Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

August 18, 2017
In This Issue:
·         Education Funding Reform Pressure Builds
·         House Resolution Condemns Domestic Terrorism in Charlottesville
·         Governor Rauner Signs Bills into Law
·         Uniformity in Property Tax Assessments Discussed
·         Concealed Carry Applications Declining
·         Annual Reading Program Concludes with Celebration

Education Funding Reform Pressure Builds
While schools are opening across the state, there is uncertainty about how long they can operate without state funding.  As you may recall, the state budget contained a provision that school funding could not be released until the new school funding reform bill--SB1--becomes law.  After delaying to send the bill to the Governor for nearly two months, the Senate finally acted on July 31 whereupon the Governor issued an amendatory veto.
The Senate returned to Springfield last Sunday to override the veto but the House now delayed action until next week.  All of these delays add to the anxiety of school officials, teachers, parents and legislators; and build pressure to accept the bill that was modified in late May to benefit Chicago Public Schools.
Until that time I was a major sponsor of the bill to improve the adequacy and equity of funding of all schools so every child receives a quality education.  Neither the Governor nor I could accept those changes and the manipulation of the Evidence Based Model for the benefit of one school district.
I believe the House will fail to override the Governor’s veto and SB1 will not become law.  A group of legislators have been meeting for weeks to negotiate a compromise and we have made significant progress.  The legislative leaders from the four caucuses will meet tomorrow to see if they can finalize an agreement for new legislation.  
Here is what I said on the House floor this week that needed to be changed in the legislation.  A new bill can be passed and signed into law yet this month if the Speaker and Senate President allow a resolution.  There is no reason to put schools through the same financial pressure that the legislature created for our colleges, universities, human service providers and others over the past two years.

House Resolution Condemns Domestic Terrorism in Charlottesville
House Resolution 569 was presented during legislative session this week, to condemn the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.  The Resolution specifically repudiates and condemns white supremacists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and any other group that espouses hate and seeks to undermine the ideals of Illinois and the nation.
The resolution had unanimous support from lawmakers, and referred to the incidents that took place in Charlottesville over the weekend as domestic terrorism.

Governor Signs Legislation into Law
Dozens of bills have been signed into law over the past month at ceremonies large and small around the state.  Here are a few of note.
HB1805--called the Drive for Life Act-- will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to express their wishes to be organ donors.  I was a co-sponsor of this initiative and believe it will help save lives.  This law will give hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents the opportunity to join the organ donor registry each year.  Just in Illinois there are more than 4,700 people on the waiting list to receive an organ transplant.  Being an organ donor can make a positive impact on so many other lives. 
Now that it is law, SB8 makes improvements in the state procurement process that will help reduce costs, red tape and frustration.  The changes were made following input from agencies, universities and individuals who felt the current law unnecessarily restricted purchasing and didn’t affect ethical oversight or transparency.
The criminal justice reform bill--SB 1413-- was signed into law, which allows men and women to receive a copy of their birth certificate without charge upon their release from the Department of Corrections.  This bill removes financial barriers for those seeking a fresh start and trying to get back on track after time in prison.

Uniformity in Property Tax Assessments Discussed
Property owners often question the work of Township Tax Assessors and the fairness and accuracy of their valuations.  The topic also came up this week in school funding discussions about the uniformity of the property assessment process across the state.
The work of local assessors is reviewed by the County Assessor and the Illinois Department of Revenue.  The Taxpayers Federation of Illinois recently released its monthly Tax Facts Report with an article about the uniformity of tax assessments.
The report, based on the latest data from the Department of Revenue, reveals a wide variation in property tax assessments across Illinois.  The conclusion is drawn by looking at the Coefficient of Dispersion (COD), which compares the assessment ratio for properties sold with the median level of assessment.  In simple terms the smaller the COD number, the closer to the median and more uniform the assessment.  A perfect score would be zero.
The 2015 data found that McClean County was the most uniform while Alexander County was the least uniform.  For our area, Kane County is ranked 6th most accurate in the state with a COD of 12.05, Boone 12th with a score of 18.27, and DeKalb 16th with a score of 19.29.  
The COD is not entirely dependent on the quality of the work done by assessing officials.  A low COD is highly correlated to the homogeneity of property within the taxing district.  It is easier to achieve a low COD in taxing districts with large numbers of similar properties than in districts which have a mix of properties or in areas where values are fluctuating. 
The report shows that the average assessment uniformity is trending upwards, and will continue to improve with aided stabilization in the real estate market.  The uniformity of assessments matters because without it, the property tax system cannot be fair.  
This week, State Representative Bob Pritchard urged colleagues in the House of Representatives to continue working toward the right solution to school funding reform. Pritchard noted that SB1, in its current form, is not yet right due to the last minute changes that benefit one school district at the expense of all other in the state. 

