Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to email@example.com
November 14th, 2016
In This Issue:
Ø Civics and Civility
Ø Looking Ahead in Illinois
Ø Volunteers and Private Interests Fight Hunger
Ø Trimming the Bureaucracy
Ø Major Energy Bill in the Works
Ø New Steps to Reduce Uninsured Motorists
Civics and Civility
Millenials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation and this year for the first time they now hold an equal share of the electorate. Both generations comprise roughly 31 percent of the voting-eligible population. Despite being such a large growing demographic, estimates show that only about 24 million people under the age of 29 voted last Tuesday.
To spur youth investment into politics and government, a recent state law now requires high school students to take a civics class. The course is meant to teach young people how to be responsible citizens who take an active role in the democratic process and translate their ideas and feelings in to political action.
In addition to service projects and simulations of the election process, students must also research and discuss current events and controversial topics. It is the hope that with classroom practice, students will develop the interest and skill to discuss public issues with civility and not avoid them.
In its first school year and a most unusual Presidential election, there were no shortage of issues or debates surrounding the election. Now that the election is over and we understand the nation is widely divided, we must find a way to look for common ground and seek to preserve our tradition of peaceful acceptance of the election outcome. Perhaps we adults should look to the high school civics class for guidance.
Looking Ahead in Illinois
In a statement after the election, Governor Rauner encouraged people to put the campaign rhetoric behind them and come together. He called a meeting of the legislative leaders for today to restart discussions about the many state issues as the fall veto session is scheduled to begin. Speaker Madigan says he won’t attend, perhaps bitter over the election or just unwilling to find common ground on anything.
There will be many issues including the budget for legislators to tackle in Springfield over the next three weeks of “veto” session and in early January in what is referred as the “lame duck session” before the 100th General Assembly is seated.
Of the 438 bills passed by the General Assembly this year, Governor Rauner vetoed 33. The House and Senate have thus far only overridden one veto (concerning Chicago police and firefighter pensions) in the past two years. None of the Governor’s amendatory vetoes, which change the language of the bill, have been accepted by the legislature.
One bill likely to be brought for an override vote institutes automatic voter registration. SB250 would automatically register anyone seeking a new or updated driver’s license or when they interact with several other state agencies. The Governor cited concerns about potential voting fraud, inaccurate registrations, and conflicts with federal law. The voter registration process run by the county clerk this past election seemed to work very smoothly.
Several bills were vetoed that raise the wages for homecare workers and assistants for the developmentally disabled. The cost to many public and non-profit agencies as well as the fiscal condition of the state are concerns.
The legislation that created EDGE tax credits, an incentive program to encourage companies to relocate or expand in Illinois, is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The program has been controversial with many asking if the costs are worth the jobs it brings. Without a full-year budget and as part of other cost saving measures, Governor Rauner suspended handing out EDGE credits last year. A decision on whether to keep, change, or let the program expire could be argued over the veto session.
Another issue that may come up in the House is the issuance of a state identification card for individuals recently released from prison. A bill to grant the ID passed the Senate and is supported by the Governor’s criminal justice reform commission. Most individuals released from prison do not have any form of identification and often lack the means to create an identity which hampers their ability to get a job or housing.
Brand new legislation, including possible new revenue sources and the budget may also be discussed during the veto session. Other legislation could include actions to mandate testing for lead in drinking water in schools after the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Volunteers and Private Interests Fight Hunger
I joined more than 4,000 volunteers this past weekend to help pack over 1.25 million meals for starving children in this country and around the world. Volunteers assembled ‘MannaPack’ meals, which are scientifically developed to reverse and prevent malnutrition.
The event was organized for “Feed My Starving Children” by the Suter Company, based in Sycamore. The company for the seventh year led recruitment and fundraising for the event. Over $264,000 was raised to purchase the meal ingredients and Suters shut down their facility for four days to provide space for the food pack assembly.
Such events as this are evidence of the compassion of Americans and how both private interests and volunteers can step in where government aid is lacking.
I congratulated the event organizers Greg Howells, Tim Suter and Heidi Wright.
Trimming the Bureaucracy
Governor Rauner, unable to get the general assembly to pass business reforms, used his executive order powers recently to promote economic growth and job creation. The new Illinois Competitiveness Council, will review all agency rules and regulations, and help spur growth by cutting the overly burdensome bureaucratic red tape with which Illinois citizens and businesses must deal.
According to the Governor’s office the council is expected to save Illinoisans at least $250 million in direct license fees over the next decade, and save Illinois taxpayers and business owners at least 4 million pages in paperwork. It will work to ensure current regulations are up to date and relevant to today’s industries and practices; ensure the language in rules are easy to understand; reduce the amount of unduly burdensome requirements on businesses, social service providers, and citizens through both time and cost; and ensure there is a clear need for the regulation.
The Council will be comprised of a representative from each regulatory agency. Illinois citizens are encouraged to report burdensome red tape directly to the Council or submit ideas on its website or here.
Major Energy Bill in the Works
Legislators have been alerted that an agreement among the electric generation and delivery companies, green energy interests and consumer groups may result in legislation and a vote in the next few weeks. The effort is driven by a number of concerns including the potential closing of two of Illinois’ 6 nuclear plants, stimulation of the solar industry and electric rates. The nuclear plant owners have said that without any legislative action, the plants in Clinton and the Quad Cities will close, which are vital to the economy in those areas.
Excelon is asking for legislation which could mean hikes in electric bills statewide to save the plants and hundreds of high-paying jobs. The rate hikes would also fund new wind farms, solar installations, and energy savings programs. The diversity of energy production sources and distribution methods is vital to maintain our growing energy consumption needs. The oil, coal and natural gas community have provided our country with reliable and low-cost energy for decades. While there is a large push to move towards other, greener energy sources, American energy consumption is still primarily dependent on fossil fuels and nuclear plants.
New Steps to Reduce Uninsured Motorists
The Uninsured Motorist Verification Advisory Committee on which I served recently finished its report for the General Assembly and is introducing legislation. The committee—including representatives from the insurance industry, Secretary of State’s office, law enforcement and legislators—reviewed systems in other states to verify if drivers have active vehicle insurance policies as is required by law.
The committee concluded that a web-based verification method directly connected with vehicle insurance companies would be the most practical and cost-efficient method. The report provides a source of funding and calls for implementation as soon as possible.