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

January 30th, 2017

In This Issue:

Ø  An Interesting State of Affairs
Ø  Senate Attempts to Break Gridlock
Ø  Illinois Makes Progress
Ø  Court May Force a Budget
Ø  Revenue Discussion Turns to Service Taxes
Ø  Standing Room Only

An Interesting State of Affairs
Last week was full of action and intrigue in Springfield.  If you aren’t watching events closely, you might miss the linkages and strategy of the Governor and Speaker Madigan to influence the policies of our state. 
The week began with Senate leaders rolling out a “grand bargain” for a budget and reforms.  Such action is what the Governor has been requesting over the past two years.
Then there was the Governor’s mid-week State of the State address where he outlined efforts to keep government functioning without a budget, and progress on improving government efficiencies, increasing state support for education and implementing criminal reforms.  He praised the bipartisan Senate action and said legislators—from both chambers—had a moral obligation to keep working together for a budget solution. 
Finally, Attorney General Madigan played a long awaited “trump card” (no, not Donald Trump) of asking a St. Clair County court to end worker pay without an appropriation.  If the court lifts its injunction, state employees will likely stop working which creates an immediate crisis for the legislature to pass an appropriation without funding or reforms.  Speaker Madigan would win the policy battle.
Let’s look at the individual events.

Senate Attempts to Break Gridlock
Frustrated with the lack of a state budget and negotiations over the Governor’s ideas for growing the economy, the Senate President and Minority Leader crafted a multi-faceted legislative solution that was unveiled about ten days ago.  Their plan was to call for hearings and vote early last week before opposition or interference from Speaker Madigan could derail the effort. 
The proposal, some call a grand bargain, includes 13 bills linked together so they all must pass or none can take effect.  The package includes increased state revenue and minimum wage, reforms in school funding and injured worker compensation, and decreases in pension obligations, state mandates and property taxes.  As the week progressed, Senators offered many ideas for amendments and refused to vote on the package.
With state spending exceeding revenue by roughly $5 billion and important programs costing another $2.9 billion go unfunded, the package included several revenue increases.  Initially income taxes were proposed to increase to 4.95 percent, a tax on sugary drinks would be created and five new casinos and a total of 19,500 gaming positions would be added.
The package included a call for issuing general obligation bonds to pay part of the $11 billion in unpaid bills.  While the interest rate for bonds would be lower than the 12 percent currently paid on the unpaid bills, the state would still have to find additional money to retire the bonds.
Another of the bills proposed a supplemental appropriation totaling $4.5 billion to fund higher education, some human services, agency operations and lots of member pet projects.  In all, the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget calculated spending in the package would exceed state revenue by over $4 billion. 
Many senators are pushing for amendments that would drastically change the provisions and cost of the grand bargain.  Go to my website (here) for a listing of the bills and brief content as introduced.  Like the Governor, I hope continued discussions will yield compromise for a balance budget and polices that will help our state grow jobs and economic activity.  If successful, there will be much needed pressure on the House to consider the legislation.

Illinois Makes Progress
In his annual State of the State address to the General Assembly on Wednesday, Governor Rauner reviewed progress on his key goals to return Illinois to a state of growth and opportunity.  He admitted frustration over the slow progress in convincing legislators that we can’t just tax our way out of our fiscal problems but must make Illinois more inviting to job creators.
The Governor said nothing is more important for the future of the state than educating young people, preparing them for good careers and capturing their ideas for new innovations.  He noted the unprecedented state investment in K-12 education over the past two years.  He reviewed efforts to target state resources to the students most in need by his Cabinet on Children and Youth, and School Funding Reform Commission. 
Many recommendations of the Commission on Criminal Justice Reform have been implemented that are helping non-violent ex-offenders get on their feet, lowering juvenile prison populations and addressing behavioral and mental health issues.  
Efforts to make government more efficient and citizen focused have reduced red tape, saved millions of dollars, cut processing time and focused efforts on business attraction.  Drawing on the wisdom and experience of top business executives, the state is recruiting employers like Amazon and creating thousands of new jobs.
The Governor had praise for the Senate bipartisan efforts to craft a comprehensive solution to our budget and many other issues.  I am hopeful the Senate’s example will energize the House to action.  Making compromises is hard but citizens keep telling me that they want a state budget now and the economy to move forward again.
Representative Sosnowski and Senator Syverson join me in listening to the speech
The Senate introduced a bipartisan package of 13 bills that create a framework to advance a reform and budget compromise.  Each bill is contingent on all of the bills passing in order to become law.  The package includes:

SB 1 (Cullerton, J) is an education reform vehicle bill pending the work of the Governors Education Reform Task Force.

