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

March 27, 2017
In This Issue:
Ø  Great News for NIU
Ø  Bills Proceed Through House Committees
Ø  New State Cybersecurity Strategy Announced
Ø  Youth Council Presses Officials
Ø New Identification Cards Available for Those with Disabilities
Ø  Local Firefighters Visit the Capitol
Ø  Pension Reform Proposal Filed

Great News for NIU

Recruitment of students to attend Northern Illinois University (NIU) got a big push with the recent rankings of an independent online publication.  College Choice--that seeks to help students select the right college—named NIU third best among public universities and ninth best among all colleges and universities in Illinois.
The publication was impressed that NIU offers the opportunities of a large university while providing the personalized experience of a small college.  NIU offers 57 undergraduate majors and 73 minors with several recognized nationally for their quality and instruction.  However, NIU students can work one-on-one with faculty on research from year one, find hands-on learning opportunities in hundreds of classes and have opportunities for work internships.
College Choice also pointed to the First- and Second-Year Experience programs that help pave the way to success for new students.  NIU students also can participate in more than 200 clubs and organizations, study abroad and make the world a better place through volunteerism locally, nationally and globally.  
That quality and diversity, according to the publication, translates into an excellent return on investment.  NIU alumni can be found in high-level posts all over the country working in major accounting firms, as judges and medical professionals, as executives in a wide range of industries and even the Illinois General Assembly.  Go Huskies!

Bills Proceed Through House Committees
With 58 committees created for the 100th General Assembly, more bills than usual are moving through the legislative process to be considered, debated, and voted on in the House.  By opening the gate wider for more of the over 4,000 bills to be considered; legislators, organizations and citizens are finding it hard to review the bills in a timely manner. 
The deadline for bills to pass out of committee by this Friday has added pressure to move legislation to the House floor.  Many pieces of legislation heard in committee this past week need further work in hopes of removing opposition.  Sponsors were frequently heard saying they would hold their bills on second reading while they amend them in hopes of removing opposition and garnering more support before a vote is taken on the House Floor.

New State Cybersecurity Strategy Announced
Governor Rauner and the Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) announced a new effort to upgrade the state’s technology systems in order to make Illinois more cyber-secure.  With state agencies performing services and handling information from thousands of businesses and millions of Illinois residents on their servers, it is necessary to ensure that this sensitive information is protected in the best way possible.    
Potential cyber-attacks have become a top issue not only for Illinois, but also for states across the country.  The current systems in place can no longer adequately support the sensitive information held, and new systems are necessary to provide added security and prevent any harm.
The new broad based cybersecurity plan outlines five strategic goals to protect state information systems.   These goals include:  protecting the state of Illinois information and systems, reducing cyber-risk, providing best-in-class cybersecurity capabilities, an enterprise approach to cybersecurity and creating a cyber secure Illinois.
It is believed that this plan will save taxpayers millions of dollars in the long-run, as it will make state agencies more efficient through a streamlined process—while better equipping agencies to protect information against any outside threats.

Youth Council Presses State Officials
Unlike typical student groups that visit the state Capitol, my Youth Advisory Council came to Springfield last week loaded with questions and pressing their ideas.  Among their visits were the Governor, Comptroller, legislative leaders from both parties, a lobbyist and state staff. 
Perhaps it was their high school courses, my briefings or the over-view given by State Journal Register political columnist Bernie Schoenburg, but the students were ready with questions about state operations, high cost of a college education, failure to pay state bills, and what officials were doing to improve the future of Illinois.

Governor Rauner responds to questions from DeKalb’s Michael Mitchell and others

Time after time the student’s questions had to be cut short to get to the next appointment.  The officials told me later how impressed they were with the questions, engagement of the students and their knowledge.
It was interesting after visits with legislative leaders and the Governor to hear the new Comptroller say her job should not have to decide which important state service or program are funded and which must wait to be paid.  The former state legislator said it’s the job of the legislature to pass a budget.
The youth also were able to tour the state capitol building, visit the Lincoln Presidential Museum and view a legislative session

The Youth Council pictured with House Republican Leader Jim Durkin on the House Floor.
In an effort to make state government and the legislative process more accessible to Illinois residents regardless of their national origin or spoken language, below are the links to translate the Illinois General Assembly website, www.ilga.gov, into any one of dozens of different languages.