“We’re very close,” said Pritchard. “Delaying votes and delaying meeting dates, only delays the goal that we have of helping our students learn.”


The House of Representatives will resume session next week, in the hopes of moving forward on a compromised solution.
State Representative Bob Pritchard recently participated in a panel discussion with fellow lawmakers on possible solutions to the education funding formula and the current legislation on the topic.

Illinois is a crucial turning point for education funding. With a many schools throughout Illinois already in session, pressure is building on lawmakers to pass legislation with the necessary funding to keep all 852 school districts in Illinois open.

The panel discussion surrounded how the state can best change how education is funded, when such reform efforts have been ongoing in the General Assembly for over a decade. The state has not adequately funded education costs, which as Representative Pritchard noted in his remarks, is the most important service the state can provide.

You can hear more of Representative Pritchard’s views on the status of education funding, the evidence based model that the legislation is based on, and more here.
Governor Bruce Rauner recently signed HB2371 into law, which will help improve Illinois’ cyber-security efforts.

The Governor created the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) through an Executive Order issued at the start of the 100th General Assembly. The State Agency was created to protect the large scope of data that our state has and continues to acquire, but also to support the infrastructure and future of Illinois.

Rep. Pritchard was a chief co-sponsor of the legislative measure that through DoIT, will provide for the training of state employees on the importance of cybersecurity. This will help improve and protect state computer networks, by giving employees the tools and knowledge to understand the risks of cyber threats and learn the best practices to defend state systems against such attacks. The areas the training program will cover include: identity theft, detecting phishing scams, preventing spyware infections and preventing and responding to data breaches.

Pritchard advocated for the bill to help arm the state against cyber threats, and provide better security to the state’s information and to all Illinois residents. Cybersecurity is a public safety issue, and this legislation provides one further step to help ensuring the safety of all residents and the state infrastructure.

The bill was signed by the Governor at a ceremony in the DoIT Innovation Center in Chicago, and becomes effective January 1st, 2018. Through this bill, Illinois becomes the 15th state to adopt mandatory cyber-security awareness training for state employees.

State Representative Bob Pritchard recently hosted a senior fair in partnership with State Senator Dave Syverson and the Family Service Agency.

The fair provided information to area seniors on the countless resources available to them in the DeKalb community. At the event, 80 vendors from the areas of state, county, and local government, health, and wellness organizations were present to help serve the over 350 seniors who attended.

The fair brought many vital services and information to seniors in one space, to make it convenient for area seniors to discover what’s available to them.

Family Service Agency who also sponsors the event has worked with area seniors in the DeKalb community for over 50 years. The organization holds countless programs to help seniors maintain physical, emotional, social wellness, while also promoting senior independence.

Rep. Pritchard’s office is available to help assist seniors with state related issues, and can be reached at (630) 748-3494.

Rep. Pritchard's annual senior fair always draws a large crowd, and this year welcomed over 350 guests.

Sycamore, IL--As the 2018 election cycle approaches, State Representative Bob Pritchard announces he will not seek re-election. “I have appreciated the opportunity to represent the residents of the 70th district over the past 14 years but feel the time has come for another to voice the interests of this district,” he said.

“Like our founding fathers, I do not believe serving in the legislature should be a career but rather long enough to learn the process, make contributions and then return to other activities,” Pritchard stated. He will serve out his term which ends in January of 2019 and continue to be activity engaged in the issues and events of the district. He looks forward to spending more time in the family farming operations, with his grandchildren and in various organizations.

Pritchard said some of the challenges facing our state are a result of representatives serving too long, being unwilling to compromise on difficult issues, and losing the perspective of the impact government has upon private citizens and businesses. “I think we have a better system of government when more citizens take time from their careers to run for public office, and experience the challenges of making public policy for their communities or for a state as diverse as Illinois,” the legislator added.