SB 2 (Lightford) increases the minimum wage to $11 over five years and establishes a small business tax credit.

SB 3 (Cullerton, T) expands local government consolidation opportunities.

SB 4 (Trotter) authorizes the issuance of $7 billion in general obligation bonds to pay past due bills. 

SB 5 (Cullerton, J) makes Chicago Teacher pension normal cost contributions though a continuing appropriation.

SB 6 (Cullerton, J) is a FY17 supplemental appropriation totaling $45 billion.  The funding is focused on higher education, human services, and agency operations.

SB 7 (Link) is a comprehensive gaming bill.

SB 8 (Harmon-Althoff) is a procurement reform bill to streamline the process for cost savings.

SB 9 (Hutchinson) is a comprehensive revenue bill.  The net revenue increase of $5.56 billion in FY18.

SB 10 (Cullerton, J) permits home rule municipalities to enter into agreements with their lenders to have the State directly transfer taxes, revenues, and grant funds, owed to local governments to t heir lenders.

SB 11 (Cullerton, J) is a comprehensive pension reform bill for TRS, SURS, GARS, Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.  Highlights include a “Consideration model,” and closes new member participation in GARS.

SB 12 (Connelly) is a workers’ compensation reform bill.

SB 13 (Radogno) freezes all taxing district property tax extensions for two years, including home rules units, with exemptions.  Provides school mandate relief for driver’s education, physical education, and third party contracting.
Representative Pritchard is pictured with Senator Syverson
 and Representative Sosnowski 
In his third annual State of the State address to the General Assembly, Governor Rauner reviewed a list of accomplishments that have been made to improve the future of Illinois. State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley) said it is good to take note of the record education funding, job creation, reductions in prison population, and improvements in government efficiency that have driven down costs. “We have daunting challenges in Illinois but there has been progress that we should celebrate.”

Pritchard went on to say “I am frustrated along with the Governor in the slow pace of getting a balanced budget, funding for higher education and social services, and reforms that will grow our economy and state revenue. However, there are reasons for optimism and we should focus on the positives rather than all the challenges.”

The Senate bipartisan efforts to craft a comprehensive solution to many of our problems are significant the Representative said. “I am hopeful the Senate’s example will energize the House to action. Making compromises is hard but citizens keep telling me that they want a state budget and the economy to move forward again.”

Pritchard agreed with the Governor’s observation that Illinois is home to some of the greatest research universities in the world. “Technology and innovations, combined with well-prepared graduates from institutions like Northern Illinois University will be the driving force in economic recovery,” the Representative said.

The key to continued progress in solving the state’s challenges will be citizen pressure on the legislature and state leaders Pritchard observed. “While most legislators acknowledge the state needs a budget, cost reduction and reforms to encourage job creation, they are worried citizens won’t support compromises.” The Governor called it a moral obligation for citizens and legislators to work together to bring back hope, opportunity and prosperity to Illinois.
Sycamore, IL--A group of 23 high school juniors and seniors from DeKalb and Kane Counties have been selected as members of State Representative Bob Pritchard’s Youth Advisory Council. The group meets monthly during the school year to discuss state issues, study local government in Illinois and explore careers in public service.

Pritchard (R-Hinckley) has sponsored the council each year to gain the perspectives of future voters on important state issues and encourage their involvement in public policy formation and operations of local government. “We discuss our constitution and how government is supposed to function and then visit Springfield to see how it actually works,” he said.

The council also supplements what students learn about government in school by focusing on local units of government--like city councils, county boards and park districts--their operations and services to the community. Guest speakers include lobbyists, elected state officials, government staff and state house reporters. “They explain why they got involved in public service, their responsibilities and observations about government operations,” the legislator explains.

“I ask schools to nominate members for the council who are interested in public service and are likely to become future community leaders, Pritchard added. “Too little attention is paid to the role of citizens in a democracy and preparation to be responsible voters, he said. “That was part of my reason in co-sponsoring legislation a few years ago to increase the focus on civics education in school.” 
First Row L-R: Saul Osorio, Grace Villela, Annika Berger, Sarah Geoghegan 
Second Row L-R: Bob Pritchard, Kayla Taft, Haley Ackerman, Joy Ngum, Umar Siddiqui, Jacqueline Contrares, Taylor Miller, Jacob Faivre
Third Row L-R: Madelynne Drescher, Michael Hammond, Hank Barnes, Noah Whitfield, Eamonn Gentry, Kate Majerus 

State Representative Bob Pritchard will be leading a public discussion of current state issues and legislation at a town hall meeting at 10 a.m. on Saturday January 28 at the Lincoln Inn, DeKalb (240 East Lincoln Highway). Residents are invited to attend, participate and enjoy discussion over coffee.

