On December 3rd we in Illinois began a year-long celebration leading to our bicentennial.  It is a time to reflect upon the past 199 years since Illinois became a state.  On our way to December 3, 2018 we have the opportunity to study and discuss the people and events that have shaped who we are today.  It is a time to reflect upon our achievements and failures; our resources and their use; our melting pot of cultures and dreams; and the opportunities we still share today at the crossroads of America. 

Our state has become the fifth most vigorous economy through the creative ideas of entrepreneurs and efforts of our workers.  From an agrarian society to the industrial age, and now information technology, biotechnology and bioinformatics we have innovated and changed.

An educated workforce has been a critical element to our success and is key to growing our economy and improving the human conditions for all our residents.  The legislature recently made a fundamental shift in the adequacy and equity of funding for elementary and secondary education and thus the ability for our educators to serve the needs of their students.  A group of us legislators is now beginning to focus on higher education and the affordable structure for lifelong learning.

Clearly a number of important policy issues confront our citizens and political leaders as we embark on the next century for Illinois.  Many question the future growth potential for our state and whether they should continue to live and work here.  As daunting as some of the challenges appear, Illinoisans can take heart in the natural and human resources we have been blessed to possess, and we must exhibit the same resilience and creativity as was shown by our forebears.   

Our libraries, historical museums, schools and units of local government can play an important role during our bicentennial year in helping residents to reflect upon our history and renew our confidence and optimism for the future.  Let us all become involved in the Illinois 200 celebration and build upon Illinois’ legacy.

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 13, 2017 
In This Issue:
·         Veto Session Concludes
·         Legislature Takes Action on Sexual Harassment
·         State Sells More Bonds to Pay Debt
·         The Fragile Future of Higher Education
·         Grant to Help Prepare DeKalb Students
·         Plan to Curb Opioid Epidemic
·         Modernizing Wireless Communication
·         Small Bean, Big Impact

Veto Session Concludes
The General Assembly recessed until January 23 last week after its second week of fall session.  Over the course of two weeks, lawmakers took a look at some of Governor Rauner’s vetoes of bills approved by the General Assembly in the spring session.  In addition, the legislators considered bills still waiting consideration on Second and Third Reading during the veto session.  Here are a few of the bills that were considered:

HB302 will require life insurance companies to be more aggressive in searching electronic records for any unpaid death benefits.  The veto of this bill was overridden in both chambers.

HB732 allows owners of business and commercial buildings to continue using employees to perform reroofing and repairs but they must now use a licensed contractor to perform dangerous techniques like torching.  The Governor issued a total veto yet his action was overridden by both chambers.

HB1252 mandates that every public elementary school include civics as a unit of instruction in middle school.  The bill passed in the House and will now be considered in the Senate. 

HB1262 will require any school mandate waiver request to raise the maximum local tax rate to come before the General Assembly rather than just be considered by the State Board of Education.  The bill passed the House and will now be considered in the Senate.

HB1277 amends the Illinois Insurance Code to require coverage for treatment for pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections and pediatric acute onset neuropsychiatric syndrome (PANDAS/PANS).  The bill passed the House and is now under consideration in the Senate.

The Governor’s total veto of HB2462 was over-ridden by a large margin in the House but failed in the Senate.  The so called Equal Pay Act would have prohibited an employer from screening job applicants based on their wage or salary history, or requiring an applicant to reveal their prior wage amounts.

HB2977 mandates that public schools must include cursive writing in their curriculum by fifth grade.  Most schools have dropped teaching cursive writing with the advent of computers and pressure to teach other material.  Both the House and Senate over-road the Governor’s veto.

HB3216 would have placed extremely vague and arbitrary guidelines for when a state agency can enter into a third-party contract.  The bill did not receive enough votes to override the Governor’s veto.

HR527 instructs the House Committee on Revenue and Finance to study the current property tax assessment system in the State and offer improvements.  Specifically the committee is to look at equity, impact of Tax Increment Financing Districts, consolidation, computerization of data, and exemptions.