“I have enjoyed the opportunity to make new friends, listen to the ideas and concerns of residents, and participate in the life of each community in the district,” Pritchard added. “I have tried to keep people informed of the complex issues facing the legislature and our state, and encourage their participation in the process of creating public policies. My efforts would not have been possible without the able assistance of district director Jesse Sheehan, assistant Shelley Ziola, staff in Springfield, and numerous supporters. I deeply appreciate their efforts.”

Pritchard has served on numerous House committees and sponsored legislation on many important issues during his time in the legislature involving agriculture, education, veterans affairs, human services, healthcare, the environment and government operations. He is currently Republican spokesperson on several committees including education and state government administration, plus Co-Chair of the General Assembly Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability.
Governor Bruce Rauner recently asked a group of Republican lawmakers to negotiate the school funding reform legislation. Time is running out as the start of the school year is quickly approaching—leaving many school districts without sufficient funding to open in the coming weeks.

While the Governor has been waiting for the school funding bill, Senate Bill 1, to be sent to his desk, no further action can be taken. Currently the bill remains in the Senate, where it has been held by its sponsor since it passed both chamber back in May.

State Representative Bob Pritchard has been designated to the group of lawmakers who will lead negotiations for the Republican Caucus, alongside State Representative Avery Bourne in the House, and Senator Jason Barickman, and Senator Dan McConchie.  They will be meeting with their Democrat colleagues through the weekend to make progress toward an agreement so schools can open on time. Governor Rauner has set July 31st as the deadline for the legislation to come to his desk for consideration. 

Pritchard has been at the forefront of education funding reform, and will use his expertise to lead productive bipartisan negotiations surrounding school funding, to find a solution that is beneficial to both schools and tax payers. If a reasonable compromise cannot be reached, the Govenror will move forward with his plan to issue an amendatory veto of SB1 on Monday.

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 24, 2017

In This Issue:
Ø  A Closer Look at the Budget
Ø  Local Government to Receive More Timely Payments
Ø  Status of Education Funding
Ø  Credit Rating Slide Halted for Now
Ø  Higher Education Funds Forthcoming
Ø  Senior Health Fair on Thursday

A Closer Look at the Budget
With any bill that is as comprehensive as an appropriation bill, people can focus on one section and overlook the compromises that were made to pass the bill.  For example, statements have been made there weren’t spending cuts.  No pension reforms.  No effort to pay old bills.  Upon a closer look at the FY2018 budget, you will see these perceptions are wrong.  
Perhaps most importantly we have a budget for the first time in 2 years.  We now have guidelines for spending and available revenue which are both below what the governor requested in his February budget address.  Yes, in order to recover from the crippling debt and unpaid bills, state income taxes were increased 1.2 percent for individuals and 1.75 percent for corporations--to a level below FY2014.  These increases were effective July 1st, the start of the new fiscal year.  The Illinois Department of Revenue estimates that the individual income tax increase will generate $4.453 billion in FY2018 and the corporate income tax increase $514 billion.
Just as few people are willing to pay more tax; neither are most willing to see their favorite program cut.  Even so, the budget provides for about $3 billion less spending.  Among those cuts were 10 percent less for public universities and 5 percent less for certain programs in most agencies. 
Spending for pensions will be reduced by $500 million through several actions in the appropriation bill.  There will be a third pension tier for new state workers, and pension payments will be evened out rather than fluctuating greatly from year to year.  More comments about old bill payment later in this newsletter.

Local Government to Receive More Timely Payments
The State Revenue Sharing Act provides an important source of revenue for local units of government like counties, townships and cities.  As the state receives income tax revenue, a portion is transferred to the Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF) and paid monthly to the units based on population. 
With the state’s cash flow problems, revenue transfers have been delayed causing fiscal challenges for many units of government.  The FY2018 budget addresses this issue and LGDF funding in two ways. 
First, the budget and implementation bill makes the transfer of money from the state’s General Revenue Funds (GRF) to LGDF as a direct deposit thus making the money available immediately and avoiding the past delays in transfers of 2 months or more.  This is an issue local governments have been seeking for years.
The new budget also provides for a 10 percent reduction in the amount of funds sent to local governments just for FY2018 to help balance the state’s budget.  However, the state will also catch up in payment for the past 2 months currently owned local units.  The net effect on local units of government will be about a $90 million increase in payments during FY2018. 
This new procedure in transferring funds is another way the FY2018 budget seeks to address paying the backlog of bills.

