Pritchard's Perspective for January 17th



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.

New General Assembly Ready to Break Gridlock
While the leadership of the 100th General Assembly will remain much the same as last year, a groundswell of member support is building for a full-year budget and a break in the gridlock.  In the recent campaigns and during the inauguration, nearly every legislator voiced support for negotiations and a complete budget.  Even Speaker Madigan who has opposed any reforms to reduce costs for employers that were proposed by the Governor, talked about ways to get the economy moving again during his acceptance speech.   
As I enter my 7th term serving as State Representative for the 70th Legislative District, I continue to be thankful for the opportunity to represent this area and committed to advocate for policies that will help rebuild our once growing economy. 
I have found that each General Assembly has had its unique personality and this year is starting out no different.  With the stopgap budget having ended on December 31st, the state’s fiscal crisis will continue to be this year’s biggest challenge.  I am encouraged to see bipartisan support in the Senate for a package of legislation that will address needs of our state, raise revenue to balance the budget and offer longer-term reforms that will grow the economy.  I think this movement could pick up steam in the House.
 
I was joined at the Inaugural ceremony by a group of friends from DeKalb, Boone and Kane Counties, and enjoyed hosting lunch and giving them a behind-the-scene tour of the capitol.

School Funding Commission Reports Progress
This past summer, Governor Bruce Rauner created The Illinois School Funding Reform Commission to improve the adequacy and equity of funding for preK-12 schools across the state.  Because the state is not shouldering its fair share of the cost of education, local property taxes have grown over the years to fill the gap.  Even so, many areas of the state don’t have enough local resources to provide the quality of education and support needed for their students.
For the first time, the Commission is comprised of a bipartisan bicameral group of legislators and experts to study and propose a new method for determining funding needed per school and how to distribute whatever money the state devotes to education.  After 13 meetings, the commission is moving toward an evidence based model (EBM) of best practices as shown by research for the number and needs of students.  The goal will be to set an adequacy target of money needed for each district attendance center.  There is also consensus for:

Hold HarmlessEvery district will continue to receive about the same amount of state money as before.  Discussion continues about phasing this out over time and just focusing on the adequacy target for each district.
 
Targeted Distribution: the districts with the fewest local resources and highest property taxes should get the largest share of any new money.

Accountability and Transparency; it is necessary to balance local control with promoting the best practices.  If students aren’t making progress and learning at grade level, districts may be encouraged to adopt more of the EBM practices.

Professional Judgement Panel; this group will be appointed to review any new research of best practices and adjust the formula every 3-5 years in response to changing needs, innovation, and emerging best practices.

The commission is on pace to deliver their recommendations to the General Assembly by February first.  Legislation will then need to be drafted and negotiated as necessary for passage.  It is essential that every child in the state has the opportunity to attend an adequately funded school. 

Revenue Stream Shrinks
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability’s (COGFA) recent briefing on the state’s revenue painted a picture of significantly less income than a year ago and far short of spending commitments.  Specifically, revenue from state and federal sources in the first half of FY2017 was $14.6 billion, $840 million less than last year. 
Corporate income taxes were down 40 percent or $386 million while personal income taxes fell $189 million.  Sales taxes were up $45 million for the first half of the fiscal year and lottery sales produced $34 million more in revenue. 
Moody’s Analytics produced an economic outlook report for COGFA that concluded Illinois was one of the “Midwest’s weakest links,” reflecting both weak job creation and worsening debt.  According to the report, Illinois trails the nation in most metrics and failure to pass a budget is imposing significant social and economic costs.
The report noted that the workforce is smaller due to outmigration and retirements.  While employment in service-providing industries is slowly advancing, goods producers are cutting back in the face of weak global growth, building inventory and the strong U.S. dollar.  Downstate is hurting more than Chicago.
According to Moody, Illinois has a lot of what businesses need to thrive longer term—talent, access to customers and capital, and transportation hubs.  They conclude the necessary fiscal reforms will be painful and shouldn’t further damage its business climate.  Our aging population coupled with a trend toward fewer workers hampers job and income gains, which they feel will be below average for the foreseeable future.
Click here to view the entire Moody’s Analytics report.

Recognizing Longstanding Research
The House passed a resolution (HR1551) last week recognizing the 140th anniversary of the Morrow Plots at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.  The crop research plots were established in 1876 at the edge of campus and though the university has now grown around the plots, they continue to provide useful data about agronomic practices.
While only three of the original 10 plots remain today, they have not changed since 1903.  This research helped establish the importance of crop rotation and fertilizer treatments in the modern agricultural system, and this has allowed increases in crop yields to feed an ever-growing world population.
 
The Morrow Plots and the neighboring Observatory were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1968.

Bicentennial Planning Accelerates
It won’t be long before the state celebrates its 200th anniversary on December 3, 2018, and planning is well underway.  Governor Rauner has appointed Stuart Layne to lead a 51 member commission to not only plan events but also look ahead to future improvements.  Also the group will work to create statewide initiatives that foster innovation, education, and better opportunities for all Illinois residents.
Communities and organizations can submit bicentennial events for the official Illinois Bicentennial Events Calendar.  To contribute, or to find more information about the bicentennial, visit illinois200.com, or email illinois200@illinois.gov.

While much has changed for Illinois over these 200 years, some things remain the same.  The size and services of government continue to expand.  Just consider how the sizes of our six state capitols have successively grown as have the cost of government and the expectations of citizens for services.
Financial problems are not new either.  The State of Illinois flirted with bankruptcy in the 1830s just as today.  From our start of statehood, we have struggled to pay for our infrastructure--first canals and railroads, now roads, bridges, airports, and lock and dams.
We built a Centennial Building near the capitol to celebrate the 100th anniversary; today we are trying to rebuild our economy.  Throughout the centuries our ingenuity, location, natural resources and hard work have paid dividends.  As the logo above depicts, our influence has spread beyond our borders.  May these assets, with our Creator’s help, continue to serve us.

Town Hall Meeting January 28
My goal of representing this district in the General Assembly depends upon hearing your views and opinions about state issues and programs.  To help facilitate that conversation I will be holding a coffee hour on Saturday January 28 at the Lincoln Inn in DeKalb (240 East Lincoln Highway) starting at 10 a.m.  Additional meetings will be held elsewhere in the district over the next few months.
I also publish this Perspective newsletter to share information and to encourage your feedback electronically.  While many believe their opinions don’t matter and legislators don’t listen, don’t accept that view; our democracy depends upon citizen engagement. 
Contact my office this week if you would like to visit.  The General Assembly will be in recess until January 24.


Bob

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