SB444 passed both chambers and goes to the Governor correcting two omissions in the Evidence-Based Model for education funding.  One deals with Property Tax Extension Limitation Law equalized assessed valuation (EAV) and the other with adjustments to real property EAV due to an abatement of taxes.

SB772 passed both chambers and is sent to the Governor to require any prescriber with a Controlled Substances license, to also register with the Prescription Monitoring Program.  This is an effort to help reduce narcotic drug abuse.

SB851 amends the Illinois Local Library Act so that a library board of trustees' statement of financial requirements be submitted to the municipality no less than 60 days prior to when the tax levy must be certified under the Property Tax Code.  The bill passed the House and now sits in the Senate.

SB1351 becomes law despite the Governor’s veto and provides more oversight of college student loans.  The bill sets up an ombudsman for student loans in the office of Attorney General, licensure of student loan servicers and authority to investigate deceptive practices.

Efforts to over-ride the Governor’s veto of SB1905 failed a second time in the House and now has ended.  The bill would have prohibited local units of government from enacting “Right to Work” zones in their communities.  The sponsor failed to remove harsh criminal penalties for any public official who tries to enact a right for employees to work without paying union dues. 

SB1462 directs the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to administer--subject to appropriation--an Entrepreneur Learner's Permit pilot program.  The goal is to encourage and assist first-time entrepreneurs starting new information services, biotechnology, and green technology businesses by providing reimbursements to those entrepreneurs for any State filing, permitting, or licensing fees.  The General Assembly over-rode the Governor’s veto that had wanted to make the program available to more types of businesses.

Legislature Takes Action on Sexual Harassment
Charges of sexual harassment in government are being made across the country.  It’s not just unwelcomed sexual advances or comments, sexual harassment also occurs when a victim feels “uncomfortable” in the work environment.
Illinois lawmakers have responded to the problem through legislation, sexual harassment training, and by appointing a Legislative Inspector General.
Notably, the position of Legislative Inspector General was finally filled after a change in heart from Speaker Michael Madigan.  He had blocked the appointment to the position for over two years after the prior Inspector General criticized the Speaker for questionable ethical actions.  The position oversees the Illinois Legislative Ethics Commission which handles ethics violations—including sexual harassment complaints—within the General Assembly. 
The Legislature also passed a package of bills to further address sexual harassment behavior in government and change the culture that breeds sexual harassment.  SB402 amends the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act to prohibit sexual harassment and require training to recognize such behavior. 

State Sells More Bonds to Pay Debt
The State recently sold $4.5 billion in general obligation bonds to further pay down a portion of Illinois' roughly $16.7 billion backlog of unpaid bills.  Combined with a prior bond sale, the proceeds of this sale will be used to cut the State's backlog approximately in half by June 2018.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza will begin paying the state’s bills, and prioritize ones eligible for federal matching funds and bills that are earning a high late payment penalty.
Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to bob@pritchardstaterep.com

October 16, 2017
In This Issue:
·         Veto Session to Debate Bills
·         Providing Mental Health Counseling in Education
·         Superintendents Discuss School Funding/Accountability Laws
·         Residents See Benefits from Smart Grid Law
·         Local Park Districts Receive Recognition