The 100th General Assembly has assembled and hundreds of pieces of legislation have been filed to address various issues in Illinois including the lack of a state budget. Pritchard said residents need to understand the issues and feel they can share their views.

“In the weeks ahead the legislature will be making a number of difficult decisions about funding for public services, regulations and ways to restart the Illinois economy,” according to the legislator. “I value your opinions and want to help increase understanding about the options and consequences.”

Pritchard will hold additional meeting this spring in other areas of his legislative district which includes portions of DeKalb, Kane and Boone Counties. Comments and ideas can also be shared with the legislator by contacting his local office at 2600 DeKalb Avenue, Sycamore, by phone: 815-748-3494 or e-mail: Bob@PritchardStateRep.com.

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

January 17th, 2017

Today, we still remember the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.:  “Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that.”  Let us love our neighbor as ourselves.

In This Issue:
  Ø  Legislation Passes House
  Ø  New General Assembly Ready to Break Gridlock
  Ø  School Funding Commission Reports Progress
  Ø  Revenue Stream Shrinks
  Ø  Recognizing Longstanding Research
  Ø  Bicentennial Planning Accelerates
  Ø  Town Hall Meeting January 28

Legislation Passes House
In the final two days of the 99th General Assembly last week, lawmakers passed a number of significant pieces of legislation.  Here are a few key bills that passed the House:
SB 2872:  This bill creates trauma focused recovery centers through the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA).  These trauma centers are to provide services for violent crime victims that include behavioral health treatment, financial recovery, family support, relocation assistance, and support in navigating the legal system.  This bill also increases the ability of inmates to gain programming and sentencing credit.  It is the hope that this bill will help reduce crime and promote public safety while efficiently using prison and state resources.
SB 550:  This bill requires testing for lead in drinking water of elementary and middle schools and daycare centers that were built prior to January 1, 2000.  It allows schools to use Health, Life and Safety Funds to pay for lead mitigation, and allows water suppliers to enact fees on rate users to cover the cost of water testing.  Citizens must be notified if samples find more than 5 parts per billion of lead.  After the Flint Michigan experience of lead in drinking water, several Illinois schools tested their water and found high levels of lead which can affect brain development of younger children.   
The Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) Tax Credit was extended by SB513 for an additional four months.  The additional time will allow negotiations on legislation to change the program.  The EDGE Tax Credit is the state’s major economic development tool to encourage job creation and retention.
SB2799 amended the Sick Leave Act by clarifying Personal Sick Leave Benefits, and expanding employees’ use of personal sick leave.  The bill allows absences due to an illness, injury, or medical appointment of the employee's child, spouse, or other family member on the same terms upon which the employee is able to use personal sick leave.
Illinois now joins other states as a designated Purple Heart State.  SJR57 helps remember and recognize veterans who have been wounded or killed as a result of enemy activity..
Lastly, a Property Tax Freeze bill (HB6630) passed the House but was not acted upon in the Senate.  The bill amended the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) by lowering the automatic annual escalator to 0 percent, while giving tax payers the opportunity to approve an extension increase by referendum.  This bill is likely to be reintroduced in the 100th General Assembly.
State Legislators were officially inaugurated as the 100th General Assembly for the State of Illinois on Wednesday in Springfield. Despite the lack of any leadership changes, Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Sycamore) says there was a mood of optimism that the gridlock which has plagued Illinois for the past two years might be broken.

“The House has 15 new Republican members, about a third of its caucus, and 7 new Democrats which adds a fresh perspective, enthusiasm and energy to the chamber,” Pritchard observed. “Members are fresh off the campaign trail and have heard from citizens that the legislature can’t continue to avoid a full-year budget and changes to keep and grow jobs.”

Pritchard said his main goals in the new legislative session that begins Thursday are to find bi-partisan agreement on a budget, to fund higher education and human services, and to gain control of state expenses. “It will be critical for citizens to continue pressuring their legislators for solutions and to not accept gridlock,” Pritchard said.

“It is an honor to continue serving DeKalb, Kane and Boone Counties in Springfield,” the legislator continued. “I am committed to working hard for communities not only in the 70th district but statewide and for policies that will make residents proud once again to live in Illinois.”

A group of about 20 friends joined the legislator for the ceremony, lunch and a personal tour of the capitol following the inauguration. Pritchard has served in the Illinois House of Representatives since 2003. He and his wife Mary live on the family farm he operates with his son.