Status of Education Funding
While the FY2018 budget provides for about $12 billion in funding for K-12 education, it cannot be spent unless Senate Bill 1—school funding reform-- is signed into law.  The governor has threatened to veto the bill so the Senate has held the bill since May 30 hoping to get some compromise with the governor.
Last week, Governor Rauner asked that the bill be sent to him by today or he will call more special legislative sessions this week.  The Governor appears ready to make amendments in his veto of the bill to reduce pension payments for Chicago schools among other actions.
The legislature then has two options: accept the amendments--which appear very unlikely-- or over-ride the veto.  If this veto cannot be overridden, the bill will be dead and conversations toward a better compromise would continue and a new bill drafted. 
Efforts are being made to find a compromise and draft it in a bill that could be passed and signed into law before the vote to over- ride the veto in the House.  While that is an uncertain course, it would preserve SB1 as the education reform bill and take into consideration concerns voiced by many legislators and the governor.
One of the current stumbling blocks is the charge that SB1 favors Chicago Public Schools (CPS) over other districts in the state.  The bill calls for the state to pay CPS current pensions (just like the state does for all other school districts), and allow CPS to count its unpaid pension debt as part of the districts local capacity target.  In addition, CPS will continue to receive grants based on 1995 student numbers rather than use current student numbers like all other districts.
Another stumbling block is the provision to provide a floor of funding for every school district based on their payments in FY2017 rather than a floor based on student enrollment.  The state currently pays districts an amount per student based on a three-year average enrollment.  
One of the compromises for the CPS benefits in SB1 would be to allow all school districts to have the 3rd party contracting provisions and management negotiation rights given to CPS in 1995.  Those provisions would allow districts to reduce expenses and give districts more flexibility.

Credit Rating Slide Halted for now
The legislature may not have handed the governor a budget he wanted but at least it stopped a threatened downgrade in the state’s credit rating.  Moody’s Investors Service had warned of a downgrade to junk bond status if the state took no action on passing a budget. 
Yet there are long-term challenges still facing the state which continue to threaten its credit rating—now at Baa3.  The analysts are concerned about the pile of unpaid bills, and how the state will manage its cash flow situation.
The General Assembly crafted a way to pay the $15 billion in unpaid bills without raising taxes.  The budget sweeps special funds of about $1 billion and allows for the governor to borrow up to $6 billion dollars to pay the bills.  Combined with federal matching dollars for paying Medicaid bills, the accumulated unpaid bills could be reduced to about $4 or 5 billion--which many feel is acceptable for a budget of our size. 
The governor, however, is undecided if he will exercise that borrowing authority.  This indecision makes the credit agencies nervous.  They are also concerned that the governor hasn’t acted as he indicated to re-negotiate lower payments for judicial consent decrees that drove paying billions of dollars when the state didn’t have the money.     
Another practice that concerns the credit analysts is the state entering into contracts with vendors for services without having appropriation authority.  This has forced some vendors to wait years for payment and some have stopped serving the state or gone out of business.
The Governor could improve the fiscal situation by further reductions in state spending.  His agency heads in recent legislative hearings, however, didn’t have any ideas for cuts that they were willing to make.  It’s therefore hard to criticize the legislature for not making more spending cuts.
The climb out of the Illinois fiscal hole continues and much more work is needed to satisfy the credit agencies, citizens and businesses looking for a sound fiscal policy from the state.

Higher Education Funds Forthcoming
Comptroller Susanna Mendoza has released $695 million in existing education funds to begin paying community colleges, universities, and MAP grants for students.  The institutions were under severe budget constraint since state payments have only been made partially and intermittently over the past two years. 
This money included $327 million for the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) that helps an estimated 110,000 students who qualified for the need-based scholarships.  The release of these funds is extremely significant as it provides assurances to many students attending school in the fall that they will have funding, and that scholarships would be honored.
The uncertainty of higher education funding over the past two years has encouraged nearly 60 percent of high school graduates attending college to go out of state.  In addition, out-of-state universities have been raiding Illinois schools to employ our best teachers and researchers.
The FY2018 budget provides back funding to pay higher education institutions for FY2017 at the rate of the budget in FY2015.  Collectively this funding provides assurances that the institutions will continue to receive accreditation, something that was in jeopardy.  Comptroller Mendoza added that every $1 invested in higher education returns $4 in economic activity for the state.