Veto Session To Debate Bills
While the legislature’s fall session that begins October 24 is intended to consider bills “vetoed” by the Governor, it usually considers other legislation as well.  As of this writing, the Speaker has not indicated what bills will be considered but there are a few pieces of legislation vetoed by the Governor that are sure to come before the body.  
HB3649 is the Debt Transparency Act, an initiative of the State Comptroller Susana Mendoza.  This bill requires state agencies to submit a financial report of outstanding bills to the comptroller’s office every month and detail which of those bills are subject to late payment interest fees.  While this bill initially passed in the House with 70 votes, Governor Rauner vetoed the measure and called it an unnecessary oversight.
HB302 calls for life insurance companies to search electronic records for any unpaid death benefits dating back to the year 2000.  This bill, sponsored by State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, is meant to encourage life insurance companies to be more aggressive in searching for beneficiaries following the death of policy holders.  Frerichs’ office discovered more than $550 million in unclaimed death benefits between 2011 and 2015.  The Governor issued a partial veto of this bill, which prevents the Treasurer from bringing in auditors to check insurance company records. 
This year the Attorney General sponsored an initiative to help address the growing crisis with defaults on college student loans.  SB1351 would require loan companies to tell borrowers about all of their repayment options. 
The Equal Pay Act, HB2462, prohibits employers from asking job applicants for their prior wage information.  It prevents a person’s future employer from basing salaries off wages at previous jobs.  The Governor vetoed the bill because the bill includes compensatory damages, special damages of up to $10,000, and attorney fees.  He urged the legislature to pass a bill modeled after Massachusetts’ “best-in-the-country” law.
HB2778 allows Fire Protection Districts to annex property that is not currently assigned fire and EMS service.  The district must notify the property owner, hold a hearing and vote to annex the property.  This bill would end some properties getting free service at the expense of other taxpayers.
HB732 allows owners of business and commercial buildings to continue using employees to perform reroofing and repairs but they must use a licensed contractor to perform dangerous techniques like torching.  The occupants of these buildings and neighboring buildings are put in unique danger when a fire originates on a roof.  Fires can spread quickly on a roof and neither smoke alarms nor sprinkler systems will quickly detect a roof fire.
Finally, a bill is expected to be introduced to “clean up” errors in the school funding bill SB1947.  The changes being drafted will allow the counting of prekindergarten students who are required to receive English language services and continue the current accounting method for determining the value of property in certain (PTELL) tax limited districts.

Providing Mental Health Counseling in Education
The DeKalb County Mental Health Board celebrated its 50th anniversary last week by noting the growth in mental health treatment yet recognizing that the sigma of mental illness still exists.   Executive Director Deanna Cada told an audience that mental illness is similar to physical illness and friends need to help the patient get treatment.
This message paralleled the testimony at a joint House Committee held on October 2 to discuss expanding mental health services in education.  Those testifying said communities with the highest levels of need for mental health counseling often have the least amount of resources. 
School counselors and organizations providing mental health services for youth reported that there is a significant and unmet need for mental health services in schools.  Children are experiencing violence on the streets and in their homes, physical abuse, parents with drug addiction, and social media bulling.  These students can’t focus on learning when there are mental and emotional issues.   
Children’s Home + Aid, an organization that provides community-based, behavioral health services to students in Rockford and the Chicago area, said research shows one in every ten students in Illinois suffers from mental illness severe enough to cause impairment.  Only about 20 percent of these students receive treatment.
The organization has found that putting mental health professionals inside schools provides easier access to mental health treatment, and shows a greater success rate in treatment.  Providing such services before, after, or during school hours also helps lessen the burden on parents who may not otherwise be able to get the child to the necessary appointments for treatment.            The new school funding formula will provide more mental health resources for schools over time.  In the meantime, school boards and staff must recognize the needs of their students.

