Pritchard's Perspective for November 13th


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.

The Fragile Future of Higher Education
The independent advocacy organization Voices for Illinois Children recently released a report on the Fragile State of Higher Education in Illinois.  They noted the damaging impact of two years with only partial state funding, but concluded the legislature has been disinvesting in higher education since 2002.
With the growing demand for college graduates in the job market, the study also pointed out the wide gap in college enrollments of minority and low-income students compared with the general population.  Then there is also the decline in students going to Illinois colleges and universities.  Enrollment in Illinois public institutions has dropped 50,000 students in the past 25 years.
I was recently appointed to a 12 member working group of legislators to reflect on the changing landscape for higher education, explore potential strategies and reforms with stakeholders, and recommend appropriate actions to the legislature.  The goal would be to make higher education more affordability, efficient and focused on student outcomes.

Grant to Help Prepare DeKalb Students
Kishwaukee College and DeKalb High School have received a $1.3 million federal grant to support more students toward a path of career success.  Activities and services offered to participating DeKalb High School students through the Kishwaukee College Upward Bound Program will include academic advising, tutoring, college and career planning, and financial literacy. 
 
Shown receiving the $1.3 million check were: DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith, Kishwaukee College President Laurie Borowicz, Trio Director Tashena Briggs, High School Principal James Horne, Pritchard and DeKalb Superintendent Jamie Craven

Plan to Curb Opioid Epidemic
The Opioid epidemic has affected countless lives across the country and has only continued to grow each year.  In Illinois, opioid overdoses have killed nearly 11,000 people since 2008 and last year took 1,900 lives. 
The Illinois Department of Public Health, at the direction of the General Assembly, developed an Opioid Action Plan to address the problem.  It includes three steps:  prevention, treatment and recovery, and response. 
The plan calls for more education and reducing the stigma of addiction, increased awareness of opioid prescriptions and limiting the amount dispensed.  It also suggests increased access to treatment for victims and expanded drug court diversions. 

Modernizing Wireless Communication
The House passed legislation last week to strengthen wireless signal coverage, provide uniform rates and standards for providers, and enable transition to next generation technology for consumers.  The bill (SB1451) has been negotiated for well over a year but many municipalities were unhappy with the loss of control and reduced fees they could change providers.  They were also unhappy that Chicago was exempted from the legislation.
The use of this technology is deemed necessary to provide consumers with the latest, fastest mobile internet networks and keep Illinois competitive for jobs and business expansion with other states.  The new system relies on small cell technology which means installation of antennas on existing structures, such as utility poles, street lights and traffic signal poles.  Currently 72 percent of all high speed broadband connections in Illinois are by mobile connection and they demand more bandwidth. 

Small Bean, Big Impact
Soybean farmers came to the Capitol last week to remind legislators, over a cup of coffee, about the contributions soybeans makes to Illinois, the largest producing state.  Soybeans contributed $28.3 billion to the Illinois economy last year and supported 114,500 jobs in the value chain.
Discussing soybeans with Pritchard were farmers Carrie Winkelmann and Stan Born
  
Have a great week and call my District Office to share your opinions or if I can be of assistance.

-Bob

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