State Representative Bob Pritchard and State Senator Dave Syverson are hosting a health fair for older residents and their care givers next week in partnership with the DeKalb County Family Service Agency. The annual event brings together over 70 vendors representing different state agencies, local businesses, and health service organizations for area seniors.

The event will be held on July 27th from 9am-noon at DeKalb High School, 501 W. Dresser Road.

Rep. Pritchard urges area seniors to attend this year’s event to take advantage of the information and the various free health screenings available. “Bringing free health screenings directly to seniors is one way we hope to encourage overall health and wellness,” said Pritchard.

This year’s free health screenings will include hearing tests, and blood pressure. There will also be a special presentation on veteran’s benefits from the Illinois Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and a fire safety demonstration.

“I am looking forward to visiting with individuals and providers about their health and care needs plus facilitating the sharing of the tools they need to continue leading healthy lives,” said Senator Syverson. “This event conveniently combines various state and health services to help seniors improve every aspect of their lives.”

Light refreshments will be served, courtesy of the Voluntary Action Center, and all attendees will have the opportunity to win special door prizes. For questions about the upcoming event, contact Rep. Pritchard’s district office at (815) 748-3494.
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 3rd, 2017 
In This Issue:
ØFinally, a budget!
ØSpending Bill Highlights 
ØThe Value of Special Sessions
ØLegislation Debated in Regular Session
ØLocal Teacher Receives More Recognition
ØRemember Why We Celebrate

Finally, a budget!
What passed the General Assembly over the weekend was a balanced budget for FY2018 that included supplemental spending for FY2017 and a method to pay a portion of the state’s $14.3 billion of unpaid bills.  The budget relies on increasing income taxes to 4.95 percent for individuals and 7 percent for corporation, but does not include any proposed new program spending, expanded sales taxes, new gaming revenues or taxes on satellite entertainment.
My vote in support of the revenue and spending bills came from a basic conclusion that our state needs a balanced budget that stops the insane overspending, failure to pay our bills, and lack of stability.  It would have been easy to oppose the tax increase but I saw no other solution to solving our fiscal issues.
People have been asking for months if I was frustrated with the gridlock and failure to pass a budget.  I have been patient because there were lots of ongoing discussions with agreements over reforms, spending reductions and revenue.  Facing the start of our third year without a budget in my view was unacceptable.  It was time to vote on the bipartisan agreements that had been made.
Our state has been overspending available revenue for years.  When the temporary income tax ended in 2015, spending continued at the FY2015 level primarily due to court orders, consent decrees and continuing appropriations.  Without a budget, the state couldn’t seek court relief from spending nor could revenue be expanded.  
I believe reaching a balanced budget will bring stability and predictability for families and our economy.  Businesses have often told me they want the state to be fiscally responsible and have a stable tax structure.  The fact the state will now pay down old bills means small businesses and organizations that provide goods and services to the state will receive the billions of dollars owed them.  They can also plan on what their taxes will be and be less concerned about a much larger tax increase.

Spending Bill Highlights
The spending bill (SB6) cut general revenue spending by nearly $3 billion through across the board cuts of 5 percent to most operating lines and 10 percent cuts for colleges and universities.  Changes to the pension system cut an additional $500 million.
K-12 education funding included $350 million to begin implementing the new evidence-based funding formula, $50 million more for early childhood education and $38 million more for bilingual education.  Increased funding for regular and vocational transportation helps cover more of the school districts’ expenses but still only covers 84.6 percent of the costs.
Human Services highlights include rate increases for Community Care Program providers and front line community services staff, mental health centers, addiction treatment services and home services.  Eligibility for the child care program is raised to 185 percent of poverty, and there is FY2017 and FY2018 funding for domestic violence shelters.
Higher education funding included supplemental funding for FY2017 operations of public colleges and universities, and student Monetary Assistance Program funding for FY2017 and increased funding for FY2018.  The funding should significantly help Northern Illinois University turn things around and help stabilize declines in student enrollment.
General Services appropriations fully fund the group health insurance program, include cuts of 10 percent to the Governor and Lt. Governor, and pay court reporters out of local unit of government funding (PPRT) rather than state general revenue.  Funding was included for Soil and Water Conservation staff and programs.
The budget included re-appropriations for some capital projects approved in 2009 which include remaining funding to complete Stephens Hall at Northern Illinois University and the DeKalb Public Library expansion.

