration of our nation’s independence.  As you replay the weekend on Monday morning and its significance, I offer the words of our first President George Washington.  He said “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

We understand state employees have questions on how their benefits will be impacted as the state budget is no longer in place beginning July 1. The following Q&As were designed to help answer any questions you may have.

Employee Benefits

Q.  Will an employee's health, dental or life insurance be affected?
A.  No. Group insurance coverage during a budget situation will not be impacted. If paychecks are delayed, and as long as the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, insurance premiums will be taken accordingly. The missed payroll deductions will be taken once paychecks are issued.

Q.  What will happen to an employee's contributions to any flexible spending accounts (i.e., MCAP, DCAP) during the budget situation?
A.
Ø  Employees enrolled in MCAP will not be impacted. ConnectYourCare debit cards will continue to work. If the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, deductions should be taken accordingly. If MCAP deductions are missed, they must be made up when the budget situation is resolved.
Ø  Employees enrolled in DCAP may be impacted as reimbursements are limited to the available account balance contained in their DCAP account. If the employee continues to work and earn a paycheck, and once all payroll deductions are deposited into the DCAP account, reimbursements can be made for eligible expenses up to the available account balance.

Q.  What will happen to an employee's Commuter Savings Program benefit?
A.  Employees enrolled in the Commuter Savings Program will continue to receive the benefit under this program. Employees will owe any underpaid amount upon their return to payroll.