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