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

June 26, 2017
In This Issue:
Ø“You Can Bring a Horse to Water, But…”
ØAttention Drawn to University Challenges
ØADM Announces Expansion in Illinois
ØCommittee of the Whole Discusses Various Reforms
ØVeterans Invited to Join Advisory Council

 “You Can Bring a Horse to Water, But…”
Governor Bruce Rauner is trying a well-worn strategy of calling Special Sessions to bring legislators together to pass legislation.  In fact he’s called for sessions each day until a budget is passed or July 1, whichever comes first.
Like the old time adage I learned as a youth “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”  Neither could Special Sessions called by Governors Blagojevich nor Quinn get legislators to pass the bills they wanted.
Governor Rauner, however, tried something a little different than his predecessors and on the eve of Special Session, he delivered a state-wide televised address to Illinois residents.  In it he explained the purpose of his proclamation and urged compromise and unity during the Special Sessions.
There was a sense of urgency as legislators returned to Springfield last week since most had been hearing about the need to pass a budget from their constituents and service providers while they were home.  Like all the Special Sessions before, however, the Speaker gaveled the session to order then promptly adjourned it.  No one was allowed to “drink.” 
After the first few days of Special Sessions with no legislation or time for debate, the atmosphere got a little heated.  I spoke to emphasize the support and willingness of colleagues on my side of the aisle to work on a budget agreement.  You can see more of my remarks here.

Attention Drawn to University Challenges
Illinois universities were in the news this past week for the different challenges they face.  Northern Illinois University captured a lot of attention when President Doug Baker announced he would leave the University this week.  He came to the institution in 2013 with plans to build university relations with the community and focus the university on its core mission, strengths and opportunities.  He became embroiled in hiring decisions, his plans for changes and the lack of state financial support.
Acting President Lisa Freeman inherits more than the challenges of being the first woman president.  The faculty formed a new union in response to several issues including the lack of a pay raise in over 6 years.  Out-of-state universities are stalking key faculty with offers of more stability, job security and resources for their work.  Recruiting new students has become increasingly difficult as they look at lower tuition costs, program stability and better faculty moral at out-of-state institutions. 
These challenges, however, are not unique to NIU.  I spoke out in the House last week about the damage being down to all our universities and colleges—public and private-- due to the lack of a state budget. 
I referenced a letter from the Higher Learning Commission to members of the General Assembly and state leaders which drew alarm that our institutions may face loss of accreditation.  The Commission is the oversight agency for 19 states that assures the quality of colleges and universities for students.
Lack of accreditation would mean students are ineligible for federal financial aid.
The Commission letter pointed to other impacts of not having a state budget:
·        Higher tuition and fees
·        Declining student enrollment
·        Loss of faculty, staff and programs
·        Deteriorating buildings, labs and infrastructure
·        Depleted cash reserves and grants
I repeated my commitment to work together to find a budget agreement that will provide the necessary funding to higher education and with that, give the needed certainty that schools can continue to operate.  For NIU, I am ready and willing to help University President Freeman and the entire NIU community overcome these challenges and focus on ways it can improve the lives of students and support a growing Illinois economy. 
Today is Flag Day, where we commemorate the adoption of the United States Flag. Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the American flag on June 14th, 1777. After that, additional stripes and starts were added when welcoming new states. The colors were also specifically chosen and have special meaning: the red symbolizes hardiness and valor, the white symbolizes purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.

National Flag Day is always observed on June 14th and typically celebrated throughout the entire week. After three decades of informal celebrations of this day around the country, Flag Day was officially established by President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. But it wasn’t until President Harry Truman declared through an Act of Congress, Flag Day to be a national holiday. However, only Pennsylvania celebrates Flag Day on June 14th as a federal holiday.