The Illinois General Assembly website contains legislator profiles, full text of all legislation introduced in the House of Representatives and State Senate, live audio and video feeds of legislative session and committee hearings; and a wide variety of other legislative information and support services.

Please click any of the links below to translate the Illinois General Assembly website into your preferred language:

Spanish Español

Arabic عربي

Hindi हिन्दी

Chinese (Simplified) 中文简体

Chinese (Traditional) 中文繁體

Japanese 日本語

Korean 한국어

Russian Русский

French Français

German Deutsch

Italian Italiano

Polish Polski

Greek Ελληνικά

You can translate the Illinois General Assembly website into as many as 57 different languages using any of the above links.

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

March 20, 2017

In This Issue:
Ø  New Statewide Education Plan Moves Forward
Ø  Unprecendented Effort to Seek Univeresity Funding, Keep Students
Ø  Legislative Action Last Week
Ø  Impacts of Raising Minimum Wage 
Ø Cancer Researchers Seek Survey Participants
Ø  Students See Contrasts in School Equity 

New Statewide Education Plan Moves Forward
Last Wednesday the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved a new statewide education accountability plan as part of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) approved in 2015.  Advocates believe the plan will better tell parents and communities how well their schools are meeting the educational needs of all their students.
The final version of the plan was developed after much time was spent determining the needs of the state’s education system and students.  This included many different phases including about 100 listening tours around the state, stakeholder meetings, and review by the Governor. 
The new accountability plan emphasizes student growth, but also includes such things as student proficiency in math and English, graduation rates, English language proficiency, attendance, and closing the gap in proficiency for subgroups.  Overall, the new accountability plan takes into account the whole child, and considers the types of programming necessary in education to best support the strengths and needs of each child.  
Schools that struggle to measure up under the new plan will be given extra support from approved vendors and other school districts.  The goal, as the name implies, is to help every child succeed.
The state plan will be submitted to the federal Department of Education for approval by April 3rd and could be implemented starting this fall.

Unprecedented Effort to Seek University Funding, Keep Students
At a press conference in Springfield last week, University of Illinois President Tim Killeen offered $850 million in scholarships and financial aid for students if the state would appropriate a stable level of university funding for five years.  The offer was made as part of legislation to entice action by the General Assembly to adequately fund higher education and slow the out-migration of high school graduates.
Killeen said the defunding of higher education since 2000, but especially in the last two years, has contributed to nearly half of high school graduates leaving Illinois to attend schools elsewhere.  Research shows that a majority of college students will stay in the state where they receive their degree.
As state support for public universities dropped, their tuitions rose and Illinois universities soon became more expensive than schools in neighboring states.  Add to the higher cost are students’ concerns that premier faculty will take jobs elsewhere and the student’s chosen program or classes will be cut.  You see why students are going out of state.
The “Invest in Illinois” program or “Triple I” for short, is part of HB2996 which calls for obligations from the state and U of I system.  It is unique and a possible model that could help Northern Illinois University and all our public institutions. 
In this season of March madness basketball, I hope this long shot goes in, and creates legislative discussion, and action toward a balanced budget.