Superintendents Discuss School Funding /Accountability Laws
I invited State Superintendent Tony Smith to DeKalb recently to give local school administrators and board members a change to ask questions and gain insight into the benefits and requirements they will see from two new education laws.  The State Board of Education (ISBE) is developing rules about implementing these laws and input now as the rules are developed is most beneficial.
Smith said ISBE plans to implement the two laws together and try to simplify school district reporting.  Districts will be given additional resources over time and expected to use the funding on best practices to improve student learning.  Gaps in learning among minority, low income and English Language Learners must be addressed and closed.  Spending and outcomes must be reported by building and district levels.
The State Superintendent said ISBE has set the following goals for every school district:  90 percent of students in 3rd grade reading at grade level, 90 percent of 5th graders doing math at grade level, 90 percent of 9th graders on track to graduate, and 90 percent of high school graduates ready for college or getting a job.  While students at a few Illinois schools are already at these levels, only about 30 to 40 percent of local students are at these reading and math levels.
Tony Smith, State Superintendent, and Robert Wolfe, ISBE Chief Financial officer, explain goals
Residents See Benefits from Smart Grid Law
It’s been five years since the legislature passed the Smart Grid Law with the goals of modernizing the electric delivery system, reducing outages and duration of outages, and giving customers ways to stabilize costs.  I got to see the fruit of that law last week as ComEd installed my smart meter and shared its results since 2012. 
So far, ComEd has installed more than 3.6 million smart meters throughout northern Illinois and is finally installing them in DeKalb, Western Kane and Boone Counties.  The smart meter technology involves a digital electric meter that uses two-way radio communications to collect usage information from consumers and notify ComEd when there is a service outage.  Customers are able to track their electric usage by time of day and modify their usage to when hourly electricity prices are lower.
I recently had a smart meter installed at my home and learned how technology is improving my electric service
The technology also provides smart switches to re-route electricity when there is a downed or broken transmission wire.  As a result, ComEd has avoided 7.6 million customer interruptions since 2012.  The program also provides inspection and replacement of utility poles, and replacement of underground cables.  As a result, electric outages have been reduced by 44 percent and the duration of electric outages has been reduced by 48 percent.  
Customers can also set up apps on their phones to receive messages when their power is interrupted, view electric prices so they can manage when they use electricity and easily access their electric bills.
ComEd will be sending area residents more information through the mail about smart meters and the installation process.  In the meantime, if you would like more information, visit ComEd’s website at www.ComEd.com/smartmeter.

Legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Bob Pritchard and signed into law today by the Governor will help individuals who have aged out of the K-12 education system obtain an actual high school diploma.

Before this law, an adult over the age of 21 could not earn a high school diploma. Their only recourse for educational advancement was to pass a test to receive a General Education Diploma (GED).  However, for various reasons the number of people pursuing their GED has fallen significantly.
A group of 65 current and former state legislators from 8 different states united in an effort to end political gerrymandering. The group of bipartisan lawmakers joined together to submit a brief in Gill v. Whitford, a redistricting case that challenges the legitimacy of political gerrymandering.

In Gill v. Whitford, Wisconsin state officials are appealing a lower-court ruling that the state’s redistricting plan used extreme gerrymandering, violating First Amendment protections and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The brief, which was recently filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, details the harms caused by political gerrymandering and urges the Court to invalidate the practice of gerrymandering. A total of 26 Republicans and 39 Democrats from Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Maryland are included in in the brief.

State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) was one of five Illinois State Representatives to co-sign the Amicus brief.

“With redistricting approaching after the upcoming census, this case has the opportunity to have a major impact, not just for the future of the Illinois General Assembly, but nationwide,” said Pritchard. “Partisan gerrymandering has been pushed to the extreme, making bipartisanship difficult and threatening good government. As lawmakers, we are here to govern, and it is important that we represent our districts—not choose our constituents, and this brief expresses those interests.”

Pritchard added that Illinois voters want an end to gerrymandering and have tried unsuccessfully on two occasions to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. “This court case is our best hope to reform the system before the next redistricting,” according to Pritchard.

The case will be argued before the Supreme Court on October 3, 2017.

The DeKalb County Pheasants Forever Chapter was recently given a $1,000 grant to help improve the grassland on some 2,500 acres of habitat that will foster increased populations of wildlife. State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) presented the check on behalf of the Illinois Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus that raises funding for sporting, wildlife and habitat projects.

The DeKalb County chapter grant will be used to purchase burn equipment like shown in the picture to help control invasive weeds, shrubs and trees on conservation grassland. Burning is essential every few years to improve the habitat and help increase populations of wildlife including deer, rabbits, bobwhite quail, pheasants and waterfowl.

Over the years the DeKalb County Pheasants Forever Chapter has purchased seeding equipment that it loans to farmers to establish native grass species on conservation reserve program land. There are 150 to 200 landowners in DeKalb County who need and use this equipment.