Flag Day is an opportunity to show American pride. During this week, you will often see the flag proudly displayed on government buildings and many others around the country.

The American flag is a special source of pride and inspiration for United States citizens. Americans enjoy the greatest freedoms, and today you can celebrate by flying the flag!

The budget impasse has had a lasting impact on higher education in the State of Illinois. The University of Illinois School System—the state’s largest educator—expressed the effect the lack of state funding is having on its universities as well as students. 

University of Illinois officials wrote to lawmakers at the end of spring legislative session in the General Assembly to express their concerns over the continuing budget impasse, and detail the severity of its effect on state schools. You can find a copy of their letter here.

Above all, financial uncertainty has left faculty leaving for other opportunities and Illinois residents choosing other higher education options in other states. The impasse has hurt enrollment and impacted the national ranking of Illinois’ schools, leading many to choose other more appealing options. Illinois now ranks second, only to New Jersey, in having the highest net ranking of students who leave for colleges out of state. In 2015, that number amounted to 45% of high school graduates in Illinois.

Institutions of higher education have encouraged lawmakers to work together to put an end to the impasse and come to a budget agreement that will sufficiently fund Illinois’ schools and provide a more certain future.

With regular session in Springfield concluding without a budget in place, more pressure needs to be placed on lawmakers to encourage compromise and an end to the budget stalemate.

Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

June 5, 2017
In This Issue:
Ø  Yucky Medicine
Ø  New School Funding Formula Passes Both Chambers
Ø  Key Legislation Passed in Final Days of Spring Session
Ø  Summer Reading Program Launched

Yucky Medicine
Do you remember when you were sick as a kid; mom would often give you a spoonful of something that tasted terrible?  That’s how Illinois is right now.  We are terribly sick fiscally and we don’t want to take the medicine that will make us better.
The bond rating company downgrade last week is just the latest indication of how sick we are.  Having a rating one notch above junk status and the lowest of any state in the history of our country should motivate us to take some corrective medicine.  If you don’t believe the bond houses, then look at the mounting pile of unpaid bills or the students fleeing Illinois because colleges are cheaper and more stable someplace else. 
Judging from constituent calls to my office and actions by the legislature, many refuse to take the yucky medicine.  Nearly every policy think tank says the medicine must include spending cuts, reforms to stimulate job creation and yes, revenue increases. 
The House of Representatives continues to ignore the medicine and didn’t even respond to the “doctors” in the Senate who sent the House a number of spending cut and tax increase bills.  The House procrastinated and instead went into what’s called “continuous session” promising to meet again in June and talk about the medicine.
The solution to our problems won’t become any tastier by waiting and hopes of some miracle drug from Washington to restore our state to greatness are out of the question.  It’s time to step up and take the medicine for years of overspending, inefficiency and voter inattention to what elected officials were doing.  

New School Funding Formula Passes both Chambers
At long last the legislature has passed a new school funding bill aimed at determining adequate funding for each school based on the educational needs of its students and research-based educational practices.  Any increased funding would come from the State and could lead to property tax reductions. 
Senate Bill 1 is the result of Senate and House members working together after dozens of hearings and the work of the Governor’s Commission on School Funding Reform.  Based on cost estimates to fully implement the formula and the state’s current fiscal conditions, it could take a decade to reach adequate funding for every child but we would be on the road to achieving that goal. 
The bill was a compromise of competing interests and in the end, efforts by Chicago and its Public Schools to receive funding faster than other districts and include all of its pension costs caused most Republicans to oppose the bill and the Governor to threaten a veto.
The evidence-based funding model, however, is an excellent blueprint for us to follow when we discuss overhauling our broken state funding formula.  This new way of funding was specifically designed to drive much-needed funding to school districts that are the farthest away from their adequacy target and have insufficient local capacity to fund education.  The model, as it was initially envisioned, focuses more dollars on districts that are the least adequately funded, which I believe is a critical point that differentiates this model from our current funding model.  
The issue of Chicago teacher pensions has been debated as an equity issue.  Chicago pays its share of the state teacher pension system but the state has not lived up to its agreement to contribute to the separate Chicago teacher pensions.  There is a lot of agreement about the mismanagement of both teacher pension systems over the years.  Nevertheless we face the consequences of these decisions.
Adequately funding education is vital to the success of our students and the well-trained workforce that attracts businesses.  Getting the state to pay its constitutional share for education could offer property tax relief. 
For now, SB1 is being held in the Senate in hopes pension reform will be tied to the Chicago teacher pension issue and garner the Governor’s support. 