Legislative Action Last Week
The flurry of bills that have been coming out of committee hearings are being debated on the House floor.  Here are a few bills that passed the full House and will be sent to the Senate.
HB2447 is one of my bills aimed at encouraging individuals to not drive if they aren’t controlling a medical condition that could cause the loss of consciousness or ability to safely operate a vehicle.  The bill provides that a person commits reckless driving when he or she is involved in an accident and the proximate cause was failure to control such a diagnosed condition.
HB2550 amends the Illinois Vehicle Code and provides that in addition to other purposes, moneys in the Illinois Fire Fighters' Memorial Fund shall be used to provide scholarships for graduate study, undergraduate study, or any other post-secondary education approved by the Illinois Firefighter Memorial Foundation to children and spouses of fire fighters killed in the line of duty.
HB3110 requires that state agencies provide written notice to authorized social services providers 30 days prior to any contract termination, suspension or reduction.  Past agency actions were made without prior notice or time for agencies to adjust to contract changes.
HB 3014 is an initiative of the Illinois Environmental Council to educate the public about harmful materials to avoid putting in a recycling container.  This bill makes it unlawful to recycle the following items:  landscape waste, food scraps, household sharps, plastic sheets, Styrofoam, and motor oil or other hazardous waste containers.  There is no penalty for violating the law.
HB3169 is a reflection of Governor Rauner’s Executive Order 16-10 which directs the Department of Children and Family Services to show respect for the youth under their supervision by referring to them as “youth in care” rather than “wards of the state.”   
HB3874 also amends the Illinois Vehicle Code.  It prohibits a person from operating, registering, or maintaining registration of a motor vehicle in Illinois unless the motor vehicle is covered by a liability insurance policy. This applies to both highway and non-highway driving.
HB3910 amends the Illinois Controlled Substances Act and provides that emergency medical services personnel may administer Schedule II, III, IV, or V controlled substances without a prescription.  This change from current law will allow use of emergency medicine to help save lives.
Tim Lehan, DeKalb, brought UIC pharmacy students from Rockford to discuss legislation

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

March 13, 2017
In This Issue:
Ø  Go Cubs Go!
Ø  Bills Proceed Through Committees
Ø  Revenue Projections Offer Mixed Outlook
Ø  Legislators Warned about Cost of Healthcare Changes
Ø  NIU Testifies about Budget Impact
Ø  Highest Consumer Complaints Involve Debt and Theft
Ø  Speaker Creates Another Education Funding Task Force

Go Cubs Go!
The Chicago Cubs’ Championship World Series trophy was welcomed to the General Assembly last Wednesday.  During a special joint session of the House and Senate, the trophy sat in the front of the House Chamber, while state lawmakers gave speeches honoring the Chicago Cubs’ historic World Series title claimed last November.  A special House Resolution was read congratulating the team, followed by a special address by Chairman and Owner of the Chicago Cubs, Tom Ricketts.
The thought ran through my mind that if the Cubs can win the World Series after 108 years, perhaps this is the year Illinois will get a budget.  I know this is a long-shot but our state can’t “wait until next year.”
The Chamber was adorned with the classic blue “W” flags, and the team’s signature song, “Go Cubs Go” was played.  While the current Cubs team is at Spring Training, Chicago Cub and Hall-of-Famer, Ryne Sandberg was in attendance.
After leaving the Capitol building, the World Series Trophy traveled to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum where roughly 1,000 people were able to get their photographs taken with it, while Ricketts and Sandberg were also on hand for photos and autographs.
Chicago Cubs Chairman and Owner Tom Ricketts with Speaker Mike Madigan and the World Series Championship Trophy

Bills Proceed Through Committees
Committees continue to meet in Springfield to review legislation and determine which bills will move forward for debate and votes in the House.  This week the bills passing out of committee included HB3490 which amends the Nursing Education Scholarship Law.  This law allows Northern Illinois University to be added to the list of approved institutions for potential scholarship help for nursing graduate students.
An initiative to remove an obsolete fee paid by grocery, retail and restaurant food handlers (HB3684) passed out of the House Consumer Protection Committee.  Since food handlers must have a federal certificate there is no need for Illinois to have a duplicate test or fee. 
Legislation that would require Illinois' employers to pay overtime to any employee making less than $47,476 passed the House Economic Opportunity Committee.  HB2749 is identical to regulations written by the Obama administration but not implemented due to a federal court nationwide injunction.  The committee also passed HB2462 to prohibit businesses from requesting applicants to provide previous salary and benefits compensation.  This bill is intended to address concern that gender discrimination is perpetuated by businesses based on salary history.
Another bill that moved forward was one of my initiatives, HB2447, that responds to a situation where two young people were killed in Sycamore.  The bill provides that a person commits reckless driving if they are involved in an accident and the proximate cause was failing to control a medical condition likely to cause loss of consciousness or control of the vehicle.  This bill unanimously passed out of the Transportation Vehicles and Safety Committee in the House, and is currently in its third reading.  You can follow the status of the bill here.