The Illinois Legislative Sportsman Caucus holds an auction each spring to raise funding for projects like the Pheasants Forever Grant. Pritchard has been a member of the caucus since 2004 and is an avid supporter of wildlife and outdoor activities.
Shown demonstrating the burn equipment are DeKalb County Pheasants Forever members Clint Gwaltney, Mike Richolson--Habitat Co-Chair, State Representative Bob Pritchard, Dean Johnson--Habitat Co-Chair, and Richard Rappley.

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

September 1, 2017
In This Issue:
·         Historic School Funding Reform Becomes Law
·         Accountability Plan Also Approved
·         Illinois Offers Support for Hurricane Harvey Relief
·         Report Shows Advantage of Attending Illinois Schools
·         Governor Signs Act to Improve Safety
·         The Cost of Corruption
·         IDOT Recycling Efforts Making Impact
·         Budget Impasse Has Lasting Effects on NIU
·         More Bills Signed into Law
·         Activities of Legislators

Historic School Funding Reform Becomes Law
When Illinois celebrated its 100th birthday as a state, officials cut the ribbon for a new state office building near the Capitol called the Centennial Building.  The gift prepared by the cash-strapped legislature for our 200th celebration next year just might be the historic new school funding legislation signed into law this week. 
While voices opposed to parts of the compromised legislation can be loud, we must not overlook the bigger picture of moving our state toward paying a “majority” share for the cost of education, offering property tax relief, and lifting the underfunded districts up to the adequate level needed to help their students get a quality education.  With the law taking effect, schools will now get access to appropriations in the budget and avoid a funding crisis that would have caused some schools to be unable to pay staff next month.
The road to passage and signing of SB1947 into law began four years ago.  At first the attempt to improve adequacy and equity in funding education did not add new state money but rather just moved money around from a well-funded district to one that lacked basic resources. 
The Governor appointed a task force three years ago that fundamentally changed the discussion and proposed an evidence based model of best practices in programs and staffing.  The resulting law calculates the cost of educating the students unique to each district and then adding as much as $7 billion in new state funding to achieve that level of adequacy over the next dozen or so years.
The compromise needed to pass the legislation includes the state paying for Chicago Public School employee pensions much like it does for all other districts and reforms sought by school administrators and downstate legislators.  There are several ways for property tax payers to see relief, a streamlined school waiver process for responding to state mandates, and a tax credit for donations to a scholarship fund that will allow low-income students to attend private schools if the public school they attend does not meet their educational needs.

Accountability Plan Also Approved
The State Superintendent of Schools announced Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Education has approved Illinois’ plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.  The plan gathers, examines and responds to multiple indicators of school quality and student growth.
The long-term goals of the Illinois plan are for all students to attain by 2032: 90 percent or more of third-grade students are reading at or above grade level; 90 percent or more of fifth-grade students meet or exceed expectations in mathematics; 90 percent or more of ninth-grade students are on track to graduate; and 90 percent or more of students graduate from high school ready for college and career.  The Illinois plan can be found here. 

Illinois Offers Support for Hurricane Harvey Relief
Governor Rauner has mobilized the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) to help aid the relief efforts for the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.  IEMA will coordinate the Illinois’ response with the efforts of Louisiana and Texas.  In addition, the Illinois Red Cross has contributed resources to the areas hit the hardest by the storm and ComEd has deployed electrical repair teams to support infrastructure recovery. 
Our area certainly knows the importance of outside support following a natural disaster and it is heartwarming to see so many individuals offer financial help for the recovery through their favorite charities.

Special Session convened today in Springfield where lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted on SB1947, a bill to reform education funding in Illinois. State Representative Bob Pritchard was a chief co-sponsor of the legislation, which sought to provide historic funding levels to all schools state-wide.

The current school funding formula, adopted in 1997, has been largely inadequate. Lawmakers have continually worked to find the best way to both adequately and equitably fund education in Illinois, and today the Illinois House took major steps forward. Representative Pritchard served at the forefront of education funding negotiations, and voiced his support of the compromised bill, one that he believes will move Illinois forward.


SB1947 ultimately passed the House of Representatives today, with 73 lawmakers voting in support of the measure.
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.