Key Legislation Passed in Final Days of Spring Session
SB1839: Amends the Emergency Telephone Act by extending the system set to expire on June 30 and promoting an upgrade to technology.  The bill increases phone fees to fund a statewide 9-1-1 system that runs on the new IP network. The IP network is not only faster, but it also allows the customer to connect to a variety of devices, including tablets, computers, home phones, and cell phones.  
Greg and Sandy Beitel, Ogle County 9-1-1 coordinators, came to the State Capitol to explain the need for 9-1-1 system upgrades 

SB3: Provides that the Local Government Reduction and Efficiency Division of the Counties Code will be applied to all counties.  It encourages township consolidation through referenda that are approved by the township board.

SB8: Updates the state’s procurement code to increase purchasing transparency, correct some over regulation, while still providing a mechanism for obtaining the best purchasing terms.  I helped negotiate this bill over several years in part to clarify that university purchases through groups of organizations was allowed.

SB31: Sets reasonable, constitutional limits on local police interaction with the federal immigration authority and fosters trust between local police and immigrant communities.  It does not prevent local law enforcement officials from cooperating with immigration authorities when they have a warrant. 

SB81: Raises the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.  Compared to its border states, Illinois already has the highest minimum wage and under this bill would have the highest in the nation.  The bill also includes a complicated income tax credit designed to appear to provide relief for employers with fewer than 50 employees.  Proponents admitted a minimum wage increase imposes costs of doing business for a host of non-profits and small businesses.

SB1316: Provides for three innovative but very costly programs in higher education that I referred to as the College “Dream Act” in House floor debate.  One element pays university faculty a bonus to keep them from leaving Illinois.  Another provides a college grant program for middle-income students similar to MAP; while the last element would buy-out student loans of any eligible participant at zero interest.  Given the state’s fiscal condition and its failure to fund higher education or MAP grants, this program is an absurdity.

SB1353: Increases the monthly personal needs allowance to $60 for residents living on medical assistance in a nursing home.  The Personal Needs Allowance is the amount of Social Security an individual gets to keep for personal expenses not covered by Medicaid. 

SB1688: Requires the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to consider certain mitigating factors and evidence of rehabilitation for certain applicants of licenses, certificates, and registrations.  The bill is intended to reduce licensing barriers for people with arrest or conviction records wishing to become licensed in Illinois.

SB1904: Amends the Prevailing Wage Act to require the Department of Labor to publish, by August 15 of each year on its official website, a prevailing wage schedule for each county in the State.  The bill directs that the prevailing wage shall be no less than the rate set through collective bargaining for public projects.

HB2525: Provides what was explained as Workers Compensation reform but appears to increase the cost of doing business in Illinois.  It codifies worker friendly case law, mandates increased insurance regulation, and imposes fraud penalties, electronic billing penalties and penalties for delays in medical care.

HB2622: Creates a state run employers’ mutual insurance company to compete with over 300 private insurance companies.  The bill claims $10 million from the Workers’ Compensation Commission Operating Fund to start the company with doubtful reserves to operate it.

HB3259: Appropriates $18.6 million from the Commitment to Human Services Fund for Domestic Violence Shelters and Services during FY2017.  These shelters like DeKalb County’s Safe Passage have been operating without any state funding for a year and are about to close their doors.

Summer Reading Program Launched in District
I have officially launched my annual summer reading program to encourage students in K-5th grades to keep reading over the summer.  The program builds upon local library reading efforts and books read can be counted for each program. 
Reading is a foundation skill in education, and through this program I hope to encourage student engagement throughout the summer months when they can regress in their abilities.  Students who return their completed reading lists to my District Office will be invited to an ice cream party and commendation for their efforts.
You can find a copy of the summer reading brochure here, which includes the rules and instructions.

Have a great week and call my District Office to share your opinions or if I can be of assistance.