Revenue Projections Offer Mixed Outlook
The Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA) presented estimates last week that FY2017 state revenue would drop $674 million below earlier estimates but then increase $938 million in FY2018.  The projections were based upon the weakest economic recovery in over 60 years, job growth that has not recovered to 2000 levels, lost population and fewer exports due to the strong U.S. dollar.
Without legislative changes to encourage job growth, state revenue increases, or consumer activity; the report predicts that Illinois’ largest revenue sources will experience only modest growth in the upcoming year.  Without a balanced budget or relief from court orders requiring spending above revenue levels, the list of unpaid bills will continue to grow in FY2018.
Lawmakers typically use the expected revenue forecast from COGFA as a starting point for crafting a state budget.  However, since spending has not been lowered to current revenue levels nor has legislation passed for increasing revenue in FY2018, the budgeting process will be difficult to initiate.  View the full report from COGFA here.

Artists from middle school and high school are invited to submit original artwork for the 70th Representative District Art Appreciation Contest. One entry in each division will be selected and placed on display in the State Capital this spring. Submissions will be accepted through April 21st at State Representative Bob Pritchard’s Sycamore office, 2600 DeKalb Avenue, Sycamore, IL 60178. 

Representative Pritchard (R-Hinckley) began the program several years ago to show off the creativity of area students and give them an opportunity to display their work in the state capitol. “Supporting and encouraging artistic expression in students of all ages is an important aspect of educational development,” said Pritchard, who enjoys the creative variety of the submissions every year.

With various mediums of artwork accepted, artists have freedom to create meaningful and original pieces. There is no theme or limitation on the creativity. More details on the contest guidelines and requirements as well as the submission form that must accompany art entries can be found here.

LIBERTY Dental Plan (LIBERTY) is a full service dental benefits company that has been providing dental services to Medicaid beneficiaries across the U.S. since 2005 and in Illinois since 2014, when the State authorized the Medicaid dental managed care program. LIBERTY administers dental benefits for its Illinois medical plan partners including Harmony and NextLevel Health Plans. Under the leadership of its founding dentist, Amir Neshat D.D.S., LIBERTY is committed to providing quality dental benefits with a focus on total body care that will lead to happier and healthier lives for Illinois Medicaid members.

LIBERTY is only able to administer quality oral healthcare through our partnership with Illinois dental providers. We recognize that the best patient care comes from a network of local dentists who have proven their commitment to providing appropriate and timely care for the community they serve.

Over the past two years, LIBERTY has worked closely with community dentists who consistently have demonstrated their commitment and dedication to quality care; and now LIBERTY wishes to recognize these outstanding dental providers with our “Center of Excellence Award.”

LIBERTY selects “Centers of Excellence” through a rigorous evaluation process including, but not limited to, reviews of office safety and compliance, appropriate delivery of dental services compared to regional utilization patterns, high member satisfaction which leads to loyalty and continuity of care, access and availability of appointments, and low member grievances and complaints.

“On behalf of our LIBERTY team, I wish to congratulate these outstanding dental providers and we look forward to a long and quality relationship to improve oral health and the lives of Illinois’s most vulnerable Medicaid population,” said company Founder and President, Dr. Amir Neshat.

"I am delighted to see Dental Fields recognized with this award," said State Representative Bob Pritchard. "They have gone to great lengths to provide quality service, customer satisfaction and necessary oral health care coverage for Medicaid clients and other local residents. Their partnership with the LIBERTY team helps to manage Medicaid costs for taxpayers without sacrificing care and convenience for their patients."