Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
District Office 815-748-3494 or E-Mail to email@example.com
February 27, 2017
In This Issue:
Ø Senate Plans to Deal with Bargain This Week
Ø AFSCME Takes a Step Closer to a Strike
Ø Congressman Michel Gave Useful Example
Ø Efforts to Sell the Thompson Center Reignited
ØVariety of Bills Pass House
ØYouth Council Readies for Trip to Springfield
Ø Local Dentist Office Recognized
Ø Share Your Ideas with Me This Week
Senate Plans to Deal with Bargain This Week
The topic on everyone’s mind in Springfield continues to be the budget but only the Senate is dealing with the issue at this time. The Senate is scheduled to take votes this week on a number of bills that comprise the “grand bargain”.
In his budget address, Governor Rauner made clear his parameters to the General Assembly on the Senate’s plan. He insisted that the final product must be a good deal for taxpayers and job creators, and said it should include real spending reductions and meaningful pension reform. Rauner also asked legislators if they pass a permanent income tax increase, they should also make a permanent property tax freeze.
The governor stated in his budget address that if the state’s economy had been growing as well as neighboring states over the past few years, we would have billions more dollars to put towards the budget. This fact is why he continues to insist upon reforms to attract job creators to Illinois and why state reforms and the budget are so entwined.
Senate leaders have expressed hope that these issues will get wrapped up in their chamber this week. At that point, it will be up to the House to move forward. House leaders have thus far made no efforts to join the budget discussion. No House Appropriations committees have met and no bill declaring expected state revenues in FY2018, a normal starting point for budget drafting, has been discussed.
It is abundantly clear that neither the Governor nor legislative leaders want to be the first to mention the amount of tax increase that most expect to be part of the budget solution.
AFSCME Takes a Step Closer to a Strike
The state’s largest union--the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees—AFSCME---announced results of a strike vote last week in hopes of putting more pressure on the Governor for a contract. The union said 81 percent of its nearly 28,000 members eligible to strike voted to authorize a walkout. Some of the 38,000 AFSCME members work at jobs like state prisons and juvenile facilities that are prevented by law from striking.
While both sides in this contract battle say they want to avoid a strike, it would appear that is where the state is headed. There have been no negotiations in over a year and the Illinois Labor Relations Board in November said that the two sides were at impasse. The only thing preventing the Governor from implementing his best and final offer is a court order.
The Governor appears convinced that AFSCME members currently enjoy many benefits not received by private-sector workers or even some other state unions. While AFSCME has offered recently to reduce some of those benefits, that is not enough to satisfy the Governor.
Like the lack of a budget, the failure to conclude labor negotiations is not productive for the future of Illinois.
Congressman Michel Gave Useful Example
Former House Republican leader Bob Michel was remembered in the Illinois House Friday and as he was laid to rest over the weekend in Peoria. Many praised his minority leadership role for 38 years, negotiating style across party lines and cooperation which made our system of government work.
Michel was of a generation that fought in World War II; he knew war and felt the harsh rhetoric of ideological warfare had no place in Congress or American politics.
Those who knew him best said Bob treated everyone respectfully. He was first elected in 1957 when Dwight Eisenhower was president. I am reading a book about “Ike” and marvel at the philosophical similarities of these two leaders. They were able to pass significant legislation in a legislature controlled by the other party because they built personal relationships with their opponents and kept the focus on what was good for the country rather than just politics.
This is a fundamental quality from Michel and Ike that should be remembered and followed in Washington and Springfield today.
House Republican Leader Congressman Bob Michel of Peoria remembered
Efforts to Sell the Thompson Center Reignited
While the Governor has been calling for the sale of a state office building in Chicago for several years, recent House actions have invigorated the discussion. House Republican Leader Jim Durkin introduced HB500 to sell the Thompson Center and the Speaker has agreed to hold hearings on the bill.
Studies indicate the 1.2 million square foot building has been under-maintained for years. Building experts estimate that the State would have to pay $326 million merely to renovate the building back to more acceptable working conditions. In addition, the State currently pays $25 per square foot in heating, cooling, and cleaning bills.
The building, which occupies an entire city block, sits on prime downtown real estate. Converting ownership to a private entity would add to the property taxes for the city and avoid state expenditures. The Governor has said that the 2,200 State employees who work at the Thompson Center would be relocated to other existing state office space.
Speaker Madigan moved his Chicago offices out of the Thompson Center several years ago to “more agreeable” conditions across the street.
Variety of Bills Pass House
Several bills passed the House this week as a majority of legislation awaits action in committees. One of those passing involves current Illinois driver’s licenses and IDs. Illinois identification is not fully compliant with federal requirements and, in a few years, will not be enough to get on a flight or enter a secure federal building. While Illinois transitions to new, compliant IDs—called Real ID--an option was created by HB395 for those who do not want to share the necessary information. The bill allows persons the option to receive a non-Real ID compliant driver’s licenses and IDs which cannot be used to enter secure areas.
HB303 increases the penalty for anyone convicted of a DUI while driving the wrong way down a one way street.
HB66 creates the Illinois Route 66 Centennial Commission Act. The infamous Route 66, one of the country’s first highways, runs through 8 states from Illinois to California. In Illinois it connects Chicago to St. Louis. The route will turn 100 in 2027.
HB 350 forfeits the survivor’s benefits for any person who is convicted of any felony in connection with the service of the member from whom the benefit results. This legislation arose from an unfortunate situation involving the suicide of police officer in Fox Lake who was embezzling funds with his wife.
HB703 amends the Adoption Act by requiring the Department of Children and Family Services to promulgate procedures and requirements for interstate adoption placements of children.
There are many more controversial bills still in committee; contact me if you have concerns about them.
Youth Council Readies for Trip to Springfield
My high school youth advisory council shared their ideas and research into several key issues being debated in Springfield with me at our meeting last week. This is important feedback for me as it encourages youth to form their opinions on public policy.
We also spent time discussing the role of lobbyists and information they share with legislators. Greg Millburg, manager of the DeKalb County Farm Bureau, explained how his organization gathers opinions of its members and then several ways they convey those opinions to elected officials.
Greg Millburg, Sycamore, shares experiences in advocating to elected officials
The group will be traveling to Springfield on March 21-22 to observe the legislative process in action and visit with state officials, legislators and staff.
Local Dentist Office Recognized
The Dental Fields office in DeKalb has been recognized with the 2016 Center of Excellence Award by the national dental Medicaid management firm, Liberty Dental Plan. Liberty selects “Centers of Excellence” through a rigorous evaluation process including reviews of customer satisfaction, office safety, regulation compliance, and appropriate delivery of dental services compared to regional utilization patterns.
Dental Fields owner Dr. Sharma said the award gives motivation to continue providing better dental care and treatment to his patients. Liberty Dental Plan has been managing dental services for Illinois Medicaid beneficiaries since 2014. The company works with a network of local dental providers who are committed to providing appropriate and timely care for patients.
Share Your Ideas with Me This Week
I’ll be commenting on state issues and listening to your suggestions at two town hall meetings this week. Tonight at 7 pm will be a general town hall and on Wednesday March 1st at 6:30 pm, the focus will be on educational issues. Both events will be held at the County Outreach Building, 2500 North Annie Glidden Road, DeKalb.
It is important for citizens to follow state and national issues, and share their views with their representatives. I find that during these difficult times and issues, frequent and civil discussions are very important.